January – March
(First of all, a little bit from the tail end of 1983 and a wee bit of back ground)
I celebrated my 18th birthday in December 1983 and was in my first serious, gigging band, we were called The Service. The line up featured Danny Hagan on bass, Mick Highgate on drums and Dominic Carroll on guitar. All four of us had gone to the local Catholic primary school, St. Tarcisius, in Camberley, Surrey. Danny and Mick had been in the same year, I was a couple of years younger and Dominic, two years below me. He was now 16. Dom had recently joined the band, and this clipping from the local paper, ‘The Camberley News’ sums things up perfectly.
I was an avid purchaser of records, especially 7″ singles. The records I couldn’t find in the local record shops, Harlequin in Camberley and Elephant in Aldershot, I sent off for. There were so many places you could buy records, not just the actual record shops but Boots, W.H. Smiths, even the larger news agents, (Sperrings in Camberley) and of course Woolworths sold chart records. There were also ex jukebox 7″ records on random shop counters everywhere. For the less available records, I sent off via adverts in the back of N.M.E.; Adrians and Small Wonder and if that failed, the labels themselves. Rough Trade and Postcard. I had several 7″ singles on the revered Postcard Records in Glasgow, including the debut release both of the label and Orange Juice, ‘Falling Laughing‘ which was sent to me by Alan Horne himself. I had read a review on the ‘Independent Bitz‘ page of Smash Hits in 1980, when I was 14 (oh Lord how I loved Smash Hits) and knew I had to have a copy. It came with a flexi disc and hand printed postcard and is still my most treasured 7″ single.
The first record player I owned was also at this time (1980) I had a record deck in my bed room – which I put through a large guitar amp, a Sound City and that went through a very large 4 x 12 speaker. My room wasn’t very big, so the volume would be on 1 (or 2 if I was jumping up and down). I also got a bass guitar when I was 14 and would plug it into the amp and try and play along with the records, calling my poor parents up to listen when I had learned something. I joined my first band at 14, playing bass and singing. I couldn’t yet do both at the same time though. We went into a recording studio as The Essential Extras and recorded three tracks which we sent off to a few record labels. Dom (not yet called Rudy) was in this band with me, on guitar he was 12 and I was 14. We got a letter from Chrysalis saying they really like the demo and could we sent them some more music.
Here’s ‘Lazy Boy’ with me singing and playing bass. My first time in a studio. I loved it.
Here we made a mistake. I assumed everyone could sing. As I couldn’t sing and play bass at the same time, I invited the cool and good looking Ann from my class to be the singer. I wanted to just play bass. The actual music sounded great but sadly, Ann’s voice was not pleasant, slightly shrill and tuneless so our follow up demo didn’t get us a deal or even a response. Musically, Dom and I went our separate ways for a couple of years, I formed The Service, initially as a three piece. I was now on guitar and singing. Dom joined our ranks in 1983.
In October 1983 we recorded our fist demo, two songs, at an eight track studio called Grumpy Bear in Bracknell. (I was 17 and Dom had turned 16 a few weeks before.) One, ‘Money Making Man‘ went on a vinyl compilation album of local bands, organised by the studio, called ‘Stepping Stone‘. The other was called ‘Too Much To Hide‘ and would later be released in 2020, by Berlin label, Firestation Records on the ‘Some Greater Love’ album, made up of our early recordings.
Dom (who would soon change his name to ‘Rudy‘) was, like myself, the youngest of six children. His brother JC was in local heroes, The Members, who had been in the charts with ‘Sound of the Suburbs‘ a few years previously. JC came to the studio when we were mixing the two tracks, to check out his youngest brother’s band. He was very enthusiastic and we were thrilled to have him there. (Here’s JC on ‘Top of the Pops‘ – he’s the one in the green jumper).
I immediately starting making lots of cassettes on my friend Tracy‘s tape to tape player, sitting on her bed while they copied. I didn’t like doing it at double speed as they sometimes sounded funny. So, we would copy them in real time and turn the volume down while we chatted. I spent the next day sending them to the London pubs in the gig adverts in the‘N.M.E.‘ and ‘Melody Maker’. I phoned a few, including The Marquee, only to be told you needed an agent to play there.
Danny and I then went up to London, actually carrying my cassette player with us on the train. We headed over to Fulham, as we wanted to get a gig at the famous Greyhound pub, leaving a tape there, we then looked for other pubs that had gigs. We walked for miles. Finding a few live music pubs, playing them the demo tape there and then. It worked. We were offered a Saturday night residency, £50 a night, at the King’s Head in Fulham. The first gig was to be Christmas Eve 1983, followed a week later, on New Year’s Eve. I was extremely excited when I got home I ‘phoned Tracy straight away – ‘guess where we’re playing on Christmas Eve..? London!’
One of the other pubs also phoned up to offer us a gig on Christmas Eve, The Swan, funnily enough, right opposite the King’s Head in Fulham. I called up a band we vaguely knew called Joker’s Wild, and offered them the gig. We were also called by someone by the name of Steve Royal ‘like the family’ he said. He had been passed on our tape by the Greyhound. They were putting out a compilation album and offered us a chance to go on it. It would cost us £250. For that, we would get a gig and 50 copies of the album to sell.
My Mum ran the local nursery school and as such, had a mini bus. We were able to borrow it to get to gigs, Danny drove. For our London debut, we took a couple of my school friends up with us, Clare P. and Marie-Lou. It, being Christmas Eve, was a fairly riotous affair. I recall one of the locals falling, drunkenly, from her bar stool and continuing to clap and cheer as she lay on the floor. We played two sets and after the first, ran across the road to see Joker’s Wild. Their main gag was the fact that their singer did a back flip mid-performance!
Our set was mainly our own material, but we also played a few cover versions, ‘Reach Out I’ll Be There’ by the Four Tops, ‘Heatwave’, The Jam version and ‘Rat Race’ by The Specials. On New Year’s Eve we attempted ‘Auld Lang Syne‘ with Clare P. joining us, playing the old, beaten up piano on stage.
And so, to 1984…..
January – General Motors ends production of the Vauxhall Chevette after nine years.
7th January The Service The King’s Head Fulham.
We would meet at my house at about 4pm, load up the mini bus with our gear and drive to Fulham.
The tube station, Fulham Broadway, was about 100 yards from the pub and, if Chelsea were at home, was packed with football fans heading home. Danny would pull up outside The Kings Head, we would jump out, unload all the gear on to the pavement and he would drive off to find somewhere to park. Licensing laws at the time, meant the pub wasn’t actually open yet. They would let us in, we would get the gear in, set up and once Danny had rejoined us, sound check.
There was a small set of traffic lights in front of the stage, on the ceiling. These were to stop bands playing too loudly. When on green, all was fine. If they went amber you had ten seconds to basically stop playing, because if they went red the power cut! We used to play, staring at the lights the whole set, ready to stop mid song, wait for the them to go back to green and carry on. Occasionally the power would cut and we would have to wait for one minute before it would come back on. I got so used to looking up at the ceiling when we played, I would do it at home when we were rehearsing, even though there were no lights!
13 January – Six people die when Britain is battered by hurricane-force winds.
15th January The Service The King’s Head Fulham
A guy came to the front of the stage after our first set and chatted to Rudy. It occurred to me he was our height, even though we were on the stage. He said ‘that was really good’. He was Scottish and looked familiar. I noticed a fish ear ring dangling from his ear and realised it was actually Fish from Marillion.
20th January The Service St. John The Baptist Woking
Rudy’s school, he had organised us a gig there.
Around this time, Danny and I went to have a meeting with Steve Royal, about the Greyhound compilation. His offices were on Carnaby Street. We headed up there, with a cheque for £250, money we were borrowing from my parents. We were asked to sit and wait in a room where a receptionist was taking phone calls. After one call she said, ‘I hate it when he phones up. That was Adam Ant, we run his fan club’. It was all a bit odd, but we handed the money over, were given a date for the gig and went home.
21st January The Service The King’s Head Fulham
Someone kept shouting for any Bob Dylan songs. Rudy knew the first few lines of ‘The Times They Are A Changin” and played those. Literally just the first couple of lines. The bloke looked satisfied and shuffled off.
25 January – The government prohibits GCHQ staff from belonging to any trade union.
25th January The Truth / The Playn Jayn / The Famous Five The Savoy London.
We were huge fans of The Truth. Dennis Greaves had previously been in 9 Below Zero and The Truth were his new, mod band. Rudy, Danny and myself were all fans of The Jam and Rudy was definitely a parka wearing, scooter driving, Rickenbacker playing mod. (I saw The Jam seven times from 1980 until they split in 1982) . We were into Motown and ’60s bands like The Who and The Kinks. When we saw that The Kinks were playing Guildford Civic Hall in 1982 we went. The Truth supported them and we loved them. We would then travel to see them all over London, including as often as we could when they had a Sunday night residency at The Marquee. One time when it was just myself, Tracy and Rudy a skinhead asked for a light as we emerged from Oxford Street tube station. Rudy leant forward to oblige, and the geezer head butted him, completely out of the blue. He then started saying, ‘sorry mate, sorry’ holding his hands up by way of an apology as he walked off, smoking his freshly lit cigarette. Rudy, who was wearing his stripy mod blazer was in a bit of shock. As were we. (I was also wearing my mod blazer, from Miss Selfridge. Mine had badges, The Jam and The Truth on the lapels.) We kind of looked at each other, checked Rudy was ok and carried on to the gig.
Staying as late as we could, we would head back to Waterloo as fast as possible to make the last train home, getting a hot chocolate and a sausage roll from the station cafe if we had time.
The Playn Jayn supported them at The Savoy. I bought their live album ‘Friday 13th’ afterwards.
26th January Loose Talk Angie’s. A local-ish bar, in Wokingham. A lovely small barn, slightly out of the way and a little tricky to find. Danny and I went, armed with a demo and met the owner – Angie. I really liked it there, even though the type of music she put on, wasn’t ours. She let us in for free and invited us to stay for the band that night. Howard Jones had apparently played there the year before!I loved the idea of Angie owning her own bar and putting bands on.
28th January The Service The King’s Head Fulham
We would rehearse on Sunday lunch times at my house, often have a mid week gig and also head up to London for our Saturday nights. We were getting really good and were excited about our new songs. We recorded ‘Find Another Way’ for the Greyhound compilation album on 2nd February in a 16 track studio in Surbiton. (This is also included on ‘Some Greater Love‘). I remember how chuffed we were with this recording and put it on straight on as soon as we got in the mini bus to drive home. Again, I used to take my tape player with me when we drove anywhere, as there was no cassette player in the mini bus.
1 February Japanese car maker Nissan signs an agreement with the British government to build a car factory in Britain. This landmark deal means that foreign cars will be built in Britain for the first time, with the factory set to open during 1986.
February 4th The Service The King’s Head Fulham
One of the demos I had posted was to Dingwalls – we were offered a gig and played there on 5th February. There were a few bands, one of which was called The Friday Club. They released a single not long afterwards which we saw advertised in the ‘N.M.E.’. Danny’s brother Vince came along with a few friends, we also took Marie-Lou and a couple others up with us in the mini-bus.
February 7th Friends Again / The Woodentops The Marquee
The first time seeing both bands. I had a few glorious 7″ singles by Scottish band, Friends Again. I hadn’t heard of the support band, The Woodentops, before, but thought they were great. Friends Again were fabulous.
February 8th The Service The Royal Hotel Guildford
February 9th The Service The Greyhound Fulham.
The gig we had been given as part of the compilation album deal. We played with a band called Caleche, who were also due to be on the album. They were a soul band and musically, we were nothing like each other, although we enjoyed each others sets and got chatting. Both bands were starting to get a bit suspicious of this whole compilation thing as neither of us had heard from Steve Royal for a while. Since we’d given him our £250 actually. Same with them. Anyway, we played the gig. JC came along with his girlfriend. Rudy and I got a little bit drunk (Danny was driving). After we played, we were running down the road and Rudy attempted to give me a piggy back. This lasted a few steps before we fell, Rudy cracking his head on the pavement, he had blood dripping down his face. Apparently his poor mother nearly fainted when she went into his room the next morning and saw dried blood all over his face and pillow.
We never did hear from Steve Royal again. It had been a con. They had rented the Carnaby Street office for a couple of days and got £250 from lots of unsuspecting bands. The whole Adam Ant thing had been to make them seem believable.I don’t know if the Greyhound had been in on it or not, funny that the gigs actually took place though. They had a few bands every night for a week, all of us thinking we were going to be on the album. About a year later we saw ‘Steve’ in a photo for an advert for a hotel chain – he was an actor. We used the money we were getting paid for the King’s Head gigs to pay my Mum and Dad back.
At least we had recorded ‘Find Another Way’, which we were still delighted with. I sent a demo tape with it plus ‘Too Much To Hide’ to Dan Treacy (of the Television Personalities) at Whaam! Records. Our drummer had heard that they were signing bands. I made a little sleeve for the tapes by cutting pictures from ‘The Face’ magazine and adding the wording with Letraset and a type writer before getting them photocopied.
12 February – Austin Rover announces that the Triumph marque will be discontinued this summer after 63 years, as the Triumph Acclaim’s successor will be sold as a Rover.
February 12th The Smiths / Billy Bragg / The Redskins / The Telephone Boxes The Lyceum
What a gig. Frustratingly we couldn’t stay until the end of The Smiths set as it was a Sunday night – the last train back to Farnborough was earlier on Sundays. I think we only saw four songs actually. The Smiths debut album hadn’t come out yet (it was days away though) and I remember thinking Morrissey was singing ‘Pretty girls make grades…’ as we left (It is of course, ‘Pretty Girls Make Graves’). Ben and Tracey (Everything But The Girl) were there, we nudged each other when we saw them at the bar. It was the first time I had seen any of these acts live. We saw them all (apart from The Telephone Boxes) quite a few more times over the next couple of years though.
February 14th The Alarm / Jake Burns & The Big Wheel / The Subway Hammersmith Palais
Tracy and I went to this one. Danny was actually at university in Cardiff, some how studying for a degree during all of this! I had been a big Stiff Little Fingers fan and also really liked The Alarm. (Jake Burns‘s new band after S.L.F. had split were supporting.)
February 18th The Service The Kings Head Fulham
February 24th The Service Heatherside Community Centre ‘Heather Rock ’84’
A local gig, in Camberley.
February 25th The Service The Kings Head Fulham
Our last gig at the King’s Head. The following week we were due to play but had something else on. I phoned them and said one of the band was ill. The landlady said don’t bother coming back!
March 2nd The Dirty Strangers Angie’s.
Took Tracy to Angie’s. Didn’t know anything about who was playing, just thought it would be good to go there again.
12 March – Miners’ strike begins and pits the National Union of Mineworkers against Margaret Thatcher’s Conservative government intent on free market reform of the nationalised industries, which includes plans for the closure of most of Britain’s remaining coal pits.
March 20th Friends Again / The Synomics The Marquee
Back to see Friends Again – they had obviously just signed a deal as they all had new amps and guitars!
March 23rd The Service The West End Centre
The venue where Danny and I would be running The Buzz Club a year or so later. We played with a couple of other local bands, including Controls, who I saw a few times over the years and who my friend Tracy joined as singer in 1984.
28 March – A greenfield site at Washington, near Sunderland, is confirmed as the location for the new Nissan car factory.
March 29th The Kinks / The Truth Guildford Civic Hall
The Kinks invited The Truth to support them again and also played Guildford Civic Hall together again. We went along, this time having seen The Truth loads of times in between.