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The Count Bishops

 
The U.K. Press

New Musical Express

 

NEW MUSICAL EXPRESS  -  September 1976
 
COUNT BISHOPS  -  Speakeasy

TEN O'CLOCK and the Speak's nearly empty - bliss for me, doubtless the pits for the band, although they may look forward to the probable 12.30 log jam of foreign bodies.
"Welcome to our rehearsal" Johnny Guitar cracked to the minitude. A bit weird, this. After all, The Count Bishops are certified punks and that's all le rage, innit? They even played the recent frog punk fest, but they didn't get much publicity 'cause they ain't ugly enough.
Killingly loud, their repertoire of R&B classics is a treat, delivered with galvanic spunk and a satisfying element of fanaticism. From Slim Harpo's "Don't Start Crying Now", Johnny's tortuous vocals and Zen's slapping rhythm guitar over the hammer headed boogie base of drummer Paul Balbi and bassist Steve Lewins were like a ritual invocation of the spirits of Sun and Chess Records.
The guitar work, however, Johnny racy on lead and Zen very fluent on rhythm and slide, is really nice. At times, particularly in "Wang Dang Doodle", they sounded a helluva lot like the Yardbirds, which is as terrific as anybody needs to be if they want to please me.
Elmore James's "Shake Your Money Maker" and Mose Allison's "I'm Not Talking" were the other real goodies, but the whole set was cocky, energetic and fun. If you have a hankering for hot R&B they're well worth seeing for a good old shake.

Angie ERRIGO
 

 

NEW MUSICAL EXPRESS  -  September 18, 1976
 
THE COUNT BISHOPS  -  "Train Train"  -  Chiswick

Though less than 12 months old, Chiswick are one of the healthiest specialist shoe string labels around at the moment. They kicked off with The Count Bishops ("Speedball" EP) and aside from the obvious appeal of re-releasing Vince Taylor's "Brand New Cadillac", this new coupling by The Bishops is, for all its rawness, the label's most commercial release so far and could well pick up some air play. A few years ago this atmospheric "beat" record would have quite probably gone Top 50 on both sides of the Atlantic. Chiswick may well be new to the business but at this rate I can see them coming up with a very big hit. How d'ya think most American labels started out in the beginning. Ever heard of Sun?
 

 

NEW MUSICAL EXPRESS  -  April 30, 1977
 
COUNT BISHOPS  -  "Baby You're Wrong"  -  Chiswick

Ferociously brash performance by a band too competent and confident to be alienated punks. Glorious ringing chords from Messrs Johnny Guitar and Zenon De Fleur, gritty aggressive vocals by Dave Tice. And a real neat tune, too. If Chiswick can stamp out enough copies, this should be a huge hit. If airplay is not abundant, then there's definitely no justice.
 

 

NEW MUSICAL EXPRESS  -  May 27, 1978
 
CHESS WITHOUT CHIPS  -  THE BISHOPS  -  "The Bishops Live !"  -  Chiswick

From the best looking rock band this side of The Motors . . . The Bishops' particular variety of rowdy, rumbustious R&B has always functioned best live, which is why this album cuts their studio elpee to shreds fairly effortlessly.
About three quarters of the material has shown up on previous Bishops' recordings ("Sometimes Good Guys Don't Wear White", "I Need You", "Baby You're Wrong", "Takin' It Easy" and the sublime "Train Train") but all of 'em with the possible exception of "Train" sound a lot better here.
The whole thing's topped off with a couple of comparative newies ("I Don't Live It" and "Too Much Too Soon" composed by singer Dave Tice and rhythm guitarist Zenon De Fleur) and a sprinkling of revibes:  ("Somebody's Gonna Get Their Head Kicked In" from the repertoire of, believe it or not, Fleetwood Mac, though it must be said that Mac ain't played that song for a while), Sonny Boy Williamson's "Don't Start Me Talkin'" and The Strangeloves' "I Want Candy" (featuring - gulp - a drum solo).
Right now, The Bishops have a single - a revival of Sam And Dave's classic "I Take What I Want" on Radio One's playlist, plus another studio album lined up and ready for Chiswick to disgorge upon a suspecting public. If the world is once again ready for an enthusiastic and finely crafted brew of tough guy pop and drunken R&B, then they might as well get it from The Bishops as from anybody else, because in the two or three years that they've been going they've waved the flag for their kind of music as hard as anybody against both  apathy and more restrictive types of New Wave mentality.
This album is as convincing a demonstration as could be required. Miss out and it's your loss.

Charles SHAAR MURRAY
 

 

New Musical Express  -  September 9, 1978
 
THE BISHOPS  -  "I Want Candy"  -  Chiswick

At one time, The Bishops looked like no more than musical curates. Just another clerical error. But this single may well pull the big congregation these saintly fellows deserve. Essentially it's no more than a Bo Diddley testament given the New English treatment, but done with the verve of hell fire preachers. Should get them dancing in the aisles, fainting in the fonts, and nipping through nimble knees-ups in the knaves. If this doesn't get into the charts, then there's definitely no justice. Rich men mounted on camels will be passing through the eyes of needles into the Kingdom of Heaven.
 

 

New Musical Express  -  October 28, 1978
 
WHAT SHOULD YOU PAY FOR A P.A.?
Zenon De Fleur of The Bishops with some advice for bands just starting out.

SO YOU'VE got the band together, got the amps and guitars, heading for the stars: and dying to do your first gig. In days gone by the singer would've brought along a couple of columns and a mixer amp and you were set. But go to a gig these days and you see mounds of gear and have a fit on discovering the cost.
So you decide you need a P.A. anyway, but where do you start? What do you buy? And how much?
Well ! First of all the alternative to buying is to hire and it will cost you from 30 per gig upwards, depending on how much you need. However this is worth serious thought because if your gear is not used a lot it will work out cheaper and more convenient to hire.
Bearing in mind that owning your own you have to transport it, store it, and have someone operate it, this all adds to the cost.
So you want to buy anyway and the first thing you must decide is, what kind of system is most suitable? And can you afford it?
If you play predominantly small venues a set-up of a pair of columns and 100 or 200 watt mixer amp, such as an H/H, will do, and you can hire for the bigger gigs. That should set you back well under 1,000, including microphones etc.
The drawback here is that expanding the system is not easy, but losing on the resale value is.
You can, of course, buy second hand but unless you know a bit about it or have good advice the pitfalls are too numerous. Best thing is to consult a reputable dealer specialising in P.A. The guy in the local music store, while being fine for strings and picks, probably knows little more about it than you.
Most professionals will be glad to give advice and it's free, so get all you can.
When spending a lot of money it makes good sense to buy the best quality "name" equipment, for this will not only be more reliable but will also hold its value. Get a demonstration of the gear, make sure you know enough about it and that you're happy with it. Don't be fooled by cosmetics.
It's not possible in this brief article to go into the workings of P.A. systems. So to get a rough idea here is a 400 watt system with adequate monitoring onto which items can be added, as you get bigger, up to any size:

>  2 X JBL 4560 pattern bass bins
>  2 x JBL 2345 / 2420 radial horns c/w capacitive crossover
>  3 or 4 1 x 12" ATC wedge monitors
>  RSD 800 B power amplifier
>  RSD 12/2 mixing desk
>  RSD 12 way 50 metre multicore
>  Shure SM58, SM57 vocal and instrument microphones
>  AKD D.12 microphone for bass drum
>  Various microphone stands and required cables
>  Flight cases for the mixer, amps and cables are a good idea to protect your investment

The above are quality components of proven reliability and would put a three and a half grand hole in your pocket. H.P. is available if you've the deposit but don't forget you'll have to insure it all. Cheaper systems are around but satisfy yourself with a demonstration first; ultimately you will always get what you pay for.
Having bought the P.A. you'll need someone to operate it and mix the sound. His job will be getting a balanced, clear sound without over running the system and causing expensive damage to amps, speakers and horn drivers. So again, if in doubt, seek advice from professionals; or better still get someone to show your man how best to set up and run the rig and do simple maintenance.
Anything major should be left to competent specialists.
So where do you go for advice? In London good places to start are HHB P.A. Hire and Sales of Cricklewood, or Mick Jones Music of Putney.
Tell them your requirements and budget and they'll put a system together to suit. They handle all the "name" quality equipment by such manufacturers as R.S.D., J.B.L., A.T.C., Shure, etc...
A few words about connectors. Use only heavy duty types e.g. Cannon or Switchcraft. They are the lifelines of the P.A. and most prone to faults. Check them regularly to avoid embarrassing breakdowns.
To summarise then. Don't spend on flashy gear you don't need. Don't ask whatsisname, and don't buy without trying first. Do go to a reputable dealer, get good opinions and advice and spend wisely on good quality equipment.

Zenon DE FLEUR

 

 

New Musical Express  -  October 28, 1978
 
THE BISHOPS  -  Nashville

The Bishops have always delivered, but I've never seen them play like this.
In a word, they were dynamite. From Zenon De Fleur's rhythm guitar and creditable Link Wray impersonation to Dave Tice's vocals it was an exhilerating celebration of Rock'n'Roll, pure and absolute.
And don't mistake them for revivalists - that path leads to the Big Snore - the spirit on show here transcended fashion, defied classification and revitalised familiar songs. They convinced me they'd written "Route 66" the night before.
 

 

New Musical Express  -  October 28, 1978
 
BISHOPS !!  -  AIN'T NO CURE FOR THE RHYTHM 'N' BLUES

Blitz Krieg and Skid Marx from Blast Furnace contributed guitar and harmonica respectively, on one or two occasions, and must have walked away proud men. There was only one song that seemed out of place: "Someone's Gonna Get Their Head Kicked In Tonight".
They just don't need that kind of thrash trash. But by the time they'd reached "I Want Candy" I was ready to forgive them anything. Buy the single and have a party.
Johnny Guitar and Zenon De Fleur swooped and soared like fighter planes leaving trails of steel ribboned smoke in the air, while Pat McMullen's bass and Paul Balbi's drums fuelled the rhythm engine with pure nitroglycerine.
This band play with such locomotive power that Superman would stand aside and let them pass. "Train Train", "I Need You", "Reeling' n' A Rockin'", "Shake Your Money Maker" ... but who really cares about individual titles?
How many bands have you seen recently getting five encores; every one a killer and every one deserved? No frames of reference. No comparisons. They stand alone.
If the thunder don't get you then The Bishops will

Neil NORMAN
 

 

New Musical Express  -  November 11, 1978
 
THE NEW CONCEPT IS ROCK
 

This is an alternative alternative to the alternative. You don't have to be a modern machine. Drummerless trios or white overalls may not suit. You should listen to THE BISHOPS.
 
ALTERNATIVE MUSIC, the modern alternative that is - Mekons, Gang Of Four, The Fall, The Banshees - offering an option not a solution:  others are open and to claim otherwise would be to deny the facts.
Bands who promote nothing more radical than good time rock'n'roll, though admittedly somewhat bedeviled by the irreverently accelerated forward rush of time, are still functioning, still doing steady business.
Take The Bishops, an often bruisingly effective rhythm and blues outfit, who are neither bloodless nor infirm but who, in the often distorted, reflected light of these modern times, may be viewed as something of an anachronism, as outmoded as facial hair and marijuana.
Whether or not they have a relevant contribution to make to the modern music scene is a decision you will have to make for yourself, but I would suggest to you that if commitment is still a quality worth the tip of a hat, then The Bishops must be in line for something.
"Some people actually think that rhythm and blues is the best music around - us for instance" says Johnny Guitar, Bishops' lead guitarist. An American, he's very probably the tallest person I have ever stood next to in a car park. 6ft 4in with the wide open, cocked  eyed innocent look of a freckless Howdy Doody, and the build of a fresh light heavyweight.
"Progression is not something we sit down and consciously think about. We don't go into the studio and say "OK it's about time we used synthesizers". We have progressed , we're still the same band but our sound has changed. We play more interesting arrangements, better. Actually I think we have a pretty distinctive sound".
Dave Tice, a vocalist in what must surely be a grand old tradition (especially if you happen to be a naturalized Australian), sits on the edge of his chair, a character of cartoon clarity and dimension.
"It's rock and roll music that we play. If somebody doesn't think it's relevant to the current social or political situation then they don't have to buy our records and they don't have to come to our concerts. We don't want to change the world, fuck that, it's just entertainment it's rock and roll and we're doing it because we like it".
A delightful and unassuming stereotype, the thought that this music could be looked upon as anything other than Big Fun is completely alien to him.
ROLES, everybody has one to act out, either by instinct or through choice. I ask the band if they are aware of their chosen roles, their rhythm and blues identity so to speak, when they sit down to write their songs. I direct the question at Zenon De Fleur, rhythm guitarist, and the only original Bishop remaining in the line-up all these days.
Paradoxically perhaps he's also the least likely band member - a true blue Brit, formerly a freelance accountant who now runs a P.A. company. He looks like he might almost have a weight problem, but will probably never go broke.
"Well yes and no. I mean, I know whatever I write will end up sounding like The Bishops". Dave continues the theme:  "Because we are what we are, whatever we do is going to sound a certain way. We don't really think about it, it's a natural process".
Watching The Bishops on stage, and talking to them is an experience akin to watching a film in which the actors are distinguished only by the roles they play:  "The Guitar Player" played by a guitar player, "The Singer" played by a singer, etc.
After spending ten minutes with any of the band, with the possible exception of Zen, I guarantee you'd be left wondering just what the hell they'd be doing had they not met each other, or even more unthinkable, had they not come into contact with rock 'n' roll.
The two Bishops to whom you have not been introduced are bassist Pat McMullen, and drummer Paul Balbi.
"There was an audition, about 60 or 70 bassists, and I went along, broke a string while I was tuning up, told a few Irish jokes, and that was that. I was in".
Personally I don't swallow any of that, I think The Bishops took McMullen under their wing because he's an Irish pixie, too innocent to be exposed to the evils of this vile and double dealing world.
Paul Balbi, another naturalized Australian, a young man with shoulder length hair and much wit in his eyes, exudes the kind of mild mannered charm that big city girls with cold water souls call wimpiness. Me, I think he's cute, but that's me all over.
I wonder at the type of audience The Bishops attract. "People, basically". Sharp, Johnny, real sharp. "I mean anybody and everybody, from 14 to 40 ... though I suppose it's mainly 16 to 19 year old guys. They're the one who stand right in front of you and watch your finger".
... In the film of the book of life, "The Rock Audience" is played by a rock audience ...
Ah but Johnny, what happens when these kids come and watch you, and maybe hear all these R&B classics for the first time, and think maybe they ought to check out the original recordings - a conflict of interest?
"Good, man, I hope they do. I hope they do go and listen to the original artists. Personally I think our versions stand up pretty well against the originals. And remember, the original Count Bishops songs are by The Count Bishops".
When quizzed about their feelings toward the punk phenomenon, the band adopt an attitude of mellow disinterest.
Dave:  "It happened, but we didn't change. We're still playing basically the same stuff as we've always played".
Johnny:  "Right. I mean what the hell is punk anyway, just rhythm and blues, played faster and maybe sloppier. It's the same three chords. It did encourage more kids to come out to concerts, opened up a whole new market". 
Okay so perhaps that is a pretty superficial assessment of a situation that is by no means entirely washed up, but considering it comes from a band who did miss the main elevator ride way back then when the getting was good, it seems refreshingly free of malice.
I spent a couple of days with The Bishops while they were playing warm-up for the Feelgoods, during which time I saw them work over two crowds with an admirably professional dead eyed precision. The Bishops very rarely make mistakes and never carry excess baggage.
In order to familiarise myself with their music I drifted through the best part of a week listening to nothing but Bishops records, which on reflection was probably not such a hot idea. Don't misconstrue my meaning, the albums are fine examples of the genre, but things do tend to get a little out of proportion when you lift them completely from their frame of reference.
But on stage - that's were they kill. "It's rock 'n' roll, and we're doing it because we like it".

John HAMBLETT
 

 

New Musical Express  -  March 17, 1979
 
Get well soon, pal: Bishops guitarist Zenon De Fleur was in a car smash in the early hours of the morning after the band played the Nashville last Saturday, and is - at this moment - off the critical list but still in intensive care at West Middlesex Hospital in Brentford. He's not yet fit to receive visitors, but if he's allowed to get NME we'd just like to wish the gum-chewing polack a rapid and comfortable recovery ...
 

 

New Musical Express  -  March 17, 1979
 
Bishops' Zen is injured  -  gigs off

THE BISHOPS' rhythm and slide guitarist Zenon De Fleur was badly injured in a road accident at the weekend, though he is now off the critical list. The band have been forced to cancel a few dates, but are hoping to pick up the rest of their March commitments using a stand-in. But there's some doubt as to whether their May tour will be able to go ahead as planned.
 

 

New Musical Express  -  April 14, 1979
 
BISHOPS RE-SCHEDULE

THE BISHOPS have made numerous changes to their spring tour, reported last week. Nine new dates have been added and seven venues switched, leaving only six gigs unchanged from the original list.
The extra dates are at Hitchin College (April 28), Middlesbrough Rock Garden (May 6), Manchester The Factory (15), Newport Stowaway (16), Stafford North Staffs Polytechnic (18), Dudley J.B.'s (19), Birmingham Digbeth Civic Hall (22), Blackpool Norbreck Castle (24) and Wakefield Bretton Hall College (25).
The following seven dates are at venues different from those announced last week: Northampton Acne Club (May 2), Leeds Fforde Green Hotel (3), Nottingham University (4), Southend Technical College (5), Aberdeen University (10), Dundee College (11) and Retford Porterhouse (26).
Gigs at Cleethorpes (May 7), Sheffield (8), Edinburgh (12), St. Andrew's (13), Chester (14) and Portsmouth (17) are unchanged.
 

 

New Musical Express  -  May 19, 1979
 
DR FEELGOOD  "As It Happens"  United Artists    -    THE BISHOPS  "Crosscuts"  Chiswick

Rhythm and blues is a slippery thing, delicious hot and disgusting cold. To see it played on stage by bands who know what they're about - bands like Dr Feelgood and The Bishops - is to sense the rock'n'roll experience at its best and most intense: crude, know-nothing excitement and breathless exhilaration.
But all too often that magic has evaporated on contact with cold black vinyl, and left a residue of mere 12 bar drudgery. So infrequently is the spirit of the thing convincingly caught on record that extremists have been known to see R&B as essentially in person entertainment: either it's live or else it's dead.
Respectfully excepting those original all time greats of the genre - men like Sonny Boy Williamson and Muddy Waters who literally were their music and could never fail to deliver whatever the context or medium - it remains the case that an awful lot of latterday studio work has tended to disappoint.
Realising this predicament (though baser commercial motives may often play their own part) many acts have looked for its solution in the idea of the "live album" almost invariably with turgid and near unlistenable consequences.
Now, as it happens, the star witness for the defense in this case is Dr Feelgood, the evidence being their powerful, 1976 "Stupidity", an entirely successful effort which, to my mind, out-classes the band's five studio albums with some ease, even if the last one, "Private Practice", ran it a close second in terms of overall excellence.
"As It Happens" is another live record. With material drawn from the "Private Practice" set and from its predecessor "Be Seeing You", it's an attempt to portray the Feelgoods at work in Phase Two of their career: the post Wilko stage which has seen the untroubled induction of John Mayo and an expansion in the band's standing from booze'n'blues experts to grade A mainstream rock'n'rollers.
Whereas "Stupidity" was valued for conveying the Feelgood appeal in a way their other early albums failed to do, "As It Happens" presents no more than a routine re-run of numbers already available in perfectly adequate form.
Side one takes us through "Take A tip", "Every Kind Of Vice", "Down At The Doctors", "Baby Jane", "Sugar Shaker", "She's A Wind Up" and "Things Get Better": six of the best plus one stand out track, "Things' scoring with the way - its smooth pop harmonies contrast with the jagged, impatient rawness of the others.
And then there's "Ninety Nine And A Half (Won't Do)" - a snarling statement of intent that symbolises the all-out commitment and attack which still characterises the contributions of all four Feelgoods - followed up with "My Buddy Buddy Friends", "Milk And Alcohol", "Matchbox", "As long As The Price Is Right" and "Night Time".
You also get a bonus in the form of an "Encore EP" comprising their parting shots, from each of the two featured gigs: "Riot In Cell Block Number Nine", "The Blues Had A Baby And They Named It Rock'n'Roll", "Lights Out" and "Great Balls Of Fire".
Produced by Vic Maile (who had a hand in the band's earliest output, including "Stupidity", the recordings in themselves don't leave much room for complaint. The album combines an unmistakably live feel with a high level of clarity, and yet the results lack impact or intensity. It's a competent job all around but without much in the way of atmosphere. I couldn't recommend it as the essential complement to their existing studio works.
With its chronically slap dash artwork (hand scrawled labels and all), "As It Happens" contrives to convey immediacy, but carries all the hallmarks of product. It's not bad product by any means but me, I'ld rather wait for the next "real" Feelgoods album to come along. Or, better still, just go and watch 'em first hand.
In the meantime we've got The Bishops. This, their third offering (and second from the studio), is dedicated to the late, Zenon De Fleur and represents the last of Zen's work with the group he founded and saw shape into the hottest combo on the R&B circuit. And the album is no disgrace, whatever misgivings its horrible puke pink sleeve may induce.
At their best ("I Take What I Want", "I Want Candy"), these tracks are fine as anything this side of a Pye red and yellow. There are great performances from De Fleur and Johnny Guitar, supported by the chunky bass and drums of Pat McMullen and Paul Balbi, and overlaid with the grinning gum-chewing goodol' boy assurance of singer Dave Tice.
There are some duff cuts - pedestrian "soul" or leaden best ballads like "These Arms Of Mine" and "Could You Would You" just aren't what The Bishops, especially Tice, are good at whilst Fleetwood Mac's "Somebody's Gonna Get Their Head Kicked In Tonight" is plain childish - but elsewhere there's enough fun and class and exuberance to carry the album through.
See The Bishops and you'll know - R&B is the spine of rock'n'roll.

Paul DU NOYER
 

 

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