Chorlton-Cum-Hardy keyboard player John Metcalfe saw advert for band based in Rochdale in Manchester Evening News in early 1972. After a few rehearsals a new guitarist was required. John suggested fellow Chorlton musician Mike Fogg and the band continued as a 5 piece.
Mike identified this as a problem, however the bassist in the band, Roy Bywater, worked for his father’s taxi and coach hire company, this meant Roy had the facility to borrow a company vehicle to take the lads back (as Roy had only recently passed his driving test and was driving brand new cars the return journey was always at high speed and a definite white knuckle ride).
Metcalfe left after only 3 months to join 1960`s Mersey Beat band The Chants. Speed decided to continue as a 4 piece. Travelling from Chorlton to Rochdale entailed the 82 bus changing in Manchester to connect with a bus to Rochdale. This journey was extremely time consuming and absolutely impossible to make the return trip after a gig.
May 1972 – Mike invited another Chorlton based musician Bob Elliott to assist the band as road manager. Unbelievably he was offered an equal share of the gig money to do this. Due to Bob’s connections within the retail trade he negotiated special rates for equipment from music shop A1 Repairs in Manchester city centre. This meant reductions in equipment repair charges and cheap strings, etc.
Gigs were now based mainly around the Rochdale area but as far afield as Whitehaven in Cumbria and south Manchester including Seven Stars in Heywood and The Wrecker in north Manchester. This in particular was a very intimidating venue as not only were there CROCODILES in a pool on the stage (HONESTLY!) but also Brett the drummer had to set up his kit with them all but snapping at his arse! However that was not the main danger. That was the crowd!
Not content to boo and heckle at every opportunity they were not averse to chinning band members after the gig! Plus to make the band even more welcome they would throw beer from the balcony behind the stage which would normally drop on the drummer and a good shot would be hitting the valves on your amplifier making them explode, rendering the amp useless with the possibility of electrocution!
Vocalist Gary Hey was a hairdresser who worked in the family business at the top end of Yorkshire Street on the outskirts of Rochdale centre. After alighting the bus, the Chorlton lads had to lug all their equipment up the hill. On arriving at the salon we rehearsed in the cellar. Rehearsals were usually on a Sunday and always included a break whereupon Gary’s mum Joyce would ensure we were all fed and watered.
A major benefit to these facilities was that on Saturdays we would all have our hair done with the current styles for free in the salon.
As mentioned earlier Roy’s father ran a coach and taxi business. Mr Bywater was most charitable by offering us the use of one of his mini-buses to the extent that not only did it appear with a full tank of diesel (he probably suspected if it arrived empty that we would fill it with petrol) but also he would remove the back row of seats to accommodate our equipment.
Summer 1972 – after lots of letters to Granada Television we finally peaked, an audition for Opportunity Knocks. This was carried out on a Sunday afternoon at the Ritz ballroom in Manchester city centre. This was an opportunity for us not only to appear on national TV but also to prove how professional we were.
Arriving nice and early so we could be guaranteed the parking spot right outside the venue, were the band and entourage in a 41 seater coach loaned by Roy’s dad! The audition was for one song only and we selected the current Marmalade hit “Radancer.” It had been rehearsed to F!** ! Not surprisingly they took the bait and asked us if they could have another look at us. Being overly confident we decided to prove that we were not just a one trick pony. This proved to be our downfall as we performed an under-rehearsed version of Steve Stills hit “Love the One you’re with”.
This is the part of the story where the writer claims that the rest is history; unfortunately it was us that were history!
Towards the end of 1972 it was quite obvious that Roy Bywater had found a use for his third leg and had become emotionally engaged with a girl. This proved to be not only a distraction but also took his spirit and drive for the band. A replacement was found in yet another Chorlton musician, John Blight who took over on bass.
This created a whole host of musical opportunities due to John’s talents however it caused major logistical problems as half the band lives some 20 miles away from the band’s base. This was compounded by the fact that none of them could drive. Travelling now became a major problem.
John’s first gig was at Rishworth School near Halifax on 7th October. The Chorlton contingent commuted to Yorkshire Street courtesy of Manchester city transport stashing an ever increasing amount of equipment in the luggage compartment, it’s a wonder that any bus ran on time after we had put our equipment on and taken it off again, we then had to lug it a mile up Yorkshire Street.
After John had settled into the band the re-vitalised line up found it even easier to find venues who wanted their services, it seems a good reputation was being developed to such an extent that we were invited to play at the Google Eye Club in Rochdale town centre. This was a newly formed venue and the lads performed so well that they were invited back to be top of the bill on New Year’s Eve. Obviously we went on stage extremely late and to fill our set out our roadie Bob Elliott made a one and only guest appearance supported by the band.
1973 and Bob teamed up once again with John Metcalfe to front a new four piece outfit. There debut was in Wythenshawe on Sunday the 7th January this was also there penultimate gig within a fortnight the band had imploded and Bob rejoined Speed
The band was still gigging regularly; the highlight of this period was probably Sunday 4th February at St John’s Catholic Social Club in Wythenshawe. We arrived on time and were shown to the dressing room before setting up our equipment. The sound check was uneventful. During the first set Bob got on stage and started blowing kisses to Gary during the band’s rendition of “Make it with you” (Bread).
This appears to have caused a little offence and when the band was in the dressing room during the break the concert secretary appeared screaming and shouting with the most industrial language any of us had ever heard constantly reminding us that we were f***ing obscene !
“Don’t you know this is a f****ing Catholic Club!? You bastards were disrespectful to the Pope – didn’t you see his f***ing picture!? Pick up your kit and f*** off!! ! After getting paid the full amount and removing all our equipment from the venue Bob insisted on going onstage to apologise to the audience. This was not a sincere apology and was merely done to wind the audience up against the concert secretary, mission accomplished!
After his brief sojourn with John Metcalfe in January and his appearance at the Goggle Eye Club, Bob decided he wanted to return to being a gigging musician and left the band after the Great Harewood Conservative Club gig on 10th February.
John`s last gig was at the Hamer Club, Rochdale on 17th March 1973 and soon afterwards the band split.
ABOVE INFORMATION SUPPLIED BY BOB ELLIOTT.
THESE DAYS :
GARY HEY is working as a hairdresser inthe same shop in Rochdale.
BRETT ROBINSON is a wealthy propertyowner in Rochdale.
MIKE FOGG is still gigging around Manchester with SIMPLY SOUL and READYBYSEVEN.
JOHN BLIGHT has a recording studio in North Wales and has recorded 3 cd`s.
BOB ELLIOTT has played numerous gigs in and around Derby and is currently recording his first album.
ROY BYWATER is currently employed as a Lecturer at Warrington Collegiate.
7 OCTOBER 1972 : RISHWORTH SCHOOL, near HALIFAX.
10 DECEMBER : GILLIAN HEYS PARTY and HAMER WORKING MENS CLUB, ROCHDALE.
14 DECEMBER : GOOGLE EYE NIGHT CLUB, ROCHDALE.
31 DECEMBER : GOOGLE EYE NIGHT CLUB, ROCHDALE.
4 FEBRUARY 1973 : ST.JOHN`S CATHOLIC SOCIAL CLUB, WYTHENSHAWE.
10 FEBRUARY : GREAT HAREWOOD CONSERVATIVE CLUB, near BLACKBURN.
24 FEBRUARY : ST.NINIAN`S YOUTH CLUB, CHORLTON-CUM-HARDY.
2 MARCH : SALE RUGBY CLUB.
10 MARCH : NELSON, near BURNLEY (venue unspecified)
17 MARCH : HAMER WORKING MENS CLUB, ROCHDALE.