Issue No.24 – Bournemouth Bound! 

After scraping up the remnants of van and gear (fortunately Dave was still in one piece) from the inside lane of the M4 we had no choice but to decide on our next move. Stepping back to look at the big picture I suppose it was all too obvious that we were left with very few options. In the end Mick went back up to Walsall, Dave somehow managed to get to his parents in Swindon and I returned to my caravan out in the woods (did I mention that?… probably not… don’t ask!).

The three of us would actually end up working together again some time later but for the moment we could only kill time by twiddling our thumbs and licking our wounds. During this time, and unknown to me, Dave had been spending a lot of his free time checking out ads in the national music papers on the off chance that something suitable might turn up - not sure what he was hoping to find but as it happens he spotted a vacancy for a drummer in a band based in Bournemouth. Anyway, off he went and (to his great surprise!) he managed to get himself hired. As luck (or fate) would have it, the guy in charge (the bass player) happened to mention that the band’s guitarist was leaving soon, so of course Dave put in a good word (I think he may have embellished my talents) for yours truly with the result that I packed my bags for a trip to the South Coast.

At this stage I would venture to enlighten you as to what we ended up letting ourselves in for. Back then, Mecca (they of bingo fame) had a large number of clubs/ballrooms scattered around the UK and each of these venues employed a resident band who, along with a DJ, provided music for every function. Yes, the bands’ repertoires included current rock/pop/chart songs but they also had to cover ballroom and black tie evenings. As you can imagine, this was all well out of my comfort zone, so whilst I had been lucky enough to worm my way into the guitarist slot, I did feel a long way behind the curve. Added to this the Bournemouth band were very keen on covering a good mix of Motown/soul/disco tracks so I needed to do some serious homework (and invest in a chord dictionary!)

Mind you there were some benefits to all of this thankfully, the gear didn’t have to be lugged around from one venue to another and at the end of the week you were guaranteed a regular wage (which came as a refreshing change). We did however have to play for three hours every night for five nights, but the bandleader John Peters was a nice guy and pretty easy to get along with. In fact along with two girl vocalists he did most of the singing, so most of my time was spent just playing, although as time went on I did come to find myself more and more behind a microphone. The choice of material may not have been ideal for me, but looking back now it was certainly a worthwhile (if incredibly steep) learning curve, and I have to say that by and large it left me with lots of good memories.

John's previous band ‘The John Peters Progression’ based in Portsmouth.

For some inexplicable reason the Mecca powers to be decided to change the format of the Bournemouth venue and so John came to us all to tell us that he had been offered a residency at another Mecca club in Newport and did we all want to make the move with him. The keyboard player Bernie declined but the rest of us agreed, so off we went to South Wales.

Now with the greatest of respect to all who live there, I have to say hand on heart, that Newport was never in my top ten bucket list places to visit, although alphabetically I suppose it does come shortly after Mauritius… so we dropped our bags and hurried off to find the nearest beach and hit the mojitos!

Croeso i Gymru! (Excuse my French)

Issue No.23 – Smokey Drives A Porsche! 

The Paintbox gigs continued to roll merrily along, although strangely we were doing more shows overseas in Holland and Sweden with a couple of entertainment agencies Paul had managed to contact. By this time we were introducing more comedy into the act - not really sure how that came about - but it seemed to be very well received. With the aid of a few props and some costume changes, together with a few sketches and a good mix of pretty punchy music we had managed to carve a nice little niche for ourselves.

Mind you, the foreign schedules were very tough. I guess the agencies had to work us hard to make it all financially worthwhile. Most days (particularly in Holland) we would be booked to perform two shows, they even tried to get three in on one trip, and it proved almost impossible even with help from a makeshift road crew! Most of the time however we were left to our own devices - no sat nav back then - just the venue address and a map! So we just used to crank up the old Transit and off we’d go. By and large we managed to get around without too many setbacks, although there was one exception…

We were driving along quite peacefully when I noticed a flashing light behind us and strangely the light was about ten feet in the air. Not really knowing what to expect, I slowed down, when to my surprise we were passed by a Porsche 911 convertible sporting a telescopic pole on which the flashing light was perched. This turned out to be one of the special Dutch highway patrols known as the Rijkspolitie who were actually members of the Elite National Guard (more info here:, which became all too obvious when two large patrolmen wearing long grey leather coats, crash helmets and holstered automatic pistols made their way towards us. As it happens, we hadn’t actually done anything wrong (phew!) but I suppose a van with English number plates and three dodgy-looking geezers was bound to attract attention sooner or later. After a quick browse at our paperwork, they were happy enough to let us carry on our merry way. They strolled back to their Porsche, the telescopic light magically went back down, and off they sped into the distance. We made light of it after they had gone, but I for one was mightily relieved. I decided being that close to a real gun was something I didn't want to make a habit of.

The gigs in Sweden were very different from those in Holland mainly down to the huge distances involved. I remember we did one show close to Lapland in the far North and the next day we were booked to do a venue in the South. It took all night and most of the next day to get there. The poor old van certainly earned its keep back then. Oh yes, our poor old van. Our last (although we didn’t know it then) Swedish tour was due to happen in the winter (we must have been drunk when we signed up for that) so making sure to top up the anti-freeze in the van and digging out our thermal underwear, we headed for the ferry. Now as you may know, I spent my youth in Newcastle, which does get somewhat chilly in the winter… but Sweden proved to be on a completely different level! Our first night was spent in a hotel which was nice and cosy but sadly we had no idea that the temperature outside had plummeted to minus heaven knows what! It was only when we came out on the following morning and tried to start the van that we realised that despite (not enough) anti-freeze, the engine had frozen solid and was beyond repair.

After much deliberation and some frantic phone calls, the Swedish agent suggested that our only option was to hire another van to cover the tour and make arrangements to return our van back to the UK after our last show. Unfortunately the bad news was that all of this was our responsibility and any incurred expenses were going to be down to us. To make matters worse, the only vehicle we could hire was a VW flatback truck with only a canvas cover over the load area. Obviously we were all pretty miserable at the prospect of driving the length and breadth of Sweden saddled with all of this, but we pressed on and did the tour. I must admit it was a very bad time for all of us - we had very little money (Sweden is a very expensive country) to cover food and expenses and even spent a few nights huddled up together in the truck to save funds. When the dust (or should I say snow) settled we managed to get the van (and us) back to good old blighty. Of course, the whole episode was a disaster and to add insult to injury, we still faced a huge bill to get our precious van back on the road.

Fate? Destiny? Luck? Not sure if I believe in any of those, but the powers that be must have had it in for us, because after Dave collected our van from the garage with its brand new engine… he was rear ended by a lorry on the M4! Thankfully, he was ok, but the van and most of our gear was not.

The time had come for us to make some hard choices.


Issue No.22 – Let Them Eat Cake! 


With the recent success of the Oscar winning movie ‘The Whale’ highlighting the plight of overweight people I thought it might make a nice change to give you a break from my usual ‘musical memoirs’ (sadly that saga will probably make a welcome (?) return next month) and share with you a particular little ditty that was penned by yours truly many moons ago. 

I happened to come across this poem recently while going through some old photographs and as I recall the idea I had at the time was to highlight the plight of those at school (and elsewhere) who were ridiculed and more than often ostracised for being shall we say ‘somewhat plump’. Please don’t think for one moment that I’m taking the moral high ground with this because my viewpoint unfortunately comes from bitter personal experience. Before I got into my teens and began gaining some height this was very much my everyday reality. 

The script that follows may hopefully bring forth the odd wry smile, but believe me, those times were anything but fun.


Fat Kid

Every school has one
A fat kid
THE fat kid
Not every body knows his name
He’s just the school fat kid

An old buddy of mine once asked me
“Who was the fat kid in your school? “
Then he fell about for twenty minutes
When I told him it was me
My old pal went through half a box of Kleenex
Crying with laughter
He went through the other half shortly after 
Trying to stop his nose from bleeding

School dinners were nothing short of torture
For the poor kid behind me in the queue
Who would break out in a cold sweat
At the thought of not being able to see
What he’d not get the chance to eat
The dinner ladies decided that to be fair to all
(Because I was Wilford)
We should line up in alphabetical order
My heart went out to Pete Yardley

My fond mama would regularly go to church
Usually on the day before she took me shopping
To pray that she could find something that would fit me
One helpful shop assistant once said
“If you want a pair of shorts for Humpty Dumpty
Might I suggest the toy department on the third floor”
Another told her…
“I’m afraid we don’t stock school uniforms
For Goodyear Grammar”

Girls were a problem
Patsy Walker once asked
If my friend and I would like to meet her
Behind the cycle shed
The fact that I was alone didn’t deter me in the least
Although I did get upset
When she asked me to breathe out
And blow up her flat tyre
I promptly then sat on her bike
And gave her a matched pair
In the immortal words of my hero Billy Bunter… tee hee!


Anyway, next time you see the school fat kid… have some pity.







Issue No.21 – Further On Down The Road 

They say we all have our fifteen minutes of fame at some point in our lives and on our journey home from Poland and the Sopot Festival I couldn’t help but wonder if my allotted time had been cut down to a meagre three minutes when I was on that stage in that forest. Or maybe the remaining twelve minutes were to be restored to me further on down the road? Anyway, the fat lady had sung her heart out and it was back to the good old blighty for us. 

Back in those days fuel and transport costs had not reached the astronomical heights that they are today so most of our gigs were pretty well scattered all around the country, we even managed to make it as far as Dundee! Mind you, we were in good company when it came to travelling here there and everywhere… all of which was of course made possible by our good old Ford Transit, well you just weren’t cool unless you had one, in fact ours was even cooler than the rest because it had fitted aircraft seats! (Sorry if that sounds a bit sad). 

Anyway, there were always a good number of other bands spending hour after hour slogging up and down the motorways… I say motorways but this consisted mainly of the M1 and the M4 (although this only went as far as Reading) so as a rule you had to allow plenty of time to get to wherever you were going. Any trips down to the West Country (yes we did go as far as deepest darkest Cornwall) were indeed a long hard slog, made even more of a trial during the summer months when every caravan and tractor made it their sole aim to make your journey a living hell! Having said all that we did have some great times catching up with fellow bands at all-night cafes and motorway services and many an amusing tale was told over a plate of grease and a mug of stewed tea. No, we didn’t have much respect for our arteries back then.

I do find it sad to admit that those days (and nights) are all long gone now. Bands just can’t afford to travel further than their own back yards and pubs and small clubs can only pay for local talent. Of course, the big touring names and venues are still around but belong only in the realms of the favoured few. 

By the way, has anybody caught sight of my missing twelve minutes?

Issue No.20 – Sopot (Part 2)  



Our hotel in Sopot was home to pretty much everybody who was (or wanted to be) part of the big event. So not only were there song competitors but also guest artists, organisers, management (with an alarming number of personal secretaries?) and a selection of other people who were either hotel residents or just wanted to see what all the fuss was about! I’m pretty sure Hansel was in there somewhere but I don’t think Gretel had managed to make it out of the forest.

It seemed a little strange to us, but apparently quite normal in the Eastern Bloc, that the local authorities had placed a 9.00pm curfew on the town. So from that time on the streets were completely empty and we were all confined to the hotel. To be honest, this wasn’t all doom and gloom, because despite some language barriers, we were able to make a load of new friends and by and large the hotel bar turned out to be a pretty good spot to hang out.



One of the guest artists we met up with was Chris Montez and by some strange twist of fate (and after a few beers) we all ended up performing an impromptu rendition of (remember it?) Let’s Dance. I somehow ‘acquired’ a guitar, Dave bashed out the drum pattern on a coffee table and Chris (obviously) sang the song. I’ve never been one for name dropping but I have to say that Mr. Montez was a really lovely guy and that short time spent with him will always be one of my fondest memories. 



Most of the days there were taken up rehearsing for the forthcoming live performance. Send Me A Letter had been scored out for the resident orchestra and backing singers so we had to get used to being led by the conductor and this proved quite a challenge. We were used to being a band of three, now we were a crowd of thirty! The size of the venue itself was also pretty daunting as the festival was to be (as it apparently always had been) at a large auditorium in the centre of a forest on the outskirts of the town which had seating for over two thousand so with hardly anyone in there it was still quite intimidating. 



Luckily I am not normally prone to stage fright, but I have to say that when the big night arrived I was pretty nervous. The venue held a packed audience and there were television crews all over the place, plus of course organised (?) chaos backstage. Then the moment came, the orchestra was ready so out we stepped. Don’t even bother asking me how it all went… I remember Mick had learnt to say ‘hello, good evening and welcome’ in Polish for which he got a very nice round of applause. After that I just went into automatic pilot and before I knew it we were bowing to the crowd and beating a hasty retreat. Pickettywitch were guest artists that night and they followed us. As I recall they sounded pretty good but in all honesty The Beatles could have been there and I wouldn’t have taken a blind bit of notice. 

Needless (and sad) to say, we didn’t come away with any trophies (the winners were Corvina, a good band and a nice bunch of lads), but looking back I think we gave a pretty good account of ourselves considering we were on a very steep learning curve. Watching the footage of the concert now and realising it all happened a half a century ago is very strange indeed but I wouldn’t have missed it for the world, and if you’re feeling brave you can witness that very performance right here now!



Issue No.19 – Sopot (Part 1) 

At the end of the last blog ‘And The Beat Goes On’ we three amigos were about to make our way to Sopot. Oh yes, Sopot, a small (but apparently very popular) seaside resort on the shores of the Baltic Sea in northern Poland, and the home of the equally popular (at least in Eastern Europe) International Song Festival which we (and I suspect most of the UK) had never heard of. Anyway, to those in the know, the locals regarded the event as highly as The Eurovision Song Contest and as such it was widely televised, so on the face of things we were very lucky to be given the chance to take part. 

Of course you can’t go in for a song contest without an original song so after looking at what we had in the way of ideas we eventually sat down and wrote Send Me A Letter after which a tape of the song was promptly sent off to the festival organisers. The song was thankfully accepted so we quickly packed our bags and headed for the airport! 

It came as no surprise to us to find that there were no direct flights to Sopot so we needed to make a stopover at Warsaw and were really glad we did because it gave us a chance to explore the city. We pushed the boat out (or horse actually) and took a carriage tour… we really enjoyed this right up until the time the driver told us how much it was going to cost. That’s what you get for playing tourist! For the amount he charged Mick was convinced we must have bought the horse! The driver was not amused at his suggestion, although I think the horse might have appreciated a career change. 

I have to say though the tour did leave a lasting impression on us. I’m no historian, but even I know that by the end of World War 2 the German army had reduced Warsaw to nothing more than a pile of smouldering ruins. Undaunted by this, the citizens of Warsaw took it upon themselves to rebuild everything just as it had been before 1939. I remembered seeing a film of the city in flames but when we saw it on that day you could have been convinced that the streets and buildings had stood untouched for centuries. Oh, to have so much love for your city! So we were very much taken by Warsaw and would have loved to stay for a few more days but we needed to leave the following morning to catch our flight to Gdansk and then on by coach to Sopot. 

It felt good to finally arrive at our hotel but we were surprised to see a crowd of people outside and as it happens (seriously) they were waiting for us! We found out later that we were the only British act to be taking part in the competition and as such, I guess, everybody there presumed we must be famous back in the UK. Stepping off the coach we were surrounded by people brandishing festival programmes and photographs for us to sign. This probably all sounds very exciting and glamorous but never having experienced this before it came to us all as a total shock. On top of this we were all pretty exhausted and were glad when we finally made it to our room to get some long overdue rest. 

The next day, breakfast, then a chance to meet the festival team and our fellow performers. They all seemed very friendly but of course the smell of the grease paint and the roar of the crowd could quickly change all that!

To be continued...

Issue No.18 – And The Beat Goes On  

We had some great times with Katch 22, some great publicity from the Radio 1 shows and a good mix of live gig but of course, as you would expect, all good things must come to an end. We had finally come to the point where we all felt we needed a change of direction. 

The first step came when we decided to trim the band down from a four piece to a trio, namely Paul, Mick (who had now taken on the role of bass player) and yours truly. We also decided to leave the Katch 22 marque behind and so lo and behold Paintbox was born. The name manifested itself after learning that a duo of songwriters, Harry Vanda and George Young had a song that they wanted us to record. They had used the band name previously but only on recording and studio projects and had never toured or done any live work. Everyone was happy to carry on this project and it all went hand in hand with our single release of the Vanda/Young song ‘Come on round’… I even tried my hand at a bit of mandolin on the track! 

The single did manage to pick up a few radio plays and we carried on with the live gigs. In the meantime, Paul had set up his own agency and management company and quite a lot of our work came through him until eventually (and not surprisingly) it all became too much and he decided he would rather put his efforts into building up the business instead of slogging around the country in a Ford Transit. To be fair he was probably the only one in the band who was in touch with the real world. 

Subsequently we were now in the market for a new drummer. A few months prior to this we had done a show at a London venue and had been supported by a band from Swindon called Stonewall Jackson and I remembered being quite impressed by their drummer. Anyway, we managed to get in touch with the guy and after a quick audition we welcomed Dave Hacker to the band.

Work was still coming in from Paul and we even managed to fit in some recording from time to time. To start with we were clocking up miles in the UK but eventually the agency provided us with tours in Holland and Scandinavia and by this time we were injecting an element of visual comedy into the show and combined with our new edgier style of music we were proving to be very popular with the European audiences. 

One day Paul called us up and said “If you can come up with an original song I’ll be able to get you a spot on the Sopot International Song Festival”. We didn’t have a clue what he was talking about, it sounded to me like we’d be sharing the stage with the Von Trapp Family! 

To be continued…


Issue No.17 – Electric Man  

Every time I listen to this track I can’t believe just how fast it is. Perhaps we had more than our fair share of black coffee before we started working on it! Our drummer Paul was not in the studio when we laid down the instruments and vocals so we worked with an electronic drum track to keep us in time. It was only when Paul sat behind the drum kit and started to play along that we all realised how fast the whole thing was moving. 

Dave stayed in the drum booth with Paul in an effort to keep him going, at one point it reminded me of a coxswain in an Oxford & Cambridge boat race ranting at his crew to spur them on. Tony the producer and I just sat in the control room mouths aghast wondering how Paul hadn’t spontaneously combusted! What we also didn’t know was that Paul had the impression that the song had a definite ending so at the appropriate point he started playing a huge drum break for the big finish only to look up and see Dave leaping up and down screaming for him to keep going as we had already decided to let the track fade. I suppose it’s a bit of a trade secret but if you listen carefully you you can pick out that mega roll! 

Paul was an absolute star that day and the fact that he kept it all together will always seem like a bit of a miracle to me. No doubt the thought of him having to play the whole damn thing all over again was enough for Paul to make sure he nailed it first time! 

Oh yes, the story behind the song? Never trust anyone who knows more about wires than you do! 

Anyway, after all of that , I’m just too tired to talk about anything anymore. 


Song info:   
Vocals & guitars - Keith   
Bass & keyboards – Dave 
Drums - Paul Beavis     
Engineering & recording – Tony Arnold   
Production - Dave and Malcolm   
Mastering - Malcolm

Issue No.16 – Horizontal Conversation  

Like most people I was of the opinion that the phrase ‘all is fair in love and war’ was coined by our old pal William Shakespeare but in fact it was first seen (albeit in Ye Olde English) in a novel by a chap called John Lyly, who was actually on the literary scene around about the same time as The Bard, they may even have been drinking buddies for all I know but that’s just a wild guess on my part. 

So - ‘Horizontal Conversation’ - and no, this is not a song written about a personal vendetta over a fish supper down the local chippy - manifested itself as my pen was poised over a blank sheet of paper and I was thinking about how most people from teenage years upwards have at some point (putting it kindly) ‘ been taken advantage of’ where matters of the heart are concerned. Anyway, the message behind the song is obviously pretty clear when you have nothing left to give, then maybe it’s time for you to take something back - your very own ‘pound of flesh’ so to speak. 

I am most certain Will would agree. 


Song info:   
Vocals & guitars - Keith   
Keyboards – Dave 
Drums - Paul Beavis     
Engineering & recording – Tony Arnold   
Production - Dave and Malcolm   
Mastering - Malcolm

Issue No.15 - On the radio... really? 

If you haven’t dozed off by now (and I wouldn’t blame you) you will (hopefully) remember (thankfully) my short career in the teaching profession. Maybe I’m being a little cruel and maybe if I’d persevered a little more, then maybe I would have been able to make a real go of a career in education, but deep down I just knew it was not the road I wanted to travel. 

Anyway, I had answered an ad in the NME placed by a band looking for a guitarist and at their request made my way down to an address in South London. At this point I’d just like to say a few words about the band scene at the time. There were of course, like today, the big names and plenty of ‘rags to riches’ stories, but hiding below all the bright lights and screaming girls there were what was known back then as ‘semi-name’ bands. The reason behind this strange terminology was the regular appearances of these bands on Radio 1. 

Of course it was nothing like the Radio 1 we know now because back then many of the DJs would feature in their show a guest band performing one song every day for a whole week. These songs were pre-recorded at one of the BBC studios and would find their way on to whichever show they had been chosen for. Not being happy with just broadcasting from London, the Beeb also presented the Radio 1 Roadshow every weekday lunchtime, arriving at various venues up and down the country where (you guessed it) there would be a live spot for a guest band… so while these select few bands did not revel in chart success, they were in fact quite well known by virtue of the fact that they had been heard on the radio.

You probably have a pretty good idea by now where I’m going with this. Yes, I managed to scrape through my audition and became a member of Katch 22, who were at the time an established radio band. In fact there may be a few of you out there who remember them from the day but if not there’s a great website at Katch 22 which has a detailed biography of the band and some lovely nostalgic photographs of those halcyon days.

Anyway, as far as I was concerned I was well on the way to fame and fortune... oh yes!