Diamond days are recalled at festival

Del Shannon backed by The Diamonds (Mick Brooks and Steve Gordon).
Del Shannon backed by The Diamonds (Mick Brooks and Steve Gordon).

THERE was a time when Bognor Regis was the biggest music venue between Portsmouth and Brighton. Some would argue that it was more important than Portsmouth.

Those days were the 1960s, days when Bognor’s premier band was The Diamonds - a band which will be bathed in its own nostalgia when it resurfaces as the Saturday night headliners at ROX Music & Arts free festival 2011 (Seafront, Bognor Regis, Saturday, July 23, 1 - 11pm; Sunday, July 24, 1 - 10.30pm).

They will be rolling back the years in the town where it all started.

Their set for this year’s ROX free musical festival in Bognor Regis is called Rockin’ The Ages, which is exactly what they will do in a big dose of both pop and Bognor nostalgia.

Chalky, based in Midhurst now, is one of four vocalists on the night, each harking back to a different era in a Bognor institution.

“I was not with them in the beginning, but the band formed in the late 50s, early 60s in Bognor and went through various line-ups. The line-up that was the most known, the big professional line-up, had Steve Gordon on lead guitar and Terry Slade on drums.

“They were backing P J Proby. They were his band while they were on tour. They went on some of the package tours, people like Dusty Springfield and Del Shannon. They were active all the way through the 60s, but they have been active in one form or another ever since - though for the last 20 years or so they have only reformed really to do things like charity gigs.

“I was involved from the late 60s after the band split up. They had quite a bad car crash. Unfortunately one of the members was killed, and Terry Slade, the drummer, broke his leg. Afterwards, Steve left the band for marital commitments, but after a while he decided he would get back together.

“He reformed the Diamonds under the name The Individuals because Dave And The Diamonds were running at that time as a break-off band. I don’t remember all the legalities, but Steve more or less had the same line-up, bringing in myself.

“The Individuals went from 1966-1972. They were good years. We were playing a lot locally. We were supporting bands like The Tremeloes and we had quite a large following. I didn’t originally come from Bognor, but we moved to Bognor when I was about ten years old.

“And then the band split up. I can’t remember the exact reasons. I went my way and they went theirs.”

But now all the paths converge, with four vocalists returning for this year’s ROX free festival on Bognor seafront where The Diamonds headline the ROX arena stage on Saturday, July 23.

It could be a hint of things to come.

“If it works, and things are looking good so I should say when it works, we might well take it further.”

Their strength will be their flexibility. For ROX they will be 12 in the band plus four vocalists, but they could go up to 24 where needed or down much smaller as required, as befits the occasion and the venue.

“Recording is something that we may actually do if the opportunity comes up. But at the moment we are aiming just to get established on our way back.”