Working Class Love Songs from the Moseley Border
I moved from north Birmingham to Tamworth aged thirteen. After a year or so at my new comprehensive school, I’d forged a fair few friendships based primarily on music. None more so than with Ashley Smith, a classmate who – like most of them – was mildly obsessive about The Jam, but also had a fairly eclectic taste on top of that. We must have been fourteen when we decided to form our first band. We appeared to be starting off as a revolutionary counterpart to the synth duo ideal, pioneered by Sparks and recently exploited by Soft Cell. True, Ash was going to play his “synth”, which handily had a primitive drum machine built in, but I was going to buck the trend by being a guitarist. We had a name, Dance Trance, coined by me one night at the Sacred Heart disco when I couldn’t get Ashley’s attention as he strutted his stuff to some classic Northern Soul.
The problem with Dance Trance, as a band if not as a concept, was the fact that it simply involved sitting in Ashley’s living room on a Sunday afternoon watching telly. Sure, I’d go round there intending us to rehearse. Sometimes I’d even take my acoustic guitar with me. But if football is a game played with the brain, Dance Trance were a band who only existed in the head.
Next band. Less than a year or so later, a couple of kids we knew from school, Mark Calcott (vocals, guitar) and Andy Fellows (bass), together with Ashley and I, would rehearse at Mark’s house on a Saturday night. This meant reading the chords from a Beatles songbook and trying to play and keep up as best I could. I wasn’t very good at it, particularly as The Beatles were awkward buggers for using chords that I’d never heard of and didn’t have enough fingers to play. I should have seen the writing on the wall with Mark and Andy a lot sooner. For a start, they preferred The Alarm to Echo & the Bunnymen.
Before this band, who hadn’t ever bothered thinking of a name, went our separate ways, we were introduced to one of Mark’s neighbours. Ash knew him first, as his Mom worked at the same place. So on occasional Saturday nights we’d go over to John Reeman’s house. He was older than us, and seemed to have an incredibly extensive musical knowledge. He also owed a couple of real guitars: one of them being an Ovation acoustic with which he would occasionally treat us to a folk version of “Anarchy in the U.K.” For which he should have been shot.
I had, however, become far more serious about playing the guitar by this point. I’d even got my first real electric guitar - a Les Paul copy I managed to buy on the knock from my Mom’s catalogue.
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