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Barry Andrews – Vocals/Keyboards

Dexter Darwood – Bass

David Marx – Guitar/Vocals

Rob Wilford - Drums

The

Barry Andrews Band

Well I used to be disgusted

Now I try to be amused

 

(E. Costello)


The Rodbourne Arms had always been a particularly putrid pub.  


Other than being XTC’s drummer’s local (aka Terry Chambers), ’twas also where I happened to be playing guitar with a particularly vile country band in January 1979, when mate and said band’s keyboard player Barry Andrews pronounced: ‘‘I’ve left XTC and you’re wasting you’re time with this lot.  Come and play with me.’’  


Upon reflection,  there was only so many times one could realistically play Throw The Blanket On The Ground without deliberating a sex change or suicide or both.  So the next night, we re-convened at the Brunel Rooms (Swindon’s answer to the Peppermint Lounge) to talk beer and bollocks and all things of a ‘‘smoke pouring out of the box-car-door’’ persuasion; fink Dylan and dyscussion a thousand miles removed from that of Andy Partridge and Tammy Wynette (I should imagine that’s the first time in the history of humanity those two names have ever been mentioned in the same sentence).  


Two days later, I did indeed find myself standing by yer man - learning the first (of many) Andrews compositions, You Must Be Beautiful.  With a bass guitar on loan from former Aggravator, Ian Doeser, and a sixth sense of wonder on loan from Van Morrison (I should imagine that’s the first time in the history of humanity…), it felt both strange and somewhat surreal to say the least.  ‘Tis not everyday one finds oneself mutating from a country pickin’ guitar boy – somewhere betwixt The Arms Of Mary and the Wantage British Legion – to that of a bass bucolic serious musician - somewhere betwixt the middle-eight of the ever so idiosyncratic Bring On The Alligators (or was that Aggravators?) and the midst of (possibly) going places.


A drummer was needed, and as Barry had always been a fan of local Marlborough band Orpheus - who had by then split-up and were to my mind at least, a tad too cheese-cloth/feel the vibrations man, for their own good - Rob Wilford was auditioned.  This took place at Tudor Studios, somewhere amid the swamps on the outskirts of Swindon (see The Humans), where, from the outset, ’twas clear he could play drums - although he wasn’t much of a hitter.  Rob did however, come replete with striped blue flares and a moustache.  The latter being something I hadn’t ever really seen close-up before (other than when I signed-on).  In fact, for a brief moment, I thought the mustachioed man from Marlborough had walked in by mistake…  


He hadn’t, and from there, the nucleus of the band was set in motion, whereby we embarked upon a month’s rehearsal.  During the day, me and Barry would meander through new material in the bowels of The Affair in Swindon, where XTC’s bass player, Colin Moulding (who was then coming into his own as a songwriter with such songs as Cheap Perfume and Life Begins At The Hop) and manager, Ian Reid (all Sandhurst and side-parting), would stop by from time to time.  During the evening, ’twas a clear case of all three heads down (at Tudor) and full-on rehearsal for Barry’s debut release as a solo-artist.  


Songs rehearsed included those that appeared on the Town & Country EP (VS260), as well as a few others – among them Time & Motion and the aforementioned You Must Be Beautiful. Cupla weeks in Martin Rushent paid a visit (big fuck-off producer who had produced the likes of The Stranglers, The Buzzcocks, 999 and… Shirley Bassey).  Terrible jokes aside, he agreed to produce and Rob (bless his flares) agreed to stop carping on about money for twenty minutes.


A month later, the three of us were safely ensconced in The Town House Studios along the Goldhawk Road in London.  Wow!  First time in a ‘proper’ studio n’all was quite something.   But even if Frank Zappa and assorted Mothers were next door in Studio One, it did very little to deter Rushent from carping on about shrubs  - and Rob from insisting he wasn’t  really ‘’in the bull-worker frame of mind.’’  


Confused?  


Three days later, the EP was recorded, but we still needed a bass player to go out on tour with, as live, I was gonna play guitar.  For a while, we rehearsed with a bass player called (wait for it), Barry Andrews (formerly of The Secret), but he and Rob didn’t exactly hit it off.  So more rehearsals and auditions were set up at Wharf Rehearsal Rooms just sarf of the river - where there was indeed a distinct smell of salt and propellers in the air (as opposed to love).  


Numerous bass players were auditioned but to no real avail, until in walked former Cortina, Dexter Darwood.  Small world the music industry, as Bristol band The Cortinas were first on the bill when The Aggravators and The Clash played together at The Affair (see The Aggravators).  All tweed jacket and middle-class diction, Dexter couldn’t really play for shit.  Barry wasn’t having any of it.  But seeing that tour-dates had already been booked, I convinced Barry (and Rob) that Dexter was the one - primarily on the premise that we didn’t really have a choice and time was of the essence.  


Looking back, I remember Dexter talking very little about The Cortinas but a great deal about drugs!  



Virgin released the four-track Town & Country EP in June 1979, and although it didn’t set the world on fire, it was for me, something of a musical milestone in that it was my first release (on a major label).  Mousetrap was, and still is my favourite - particularly from a musical perspective that included a vocal delivery reminiscent of Noel Coward meets Joe Strummer with a headache, and my own high-octane rodent bass-playing care of Colin Moulding’s (loaned) mighty Mustang.  And if memory serves, Moulding, who attended the session, felt the same way.  The aforementioned Bring On The Alligators was (and I think Barry would agree) completely bonkers, although it did include my first ever recorded guitar-solo on a black and brilliant, hired Les Paul.  As for the big hoped for hit, Me and My Mate Can Sing, to these ears it just wasn’t Matlock’n’McCartney enough.  It was indeed many things, but neither punk nor pop:     


He’s chucked in a load of ideas, shaken them up and the result is fragmented.


Melody Maker


I’m inclined to agree with what Melody Maker said, as in hindsight, Barry was struggling to find himself as an artist.  I believe this was subliminally evident at the time, as well as on the recording – simply because he’d released himself from both the parameters of, and the musical gospel according to, Andy Partridge.  Yet in so doing, Barry inadvertently immersed himself into unbeknown parameters of his own - not to mention the semi-wanton (and cruel) expectation(s) of the media:


Although the record is good value for money – four tracks for the price of a usual two – one wonders just who would be content in playing this monotonous garbage.


NME


Shortly after the record’s release, the four of us (with a road crew of three) went out on tour to promote it.  In University Challenge shirts and Primark plimsols, Barry fronted what was to eventually evolve into The Act – a short-lived outfit that came into being at JBs in Dudley and died a somewhat miserable death several weeks later at Islington’s Hope & Anchor.  Along the way, Barry reverently knelt before the alter of all things punk - with both a passion and a penchant for council house chords and steak’n’kidney pie injected hooks.   Again, I believe this may have had more to do with him having previously been shackled to the art-house rock of Partridge’s musical persuasion - all H minor chords in seven-four time in complete contrast to everything Pete Townshend ever stood for (The Who being one of Barry’s all-time favourite bands) – than that of his musical heart.


As such, he insisted on having former Aggravator Ian Doeser support us throughout; along with ‘Building-Site’ Paul on bass and myself on drums.  I absolutely didn’t mind this arrangement at all, as I love playing drums and it enabled me to do so every night - much to the chagrin of the mustachioed kid (as they were his!).  


Moreover (and more importantly), there was a clash of musical ideology throughout the tour - a tour primarily attended by distraught and disappointed XTC fans.  For not only were they subjected to Ian’s somewhat erratic rhythm’n’booze for starters, they then had to contend with some of my songs (such as Mr. Smooth and The Last Note) which were/are undeniably and completely different in composition to those of Barry’s (Supertuff in particular).  And if that weren’t enough, we usually encored with The Troggs’ Wild Thing, which entailed Ian and Barry duetting together – much to the chagrin of everyone present with the possible exception of deaf people and scaffolders.


Is it any wonder that a full pint glass just missed my head (by literally inches) at Hereford’s Rotters Club - whilst playing drums with Ian?  Or that Rob was becoming increasingly frustrated as the tour progressed?  So much so, that by the time we played (our worst gig at) The Corndolly in Oxford, I was banned from coming within a five-foot radius of his drum-kit!  This really fuckin’ pissed me (and Barry) off, and was, looking back, the inevitable kernel of the end.  The fact that the gig was really close to Swindon - invariably attended by loadsa mates – may have all the more compounded an already fraught atmosphere.   I remember Steve Stones commenting: ‘’The Humans were rock’n’roll.  This isn’t.  It’s just well played songs,’’ whilst former Aggravator and Human, Steve Baker added ‘’I’ve never seen you play before because I’ve always been on stage with you, but your guitar playing has really improved.’’


By the time we got to London, I was playing a microphone stand in Ian’s band and Barry had (unsurprisingly) decided that the time was nigh for a new drummer.  He also wanted to concentrate on writing new material - feeling mine wasn’t appropriate to be included live.  From there, Dexter caught the tube to Kings Cross, Barry caught chickenpox, I left home and Rob re-subscribed to moustache monthly.


So, yeah…




Songs:


Bad Sex (B. Andrews)

Bring On The Alligators (B. Andrews)

Coda (B. Andrews)

Cowardice (B. Andrews)

Feeding Time (B. Andrews)

ICI (B. Andrews)

Long Goodbyes (B. Andrews)

Me And My Mate Can Sing (B. Andrews)

Mr. Smooth (D. Marx)

Mousetrap (B. Andrews)

Muscle & Movement (B. Andrews)

New Year Song (D. Marx)

Opposite Way In The Rush Hour (B. Andrews)

Rossmore Road (B. Andrews)

Sargasso Bar (B. Andrews)

The Last Note (D. Marx)

Win A Night Out With A Famous Paranoic (B. Andrews)


From: Phil MacLaurin

To: revolver@davidmarx.co.uk

Sent: 13 January 2006 05:49

Subject: Status Quo influence shock


David,

I am absolutely flabbergasted that you claim that Status Quo were a prime influence on the Barry Andrews debut release, which I am certain shows none of the lyrical inventiveness and musical deftness we have come to associate with the Frantic Four. But quoting you directly from your website:

He hadn’t, and from there, the nucleus of the band was set in motion, whereby we embarked upon a month’s rehearsal. During the day, me and Barry would meander through new material in the bowels of The Affair in Swindon, where XTC’s bass player, Colin Moulding (who was then coming into his own as a songwriter with such songs as Cheap Perfume and Life Begins At The Hop) and manager, Ian Reid (all Sandhurst and side-parting), would stop by from time to time. During the evening, ’twas a clear case of all three heads down (at Tudor) and full-on rehearsal for Barry’s debut release as a solo-artist.

The world needed to know… well done for blowing the whistle on this nugget of musical history

Two Seats


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