Tony Clydesdale Vocals, Guitar
Kevin "Ebo" Evans Bass
Mike Fewings Guitar 1979-1980
Simon Blackmore Guitar 1978-1979
Danny Pepworth Drums

As we were sitting around trying to think of a name for the band, Ebo threw the name of the film The Anderson Tapes into the round. It was one of those many all-nighters, sometimes constructive evenings, sometimes just trying to figure out the meaning of life. Where the Color bit came from I honestly don't know. If it had been now, we'd most likely have gone for the English spelling. Anyway, so there we were, remnants of a band called The News, there was me, Nick Russell, Simon Blackmore, Kevin Evans and Danny Pepworth. The News had been founded in 1977, when it was harder not to be in a band than be in one; there was Jon and James Klein, who went on to achieve universal fame as the Europeans, as you will very well be aware, Nick, Kevin and myself. Nick didn't stay in the band too long. We did a few gigs together and after he left I was persuaded to reluctantly take over the vocals. The main reason being was that I wrote the lyrics after all. Reluctantly because the thought of playing centre forward in a band did not work wonders for my anal retention at the time. However, sometimes in life you've just got to get on with it. In 1978, due to the proverbial "musical differences", Kev and I decided to split from Jon and James and Colortapes was born.

Going back a bit to before it all started, I had been pretty close to being in The Pop Group at the very beginning. I was there at the very first rehearsal with Mark, Bruce, Gareth and Simon. I'd played guitar for quite a while but had been so absorbed with Bowie, Roxy Music, T. Rex and Alice Cooper that I couldn't really agree with Mark that we would be the pop star legends he promised. And despite going to school and later work in Bristol, I lived in Wedmore at the time, where there was a bus to Bristol (and back) every Tuesday. Yarp. So I took the easy way out and declined. I vividly remember making that fateful phone call to Mark from a phone booth outside the George Inn in Wedmore. End of.

Colortapes was generally a collective experience. We were often accused of being a "riffy" band. Well, that's true I suppose. That's the way we worked. Someone would turn up with an idea and we'd run through it again and again and again until it either turned into something or ended up being dropped and forgotten. I believe we had a reasonably modern way of working, in that we'd often jam almost endlessly, taping everything, then during breaks we'd listen intently to the whole thing and try to pick out what we thought were milliseconds of greatness, evolved from improvisation and then proceed to collate the best bits and make a song out of it. It wasn't always like that though. The two songs that ended up being our single "Cold Anger" and "Leaves of China" just seemed to come from some unknown place in a moment of enlightenment. The lyrics and the basic groove were delivered in just about the same amount of time as it would take to play them in the end. The problem we had here was that Simon decided to leave the band about a week before we were due to go into the studio to record it. In hindsight, fair enough, although I can't remember his reasons, probably because I didn't want to understand why at the time. He wasn't comfortable somehow which was just as important for him as it was for the rest of the band. That was a very sad moment for us all the same as anyone who knows him will understand. It was quite a big blow for us, but it was better that way than releasing a record featuring a guitar player who wasn't there anymore.

Simon having been and gone, we could never have done any better than getting Mike Fewings into the band after all attempts to get Rob Simmons of Subway Sect had failed. It was close but it didn't happen. Where Simon had offered something really special with his 12-String, which was not necessarily the archetypical post-punk instrument, Mike came up with some extremely inventive sounds that took us somewhere else again. I can't speak for him or anyone else for that matter, but after the Cortinas, I think Mike wanted to do something completely different. And that worked as far as I'm concerned.

Cold Anger and Leaves of China were recorded at Crescent Studios in Bath, engineered by David Lord, who did Peter Gabriel's stage lights. With Simon having left the and about a week before, we were in a bit of a state of turmoil, but with Mike's input we got through it and ended up with a couple of tracks we were quite proud of. Mark Stewart's presence also certainly helped us to get there.

Gigs, we had a few, but then again, too few to mention... Well, the most memorable were the Electric Ballroom with Wayne County and the Electric Chairs and The Gang of Four, our debut, then there was Tiffany's, the Students' Union, the Viaduct in Bath and I think it was called the Folks House on Park Street. It wasn't easy to get gigs, but we were quite choosy about where we would play anyway. My guitar amp was getting around though, doing more gigs and featuring on more records than any one musician could ever manage. Everyone loved the sound of that amp.

We had a lot of support from many people, to mention a few: RAB, who wrote for NME, Nick Tester from Sounds, Thos from Wavelength, The Pop Group and their manager Dick O'Dell, my brother Simon and his mates, the indispensible Rich Taylor, our road manager and chief advisor in spiritual and factual matters, Dave Lewis, and does anyone know what happened to Jesus? Jesus with the Ford Transit? Not to mention Steve Street of GBH fame too. Without him we'd have been nothing at all. But whatever, the single didn't sell more than it did and the long hard slog went on. We were approached by Virgin Records at one point, who explicitly requested that I should travel to London to meet them alone. I told them I wouldn't come without the whole band, which they didn't like but we all went together anyway. As far as I remember the result was "don't call us, we'll call you..." and we didn't call them back either.

If we had a philosophy, it was to only play what we ourselves were happy with and if nobody liked it; tough. We wanted to get off on it basically and to a certain extent we did. But it wasn't easy. Getting gigs was a hassle and our being choosy about where we would play didn't help. Every three or four months somebody would say "maybe we should split up?" and I would always be the one that persuaded everyone to continue, until I gave in myself after falling in love with a mad Swiss woman who achieved instant fame in the area. After that I recorded some new and a couple of old tracks as demos for Simon Edward's Heartbeat with John Simpson on drums, John Shennan on bass and Mike Fewings on guitar, intending to carry on using the name Colortapes, but shortly afterwards I left for Swiss pastures and that was that.

What else do I remember? A kebab on the Triangle in Clifton almost every evening before going to rehearsals at GBH, then to the Dug-Out until lights out, home somehow, up and off to work the next day, Pro-Plus caffeine tablets from the chemist next to Doc Pepps, stay awake all day, then repeat. The thought of it keeps me going to this very day.

So here we are, 30 years later and the whole Bristol buzz has been revitalized by Mike Darby. Hats off to Mike. We could all have done with him all those years ago. And he's got good connections for excellent quality T-Shirts too. Even though Colortapes didn't survive, we can be proud to have belonged to a movement that ended up producing so much amazing music over the next three decades and still is
doing so.


» Download PDF of Colortapes NME feature by Rab


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