After our success at the synagogue near Moortown Corner, whilst I was still in the Sixth Form at Roundhay, there was a major restructuring of the band and some tensions came to a head. I believe that Pete felt that having just one guitar was limiting and another guitar would allow him the ability to play lead and maintain a full sound. There was also the situation that we were all growing older and there were other influences in our lives. In some cases girlfriends were well established and later to become wives and so they also influenced the dynamics. In my case, I was leaving for college in London and so a split was forced, at least for a while.
It had been easy to make the decision to move to London, but when the time came to go, it was quite a challenge. I had a great group of school friends, band friends, steady girlfriend and I was leaving to stay somewhere for three years that I had only visited once and then for only about half an hour. I had worked during the summer holiday up to leaving and managed to save a bit of money and I had bought a cassette player to take with me and built a bit of a collection of cassettes to keep me going. There were two ways to get down to the ‘Big Smoke’ and they were by train and by coach. Coach was by far the cheapest and it took you to the centre of London in about four hours. I then had to take the tube towards the west and Heathrow and I got off at the stop at Osterley. Osterley was like a few places in London, in that it had been a village with a large stately home, and when you walked into it, it was still a village with its church, village centre and lanes. It was a short walk from the tube station, which was just the platform and little else. By this point on the line, the tube was no longer a tunnel and was just a railway line. The old station house was a second hand book shop run by hippies and it was a great place to rummage and I bought a brand new News of The World newspaper bag, that I used as a holdall for many years.
I had been very fortunate that I had been allocated student accommodation in one of the halls of residence. I was to be housed on campus whereas many others were lodged in houses in the area. Some students had real problems with homeowners of the Basil Fawlty, or Rising Damp mould. My first night was a bit of a shock, but we met up with a host of others in a similar situation and I was lucky to make some good friends.
I returned to Leeds at the Christmas holidays and worked at the Post Office, Christmas sorting in the Queen’s Hall and enjoyed that much more than delivering the mail. I had saved money and bought an acoustic guitar to take back with me. Although I had been away from friends for several months, we quickly fell back into our friendships, but the band had moved on and there was an element of pique in that for me. They had some tapes of what they were working on. This was the time of the concept album, shortly before the onset of punk. I believe they called their piece, Morning of the Magician, and they had brought in someone with a synth. Now this was the very start of such electronic instruments and this was monophonic, which meant only single notes could be played. I know Peter wasn’t impressed with the skill of the lad who owned it, I think a friend of the drummer, as he could only get a sound very similar to a Mr Whippy van melody out of it. I am sure that in Pete’s or John’s hands the outcome would have been much more pleasing. I don’t think they ever got to play any gigs and life encroached, marriages took place, and careers took precedence and things just fizzled out for a while.
I carried on learning to play the acoustic guitar whilst in London and did nothing more with my own music. I did love music and saw some fabulous bands: Led Zeppelin in Earls Court in 1975, The Who, Bad Company, Lou Reed, Humble Pie, Yes, Donovan, Jethro Tull and many others. At College we had many smaller bands: 10CC just when Wall Street Shuffle became a major hit, Graham Parker, and the Glitter Band (without Gary) to name a few. I was on the social committee and so I got to work with the crews, assist band members in their dressing rooms. I still loved the whole putting on live music event.
At the end of my time in London I returned to Yorkshire, but never to live in Leeds. I had been offered a job, and accepted it, to teach English in a comprehensive school in Rotherham. The school was in the village of Dinnington and very large, but I got a bedsit in Sheffield, in Upperthorpe. Now that I was just a short trip from Leeds we began to meet up again and music was never far from our thoughts. Whilst I had been in London, Peter had taken up a career as a psychiatric nurse and lived on the grounds at Meanwood Park Hospital and so it became the centre of our social life. Parties were held in the nurses’ home, there was a snooker table, good local pubs, The Myrtle and The Bay Horse and we spent a lot of time there. At least one or two summers we played tennis on the court that was there surrounded by wild grass and flowers. The hospital was an interesting relic of a means of dealing with mental health that was soon to disappear: large grounds, housing blocks and institutionalised residents. I can only judge from my limited experience, but the staff seemed to go out of their way to make it as positive a place as possible and it was an evening of entertainment for the residents that got us back together again.
The hospital staff was putting on a show and Pete suggested we should do a few numbers. We had started to do the odd song or two at John L’s house and John, Pete, Dave B and I had recorded one or two of my songs, written in my bedsit, a few of our old numbers and some new. It seemed a good idea and we were quite keen. We rehearsed for a week or so and then went to do the show. To be honest, we had a captive audience, literally, and they would have been appreciative no matter what we did. There was a low stage and when it came to our turn we did our act and were pleased with how well we worked together. The response from the audience of residents was suitably enthusiastic, but the staff members were also supportive. This could have been a spur for doing more, but it wasn’t. It was supposedly filmed, but I never saw the footage.
It took quite a long time before we gave it another try and this came about in a roundabout way. I believe that Dave B had formed a new band and they were trying to get going. I think Peter and Dave B were in the pub, probably The Bay Horse, and Dave had asked if his band could use some of our band’s songs. I think, but could be wrong, that Pete wasn’t keen, but suggested the two bands worked together on them and recorded them. Later this was put to John and me and we were quite keen to give it a go. Dave had access to Leeds Poly disco room on Sunday afternoons for rehearsals and we met up the first time to give it a go. Dave’s band had obviously been working on a few of our songs and there was a drummer, bass player and two guitarists. When we turned up, John was on electric piano and Peter on another guitar, but I would have had no role if I hadn’t stood up as the main singer. We thrashed our way through a few of our songs and a couple of covers and it worked well enough for us to decide to continue. There were some technical hitches as well as political ones. The main problem was that we barely had a PA and so it was necessary to almost scream to be heard, which certainly stretched the vocal chords, and the second was that it was clear that we were being seen as a band and not just a joining for a recording. Over the next four weeks we began to hone our repertoire, added some original songs from David’s band, one that I wrote, Too Old To Punk, and got to point of wanting to play gigs. I was working at a high school and so we arranged to play at the school for a fundraiser for them. We needed a name and there was a lot of discussion and I believe I suggested, The Men From Planet X and there was agreement on that name. John produced some posters at his printing work and I put them up around the school to promote the show.
A school band was also to perform on the night and on the Saturday afternoon we set up, did our sound check and were quite happy. The school band asked if they could use some of our equipment and PA and we agreed. We went off to the pub, a fatal error, and returned as the school band were finishing. We took to the stage to find that most of our settings were way out. The curtains opened before we were ready and off we went. It was a blurred panic. We were too loud, couldn’t hear ourselves, some of the guitars were out of tune and despite the audience seeming to enjoy it all, probably because they had all lost their hearing due to the volume, we hated it. Peter, in particular, was not happy. Over the weeks of rehearsing he had felt pushed out a little. It was his material on the whole, and three guitars was really one too many. The whole shenanigan was not what he had agreed to and this shambles was the final straw and it was the end for him.
John and I continued on and another gig was booked. The most surprising thing about this was that it was at Leeds University and for the Music Department’s end of year bash. Now to play before a non-musical audience was one thing, but to play in front of musicians was a much more daunting task. We had a couple of weeks’ rehearsals at Leeds Poly before the gig. We had extended our set and had some Ian Dury and the Blockheads and other material to add. One original song was Psycho Killer, this was not the Talking Heads one. To develop my act I now wore a silk scarf and trilby and during the said song I would slit my throat and spew blood out over the stage. The blood came from frothing blood capsules and could be quite dramatic.
We set up in a large hall on a traditional stage and the DJ played, the audience danced and then it came our turn. We were now drums, electric piano, bass, two guitars and John and I did most of the vocals. The lights came on and we got into it. This time we were not caught unprepared, no drinks had crossed our lips and the first number went a treat. I believe it was one of Peter’s, either Last Bus or Going. There was good applause and we continued on with growing confidence. The audience started getting into it and many were dancing away. The set was just about finished when Psycho Killer started and got to its dramatic conclusion; blood spurted forth and was added to by a minor slice to my neck from the knife. The gig was a success and the musos were clearly either too sloshed to notice our musical lack of prowess, or just thought it was a punk thing.
As we started packing away, I was approached by a student. Apparently, he was the Union President. He asked about us and what we wanted to do to make us different. I explained that we had only been together six weeks. This seemed to impress him and he said that I should contact him if we were still together in a year and he would look at putting us on. I fed this back to the rest and this brought a smile to their faces.
You must remember that John and I were now playing with Dave’s band and clearly they saw themselves as the talent and didn’t need us. We heard a week or so later that they had performed at a wine bar in Leeds and that the singing was done by the other guitarist. We also heard through the grapevine that it hadn’t gone well. John and I thought that that was it, but I was approached by Dave and he wanted to chat. He said that the others realised that they needed a front man and that I was the one. Of course, I was flattered and agreed to give it a go. I attended a couple or rehearsals and when John and Pete got to hear they were not amused. They spent considerable time calling me ‘Turncoat!’ and despite still socialising with me they never truly forgave me. The band‘s last rehearsal was cancelled when the van broke down and then personal disagreements between the other members caused it to split.
Over the years, the legend of my betrayal became bigger and distorted, and it is probable that my interpretation is not complete or totally accurate, but needless to say, I still carry the ‘Turncoat’ moniker when the drinks flow in their company.
Dave has had a lifelong career in music, but not playing. Peter and John carried on playing and became a quality cover band, playing the Leeds and surrounding areas until fairly recently. And me? Guess I will carry the Turncoat reputation to the grave!