Harcourt incident

After a productive weekend rehearsing at Glasshouse Studios in Cumnor in September 2018, we decided to drop in on the popular open mic night on Sunday evening at the Harcourt Arms in Jericho to see if we could play a few songs. We arrived good and early so it was soon sorted. After our first mini-set, one of the other musical contributors approached us.

“I’ve seen you guys before,” he said.
“We’ve been here a couple of times.”
“No, I mean before before”.
“Eh?”
“St Peter’s College JCR. October 1978, I think.”

He could remember several of our song titles – bear in mind that then as now we were playing original material – and even quote some of the words! He remembered we had some difficulty with the fold-back monitors. He wondered if we were going to play “I’m So Lazy” later… maybe in the hope that we might finally be able to get it right!

In those days a high proportion of our audience would have been loyal friends, or friends of friends, who would have seen us on more than one occasion and come to know the songs. But none of us recognised him. Perhaps he was just a member of St Peter’s JCR and had chanced on the gig? No, he was at another college. “I saw it advertised, and it sounded interesting.”

And who was Mr Memory? Jonathan Luxmoore, now of the noted Oxford-based folk trio Jesters. What were the chances of him and us being in the same venue 40 years later? And why did we not leave such a favourable impression on anyone else, and become successful and famous?

During the gig, someone posted a video on social media. At the end of the evening, we were shown a response: “I remember them – I’ve still got a cassette they made in the 1980s!” Two former fans found in one evening. This one is now living in Venezuela…

Boardroom news

Eyebrows were raised at last month’s OftW Zoomed Board meeting when Colin Wight announced that he had spent 115% of the annual equipment budget on a guitar plectrum.

“It’s not an ordinary run-of-the-mill sort of pick,” said Mr Wight. “It’s made from Jimi Hendrix’s ground-up metacarpals infused with Gibeon meteorite and bonded with pyramid-cured crystals that channels Jimi’s muscle memory into your own”.

“First you’ll have to find a muscle,” mused Lady Joanna Jingly-Smith, a remark which the Chair considered disrespectful – but not inappropriate.

“It will be a great investment, believe me,” blustered Mr Wight. Drinks were then served.

***

Eyebrows were raised at last week’s OftW zoomed board meeting when Bernard Hanaway announced that he had spent £420% of the annual investment budget on buying the rights to the entire back catalogue of the cult band’s cult band’s cult band’s cult band Nonchalant Sphincter. Often referred to – if at all – as the purgative proggers from Pangbourne, they were chiefly known, by hardly anyone, for playing their own version of Tales From Topographic Oceans entirely on traditional RAF marimbas.

“So what have you acquired?” was the not unreasonable question from the rest of the Board. It transpired that Nonchalant Sphincter did compose and record a concept album called Looking up God’s Nostril, which, sadly, was never released. 

“I thought we could do our own version,” suggested Mr Hanaway, “using traditional naval vibraslaps”. Drinks were then served.

***

No eyebrows were raised at yesterday’s zoomed OftW board meeting after it had, in an attempt to look a few months younger, voted unanimously to spend 3750% of the annual well-being budget on botox. It was not judged a success. There was nothing left in the drinks budget.

Reviewing the past

Lockdown has given many of us the opportunity to get round to things that we’ve put off for years. Hence this website for One for the Wall. Getting this stuff together – audio files, photos and graphics – and reviewing it has been an emotional experience.

Although the band is playing new material, a lot of the songs presented here go back to our early days in the late 70s and early 80s. We were young in those days. Of course we didn’t see ourselves as particularly young: Andrew and Colin were 23 when the band came together. (Now we are 65, and still in decent health.) What comes across is that – despite the lack of money and industry support – we were ambitious, and excited to be recording in a studio up in Banbury Road that Andy and Pete Hancock built themselves from scratch! We were intellectuals and perfectionists (living in Oxford, that was hardly surprising) and not very interested in serving up stuff people already knew. We made it hard for ourselves, because the audience was presented with a repertoire that was, for the most part, completely unfamiliar and, with a few exceptions, not really dance music. We did have our fans, but you could call it a select group.

We might have made it in the business if we had been more dedicated, although that was never going to be easy. Only Andrew had a job (he worked six days a week) and the rest of us needed to get one!

When I listen to the earliest recordings, now digitised from 4-track tape, I can feel the unique, magical atmosphere that Jo Elford’s voice could create; the rest of us were in awe of her talent. I believe it made us try harder and play to the best of our ability. I know that my own playing improved hugely, because Jo told me! When we reached the Final of the Melody Maker Rock/Folk competition we were just starting out. There were only three songs we knew well enough to play in public. By the end of summer ’79, while working and/or studying for degrees, we had enough material for an album.

Andy, Wiff, Colin and Jo: L-R

Then Jo went to London to start a job and got married. It took more than three decades to get her back!