Stretch Middlesbrough Town Hall Crypt December 1975

Stretch Middlesbrough Town Hall Crypt December 1975
stretchThe story of Stretch is strange and fascinating. Stretch were fronted by vocalist Elmer Gantry, from Elmer Gantry’s Velvet Opera, who recorded the excellent late ’60s single “Flames”. I first heard “Flames” on the 1968 CBS lp Rock Machine Turns You On, which was the first UK bargain priced sampler album, selling at 14/11 (£0.75), less than half the price of a normal full price lp at the time. “The Rock Machine…it’s the happening sounds of today….”. The album had some great tracks by Bob Dylan, Simon and Garfunkel, Leonard Cohen, Moby Grape, Spirit, Taj Mahal, Blood, Sweat and Tears and others. I played it again and again; “Flames” was one of the best tracks on the album, along with Moby Grape’s “Can’t Be So Bad”, and the Zombies “Time of the Season”. Great stuff.
Roll forward six years to 1974 and Elmer Gantry was part of a crazy plan to put together a bogus version of Fleetwood Mac, with the help of Fleetwood Mac manager Clifford Davis and (supposedly) drummer Mick Fleetwood. The plan was for the band, with Mick Fleetwood on drums but no other Mac members, to perform as Fleetwood Mac on a US tour to fulfil an outstanding contract, which the original band were unable to do because several members had left. However, something went wrong and Fleetwood didn’t join the band, denying any knowledge of the plan. The tour went ahead anyway but it was obvious to audiences that this was not the real Fleetwood Mac, and the turnfell apart with later dates cancelled amid threats of legal action. Bass player Paul Martinez is quoted as saying: “Mick Fleetwood pulled out at the last minute claiming not to know who we were!” The band quickly changed into Stretch and guitarist Kirby wrote a song, “Why Did You Do It?”, about the debacle, accusingly pointing a finger at (presumably) Mick Fleetwood: “I’ve been thinking ’bout what you have done to me, The damage is much deeper than you’ll ever see, Hit me like a hammer to my head, I wonder were you pushed or were you led?”
“Why did you do it? Why did you do that thing to me?, Why did you do it? Why did you do that thing to me?, The only one who knows the truth, Man it’s him me and you.”
(Why Did You Do It?, 1975)
“Why Did You Do It” gave Stretch a No. 16 UK hit single in November 1975. I saw the band a month later at this concert at Middlesbrough Town Hall Crypt. The place was packed, and there were a pretty hot rock band. Stretch had just released their first album “Elastique” and the set will have included tracks from that. I also have a vague memory that they may have played “Flames”, but that could well be my memory playing tricks, and wishful thinking. The line-up of Stretch changes quite a bit over the next few years. At the time of this gig it was probably Elmer Gantry (vocals), Kirby (guitar), Roshi (guitar), Paul Martinez (bass; he would go on to play with Robert Plant) and Jim Russell (drums). I also saw Stretch the following year at Newcastle City Hall when they supported Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow on their 1976 Rainbow Rising tour. I recall that they received a great reception that night. Stretch split in 1979. In 2007 Elmer Gantry and Kirby reformed the band.

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6 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Mitch on July 21, 2014 at 10:01 am

    I agree Peter – Stretch were a great live band. I saw them in 1976 as support on the Rainbow Rising tour and again 30th March 1977 headlining the Students Union Easter Dance at Durham Dunelm although I wasn’t a student.

    The Stretch setlist from the Rainbow Rising tour at Newcastle City Hall on 14th September 1976 was:
    Fixin’ To Die, Miss Jones, Can’t Get Enough, Why Did You Do It?, Showbiz Blues, Loves Got A Hold On Me, Hold Up The Light, Thats The Way The Wind Blows.

    Reply

    • Posted by vintagerock on July 21, 2014 at 10:09 am

      Thanks for the setlist Mitch, yes I agree Stretch were pretty good and gave Rainbow a run for their money Cheers Peter

      Reply

  2. Posted by steve hewitt on July 21, 2014 at 2:32 pm

    Thanks for historic account.

    Reply

  3. Posted by Neil Thompson on July 21, 2014 at 6:54 pm

    Great stuff Peter, I was at the Dunelm gig with Mitch (my brother) and it was an absolute stormer – it would be in my top ten gigs of all time.
    Kirby first mert Jim Russell in Curved Air in late 72 and the two of them with Elmer Gantry would record a single as ‘Legs’ – ‘So many faces’ in 1974. I’d love to hear this but I’ve never seen a copy. Jim later joined the Inmates and is still gigging strongly today.

    Reply

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