‘Cup of Tea Tales’ – Making a Band. The Attitude! The Look! The Confidence! Just One Thing Missing!

David’s Bookshelf – Issue One Cup of Tea Tales

  1. David’s Bookshelf – Issue One
  2. ‘Cup of Tea Tales’ – A Lifetime of Global Successes, Disasters and Wonders! Space the Final Frontier.
  3. ‘Cup of Tea Tales’ – Hetchell Woods (Bardsey) and Crags – A Special Piece of God’s Own Country or County! One of my Favourite Places to Visit.
  4. ‘Cup of Tea Tales’ – The Wonderful Yorkshire Dales. Trollers Gill, a Place with a Mysterious Legend and the Hell Hole where I Diced with Death.
  5. ‘Cup of Tea Tales’ – Labs and all Manner of Magic, Misery and Mayhem. What Must have been the Worst job for a New Teacher, Chemistry with Boys with only one Aim, to Make Your Life Hell!

After my initial love of music, there was one thing I wanted to do, and that was be in a band. There were only two things that I needed to do to realise this dream and that was to get a guitar and then learn how to play. Now, my history of musical successes entailed the recorder at Harehills, choir and a fleeting dabble with learning the violin. The violin career was a very short-lived experience. My mother had bought the violin from a second hand/antique store on Roundhay Road at Harehills. It was three-quarter size and was shared between my older brother and me. It was a wonderful, strange-looking instrument and, hopefully, had been played during its life by others with more talent than I had. The violin teacher was an elderly lady who lived off Harehills Lane and I know she had a small iron railing outside her house. After my first lesson, I refused to go in, much to the horror of my older brother and my mother. I remember holding onto the railing and screaming whilst my mother tried to drag me in. I was still a youngster at primary school, I must add, and I don’t think that my older brother continued much after that performance. Maybe it was a good grounding for my rock/punk days that came later. The violin then spent the rest of its days in the coal store that later housed the central heating boiler, which was a rather sad ending for something that would have had an interesting story to tell.

Anyway, I digress. A guitar was what I needed and I must be honest, I can’t remember where I got my first acoustic, Spanish guitar from. I probably bought it from a mate, or stole it off my older and long-suffering brother. Resplendent with a rather old, new guitar, I got Pete, my friend with the cellar, to show me some basic chords. Tuning was challenging in those days and sore fingers from practising for hours resulted from my new obsession.

Social time would find us at one of the Youth Clubs, mainly Lidgett Park Youth Club, or St. Edmund’s, but we were widening our horizons and Alwoodley Youth Club also became a venue. I had three close friends at Roundhay: Chris Mills, Anthony Indyk and Roger Harvey, and the three of us were the Roundhay School contingent at the youth clubs and they were with me when I first met Pete. Lidgett Methodist Youth Club was a very active one, and many excursions and events took place. It was there that I took part in a charity fundraiser by playing table tennis for twenty-four hours. I can still remember the noise of the table tennis balls and the limited number of records we had. Cat Stevens, Tea for the Tillerman (1970) was played endlessly and by the end of twenty-four hours, I think I could have killed Cat Stevens if he had walked in.

Whilst all these things were occurring, I was continuing my basic guitar playing and Pete and I would get together. A friend of Pete’s, John, was introduced and he could play the piano. Now, this was really something. Pete could bash out a tune on the guitar and the odd melody on the piano, but John had had lessons and could play. Pete’s house at Harehills had an old upright piano in the living room and, despite not being the most accurately tuned, Pete and sometimes John would create their own songs. The three of us formed the core of what was to become a band. We started to write simple songs, probably as we didn’t have enough skill to do good enough versions of other people’s material. One day, Pete and John came in with a song they had written. I learned afterwards that they had nicked a theme off the Moody Blues. It was simple, but it had something about it. It was called Atlantis, and it had a lilting melody that John sang well and I produced a bass line on the acoustic guitar. It was the first good song that we did as a band. I remember taking the guitars on a warm, sunny afternoon into Potternewton Park and we sat under a tree and played. It must have had something, or maybe it was back to the mysterious allure of teenage boys, but a couple of teenage girls came by, listened, and seemed quite impressed. Now this was much more successful than the pipe-smoking, morose misfit, sitting in the corner approach I had tried, unsuccessfully, to attract girls, and I was sharp enough to pick up on that. If music could attract young ladies, then I was even more determined to be in a band.

Time seemed to pass really slowly in my early teens, but now it disappears in a flash. I think I am still waiting for that day when I will become grown-up. Some would say it is because I am a man and they never do grow up. What I do remember about my early teens was the intensity. Life was a matter of extreme highs and lows, with very little in between. Two things dominated my life and unfortunately, studying and my education at Roundhay School weren’t either of them. The band and girls were the things for me. One was out of my control and was due to raging hormones, and the other was something I just loved. Music was enjoying its halcyon days. It had passed beyond simple songs and real musicians were becoming gods. It was the age of the rock guitar and musical virtuosity, and I wanted to be part of it.

There were two major things, of many, standing in my way. One was lack of equipment and the second was the ability to play. Others may have been daunted by such obstacles, but not me. However, I was always a realist and whereas I could play a few chords, I wasn’t as good as Pete and therefore I chose to play bass. I started on the acoustic guitar, but clearly, if we were going to move on, we needed electric instruments and amplifiers. Pete, being a couple of years older, had jobs as well as studying, and so he had access to more money than I did. I can’t remember the exact time, but at some point, he became the owner of a red semi-acoustic electric guitar and amp and speaker system. This became established in his cellar and we were in business. I say we, but I was still to have an instrument.

John was also part of our group, but he didn’t have an electric instrument apart from playing the piano if one was around. It was clear we would have to invest if we were to progress to be a performing band. I think I heard of someone selling a bass guitar for about five pounds and I managed to get the money somehow and I became the owner of a fairly basic and battered bass. I loved it. It was heavy, the strings were thick and the tuning machine heads enormous. It was fabulous! I was almost set up. Now, the origin of John’s electric piano purchase is shrouded in mystery. My memory tells me I heard from someone at Roundhay that it was for sale in an electrical music shop at the top of one of the arcades in Leeds. I can’t remember the name of the shop, but it sold amps and speakers that were manufactured in Leeds, I believe. Anyway, I remember passing the rumour over to Pete, who let John know, and he went in and bought it for a stunning six pounds. I remember arriving to view the wonderful keyboard. John has a completely alternative memory of how he came to buy the electric piano but, regardless, he got it and we were assembling the basic gear that a band needed. John’s electric piano was not quite in tune and he opened it up to discover that it worked more like a harpsichord. Short metal plates of varying lengths and thickness were mechanically plucked when the key was depressed. John realised that tuning could be achieved by undoing the locking nut and minutely adjusting the length of the metal plate. There were guitar-like pickups under the plates and these changed the mechanical movement into electrical sounds when connected to an amplifier, much as a guitar does. He was always very thorough and the next time I saw him and his electric piano, it was now in tune and he was in business.

Our Band card at the time. Note the spelling mistake.

John and I both eventually equipped ourselves with amps and speakers, all secondhand and of limited quality, but they were ours and they could produce very loud volumes of sound. I became really interested in playing bass and started going to the music shop in the centre of Leeds that sold wonderfully expensive instruments, sheet music, strings, plectrums and ‘How to’ books. Who could forget Bert Weedon’s – Play In a Day, books? Would that it were true! The shop was a magical emporium with bright, shiny, chrome and coloured instruments that called to me like the sirens, but, alas, without the money, they were always going to be beyond my reach. Rather than be disappointed by my bass, I took pride in its battered appearance. I told myself that if you could play good music with this equipment, then you really could play. If only!

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In Pete’s cellar, we set to. As we really didn’t have any idea how to play other people’s songs, we started writing our own material. New material such as Going and Last Bus became the backbone of our growing set and what we lacked in musical prowess we made up for with arrogance, attitude and, somewhere, a kernel of originality. One thing was missing, and that was a drummer. Another friend of Pete’s, Dave (another Roundhay boy) appeared one day, and he was good. He had a sense of timing that was not common and a musical understanding, as his father was a professional musician.

The talent we were short of, we compensated for with style, or at least that’s what we thought. Pete’s dad worked for Leeds transport with the buses and his mum ran an old person’s home in their house. I often wondered what the old folk thought of us belting out very loud rock from the cellar beneath their lounge. Pete’s dad contributed to our style with a couple of khaki bus jackets that were modified by us cutting them into tassels, and Pete’s mother added triangular patches into his Levis to make them even more bell-bottomed than before. His original ones were smallish triangles, but they became bigger over time. We grew long hair and John and Peter added moustaches and we were ready to take on the world.

At this point, we had a music set of about fifteen minutes and, with growing confidence, if that was possible, we decided to take our place on the world stage. Where else would a budding group of superstars begin, if not in a talent competition, and not just any talent competition but the one held at the Leeds Transport Club?

I have just listened to a documentary on the Beatles, and Paul McCartney said that they had entered talent quests and never won any, so I don’t feel in bad company. The night came. My dad and others helped transport the gear, and we turned up, ready for the big time. The club was the typical working men’s club and the talent show was in between rounds of Bingo and even more rounds of drinks. It was quite a large club, and it had that smell of stale beer-soaked carpet and old tobacco. The club was filling, and the MC gave us a few minutes to set up and I think we were on fourth or fifth out of six. The MC spoke to Peter whilst John and I were setting our gear up. Apparently, he had asked the name of the band. This was a bit of a shock as we hadn’t thought of one, but Peter told him we were the Gurus. The night began, and we had a pint. I think I was probably fourteen. The turns were the usual comedian, organist, male cabaret singer, us and a little girl singer. Our turn came, and the MC got on the mike.

“Now ladies and gentlemen, a new band of young lads! Fair crack of the whip for the Guruts!”

This was said with all the confidence and aplomb of a seasoned MC, in a broad Yorkshire accent and clearly with no understanding of what we were called or its implication. Very taken aback, we took to the stage. John was on vocals and we did three songs, Atlantis, Going, and Last Bus, I think. The audience had that shell-shocked look of stunned mullets, as four performers with wild hair, spots, and attitude performed in front of an audience for the first time. At the end, there was a courteous ripple of applause, and they quickly ordered another round of drinks to steady their nerves. I remember the little girl followed us to the relief of the audience. She was the darling of the ageing clientele and, following us, she couldn’t have failed. Her innocent charm restored their faith in humankind and they rewarded her with first prize.

We were not easily defeated and rationalised the result. Of course, the audience wouldn’t like us. They were old, over twenty-five at least. What did they know about music or talent? We packed up our equipment, a little wiser, determined to carry on, but knowing that this was not our kind of venue. One thing was sure. We could only move on up from here! Dave left as our drummer, as he wanted to play guitar and later returned to the fold. He was replaced by another friend of Pete’s, Bryan. He saw the opportunity to join us and he bought a new drum kit on hire purchase. The one thing he had was confidence. The things he lacked were any sense of timing and ability to play. This was a recipe for disaster, but that will have to wait for next time.

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