Blues for Colin Cooper - Death of Climax Blues Founder
Colin Cooper, the singer and saxophonist who founded the Climax Blues Band has died. He was the leader of the much respected and highly popular group that was formed in Staffordshire, England in 1968. They enjoyed an international hit single with ‘Couldn’t Get It Right?a funky soul tune that got to Number 10 in the UK in 1976 and Number 3 in the US in 1977. The group also released a string of fine albums, many of them reissued on Repertoire CDS.
Colin was always a striking figure on stage, with long black hair tied back in a headband, his eyes concealed behind dark glasses. But it was his deep, full toned voice and superb musicianship that most impressed audiences and fans. He was a multi instrumentalist who began his career during the beat group and pop boom of the early Sixties.
He grew up in Stafford and learned to play harmonica as a child. At the age of 12 he switched to clarinet but also mastered the guitar and saxophone. In 1963 he formed the Climax Jazz Band but was also the lead singer with Hipster Image, who based themselves in London and played regularly at Soho’s Flamingo Club. They were signed to Decca and released a single ‘Can’t Let Her Go?'Make Her Mine?(1966) produced by Alan Price. Although it wasn’t a UK hit, many years later the B side was used for a Levi Jeans TV ad in Japan and the song became a big hit in Asia in 1999.
Colin formed Climax Chicago Blues Band with Peter Haycock (who played a gold plated guitar) and they released their first album 1968. This was followed by ‘Plays On?(1969), ‘Lot Of Bottle?(1970), ‘Tightly Knit?(1971) and ‘Rich Man?(1972). Many of the band’s best recordings were featured on a Repertoire 2 Disc Box Set ‘The Climax Blues Band: 25 Years?released in 1993. During the 1970s the band, managed by Miles Copeland, became very popular in America where they toured extensively with such bands as Canned Heat. They subsequently dropped ‘Chicago?from their name and became simply Climax Blues Band for such albums as ‘Gold Plated?(1976). This featured their big hit ‘Couldn’t Get It Right?
Colin later recalled: “We were on our ninth album believe it or not, when we had a hit. We’d always released radio friendly tracks to promote albums but by 1976 we needed a commercial pop single. After we finished recording, our producer Mike Vernon laughingly related how he had told Peter Green of Fleetwood Mac that ‘Albatross?would never be a success. We thought ‘Oh my God - and we were expecting him to spot a hit for us.?Our manager didn’t think there was a track on the album that could be a hit and tried to persuade us to do an Elvis Presley cover. Instead we put together ‘Couldn’t Get It Right?which proved to be unbelievably catchy. I wrote the lyrics and sang it and the song was the first record we had produced ourselves. Miles agreed it was special. In 1976 it was a hit in England then rocketed up the charts in America. It was played on radio around the clock. But in the quest for a follow up hit we kind of lost the plot and the band began to change personnel.?/p>
Peter Haycock left Climax in 1984 but Colin kept the band going and concentrated on touring Europe where they remained very popular. They released ‘Blues From The Attic?(1994) and their last album was ‘Big Blues (The Songs Of Willie Dixon)?released in 2003. Although Colin was later diagnosed with cancer he carried on performing almost until the end.
Colin Francis Richard Cooper. Bandleader, singer and multi-instrumentalist. Born Stafford, England October 7, 1939. Died July 3, 2008 aged 68.
By Chris Welch
Rock journalist Chris Welch has been a member of the Repertoire team for twenty years. He has written hundreds of CD liner notes for a huge range of album releases since joining the company in 1988. His comprehensive knowledge of the rock and pop world is based on a career that began in the Swinging Sixties.
As Features Editor on Melody Maker he wrote about all the major rock and pop groups including The Beatles, Rolling Stones, Cream, The Who, Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin. Each week he reported on rising stars such as Jimi Hendrix, Tom Jones, Scott Walker, Marc Bolan, David Bowie, Rod Stewart, Phil Collins, Peter Gabriel and Freddie Mercury.
After 40 years Chris is still writing about pop and rock and playing the drums. His current favourite group is The Zutons but the historic Zombies reunion was a personal highlight of 2008. Each fortnight Chris reminisces about his adventures as a music journalist and report on the latest events that catch his ear in CHRIS?CORNER.