(Vocals and bass, 1965-1967) I was almost nineteen when Ned and Geoff were killed on the 10th of August 1967. Losing two close friends so abruptly like that was something I found almost impossible to handle. It was as if my teens had finished abruptly and I'd grown up into the real, harsh world.
Ned was one of two children, his sister was a classical pianist who spent some time with the Birmingham Philharmonic Orchestra. His parents spoiled John, or Ned as he was known. He was diagnosed with rheumatic fever when he was very young and his parents had been told at one point he wasn't going to pull through so they regarded every day with him after that as a bonus. He wasn't sickly though: he was six feet tall, always active, usually laughing and playing practical jokes. Although his parents tended to indulge him it didn't stop him being a thoroughly pleasant and caring guy. His parents always held a kind of open house and when Ned's friends appeared we were always welcome to join the meal table at a moment's notice or stop overnight and in the morning tuck in to one of Mrs Foyle's enormous fry-ups.
Ned used to like having a car to get about in whereas the rest of us had to hitch hike around or prevail upon parents to transport us to where we needed to go, and whilst I knew Ned he must have had about three cars in succession. He would buy 'bangers' with a bit of life left in them, when he could gather together the small amounts of money needed, and when one failed he'd simply abandon it and buy another. I remember one black jalopy necessitated the carrying of large cans of oil in the boot. Ned had to stop frequently to top up the level because the vehicle consumed more oil than petrol.
Geoff Timms lived a street away from Ned and they shared an interest in cheap modes of transport, spending hours helping each other with the makeshift mechanics required to get their vehicles actually mobile. I remember spending one energetic afternoon blowing down the fuel line of Geoff's Bedford van and then helping apply one of the coats of gloss paint needed to conceal the rust. This was the van that failed them on that fateful evening of the accident.
The death of Ned and Geoff was front page local news - 'Pop Group Pair Die In Crash', and needless to say their respective parents were simply inconsolable, not to say Ned's girlfriend, Sue Jeffs. The large front lawn at Geoff's parents' house was carpeted with an enormous quantity of floral tributes that came from a myriad of well wishers including club secretaries, booking agents as well as friends and family. I remember the service was very difficult for us all. I only saw Ned's parents once afterwards, when I briefly lent a hand at their house with Ned's belongings. I heard sometime later that Geoff's mother had had a breakdown: she kept thinking she saw Geoff in crowds or bus queues.
(Guitar, 1965) - Richard appears in the newspaper photograph from December 1965 of Ned Foyle and myself at our school Folk Evening, with a small acoustic guitar strung around his neck (an Eko?). He was a close friend through my Kenilworth Grammar School days but we lost touch after 1967.
Richard found me in 2002 via the Friends Reunited web site and in June 2003 he visited me whilst up from Exeter where he was living. It was great to spend time with Richard and exchange our life stories spanning the last 36 years. The only difference I noticed, apart from the same unfortunate physical changes he would also have noticed in me, was that he seemed to have hardened at the edges, if I can put it like that, perhaps chastened by his life's experiences, I don't know. (And maybe he thought exactly the same about me..) But he still possessed the bizarre sense of humour, quiet cynicism for life and disrespect for 'the way things are supposed to be' that we shared when we were teenagers. Here's a not untypical excerpt from an email:
"Who were we in those days and what the hell did we think about? Most of the time, the prospect of sex with anything with an even number of legs and the rest of the time what we'd be like when we were as old as our parents. Now we are as old as our parents were then and rather than screaming, our hormones tend to whimper quietly every time we try to stir them up a bit. I'm still deciding what I want to do when I grow up and should be able to sit down and give it some consideration in the next couple of years."
Richard moved from Exeter c.2008 and now lives nearby, so we see each other regularly for a very long lunch and a few reminiscences and laughs. Photo: myself and Richard c.2011.
(Guitar, 1966-1968) - Nigel (pictured left, top in 1966) was another school pal and was in our first band ‘Trane. He was crazy about the Kinks and he and I went to see them live in c.1964 at the Coventry Hippodrome. I remember Nigel standing on the red plush seat, shouting and waving and really letting himself go as the Kinks worked their magic. In those halcyon days Nigel and I became very close friends and confided a lot in each other.
At the same time as I started college to train as a Chartered Accountant, Nigel's stepfather arranged for him to be articled in a solicitor's in Coventry. We used to meet for lunch and he would tell me how crushingly dull it was: he'd been put in a tiny office and told to read piles of legal books. He left work, the band, and home, abruptly in 1968.
Nigel had innate flair, talent, and a bias for action plus an impetuous side that was amusing, but sometimes reckless and even scary; he'd be the one that would immediately step forward if there was something dangerous or daring on offer. For example, one summer's day, I think in 1966, Nigel suddenly suggested we hitchhike to Wales to drop in on some friends who were holidaying with their parents in a cottage they owned on the coast. No preparation. No haversack of food or extra clothing. We started out from Kenilworth in the summer clothes we stood up in and carrying one packet of biscuits. We thought we'd be there by sunset, easily. These were the days when most drivers would stop for young hitchhikers without fear of either party being assaulted or even murdered. But there wasn't the network of motorways that we now have; just A and B roads. Our progress was a lot slower than we'd envisaged and although we'd had a number of different lifts taking us in the right direction, by the time the sun began to set we were miles away from our destination without food or shelter. I remember at one point after night had fallen we were so cold that we lay spread-eagled in the middle of the road trying to absorb from the tarmac what little was left of the heat of the day!
I always liked Nigel and I often wish we were still in touch as lifelong friends, sharing a smile or two at old times. We met again very briefly in the 1970s and the 1980s and he came around to my house in 1996, but things just weren’t the same. We didn’t meet again for another 17 years when I got in touch in February 2013 and we had a lunch and a couple of nice nattering and guitar sessions together. I think a lot of water has gone under a lot of bridges in different ways for both of us and finding common ground wasn’t as easy as I thought it was going to be. But I miss our friendship.
The bottom photo shows Nigel February 2013 when I last met up with him.
I'd like to thank the thirty or so friends and musicians who supported and put up with me over the years, some of whom I may not have mentioned in the foregoing saga, and to apologise if you ever found me overbearing or too demanding; I just wanted to make the bands sound good. As the years take their toll I hope you've all, in your own way, found some measure of peace and musical fulfilment.
For those I haven't seen for years, please feel free to contact me if you come across this website. I'd love to hear from you, especially if I've forgotten, misplaced or misrepresented you in the story!
(Drums, 1966-1973 and 1977-2013) - Laurie and I have made music together for over 47 years.
(Photos: Laurie in 1978 and 2014) We first met when my brother, knowing I was thinking of forming a band, said he knew someone at work who played the drums - he and Laurie both worked at Buckingham Swimming Pools in Kenilworth. We met up in The Engine pub in Kenilworth for a Sunday lunchtime drink and "The 'Trane" got a-rollin'. Since then we've been through a lot of musical trials and tribulations together, and we've also had a lot of fun.
If someone asked why we've been friends for such a long time I'd have to say I'm really not sure. We've shared a lot of common ground in terms of musical interests, particularly the Blues, although I'd never shared Laurie's early interest in jazz. I suppose the main thing that's kept us together has been a shared vision of the sort of band we've always wanted to play in and a pursuit of the thrills of playing live and entertaining people. We've also been close because our wives have been friends from almost as long as we've known each other and we've seen each other's children grow up.
Perhaps the decades have seen some changes to the centre of gravity of our friendship although like some elderly couple who can't exist without the other, we soldier on! Maybe as we've grown older our shared political views with origins in the hippy idealism of the sixties have drifted apart, with me migrating to the Right. We can disagree on things, on the odd occasion even vehemently, but the bonds of almost half a century remain strong. Laurie can be a tad moody at times and when he brought what Jim Mercer calls his 'brown studies' to rehearsals it could sour the atmosphere, especially for any newcomers who don't understand what's on display. But then I could be known for making a different kind of display on occasions - the pyrotechnic variety, but as we’ve got older and more crotchety there’s less energy to make it manifest! We're still making music together, even though Laurie left Skyline in 2013, because for a long while we’ve written songs together which we’ve then recorded in my home studio.
(Bass, 1967-1968) - A qualified 'chippie' if I recall so he made his own, very hefty, bass cabinet. He joined just after we resuscitated the original 'Trane' after the deaths of Ned and Geoff so not the most cheerful of times for him. He was with us just under a year when the Trane folded.
(Bass, 1973-1975) - Bob Sharp played bass with us between 1973 and the beginning of 1975. An easy going chap, his parents were very tolerant because we had rehearsals in the back room of his house, whilst his Dad sat in the next room with his pipe and newspaper!
I remember graphically an occasion when Bob had been taken poorly with a boil and two of us (myself and Ian?) called at his house to see how he was. His Mum had no hesitation in ushering us upstairs to see him and when she flung his bedroom door open there he was, lying on his bed, sheets back, legs akimbo up over his head, gonads out, using a hot poultice dipped in a bowl, bathing an enormous boil in the cleft of his ass! We were mentally reeling at the sight and anxious to back out of the room but Bob just carried on the conversation as if nothing were amiss.
Bob met an American girl whilst deputising in another band at a USAF base gig and within weeks they got married and moved to the States, where I guess he still is.
(Guitar, 1973-1974 and 1982-1985) - A nice, tidy, thoughtful guitarist and a good friend for a long time. I advertised for a guitarist in 1973 and Tony responded. We did a lot of work on songs at each other’s houses and were the mainstays of what became ‘Sugarcane’. We played together through 1973-1974 but things weren't quite the same after he left us to play in another local band, 'Vehicle', along with Mick Eastbury, ex-Incas bass player. Tony returned to us for a four year spell in 1982. Our guitar styles melded together well and I regret losing touch with Tony as a friend as well as a musician.
Tony still lives not far from me but we’ve only had a couple of chance encounters at the annual ‘Music Live’ shows at the NEC, Birmingham. (The last one of these was in 2007, then the recession hit).
Here’s a photo of myself, Tony and Laurie at ‘Music Live’ in November 2006, when we last met.
(Drums, 1973-1974) - A very competent, metronomic, natural drummer from the less is more school. I loved playing with him.
Brian joined when I put Sugarcane together in late 1973. Although a superb natural player I don't think he was as addicted to this band thing as the rest of us. He left abruptly in Spring 1974 when he met a girl at a gig, fell in love, and got married, all in a short space of time. The rest of Sugarcane weren't invited! Brian’s a graphic designer and I understand his employer transferred him from Leamington to Nuneaton which made playing in the band untenable (he couldn’t drive then). In 1977 he relocated to Exeter to work for a magazine publisher and I believe he still lives in that area.
We made email contact in 2006 after Brian stumbled upon the earlier version of this web site. He said he took twenty years off drumming to become a father etc, but in that time the piano became his first love. I’m glad to say he later resumed his drumming whilst also keeping up his piano skills.
L Top: Brian in Sugarcane 1974. Below: Brian in 2006.
(Congas, bongos, timbales, tambourine, vocals, 1974-1982)
Ian used to play congas and other percussion and sing a little, but he was a great live wire to have in any group. I remember the evening he told us excitedly about some song lyrics he'd just penned and he read out his favourite line: "Her eyes were black as jade.." We all burst out laughing at the malapropism.
We had a lot of fun times with Ian around, and my wife and I also socialised a lot with Ian and his wife Alison. Their relationship faltered however and and they divorced shortly after. Despite always having been the life and soul of the party he had his own inner demons, perhaps work-related as well, and began to drink heavily. He did a similar disappearing act to Nigel Maltby’s 1968 episode, but instead of going to Cornwall it seems Ian went to Auckland, New Zealand in 1983 returning to Staffordshire in 1991. I seem to remember receiving a letter from him in which he claimed to have joined a headlining pro band whilst in New Zealand (!), although he told me recently he worked for a steel stockholding company there.
I said recently because out of the blue Ian emailed me in January 2014, after a silence of over thirty years. He says he went pro in 2003, toured the USA solo singing country music, appeared on the Grand Ole Opry, met and drank with Johnny Cash and a lot of other country stars, but was now back living in The Forest of Dean with a lady he’d met at his local Methodist church (he got religion ten years ago), and they were marrying in April 2014! Despite his church leanings he confesses he still ‘drinks, smokes and cusses’. Sadly, he told me that his health is not good at all and he was hospitalised in 2013 on six occasions with minor strokes and stomach ulcers.
Ian’s now looking to put a local band together and had a photo feature in a local paper recently (see bottom photo, left), in his C&W garb, where he says he toured in the USA as Tommy Fallon.
L Top: Ian and Laurie in 1978. Bottom: Ian in 2014.
Rob (?) (Bass) and Nick (?) (Guitar) - These two Coventry guys answered an advertisement for personnel after Bob Sharp (bass) and Tony Lloyd (second guitar) left in 1974/75 and they only stayed for a few months. When we lost drummer Brian Meredith they invited in another buddy of theirs, Chris Potter, whom I nearly came to blows with on stage. All three left en bloc, their coup having failed...
(Bass, 1975-1978) - John was a typical bass player in many ways, quiet but industrious. It was difficult to get to know him closely but he fitted in well and contributed a lot to the band in his time with us. On 25th March 1978 John was electrocuted on stage at the Green Lane Club but recovered in hospital later, thank goodness. It transpired a few weeks later that the club’s electrics were at fault. However, on the night, with the rest of the band and girlfriends standing around after the ambulance had left, nonplussed by events and not knowing if John was seriously injured or worse, the social secretary asked if we were “going on or what”! We attempted to play some taped music for the audience but packed away shortly after and left. They paid us £5 in place of the agreed fee £35. That’s the music business for you!
We were disappointed when in 1978 John left the area and moved to Harefield, Middlesex with his girl friend. (Photo L. top: John in 1978).
Fast forward to 2001 and John responded to one of our ads in Sound On Sound magazine. I was astounded to hear from him after 23 years. I asked him to come up from Northampton where he'd moved to and Laurie and I had a happy reunion with him at my place. He was also into home recording and brought some examples of his pleasing instrumentals. But from what he was saying it sounded like he needed to supplement a his regular income and was already playing in other bands, whereas our aims were to just gig occasionally for the fun of it. The distance between us, i.e. Leamington and Northampton, would also present problems with rehearsals as well as gigs. So it wasn't to be the second time around. John, a very quiet chap but with the frequent flash of dry humour, quipped as we said goodbye, "See you in another 20 years then." !
Happily, John and I have made contact again and here's a recent picture of him (photo L. bottom) playing no doubt first class bass as usual. John is now playing a Wal Pro II bass, having sold his Gibson Thunderbird as it reminded him of his electrocution episode at Green Lane Working Mens’ Club, Coventry. Click here to go to the blue breakout box on the 1980s page for that story.
(Drums, 1975) - A drummer we had for 6 months leaving August 1975. His real name was Don Atkin; I don't know why he was nicknamed Mouse. He fitted in well, if not setting things alight sticks-wise. I’m afraid this is the best picture I have of him, from a gig we played July 1975 at Long Lawford British Legion Club.
(Guitar, 1975) - Dave joined us on guitar in spring 1975 and left near the end of that year. I remember he played a Fender Telecaster through an H&H solid state amp. This combination made for a sound that was so brittle it cut through the rest of us like cheese wire and became a bit of a bone of contention with Dave. He could be a bit fiery so although I don't remember his leaving it was probably after an 'exchange of views' over that sound of his. I never saw him again.
In the early 1980s I contracted meningitis and had a stay in hospital (I was mis-diagnosed and nearly died - but that’s a story for another time…) Whilst delirious from the illness a remember a nurse giving me a bed bath. As she gently washed my nether regions I heard her say “You don’t remember me do you?” I said no and then she said “I’m Dave’s girlfriend.” I do remember her as being very attractive but in my poorly state I was unable to respond properly or be embarrassed.
In 2001 my daughter Joanna was doing some temporary work at a company, working for the head of the firm. Somehow, over drinks at a social evening Joanna picked up that her boss used to play in a band years ago called Sugarcane. Joanna checked with me and I confirmed it was the guy she was working for, Dave Faulkner! I showed her some photographs of him on stage twenty six years before with his trusty Telecaster around his neck and she took it to the office, scanned it and a colleague of Dave's slipped it into the middle of a presentation to him. Joanna said he was suitably gob-smacked as they say, and took it in good part.
Photo: Sugarcane Autumn 1975. L to R: Dave Brooks, Dave Faulkner, John Rushton, Ian Boycott, me.
(Drums, 1975-1976) - A superb natural drummer.
I'll never forget the night he turned up at the auditions. He was the last of about four candidates we saw in a hall in Warwick back in Autumn 1975. He was only 17 and his Dad brought him in, helping him with his feeble little kit. He had no drum stool and used a chair instead. The rest of us looked at each other, thinking it was going to be pointless and probably a bit embarrassing, but that we'd better go through the motions so the lad wasn't put off the business of finding a band. He then proceeded to astound us with a real natural ability so we said he could join as long as he got hold of a proper drum kit - which he then did, a large and meaty 'Tama' kit which gave us real volume problems at the Working Men's Clubs we were playing at!
Dave was so good he was pinched from us in a few months by rival band 'The Incas' - their contact card is pictured here. I love Norman Stagles’ (bass) wistful look over there on the left! John Maxwell (lead guitar) is on the right.
Dave initially had transport problems, and not being able to afford much, invested in an old three-wheeled Reliant Robin of dubious mechanical fitness. In fact it had a very worrying list to port when fully loaded. I'd just arrived at one gig in Warwick and Dave pulled into the car park after me, closely followed by a Police car that had spotted his vehicle's ungainly procession down the main road. He was a decent copper though, took pity on Dave's plight and settled for giving him a warning. He was obviously amused by Dave's transport, referring to it as a "Tupperware GT". At which point I had to turn away from laughing too much.
Postscript January 2006: Dave found this web site and got in touch. It was great to make contact again and I'm glad to say Dave was still playing; in 2006 thumping tubs for four-piece outfit Behind Bars. His son Jamie was on keyboards and would have been aged -10 or something when Dave and I played together! The band still have a SoundClick page here.
2014 update: Dave (photo left) is playing occasionally with band Secret Green in which his son Jamie is playing keyboards.
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