In 1978 the Dangerous Brothers were the leading Bridgwater new wave band, their members also dominated the Youth Theatre and kept the music scene together through their fanzine Sheep Worrying Magazine. In 1977 they’d suffered a few setbacks following a major drugs bust at Kilve Court and by the end of the year they’d all left Bridgwater College and were wondering where 1978 would take them
On Friday 13th Jan a new band came on the scene playing prog rock covers,The Mythical Isthmus Dwellers -or the MID band – which the DB’s quickly changed to the DIM band. Featuring former DB Nick Hill and future DB Allan Gadd they were fronted by Nick John on guitar and had Duncan McGeown on bass. This night was their first Art Centre gig.
On Monday Jan 16th the Kilve court case saw fines- Dave Butland £40 Jeremy Winspear £60 Pat Church £20. Rod Jones was tried separately and fined £80 . The newspapers carried the headlines “Young people had drugs at youth centre” putting the DBs into the files of the local DS (the ‘Drug Squad’)
A creative spurt of songwriting
Undeterred the band absorbed all these experiences with a punk attitude and the result was an upsurge in creativity. On Sunday 22 Jan-Brian & David wrote ‘Wish I was George Formby’ their first outright punk song.
Dave Newton recalls “I’d come up with 4 chords and play them as fast as I could. It wasn’t just punk influence, also XTC-jerky rhythms etc and Syd Barret, early Floyd-Intersteller Overdrive /Relics/Arnold Layne etc. I’d use MC5 song structures-all very simple. Then Neal brought a bit of Gong influence in there.
Smed recalls “Having written George Formby we followed up the formula with ‘Zhukov’ Another 4 chords that David had come up with. Lyrically he decided it was going to be called ‘Fuck Off’ but that was a bit too obvious so we brought the former Soviet Field Marshall into it. Basically what happened was Dave had punky ideas and working lyrics, I’d try to arrange the ideas into a proper song and add links and middle 8s then inevitably we’d never wander very far from his original working lyrics.”
One song Dave Newton wrote on his own and it proved to be a masterpiece and on-stage favourite “Internal Organs”
Dave says “I had a new XTC single and was trying to work it out and the chords for internal organs came out in the process. Basically surreal and stupid for the fun of it.”
A strong feature of the band now was Neal Heckford’s new Moog synthesiser (in fact a Kawai -cheap Japanese version) . Neal remembers “I wasn’t keen on the rock or blues thing cos I liked space rock and Steve Hillage so I just tried to sneak a lot of that in. But I also liked things like jumping up and down like sheep and clapping and bass riffs and repetition .I liked the spacey element and also the punky side so it was a strange hybrid and different to punk rock.”
By now the band was way ahead of the local music scene. The ‘Brotherhood’ was a scene and Rocco (Rod Jones) was it’s Godfather, Smed Smedlo (Smedley) and Jim Rude (Newton) wrote the songs Cozmos DG Glissandoz (Neal) adding the psychedelia and Nervo (Kev Freeman) provided the rock n roll backbeat.
Great for Bridgwater all this innovation – but what to do with it? Could the DBs achieve their full potential in a small Somerset market town or should they make a break for it and move to the ‘Big City’
Smed and Rod concocted the idea of going to Leeds, Smed’s home town and where he had been offered a place at University in September ’78. A whole new world to try out their music on.
Leeds was also a ‘happening’ place with new bands like the Gang of Four and the Mekons emerging from there at this time . For a full story of the impact of Leeds on music and politics click here.
On Sat 4 Feb the DBs started rehearsing at North Petherton Village Hall although to get the booking they had to pretend to be a folk band. At the same time Smed starting playing bass with art centre manager Bob Ormrods modern jazz combo to hone his skills and keep his hand in with more conventional music. On Feb 14 the BO Bands supported top local covers band Cobblers at the Art Centre and a week later backed former R&B bassman Peter Brown at the Combwich Village Hall.
On Thursday 23 Feb Smed and Dave wrote ‘Ello Ello’– another on-stage favourite. But Rod is having doubts and it takes a hitch to Leeds with Smed to reassure him.
Smed recalls “I hitched up to Leeds 3 times, once with Neal once with Kev and once with Rod. We met a young single mother called Pam Hill who had a young son called Stevie and she was keen to help us and get us in to the Leeds scene. The hitch with Rod was eventful and interminable. At one point we decided to head through the Peak District -American Werewolf ‘off the beaten track’ style – and it ended up getting dark as we reached Woodhead Pass. Almost giving up hope I threw myself in front of a lorry and asked the driver if he could ‘take us to civilisation’..’Will Sheffield do?’ he asked. It would and it did. That same trip we ended up in Streatham London where Rod was brought upand met his dad who was a theatrical agent, although that night we both fell into a massive deep sleep and Rodney it turns out appeared at a Séance down in Brighton with Kim…If you believe THAT!”
Kim says “I had an incident. On 17th March we held a séance. It was elaborate and convincing, the glass spelt out stuff and we get in touch with a spirit who claims to be Rodney. It was so real I had to phone Brian at 8am to ask is Rod alive?? It spelt out his date of death as March 2nd, “Killed himself)” and it clearly spelt out .RPJ, Roddy, Rocco “
Mind you on March 1st Charlie Chaplin’s remains were stolen from his grave in Switzerland, so the spirits were restless……
The creative spurt continued and on Thursday 9 March Brian and Dave wrote ‘Under 16’. This was in fact based on an incident in the band involving Kevin and a young fan……then the Police got involved.
On Friday 10 March the DBs visited a rival punk band they’d heard about called Dingo and the Wild Dogs who were rehearsing at the Royal Clarence skittle alley in Burnham
By Friday 17 March the DBs were holding rehearsals at the Hinkley Point club , which was then above Burtons (where currently WH Smiths is) . Dave had written a new song ‘Please Nurse push a pea up my bum‘ which the band were not happy with – even after he;d offered to change it to ‘Please Nurse won’t you sit on my face‘. Well, this was the 1970’s….
On Sunday 19 March the DBs were ‘libelled’ in SCAT mag as ‘punks, racists and morons’ by a humourless social secretary called Alistair Crellin.
Dave Newton accepting the band were purposely outrageous and controversial recalls “We weren’t morons. This was satire…but it might not be Shakespeare “
Tues 21 March the DBs went to Taunton ‘mob handed’ to ‘sort out Allistair Crellin’ – but he wasn’t there. So the band went home and sank to new depths of bad taste by writing a song called “Johnny Thalidomide” . Smed remembers “Then we tried to write some blasphemous stuff as well to show there was no limits…however..at that point a massive and sudden storm blew up outside the building…. So we stopped. So much for free thinking anarchists.”
On April 1 the band brought out SWIssue 4 with the cover “For people with no regard for their brain cells” –It featured lyrics from the songs including ‘Wish I was George Formby (Rude/Smedlo) ‘under 16’ (Rude/Smedlo) Ello Ello (Rude/Smedlo) and a new Smed Smedlo song – another onstage favourite ‘Grab Yourself a Sheep”. The mag also featured the SCAT racism row via a response from Kim Newman to Alaistair Crellin.
On Sunday 2 April the DBs started practising at the White Hart Hotel function room.
Wed 5 April BYT leader Tony Collins had a heart attack and on April 13/14/15 his show ‘Hobsons Choice” with Brian in the lead role of Will Mossop and Tim Mander as Hobson went ahead at the Art Centre .-
Sunday 16 April a guy called John Hudson turned up at the White Hart and bullshitted the band back to his place in Polden Street promising fame and fortune. However, he was to be the first in a long line of charlatans and thereafter known as John the Fraud
Brian started work selling double glazing at this time
On Sunday 30 April a group of Bridgwater people went up to the anti-Nazi gigs in London as the Anti-Nazi League were trying to organise a fight back against the growing strength of the fascist National Front. Roger Whybrow, not only the assistant manager of the Art Centre, but also the local Socialist Workers Party member, was constantly recruiting around the town and BYT drama assistant Kieth Wise was trying to get the DBs to do a rock against racism gig locally.
On 5 May-Smed played the Art Centre with the Howard Thickie Band supporting the Hawiain Surgeons
On Fri 12 May the DBs played their next Art Centre gig – this time supported by Epsilon B Moron and the Deadly Neutron Devices – a welcome return to the scene by former DB Dave Butland . This was the first gig with Rod on lead vocals and introduced Jojo (Jo Redman) and Ali (Alison Chalmers) on backing vocals. Sue Hickling did Rod’s costumes and Jeremy Winspear did the lights .
SW Issue 5 came out with another elaborate Dave Newton cover. A Birthday edition for Lokjaw(Dave Butland) it mentions the Rock against Racism gig and Contains lyrics to ‘Internal Organs’ (Rude) . The poster and mag feature the artwork ‘No regard for your brain cells’
On 26 May the DBs + Minehead band Spiff Spingham play the Art Centre . Spingham, as was often the case with headliners, messed around with the sound for the support band.
Sat 27 May Roger Whybrow had a party at the Lime Kiln . The DBs played and were joined by Bob on sax.
7 -9 June saw Brian hitch to Leeds with Kevin. Possibly the furthest north he’d ever been, he was welcomed as a posh talking Southern sophisticate by the locals. “ayyy, dunt ee talk posh!” said cousin Linda. Meanwhile the class war was heating up , Smed recalls “The first lift came from a Derbyshire lorry driver and member of the WRP (workers revolutionary party) who told us he’d buried guns in the Derbyshire Dales for the coming revolution. While the second came from a Nazi lorry driver who said he’d done the same.”
On Thursday 13 July the DBs are mentioned in the NME gig guide and the band set about doing a massive poster and badge campaign.
Sat 15 July the DBs + the Learjets play at the Art Centre, the event is called “Pretentious night out” The door is 80p and the band totally sells out of badges and Sheep Worryings . 5 encores later the audience are still screaming for more. SWIssue 6 features more new songs ‘Cuban Holiday’ (Smedlo) ‘Coalman’ (Smedlo)
July 17-19 Brian and Neil hitch to Leeds although get stuck overnight at Gordano services in a one man army tent with a Dutch bloke called Anton. The pair once again visited Pam Hill who lived at 34 Glossop Terrace in the Coronation street style Woodhouse area
Neal recalls “This was getting difficult cos I wanted to continue with the band but I would have to give up my job and move. Well I seriously thought about it. I remember the trip to Leeds, meeting Pam and her son and Teapot the Cat plus her partner Pete Earl who was a drummer “
On Saturday 29 July-the DBs played a ‘festival style gig at The Beeches on the Weston Zoyland Road along with Racoon & the Dingoes. Tonto turned up on sax but so did the Police and the DS and the gig was stopped.
On Thurs 7 Sept the DBs played the Art Centre with the Dingos . Shaz (Sharon Collins) also joined Jo and Ali on vocals.
Saturday 16 Sept the band played live on stage at the Classic Film Centre supporting the film “Thank God it’s Friday” At one point Rod leapt off the stage which he remembers as “Quite high”
By the end of September the DBs had taken the decision to move. Smed, Rod and Dave would relocate to Leeds but Neal, Kev and the girls wouldn’t. So it was cheerio time.
Saturday 23 Sept was the DBs Farewell gig at the Art Centre. SW issue 7 came out. Andy Knox MC’d the event, Kim performed as ‘the amazing Dr Leon Theodore Karell with Brian on piano doing the Lambeth walk and then the ‘old irish ballad’ with Eugene. Jeff Reed formed a band and called it the ‘Intergalactic Garbage Corporation’ Kevin and his acting mate from BYT Simon Gibb did a Bolan tribute called “Finnon and Bowl” while Brian, Rod, Kim and Eugene gave the first outlet for cabaret band Club Whoopee – with special guest Dave Newton on ‘drainpipe’ . Eugene tinkled the ivories as ‘Roly Pontoons at the piano’ while Rod launched a small folk ensemble under the name Diggery Venn and the Reddlemen’ . Neal and his pal Flo (Lyndon Moores) looped a few tape machines for a psychedilc interlude and the DBs rounded off the evening with a crashing set.
Neal remembers “I was in floods of tears. It was very upsetting and difficult to see what to do to move forward. It was a very exciting and happy period for a lot of us, although maybe it should have just been a hobby. But, you know, lesser bands got success. We were original, edgy, could have stood up, all very contemporary stuff but…we were young and naïve.”
Rod recalls “It was a very emotional gig. The nicest feeling gig ever. “
SWIssue 7 accompanied the farewell gig with the headline ‘Grrrrr’ says a train”. It featured one final ‘Rude Smedlo’ song ‘Nasty Nasty Nasty’ .
On Sun 24 September several band members went up to the Anti-Nazi Carnival in Brixton including Tim, Sue, Shaz, Neal, Kev. In fact there were 2 coaches from Bridgwater and Rod promoted the event over the mike at the Farewell gig the night before.
On Sun 1 Oct Brian had moved up to Leeds , Eugene to Lancaster and Alex to Manchester. All going to university.
On Wed 4 Oct Dave Newton and girlfriend Pat Hallam hitched up to Leeds and stayed with Pam Hill.
On 27 October Rod came up to Leeds and things were looking up as the Magnificent..well, ‘3’ , started to reform.
Leeds in 1978
Brian remembers “I’d been born in Leeds, my family was from there, I’d gone back there every year throughout my life. When I went to Uni I stayed with my Auntie Nellie in Harehills and my Uncle Joe ran the Working Mens Club next door. The rest of my family was spread out across East Leeds through Gipton and Seacroft. I was at home. Leeds was also in the news for the bad stuff at the time too. The Yorkshire Ripper was on the loose and people were terrified but also angry. I remember women attacking a cinema showing ‘Dressed to Kill’ and throwing red paint on the screen and I remember this Geordie voice going ‘I’m Jack, I don’t know when I’ll strike again’ being played by the Police in shopping centres everywhere. Of course it was a hoax and he never was a Geordie he was a local bloke the police had interviewed 10 times but let him off each time. And Leeds really was a good place to move a band to cos the music scene and the political scene was kicking off there. Bands we met we later got down to the Art Centre in Bridgwater-Chumbawamba, The Mekons. We went to the Fenton, the Royal Park, Vivas wine bar and we mixed with all these people (before they were ‘all these people’) so it really was the right place at the right time…..but for me that was easy, I had family and I had a University course to be getting on with. For the others it wasn’t that simple.”
So the Dangerous Brothers were all set for a rebirth in another town another planet……
But it was too much. Brian had a University course for 3 years, David had Pat but on 2nd November Rod went home having lasted 7 days in the city.
Brian & David decide to continue with a band in Leeds and link up with Pam Hill, her boyfriend Pete and his mate Phil (both Music students) and form The Casual Teas, who do one gig (at Vivas wine bar) Dave remembers “They thought we were shit but we were creative and they were session musicians so that was that.”
Brian and Dave never wrote another song together. However, the creative spurt was continuing and Smed was writing stuff with nowhere to play it. Then as Christmas drew near the DBs had a brief reunion.
Manchester revives the DB spirit
On Fri 1 Dec the DBs played in UMIST (Manchester Poly) . This was a gig booked by DBs fan Trevor Ellis who had now moved there. The bands mate Big Steve (Williams) drove a van up there with Rod, Neal, Ali Shaz and Jo in it. Brian, David, Pam Hill and Pete Earle (now on drums) turned up from Leeds and played a blinder of a gig to a wild Manchester punk audience.
Smed remembers “I am convinced that Rik Mayall and Ade Edmondson saw us that night and nicked the name. I’ve asked Edmondson twice since and each time he’s denied it. “
The year had ended with the band taking a big gamble – to leave Bridgwater and move to Leeds. But it hadn’t worked out. The band was all over the place. However, the Manchester gig was a shot in the arm and convinced them that they had something that hadn’t yet ran its course. What would 1979 hold in store???
Returning to Bridgwater for Christmas that year Smed found a rather moribund local music scene without the DBs.
The 21st December gig featured the Westsiders (the staff from the music shop) Maiden Voyage and Cobblers.
It was as if they’d gone back in time.
Maybe 1979 would be different….the DBs conspired to reform…..