Bluecoat Man twenty years on - now there's a thing. In 1981 Diz and the Doormen were one of the very hottest bands in London and the album sounds as good now as it did then. The Doormen were not just playing recycled R&B, Diz was a connoisseur of the exotic. He had absorbed the essence of New Orleans, and Professor Longhair in particular, and was involved in the transmission of a compelling musical tradition. The music swung, rolled and rocked like crazy and Bluecoat Man is the testimony.
Diz and I played together in early Juice on the Loose sessions. Very hedonistic: the gig was usually followed by much carousing, and we often woke up the next day under the pool table. Later Ian Stewart, who I was working with in Ronnie Lane's band, drove me off to Dorset for a Diz and the Doormen gig in Evershot village hall. Fantastic. The locals still remember those nights and people's lives changed as a result. Ask PJ Harvey or Ben Waters.
Diz's band was different from the average British R&B band playing lumpy shuffles. The music was rhumba-based, rhythmically complex and echoed Africa. Diz and the Doormen were a great band, driven by the totally inspired and intoxicated drumming of Kieran O'Connor reinforced by the unflinching bass playing of Pete Scott, guitar courtesy of bluesbuff postman Craig Mackie and Pete Thomas' quizzical sax lines. These musicians may have spent their formative years in dowdy post-war UK, but they were steeped in the Blues and R&B and Bluecoat Man is the proof.
Time to record the album. The framework was to be tight but once that was established humour and free expression ruled. Diz had asked me to produce. The signs were good: the band was rocking as never before. We set aside a couple of days to make ourselves at home in the studio before the serious work started. We intended to record the album on our terms. Vic Keary, our engineer, was a valves man whose main concern was getting the heart of the music down on tape. That suited us.
It would have been a good album even if Lee Allen, Walter Kimble and Roger Lewis had never shown up. We couldn't bank on that happening even if Pete Thomas had worked with them all. That made it even more amazing when they sauntered through the door. Their work with the likes of Fats Domino and Little Richard was serious musical history. It blew our minds that these guys had dropped by to take part in OUR session. I remember Lee Allen saying just tell us how you want it".
The feeling in that studio was fantastic, eight players recording simultaneously in a very small space. Our guests had a brilliant attitude. Even when the tape machine misbehaved near the end of a fantastic take of Are You Going My Way, Lee Allen just shrugged his shoulders and embarked on an equally amazing and powerful take, which is the version on Bluecoat Man. No regrets, live in the present time, that's the deal.
By Charlie Hart