Spending much of his time as director at the Cosgrove Physio Center, guitarist Stuart Cosgrove is also the driving force of the Lancashire area instrumental guitar group known as The Epitones. Hipped to mwe3.com by the fretboard professionals at England’s renowned Pipeline magazine, Stuart is a true scholar of Shadows music and throughout the 2022 Epitones album, Mood Swing, there are plenty of Shadows-inspired song stylings. Not only that, but Dr. C has almost perfected the guitar sound effects of Shadows guitar icon Hank B. Marvin, especially their underrated 1980s albums – from Change Of Address (1980) to Reflection (1990).
The 2022 Epitones album Mood Swing provides a good example of Stuart Cosgrove as a song stylist, putting the best of the great songs of the past into a new 21st century instrumental-rock context. Examples of the greatness here are huge, because each of the 16 tracks here summons up some of the greatest pop melodies, mostly but not exclusively, of the 1960s era.
A pair of Beatles songs covered instrumentally; ala Hank is another highlight as is an Epitones cover of the 1968 Shadows song “Evening Comes”. Credited to each of the four Shadows, it's interesting to note that “Evening Comes” was first done as a vocal with singer Cliff Richard for a theatrical production, yet it’s the Shadows instrumental version, that has turned up on various anthologies through the ages, that Stuart restarts and that wins the day here; the song was always easily one of the Shads best originals.
The list keeps growing, including tasteful and even surprising instrumental covers of past classics written by the Everly Brothers, Fleetwood Mac, Amy Winehouse, Kim Fowley, Shadow Morton, Kirsty MacColl and Imelda May. But it’s really the early doo-wop era tracks, a memorable take on the 1960 Platters classic “Harbor Lights”, written in 1937, the scorching, album leadoff cover of “Cry Me A River” from 1953 and a Shadow-ized version the 1949 classic “Mona Lisa” that ultimately wins the day. The 2022 release of Mood Swing is the best Epitones album yet and is essential listening for musicologists, instrumental guitar historiographers and, as the sound just jumps at you, audio specialists alike.
mwe3.com presents an interview with
mwe3: Can you tell us where you’re from originally and where you live now and what you like best about it? What era in music history did you grow up in and who were some of your big musical / guitar influences growing up and when did you start listening to The Shadows and what period of the Shadows are you most influenced by? Were The Shads your biggest guitar influence and who came first as influences; the Shadows or the Beatles?
Stuart Cosgrove: I am from a little town in Lancashire, U.K. called Oswaldtwistle. I came from a farming community. Music has always been a big passion. I used to turn the volume up on all the great guitar solos in hits of the late 1960’s and 70’s, originally being influenced by the Glam rock era of Slade and The Sweet, David Bowie, Roy Wood’s Wizzard. I was drawn to that sound of the electric guitar. However it wasn’t until 1972 that a fellow pupil at school who played guitar thrust an LP into my hand and said ‘If you want to hear a great guitar sound, play this! It was The Shadows Greatest Hits and was blown away by the sound of Hank’s guitar, but also the tightness and overall sound of the band!
I became a lifelong fan of Hank and the Shads! I bought every album I could of theirs and was over the moon when they reformed and did the 1977 Golden greats tours. They toured more or less every year for a while and I would often go to 3 or 4 of their concerts in the area. I also loved the Beatles and loved their earthy sound, but the Shads were my main influence. My favorite period is early Shads, but I love Rockin’ With Curly Leads, Jigsaw, Tasty and album covers such as “God Only Knows” and “Walk, Don’t Run”… I consider theirs to be the best version! My favorite Hank albums are his 1969 album and his Guitar Syndicate album, both of which I never tire of.
mwe3: Do you view yourself more as a song-stylist rather than a composer? Do you also write your own compositions and when did you start playing guitar and tell us what guitars are your favorites? Also, you are left-handed and does being left-handed present any challenges to your guitar playing?
Stuart Cosgrove: Yes, I would class myself as a song stylist. I wish I could be more prolific with my own work, but I don’t tend to be happy enough with my composing efforts. I have put a few self-penned tracks on albums in the past, but never considered them a strong contribution. I first started guitar on an old Hofner and old ‘cornflake packet’ amp called a Scala transistor amp when I was 13. Both them and I sounded terrible! I played that old right handed Hofner, left handed and it did present a challenge. Not until I started earning any decent money could I afford a left hook guitar!
mwe3: When did you establish The Epitones and how many albums have you made with The Epitones? How did you come up with the name Epitones and can you contrast the different albums or do they follow a similar tact? I remember the 2016 Epitones album Eclectric Guitars and it even had a MMO bonus CD (music minus one). Why did you include a MMO CD?
Stuart Cosgrove: The Epitones formed in 2007. The title was shortened from Epic Tones to Epitones. To date we have produced 6 albums. My then Stepson, Lee Murphy was a professional bass player with the resident band on the TV show ‘Stars In Their Eyes’. I literally pinched that band to back me when we did local gigs. We used various vocalists but did a whole set of instrumentals as well. Lee also taught me recording techniques and helped me produce the early albums. The first album was Strativarious and was mainly Shads orientated, but the next one, Strangers In Paradise explored the Surf Rock sounds as well. Blue Heaven covered ballads of the 1950’s and ‘60s. Eclectric Guitars - as the title suggests covered everything from country, Latin, classic and blues.
I think the last three albums have the best production and tone, but it is seldom I listen to myself and think that can’t be improved upon! I have been known to re-record my lead as many as 30 times before I am happy with my interpretation, but also because I often make mistakes! Ha, Ha! I used to include a free backing track for budding guitarists out there. Even now I try to make one available if someone wants to have a go at my tracks.
mwe3: Mood Swing is the best Epitones album yet. You start the album with a cover of “Cry Me A River”, a golden oldie dating back to 1953. Are you finding that younger ears are open to these song classics and did you hear someone’s version of “Cry Me A River” that you especially liked?
Stuart Cosgrove: Thanks for your compliment Robert! Yes I think you are right, more younger ears are earing these classics largely due to people like Michael Buble. In fact his version sold it to me to do as a guitar instrumental.
mwe3: “Sway” is another golden oldie from the 1950s. Did you have a favorite version of that track prior to recording it on the Epitones new album and when did you first hear that track?
Stuart Cosgrove: The first version I heard was the Dean Martin version, but it was an amazing Gypsy Jazz guitarist called Joscho Stephan who did a version I loved. His arrangement was a Gypsy Swing and I went for that kind of feel.
mwe3: “Oh Diane” is a Fleetwood Mac song from the early 1980s. Did you choose it because it has a kind of 1950’s sound brought up to date?
Stuart Cosgrove: Absolutely! I loved the melody and I could hear the harmony guitars in my head before I did it. Also loved the infectious rhythm.
mwe3: “So Sad” was a hit for The Everly Brothers in 1960. Tell us about the significance of the song on you and also on the UK fans?
Stuart Cosgrove: “So Sad” was the same. The Everly’s harmonies evoked that beautiful melancholy feel. I tried to emphasize this with bending in on the initial phrase and doing a double stopped solo in the middle eight.
mwe3: Mood Swing presents a kind of history lesson of songwriting. “Harbor Lights” was written in 1937 by Will Grosz (English name Hugh Williams), an Austrian refugee that moved to England in 1937 to escape the Nazis. It’s amazing how popular the song became over the years. The same writer also wrote “Red Sails In The Sunset”, another standard. Did you choose it because it seems perfect for your guitar style?
Stuart Cosgrove: I love Tony Williams and the Platters sound and feel on this. I even recorded a running stream at the beginning to get a similar effect and found some ‘Boat Foghorn’ sounds on my Roland Keyboard! Yes, Tony’s vocal and phrasing can sometimes lend itself to a guitar instrumental version.
mwe3: “Mona Lisa” dates back to 1949 from the film Captain Carey, USA. How did you approach your up-tempo arrangement and did you kind of Shadow-ize the track and were there other versions that inspired you to cover it?
Stuart Cosgrove: I decided to rock up “When You Wish Upon A Star” on my last album, Last Horizon and, as much as I love Nat King Cole’s version, I just had to rock it up! My main inspiration was hearing a guitarist called Roger Paulsson do a similar version live!
mwe3: Track 7 “Big, Bad, Handsome Man” is a cover of the Imelda May song from 2009. Are you a fan of Imelda May and does the song have a kind of Latin tinge to it? What else inspired you to cover it?
Stuart Cosgrove: I loved Imelda May when she was doing her Rockabilly style with her husband at the time, Darrel Higham, a great Rockabilly guitarist. I loved the strong beat as you say, with a Latin tinge. I also wanted to explore the Wah guitar to bring out the bluesy feel as you hear Hank do on some of their later material.
mwe3: “All By Myself” sounds like a Shadows arrangement from the early late 1980s. Eric Carmen said the song was inspired by the classical composer Rachmaninoff, which is very interesting to note as rock musicians were influenced by classical music. Did you cover that because it has a very Shadows torch-song inspired melody?
Stuart Cosgrove: Yes, primarily with “All By Myself” and “I Close My Eyes”, I wanted to go full-bore on the big production and arrangement so every bit of emotion could be brought out with the guitar mimicking the voice as it were, but I also wanted to use a heavier guitar to emphasize certain passages. I suppose one of my trademarks now is to commonly feature a Hank-style guitar along with an overdriven blues guitar within the same song. I personally think this can work as long as it’s done tastefully!
mwe3: Tell us how you recorded with Rob Drummond, some tracks feature his great sound like of “All By Myself”. Is Rob drumming on every track? Also tell us about recording with Kol Traynor and Joanne Cosgrove.
Stuart Cosgrove: Rob used to play in a Sixties-style band so he knows full well how to get that driving beat! He played on most of my tracks, but sadly toward the end of the album fell ill, so I had to use a Roland Electronic kit and also programmed some fills myself.
Kol Traynor just lives across the road and although he is mainly a heavy rock bass player, he loves a challenge and even brought his double bass for a couple of tracks. He made me promise to keep it quiet as if his mates found out he played some of the ballads, he would be lynched!
Joanne, my wife, not only does the album artwork, but also helped out with some backing vocals. I double and triple tracked her and also put her voice through a Roland Vocalizer to create more harmonies. You can almost hear her Lancashire accent on “Walkin’ In The Sand”!
mwe3: Shadow Morton wrote “Walking In The Sand” for the Shangri-Las. Not the usual instrumental rock fare but it’s very effective. Who hipped you to the possibilities of this song as an Epitones cover?
Stuart Cosgrove: The live version of this song by Imelda May and Jeff Beck absolutely blew me away and I put it on the backburner for a few years worrying about even attempting some of Jeff’s technique. I hope it gives a similar feel to what Jeff and Imelda did!
mwe3: I always found it amazing that “Nutrocker” was written by Kim Fowley in 1962 and that both ELP and the Shadows did it too. I read Kim had to secure a copyright for his arrangement with the Tchaikovsky estate!
Stuart Cosgrove: I always thought, what if the guitar shared more of the lead on this song? That’s what I tried to attempt here.
mwe3: How about “I Close My Eyes”? Was there a version of this that opened your eyes to the possibilities?
Stuart Cosgrove: Yes, I thought Dusty Springfield’s version was epic and I loved the emotion she wrings from the song. I tried to get this feel with the guitar, whilst changing tones a few times for emphasis.
mwe3: And the two Beatles covers, are they personal favorites of yours? They did unearth Lennon’s original version of “Bad To Me” years ago as a demo he brought the band. But I think Lennon wrote it with someone else in mind as a favor for his manager. And of course “Hold Me Tight” is quintessential McCartney.
Stuart Cosgrove: I was going through all my early Beatles records and played these 2 gems. I thought they were great and hadn’t had the airplay they deserve, although Billy J. Kramer had a hit with “Bad To Me in 1964. I loved the driving beat in “Hold Me Tight” and wanted to really emphasize this. I thought they could work as instrumentals - both having a great melody but also leaving it open for some improvisation.
mwe3: Is “Evening Comes” the ultimate Hank solo instrumental? Your version is very faithful to the original. It’s an underrated song and Cliff’s vocal version is pretty effective too.
Stuart Cosgrove: I love Hank’s sound in this but have always thought it too slow. I played the vinyl at twice the speed and thought it was great, but ended up doing it just slightly faster than the original.
mwe3: How about the Amy Winehouse cover of “You Know I’m No Good”? Is that one of her lesser known compositions? It so guitar-centric. Did you recently rediscover that track or did you want to record it for a while?
Stuart Cosgrove: Yes, I recently re-discovered this track. I had always wanted to attempt to emulate the melancholy of one of Amy’s songs but couldn’t find the right one. I came back to this one in the end.
mwe3: The Kirsty MacColl cover of “There’s A Guy Works Down Our Chip Shop” is interesting. She was such a major talent. It does a have a very Shadows-esque sound to it.
Stuart Cosgrove: Yes, this is a proper ‘Rock n’ Roll’ number, but I also loved the off-the-wall guitar solo in the original. I wanted to get a feel of that with a different sound for the solo. The rest of it as you say is Shad’s playing driving Rock ‘n’ Roll.
mwe3: I saw a pic of you with the one time Shadows bass player Licorice Locking. When did you meet him and when was that picture from? He’s famous for his great harmonica playing on the Shadows 1963 track “Dakota”.
Stuart Cosgrove: I played with Brian at a number of Epitone gigs and we became good friends. That’s a picture of him rehearsing at my house about late 1990’s, even before the band had formed. I met him round about then and played with him on and off till 2009.
mwe3: What is the trick used to get such a strong reverb on your guitar sound? What strings do you string your guitars with to get that sound?
Stuart Cosgrove: My main echo is through an Amtech echo unit, but the main two secrets to my tone equipment-wise are equalization and a Preamp to warm the sound before the echo. I use a 31-band Roland equalizer and push up the middle frequencies while lowering the extremally low and high frequencies. Then I use a Pierre Bastien pre-amp and of course the EF86 channel on my hand wired Vox AC15.
I have tried for decades to perfect this sound and this is the closest I’ve come to ‘That Sound’. I used to have old Binson, Hank used to use and although fantastic on its own, it became unreliable. Doing the above, I find still allows me to use 10/46 strings on my Strat and still get a deep, rich tone.
mwe3: Was there one or two main guitars used on Mood Swing? Were they both Strats? Tell us about your left-handed Strat and other guitars you play on Mood Swing.
Stuart Cosgrove: I mainly used my Marvin Signature Custom Shop Strat which I had specially ordered in left-handed format. I changed the pickups to Vintage Toneriders and use the Hank Marvin commissioned Easy Mute Tremolo system. I also used the Burns Marvin guitar and the Fender VI for those really deep tones on the Beatles cover for example.
mwe3: Tell us about your work as a physio-therapist and your company www.cosgrovephysiocentre.co.uk You are also a body builder as well? How did you get into that kind of vocation?
Stuart Cosgrove: I set up my Private Physio clinic in 1987 and now have 5 physios working at the clinic. I specialize in ‘strength sports’ injuries as well as ‘Mechanical Spinal’ conditions. I used to compete in Bodybuilding, winning 3 National titles. The bodybuilding gave me an interest in muscle function which lead me to explore Physiotherapy as a career. I retired from competition in 1999.
mwe3: The world has really gone through some big changes these past few years. Do you think the worst is behind us?
Stuart Cosgrove: I really think we are going to see much more turmoil due to man’s inability to rule himself. My faith gives us hope that one day things will indeed get better and there will be an end to suffering when this world is eventually brought into a New age, where God’s righteousness will abound! Thank you so much Robert for the chance to discuss the music that means so much to us all.