Ronnie Davidson was the lead singer and guitarist with Cirkus, Shoot The Moon and now with 60s cover band Itchycoo Park, he has played at every level from T.V. appearances with STM to playing gigs in Sweden and Argentina with his current band , he has been in the business for over thirty years and still has the same enthusiasm for playing now as he did when he started, GB80 Interviewed Ronnie in June 2006.
Where were you brought up ?
I was born in the Gallowgate between the Barrowlands and Parkhead cross, I stayed there until was about five then we moved to Castlemilk one of the new big housing schemes to a big house in the country which was what it felt like then with inside toilets and a room to yourself at the time this was luxury.
How did you get into music ?
My dad was a joiner and made me a guitar out of a couple of bits of plywood when I was about eight years old it wasn’t great but it gave me a fascination with guitars then when The Beatles came on the scene everybody from my generation it was like wham! Right between the eyes this was a different more interesting type of music. It wasn’t until I was about sixteen that I started to play guitar properly, my mate Ronnie Montgomery had an electric guitar and I had my acoustic, we practiced every night of the week except Saturdays for the next year until we started to get quite good, eventually I met up again with Jake Brown who I’d known from school (Jake was a really good Guitarist and singer) and we started rehearsing , we found that our voices worked well together and it just took off from there.
When did you get into writing ?
Around 1974 Jake and I were writing Simon and Garfunkle finger picking type songs, it was just acoustic stuff we were playing, later with Cirkus a few of the acoustic songs became rockier when we changed to electric guitars, added bass, drums then lead guitar, Jake and I swapped ideas and carried on writing for the band, towards the end of Cirkus punk had started in the late seventies and soft rock, west coast, Eagles type music was starting to fade out.
Is that why Cirkus Finished ?
Well yes, styles were changing and I was starting to write songs like “John Wayne” quite a punky type song in style and “Heathery Bar” a reggae number about a place we played in that we didn’t really like playing, I wrote those songs on my own and everybody liked them but Jake wasn’t too keen, it was too radical, too much of a change for him and that really was the start of the end for Cirkus and the beginning of Shoot The Moon.
What happened in between Cirkus and STM ?
We still had a P.A. to pay off so we got George Dunnachie to play bass and John’s wife sang for a bit and we played the clubs, meanwhile we auditioned for a bass player and keyboard player, I just got on with writing and got the confidence to take on lead vocals, eventually Mike Baxter and Cris Radford came along and we all got involved with the writing.
What was your favourite place to play ?
The Amphora, that is where we developed a really big following, it was a kind of BANDS pub, inside it was shaped like a big square there wasn’t a bar cutting through the middle like some pubs so you played to the whole room and it could hold loads of people. With Shoot The Moon our best gig was The Dial Inn ,on a Saturday afternoon in The Dial Inn about seventy percent of the audience were guys from other bands it was like you were playing to your peers so you always tried to be as good as you could, meanwhile the crowd are giving it “aye well you were ok” you knew you were under a bit of pressure at those gigs, that is probably one of the things that made this period so good, a bit of healthy rivalry.
What was the Battle of the Bands final like ?
We won the heat in Glasgow then travelled down to Manchester for the next round, by now we were getting quite confident and won through to the final in London. The judges were John Entwistle, Paul Gambaccini, Mike Reed the d.j. and Noddy Holder. The band that won it were from Cheltenham so the place was half filled with their fans who cheered when they were on, the problem was they booed when all the other bands were on, After we played we went back to our dressing room and waited to see what was to happen next, we didn’t even see the voting, they just came up to our room and told us we came third! We went out to a night club later on, I sat for half the night talking about music and stuff with Noddy Holder.
After appearing on B.O.B. and Street Buzz did it make any difference gigs and crowd wise ?
After appearing on T.V. I would be getting my tyre changed in a garage and the guy filling in the form would ask “are you the singer in Shoot the Moon”? I would be gob smacked, people would recognise you in the street, I wasn’t expecting that really, it did give you a wee buzz though. We never all of a sudden became stars or anything like that, not a lot changed after the T.V. thing which was partly our own fault because we should have at that point started to look for proper management to get some mileage out of Street Buzz etc and move on to the next level. We did get to do an interview with Radio Clyde and got the double page article in The Radio Times which was massive publicity, that magazine had a circulation of about twelve million all over the U.K. and Europe.
It was around this point that I remember seeing bands like Kajagoogoo and Duran Duran and thinking “we are a million miles away from this stuff” That was what was getting signed up to make records? you have to be more than just a good singer/songwriter in a good band, it isn’t enough for just Glasgow to like you, you’ve got to be all things to all people, this is when a manager comes in, spots things you don’t see and looks after the whole package Image etc..
You moved on to play in a band called Glass Class ?
A few months after Shoot the Moon split Cris Radford and Mike Baxter phoned and asked if I wanted to join their new band called “Glass Class”, I started writing again and we played some of the later Shoot the Moon tracks that we reworked, we never played a lot of gigs though. We went into the studio to do some demos and put a demo in for a competition that was to be held in the Pavillion in Glasgow then I left the band, it turned out that they had been accepted for the competition, I don’t think they got another singer for that gig I think they just carried on as a four piece.
How did Itchycoo Park come together ?
I phoned up Alex and John from STM and brought in Jim Logie on bass (also a very good singer) I got in touch with Jake Brown again from Cirkus and a keyboard player called Barry Wilson, playing all covers we called ourselves Rio. We really just got together so that we were playing rather than not playing but we still had this thing that we wanted to be as good as we could possibly be even though we were playing covers, we ended up playing places like Glen Eagles and doing corporate functions and making good money at it.
We played with that line up until the early nineties then Jake and Barry left, by now we were left with myself, Alex, John and Jim, two guitarists a bass player and drummer so we decided to stick with that and do only sixties covers, that is when Itchycoo Park started.
We initially wanted to go back to having fun, what we do now is the closest we can get to playing The Dial Inn in the early days, a lot of people come to see us and we play a lot of great numbers from bands like Cream, The Beatles, The Kinks and The Beach Boys.
Your Latest project is performing The Beatles Revolver album on stage, how is that going ?
We’ve got eleven out of the fourteen songs ready to play at a gig, the ones we are still working on are Tomorrow Never Knows, Eleanor Rigby and Yellow Submarine, the problem with Eleanor Rigby is obviously the strings and how we are going to do that, we have already asked Drew Phillips (ex Dolphins) to play keyboards and he has ok,d it as long as he is available.
With Tomorrow Never Knows you have to reproduce those tape loops and we are still working out how to do that, do we sample tape loops onto a keyboard? We are experimenting with the idea of reproducing the sound with slide guitar and a delay effect but we’re still working on that one.
With Yellow Submarine you can go from start to finish on that but it is just getting the background sounds that run all the way through the song, we’re quite close to being ready and we’re still trying to decide if we do a version of the songs or try to get it exactly like the album, we will never get it so that you will never be able to tell the difference, it is the essence of the songs we try to emulate.
Is the idea of your act to mimic the bands or just play the songs ?
People come up to me and say “you sound so much like Paul McCartney” or “Ray Davis” I don’t try to impersonate them, I try to get the feel of the song, if Ray Davis sings in his kind of lazy style and you sing it like that it can come across that you are trying to mimic them but that’s not what we are trying to do. A lot of the songs we play are actually a lot more powerful than the original recordings, some of the original sounds are quite weak like weedy guitar sounds but those sounds are iconic in those songs and it is the song that is brilliant not the recordings so when we play them with more powerful sounds and modern equipment the crowd are blown away.
Thank you Ronnie for giving us an insight into your long and productive career Cheers !
Ronnie Davidson Interview 2006
Above,...Itchycoo Park playing at The Cavern in Liverpool
Below some recent pics of Ronnie with his wife and playing with Itchycoo Park
2013 Photos taken from Facebook