Belleville band adds variety to Beatle's weekend
Big Black Smoke pays tribute to the Kinks
 

Posted By By Barry Ellsworth
August 2008

Big Black Smoke erupted onto the outdoor Empire Stage Sunday, one of two Belleville acts to stroll down Abbey Road on the River Canada.

You could say it was a Kink-y walk — the Belleville foursome is a Kinks’ tribute band, and if you don’t know the Kinks, you had no business at the annual three-day weekend Empire Theatre production to celebrate the Beatles and the music of the '60s.

“One of the top four,” said Chris Dunwell, lead vocals and guitar of Big Black Smoke, referring to the Kinks’ position in the English band invasion hierarchy of the 1960s.

For the record, filling out the top four, according to Dunwell, are the Rolling Stones, the Beatles and The Who (not necessarily in that order). Dunwell, Gary Peck, Ron Bowley and John-Paul Murphy make up Big Black Smoke, which is the name of a lesser-known Kinks’ tune.

It refers to London, England, where coal fires coated the city in black smoke until coal was scuttled in the 1960s to save city residents from early deaths by smog.

“Everyone called it The Big Black Smoke,” Dunwell said — he thought the name appropriate for a band that was crazy about the Kinks.

All the band members are from Belleville, Dunwell via Wales — he landed in Belleville in 1982.

Peck, lead guitar and vocals, works at Halla Climate Control; Bowley, base and vocals, is in engineering and was with The Saloon Dawgs; Murphy, drums and vocals, was with Photograph and a bandmate of Dunwell’s and works for a courier service; Dunwell has his own business, Signs Dunwell.

The Kinks tribute band — remember the classic Lola, All Day and All Of The Night, Dead End Street — was Dunwell’s idea.

He met Peck through a neighbour.

“When he wanted to form a band he called me,” Peck said.

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Big Black Smoke was assembled about three years ago.

“Gary and I put the band together,” Dunwell said.

They have evolved from straight Kinks’ material to covering Cream, the Dave Clarke Five and other top British invaders of the 1960s.

The band performs in local bars, mainly, and their career got a boost last year when Big Black Smoke was included in the Abbey Road Beatles tribute weekend. They got the gig for variety’s sake.

“We were basically hired to play non-Beatle (music),” Dunwell said.

“It was a good experience,” Peck added.

Last year, he admitted to being “nervous” but not this time around.

“This year, I am looking forward to it,” Peck said.

To find out more about Big Black Smoke, go to www.bigblacksmoke.net.

The other Belleville act to play Abbey Road is All You Need Is Love, which includes the Empire Theatre’s Mark Rashotte and Andy Forgie, hosts of the three-day event.

bellsworth@intelligencer.ca





 

Abbey Road On The River Canada 2008

Canada Day 2007

© Big Black Smoke 2014