Blackpool rock musician and founding member of the Glitter Band John Rossall on singing about his hometown and releasing his first album in 40 years 'The Last Glam in Town'
“We didn’t have a lot of money growing up as kids but we were rich in so many other ways.”
Blackpool born rock musician and founder of the Glitter Band John Rossall has for the last two and a half years been working on a passion project.
His first solo album at 75, is both a lifelong dream and a very personal record, capturing all that soaring energy of the 70s, almost half a century on since he left the band.
It charts his musical history, with the single ‘Blackpool Rocks’ sharing his memories and reflections of growing up in the Fylde coast.
The album, co- written with the likes of founding member of Hello, Bob Bradbury and Jon Robb from the Membranes, is his first in more than 40 years and is titled ‘The Last Glam in Town.’
Rossall, is grateful of the encouraging reviews and the welcome it has received on radio station United DJs, where the single has sat at number one in their charts.
He says, from his home in Manchester: “The positivity and the reaction is more than I imagined really.
“When I set out on this concept it was with the idea of giving something back to the glam rock fans through the years but with a new edge that would help bring that sound to a new, younger audience. It seems to be working out.
“But the response from United Radio and particularly Tony Prince, who I’d known all those years ago having performed on Radio Luxembourg, it’s been terrific and it’s amazing to know many people are enjoying the song.”
‘The Last Glam in Town’ was two and a half years in the making, owing to the delays with the pandemic and was finally released late last year.
The initial plan was for a theatre tour to follow but that is currently on hold, with the industry still blighted by lockdown and Covid restrictions.
Rossall says the concept behind the record was to bring all the original essence from the era of glam rock and with modern technology rebirth the Glitter Band sound for old and new audiences alike.
Guest musicians included Rob Lloyd, of The Nightingales and guitarist Mark Standley.
“To have the final record in my hand felt amazing but I have to admit putting it together was a challenge.
“I’ve not made an album for years and years, 40 odd years - getting into the studio in Salford was all new in a way.
Recording material with Mark, who was in my band 20 years ago, playing his guitar in Berlin and sending it over. Then adding in all the technology, it was fun but difficult to get used to
“Back in the 70s you were all in the room together and making the music was collaborative in a different way. People didn’t hold back if they thought something sounded naff - they’d tell you.
“A guy called Dave Trumfio , a well known record producer from LA was the over arch for the final mastering and I feel very privileged to have been able to have worked with him.
“He really complimented the arrangement and what I felt we achieved is a very timeless and special record for new generations of music lovers. I like to think there is something for everyone.
“And music is definitely something I feel we have all benefited from this last year during the pandemic.”
Another name from the album is Alan Merrill from the Arrows who wrote ‘I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll.’ His track ‘Equaliser’ is on the record and was written not long before he died in March 2020, after contracting coronavirus.
Trombone player Rossall, is most famous for founding The Glitter Band in the early 70s on the ask of the now convicted singer Paul Gadd (Gary Glitter) and Mike Leander, with whom
Rossall had worked for much of the 1960s with the Mike Leander Show Band, before founding The Boston Showband, touring Britain and Europe.
It was on the understanding he would be able to pursue his own solo ambitions later on. He left the band in 1974.
Rossall says: “Life on the road in that time, the way the music was played then is so very different to how it is now. It was every night on stage for a month-long residency at a time.
“It was a real life experience - playing in the Star Club in Hamburg, We played from 1966 to 1971 with some big names .
“In those times the music made you or broke you. We shared stages with the likes of James Brown, Chuck Berry, Ray Charles.
“It was fantastic, what I learnt was proper practice made perfect.”
This musical education was something that was instilled in Rossall from a young age. He grew up in Blackpool on the Grange estate, one of five children, to Bob and Anne Rossall.
Bob was a talented trombone player and music teacher and had worked at the Winter Gardens with the Empress Ballroom Orchestra. Many years later he would join the Tower Circus Band.
Playing trumpet, because as a youngster his arms were too short for trombone, John would play in brass bands himself in the heyday of the resort with the British Legion Band and later the former award winning Norman Memorial Brass Band.
“Blackpool in its heyday, was just the most wonderful place to grow up and as kids we experienced so much - all the famous people, who would play the Winter Gardens and the piers.
“The Pleasure Beach, the promenade was a paradise - nothing beats those memories. It was the Las Vegas of the North and had a luxury about it, people maybe can’t understand today.”
By the time he was 14, Rossall knew he would be pursuing his love for music into a career. It was to run in the family with his late sister Sheila also a singer in the 70s with the New Pickettywitch band.
Rossall started out as a trombone-player, later doubling up on sax, playing in Irish showbands after his dad helped him answer an advert. It was on the road across the country he first came to meet Mike Leander and eventually took up a job in the Mike Leander Show Band.
His later solo career didn't quite manifest in the way he envisioned and he says for a time he was left disillusioned by an industry he had given so much, but he adds: “Music never leaves you.”
He spent a few years with a band gigging in Sweden with some of the old hits, which reignited his hunger and in turn he says led him to the idea behind a new, original album.
Making the album after all this time was also his chance to reflect and reminisce of his younger years growing up.
He still spends many summers in the resort in his caravan.
He adds: “That’s essentially what Blackpool Rocks is all about. My childhood. Blackpool in the summer, that whole atmosphere and trying to capture it in three minutes of song.
“It was one of the hardest songs to write actually and quite emotional, as I was playing with ideas and soaking up the nostalgia of it.
“My dad was my mentor, the one who introduced me to all that music, Eddie Fisher, George Formby. Great memories.”
Now the album is done, does he have any further ambitions?
“The idea was to do a theatre tour in the Autumn, this will be the last album I make but who knows if live music opens up again this year we might aim to do something but what would be great,” says the lifelong Blackpool FC fan, “is if when Bloomfield Road reopens to fans they could play Blackpool Rocks.”
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