1977 – Baltimore, Randy Newman

In the late 70s I was rhythm guitarist in a band called Dilettante. I had been playing with a more RnB type band called A.K.A. Bats and was approached by two musicians, Dave Paillow and Mike Bannon, to see if was interested.

The band didn’t have a name then but we sat and talked about what their influences were. Mike was very keen on Captain Beefheart and dub reggae which immediately made me interested. Although I was enjoying playing with A.K.A. Bats and we had done some good gigs, including headlining at the Kulture Shock event in the Great Hall at Lancaster University, the music we were playing wasn’t really the sort of stuff I wanted to do. The band was popular and a lot of the material was good for dancing, but I really wanted to be involved in something more experimental.

This was around the end of the first wave of punk and a lot of the music I was listening to, apart from old favourites like Bowie, Zappa, and Genesis (alright, we all have our weakness, but only Peter Gabriel Genesis, not the Phil Collins stuff), was punk (Sex Pistols, X-Ray Specs) and post-punk (XTC, Magazine). Plus I was getting in to some of the new US bands, particularly Patti Smith whose ‘Horses’ album had really made an impression. And of course there was always Beefheart.

So I quit A.K.A. Bats and joined the newly named Dilettante. We started rehearsing at what was the Musician’s Co-op rehearsal room upstairs from Single Step. It’s now the Whale Tail cafe but then it was just a big, bare room with no heating, no carpets and bare stone walls. I’ve tried to find a photo of it as it was then but no luck. If anyone has any photos from the time I’d be most grateful.

The band was:

  • Dave Paillow – lead guitar, lead vocals and songwriter
    • Guild SG guitar (I think), Peavey Pacer combo – the combination was fantastic, giving a really dirty sound without any effects
  • Mike Bannon – bass guitar and long hair
    • Fender Precision bass (I think). Not sure of the amp. As far as I remember always after that deep, Jah Wobble bass sound
  • Me – rhythm guitar and alcohol
    • Johnstone electric (I think they were made somewhere in the Barrow area), Maine Stage combo (as far as I remember a transistor combo) – I don’t know why I ended up with this gear, the guitar was nice but I should have had a valve amp
  • John Beale (I think) – drums – although John wasn’t sure about the band and was in and out a couple of times, being replaced by a guy from Carnforth called Dave Nixon who went on to play in a heavy metal band.
    • no idea what kit. John was a really good drummer but I don’t think was really committed to the band.

We put together a really interesting set list made up of other people’s songs and Dave’s original compositions – and I use the word ‘original’ in its truest sense! Here is the set list:

  • I‘m Not In Love – the 10cc song which had been a huge hit. This was our opener and was done very much as a punk song – 1, 2, 3, 4, duh duh duh duh duh I’m not in love etc. The original is, by the way, a song I loathe with a passion so it was quite therapeutic to mess with it like this, although I got the impression, at our one and only gig (alcohol comes into this), that some members of the audience thought our approach to the song was somewhat sacrilegious. Then, in no particular order
  • Everlasting Dreamer – one of Dave’s and probably his straightest song. A sort of Lancashire Reggae.
  • The Way You Play Your Guitar, Reminds Me of a Volkswagen Car – another of Dave’s; quite a broken rhythm and a bit Beefheart in feel
  • Hurricane – Neil Young. Great song and played fairly straight. What more do you need to do with a song as good as this?
  • Dave Harry’s Fingers – Dave’s song again. Dave Harry was the local guitar hero at this time. He was a really nice guy and, although I can’t remember what band he was in at the time (I think it might have been the Drongoes, any help?), had been in Blackmail with Mike Bannon. A great song with tasty guitar from Dave Paillow. I remember Dave Harry coming to one of our rehearsals where we played the song for him. I think he liked it.
  • Once Met a Man Outside the Cedarwood Store, Sold Me a Quid Deal, Made my Eyes Pop Out – how’s that for a title. Dave again. This one was fast and furious and, I would say, definitely post-punk.
  • Baltimore – Randy Newman. A great song and a great arrangement by Dave. I loved playing the rhythm for this. We played it a bit heavier than Randy Newman but it’s a great song in either version. Here’s a link to his version. Really nice lyrics as well:

Beat-up little seagull
On a marble stair
Tryin’ to find the ocean
Lookin’ everywhere

Here’s Randy Newman’s version. I’d love to play ours as well but……….

Anyway, we rehearsed several times a week for about 6 months and I recorded, I think, every rehearsal. Sad to say all the tapes are long lost. I’d love to hear them now to see how good we were.

At the end of this we played one gig.

dilettante

The only photo I have of the band. That’s me (short hair), Mike (long hair) and David (medium hair), at the Greaves Hotel.

One! Then broke up. And it was my fault. I was drinking fairly heavily at this time and, really, my life was falling apart. I would drink every day and always had a few bottles (mainly Carlsberg Special) at rehearsals. I don’t remember much about the gig. I know it was at the Greaves Hotel – recently demolished to make way for student flats. I think we went down quite well but, as soon as I came off stage, the alcohol I had been drinking steadily hit me and I was suddenly very drunk. Seemingly I wandered off without helping to take down the gear and pack it into the van (I don’t even know whose van). Because of my behaviour there was a big row and – Boof! that was the end of the band.

Sad really. I think we were pretty good and if I had been more together we might have gone somewhere. Then again we might not.
I still bump into Mike occasionally. The long hair has gone, of course, and he is, to all intents and purposes, a respectable middle-aged man who works with computers (sorry Mike if this is maligning you). As to Dave Paillow, last I heard someone said he was living in Canada. I have no idea where either of the drummers are now.

One thought on “1977 – Baltimore, Randy Newman

  1. Pingback: Writing Songs | dive for your memory

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