We go back a long, long way
One for the Wall emerged from a duo formed by two architecture students at Bristol University in the mid ‘70s. Joanna Elford, a classically-trained soprano, and singer-songwriter Bernard Hanaway performed in folk clubs and on local radio.
In 1977 Bernard moved to Oxford, soon joining the thriving music scene. Through mutual friends he met bass-player and amateur broadcaster Andrew Burnham. They put together a band with two undergraduates, drummer Paul Campbell and guitarist/keyboardist Paul Wiffen, to enter a competition called “A Song For Oxford”.
In the house shared by various members of the band at various times, there was a noticeboard on the wall for reminders, bills and so on. When thinking about a name for the band, suggestions would go up on the noticeboard. Someone said “that’s one for the wall” and a name was found by accident.
They didn’t win, but a series of college gigs followed.
A year later Andrew’s old schoolfriend Colin Wight, who had been with him in bands since they were 17, moved back to Oxford. Colin was recruited on electric and 12-string acoustic guitar. One for the Wall’s HQ was 41 Bullingdon Road in East Oxford, a freezing hovel which Andrew, Colin and Wiff shared with a brilliant Chemistry undergrad, Peter Hancock. Pete built a 12-channel mixing desk and became their recording engineer.
At Bernard’s behest, Jo, still living in Bristol, joined the boys at weekends.
So the original duo became a six-piece, whose melodic arrangements accompanied Bern’s sophisticated lyrics – at a time when the industry was dominated by punk, disco, soft pop and novelty acts (remember Jilted John or Father Abraham and the Smurfs?) Bands like One for the Wall didn’t fit into any of the marketable categories. Aside from a few cover versions, the band only performed material written by Bernard – as they do today.
After only a few weeks’ practice, One for the Wall entered the 1978/9 Melody Maker Rock/Folk contest, winning their heat and progressing to the final at Soho’s famously sweaty Marquee Club. They performed “Must You be Going?”, “Harvest of Our Love” and “Cold Toast Blues”.
The competition, chaired by journalist Chris Welch, was won by Splodgenessabounds, who later had a UK Top Ten hit with ‘Two Pints of Lager and a Packet of Crisps Please”. Bern’s finely crafted, emotionally-charged songs never stood much of a chance!
Back in Oxford, One for the Wall went to work and recorded a dozen of Bern’s songs on four-track tape in the University’s Banbury Road studios. Appointments with the (at that time) all-powerful A&R men came to nothing. In any case, by autumn 1979 the younger members of the band had left university and were going their separate ways.
Bern, Col and Andy remained in Oxford, forming a quartet they named Inside Story with jazz-rock drummer Mark Pilkington. The new material, more rhythmically complex and edgier than before, featured two lead guitars, with Bern the lead singer and Colin wielding a mighty Shergold double-neck.
They rehearsed meticulously and gigged all over town, supporting visiting artists such as Wilco Johnson. A selection of songs, entitled “Inside Story”, was recorded on 16-track tape but once again not released. In 1984 Colin moved back to London and the second iteration of the band broke up.
Bernard continued to write and record songs, and occasionally perform solo. For three decades One for the Wall ceased to exist.
On 10 December 2013, at the funeral of their greatest supporter and fan, BBC radio presenter John Shaw, Paul, Colin and Andrew discussed the unlikely idea that the band should get together and make some proper recordings. Could it possibly work, 35 years on? Whilst Paul regularly played timpani with the Royal Northern Sinfonia, Andy and Colin had more or less given up playing. And would Jo be interested in singing those songs again?
By now the various band members were strewn from Devon to Northumberland, with two living in South London and only Bernard still in Oxford. In 2014 they started to rehearse again. A year on, One for the Wall was back in business. The following year they booked into Newcastle’s Blast Studios to re-record their favourite songs from those early days. They recorded seven songs in two days. A gig at the Miners’ Arms in Acomb followed.
Since then One for the Wall has embraced an entirely new and very diverse repertoire, all written by Bernard. Having tried out several studios in London and Oxfordshire, they now rehearse and record at Glasshouse Studios in Cumnor, west of Oxford.
Tentative open mic sessions at Oxford’s Harcourt Arms led to a proper gig (without drummer Paul Campbell) in the cramped, enthusiastic ambience of Klub Kakofanney at The Wheatsheaf, in January 2020. They were invited back for March 2020… then coronavirus struck.
While playing as a group remains on hold owing to the Covid-19 pandemic, the band continues to work on new material, mixed by Andrew. A CD entitled “The Lover’s Song”, featuring guest drummer Chris Ford, was released on 4 December 2020.