Share a Cuppa Tea with…
….BRIAN ‘SAXOPHONE’ JONES of The Undertakers
By Jane Quinn
Join Brian as he talks about hoarding, Mozart, and Marmite.
The Undertakers were originally called Bob Evans and the Five Shillings; but that just doesn’t sound as good, does it? They started out as part of the Merseyside music scene in the early 1960s, and they are still performing.
One of the strongest of the Liverpool bands, in part due to the amazing voice of singer Jackie Lomax, and equally to the soulful sax of Brian Jones, The Undertakers counted the Beatles among their fans. Between then and now,
The Undertakers travelled many roads, including the famous road to Hamburg where they played at the Star Club in 1962.
On their return to Liverpool, the band was approached by Brian Epstein who offered them representation which The Undertakers declined.
In 1965, the road beckoned the band to the USA where the line up would undergo many changes.
The Undertakers’ third single, Just a Little Bit became a Top 20 hit during the summer of 1964. In 1995, Big Beat Records issued a CD of The Undertakers’ recordings, including their never-issued American album.
Let’s have a cuppa with Brian “Saxophone” Jones now, as we share a few tales and learn a few secrets.
1. Why the Saxophone?
Originally I was a drummer, but I was getting too much stick. I used to listen to Radio Luxembourg in the late 50s. I heard this wonderful instrument playing. I didn’t know what it was. My dad told me it was a saxophone, so I kept asking him to buy me one. After a while, he gave in and bought me an alto sax. I started to learn on it.
I only ever went for one sax lesson and the guy asked me why I wanted to play one. I told him I liked the sound of it. He put on a load of jazz records, and I sat there listening. I never even took the sax out of the case.
After an hour, he said ‘that will be £2’, so I went home and taught myself. After a while I thought ‘this sax doesn’t sound anything like the ones I had heard on the radio’. My Dad and I didn’t realise there were different types of saxophones, so after about a year I got a tenor sax.
2. What do you miss?
I miss Energen rolls. They were a slimmers’ type of breakfast roll, and when you cut them open, they looked like polystyrene, but they were great with Anchor butter on them.
3.What is your favourite word?
My favourite word is FANTASTIC. I use it all the time. Tony Schofield, The Undertakers lead singer, takes my voice off and keeps saying FANTASTIC in my voice; and he takes off Rosie, my wife, as well.
4.What is your favourite band?
My favourite band would have to be King Curtis’s band The King Pins. But I also love Earth, Wind And Fire.
5. What is your favourite comic book ever?
When I was a kid growing up, I was comic mad. I used to get the Dandy and the Beano every week, also the Eagle. In my teens, I started collecting DC Comics and Dell.
6. If you could travel anywhere in time where would you go?
I would love to go back in time to Vienna and see Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart perform live. For me he is the greatest musician who has ever lived. I know a lot of people like Beethoven, but the difference is this. With Beethoven, that is man talking to God; but with Mozart, that is God talking to man.
7. Have you ever had a broken heart?
Yes, I have had a broken heart, and it took 30 years to heal. I met this beautiful hairdresser in the 70s, while I was doing a summer season at Pontins in Morecombe. I fell madly, deeply in love with her. She wanted security. Me, being a musician, couldn’t give it to her. It broke my heart. I was in so much pain, and it lasted years. But in the end, I found my lovely wife Rosie, who is a wonderful lady. I’m very lucky to have met her at a gig I was doing.
8. What do you see when you look in the mirror?
I see an old geezer who doesn’t look the way I feel. I think after you get to 60, it’s all down hill. Health is a very important thing. For years I have not been too well with lots of health problems, like COPD, because I smoked for years, and it has damaged my lungs; but at my age now, which is 76, I have 98% oxygen, and I feel really well now.
9. If you could have invited anybody, living or dead, to be here at our little tea party, who would it have been?
I would love to have had Barack Obama, Steven Hawkins, and Mozart. Oh! And King Curtis.
10. 1966 or 2016?
I loved the original Undertakers’ members. They were my family. I grew up with them on the road. We went to Hamburg in 1962 as kids, and we came back as men. I also love the New Undertakers, because once again we are playing great music and I’m loving it again. There was a point a few years ago when I didn’t enjoy it. But now the band is moving in the right direction again.
11. Tell us a secret.
I’m a HOARDER! I collect model trucks: Eddie Stobart, Fagen and Whalley, Woodside Haulage, 150 scale trucks. I also have a great collection of limited edition Marmites. I do buy a lot of rubbish sometimes, which worries me. Lol
12. Brian Epstein, Tony Hatch, or Ralph Webster?
Tony Hatch should not have been our record producer He wasn’t right for The Undertakers. Ralph Webster was a ballroom manager, and he had access to three ballrooms. All Brian Epstein had, at the time he wanted to manage us, was a record shop. Who would you have signed with? The guy with three ballrooms or the guy with a record shop? I think we made the wrong choice and blew it. But Ralph was a great guy, and he loved the band.
13. What’s new?
In the next few months, The Undertakers go into the studio to record a new album. I love recording. I co-produced Jackie Lomax’s last album, Against All Odds, which came out on Angel Air Records a few years ago. I hand picked all the musicians to play on it; all Liverpool musicians, like Dave Goldberg, Adam Goldberg, Joel Goldberg. Also I’m in the middle of producing my wife Rosie Mundy’s new album, and I’m also planning another sax album, so things are looking great at the moment. Just hope my health holds out, but drinking loads of tea really helps; so, Jane, how about another nice pot of tea?. Xxx
And so our party drew to an end. I said cheerio to Mr Jones who is still going strong just like his mega cuppa tea.