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The punk period was all about bands going 'indie' and 'doing it for themselves. It was a grass roots protest and two fingers to the corporate record company stranglehold on the industry. We recorded our 'hit single' in the cellar of a house for 30 quid and then a ‘proper’ studio to get a decent vocal sound, taking the total cost to a heady 130 pounds.
We signed to local label Big Bear records and almost immediately heard that legendary BBC disc jockey John Peel loved the song and was going to play it on his late night show. Peel then persuaded daytime Radio One DJ Paul Burnett to make it his record of the week, and suddenly life took a different turn. UB 40 (also from Birmingham) supported us at a weird Young Socialist’s gig in Derby and the song entered the charts. For about a year things were looking good but then it all began turning to custard and in the words of Paul Simon, went 'slip slidin away'. By 1987, we were down from four members to the Jones brothers three. Jim Doherty, our bassist (far left) departed to get a proper job.
This is a pic of the band playing at Brockwell Park London in 1981 to celebrate the culmination of the 'People's March for Jobs'. Taking the whole month of May, 200 marchers walked south from Liverpool and Leeds to London in protest against Margaret Thatcher's polices and the large scale unemployment caused. It was the biggest march since the historic Jarrow march of 1927. We'd released a single called 'Gotta get a Job' about the frustrations of unemployment, and the organisers asked if we'd play at selected dates for the valiant marchers. In the end, we chose to walk the whole journey, a walking distance of over 500 kilometers, with the marchers. It was one of the most transforming experiences of our entire lives.
Big highlight was playing on the same bill as Pete Townshend, who thanked us personally backstage for doing the march. There's a new book out (All Together Now) by a guy called Mike Carter, who's dad Pete organised the march. Mike re-trod the journey of the People's March for Job's in 2016 just before Brexit and he makes interesting observations about the pulse of the UK at this time. I had the surreal experience of being tracked down and contacted by Mike for an interview about my reflections of our 1981 experience and the state of things in the UK today. He was a tad surprised to hear of my journey from Punk rock to Vicar and Birmingham UK to Auckland New Zealand. Mike was also a Birmingham born boy so we had a great conversation about growing up in the land of the Peaky Blinder's.
When Brit-pop arrived in the early 1990's, the music scene once again burst into life reminiscent of the 1960’s. Guitar bands once again became the rage and live gigs became a concept people bothered to turn up for. Blur and Oasis dominated the proceedings musically, along with the entertaining spectacle of the two Gallagher brothers living out their brutal sibling rivalry in a full-frontal public display. Pulp’s rousing anthemic Common People’ was a family favourite and became the infant-hood soundtrack for our then 2-year old Tamara.
Buoyed and encouraged by all this, we set about recording our best material to date. We did the usual business of sending demo tapes and CD's to everyone in the music business with a pulse and then held our breath for the usual deafening response of total silence.
Out of the blue, came one those phone calls that make you ponder the workings of the universe.
The former drummer of Roy Wood’s The Move, phoned us to say that the late Don Arden had somehow heard our demo’s over in L.A. Don was interested in putting us in the studios to get some top-class recordings of the songs we’d recorded on our 4 track cassette machine. For those who’ve never heard of Don Arden, a bit of interesting context.
Don was now in his seventies, having retired from showbiz very rich on his earnings from managing bands such as The Small Faces, Black Sabbath and most notably E.L.O. However, he would probably register a flicker of recognition for most people as the dad of Sharon Osborne, wife of Ozzy Osborne. A meeting was arranged at Don’s mansion in Surrey. Don flew in first class from L.A and we drove down from Birmingham in my 18-year old Nissan Bluebird.
As the synchronicity of life would have it, Don paid for us to record in the private studios of our old support band, UB 40, now with 15 years and much fame and fortune distance between us. We produced some of the best tracks we’d ever done. and Don was excited.
For reasons outside of our control, it turned into another story of ‘almost but not quite’. In retrospect, it was the beginning of the end of a very long and winding road for us as a band. For 20 odd years we’d dreamed the dream, gigged the gigs, give it our all … but it wasn’t to be.
I think we all felt most disappointed for mom and dad who’d supported us all the way through it. Never once did they tell us to forget the dream and get a proper job. Dad even used to travel in the van with us to gigs around the country as our biggest supporter, sitting on the speakers in the Ford Transit van, returning home at 2 am from some distant part of the country.
The music we created as The Quads was good enough to have done more, but it's still here to be enjoyed. Have listen yourself and feedback your thoughts.
4 OF THOSE TRACKS CAN NOW BE PURCHASED for your enjoyment, with all proceeds funding ongoing creative endeavours.
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