Archivist, designer, writer, salesman, publicist, editor, secretary, computer operator, merchandise manager and tea maker are among some of the many jobs that Mike Finney has done during his time with Amazing Blondel We talked to Mike about his involvement with the band and the setting up and running of the Information Centre.
In his day job, Mike is a teacher. In fact, he is Head of Design and Technology in one of the largest and most success-ful comprehensive schools in Lincolnshire. Mike manages to combine teaching and running his department with writing and editing Design and Technology text books for one of the major publishers.
"I've worked for Harper Collins in my spare time since 1986 and I've either written or been involved in writing over a dozen different books by now. I'm about to start another one at the moment which will keep me busy for the next six months or so."
Mike is the man who Eddie Baird refers to as "knowing more about Amazing Blondel than we do!", but just how did Mike become involved with the band?
"I first heard Amazing Blondel accidentally in a record shop in Leicester in the summer of 1971. A guy in the queue in front of me asked if he could hear Amazing Blondel's new album. I was knocked out, I thought it was the most original music that I'd ever heard, so different from the folk and rock that I usually listened to. The guy in front of me bought a copy and I did the same. The album turned out to be 'Fantasia Lindum."
Mike then set out to find out as much about the band as he could and get hold of all their records.
"I got to see the band as often as I could and collected articles and cuttings from the music press."
At this time Mike was liv-ing in Leicester and after graduating from Loughborough University, moved to Lincolnshire to take up a teaching job in 1975.
"Every time I drove up the A46 towards Lincoln the cathedral, especially floodlit at night, reminded me of 'Celestial Light'. Living in Lincolnshire, I could see how John was inspired by the county when he wrote his lyrics."
In the early eighties, Mike met a local blacksmith called Bob Oakes. Bob himself was an ex-teacher from Scunthorpe.
"We were talking about music one day when the topic of Amazing Blondel came up. Bob told me that he knew one of the band and introduced me to Eddie. I 'phoned Eddie, we agreed to meet for a beer (or two or three), got on really well and became great friends."
Mike's biggest surprise came in 1995 when he received a letter from Mark Paytress, the features editor at Record Col-lector.
"Mark said that he was doing a feature on Amazing Blondel and asked me to look over it, check and add anything I felt should be included. I was gobsmacked. I couldn't understand how Record Collector had made a connection between me and Amazing Blondel. I rang Mark, who told me that they had kept my letter on file from 1988. I was no nearer to the answer but then Mark reminded me that in issue 102 in February 1988, Roger Tyrer had written to the 'Your Letters' page with a question about Blondel. The reply that was printed was so inaccurate that I couldn't resist writing in to put them right. I didn't receive a reply and as a result, forgot about the whole matter. The features editor obviously wanted to get the new article right."
Incidentally, Mike tells us that issue 102 of Record Collector is a must for Blondel collectors because it contains not only Roger's letter but also a photograph of Terry and Eddie taken in 1975 on page 57 as part of a feature on the top 100 rare U.K. albums. At number 67 is Amazing Blondel (Bell SBLL 131).
"When I had finished look-ing over the Record Collector article I got in touch with John Gladwin to let him check that what I had said about the band was accurate. A few months later I received a letter from John asking me if I would be prepared to answer letters from fans and look into starting an appreciation society. It seems as though Eddie had convinced John and Terry that I was the man for the job."
HTD Records were responsible for turning this into 'The Amazing Blondel Information Centre' when they issued the Live Abroad album.
"I set up a P.O. Box number at my local post office and passed the details on to Malcolm Holmes who was designing he sleeve at the time. By the time I saw the finished sleeve, the grand title, 'The Amazing Blondel Information Centre' was in print".
The Information Centre now receives letters and e-mails from Amazing Blondel fans from all over the world.
"Fans from literally all over the world get in touch with us - Australia, Europe, USA and even Japan. Many letters are from new fans, not just the ones that remember the band from the 1970s. Some of them were not even born when some of the earlier albums were made."