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Dave Berry - Celebrating 40 years of Rock.

Posted Tuesday, June 12, 2007

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Dave Berry

`The Swingin' Sixties heralded a cultural revolution'

The Swingin’ Sixties heralded a cultural revolution with Britains youth riding the crest of a powerful new wave of exciting rock and pop music which saw a deluge of fresh young artistes storming the charts. The maelstrom of burgeoning talent produced a number of `one-hit-wonders’ – whilst others with a more sustainable talent stamped an indelible impression on our lives, becoming pop music icons for the future generations. One such is the legendary Dave Berry, the local lad from Sheffield who this month celebrates forty successful years as a pop music icon.

Lawton Slaney takes up the story.

`the young Dave Berry's first hit, ` Memphis Tennessee'

The Beatles third successive number one hit was slipping down the top twenty charts as the young Dave Berry’s first hit, `Memphis Tennessee’ passed it - going in the opposite direction. The year was 1963, and the young Sheffield singer followed with a string of hits like `The Crying Game’ (1964); `Little Things’ (1965); `Mama’ (1966) and `Strange Effect’ (1967).

“It was an exciting, wonderful time.” recalls Dave. “There was little rivalry like there is these days, just healthy competition. We just enjoyed the scene and appearing on stage together, applauding each other’s efforts. It was our time and we took it by the scruff of the neck.”

The sixties pop scene is often quoted as the beginning of an era that spawned `sex, drugs, and rock n’ roll’. It offered a heady mixture to a young pop singer, and Dave’s quite honest about the problems that beset naïve young talents hurled out of their depth into the chaos of this new permissive society:

“We were young, we were all just starting out and the whole thing was a laugh. The money was good.” he admits. “Although I should think it wasn’t the driving force for 80% of musicians in the sixties. I was projected like the rest of them into this exciting maelstrom. Don’t get me wrong – I welcomed sex and enjoyed a drink like any other red-blooded twenty year old, and I liked having the cash: in fact, the first major outlay I made from my earnings was to buy my mum and dad’s rented house for them.

“But I saw no attraction in any sort of drug. One thing I was sure of: I like to be in control of my senses, and there’s no way you can do that if you’re using a syringe or sniffing frightening things off the back of your hand.”

The success of `The Crying Game’ – which reached No.3 in the U.K. charts in September 1964 marked the real beginning of the road to pop stardom for Dave Berry and the Cruisers.

“In the next year or two we did three national tours with the Rolling Stones, and by 1966, I found myself a member of the British team at the Belgian Song Festival at Knokke.” he explains. Here, to his never-ending pleasure, he won the prestigious Press Prize awarded by pop music journalists: as a direct result, during the ensuing six weeks Dave had five singles riding high in the hit parade all over Europe.

The 1970’s turned out to be what Dave refers to as his `Punk Era’. He toured with bands like the Sex Pistols and Adam and the Ants, and was famously referred to in the Daily Express as `the Godfather of Punk’. He hastens to add that this wasn’t because he suddenly became scruffy and dyed his hair to resemble `a cockatoo on speed’. “The reason I got this title,” recalls Dave, “is because I had an unusual stage act.”

A master of stage-craft, Dave developed his unique style by projecting an individual image that quickly became his trademark; he always appeared on stage dressed entirely in black and created a new visual concept by mesmerising his audience with his hand movements – white gloved and sinuously twined around the microphone cord, beckoning his fans to enjoy his music.

Dave regularly toured the country working cabaret clubs like the Fiesta Club in Sheffield and the Talk of the Border Club, Carlisle.

“Touring these clubs on a regular basis was completely different to playing one-nighters,” explains Dave. “The engagements were usually for six nights, and though I worked every night and stayed at a hotel in the area, it gave me the opportunity during the day to indulge my love of exploring new places.

“During my wanderings I found myself drawn more and more to local antique shops, and became so interested that I began collecting antiques and have ended up as a serious dealer!”.

These days Dave has permanent units at both Sheffield Antiques Emporium and Bradwell Antiques Centre. He hastens to add that this interest doesn’t at all interfere with his `proper job’.

The seventies also saw Dave spending two months working in Salisbury, Rhodesia (now Harare, Zimbabwe), together with gigs at the Paris Olympia ( with The Animals and James Brown), and at Copenhagen’s Tivoli Gardens (with The Small Faces). In 1978/9 the band did major tours of the USA and Canada.

“Highlights of the eighties.” continues Dave, “began with our first major nationwide 60’s Retro-Tours alongside fellow-sixties performers like the Troggs and the Searchers. We performed four times at the London Palladium, did a one-off at the RIA Conference Centre in Amsterdam, and appeared at other prestige venues like Birmingham City Hall and St. David’s Hall, Cardiff.

“We started off the nineties with a special award from Holland’s Radio Veronica.” continues Dave. “This was when `This Strange Effect’ reached number one in both Holland and Belgium, becoming the best-selling pop single of all-time.”

As a direct result Dave became the subject of a 1996 Dutch TV `Rockumentary’. He was delighted that the programme used footage of scenes near his Dronfield home and of the Peak District.

Another memorable event of the decade was the release of Neil Jordan’s Oscar-winning film, `The Crying Game’, in which Dave’s original music was the theme tune featured in an adult story about the troubles in Northern Ireland.

“And then in 1997 we really got busy.” recalls Dave. “I received a special European Award for Services to Music, an honour of which I am particularly proud. We then completed a very successful sixty-night UK concert tour culminating in an appearance at the London Palladium, and afterwards we went as special guests on the QE2 on a three week cruise to the Caribbean!”

Dave’s looking forward to this year which looks like being as busy as the previous forty. He’s just returned from a fortnight on the QE2, appearing in a star celebrity spot on the way to Acapulco, and is later performing in Singapore, Sydney, Brisbane, and Auckland New Zealand.

Dave Berry and The Cruisers UK tour called `Reelin & Rockin’ continues later this year and also includes Gerry Marsden (of the Pacemakers) and Brian Poole (Tremeloes) together with other lead singers from sixties bands, Mike D’Abo (Manfred Mann) and Mike Pender (Searchers).

Dave’s passion for music is rooted in the forties’ negro blues of Muddy Waters and Jimmy Witherspoon, and with forty years of hard work and uninterrupted success behind him, Dave Berry is a pop performer who can still interpret the blues with expert sensitivity.

Hailed as one of England’s pop legends, he started singing in Sheffield pubs and clubs and admits to an early hero-worship of the great Chuck Berry, whose characteristic guitar riffs became one of the staples of rock music. In fact, such was his admiration that he borrowed his idol’s name, thus in 1963 Dave Grundy became Dave Berry – and the rest, as they say, is history!

Dave and his Dutch wife Marthy (who still occasionally sings with the band) moved to Dronfield thirty-five years ago, and both love Derbyshire.

Dave ponders, “ I wasn’t born in Derbyshire, but in Woodhouse, this side of Sheffield. I was born in 1942 and grew up surrounded by Derbyshire accents. I’ve always loved the county: my dad (a bricklayer and semi-profesional jazz-drummer) and mum constantly visited the area walking and bird-watching and we spent a lot of time here.

Any regrets?

“No, all in all it’s been a good journey so far. I love what I do and I’ve always been surrounded by great people. I’m still doing exciting things. The `golden age’ never deteriorated. My main satisfaction is paradoxically, that despite being well known, it hasn’t proved a problem. I’ve never had to isolate myself behind security fences with minders breathing down my neck all the time, and guard dogs roaming the grounds.

“That probably sums it up – I don’t have grounds, just a garden!”

 
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