THE FINAL DAYS OF SPLENDOUR…
Back in the glory days of the NWOBHM the summer of 1980 looked like the beginning of the end of Jameson Raid. As it turns out – over thirty years later – it was just the end of the beginning; or so it seemed…
“It was the summer of 1980…” recalls Terry Dark. “Acy and Smithy gone... Phil and me still keen, still enjoying making metal music. Now we had something to prove; that we, as singer and drummer, could replace the exceptional guitar section of our band with all their abilities and still do the business. So... New musicians required and a ‘musicians wanted’ advert is placed. Even though Birmingham is the true home of heavy metal we didn’t know what to expect. All we had decided was that we wanted experienced players who could quickly take over the guitar parts and get us back on stage once more.”
It was not an easy situation for the two remaining members of Jameson Raid to find themselves in. After all, “Acy and Smithy” were bassist John Ace and guitarist Ian Smith who’d actually formed the band in the first place. They’d first played together in Spectaté II at the school they’d attended in Sutton Coldfield. Although they went their separate ways it wasn’t long before Ace (together with his most recent act’s rhythm guitarist Stewart, whose surname has been lost in the mists of time) persuaded Smith to return and with the addition of drummer Phil Kimberley the band was ready to rock ‘n’ roll. Their first gig took place on 26th August 1975 as Notre Dame, and with a much-needed change of name, the addition of Hoi Polloi singer Terry Dark in December 1976 and Stewart closing the door on the way out a few days later, Jameson Raid was complete. Their first record, the well-received and, today, highly collectable ‘Seven Days Of Splendour’ EP, came out in February 1979 and featured three of the band’s most popular songs – ‘Seven Days Of Splendour’, ‘It’s A Crime’ and ‘Catcher In The Rye’. Released in May 1980, the second ‘Metal For Muthas’ NWOBHM compilation featured the Jameson Raid track ‘Hard Lines’, although having mixed the song to their satisfaction the band were unhappy that EMI then completely remixed it into something Dark, Smith, Ace and Kimberley barely recognised. Feeling that the band were taking two steps forward and three steps back Smith and Ace handed in their notice, playing their final gig in Birmingham on 31st July 1980. A second 7” EP, widely referred to as ‘The Hypnotist’ after its opening cut but actually knowingly titled ‘End Of Part One’ was released at this time.
“Ian and Acy both left at the same time,” confirms Dark. “They simply did not believe that JR could make it; they thought punk would last much longer and metal would never recover. John Hinch, our manager (and the former Judas Priest drummer), was able to persuade them to stay for a while longer but to be honest their minds were made up: Acy wanted to pursue a career, a proper job, and Ian wanted to sign up on off-shore drilling boats and see the world. To be honest, Phil and I felt relieved when they had gone. We felt we could manage better without them than with them, and that their attitude to the music business was holding us back.”
“We had spent several years building an act and image,” adds Kimberley, “and seemed constantly to be on the verge of making it professionally, but we eventually reached a plateau where serious investment would be required to go further. And that ‘flat’ period went on for a long time. I think it was simply a case of Ian and John giving up hope sooner than Terry and I – every little set-back seemed likely to cause Ian and/or John to want to quit. So we spent a very long period balanced on the edge of success and failure. Believe me, it’s not something to be repeated by choice! The actual break-up was a long process. I seem to recall that Ian and John informed Terry and me privately, but then we continued to play the existing bookings – which lasted quite a time – while Terry and I were making our own plans. I think it was definite right from the start that Terry and I would carry on and that Ian and John would, almost certainly, not be persuaded to continue. Shortly before the intended final gig – or possibly even at the last gig – John Hinch introduced himself and offered to manage the group. Somewhat reluctantly Ian and John agreed to give it a further trial – and that trial period went on again for a long time before they eventually decided to call it quits for good. So it wasn’t a snap decision on their part by any means. The funny thing is though that I don’t remember that final gig at all. It really ought to have been a very emotional occasion, so perhaps it has become a repressed memory,” he laughs. “Or perhaps Terry and I were looking forward to making a fresh start and, as a result, it wasn’t that emotional? I don’t know…” He shakes his head. “I’m surprised to realise it, but I really do not remember it at all.”
‘End of Part One’ (featuring four tracks: ‘The Hypnotist’, ‘The Raid’, ‘Getting Hotter’ and ‘Straight From The Butchers’) would prove to be the band’s Eighties’ vinyl swansong; not that Dark and Kimberley realised this at the time. Hungry for success and determined to press on the pair set about finding a new guitarist and bassist; after all, the NWOBHM was starting to hit its stride and metal’s popularity was on the rise once more. The long and daunting process of auditioning new recruits began…
“A procession of guys from indifferent to good passed through the doors but were not up to Smithy’s standard,” is how Dark remembers it, “until finally Mike Darby arrived from God knows where with his unique blend of heavy and melodic lead sounds, an ability to write great songs, and an attitude that almost every quality player needs in our kind of band. We hauled him in as quickly as possible!”
So the hunt was now on for a bass player. “Not so easy replacing Acy though; it had to be someone very good, older, been-there-and-done-it, but no such person came along,” continues Dark. “Just a few average bassists with not much spark.” Seemingly, things were about to get worse. “During one audition this guy arrived with his father; not an auspicious start! Much too young, no experience, and a face to advertise baby products; but we thought, ‘what the hell, let him play and then send him home like the rest.’ We watched him and his dad unload his gear and hump it onto the stage with some boredom in our eyes. But then he started to play this large white Ricky… Phil was looking at me over the top of his enormous drum set and we gave each other a wink. Pete Green had arrived, and although he was only sixteen years old we knew he was the replacement we’d been looking for. We gave him a second full audition and signed him up there and then. Darby, Dark, Green and Kimberley was a fact. I call it Jameson Raid 2; JR2 for short.”
“Yes, that was me,” laughs Pete Green. “Sixteen years old, baby-faced, left school with no results and had no money, no future, and just crazy ideas about rock stardom with hair far too long to get any kind of job. I had been playing bass hard for the last couple of years, the NWOBHM had taken a firm hold on me and I had a few like-minded bandmates at school with the same crazy ideas. The problem was that they’d studied harder in class than me and had the pass for a more traditional – and boring! – life: jobs waiting, apprenticeships, a trip to the barber… Me? Well, all I had was a 100w bass combo, a Rickenbacker bass, and a spine-ripping bass sound.
”So, the next step was to start checking out the local papers to see if anyone was brave enough to take me on. At this point I must mention my late father whom I’d like to dedicate this record to. He was a great inspiration and help to his rather wayward son throughout this period, and it was he who spotted – with a glint in his eye – ‘bassist wanted for Midlands metal band Jameson Raid’. ‘They won’t have me, Dad,’ I offered rather nervously. Although confident in my playing I knew I lacked the required experience. ‘Go anyway, the experience will do you good,’ he said, with more confidence than I.”
As a local lad Green had seen Jameson Raid, although had “no knowledge of Ian and John leaving prior to my audition with the band. When I asked Terry he explained that the guys had just had enough and felt it was time to move on, and that it had been on good terms. I remember the first time I saw then in action was at Bingley Hall alongside Samson, Iron Maiden and Budgie – I was still at school at the time! It was a great gig and it struck me how unique these guys were and how outstanding Acy was on bass. Next I saw them was at Birmingham Odeon with Def Leppard, another great show, and I remember Terry telling me how he had a poor monitor sound on stage and only knew he was in key by the way his vocal cords ‘felt’ – what a pro! Anyway, after seeing the ad in the local paper in June or July 1980 – St James Road Church Hall, Edgbaston, Birmingham; it’s funny what comes back to you! – and with my Dad’s encouragement I decided to try my luck.”
People often talk about life-changing moments, but for the young bassist this was the real thing. “I turned up, tuned up, and played my ass off. Looks of pleasant surprise on Terry and Phil’s faces. Could I allow myself a little confidence? Maybe... I was asked back for a second attack, and then offered the job. In a state of shock I left with tracks to learn and those ‘crazy ideas’ of rock stardom coming into my head once more. Along with Mike on guitar the next evolution of Jameson Raid was to stride out into the world of metal – and, needless to say, we kicked some serious ass!”
But we’re getting ahead of ourselves here. “After the auditions comes the hard part,” notes Dark. “It takes a lot of patience to rebuild a band, especially if you enjoy a good reputation, and as always, it’s all down to the songs. Firstly, you need choose the old songs you still want to play and ignite a new impulse within them. Then you need start adding new ones with guts and some magic too. And that’s exactly what we did. ‘Electric Sun’, something I’d been working on just before the split was one of the first, followed by Mike’s ‘Trouble’. I presented a new chorus riff to Mike to work on and he built ‘Titanic’ around it. He and Pete put ‘Nev & Tim’s Green & White Pick-Up Truck’
together for Phil (to replace JR1’s ‘Bricks On The Wall’), and then we worked on an old idea of mine – never quite finished but always very close to it – called ‘Bulldogs’.
“Because of those final few months with JR1 we were happy to have new people in the band, so the atmosphere was at once better. Mike and Pete brought a lot of enthusiasm and we were delighted to have them. With JR1 songwriting was a real problem; for example, Ian and John at first didn’t like ‘Catcher In The Rye’ and had to be pushed into playing it. This happened with other songs as well. We were being pushed by our managers to be more commercial – of course! – yet trying to write commercial songs for JR1 was little short of a nightmare.
“So Mike and Pete were much easier to work with, and my collaboration with Mike produced songs like ‘Titanic’ and ‘Fortune Teller’ which I rate as amongst the best JR songs. Pete was at the time too young to get heavily involved in the writing but his playing added a great deal to the finished product. JR2 did a lot less in the way of long solos than before. Most songs were more up-tempo with Pete’s bass giving us a determined shove. So we had more fun, wrote songs more easily and generally got along better. Musically, Mike was more melodious than Ian, and Pete was just a great talent whose style, as I said, pushed and drove. Him playing together with Phil was an awesome motor in the band. We also came very close to a major record contract with a top label: time has eroded my certainty but I know it was either CBS or EMI who were interested in us.”
“The arrival of Pete and Mike certainly introduced a subtle but distinct difference in the band’s writing style,” adds Kimberley. “It’s difficult to analyse the differences precisely, but the ‘second generation JR’ allowed me personally to explore a number of drumming styles quite different to those I had been performing with JR1. ‘Run For Cover’, for example, combined a fast 6:8 beat on bass drums with a 2:4 tempo on cymbal and snare; the song Terry mentioned, ‘Electric Sun’, involved a series of breaks synchronised to support various guitar and vocal phrases – I never synchronised with Ian and John, they had to fight their own corners!” he laughs. “And ‘Fortune Teller’ (or ‘Hall Of Mirrors’ as it’s sometimes called) was like nothing I had ever played before. But although their writing styles were rather different, I think the performances by Peter and Mike when playing JR1 numbers were very true to the originals. And in those days Peter, although an extraordinarily good bass player, was slightly more subdued (i.e. more sane!) than John on stage, whereas Mike was already crazy like Ian. Never worked out if it was it an act, or if he was always ‘in character’! We could never tell!”
“After several weeks’ rehearsals the first gig was planned at Wolverhampton Lafayette club, in late December I think,” says Green. “However, a twist of fate – White Spirit being involved in a road traffic accident of some kind – had left a slot open at Walsall Town Hall. At first, Terry was very reluctant to do this as JR2 were untested and, possibly, not ready, but we collectively decided ‘what the hell’ and went for it. We played, we saw, we fucking kicked ass!” he laughs, rather mis-quoting Julius Caesar. “My first gig ever, sixteen years old, 2,000 people. YES!” he roars.
“Ah yes, our first gig at Walsall Town Hall…” Dark’s recollections are a little less excitable: “we used more effects, played the songs quicker and the two new guys were immediately over any nerves! Pete was still a youngster and had never experienced anything like it. Mike’s more melodic playing, combined with heavy chords and Pete’s raspy bass sound – he also played many more notes than Acy – were very well received. And you know what? Not one single person came round afterwards and said, ‘it wasn’t as good’. The fans loved it and we made many, many, new friends too, a lot of whom never saw the previous line-up. Our gigs were as good as ever and we were looking forward to more success. This dream was broken when, far too early, Mike decided to leave the band. Why? I can’t remember now. It was in 1982 but I can’t be more exact. I know some of his reasons were a little ‘indefinable’, and I know his girlfriend at the time certainly played an inglorious role. It happened fairly suddenly as I recall and Mike was determined about it so we didn’t try to persuade him to stay; Phil and I had done that with Acy and Smithy and it wasn’t a happy situation. Once Phil and I had noticed that their hearts were no longer in it everything became for them a chore: rehearsals – a chore; arranging gigs – a chore, etc, etc. And all the time there was the feeling that you were trying to persuade them to do something against their will. That just didn’t work and made everyone feel uneasy. Writing new songs with JR1 was always difficult, but under those circumstances became much worse. We didn’t want to get into that same situation with Mike so we asked him several times if he was sure, and then respected his decision. We had learned our lessons well.”
“I don’t recall any great problems, just very slight differences in attitude,” says Kimberley of Darby’s departure. “Absolutely no criticism intended, but three of us were devoting everything to the band whilst Mike clearly had a life elsewhere. It was not a big problem and, if the band had made it into the serious ‘big time’ it would not have been a problem at all. But as progress was slow I think Mike found that other things were just as much fun. There was no cataclysmic break up (assuming my memory is reliable!” he laughs. “Perhaps there was and I forgot it!), just a slow drift until one day nobody (including Mike himself) cared whether he continued or not.”
Green also “can’t recall why Mike left, or recall any bad feeling until right at the end. I think Mike must have tackled his ‘issues’ with Terry and Phil alone. I recall some minor disgruntlement over expenses after one gig, and the next thing Mike was announcing his leaving… We played his final gig at Frank F Harrison High School; that was where we had a full scale dragon’s head on stage, complete with fire breath and firework flaring eyes... And that was that.”
By the end of 1982 it was all over. The memory did limp on for a while longer as Green created a new band under the banner The Raid – the informal name by which Jameson Raid were known to fans and friends – but it was final throw of the dice and wasn’t to last long. Consigned to the history books, nothing more was heard about Jameson Raid until their much-welcomed reformation in 2010.
Green describes Jameson Raid as “an un-pigeon-hole-able band; always exciting, surprising, intelligent, kick-ass and unique” and this album presents irrefutable evidence of this. “It’s kind of proof that we succeeded in our goals,” notes Dark. “Although we weren’t able to afford fancy studios these recordings show clearly what we were about. Roger Brookman's excellent work at the mixing desk during rehearsals (his nephew Sam Bollands is our sound man now) has once again proved invaluable in making this collection and reminds me how delighted we were that he decided to stay with us during the transition between JR1 and JR2. Roger is unfortunately long gone now but he will always be remembered.
“And now we’re working on a new band. Pete and I have invited two new guys to carry the torch forward with us. And I think we’ll make metal music until we keel over, because we love it.”
And you can’t argue with that…
“All the tracks on this album are performed by JR2, the Darby, Dark, Green, Kimberley line-up. Some of the songs appeared on ‘Just As The Dust Had Settled’ but in every case we have used a different version for this release, either another studio version (‘Fortune Teller’ and ‘Electric Sun’) or a live rehearsal version.
“‘Bulldogs’ has never seen the light of day before; JR1 with Ian and Acy just couldn’t make the number work. But then the new guys came along and Mike Darby added some great touches and Pete Green’s bass sings. And although the version you will hear is still incomplete, you can see that it would have been very interesting if we’d ever been able to do it properly in a studio. Also previously unreleased are ‘Trouble’ and ‘Tim & Nev’s Green & White Pick-Up Truck’, a vehicle – if you’ll excuse the pun! – for Phil’s drum work.
“Most of the tracks JR2 covered from JR1 are more up-tempo and grittier, I would say, but maybe that’s up to the listener to decide...
“I hope you enjoy these songs and are looking forward to the new ones coming soon.”
This original version of ‘Electric Sun’ was recorded at Airport Studios, London, in 1980 and has never been released before. A careful listen reveals a different arrangement, including a longer guitar solo from Mike Darby, and a less melancholic and more rocky vocal than in the later version included on ‘Just As The Dust Had Settled’. This song from Terry Dark is sunny and twangy, revealing his early Byrds influences and drives along like an open top car on a summer’s day!
Another surprise find was this complete studio version of ‘Fortune Teller’ (aka ‘Hall of Mirrors’), again recorded at Airport Studios at the same time as ‘Electric Sun’. Good clear lead and backing vocals on this song from Mike Darby and Terry Dark and a thoughtful solo from Mike burns up the bars and leaves you wanting more. This version has never previously been released.
A classic song from Mike and Terry, ‘Titanic’ has all the power and thrust of the ship itself. This version has a neat solo and pumping Pete Green bass whilst Phil Kimberley holds the ship steady on course. An amazing Roger Brookman live practice recording, complete with echo and clarity.
NEV & TIM’S GREEN & WHITE PICK-UP TRUCK
Also never before released. Phil uses an instrumental format (put together by Pete with additions from Mike) to lay down a formidable series of drum solo works. Virile, ascendant, solid staying-power from one of metal’s most original drummers. Six-and-a-half minutes of pure enjoyment. And the title? Well, they had to call it something!
STRAIGHT FROM THE BUTCHERS
Biting sarcasm from Terry, super riffing from Mike. Rock ‘n’ roll from 1980 in true Jameson Raid style on this newly arranged and up-tempo song from the original line-up.
CATCHER IN THE RYE
A re-working of this JR classic from the pen of Terry who loosely based the lyric on the Sallinger novel and tried to capture the feeling of what he refers to as “that wonderful book”. Many a JR fan’s all-time favourite song, this version features a very sweet, melody-filled solo by Mike over the ever-forceful rhythm section of Pete and Phil. A slightly different vocal and a shorter arrangement only add to this song’s power.
Darby, Dark, Green and Kimberley grab hold of this JR song and ride it like a mad stallion into the night. Pete’s bass governs the rhythm and Terry’s vocals tell you all you need to know……..
Although close to the original arrangement, this live practice version of ‘The Hypnotist’ is quicker and punchier than fans of the first line-up will be used to. Again, Roger Brookman managed to capture all the instruments and vocals clearly on a twelve-track HH mixer, add echoes, and then mix it onto a cassette tape. Bam! Just like that. “Here, guys. You can take it home and listen to it if you want!” Errr… Thanks, Rog…
Never previously released, ‘Trouble’ was penned by Mike with lyrics by Terry. No-one talks about the neutron bomb any more but it still exists, waiting in some sinister, dark corner… This forceful slice of rock comes from 1981 and switches from hard to smooth with a delicate solo piece underpinned by a rasping bass which leads us to a massive sheer horse-power riff from Mike. A headbanger to relish!
“A complete shock,” is how Terry described his feelings on first hearing this re-discovered effort from 1980. Although he had written this song for the original band, half the guys didnt like it so it never made the stage. Terry and Phil decided that because of Mike’s and Pete’s different styles it might work with the new line-up so the four polled their talents to finish the song. The bass is truly a second lead instrument here. Never before released, this is the only version found and is certainly ‘loose’ in places but there’s no need to make an excuse for including it here. It’s different, daring, melodic and rocky. ‘Bulldogs’ bites, races along, and is absolutely typical of the Darby, Dark, Green Kimberley era; in fact, typical Jameson Raid, come to that.