Back in the late 70’s I became interested in making music. Much to the chagrin of family and neighbours I managed to get hold of a Premier drum kit – and play it! This was reasonable kit back then, with Ziljan cymbals. Later on I acquired a Bass guitar. Anyone remember Futurama bass guitars? hardly the sexiest guitar to own. I soon traded this up for an Eko copy of a Rickenbacker 4001. This had much more street cred and the action in comparison made it far easier to play. A neighbour heard me learning to play the first bass I had and asked if I’d be interested in having his old amp he had stashed in his loft. I was interested because I had a very sad looking exposed valve head unit – can’t remember make, plugged into a homemade cab with unknown wattage. When this Afro Caribbean neighbour carted
his old prized VOX AC30 down the garden and over the fence I nearly passed out in disbelief. I had envisaged a similar piece of tat similar to the one I had. I’m sure this generous gift is what helped me persevere with learning my bass. I still play whenever I get the chance and leave it hanging on the wall in the lounge. I bet this amp saw many a good night before it came into my possession with lots of dodgy smoke to boot! Rasta Man!
In 1978 I was chosen by my youth group to go on an exchange program to the US. My exchange student Jimmy played a rather handsome Fender Strat guitar and was involved in bands back in the states. I went along to a couple of jam sessions while over in the US, where I had the opportunity to play some great drum kits – those parents had money! while some guys had some great basses that they let me play. It was here I ended up primarily playing the bass. When I came back home, autumn ’79 my parents had got rid of the drum kit in my absence – something about appeasing the neighbours! Still by this time I’d converted to bass, unless a drummer was needed at a jam session. Whilst I’d been away my old school friend Chris had become interested in drumming and by now had become reached the standard where he could play in public!
In 81/82 I joined 3 different bands. The first was by accident. I was thumbing a lift home one snowy night from St. Albans when an estate stopped to offer me a lift. The couple that picked me up ware part of a square dance band called The Stovepipers. The guy was the caller and the woman the accordion player. They fancied adding a bass player to their group so that’s what I ended up doing. The band played a couple of weekends a month and even paid out a small income. The evenings were easy going and I managed to keep myself awake while playing the ever-difficult bass groove – not!
The second band was a much more grandiose affair. A couple of friends of mine were trying to start a small dance band. I went along to Bill’s place (the keyboard player!) with Stuart (the sax player and band leader) one Sunday afternoon along with a couple of others with trumpets and more Saxes. After a couple of weeks went by we had enough tunes in pieces in the bag to play an evening of sorts. Our first ‘gig’ was at a church dance where we played sets of three dances. To fill the evening we played every other number twice with a different one in between. Hardly anyone noticed – try it sometime when you start running out, it works a treat. The band went from strength to strength with many comings and goings over the years. We played as far a field as Dublin, Dunoon, Southport, Wigan, Raleigh and Winchester to name but a few.
We had the band play for the evening dance at our wedding, although Wendy wouldn’t let me play. Many hours were put into Sunday practice sessions and the core people and road crew became a second family.
The other band I joined was
with Chris. Chris had a couple of fiends in St. Albans who were interested in
putting a band together, Frank on guitar and vocals and Nigel on toms and
Vocals. ‘Chris the drummer’ as my wife knows him, used to own a plastic
pig (Reliant Robin) which transported our kit around with us squashed up
front. We can equate with the Trotters of Peckham and their mode of transport!
After getting enough numbers under our belt we needed a name. From a long list
of potentials we ended up selecting “Rhythms of Vision”, doesn’t quiet
roll of the tongue, but not many did back then. We played a number of times in
the Crystal Palace pub in St. Albans and people even played to get in and hear
us. They didn’t really need to come in side to hear, as it was plenty load
outside, even with the windows shut! Playing rock music fitted in well with
the biking clientele but the pub wasn’t everyone’s taste. The Crystal
Palace has since been knocked down and replaced by a shopping center. I never
did get to play at the Horn of Plenty – a mecca for local bands. My friend
Stuart who played sax managed to quiet the Horn once with one of his solos –
he was a big guy, all in black including the broad rimed hat. Long may he rest
in peace, he died in 2002 still in his 50’s, but he’ll be playing his sax
by the pearly gates I think.
Stuart had a big affect on my playing with the development of the Ambassador Dance Band where he orchestrated many of the parts for the band. Although he must have known I could not read music particularly well he turned a blind eye when I played by ear. Playing in the diverse bands that I did have helped broadened my horizons and also my playing ability. In the early days of the Ambassador Band I helped acquire the sound equipment and cabling, Stu and Brian organized the outfits and band stands and from our first outings we really looked the part. Two Saturday nights a month we’d be out on the road
playing somewhere up and down the country to groups as small as 50 to 600. I met my wife in ’84 when we were playing at a caravan park in South Wales. Many years later Wendy joined the small group of singers with the band for a couple of seasons. The band eventually split up in the late 90’s when many of the founder members moved from the St. Albans area or had more pressing commitments. The core members were Stu on Sax, Bill on Keyboard, Me on Bass, Barry on Drums, Steve and Duncan on Trumpets and Eric on guitar and vocals. On a full line up we were about 13 in number with 5 saxophones, 3 trumpets, keyboard, drums, bass and 2 guitars. We also went through various selection of singers during our time.