The Idealists…

The Idealist

Thirty five years ago Andy had a dream, he dreamt he would become as his idol Marc Bolan, a rock ‘n’ roll icon … he is still dreaming today, sadly the only similarity to Bolan being they both owned a mini’s.

From it’s more than humble beginnings on February 8th 1981 at Sir Francis Bacon School, St. Albans, Herts, the band first metamorphosed as a four piece combo called the Idealists, whose instrumentation consisted of little more than Kitchen utensils. Influenced by Bolan, Bowie, Adam Ant, John Lydon and Iggy Pop, no less than forty different ‘members’ have come and gone in this time. The embryonic years ’81-’84, Andy spent getting to … grips with songwriting, penning such classics as ‘Chop on the Gasman’s Ear’,‘What’s that noise?, I’m only singing’ and ‘I wanna willy on the mockanspiel’. The band changed its name no less than 10 times during this period. Once the Idealists had set the ball rolling in 1981, they were succeeded by SOHO SEX CENTRE and THE RAMPANT VICARS in 1982. The ROtTeRZ gave way in 1983 to the Silent Age and then the A.C.J (ANTI CASUAL JAMBOUREE), a reactionary name to the growing ‘casual’ fashion movement of the time. From those early Punk/Glam fusions, which included PANTH PINKER AND THE GASMEN, THE HORSE SAUSAGE FUNNY FISH and THE BLUE MINI’S, Andy formed his first band that actually managed a ‘proper’ gig. All previous efforts had resorted in Cider and Special Brew fuelled disasters at school parties. The new three piece band is called TELEGRAM SAM (no prizes) and features the soon to be influential Carl Clampitt, they perform the closing song of the 1985 Easter sixth form production to wild acclaim … the adulation, the fame, this is it, it can only be a matter of time!

Red London Bus

Following the Telegram Sam success, Andy celebrated by changing the name of the band to Virgin On Vanity and drafted in one of over twenty backing vocal duos, the first incarnation being Mary Almey and Glenn Parker. This line up survived for one gig, the first full electric offering of Andy’s already long career.

That watershed gig was in September of 1985. The next was Andy and fellow Mamajama founder member Eddie Cain’s 18th Birthday Party a month later. The band now had four backing singers, Julie Harvey, Julie Horler, Sandra Warren and Susan Bosier, drummer Simon Grover had been replaced by local ‘Punk Celeb’ Tom Reardon (Formely with St.Albans most famous punk band BLACK MASS).

By December Susan was the only backing singer left and Tom had been replaced by the more reliable ‘drum machine.’ Andy had been steadily writing and together with bassist Carl decided it was time to lay some tracks down properly as bait for the posse of A&R men sure to be camped just around the corner.

On December 17th 1985 Red London Bus was recorded in a basement studio in Muswell Hill, notable only for the fact that the Cure’s bassist Simon Gallup’s bass was standing in the corner.
(Carl chose the studio).

Nothing much followed the recording session until a return to the same studio in May 1986, where ‘Day Like Today’, ‘Zoo town Saturday’, ‘Lady’ and a … rather tongue in cheek ‘It’s Christmas Time’ are ‘canned’ for posterity. A couple of gigs follow and the band recruits a new drummer Mike Liddington, sadly these feature little more than equipment failure and post gig depression. The low point being a ‘pizza & drumstick pointing fest’ in Watford College S.U. bar.

1987 sees two gigs at the Pineapple Pub in St.Albans and the recording of ‘the best demo to date’ at the ‘House in the Woods’ in Surrey it features Paul Moore on guitar and bass, with Andy on rhythm and vocals. Take your Stance and Theme baby are a definite improvement on previous efforts.

However problems are a foot for Andy as Carl plays his final gig with Virgin On Vanity in August 1987, leaving to go to Swansea University and Paul and Andy fall out, for reasons still unclear to this day…

As all around him appeared to be crumbling Andy decided to take a break, all his mates were driving XR3’s and talking about pensions, that was except for Our Price work mate Paul Smith (later to become ‘Sugar’ Paul of Justin Smiley) who Andy persuaded to burn all bridges and bugger off round Europe for six months. On April 11th 1988, they set off. Paul was there for the experience but Andy had a plan. He hoped to finally learn how to play the guitar and write a collection of songs so brilliant that on his return would launch him into Mega-Stardom!

First stop on this voyage of discovery was Alcudia in the good old brit stronghold of Majorca. First and ultimately last stop. Money didn’t go too well and Andy found himself working for a country and western bar owned by a bloke from Sheffield called John ‘Nudge’ Needham, who for many reasons the main one being vanity, had changed his name to Big John Houston. Andy collected glasses but managed to wangle a singing job, dressed as a Glitter jacket and cowboy booted drag queen with another mate Simon Rickets (Mr.Floppy). Rickets had visited him on holiday and dumped his job and his girlfriend, to help form the now legendary ‘Alcudia Sisters’.

The dynamic duo played T.Rex, Kinks and Eddie Cochran covers for six months before the work dried up. As sad as it sounds, Andy did manage to achieve his goal of guitar improvement and also wrote a bag full of songs.

Refreshed by his exploits Andy hatched a plan to record these on his new 4-Track bought with the proceeds from the Majorcan tip jar. This he did and came up with one gem that the Mamajamas still used until 1998, live fave’ options.

The 90’s began with Andy and Paul Smith teaming up to write a one off ‘classic’ the seminal ‘Holy Sandal Scandal Batsadam’ the skeleton of which was later to form the Mamajamas ‘theme’ . The duo were destined to team up three years later for the Justin Smiley project, but their paths split at this juncture as Andy disillusioned with the dole hatched a plan to take a VW camper named the ‘groovy train’ for another adventure around Europe. He was joined on this journey by what 9 years on turned out to be the last full Mamajamas line up, brother Nick and early ACJ member Charlie Evershed.

Three months in they were joined by ‘Superfast’ Eddie Cain who would ultimately ‘found’ the Mamajamas with Andy and Charlie. The foursome toured together for a month busking around Germany. Nick decided he’d had enough and went home. Leaving the other three to embark on a the next key chapter in the bands musical history.

In October 1991 a year to the day the Berlin Wall had come down, the Pale Faces were formed by Andre ‘there’s a chicken in my boot’ Tillmans, a fanatical Robert Smith (Cure) look-alike & travel agent from Wuppertal in Northern Germany. The line up was Andy Thompson Vocals and Guitar, Chas Evershed Percussion and Eddie Cain Backing Vocals.
Andre had been introduced to the band by a friend at his birthday party, where the trio played a mixture of new songs and Rock’n’Roll covers. (And NO Andre we still don’t know boys don’t cry by the Cure)! Following the party Andre offered to get them some gigs. Skint and majorly reliant on a semi- acoustic guitar, they agreed.

However there was a condition. A big condition. Nirvana had just broken in England and were changing the face of music around the world and Andy, Charlie and Eddie were dressing up as RED INDIANS and going under the title the PALE FACES. (It takes all routes to get reach your goal!?)

The first date was at the Ruine in Koln and ended in ‘double string break heartache’ and a row with the soundman of the band playing downstairs, DAMO SUZUKI former member of ‘trendy underground 70’s outfit’ CAN. Eddie sang two songs accapela as Andy frantically tried to re-string his guitar to no avail. They had got the gig through Andre who had given the venue a demo tape that Andy had recorded by torch light in the van 5 minutes earlier.

Following this shambolic debut the band played an Italian Resturant opposite Andre’s house, an Irish bar to which the police were called to stop the noise, a local station converted into a bar, where 50 locals were having a residents meeting next door and refused to pay the entry fee. The final date was at a Skinhead venue where the bands’ payment was in tequila. For this gig Andy used a heavy metal distortion pedal through his acoustic to add extra balls to the sound. They got out alive, so it was a success. The band split two weeks later as the skint threesome returned to England and the dole, just in time for Christmas.

Two months at home were too much to bear for Andy. His wonder and lust were next quenched by the ‘chill of a cool Scottish winter.’ The dole office in Stirling is much the same as St. Albans, if a bit roomier. This is where Andy decided he must act quickly on the albeit limited success of the Pale Faces tour. The only way was to form a band. The inspiration was and is always there, but at this moment Andy had another catalyst. The death of his and the Pale Faces friend Robert Darker (More famously known in Majorca and Sheffield as RUFUS T. FIREFLY) who had died suddenly at the age of 31.

To decide to from a band is one thing, but you need members and Andy only knew one bloke in Scotland. Luckily Jamie ‘Lambs leaping, Blue Hotel’ Wilson, could play a little bit of guitar, very light, very people friendly, but guitar none the less.

So in March 1992, they formed Gone to Gig Heaven with road worker and shit hot drummer and multi talented musician Mark and 18 year old even shit hotter bass guitarist Darren. Their first gig was at the Queens pub in Auchterrader in Perthshire. Just down the road from the Gleneagles Hotel. Over 100 people came, (almost the entire village and most of the staff of the hotel kitchen). The next gig up the road at the Morven (literally, about 300 yards), saw Nick, Charlie and Eddie eventual Mamajamas joining in the praises. Two more gigs, the Queens again and ‘Bonkers’ in Stirling led on to the bands only recording a three track demo, Merry go round, which featured future Mamajama fave and Options in yet another of its many guises, (Darren, Andy and Jamie had decided to use a drum machine, as Mark who had a breakdown the previous year was becoming unreliable). The elusive recognition appeared imminent, but wasn’t. Instead GGH survived for one more gig at Strangeways in Perth. Mark left, and Darren announced he was leaving to do a course at University in Glasgow. So by September a whirl wind six months left Andy back to square one. Disillusioned once more … he returned to St. Albans.

Whilst in his Scottish exile Andy had a visit from old writing partner ‘Sugar’ Paul Smith. The handy thing about the dole was time to write. Thus in their two week rendezvous the duo did.
Gone to Gig Heaven had played some of their early collaborations notably Bruises and the seminal ‘Holy Sandal Scandal Batsaddam’, but these were mere drops in the ocean compared to the tidal wave of inspiration that was about to hit No.56 Midway, the flat in St.Albans where ‘Surfadoodish’ the Smiley’s defining moment came to life. Recorded on Andys’ much used
4 -Track on the week beginning 15th January 1993. (An immensely promising start to what would turn out to be another strange year).

April 1993 saw the beginning of an undying love affair with Farm Factory Studios (Then situated in the grounds of Napsbury mental hospital). More than satisfied with their efforts Justin Smiley approached Andy’s brother and long time doubter Nick to see if he wouldn’t mind putting down some guitar parts on a planned recording session, to Andy’s surprise he agreed and following a couple of rehearsals, a week was booked with Co-Studio owner Brian Smith engineering and producing.

The only part missing was a bassist, that role was filled by Mancunian legend Potty ‘Of course I knew’ Pete Harwood, Andy’s mate from the Majorcan days. Dave Drum Machine provided the beats once more, (far more reliable than a real drummer has history has proven time and time again), this decision had been arrived at once Tim ‘Shovel hands’ the Smileys’ only ‘human’ drummer had been scared off at a rehearsal, by talk of salad onions and burning loo seats. No sense of the dramatic!

Much hilarity was had by all whilst recording and the video that was taken during is testimony to three half wits driving a top producer close to the edge, so close he even went sick on the Wednesday. Some people play dumb to cover minor ‘jargonic’ imperfections, we were dumb. Five songs were recorded Justin Smiley’s theme encaptured the moment forever, with the ‘Gonzo” mix of 85+3 also sticking firmly in the memory. Vocals were shared by all, as were plink plonk keyboards and tongue burning lasagna.

As always happens when you record, the finished article, as polished and well produced as it was, wasn’t quite what Andy and Paul had envisaged. Somewhere along the line the songs had lost there lo-fi amateurish charm. Justin Smiley had grown up into a 20 stone bruiser.

From day one Paul had never professed even the slightest inclination to perform, it was at his first gig that things for the Smiley’s changed forever. Playing a mixture of ‘covers’ and ‘Surfadoodisms’. Justin Smiley with ‘Superfast’ Eddie Cain (Aka howling minge, at the time) on keyboards, Nick and Andy on guitars and Paul on painfully reluctant vocals gave the Fighting Cocks Pub one of its most bizarre adventures ever. Finishing abruptly to rapturous applause when Andy dropped his trousers and sensed one particular skin‘ed in the crowd taking exception. It was Paul’s last ever gig and indeed it spelt the end of the band. Nick and Andy went back into the studio to try and finish what they’d started in the April, but still feel short, in the mean time, the now duo played its first and last Justin Smiley gig on October 2nd 1993 on Andy’s birthday. Dogged as ever by equipment problems, (this time a chewed up backing tape)
A final return to the studio in December blew the rest of Andy’s savings and Justin Smiley finally keeled over and died. However … in another part of town. Su Indian (Andy), Ko Man Chi (Eddie) and Maurice Heakan (Charlie) had begun work on a weird side project (the first collaboration since the Pale Faces) and recorded three ‘Swedish Porn Style’ instrumentals on the 4 – track at Charlies’ old flat,sometime in early July. Encouraged by the results they continued to rehearse and write more material. Due to some spare studio time at the end of the December Justin Smiley session, they decided to record the ‘pick of the bunch’. The first featured Chas on drums, (his first outing since the days of the Anti Casual Jamboree!), Andy on bass and Eddie on guitar and vocals, the track was a nine minute epic written by Eddie called ‘Sometimes’. The second which featured Chas on drums, Andy on bass and vocals and Nick on guitar and was called ‘MAMAJAMA’.