Youth clubs became the centre of my social scene and they were places to go during the week. Weekends tended to be the pictures or hanging around friends’ houses and of course there was the band. I am not sure how it came about but we were given permission to practise at Lidgett Methodist Youth Club on a regular basis. It was possible on the promise that we would play a concert for them, but anyway it provided a venue where we wouldn’t annoy parents or neighbours, just other youth clubbers and leaders. We used to set up in the new hall and started thrashing out music at an unbelievably loud volume. They tended to shut the doors on us and, apart from our group of friends and fans, we were left on our own.
Someone asked us to play at their birthday party/bash and at that time we had Pete on guitar, John on keyboards and vocals, myself on bass and Bryan on drums. Now this was the Bryan with no sense of timing, but you will remember he was the owner of a snazzy drum kit. The party was an afternoon do in a hall. It was only a small venue and I can’t remember where it was exactly. It could have been Alwoodley as we had started hanging out at the youth club there and had a group of friends from there. Food was set up at the back, someone was the DJ for the afternoon and we played a set in the middle of the proceedings. Our repertoire had expanded and John had written a song, that was called, ‘Let the Children into your Heart’ or something similar, but anyway, he was to start the set on his own. There were two reasons for this: one, we hadn’t learnt the song and secondly it certainly wouldn’t have been assisted with our ear-shattering thrashing. It gave me the opportunity to mingle with the audience. They were all dutifully sat on the floor, as was the mode for the times. Music was something to be appreciated, taken seriously and not as just a dance accompaniment. The hall was fairly full and when John started there was a rapt young audience entranced by his music and confidence. Some ‘smarty’ had blown up a condom and the metre long zeppelin was bounced into the audience. The age of the party meant that many, if not most, had no idea what it was. I clearly remember one young girl patting it up into the air and saying, “Look! They have balloons!”
Original recording from Lidgett Lane Methodist Youth from 1969/70. Recorded on cassette and hence the two jumps where the tape was creased.
I stand in awe of John’s courage and confidence in starting the set in such a way. He did this for a number of our shows and the style was not what people expected from a school band. Bryan, Pete and I took to the stage to accompany John and we set into Going, Last Bus, I’m Leaving and others and at this point I am sure that the mother who was overseeing the do was regretting having a live band. Things were going well, as far as we were concerned, and the audience was dully appreciative, but this was the calm before the storm. Peter was playing and red semi-acoustic electric guitar. It was hollow bodied and Peter had restrung the guitar with a new set of strings. This resulted in tuning being a problem. Between each number Peter had to re-tune and he was becoming more and more frustrated. It must have been bad as John and I noticed and it meant we had to cope with tuning and a drummer who had no idea of timing. About six numbers in Pete realised what was the problem. The body of the guitar was coming apart at the edges and the neck was no longer stable. In true The Who fashion Peter proceeded to smash his guitar, whilst the rest of the band tried to finish the number in some sort of form. The audience were a mixture of shocked, amazed and impressed. There was quite a lot of applause and it was the end of our part in the party as there was no replacement guitar. Bryan was furious! He smashed his drums sticks down at the end of the number. “I’ve never been so embarrassed before in my life!” he claimed, which came as a bit of a surprise. True to his word though, that was the last time Bryan played drums for us. The rest of us stalwarts were not easily thwarted and we returned to our regular practice sessions at Lidgett Lane Youth Club the following week.
One of our friends, David Bellwood, had some acquaintance that played drums. He was a nice lad and he brought his drum kit to have a try out. He was not quite like us. We were wild and into ‘progressive music’, and he liked T-Rex and David Bowie. He had a well groomed almost mod hair cut, whereas we were long haired and unkempt. He was OK as a drummer, certainly an improvement, and we played together a short while before it was clear that our musical styles were incompatible. Dave Bellwood appeared with a drum kit shortly afterwards and, as in most things, David showed he was musically talented. He played drums for us and our music began to improve. However, he left after a while as I think he was more interested in playing guitar than drums. David carried on being a part of our circle and he had a number of repeat entries into the band’s history and in the end he has been involved in the music industry for the whole of his life and made it a career.
Whilst all this was going on, I was taking part in a number of club organised activities. The first of interest was an orienteering competition on Ilkley Moor. This was a multi-club event and was well organised. Groups of four, two girls and two boys were given a map with checkpoints marked where hidden clues could be found. I think these were letters. We had about eight hours to collect as many of the letters as possible and write them down on our check sheet. You had to plot your own course around the moors and navigate the whole way with only a compass as aid. We had a packed lunch, some sweets and a drink. There were safety bases dotted in one or two places if you needed help or got lost. Large numbers of inexperienced teenagers wandering Ilkley Moor in bad weather in summer had the potential for disaster, but it was well organised.
I think it was Chris that was the other boy with me and the two girls we didn’t really know, but they were young and attractive so we didn’t care. I suppose Cedric Robinson and the other leaders must have organised the teams. Maybe we should have got to know the girls better beforehand, as it may have avoided what was coming. At this time I had no idea what orienteering was and it was quite different from the athletic map reading, long-distance run it is nowadays. This was a hike and we wore hiking boots, anoraks etc. It may have been summer, but the weather changes quickly on the moors. The peat bog land is difficult hiking, but the glorious heather was in full bloom, and there was the problem. We got up onto the moors and we were making good progress. Our feet were soaked from traipsing through the bog, and clouds came in a heavy drizzle and chilled us to the bone. It was at this point that one of the girls looked thoroughly miserable. I think she might have a been a year or two younger and she was quite small. Her cheeks looked flushed and she said she didn’t feel well. Where we were there was little we could do about it. Her friend chirped in to tell us that the unwell girl was allergic to heather. Now common sense would have suggested that sending your daughter on a hike through the heather of Ilkley Moor when it is in full bloom, was probably not a good idea when she was allergic to heather. Clearly parental supervision was lacking, or maybe they didn’t know what she was doing for the day. Anyway, we carried on until she was unable to walk and then we had to carry her the rest of the way until we could find one of the safety posts. We found one and deposited her and her friend there to be taken by ambulance back to civilisation. We carried on, not willing to be beaten by the cold, wet, blisters, exhaustion and loss of half of our team. We made it to the end and, I can say we were pleased to do so. It was a real adventure and we loved it. I learned that the two girls were fine and so, all in all, it was quite a good day. As it happens, it was much better than the experience of one other team who apparently came across the body of a man, high on the moors. That was kept a bit hush-hush at the time so as not to alarm parents.
It can’t have caused too much of a stir as there was another event the following year that I took part in, which was much less exciting and had sunny weather.