DAVE JONES Bass | Lyricist
Like most kids growing up in the 60's, I grew up fantasising about playing in a band,
tennis racket guitar and brush handle for a mic. In mid teens this progressed to
forming a band with friends without an real musical skill! As it got serious guitars and
amps and drums were bought on the never never, good old Frank Hessey.
Now late 60s and serious enough to change jobs to join most of the band members
who worked for Walker Cain, a local brewing company. Work was just a means to
earning money on our way to stardom (still waiting).
First Band was called Shop Soiled, Colin, Brian and myself initially, then joined by Steve.
a long haired God who could really play guitar. We rehearsed in the Blackie on the
edge of China town. It was a church which had been vandalised but was now becoming
an arts project. Resident there was a band called Manic Depression who sort of baby
sat the place. The art director was aguy called Bill Harp and his partner Wendy. They
were as hip as you could get andhad a vision for the Blackie as a community arts
facility, which it became.
We "played" prog rock, experimental and blues mainly to ourselves. The payback for
the free rehearsal space was we had to play a set at an open day for the Blackie. We played on the outside steps! Steve had been touring in a band on the continent playing bass guitar but played lead guitar with us, he was brilliant.
O'Connors was our natural habitat along with the Phil and the Cracke, this was the triangle of pubs we would graduate to. The upstairs at O’Cconnors was a music venue run by Doreen. We got gigs rather surprisingly and accumulated a mad "singer' called Anton. He was French and a real showman, crazy guy but he was right for our hard driving sound.
We had a penchant for flash powder wired through a crude and dangerous switching board.
Very effective until we managed to set light to a speaker cabinet and the flames headed
toward the low ceiling tiles. We carried on playing, as rock stars would, the audience went
wild, we looked anxiously at each other and wimped out and put the flames was very trippy
Pink Floyd type, you know with slides and liquids creating weird shapes and patterns and
colours, oh boy we were living the dream now. Then Steveleft to try his fortunes in London,
that was pretty much the end of Shop Soiled.
Through our time with Shop Soiled a couple of lads who knew Steve would be around at
rehearsals and gigs. Maddie and the much lamented John Petch. Maddie was to become a key
player in my musical life. After the demise of Shop Soiled I did nothing musically until out of
the blue Maddie contacted me and asked me to play bass in an acoustic 'band" he was
forming with a guy called Haggis. Maddie had picked up guitar and was writing his own
material. We rehearsed, it made no difference but what the hell, we were playing original
songs so nobody could comment on whether they good or bad, you either liked it or you didn't.
We were called Cream Soda (the original pop band!!).
We played a few gigs but Haggis then melted away, so just the two of us. We acquired a
drummer John Hornby, great, his father owned a sweet shop and it had a cellar! Practice!
Most important was our group name, had to get the priority right, name first learn to play
second. We settled on Hark Matilda after John’s wife who was Australian told us that "Hark
Matilda a weasel" was an Australian saying when you farted in company. Have no idea if it was a wind-up but what the hell the name was good?
It became shortened to just Hark Matilda.
The influence was country rock, Brinsley Schwartz, Grateful Dead and the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, entirely different from what was around early 70s, this explains why we ploughed a lonesome furrow with gigs suitably spread out. Line up of Maddie, John, Gareth John and myself with Mike Carter on mixing desk and magical stylophone.
Maddie was writer in-chief with democratic input from the rest of us. Went something like you.... must be joking were not doing it that way, or more accurately we can't do it that way. But we were not doing covers, we were original with a few reworkings of Dead tracks and other more obscure bands.
John drifted off the scene to be replaced by long time friend BrianHarcombe on double drum kit. We practiced in various pubs and locations around Liverpool. Working for a brewery helped. We were variously very good to very loose (crap) it was the way it was throughout.
We got regular gigs, Sandon, Moonstone, Star and Garter, Dove and Olive, Dale amongst others. Brian was destined for stardom, he was a professional musician after all. He left to join a band called Restless, who were very good and fronted by a guy called Alan Mays, we had come across him in our Cream Soda days. After holding auditions we found another drummer, Dave Haines, great drummer, great character and could sing, we played some memorable gigs together not least The Metro Club, a basement off Castle Street.
Dave though wanted regular paid gigs and it was never going to happen so sadly he left to take up a residency in a working mans club. Now totally disillusioned it basically sounded the death nell for the band. Dream over, I concentrated on my working career from age 26 until about three years ago.
No contact with band members, totally lost contact. Did make contact with Maddie, met up for a drink and talk of the good old days. But lost contact again until I threatened Maddie that he could do one if he ignored me! We met up again along with Mike and discovered that Mike had taken up guitar. I had also taken up guitar as a retirement hobby and Maddie had been away from guitar pursuing other interests but had set up a studio, learned Cubase, Logic Pro and other mysteries of home recording. We decided to meet up and just jam for fun and see where it went. I hadn't played bass since I was 26 (yes, I know and still can't) but got the buzz again, sparing his blushes Maddie is very inspirational and I'm very driven - so this is where we find ourselves today.
Writing new material between us and in collaboration which is not bad 40 years after stopping, playing slightly better than before and hey presto, the advent of digital recording means we don't now need a bloody mad drummer. I have always wanted to produce some meaningful music, not really to be famous but to fulfill that dream when I stood in front of the mirror with a tennis racket miming to Not Fade Away by the Stones.
Just to be a small part of making some enjoyable music, not covers but original and if it is liked then that's a bonus. Who said life begins at 40 is wrong, for me life begins at 65 and regrets at those wasted years but not the experiences that got us started in the first place. The buzzword for today is extemporise (and then practice like hell!).
GRAHAM MADDRELL Guitars | Keyboards | Songwriting
So where do I begin?
Probably in a small basement record shop in Vine Street in Liverpool 7, a shop long since
demolished but I always remember being opened mouthed and wide eyed looking at the
line of LP and EP covers on the wall of Elvis, Gene Vincent, and The Everley Brothers.
The lady serving in amongst the array of Dansette record players and box televisions –
which took about 10 minutes to warm up – she knew the very young boy who was mad
on Elvis and sold me his 45’s.
It was an area filled with 4 storey terraced blocks of large houses, some still showing
damage from the blitz and next to our playgrounds – the bomb sites!! Then came along
you know who, The Beatles – life changed forever, and then the discovery of The Rolling
Stones, at that time more my cup of tea with their blues based songs, I don’t know why I
loved the blues but I sure did. Like everyone, tennis racquets were played expertly – in
fact, probably better than my guitar playing these days.
So started years of music, listening and playing. Now I couldn’t play any instrument until
the early 1970’s, inspired by Gareth John (Gaz) and Stuart McLaughlin (Haggis). It looked
easy enough, just bash your fingers on a few strings and hey-ho and there you go – how
wrong can you be! But after a visit to Frank Hessy’s Music Shop in the city centre, I came
away with an acoustic Spanish Guitar, began to strum and it sounded okay until
somebody actually tuned the bloody thing – back to square one!!! However, persistence
prevailed, and armed with C D G chords I began to start writing some songs – everyone
was impressed but told me not to expect a call from the Epstein’s.
This was around 1970, and with my old chum Haggis we decided to form an acoustic
band – how the hell do we do that? I had hung around a number of bands
throughout the 60’s but mainly a three piece called Shop Soiled. Now these were
musicians comprising Dave Jones, Brian Harcombe and Steve Bone – they were our
Cream! But as the sixties ended so had the three piece blues bands – so when
Steve left the band split.
Who are ya gonna call? I called Dave Jones! Yes he was interested in joining the
acoustic band on bass and so off we went under the name of The Swinging
Alexander Brothers – yes I know! – and then the magic of Cream Soda. Certain
problems were there to see, we had no discipline, no songs, and no singer.
Strangeley enough the final two issues resolved themselves as I started writing
songs for good or bad straight away and also became the singer – would really have
helped if I could sing though! The discipline was needed and this came through the
professionalism of Dave Jones who really taught us about playing in a band.
So we had about 30 minutes of tunes including The Imaginary Maiden, Stealin’,
Midnight Rider and Hold It. We played a few low key gigs around Liverpool for no
fee and then slowly we petered out – break time number 1 – then the country-rock-
pub scene started taking hold and bands such as the magnificent Brinsley Schwarz,
Ducks Deluxe and Dr Feelgood were the star attractions.
So after a short hiatus Gaz wanted to form a band, so we both got together – both had Telecaster’s, and once again called Dave for the bass spot. Rehearsals were over a few pints, well we were going to be the next big thing on the pub rock scene – and we also linked up with John Hornby who lived down the road and could play the drums and, even more importantly, had a basement under his Dad’s sweet shop were we could practice and occasionally dig into the odd Mars Bar.
So began the next band, in fact the band with no name. We had a few tunes written such as Piece of Mind, Sailin’, and the Grateful Dead tunes of Beat it on Down The Lineand Bertha, but no name. As you will read in Dave Jones biog the name we chose of
Hark Matilda came from the wife of our drummer who quoted an Australian phrase for the passing of…..ahem..…wind!
Anyway, once we had the name of Hark Matilda we were off and running, playing gigs around Liverpool…but moving along you can hear the background to our story, the gigs, the songs, the laughs, the tears, but most of all a taste of what it was like in those days by listening to the MP3's on the Home page.
Despite the long break after we split, musically I certainly learned a lot more about guitar playing, and whilst not being an Eric Clapton I developed a good use of chords to help me write songs, which I have been doing quite consistently.
Although I had laid down my guitar for a number of years, I was still involved in miusic either through website design for bands such as Kappa, The Jalapenos, Gary Murphy, or by graphic design work for Cooper S - not to mention producing five songs by them. I was also a participant for many years in reviewing and photographing many of the guitar stars which played the Wirral Guitar Festival of Great Britain.
The years also brought forward movement in the technology of recording techniques, generally these days you can access hundreds of tracks via DAW’s such as Cubase and Logic Pro. Being quite patient I have keened about these and now able to record half decent songs playing guitars, bass and keyboards and overdubbing some drum tracks when necessary.
Meeting up again with Dave Jones also helped me to kick off the dust and really start writing quite seriously again – Dave has become very prolific as lyricist so when I am short of words he produces reams of lyrics which, in general, he is happy for me to adapt and write the song around – he also adds - as always – solid bass on the tracks. After all these years of playing with Dave I think we have formed a kinship both musically and as friends.
I appreciate Dave’s vital input as always and I think that he appreciates the way I am able to produce and arrange music.
So there we have it, the hair may have gone but we still play music on the basis that we will always write original material and most of all enjoy what we are doing. Still lots to do, especially musically, so as the astronomer Sir Patrick Moore perhaps would have said, “Watch this Space!!!”
MIKE CARTER - Guitar | Mandolin
1974 living in Liverpool, that brokedown palace with nothing to offer except
disco and occasionally visiting bands playing music worth listening to.
Working my fingers to the bone at the City Library, looking forward to the next
Brinsley Schwarz and Ducks Deluxe gigs.
Spending every weekend rock climbing in North Wales always ready to
surrender to the rhythm but having too many gripped up moments and close
to death experiences on exposed rock way above my ability. Nobody loves you
when your down and out but you still try. Jim Morrison had left me and even
Lennon, Garcia and Dylan had left for the weekend.
Looking back it wasn't that bad, I just couldn't afford to do anything except
work eat and sleep. In February I decided to give up rock climbing, finally
coming to terms with the fact that I was probably going to kill myself. I bought
a tape recorder to make up for this void in my life and in March, Liverpool City
Council, that genuine non-rocking institution closed the Cavern with a rather sad epitaph for me in a failed attempt to record the last live act at the Cavern.
Focus...hocus pocus, I was so low and still can't listen to Jan Ackerman without feeling sad. I know it's not all Jan's fault and the Bay City Rollers do have a lot to answer for with everything tainted and becoming a sad pastiche of rock & roll. 1974, I was helpless, going down the road feeling bad. Thus as a new year's
resolution for 1975 I decided to jump ship from the dead
end job at the City Library and after a gripping interview
with Derek Hatton fell screaming and kicking back into
dead end street at Liverpool City payroll dept. Commerce
House. Back on the rock island line but still alive.
One day at work, whilst considering how low can you get
and still manage to walk out in the morning dew, I met up
with Gaz and Butch. - Gareth John and Neil Buchanen -
both bored as I was with the music scene. Butch was going
through his glam rock phase - Marseilles - and Gaz was
learning to play Jerry Garcia riffs. At the time I was
experimenting with recording and double tracking with
reel to reel recorders and Gaz mentioned that he had just
joined a band and had all the latest kit. So that was it, I was going to be a sound man for the most successful band since Gerry & the Pacemakers and Butch was going to drama school where he eventually sold the idea of Art Attack to the BBC. The rest is history or so they say.
For me it all started well enough at the first practice session. Fender Telecasters, H&H combo amps, a 200W 4 track stereo mixer/PA, Shure Microphones and a Watkins Copycat. The band members (Graham, Dave, Gaz and Brian) didn't know how to operate what looked to me like state of the art equipment. So I found my place, threaded the Copycat and off we launched. Drummer Brian didn't need his drums mic'ed, I even managed to balance the vocals so Dave's Bass didn't drown everything else out... Hark Matilda, Beat it on down the line, Bertha, Cosmic Cowboy.. these guys were good. As usual, at the first gig, it all changed.
Everything on stage got turned up to 11 and the little 200W PA failed to come to terms with the giant cavernous refectory at the Student Union hall. A complete cacophony driving the audience to the back of the hall. I had to turn the big meaty H&H amps down to clear the booming echo which eventually cleared the hall and Gaz broke the Copycat tape. Thus with this valuable experience we decided to avoid big halls and 'Hark Matilda', the pub rock band was born.
If you remember the '60s you weren't there...this stands for me in 1975. I recall the odd gig, stopping the audience from nicking the PA speakers at the Dove & Olive in Speke, fighting with Anthony Aardvark for stage time at the Adelphi Suite, carrying all the gear upstairs at O'Connors Tavern where Dave had previously set the stage on fire. Perhaps the most memorable gig for me was at the Sandon in Anfield where I decided to patch a Stylophone into the PA desk and play a stuttering solo to a song called Knee Trembler, much to the amazement and shock of the band who had no idea what was going on.
Thus 1975 turned out to be the best year of my life, or so I'm told by Graham and Dave who have got us back together with me playing guitar and mandolin, leaving all the hard work to Graham who has picked up a few tricks working with digital media.
My skill with the tape recorder faded and thus, like a mule trying to climb a ladder, I'm now a Fading Horse.
All the best
MIKE April 2016