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Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Legends of Corby Rock - Scenestealer's First Offence

Taken from 'No Occupation Road' - 3rd book of the trilogy by Clive Smith and David Black Frustration with how Bumper's future was developing saw bassist Mick Haselip leave along with drummer Nigel Hart. It also prompted a name change to Scenestealer. Mick's departure followed a letter received from Rebel Records dated 6th December 1977 giving the boys an update and information on all that was happening behind the scenes. 'We thought it was time we wrote to you to let you all know what is happening with Scenestealer around the world, but firstly to look back over the past few months. From time of recording the album until now has probably been the hardest for all concerned. At the end of August the album was mixed and ready for presentation. The UK reaction was not favourable but nevertheless acceptable and owing to heavy commitments of EMI the release date was constantly being changed, which obviously created tension amongst the band. This position now seems to be rectified and a release is promised for early in the New Year. The gig situation has gone from bad to worse and with the latest episode regarding the German booking we can understand your reactions. With reference to the German tour Barry Collins informs me that he is trying to recover this work by directly booking you as opposed to sub contracting the work. Failing this he assures me that he will make sure there is a minimum of £500 worth of gigs for December. Well, how do we stand now? What is there to look forward to? Let us explain. With a highly professional album in the can we can look forward with confidence to a fast moving, star making, and highly profitable 1978 but this is going to require a concentrated effort on all sides. Why? Because of the phenomenal reaction to the album throughout Europe. We have just returned from Germany where they think you are one of the best bands they have heard in a long long time and are planning to back up this statement by arranging TV, radio and personal appearances for you, to coincide with the release. They assure me that the release will be in early January and we have no reason to doubt them. There is a marvelous team operating in Germany, and they are 100% behind you, so if we can give them the same sort of co-operation, there is no problems at all.. We had the same reaction from Holland and at the time of writing, have planned to visit them on Monday the 12th December to discus Scenestealer further and they also have a fantastic team and are behind 100%. We feel sure that you will agree with us that we are now on the threshold of something big and only by giving all of our support can we obtain the success that we all so richly deserve. We have no doubt that you play your part and you know us well enough to play ours. Don't be despondent lads, there's not much longer to wait. We take this moment to wish you all and your families a very merry Christmas and a real REBELious New Year! Rock On! Signed, Gavin and Dave' Replacements for the departing duo were found following an advert placed in the Melody Maker, recalled by Bob Grimley;"the phone never stopped, there seemed to be hundreds interested in the job. Norman Hickens stepped in for Mick Haselip on bass and Tony Norris who came from Derby took over from Nidge on drums." Mick meantime had joined up with his brother Tony in another Corby band, Chrome Molly. Scenestealer's long awaited debut album First Offence was finally released after almost two years of waiting in the spring of 1978. Recorded at Majestic Studios and produced by Dave Howman and Gavin Dare, who's credits included three Monty Python albums and a number of TV jingles, there was 'surprise backing by the Barnet Youth Opera Group and Strings arranged and conducted by Phyllidia Hearn.' The track listing was I Ain't No Angel; High And Dry; Loser; Flying; White Angel; Ballerina; Say It Ain't Nice; American Lady; Just The Other Day; Rolling Man; Sunshine Brightly. True to Rebel Records' word, Scenestealer were sailing across the channel for a three week tour of Holland in May where they played fifteen concerts in Amsterdam, Paradiso and an open air festival in Rotterdam. receiving great reviews Following their progress the Evening Telegraph reported; 'Back in 1962, an unknown British band called the Beatles were making a big name for themselves in Germany. Now, 16 years later, another comparatively unknown British band has found fame in Germany while still searching for success on this side of the channel. I'm not saying our continental cousins have a better developed musical taste, but they have the sense to buy more than 6000 copies of the debut album by Corby band Scenestealer. Released over there on the EMI distributed Crystal label, First Offence is a remarkably strong and mature set by the five strong group. Bob Grimley, Stuart and Jimmy Irving share the composing credits. I don't know if its a tribute to the German pressing plant or the London recording studio, but the sound throughout is clean and sharp on the eleven track album -and there's a nice diversity in style from the west coast like harmony work on Rolling Man and High And Dry through to the gutsy I Ain't No Angel to the more straightforward - a fine showcase for the instrumental talents of the band. They hope to have the album released in Britain soon and have an Irish tour and college and university gigs lined up. Stuart Irving was upbeat on the band's return; "The visit to Holland was a promotional tour for the new album and although the going was hard, we were given a great reception by the Dutch audiences. We were called on to do encores at every gig and during the tour we did an interview on Dutch radio. They were very impressed with the band and this puts us in a good position for the next tour which should take place in August. The band is currently working on new material for the next album. First Offence is our own work and we are now rehearsing for the next tour and writing new material. The album is selling very well on the continent and it should be released in this country later this year." Before the band leave for their next tour, which should include Norway, Germany, France, Belgium and Holland they will be making two appearances in Corby on July 22nd with a daytime open air concert and an evening performance at the Raven Hotel.' Plans were also in the pipeline for an extensive tour of America later in the year to promote First Offence. There seemed to be no stopping the rollercoaster ride for the band, who made their London debut in June at Fulham's Golden Lion pub for an audience made up of agents, members of the music press and top musicians. Gavin Dare was ecstatic; "Their performance was acclaimed by the music profession. It was amazing. My telephone hasn't stopped ringing since they appeared. Although the band has been kept out of London in the past, we now feel the time is right for a blitz on the city, it can only be a matter of time before their music carries them to stardom." For all the accolades and hype surrounding the band and their debut album, Bob Grimley was far from happy and his despondency continued to nag throughout the summer, culminating in the eventual and inevitable demise of the band just before Christmas. "We spent what seemed an interminable time in the recording studio cutting that album and at the end of it, Gavin Dare and Dave Howman then told us they would go and work on the mix, probably adding some strings and a choir on it. I couldn't believe it and told them in so in no uncertain terms. Gavin Dare looked at me, and said, half jokingly, 'we're in control of the cheque book!' We had no input whatsoever with the mix and when they called us in to hear the finished product I was appalled. I hated it. It left me totally disillusioned with the business. Apart from the addition of a choir and the string section they had squashed the sound of the guitars, putting compressors and limiters on them. We were a guitar band! We were given half a dozen copies of the album each and I felt that bad about it, I gave them all away and never listened to it again. The video, which was a comparatively new innovation at the time, was another joke. During the filming, the director stopped the production and said to me, 'do you think you could move around a bit more instead of standing stock still?' Stuart, who was a great front man, danced all round the set, Jimmy was also good at the choreography. It wasn't for me. I looked at this guy and replied, 'I'm a guitar player, if you want a dancer, go and get Fred Astaire or somebody!' He shrugged and then moved me to the back and gave me a pair of shades to wear! I also felt the management let us down by failing to promote the album to any degree. They promised us national music press coverage, a tour of Europe and America, which never materialised." Things finally came to a head just prior to Christmas when the band was preparing to leave for Stranraer to catch the ferry to Ireland for a ten day tour following a gig in Hamilton. "Stuart described it as 'a premature end' for the band but we were depending on the money from the Irish tour to see us over Christmas. It was working out just right, and then out of the blue we received a telegram from our management telling us that they had pulled the gig. The IRA were making noises about another bombing campaign at the time and I suppose because we had a big orange van and a GB sticker on the back, they deemed it didn't particularly bode well for our health! However, it was the final straw for me. We came back to Corby, skint and peed off and I decided to quit. I got myself a job at York Truck in St James' Road earning £75 a week because I didn't fancy going back to the steelworks. And would you believe it, Stewart and Jimmy both went to the steelworks and a little over a year later, received over seven grand each severance pay when it closed own! Typical of my luck I thought!" Stewart and Jimmy Irving both ended up in South Africa, Stuart after spending several years doing lighting for bands such as Altered Images, The Jetts, Kim Wilde and Killing Joke. In South Africa he joined Ballyhoo, one of the country's biggest bands. During his nine years with Ballyhoo, Stewart also found time to release solo material with two of his singles, Superstar and Heart Of Stone, reaching the Top 3 in the South Africa charts. He returned to Britain for a spell and formed a band with Brian Spence and Debbie McKenna called The Wish. He has lived in Johannesburg ever since.