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Terry Adams on the cello

When I went in to see A Late Quartet, a new film by Yaron Silberman that includes a wonderful performance by Christopher Walken as an ageing cellist, I was already thinking about string quartets, and cellists in particular. A friend had just sent me a link to the YouTube clip of an event that took place 40 years ago this summer and which represented probably the first successful introduction of a string quartet into rock music: the 1973 tour by Van Morrison’s Caledonia Soul Orchestra.

That tour was commemorated in the classic double-album It’s Too Late to Stop Now, some of which was taped at the Rainbow Theatre in North London. I was there that July night, along with just about everyone I knew. It was the gig of the year, not least because Morrison was returning to the UK for the first time since his days with Them, and it was no surprise to me when it turned out to be an absolutely perfect night because I’d seen them a week or so earlier, at Birmingham City Hall, and that had been spectacular enough. In the meantime I’d talked to Van and some of the musicians in order to write a combined review/interview/preview of the London shows for the Melody Maker (the piece is archived, if you’re interested, at the subscription-based library http://www.rocksbackpages.com).

At that point Morrison had been living in Northern California for a couple of years, and to the regular line-up of his excellent six-piece band he’d added two violins, viola and cello. Playing arrangements written by the keyboard player Jeff Labes, the string quartet added depth and texture to favourites such as “Into the Mystic” and “Listen to the Lion”. As the concert neared its end, they were featured at length on a magnificent version of “Caravan”, in a passage representing a wonderful moment of baroque and roll.

But I know exactly why my friend sent me the clip of that performance of “Caravan”. It was to remind me that this was the night we all fell in love with the blonde cellist.

When those who were at the Rainbow that night gather to reminisce, the name of Terry Adams invariably finds its way into the conversation, accompanied by swooning gestures. It’s like the face you glimpse through the window of a bus and never forget.

Along with Nate Rubin and Tim Kovatch (violins) and Nancy Ellis (viola), she was a member of the Oakland Symphony Orchestra. Forty years later she is still active in the Bay Area, playing in  musicals in San Francisco theatres and performing with the recording orchestra at George Lucas’s Skywalker Ranch film studio. She also runs something called the Nob Hill String Ensemble: “Whatever you’re planning — a wedding and reception, private party, or company convention — Terry will work with you personally to help create a mix of elegant classical, light-classical and popular music to help brighten your special event.” When Morrison put together the band to play Astral Weeks live in 2009, she and Nancy Ellis were recalled; they can be heard on the album recorded at the Hollywood Bowl concert.

That warm July night in 1973, anyway, Teressa “Terry” Adams took her place in rock and roll history. In the clip, you’ll see her responding to Van’s introduction with a smile that some of us swear we can still see hanging in the sky above Finsbury Park.

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11 Comments Post a comment
  1. Peter #

    Great performance there, thanks. I saw Denny Laine’s Electric String Band at Middle Earth, Covent Garden, in Sept ’67. Never forgotten how great they sounded, given the PAs of the day. Really sad he couldn’t take it further, but I’d say they were successful, musically. Fine version of Tim Hardin’s Reason To Believe. I think it may have been Ty. Rex’s first gig, thought nothing of that has stayed with me!

    April 15, 2013
    • Patrick Humphries #

      Richard, just listening to the 3CD versions of these shows and like so many more wondered about the fabulous Terry who you can fall in love with again on the DVD. Original: best ever live album? Discuss… Plenty more other contenders have officially come to light, but it is one of my regrets that I refused a ticket to the Rainbow for open of those shows… Hope you get this, if you do drop me a line as I don’t really do Facebook or Twitter, Best, Patrick

      January 27, 2017
      • Thanks, Patrick. You could be right. I’d call it a tie with James Brown Live at the Apollo…

        January 27, 2017
  2. Stuart Batsford #

    Love these blogs Richard. I hate to be pedantic (actually, I don’t!) but it was Birmingham Town Hall not City Hall.
    Best regards and keep ’em coming!
    Stuart Batsford

    April 15, 2013
  3. Roy Levy #

    What a pleasure ! I wasn’t at that show but I was fortunate enough to see Van on his next visit, with the Caledonia Sould Express (same band minus the strings I recall). However, one of the gigs with this lineup must have been televised, as I remember Terry Adams (and that smile) really well. A fantastic band, and you can just tell they were having a ball.

    April 15, 2013
  4. John Pidgeon #

    Without thinking which other gigs would make the list, I know that Rainbow show would be in my top five or six. An altogether thrilling performance. And yes, Ms Adams was at its mesmerising core.
    Dr John and the Meters had been at the Rainbow not that long before, as I recall. A good summer gig-wise.

    April 15, 2013
  5. Thanks Richard. This is magical. I saw Van with this band at the Free Trade Hall in Manchester. It was a revelation, the string quartet, the saxophone, Van singing ‘switch on your electric light’ and the house lights coming on, his voice directing the music, I don’t think I’ve seen a better concert. But I’d not seen this video before. Thanks for reminding me.

    April 15, 2013
  6. It is a great smile, and that night was an astonishing thing! Now when I watch or listen, the stars for me, in a stunning band, are the rhythm section of David Hayes and David Shaw. Such empathy, soul and swing…

    April 15, 2013
  7. Frances #

    bought It’s Too Late To Stop Now on it’s release in 1974 when I was just 13 (sophisticated taste) and it has never not been my favourite album of all time. Great to put faces to those names I know so well-that string produces goosebumps every single time.

    March 5, 2015
  8. Mark Lee #

    Was there that July night as well – not only the show of the year, but the show of my lifetime –

    November 27, 2016
  9. Chris H #

    Yes it was my first and favorite taste of the Van magic. Who can forget that incredible opening song Nothing you can do , then Listen to the Lion, Bring it on Home and the others. I was entranced by the mesmeric repetitions and the growls etc etc. Still am.

    December 5, 2016

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