Before 1976

When I was fourteen, my sister came home from a visit to the local store with a copy of ‘Ziggy Stardust’ by David Bowie. My life was to evolve dramatically within the following few years.

Never having really been into music when I was young, my older sister Deb was a big influence on me, and I dropped motor bikes and football like they had never existed.


Listening to the complete Bowie collection together with my heroes Mott the Hoople and a mixture of early 80’s glam convinced me I didn’t want to be an astronaut anymore, but something more down to earth, mainly a musician similar to the people that were transfixing me every Sunday night at six o’clock on the Top 40 countdown, while the old lady was doing our ironing for school, the following day.

In fact, I clearly remember vowing that someday I would be a pop star signed to the same label as David Bowie, which then, was RCA/Ariola.


Not long before I left school, I formed a garage band with a friend called Richard Smith, who lived in the next street. He was kitted out with a guitar, and an amp from a catalogue. Looking through this catalogue I found what seemed to be a fairly professional looking microphone! That was it. I was going to be a singer. After all, I couldn’t play an instrument, so I had to be the singer !


Another guitarist turned up by the name of Vic Tomlin and together we pissed the neighbours off no end. Playing versions of Bowie, Beatles and traditional songs, we rehearsed Tuesday’s and Thursday’s in Rich’s Garage. Eventually, the neighbours (one of whom was a Justice of the Peace) rallied, and came forth with a petition for the council to stop the noise.

I think we played one gig and that was for Richard’s relatives in his living room, to sporadic applause and much embarrassment all round. As the music scene changed, so did the style of the band. Vic was fairly punk, before punk rock seemed to emerge, and at that same time, I was engrossed in Iggy Pop and the Stooges. Inevitably, with Rich’s interest in The Damned and The Clash, we were forced to rent a music room in our local school on Monday night’s for seven quid.


The amazing era of punk descended upon us and buying skin tight jeans from the local Army & Navy for a quid after a trip to Birmingham market looking for ‘Destroy’ t-shirts, was what occupied our Saturday’s. Virgin Records used to be up on Bull St., in Brum; the back wall of the shop was littered with the latest luminous 12” from X-Ray Spex and Albertos y los Trios Paranoias, not to mention the magnificent ‘Vibrators’. I recall going to see Iggy Pop with Bowie playing keyboards, supported by the Vibrators at Birmingham Hippodrome. An experience I never really got over. A further trip to see Iggy supported by ‘The Adverts’ was even more enthralling- I remember Iggy threatened to kick my teeth in unless I let go of his microphone cable. Of course, this was fantastic.


The band had changed it’s name to ‘The Rip-Off’s’, and the music had developed a dark and dirty energy that was raw and unpredictable. The members had also developed new titles! I was ‘Tone Deaf’ for a while, then ‘A. Maniac’, Rich became ‘Richard Manton-Smith’ and Vic emersed himself in ‘Rat Pie’ and lived every bit of it. Songs like ‘Total Destruction of Music’, saw us trashing the music room at its final demise, to the amusement of a regular crowd, that were forming outside the school music room windows of a Monday night.

The band never had a Bass Player. Such was the way of things in those heady days and it never really occurred to us to find one anyway. But a drummer! We searched high and low and eventually found our one and only stixman in Rob Mascall, a crazy bastard who just grinned inanely all night and played whatever came into his sickened soul whenever it pleased him. I wanted to be Iggy Pop like there was no tomorrow; I forced safety pins through the skin in my chest and wore little more than a torn bin liner and swastikas on my face. Needless to say there were more tears than actual material in my jeans.


The Rip Off’s only achieved gig status twice. The first was support to local punk heroes from Solihull, ‘The Undertaker’s. The venue was Hatchford Brook Youth Club in Solihull. The gig was full of riotous youths from Lyndon High School and I ended up covered in spit just before the crowd rioted and rendered the PA system bereft of life.

But being covered in spit was an achievement in those days, and we considered it a minor success. The bands final gig was at Hobs Moat Assembly Rooms, also in Solihull for a friends 18th Birthday Party. The audience were nonchalant and the amps blew up. That was the end of that. I think we grew despondent with it all and moved on to other things.


Richard Smith contacted me again the following year to play with a band he’d formed at Solihull Technical College.
‘The Cracked Actors’(if it really needs explaining) were Bowie influenced to the hilt. Fronted by the closest thing to Mr. Bowie himself in the Solihull Area, the singer’s name was Dave Wright, guitarist Pat Kelly had appeared (later with ‘Detroit’-to become ‘Marshall Law’ in Birmingham - but sadly died in 1983)-Adrian on keyboards and a guy called Simon on drums.

By this time, I had took to playing bass guitar and had several lessons from a local music teacher, Neil Martin. Sporting a Fender Precision copy, I assumed the position of bass Player for ‘The Cracked Actors’.


I remember only one gig, at Solihull Civic Hall as part of a multi band line up supporting local heroes ‘Leargo’. After carrying my rig on the bus to the show, it was found to be inadequate, so I used the main bands bass rig. During a rendition of Bowie’s ‘Hang onto Yourself’, I blew their rig up. They weren’t too happy as you can imagine. The band made a record at Frank Skarth’s studio in Erdington, B’ham. We recorded one track, a limp directionless effort titled ‘Disco’. Unfortunately, it got pressed and sent to everyone in the business who rightfully condemned us, as mindless drivel.


After ditching the singer, we changed the name of this outfit to ‘SPORT’. I took over vocals myself, as well as bass, and recorded more songs at Frank’s studio shortly before it burnt down!

My Girl
Nightclubbin’ (Iggy Pop)

After sticking this out through 1978, I decided to reassess my situation and try some different things. I attempted acoustic guitar which didn’t really happen for me. During four years at college, I had been listening to traditional rock music mainly. Then an opportunity came out of the blue.



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