Concert Review – Savoy Brown

It went, criminally under noticed that Kim Simmonds died on December 13, 2022, of colon cancer. He was a trouper right to the end and I believe he was planning a return visit to the Bull Run where I first saw him and his band. As a tribute to one of the last great British blues artists, I’m reblogging this post from 2016. RIP 

I quit my job
Ain’t got no money
Seems I have to leave this town

Tell Mama and all the folks back home
Sometimes a man just feels he’s got to make it alone
Tell Mama why I’m leavin’ so soon
Because this life I live has got me sick through and through

Those of you of a certain age might be saying to yourself, “Wasn’t Savoy Brown a late ’60’s blues-rock band? Didn’t they break up years ago acrimoniously? Is he talking about some ancient concert?” Well, yes, yes (sort of) and no. In point of fact, Savoy Brown were one of the very first blues-rock bands of the ’60’s, forming in 1965 and having a measure of success through the early ’70’s and at least one big FM hit.

When I was thinking about bands to feature for this blog, they came to mind and I thought, “Whatever happened to them?” fully expecting to read that they had broken up years ago. Well, the original band has certainly gone its way. (In fact, several of the members split off to form the even more popular Foghat).

But the founder and lead guitarist of the band, Welshman Kim Simmonds, is – at 68 years old – still out there doing it. And instead of a six-piece band, he’s now got just a bassist and drummer.

And just as I was researching the band, I stumbled on the fact that they were going to be playing a live gig less than an hour from my house! So armed with that knowledge, I rang up a friend who used to be a drummer in a long-ago band of mine. He and I headed out there to check them out.

And I’m here to tell you that they sounded fantastic. A word about Simmonds: while he has nowhere near the fame or notoriety of Beck, Clapton, Page, he is very much their peer and you’ll typically see his name in any book of that era as one of the founders of British blues. He just did not have the breaks or the material or whatever to garner that level of fame.

But as a guitar player, I can tell you his taste, tone and style are all superb. He can not only maintain a solo that keeps your interest but also shift from mellow blues to jazz to heavy metal crunch convincingly all in one song.

Here’s a song, “Tell Mama,” that is still a classic rock staple and is on Jim’s (that’s me) short list of “songs for lazy SOB’s” the other two being “Too Much Time On My Hands,” by Styx and “Lazy” by Deep Purple. I reveled in these whenever I was in one of my “between-jobs-down-to-stems-and-seeds again” periods:

Here’s a nice, tasty blues. from 1969. the (probably) politically incorrect “She’s Got a Ring in His Nose and a Ring On Her Hand.” The singer is Chris Youlden, one of the best blues singers of that period.

Lastly, since this is a concert review, here’s a clip from the club where I saw them. It’s a couple years old and is about 13 minutes long. But hey, if you’re going to celebrate British blues a few of them have to be long. It’s also fun to hear Kim talk. He’s a very down-to-earth self-effacing guy. I like his life philosophy. He came through a lot of stuff in the ’60’s but he doesn’t look back, he looks forward. He says it keeps him young. So there’s that.

He’s also got some new stuff so check it out. I’m glad that some of the older British bluesmen are still out there doing it.

17 thoughts on “Concert Review – Savoy Brown

  1. Yeah, while I was reading your post i was listening to some Savoy. Simmonds is just real good. I guess when you’re exposed to guys like this early on they stay with you. Bottom line is he’s still playing and we still dig it. Never gets old for CB.

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  2. I only really know them by name, which I guess isn’t surprising given it’s not quite my thing. The piano and the lead guitar sound nice in ‘She’s Got a Ring in His Nose and a Ring On Her Hand’.

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    1. That whole era of blues-rock was so vital at the time. I’d say that between 1966 when Cream came to the States and maybe 1974 when Robin Trower released ‘Bridge of Sighs,’ blues-rock was, if not THE predominant genre, certainly one OF them. Savoy Brown was right in that mix. It would never again reclaim the same level of predominace until 1983 when Stevie Ray Vaughan came along. And he was pretty much of an outlier (except for ZZ Top) because 80s kids didn’t much give a shit about blues and, well, you know as well as I what a mixed bag the 80s were. After that, we’re into the grunge era, and then blues-rock rears its head in a different way with White Stripes and Black Keys.

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      1. Bonnie Raitt had a big album in 1989, right? But maybe appealing more to an older demographic than SRV. I need to spend some time with Texas Flood, obviously.

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        1. Oh, sure. There was other blues-rock out there. Raitt, Fabulous Thunderbirds. Allmans came back in 1989. Not saying it disappeared so much as it went back underground and has never been as hugely popular as it was in that late 60s, early 70s time frame. And given that rock is practically dead, rap and the Swift gang have taken over and all the old blues guys (and British guys) are gone, never will be again.

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        2. There was a weird time frame in the late 1980s when lots of boomer acts were very successful, like Don Henley and Tom Petty.

          Modern ears have got used to everything being perfectly on the beat and perfectly tuned. It works for pop and hip hop but it sucks the life out of rock music – not so bad for something like U2 that’s quite synthetic and textural, but bad for bluesy rock. Obviously stuff on indie labels like the Black Keys is different. I find most mainstream rock from the last 40 years pretty tough – even someone like Pat Benatar sounds too polished and produced for my liking.

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        3. We’ve talked about YouTuber Rick Beato before I think, yes? He used to be a producer and has spoken at some length about how AutoTune and ProTools have led to a sort of glossy perfection. There’s one producer he knows who can’t listen to some old stuff because it sounds out of tune. So, something lost, something gained I suppose.

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        4. Rock music should be allowed to speed up/slow down and be a bit out of tune – it’s supposed to be a bit raw. I guess if you have perfect pitch or whatever, it might be frustrating.

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        5. BTW, I need to give Liege and Lief another spin or two. It’s not car music so I need to set some time aside.

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  3. Agreed that Kim Simmonds was widely underappreciated. I’m grateful to have seen Savoy Brown many times, starting in the late 60s at the Fillmore East (often sharing a bill with Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac & Chicken Shack), through several years back at the Bull Run. As a guitarist he could weave magic on a slow blues, or flat out rock. Thanks for the great tribute!

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    1. Fillmore East, eh? An old hippie like me. I went there a few times myself, never to see them. I believe he had come back to the Bull Run at least once after I saw him and then covid hit. I always felt a little bit bad that he never got the Beck/Clapton/Page recognition and likely still had to tour small clubs to make a living. Anyway, thanks for chiming in.

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  4. Sounds like we ran in the same circles! This is very cool – I loved the Fillmore East – great acoustics back when sound was pretty iffy for Rock & Roll, Bill Graham’s creative lineups, and $5.50 for the good seats. I was exposed to so much great music there. My first proper concert (in 1969 when I was all of 15-years-old) was BB King, Albert King and Bobby Blue Bland. An incredible jam capped it off when BB brought T-Bone Walker, Dizzy Gillespie, Pharoah Saunders, Ron Carter and others to the stage.

    By the way, I’ve been following your writing for awhile now and it’s excellent.

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    1. Thanks for the feedback. I went to four or five of those shows, most notably the Airplane and Elton John, a show I blogged about a while back. Feel free to comment as often as you’d like. I prefer a community to a bunch of ‘likes.’ Thanks.

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