The rock ‘n’ roll years

If you’ve ever bothered to read the About me page here on, or if you’ve known me since school days, you’ll know that I once came very close to fame through music. Okay, close-ish. In my teens I played the six-string guitar quite badly, and then took up the bass guitar when one of my school chums, Al Johnson, needed a bass player for his band. Myself, Al, and drummer David Hunt became a band with no name and no singer, and never played any gigs. But it was fun rehearsing in Dave’s bedroom.

Moving onto Sunbury College I hooked up with a guy named David Tinham, and we were joined by vocalist Caroline Tyers to form a band that again never saw the light of day. After college I answered an ad in the NME and auditioned for an Addlestone-based band featuring Jenna (now with the surname Fox) on vocals, Julian Leech on guitar, and wild-man Gary Puttick on drums. Julian left, was replaced by Gary Howes, and then Julian rejoined. We did play some gigs, just small local venues and we did have a name. I liked the idea of having the word ‘Empire’ in the name and either Gary or Jenna liked the idea of turning it into something German / Gothic… so we adopted the rather daft name of Empire Strasse.

A short time after Empire Strasse disbanded (and Jenna went on to work at Lotus before I arrived there), I was introduced to the guitarist of Heaven Can Wait (another Dave) who were looking for a bass player. After a successful audition I joined vocalist Chris, keyboard player Danny, Dave, drummer Simon (who had been to the same school as me) and the aforementioned Caroline later joined as an occasional backing vocalist.

We played a debut gig in a local pub, and over the next year played a number of gigs… more pubs, the Tunnel Club in Greenwich (still there on the South side of the Blackwall Tunnel, but now has a different name), Zetas in Putney, the Rock Garden in Covent Garden, and the Hammersmith Palais. The Hammersmith Palais? Yep, and we supported two bands that you may have heard of – The Chiefs of Relief (formed after BowWowWow split) and Furniture (remembered for their one and only but rather good hit ‘Brilliant Mind’).

It came to pass that being in a band is expensive. For example, at the Hammersmith Palais and Rock Garden gigs we paid them to play there, but got a cut of the tickets. A good strategy for a band waiting experience and to get noticed, but not a good way of making money. Small pub gigs were actually more lucrative. Rehearsing wasn’t cheap either – whether it was the youth club hall in Addlestone or (if we were feeling flush) the rehearsal studio in Kingston, it all cost money. When the rest of the lads decided they wanted to invest a fairly substantial sum of money in getting a demo tape recorded, I had to decline – it was at the time when the mortgage rate had soared, and I was the only one with such a financial commitment. We went our separate ways, and I was eventually replaced by Peter Parker. No, not that Peter Parker…

Heaven Can Wait didn’t make the big time, so I didn’t miss out on fame and fortune. But I do now hugely regret hanging up my bass guitar and wished I’d kept playing, especially now that Lolli is learning the guitar and is so interested in music. I often find myself staring longingly at shiny bass guitars hanging up in music shops that I pass. Sad, isn’t it?

What’s caused this outpouring of musical nostalgia? When Heaven Can Wait played at the Hammersmith Palais (twice) we paid the guy running the mixing desk to record it on video. At gig #1 the plonker didn’t switch on the sound until two songs into the set. When we played the Palais again five months later we were a much, much better band and our small following said the gig was awesome. Unfortunately the video turned up with no sound at all… so the only record of Heaven Can Wait in action is this old VHS tape recorded from an early gig – I don’t recall the year but I’m going to guess at 1988. At the weekend I found it in a drawer, and after a unsuccessful attempt to transfer it onto my Archos media player my good pal and technology guru Gareth ‘G’ Cook came to the rescue.

A bit of jiggery-pokery on the iMac, and here it is on YouTube – part 1 and part 2. I may upload it again with a higher resolution. Bear in mind that the audio was taken directly from the instruments and microphones, it’s not great quality (the bass isn’t very bassy) and there’s no noise from the crowd – when Chris asks if everyone is having a good time, there’s muted response. There were about three hundred people there, and they did have a good time. Also bear in mind that this was recorded in the late 1980s, and therefore my trousers and all other dodgy styling should be forgiven.


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