People from the era tell their stories.
Most Bands Fail Because Their Singers Aren't Up To Scratch!
The Mike Darby Story
Thomas Brooman told me about three months ago that it's not fair asking other people to write their stories for the Archive if I haven't written one myself.
My early recollections of liking music were playing the Top of The Pops compilations at mum and dads house. They could be bought in town on a Saturday at Woolworths; looking back they were a good idea for kids to get into bands as they were cheap and covered all the hits in one go.
I had three brothers with Paul being a year younger than me. He was super bright and had won a free place at Bristol Grammar School. So whilst I went to the local Comprehensive at The Ridings in Winterbourne, Paul caught the bus into town each day.
Music didn't play a big part in my early life until 1977 when Paul brought home a copy of ‘My Aim Is True' by Elvis Costello and then a week later ‘Never Mind The Bollocks' by The Sex Pistols. Paul claimed to have nicked them from the old Virgin Mega Store near the Bus Station. I never found out whether this actually happened but you can imagine that it was possible back in 1977 before security tags and security arrived. I assume you'd ask Chris, (who much later DJ'd at my wedding party) to look at the Record sleeve and then you'd ‘do a runner!'
Dad made us do our homework together in an upstairs bedroom and Paul had some how saved enough pocket money to buy a record player which he had located in the ‘study room'. We would play these new Punk Records over and over again talking about becoming Punk Rockers and dressing up to look the part.
Initially we used to go out on a Friday night to Frome side Youth Club because the DJ would play a 15 minute slot where we could pogo and hear some of our favourite Punk Records. There was a small group of Punks, semi Punks, Middle Class Punks, people that tried hard to be different, non threatening and fashion motivated as much as anything else. We had to throw our clothes out of our bedroom window, get changed in the lane and changed back again before we came home later that evening. We got away with this for months until Paul started to feel more confident and decided to die his hair with shoe polish and stick a pin through his ear with a needle! Paul was in Bristol and obviously the kids in town had access to the Record Shops and the fashion shops like Paradise Garage and Bonnie Maroni.
These shops were located next door to Virgin Records in the under pass and kids of different ages and backgrounds would pop in and out dreaming of being able to afford to buy a pair of drain pipe trousers or Winkle Picker Boots or Brothel Creepers.
Paradise Garage was the much more expensive fashion shop and if money allowed was the place to hang out, regrettably I didn't have a job so any clothes I was able to afford to buy came from the cheaper version next door at Bonnies.
The early Punk gigs in Bristol at places like The Dug Out, The Exhibition Centre or Barton Hill Youth Club we never attended as by the time we'd saved enough money to get on a bus and purchase a ticket everything had moved to The Locarno. The first gigs I saw would have been the second wave of bands like Stiff Little Fingers, Generation X, The Police, Siouxsie and The Banshees, XTC and The Ruts.
Looking back now and reading the notes that my wife and her sister kept about every gig they ever attended from 1977 the mid 80's mine is pathetic in comparison in the early days of Punk.
Punk to me was a statement of intent, a way of expressing yourself, being different. In many respects it was a way of ‘coming out', growing up, finding your personality, being a rebel or so we all thought.
Now that I had found some confidence and believed that anybody could be in a band I was committed to trying my luck.
The Ridings had some really good Rock bands with great musicians playing in them, Wayne Hussey (The Mission, Sisters of Mercy), Mike Fursman (later to be in the Rimshots), Kevin Jarvis and Kevin Skuse. None of these bands interested me as I was now set of becoming a Rock Star but with spiky hair, tight trousers, Winkle Picker Boots and a raincoat.
I can't remember how the band came together but my first effort was Mike and The Molemen with Mark Perry on lead guitar, Ian Thompson on guitar, Martin Crossley on bass, Ian Thompson drums and yours truly singing really badly.
Most of us by now had entered the sixth form and we were supposed to be studying for A Levels. We only played a handful of gigs all at school, but they would all be packed out as the younger kids had discovered Punk, or new wave as it was now called. We never recorded a demo but I do have live recordings and fond memories as this band as it was the stepping stone for me to have the confidence to approach better musicians with the aim of forming The Rimshots.
New wave had now started to change in 1979/1980 to Two Tone, Reggae, Ska and pop punk. I'd failed most of my A levels and decided unlike virtually all my mates at school not to go to College but to get a job in town.
With my son sat upstairs having just passed his degree and with little to no chance of finding a job in 2010 its almost unbelievable now to think that when I tried to get work I was offered seven different jobs with virtually ever major bank or building society. I chose the Prudential. Why I have no idea but it did take me into Bristol each day and into the world of seeing a band virtually every night of the week.
I cannot recall how The Rimshots started or who approached who but I seem to remember that the first line up if you can call it that included Adrian Cavil. Martin Crossley, Greg Emery, Mike Fursman and yours truly again singing really badly.
I think we rehearsed at a Scout Hut in Frampton Cotterell called Mafeking Hall, I'm pretty sure we did a couple of local gigs but in truth where and when I have no idea.
Something must have happened to make me do this but very quickly the line up had changed to Simon Heathfield bass, Nick Waring drums, Mike Fursman guitar, Richard Bentley keyboards and me still singing. How all the original musicians disappeared I can't remember and how I obtained the much better replacements is again a memory that has long left my head.
These boys could really play and within a very short period of time we had written a collection of songs which we recorded straight to 4 Track in a studio in Yate. I still have this demo recording which is shocking but unbelievably this enabled us to get a support slot supporting the Beat at The Locarno in 1980 and a singles deal with a new local label Shoc Wave Records. Looking back I don't think we'd even played a gig in Bristol at this stage and probably only ever played one gig at either Mafeking Hall or another Church Hall in Winterbourne Down.
Anyway by now I was Mod with a Parka, no scooter but certainly a Mohair Suit, I was working in town, had just bought my first car and my first PA system complete with monitors. I was the kiddy!
I knew where to get gigs as by now I was out and about every night checking out the local competition. We played our first Bristol gig at the Stonehouse, quickly followed by a Battle of The Bands at Trinity Hall.
Every new band played The Stonehouse, a tiny pub at the bottom of the M32 run by Madge. It was a great starting point and virtually every band that formed in Bristol or the surrounding areas would have played there between 1979 and 1982.
Trinity was different, a big venue with a 500 or so capacity but run by a local hippy character Mark Simpson. He was probably the most enthusiastic man I've ever met, totally into the local music scene. He was so into the bands that not only would he promote the shows but he'd pick some of the bands up in his van.
Anyway The Rimshots third gig was supporting The Beat at The Locarno. 800 to 1000 mods with the place jumping, we'd arrived and ‘made it' or so I would have anyone that would listen believe!
We ending up playing every gig in town The Green Rooms, Romeo and Juliet's, The Colston Hall, Cawardines, Saint Mathias College, Redland Poly, The Anson Rooms, The Epicurean Bar at Bristol University to name a but a few.
I was still out and about mostly with our bass player Simon Heathfield checking out virtually every touring band but also every local band that played in the City. My favourite Bristol bands were The Electric Guitars, Talisman, The Various Artists, The A.T's and Out Of Order.
Obviously I thought The Rimshots were the best band in the world and destined for a major deal but after initial success with releasing our first 7” on Shoc Wave I wanted us to go onto one of the bigger, better known local labels like Fried Egg or Heartbeat. I tried in vain to get us a slot on The Bristol Recorder but did get us on another new label Circus Records compilation album.
By now we had been to London a couple of times and played gigs in a few other towns and cities. The major deal hadn't arrived and neither had another single release with another Bristol label. I managed to talk a local businessman, forgive me but I can't even remember his name into setting up Spectro Records and so our second single ‘Little Boys and Little Girls' was released in 1981 distributed by Revolver but published by Chrysalis Music. Wow we had achieved a major deal, well not quite, no advance, no promotion but a trip to London to sit in their plush offices off Oxford street and look at Gold Discs from Leo Sayer and Billy Idol.
The band was starting to run out of steam and we had to blame someone so alas it was Fuzz who became the punch bag. We invited another Yate musician Angelo Bruschini to join as a second guitarist and we recorded two more tracks with Steve Street in a more rocky direction. Musically I still think the band were brilliant but as the heading on these notes states ‘most bands fail because their singers aren't up to scratch' and we were no exception.
Shortly after this new demo Simon and Angelo decided they were going to live in Redland in Bristol and formed the Blue Aeroplanes with Gerard Langley. Nick and I stared a new band with Nick McCauley from The Numbers. We never played a gig and only recorded one complete song but it's my only half decent vocal performance. I'm not sure what happened to Richard and Fuzz but not long after the first demo session Nick decided enough was enough and headed off to University to become a teacher.
I had one more attempt at fronting a band when I found Fuzz again and jammed in the the first incarnation of The Long March with Eddie John and Bill Waine.
Eddie was still in the Bristol Youth Orchestra and was amazing, Bill however wanted to be the singer and guess what he was better than me so I was dismissed!
Looking back fair play to Bill as he was much better and I'd been hanging on by my finger nails ever since the end of The Rimshots.
I didn't seem to be too badly affected by my departure from the band and very quickly moved into management picking up my little brother Neil's band Fear of Darkness.
I was now married and my wife Barb was as crazy about music as I was so it just seemed a natural progression to move into management.
Fear of Darkness led into Love Jungle which led into managing Rita Lynch.
I'm now 49 years of age not with the Prudential anymore but still an Insurance man. I look back and cannot believe that John Edwards didn't sack me from the Prudential in 1980/81 as I came into the office everyday dreaming of Pop stardom, fame and success. Alas how foolish we all were!!
If only I'd listened to my dad back in 1977!
I'd like to thank Thomas Brooman and if any other young lad or lass would like to contribute their story of their part in the Bristol music scene to the Peoples section of www.bristolarchiverecords.com please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Mike Darby Dec 2010