band basically evolved out of a place named ‘Scarf Studios’
in the East End of London. In the early days ‘Scarf’
was just a rehearsal studio with very little recording going on.
first ever ‘official’ recording session (at Scarf 1980)
involved John Spinks, Tony Lewis, Alan Jackman and a singer named
Jimmy Boswell. It was called ‘Sirus B’. Tony wasn’t
really singing out front then. Jimmy was the vocalist in the band
at the time, especially as he had a big, brand new van. “Sirus
B” only did two gigs and it all fell apart. It was a case
of more van than content
during 1981 / 1982 a guy named Allan Alderson took over co-ownership
of Scarf Studios. At that time John was in a local hard rock band
named ‘Running Blind’ Tony was in an indie-style group
called ‘Precious Pups’ Alan was playing with various
cover bands working the London pub circuit.
After a while, Scarf started to adopt a more ‘Recording Studio’
approach and became a social gathering point for local musicians.
Other East End faces like Paul Dianno from Iron Maiden and some
of the lesser known punk bands often rehearsed and recorded at Scarf.
The guys (still pre-Outfield), also helped with various sessions,
albeit as a backing band, one of which was with Louise Goffin (Carol
Around the same time Allan suggested that John should hook up with
Mark Lewis (a studio engineer at Scarf) as a musical team mate.
Being a bit of an entrepreneur, Alan offered John and Mark some
free downtime studio hours in hope of getting them a publishing
deal (of some description), consequently, Allan basically started
acting in somewhat of an early management role.
and Mark experimented with lots of styles of music together. Feeling
encouraged bywhat he was hearing, Allan Alderson started playing
the demo's to various people in the music biz who subsequently asked
if they could see the band play live…a band that didn’t
The Baseball Boys
John wrote the words 'Baseball Boys' on the spine of one of their
demo cassettes, albeit it was a similar name to one of the street
gangs from the movie, 'The Warriors'. It marked the first time ‘they’
(John and Mark) were thought of as a band.
of the ‘varied’ demos that John and Mark had recorded
together got the attention of a young production company. Within
weeks John and Mark were offered a production deal. Basically it
was just allowing the production company access to some of the songs.
Mark would not commit to any production deal with John, leaving
him to go it alone thus putting a bit of a strain on their relationship.
The deal with the production company, nor the songs, went anywhere.
that things had not gone as planned with the production company,
Allan Alderson once again stepped in and took over the reins in
John’s song writing career. Although a band of some description
had continued to operate during that short production period (mainly
based around John, Alan Jackman and a couple of various bass players),
Allan Alderson still continued to encourage and push John in the
direction of his song writing. Allan Alderson suggested that John
should resume his working association with Mark Lewis. John and
Mark rebuilt their friendship and the songs started to roll off
(usually about one per week).
that time, John and Mark had started to incorporate various other
musicians who frequented the studio to help on the demos. Alan
Jackman was almost always involved (although another drummer 'Ted
Butler' from the Precious Pups auditioned and played on a couple
of tracks along the way). By then another friend ‘Nigel
Palmer’ had started to rotate with Mark as the house / band’s
studio engineer at Scarf.
moved along and John, Mark, Alan Jackman, and a school teacher friend
named Ian McNaughton (on bass and lead vocals) did a couple of gigs
retaining the name Baseball Boys. That particular permutation of
The Baseball Boys also fell apart, seemingly due to Ian's lack of
commitment to the project.
1982 / Early 1983
About that same time, John and Mark went to see
Tony play in his band named ‘Precious Pups’ at the Bridge
House pub in the East End of London. Although the PP’s played
an original set of songs with Tony on vocals, John was a bit confused
as to why Tony was singing (as John thought) in the wrong vocal
register. John had previously seen Tony sing a cover version of
The Police's 'Message in a Bottle' with Johnny Wick's covers band,
after, John asked Tony (as a long-standing friend), to come and
sing on some newly written Baseball Boy’s demo's, (albeit
in his higher register). Tony agreed and chose to join the Baseball
Boys on a permanent basis. Everybody went through a 'getting to
know you again' period and it was around that time that the Baseball
Boys recorded their first self funded single, 'Never Told Lies'.
newer demo's with Mark now serving mainly as the engineer (although
again 'back in the band’ so to speak) started to get some
feedback from people inside the music industry. The band then
set out on an 18 month-long stint of gigs in pubs and clubs around
the day of the third show (at the 'Mitre' pub in south London),
Mark Lewis's mum called the venue during sound check (6pm) to say
that Mark couldn't make the gig. Everybody was a bit upset at being
let down at the last moment but John, Tony and Alan carried on regardless
and played their first show as a three piece band.
following day, Allan Alderson called a meeting at John’s house
with just Alan, Tony and John present (not Mark). Allan Alderson
'in a moment of leadership' suggested that Alan, Tony and John should
carry on without Mark. Allen then went on to inform Mark that he
was no longer a band member.
Tony and Alan did carry on, although there were many times where
they were near to calling it a day feeling that it was almost impossible
to break into the music business. That said, the band still continued
to record at Scarf Studios, with Nigel Palmer now as their permanent
engineer. The guys seemed to be in the studio night and day (literally).
(John……) I remember one night (during winter) when it
was so cold we all needed to play in our coats and scarf’s
on. Alan (Plug by then) was playing 'percussion' overdubs kneeling
on the studio floor at about 2am. It was absolutely freezing cold
and his hands were almost blue, so much so, he could barely hold
memory (John recalls) was watching Tony scream 'Don't turn your
back on me baby' whilst recording the demo for 'Taking My Chances',
albeit in the middle of the night when all concerned were trying
hard not to fall asleep through tiredness. We then started looking
for some weird noises to put in the drop down section and found
a German DJ talking on some pirate radio station. It was all hit
and miss but we seemed to make it work. Towards the end of 1983
things had started to slow down and it began to feel like the band
was going around in circles playing the same venues. There was a
certain point in the development where Allan Alderson called John
to one side and explained, quote, “ I’m hitting a brick
wall with the industry. I feel as though I’ve taken the band
as far as I can”, (albeit with him being a studio manager).
Allan then suggested that he intended approaching some established
major management companies on the band’s behalf.
Alderson eventually made contact with Kip Krones and took John to
meet Kip at MAM management in London. Allan by then had also found
the band a publicist who started to get them some reviews in the
British music press. One of his [the publicist’s] contacts
turned out to be a guy named Derek Oliver from Kerrang (rock magazine)
who wrote the band an amazing review (almost as if one of their
mum's had written it).
(after hearing the demo’s) started working alongside Allan
Alderson in developing the bands future. Allan was now dealing solely
with the musical / studio development and Kip more with the business
end of things. It was during the summer of 1984 that John wrote
most of Play Deep. Although the band already had a lot of songs
in the bag (i.e. Nervous Alibi, I Don't Need Her, Taking My Chances,
61 seconds and Mystery Man) there were no obvious sounding hits.
Allan Alderson made it clear to John how important it was to have
those ‘hits.’ The next three songs that John wrote were
‘Your Love’, ‘Every Time You Cry’ and ‘All
The Love’ (originally with Piano). After that John wrote Say
It Isn't So and, later on, Talk to Me.
time went by, and with endless gigs under their belt, the band’s
first real big show (to an audience of thirty thousand) was at Knebworth,
playing as Andy Peircy’s backing band. (Andy was previously
the front man for the group ‘After the Fire’ who had
a Top 5 hit in the States with Der Kommissar).
By this point EMI in England had started to show interest in the
band. Kip’s contact at EMI (London) had put him in touch with
his counter part in the states, a guy named Steve Ralbovski. During
the second half of 1984 the band seemed to move up a gear in concert
/ gig appearances, ending up as the support band on the Grand Slam’s
final tour (featuring Phil Lynott from Thin Lizzy). John, Tony and
Alan were now all taking time off from work to do the shows, driving
long distances from the East End and back again in the middle of
the night after the shows were over. (John…….) “I
still remember Tony playing the first song of the Grand Slam tour
‘totally out of tune’. He had just been given his new
status bass which had no head stock and he couldn't see the dots
on his fret board, thus he played every note of the song (Tiny Lights)
a semi tone sharp”, I think the audience thought we were ‘avant
November of 1984 Kip Krones took John off to New York to meet Steve
Ralbovsky (by then at Columbia Records) and Bill Whittman (the band’s
first producer). That trip was multi-purpose, one of which was an
exercise to get the songs finished. To that end, John was left (encouraged
by Kip) to walk the streets of NY for the first time ‘soaking
up the atmosphere’ and listening to American Radio on a ghetto
blaster that Kip had bought (haggled) off a street tramp for $5
early 1985, (whilst Johns mum was seriously ill) all three members
of the band went back to New York to do pre-production for ‘Play
Deep’ at Top Cat studios (albeit some of the songs were still
somewhat incomplete). At the band’s request they were given
studio time at the Record Plant at which the middle 8 for Every
Time You Cry was demo’d for the first time (by luck). That
whole experience was a bittersweet time for John, the band was getting
ready to record 'Play Deep' whilst knowing his mum only had a short
time to live.
band went into Air Studios on February 12th, 1985 to make their
1st album. The first track recorded was 'Taking My Chances'. On
the second day at Air, just after John had finished recording the
guide guitar for 'Your Love', Allan Alderson came to the studio
and accompanied John to the hospital whereupon his mum died later
that same day February13th.
To be continued……………………