Patterns in the Chaos


The City of Birmingham in the mid sixties was a landscape alternating between the scars of German bombs and the grimy Victorian edifices that marked its industrial heritage. Nestling in its underbelly, just outside the heart of the city centre, was the Cedar Club. It had all the attributes of an Al Capone speakeasy: A dingy frontage looking every bit from the outside like a brothel lit by candles, with windows emanating a muted reddy hue around gaps in the curtains.
I walked up and knocked nervously on the door. It responded instantly, swinging open to reveal a Goliath-type figure replete with black tuxedo, bow tie and a countenance of practised menace.
'Hello. Er… I'm here to see Danny King.' I said.
'Yeah, and you are…?'
'Dave Morgan.'
Without a word, the door swung shut. I hovered on the pavement for a few minutes while spivs with scantily clad girls shuffled past me to be granted immediate recognition and entry into the dark interior. Eventually the door opened again for me:
'Okay' said Goliath, motioning me in through the portal, to the inner sanctum of playboy Valhalla.
It was my first trip into the world of 'night clubs' - a world of drinking and laughter, noisy revelry, easy women and late nights followed by staying in bed until midday…

I don't know quite how I got the job playing guitar with Danny King, he didn't 'audition' me at all. Maybe it was because he liked my songs. Or maybe it was because he found out I owned a Jaguar motor car.. Just an old Mark 7 you understand, but yes, it was a Jaguar. (It had been given to me by the man who collided with my J2 van. He had no insurance and no money to pay for the repairs).
I was with Danny King for eight months and we played the Cedar regularly. Soon it was me who could knock the door and be instantly recognised and ushered inside by the ubiquitous Goliaths. It was the 'in' place to be - you could bump into anyone and everyone at the Cedar: Stars and would-be stars, managers, roadies, groupies - they would all be there, mingled in with the freeloaders, pimps and hustlers.

Ten days after joining Danny King, I became the proud owner of yet another Jaguar motor car. The Mark 9 model promised to be a much swisher steed befitting the gangster class I was now rubbing shoulders with. But first it had to be fixed up. I had bought it as a 'write-off' from an insurance company (for £30). It had crash damage to the rear, which had bent the chassis so bad that the rear doors wouldn't open. A friend of mine helped me repair it. He cannibalised the panels from the old Mark 7 to spruce up the bodywork and then shackled the chassis to a lug set in concrete and drove the Jag forward at high energy again and again until, Hey presto: he had stretched it enough to be able to open and close the back doors!

We used to drive in that Jag to Alex's pie stand, outside Snow Hill station in Birmingham, and munch our steak and kidney pies sat in the sumptuous leather seats. It was luxury, the pie went on the little walnut drop-down tables built into the dashboard and seat backs, while the plastic cup full of hot tea sat in the chromium well provided. Just what the makers of Jaguar cars had in mind when they designed it - a couple of dead beats having a take-away meal at Alex's and covering the inside with pastry droppings. Alex's pie stand, like the Cedar club, was a place where, if you stayed long enough, you would be sure to meet every 'face' in town. Sooner or later they would turn up, on their way back home from gigs in the middle of the night.

Left: Danny King & Trevor Burton 1966,
admiring Trevor's new purchase - a Ford Zephyr.

Below bass player Bob Doyle and me on stage with Blaises.

Danny King's group sort of fell apart when the organist got arrested at a gig one night… There was something about stolen equipment being found in his inventory. Anyway, shortly after the dust had settled from that fracas I joined a group called 'Blaises,' an attempt at putting together a local super-group by manager Arthur Smith. The local scene however, was soon mercifully released from 'Blaises' as they were extracted out of it and sent to Germany for a month. After all, the Beatles had shown that a stint in Germany was the way to mega-success…

Our group transport was an old ambulance recently retired from service. It was more like a baby charabanc with windows along the side, big comfy seats, and a sleepy soft suspension that imbibed an undulating motion as it trundled along, making it feel like you were travelling on a motorised water bed.

On the ferry crossing from Dover to Calais the Captain of the ship - a stern looking Danish man - took exception to the Ambulance sign still displayed in a lighted vent in the roof of the cab. He gave us a tin of white paint and ordered us in broken English to paint it over before he would let us off his ship. He must have dropped out a word about our unsociable presence to the Gendarmes at Calais because they promptly impounded us, and our ambulance - locking us inside a giant shed for several hours before repatriating us back to England on the same ship.
We spent the night in our ambulance on the car park of Dover docks and the next morning booked passage on a ferry to Ostend. We hoped the Belgians would be more obliging to us than the French had been, and they were - they let us in without mass arrest, imprisonment or even the suggestion of garrotting anyone.

Our invasion of Europe finally secure, we set course in a somewhat humbled fashion for Germany, undulating our way across the motorway system through the day and night to arrive at Hannover very early one morning. We found the club where we were booked to play - the Savoy - and looked at it in horror. It was a dump, an old converted cinema, with gaily coloured posters pinned to battered, shabby walls of peeling stucco. We peered through the grey dawn at the scene before us and, in our slightly comatosed, half-asleep condition, made daft jokes about it. Raucous laughter ricocheted through the ambulance as, surveying the state of buildings adjoining the club, one of the group pointed to a desolate outhouse with bars at the windows and said: 'Hey look, there's the hotel where we're staying at.'
Some time later a cleaner came and let us into the club. We were shown to our quarters - they were the adjoining outhouse we had all been laughing at.

We played at the Savoy in Hannover for three weeks, five spots per night, sleeping and living in the concrete bowels of our 'hotel' which had a star rating lower than Colditz. The organ player broke his leg, the singer caught crabs and the drummer had his leg bitten into by a German girl after an enormous fight broke out in the ambulance as we were taking some girls home one night.

After Hannover, we moved to Brunswick for a week – or Braunschweig as it was rendered in the native tongue. We played on a stage that was about three foot wide and fifty foot long - All stood in a line sandwiched against the wall, like suspects in a police line-up.
Across the other side of the club, behind the bar, stood the proprietor: An enormous portly German with a playful, slightly psychopathic manner. He developed a penchant for conducting us from where he stood across the room, employing a system of easily understood hand gesticulations intersperced with a show of his ample knuckles and his best expression of menace. That was the way he would tell us to turn down.

Using this orchestral semaphore system, one night he gradually lowered the volume of 'Blaises' until we were turned completely off! - the drummer was tapping gently on the sides of his drum, the singer was just whispering and the only other sound to be heard in the club was our plectrums strumming across dead strings. All our eyes were glued to the owner as he beamed child-like, head raised to the ceiling like a music lover lost in rapture. Then suddenly he recomposed himself into a glare of Wagnerian anger, his jaw sticking out and his face contorting into a raging passion as his hands rose up from the bar-top motioning us to increase the volume... Bit by bit, with hands and fists, he had us get louder.. and louder, and louder, and louder, and even louder still! - Until the noise in the little club was excruciating, and we were thrashing our instruments like drunken dervishes while he stood like a warrior king on a hillside, his arms punching the air in a rage of victorious ecstasy. Yes he was quite a character.

'Blaises' came back from Germany and later went to Turkey before folding in the late spring of 1967. 
But more about that later…


’What?’ mom said horrified, when I told her I was going to join a group called the ‘Uglys.’
Singer Steve Gibbons called up out of the blue one day to ask would I be interested in joining him and his group with the zany name of ‘Uglys.’ I went to see them play at the Hen and Chickens in Langley. Yes, they were a tad unusual - and not the slightest bit ugly. Steve performed every song with a voluminous show of theatrical gestures, acting out the lyrics in a deliberate melodrama, something I had not seen done before. For one song he came on with an enormous long brass instrument – at least I think it was an instrument - at any rate he blew down it and with his characteristic show of pomp and circumstance, made appropriate noises to the song ‘And the Squire blew his horn’ - one of the ‘Ugly’s’ records. All this was quite a novelty to me at the time.
Jim Holden, the drummer, came up to me in the break and spoke as if my becoming an ‘Ugly’ was a done thing: ‘I’m glad you’ll be joining us Dave. We can talk about things we have in common – like the war for instance!’ – a reference to the fact that both him and me were older than the rest of the group.


The Uglys 1967-68. 

Below playing at 'The Station' in Selly Oak. From left: Willy Hammond, Steve Gibbons, Jim Holden, myself. At right is an earlier version of the Ugs with me on rythmn guitar.

Steve, Willy and myself lounging on the patio of the Kings Head pub. We are there for a business meeting with manager John Singer, 1968.

Steve, me and Jim Holden, Torremolinos, Spain 1967.

The ‘Uglys’ were a one-off. Steve was, and still is, a most colourful and charismatic performer with a wonderful voice and a way of expressing himself visually that then, and now, is a treat to behold. I always thought he had ‘star’ written all over him, but Steve was to make only one incursion into the British hit parade, in the late 70’s, with the Chuck Berry song ‘Tulane.’ Such is rock ‘n’ roll.

The 59 Club was a sleazy subterranean cellar in the centre of Birmingham, a setting no doubt inspired by the success of the ‘Cavern’ club in Liverpool. I went in there one night and immediately noticed the young guy playing the huge semi-acoustic guitar on stage with the group. It wasn’t just the guitar that caught my attention, unusual as it was. It was the chords he was playing – I had never seen anything like it! His hand was stretched across the fret board, contorted into voluptuous strange shapes that were definitely not out of my Bert Weedon guitar book. That was the first time I met Richard Tandy, the guitarist with the group ‘The Chantelles.’
’What were those chords you were playing?‘ I asked him after being introduced.
I got to know Richard after that and soon became aware that when it came to dedication to music, he was in another league to me. When he was out of work, he would sit at home day after day playing the piano, practising scales and maybe learning a Bob Dylan song. (He loved Dylan’s stuff, as I did). But I was astonished at his patience.
I quickly discovered that Richard could add something worthwhile to any song I could invent. He is a great ‘busker’ – able to pick up the thread of a song and produce an accompaniment off the top of his head, whether on guitar or keyboard. Nowadays, busking seems to have become something of a lost art (if it is an art), but back then we were forever busking. I would take a new song around to him and it would fall together without hardly any rehearsing. We would record it on Richard’s B&O recorder in the front room of his mom’s house. Yes, if I’m ever asked ‘who is the best musician you’ve ever played with’ I’d have to say it is Richard.

Carl Wayne

The pie stand had closed early for some reason. We looked out of steamed up car windows at its deserted facade in despair. ‘Oh no, I’m starving. What’re we gonna do?’ someone said.
‘Let’s go to the Cedar Club for a chip butty’ suggested Charlie.
’The Cedar club? Don’t be daft. You can’t get a chip butty at a night club!’

‘Yes you can,’ chuckled Charlie. ‘Just watch me.’
So that's what we did. We drove down to the Cedar and installed ourselves at one of the tables opposite the stage, in the dimly lit gulley that passed for a restaurant, and watched with glee as Carl Wayne ordered chip butties for us all. The waiter smirked politely, scribbled something on his pad and disappeared inside the kitchen. We pulled faces and giggled expectantly and after a short while the waiter re-emerged with a tray from which he began to serve us with exaggerated decorum and broken English: ‘There you are sir,… Enjoy your meal..’ - Giant doorstep pieces of bread cut into sandwich blocks spread thick with butter and in between, chips. Glorious.
Yes chip butties at the Cedar Club became part of the folk lore. That and the obligatory race through deserted night streets. It was the thing to do for some reason. The last one to get there was… well the last one to get there, what more need I say? ‘There’ might be someone’s house, or a club, or some venue of perceived importance to lads who perceived only glory as really important. Glory with a bit of outrage and silliness thrown in.

Yes it was the age of being gloriously and outrageously silly. Charlie had a different take on glory to me though, and one of the more outrageous things he used to do was to smash up a television set on stage: I thought having a Beatle haircut was revolutionary, but destroying a television set? Surely there must be a law against that? – Isn’t it sacrilege or something?
The way Charlie did it was akin to a religious experience. I know, I was part of the congregation at the Belfry – a posh hotel in the Sutton Coldfield countryside. Carl Wayne was on stage with his recently formed super-group, the ‘Move’. The music had evaporated into a long solo with Roy Wood studiously thrashing his Fender and Trevor Burton standing like an angry sphinx, lasing the audience with his steely glare while at stage front, Carl was fixed into a mean pose and lost in apparent meditation. All the time lights were flashing (yes, that was a new thing too, before the name ‘strobing’ was ever invented) and at the back, Bev Bevan industriously flailed away at his drumkit. I do believe I saw the slightest flicker of a grin pass Bev’s face as a roaddie shuffled by holding a table followed by another roaddie - Upsy, the chief roaddie no less – grasping a Television set. The table was placed ceremoniously at stage front and the tele placed on top. An altar and a sacrifice...
The crowd gasped - Carl Wayne had picked up an axe from somewhere and was circling around the table like a lion stalking a downed gazelle, going around and around, first one way and then the other for what seemed like ages until…
Suddenly he exploded. Wallop. The wooden cabinet split apart. More blows. Bang. The tube went with a tinkly popping sound…  Charlie was lost in manic rage. He smashed the axe down again and again while the crowd, me included, stood transfixed in the symbology of it all - a public execution by a crazed axe-man! Finally the ritual was complete and the roaddies returned to retrieve the pieces of the TV set. I think the Move finished the song but I don’t really remember. Maybe I was being treated for shock or something? I just remember thinking afterward ‘How very strange. What does it all mean?’

Well of course, it meant that the ‘Move’ were bent upon moving up and out of Birmingham;  the Midlands; anywhere remotely provincial, and stepping up into the centre stage of our universe  – London, the capital of the music world. With the help of their new manager, media locust Tony Secunda, Charlie had set the Move on to a trajectory that would make them a household name. It was a fact that unfolded before our Brummie eyes.

And in between these goings on, we recorded loads of my songs, mainly at my mom’s house. Charlie was an honoured visitor, one of the few amongst my musician pals to gain moms unreserved approval. She’d make sure the table cloth was clean when Charlie was coming to visit, and he always paid her special attentions too. We never spent a long time on the recordings. It was never a job, always something like: ‘I’d like to play that song to somebody Dave. Let me have a tape of it.’ And me replying: ‘Oh, I don’t have a decent demo of it yet.’ And Charlie would say: ‘Right, I’ll pop around at so-and-so time and we’ll record it.’  That was the way it happened. I would be frantic with care about every syllable and crotchet but Charlie would just turn up and sing my song, and in three minutes it would all be over. Mom would make a cup of tea and be fussing all over him while I was scribbling the name of the song on a tape box, with a note that Carl had sung it.

True to their promise, the Move became a hit group in 1967 when their song ‘Night of Fear’ sped into the British charts. It happened while I was in Spain with ‘The Uglys’. - It was the only time I ever got asked to play lead guitar, and that was only because Willy Hammond (the lead guitarist) had told us that his mom wouldn’t let him go to Spain with us.

The following year, Carl Wayne – ‘Charlie’ - started taking serious interest in my songs and soon became a regular visitor at my home in Tile Cross. My mom thought the world of him, for years she would save all the newspaper articles about him.
Charlie and I became pals and we used to play chess at his house until the early hours. We went through phases where he would win every game, and then I would win every game. But it was always one more game for the ‘decider’ until we were too tired to carry on.

I had been trying to compose an entertaining song with a nice simple tune and I came up with ‘That Certain Something'. Unusually for me, it wasn't written for anyone or anything in particular, it was just about the flow of life; - the search for that certain something that you can’t describe, but like Steve McQueen said in the horror movie ‘The Blob’ – ‘you’ll know it when you see it!’

I played it to Charlie on guitar and he picked up on it straight away, shortening the title to ‘Something’. Then in the summer of ’68, Charlie told me he was going to do it with the Move. They recorded it with a string arrangement (a new departure for them) and by November, it was a toss-up which would be the A side for the new single release – my song ‘Something’ or Roy Wood’s ‘Blackberry Way.’

On 13 November, Charlie and I were in London, at the offices of ‘Galaxy’ - Don Arden's management company. Don Arden was the Move’s manager (Tony Secunda was manager when they became famous, but now we are a little further downstream). Don was a short stubby man who seemed to revel in promoting his legendary renown as a gangster – you could call him ‘The Don’ and he wouldn’t get offended. The godfather angle was probably good for business!
He took me by the arm and led me to the window overlooking Denmark Street. The oft-quoted story of him hanging somebody out of a window until they swore to sign a contract, wafted before my minds eye, but he just wanted to talk where we couldn’t be overheard:
‘David, I wanna ask you something: You know the Move really need a hit with this next record. Which of the two songs is in your opinion, the most commercial track? - which one is likely to make the most money?’
What a question! I thought hard for a moment while he stared at me. Of course I wanted my song to be on the A side…. but something told me the accurate answer to the question was Roy’s song.

I don’t know if Don took notice of my advice but the fact is a few weeks later ‘Blackberry Way’ was climbing up the charts, and by the following February, it was at number one. My song was on the B side and that was good for me also, at least financially. The publisher gave me an advance of £500 for it, a small fortune at the time. I remember I banked it and then withdrew the lot in cash so that I could go and open a new account closer to where I lived. Coming out of the bank I dropped the lot in the street. It was like a scene from ‘The Gold of the Sierra Madre’: I was on my hands and knees in the road, eyes bulging with avarice, competing with the wind for dominion over the rebellious green tablets trying to make their escape down the Washwood Heath Road.

The Cedar Club 1968: Trevor Burton, Richard Tandy, myself and Carl Wayne.

Pic taken in Charlie's back garden for a 1968 Birmingham Mail write-up on Charlie's new song publishing company - 'Penny Music'. Richard and I were to be the flagship 'writers' for this venture.

1969 - In the car park of the old BBC studios in Edgbaston, Birmingham. Carl, Trevor and Richard.

The Move recorded one further song of mine: ‘This Time Tomorrow’ but before that was to happen, other dramas came into focus:

Trevor Burton and drummer Bev Bevan got into an argument one night while they were on stage in Germany. According to how Charlie related it to me, Trevor threw his bass guitar at Bev. Now Bev is quite a muscular bloke, and when he stood up and grabbed the nearest weapon to hand – his side drum which Upsy, the roadie, had nailed to the stage to stop it moving, he picked it up with such venom that the stage planking came up too. He then proceeded to project the whole rig with due vigour at Trevor. The crowd thought it was all part of the act and they cheered and whooped with delight…  Meanwhile as the two disappeared off stage, chasing each other with various items of furniture, Charlie and Roy were left to continue the song alone, and when the curtain fell that night, that was the end of the Move with Trevor Burton in it.
I was aghast with shock when Charlie told me about it, but his next statement floored me even more:
’My choice is for you to join the Move to take Trevor’s place. But keep it under your hat for now, when all the contractual stuff is sorted out with Trevor, I’ll let you know more.’
And a couple of weeks later, as ‘Blackberry Way’ was climbing the last rungs of the top ten ladder, Charlie did formally ask me to join the Move on bass guitar.
It was a great opportunity and I told him I would think about it. And think about it I did.

I had been with Steve Gibbons in the ‘Uglys’ for eighteen months and I liked playing with the Ugs. To complicate matters, my mate Richard Tandy had just joined on piano and Steve had told me that there was even talk of Trevor Burton now joining us (!!) and of the group being re-formed and going for the big time in a completely new direction.
But in the end the thing that made up my mind was the powerful forces I saw in spin around The Move. Maybe it came from having the Don as manager. It was the flavour of it, the aroma; - the cool ambience of cut-throat power that would ride rough shod over anything. It was being in a pressure-cooker stoked by values I wanted to avoid. And as the saying goes: ‘If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.’ Or in my case, don’t go in the kitchen in the first place.
Yes I felt I belonged more in Steve’s easy-going world than in the little I had seen of the world that the Move inhabited. I suspected also that my songs were better suited to the ‘Uglys’ style and decided to take my chances with them. So, I turned down the offer of a job in the famous ‘Move’.
Interestingly, before I was asked, Jeff Lynne was asked the same question (Roy wanted him in the group, Charlie wanted me!). Jeff turned it down because he too wanted to stay with the group he was with – the Idle Race. 

The upshot of all this is that Trevor Burton did indeed join the ‘Uglys’ - as the lead guitarist. Willy Hammond got sacked to accommodate him, and under Trevor’s input and influence, Steve had agreed that the group would have a new manager, Tony Secunda. I winced when the news came in. I had escaped the net of Don Arden only to be caught in the snare of Tony Secunda, himself a legend with his aggressive confrontational style (He once devised an advertising campaign which implied that the Prime Minister, Harold Wilson, was having an affair. The ensuing legal battle cost The Move all the royalties to a top ten hit).  But by now I couldn’t back out. The job with the Move had gone to someone else (Rick Price). When you’ve made your bed you’ve got to lie in it.

Being sacked from the Uglys was the best thing that ever happened to Willy Hammond. He went off and joined the Air Force and this led to a distinguished career in the foreign office, with many adventures of international gravity, the substance of things that set the exploits of the entertainment business into dim insignificance.

The new group with new direction, new ethos and new manager, needed a new name. Needless to say with Tony Secunda involved, it had to hit you square between the eyes, and if it could be inflammatory too, so much the better. The new banner was unfurled and I found myself in the group named ‘Balls’ - the most aptly named group I have ever been in. It was a disaster from the word go.

The Dish. Jimmy O'neill (centre) with Steve Gibbons and drummer Jim Holden

Mary Colinto - Jim's sister Kathy O'neill.
... the title of a song I wrote in 1968 which became a sort of local hit, played by many Birmingham groups. It was recorded by the Ugly's for the CBS label but not released due to the group disbanding to form Balls.

The Dish

The Birmingham group scene had ways to deter anyone from taking themselves too seriously. It was all to do with the way you presented yourself, or were presented by others. An ‘unearned’ or artificially enhanced notoriety could result in you being labelled as ‘flash,’ which was akin to having a notice board strung around your neck warning that you carried a communicable disease. Yes, the Flash Squad was ever on the prowl to bring you back down to earth...
In particular, anything produced by the publicity men – posters, pictures or promotional stuff – could be quickly translated into the fodder of jokes and put-downs. The more splendid the accolade, the more caustic was the ridicule to be heaped upon whoever was its hapless beneficiary. I suppose it was the way we all kept each other in check, although nobody ever said it was a rule, nevertheless a rule it was. Anyone perceived to be pompous or remotely pretentious was fair game to be tarred and feathered.

In the mid sixties there was a group called the ‘Walker Brothers’ – two good looking American guys who, before they broke into the big time, had a third member, a Brit named Jim O’Neill. Jim came from Birmingham and being a rather good looking chap himself, was chosen to complete the perfect triangle of brotherly talent. Now the press - the newspapers and magazines of the day – clawed avidly for photographs of these three handsome ‘Walker Brothers’ and their faces beamed at us frequently from popular publications. It was a magazine – actually the teen magazine ‘Fabulous’ - that was to reshape, reinvent, indeed rename Jim, when it published a full-page spread of the heavenly trio with the caption below obsequiously labelling him as: ‘…the DISHY Jimmy O’Neill.’ 
It was a point of sedition that was not to be lost on the watchful organs of the Flash Squad...

Some time later Jim left the Walker Brothers and moved back to Birmingham to become a long-standing member of the Uglys.
So when I got to join the group in July 1967, singer Steve Gibbons introduced bass player Jim to me simply as: ‘The Dish.’ When I enquired further  - ‘what does that mean, The Dish?’ - I was greeted with a cavalcade of chuckles and guffaws from the group and even the ‘Dish’ would only proffer me a wry smile by way of explanation. It had become his name. But eventually, I got to learn the story of the lineage and nativity of the noble house of Dish, birthed as it was by the copy-writer of a girlie-mag.

I soon got to meet Jim’s sister Kathy, and as far as I was concerned she was a lot dishier than brother Jim. I went out with Kathy O’Neill for several years and we are still friends now. Kathy would herself sometimes address Jim by his adopted name, albeit as a soldier would use a bayonet, calling him ‘the Dish’ to administer the coup de grace at some suitable juncture of family disunion.
I wrote many songs for Kathy but the one I always remember her by is ‘Mary Colinto.’ The song became a sort of local hit, being played by many Birmingham groups, including the ‘Ugly's’ who made a record of it which was all set for release in early 1969 before the group disbanded to form ‘Balls.’

Swedish Baroness
And then there was Gabrielle, the Swedish baroness, exiled from her inheritance to live amongst the commoners of Birmingham – in the suburb of Rednal in fact, where she worked as a seamstress and made all the clothes for the Ugly’s. Ah, how she entertained us with her Nordic accent and fine sweeping movements of her slender frame as she modelled her psychedelic garments and wove her dream of one day being repatriated to the beautiful snow-capped mountain redoubt, the castle and the family heirloom, all hers by right and you’d better not doubt it, stolen from her by wickedness and subtefuge. And later, much later, how we learned incredulously that she was neither Swedish nor baroness, and this fact along with her true accent (which turned out to be as common as ours) were laid upon us like the sodden plot of some bar-room play. Yes Gabrielle was one of the characters who made the sixties what they were for us, a voyage of pure discovery on the good ship Whimsy.


1969.  The final Ugly's line up before the group evolved into Balls and overnight extinction. 
At the back: Richard Tandy, myself, Steve Gibbons. At front: Willy Hammond and Keith Smart.


Balls lasted for one whole month. For me it did anyway. The group was formerly inaugurated on Monday February 3 1969. It was a heady time all round. Just two days before I had been offered the job of playing bass guitar with The Move. On that day they were Number 4 in the UK singles charts with ‘Blackberry Way’, with my song ‘Something ‘ on the B side. Carl Wayne wanted me to join his group and he didn’t like the idea of me going off with Trevor and Tony Secunda. He had even arranged a flat at Streetly (a very posh area North of Birmingham) where I could shack up and write songs in peace.
Meanwhile, Tony Secunda, manager of the new creation ‘Balls’, had arranged for his new group to be salted away in the countryside of the New Forest. He had a pal named Tiny. (Yes, you’ve guessed it - Tiny was huge!) He ran the pub in the village of Fordingbridge, Hampshire, right in the middle of the New Forest. Just a short drive out of the village, Tiny had found a bungalow where Secunda’s new group could be uninterrupted as they pursued their quest for pop stardom in fine English style, as country bumkins.

I had made the decision to stay with Steve Gibbons and so I moved down to Fordingbridge. It was a special place - New Forest Donkeys came roaming in the kitchen of the little wooden bungalow that was our humble habitation and flagons of country cider were a standing order on shopping day.

I drove back to Birmingham one Sunday in late February and called Carl. He announced to me that he wanted to record a song of mine called ‘One Month in Tuesday’ (which went by the affectionate nom de plume ‘Corky’ on account of the fact it began: ‘Corky wrote today…’). I called Trevor to tell him this - for me, good news. He was hopping mad about it, suggesting that Charlie was up to no good. I spoke to Charlie again and a little later he called me back to tell me he had called Tony Secunda, and there was no problem at all about him recording one of my songs. Secunda was strangely and uncharacteristically ambivalent it seemed…

When I returned to Fordingbridge on Monday, I learned that Trevor had left abruptly for London after the phone call the day before. He re-appeared with Denny Laine late on Tuesday the 25th and the two of them didn’t have very much to say but I remember they did play all night at a very loud volume. Just why Denny Laine had come along, seemed to have sinister overtones to me, and the next day, I spoke to Steve Gibbons about it. He didn’t know why he'd come either and was bothered about it himself. It seemed to portend a change of line-up… We both decided we needed to speak to Trevor about but when we did, he flatly denied that any change in the group was afoot: ‘Absolutely not’ Trevor said, shaking his head. ‘Denny is just sitting in with us because his thing has fallen through in London.’ He was quite emphatic about it. Steve and I were re-assured.

The new super group lurched on for another week. Rehearsals were, I guess I would describe them as undisciplined. The music was almost exclusively interminable 12 bar blasts that went on for hours, the archetypal rock n roll groove. I didn't much like the groove and I didn't much like the politics – increasingly there was a pervading atmosphere of intrigue around the place. Then on Tuesday 4 March, Trevor and Steve Gibbons took me to one side. Trevor said to me: ‘This band aint happening!’ I felt a certain relief to hear that. At last somebody had put it into words. He continued: ‘…and er… We have decided that er… you, - that is you and er… Richard… well.., you don’t fit!’ 

That was it. I looked at Steve. He wore a grimace of resigned displeasure, like somebody who had signed up for the parachute regiment and now wished he hadn’t. But it was too late.
I could sense it had been ordained from on high by the master tactician himself – Tony Secunda, together with Trevor and Denny, with Steve’s agreement tacked on.

I baled out immediately and I think Richard left the next day.
Keith Smart also left the group around this time, although I am not sure precisely when. I do remember being surprised to hear that he, like us, was back in Birmingham. Keith had been Trevor’s closest pal. What can you say? That’s rock n roll.

All photographs are copyright David Scott-Morgan unless otherwise credited.