Ashley was a football player, I played rugby. Ashley broke his leg and I didn’t, but the result was that Ashley had an insurance pay out that meant we could upgrade from his moms bon tempi organ to a proper cool looking Roland SH101 synthesiser that you could strap on and play like a guitar, just like on top of the pops…so we got our first news paper appearance…ASHLEYS LUCKY BREAK and we were off…
Actually I`ve jumped ahead a little as I`ve not explained the third person in the pic, TIM MORRIS, lets go back to the summer of 1983, where we had dismantled all the furniture in my bedroom to make way for keyboards, guitars, amps, microphones, stands , a mixing desk, a tape recorder and…
three chaps , me Ash and not Tim but Mark Allwood , who we drafted in as sound engineer and mixer…we played everything live Ash and I , so we needed someone to press record…
8 tracks were recorded and we called this first collection of songs , “the bedroom session “, luckily when we actually said that title out loud we realised its other connotations , so quickly renamed our first album ” FOOTSTEPS” , after a particularly good track on the album.
As you`ve probably gathered , we called ourselves FIRST LIGHT , but we found another band had the name already so after briefly becoming DARK LIGHT we settled into DARK EDGE.. we took our 8 track cassette and recruited two amazing guitarists TIM MORRIS and PAUL “SOGGY” COTTON.
Our sound went from synth pop,( think Scary monster period Bowie meets Depeche mode) to a more guitar heavy sound ( think U2/ BIG COUNTRY meets ULTRAVOX ) complete with live drummer ( always better than a dead one…) MARK LEE, we rehearsed like crazy and wrote a fresh batch of songs that we later released as the rather snappily titled “THE PERSISTANCE OF MEMORY E.P…( It`s now an expanded 11 track full album rather than the original 6 tracks…available from the shop soon ) before that release tho , Soggy and Mark left and we went down to the classic 3 piece line up
Our latest project is to re record all the EDGE albums…why ? well many reasons. when we originally recorded these albums cd`s hadn`t even been invented , so all our releases were on cassette…after 30 plus years , you get audio drop out, warping…one live tape from Germany sounds like Mickey Mouse rocking out , so we have to release listenable music.
Secondly songs are about performance and capturing something special which includes the atmosphere of the room, the hiss of the mixing desk, the amps you use and a whole host of little things that can`t really be re created, so we felt we wouldn`t. that left us with this body of songs that we were re recording from scratch.
Which leads into the third reason… When I wrote the lyrics , I was in a different space , I`m not the same person and while most of the songs could be sung today , some lyrics were too naive or just embarrassing , so I re wrote them. Same with the music. What was ground breaking in the 80`s, suddenly sounded unfinished. We made a creative decision to keep the initial spark of creativity and whatever we could from the original songs but to let them grow as we as people had.
The result has been magical. Some songs haven`t changed at all , but others have matured into almost completely different songs. The important thing for us is that they now work and we can listen to them. New music, new melodies, new lyrics , we hope you enjoy the new old EDGE albums.
The first album to get the re write treatment is “footsteps”, the original album that started it all off, but it`s had a name change. We`re releasing it under the DARK EDGE banner and calling it the original name ” FIRST LIGHT “. It seemed apt for the first chapter .
Just for the record , when we were exploring the idea of being a full band we rehearsed with a few local musicians but never actually gigged . one brief member was ALLEN “ART” TYLER.
We met on a crafts trainee scheme doing art and discovered a shared a love of early punk music and art.
(Rich with ginger spikey hair )
The punk ethos of anyone could write music and be in a band was an early influence on me. anything is possible was my motto. Andy Bishop played bass for a while , but neither he nor Art wanted to commit and left before things really started to get going.
Back to the main story…Rich, Ash and Tim, wrote like mad , what followed was that in our excitement we`d jam music together all night until they worked as songs and it resulted in two albums that in reality should be seen as one entity .
We wanted to share our creation with the world , but the Midlands would do for now , so we gigged like crazy.
We started small and the first ever gig was at Pelsall scout hut. I know , it sounds exotic and impressive doesn`t it. we even recorded the gig and released it much later as “LIVE AT THE HUT “, we thought it sounded more mysterious than it`s full title
The line up was drums and backing synth on c90 cassette, Tim on guitar or bass ( he was amazing on both ), Ash on lead keyboards and backing vocals and me on vocals and occasional two note guitar…yes at this early point I couldn`t play a chord , so I picked out notes here and there. I`m amazed at our cheek and confidence as we even played a live jam , made up on the spot and it wasn`t half bad and will be released in a new recorded form on one of the expanded edition albums.
Pics of first ever gig:
Musically Tim was bringing a beautiful intricate and rockier sound to the band , reminiscent of a mix of the Police/Thin Lizzy and U2. Lyrically all my songs revolve around two main themes, even to this present day…
Love ( either though relationships or the welfare of the planet ) or my spirituality. I`ve always been aware of a more mystical side of life , seeing strange things from childhood. Ghosts, angels and past life memories were everyday occurrences for me , so they naturally pepper all the songs. I`ve always tried to write from experience so the songs had a depth of real feeling to them. Ash brought that keen sense of pop with his keyboard programming brilliance.
Our 2nd gig at Palfrey Community Centre –where we were told off for playing Duran Durans` “girls on film”, as it was still in the charts…how very dare we..”
It would be a little later that through musical frustration of not being able to communicate accurately the music I was hearing in my head that I took up acoustic guitar and bass. My father taught me my first three chords . He was a natural musician , having that gift of being able to pick up any instrument and get a decent tune out of it. He played guitar, piano,clarinet and a mean blues harp. Over the years we played together a lot and he`s even featured playing harmonica on my “BURNING NEED” album, the track “I AM NOT ALONE “. A great man and I dearly miss him
I include this “shot” of dad to explain my madness may have been unavoidable …
As I mentioned earlier, one of our purer motives for forming a band was to get girls, so we reasoned the quickest way to achieve this was to play girls schools. we really were ahead of our time. there were two local ones Queen Marys` and Blue Coat, so we booked gigs there and lo and behold we had an instant large following.
This made us very unpopular with the rest of the local bands who felt we were just a teeny bop band. Strange really , as when I listen back to our songs , we really quite rocky.
What really upset them is that we`d attract a couple of hundred fans to each gig , while they were drawing around seven…was there a hint of smugness there ?
We weren`t daft and started to sell merchandise, photo packs and the almost legendary DARK EDGE BADGES. My uncle phoned my mom one day and enquired the name of my band, Dark Edge my mother replied “I thought so , I`ve just got off a bus and all the school girls are wearing Dark Edge badges “
We were also interviewed for lots of local fanzines , a large one at the time was Ligotage and they filled about 3/4 of the issue with us. others were less favourable, one Punk Tranny gave a very damning live review and placed us as 2nd in the top 10 worst bands of Walsall…it was hilarious, we loved it and when I find my copy , I`ll print the actual review as it`s comedy gold.
As our reputation grew, so did the numbers attending and after one such gig , we were approached by a young chap who said ” great gig , love the songs, but you need a live drummer…I`m a drummer “
and so the Edge trio , became four with IAIN SQUIRE joining. we carried on the idea of playing schools as they were perfect venues with plenty of room and good stages. We released a couple more live cassettes to keep interest going while we wrote the next album…
Well we would have if we hadn`t been spotted by local playwright Mark Oakley who asked us to write music and songs for his play LOOKING FOR THE KEY.
We agreed and not only wrote the album but at his request performed the songs each night in between scenes.
Our large fan base was very appealing to venues and secured us a Friday night residency at local hot music joint , the Three Crowns , ( thanks Jim ).
It was here that we were approached by a young German lady , Petra who loved our sound and said “you must come over to Germany , they will love you there” she foolishly gave us her address…more on that later, the seeds had been sewn.
Out and about we spotted a gig in Walsall by a band called CROOKED HOUNDS , the poster proclaimed , back from Germany….hmmm a coincidence , me thinks not. we went to the gig and asked loads of questions about their German experience. “just do it guys “was their singers advice , but we could see by his expression he never thought we`d actually go.
As Germany began to look like a reality , Iain our exceptional drummer began to get cold feet…I did advise thick woollen camping socks but he was having none of it and unfortunately he left.
We needed a new drummer and quick. as luck would have it Ashley’s younger brother Joddy had just purchased the latest very trendy hexagonal electronic Simmons drum kit. what he lacked in experience , he made up for enthusiasm and we devised a sound plot, whereby we would link the programmed drums in until he was up to speed and could take over.
This did lead to the very embarrassing but funny exchange , where during a sound check at a very large venue , his brother called out ” come out front down here and listen to the drums “
We decided to get a few gigs under our belt with Joddy , before we went and we even dabbled with backing singers, tho they only lasted for a handful of gigs as we couldn`t take them with us
We also splashed out on a beat up once white transit van and recruited a sound engineer/ mixer to operate the sound on our fancy new mixing desk and P.A purchased on the knock from local music shop T.R.MUSIC ( thanks Borgy ) after all we had to do the German tour in something.
Our sound man was a very sound man by the name of Martin “bomber” Bynorth, so called as he would dive bomb in on any conversation and try and steal the girl away..
While we readying to leave we chanced upon a tape that we`d forgotten about in the hectic days and later released it as “dancing on the edge”.
It was a great album and showed a funkier side of the band , two of the songs became live favourites ” stay close ” and ” save me “
A farewell gig at the three crowns was played and we were off to Germany….
We left on the ferry and landed in the Hook of Holland and drove across the border into Germany, kipping in the van overnight. It was here I learned the invaluable skill of being able to sleep anywhere, anytime.
Now we were young , naïve and possessed of quirky English senses of humour. We thought it would be hilarious just to turn up , unannounced on the door of the unsuspecting Petra and with our best Liverpudlian accents exclaim “SURPRISE, SURPRISE ” “remember us and your kind invite ? “
Before I continue with this story , I`d just like to explain that for some ears the Midland and Liverpudlian accents sound the same ??? we had many promoters in Germany claim “AUS LIVERPOOL…DARK EDGE” , on their posters..
Anyway , back to the mortified face of Petra who opened her door to find five big blokes on her doorstep.
True to her word and a shining example of all the hospitality we received in Germany , we were welcomed with open arms.
Very soon we outstayed our welcome with Petra , who hastily moved in with her boyfriend ( he has us to thank for the speedy progress of that relationship ) and we were homeless…we secured a gig at a local bar in Hamburg , where the manager Franz gave us a great gig , lots of money and beer and we met a couple of girls who volunteered to put us up in their flats. so we were living in Hamburg.
Under the guidance of these two girls , Beata and Sabina ( and good friends Ronnie, Ingy ) they found the office of Horst Fashcer, who managed the Star Club , when the Beatles played there. this had afforded him some notoriety as a music promoter and once we`d convinced him to take us on his books…the conversation went-
“I like your tape boys, the music is good , you look good but I have no room for any more bands.. sorry “
“horst , if we don`t play , we don`t eat “
” any way , I already have an English band “
” the crooked hounds “
” the crooked…we know them… please Horst , we need to eat “
“ok , I`ll give you one try out gig, if you`re any good….”
and so we became one of his bands and our gigs jumped from a couple of hundred back home in sunny Walsall to 9 to 13 thousand playing open air concerts in Frankfurt Stadt Park.
It was here the live album “Communication was recorded.
The trial gig we did for Horst was very eventful , it was a wild night and is worthy of a small paperback novel itself but the key moment for us was when local studio owner PETE HARDER, liked our sound and invited us to his studio, the rather brilliantly named “try harder” studio.
We played all our material down on a now lost demo tape, which Pete took round the record companies…apparently they had a similar conversation to our first with Horst , ” they liked the sound of the band, they liked the look of the band BUT no singles…”
We were a little deflated, but I do have a sure fire hit I`ve written , but no band to front it.. he handed us the song and said ,” learn it , make it yours and we`ll have a hit”
Had I mentioned earlier that we were young ? , well we were and full of ego. we didn`t like his song , it was too Euro poppy…our egos couldn`t handle the fact we hadn`t got a single yet, so we took his very catchy, sure fire euro hit and we turned it into a very un-sellable , unregnisable version of his baby.
He was furious and rightly so , “what have you done to my song ???”
( I think the correct answer would be, wrecked it )
“get out of my studio “
and so ended our Euro pop hit career. to this day I can still sing that memorable , catchy euro song. to be fair it wasn`t us and if we`d had success at the early point , I dread to think how we would have handled it, but it was an official missed opportunity.
Horst was a fascinating character and opened many doors for us and blagged many a fine chauffeured meal from venue owners where he quietly explained we were going to be the next big thing . we would then be regaled with fascinating stories about his time with the Beatles, which for a Beatle fan like myself was heaven.
We also had interviews and a track played on RADIO HAMBURG that just happened to be on a weekend of madness, a Friday night gig, sat morning open air gig outside radio hamburg, radio interview then another gig on the night, all when three mates had come over to see how we were doing…they thought we were pop stars…living the life and to be fair , we were having an amazing time.
After some fantastic gigs and living in Hamburg for a year , our time with Horst and the girls came to an end and we moved to LUNEBORG, which we re named LOONEY BURG, once we moved there. again we were very lucky , whilst playing a beer fest in a courtyard , one Ingrid and her daughter Eiki , took a shine to us and offered her large loft space as the EDGE`S new home.
One night Ingrid called up to us asking if we could pick up her friend from the Police station , who`d been held overnight being
drunk and disorderly…
“yes of course “
It turned out to be local famous English rocker TONY SHERRIDEN, who recorded his hit single “MY BONNIE”, with THE BEATLES , as his backing band.
We spent the night trading songs on acoustic guitar, drinking whisky, talking about James Taylor and the Beatles…
We carried on writing and wrote the next songs that would make up the “STRANGE DREAMS ” ALBUM
After a year and a half away from home , it felt right to come back to England , so we left Germany and headed back.
As soon as we got back Tim and Joddy became electricians again and left the band…we became a duo and wrote and recorded “LIFE WITHOUT RISK “
We played lots of gigs and recruited PAT BINELLI , on lead guitar. we played many gigs at the City Slicker , where the album “LIVE IN THE CITY ” gets its name
Like any relationship can , being best friends since 1977 , things became a little strained and Rich and Ash went separate ways and the Edge was no more.