Being early forerunners of the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal movement (just like Adrian Smith's Urchin from the East End of London), Diamond Lil was formed during 1975 with the line up of Lorna Oakley (vocals), Harry Spooner (lead guitar), Alan Letch (bass guitar) and Marcus Foakes (drums).
The group started in Braintree, Essex, as a covers band playing standards taken from groups such as Wishbone Ash, The Pirates, Thin Lizzy and other 1970's bands as well as playing some rock classics. Their first ever live appearance took place on the 10th of December 1975.
During their first year, Diamond Lil evolved from a pure covers band to become a totally original group playing a repertoire of no less than forty self-penned songs. Lead guitarist Harry Spooner struggles to describe the actual musical style of Diamond Lil: “I have noticed that Diamond Lil was later described as Doom Metal. Not sure that we thought of ourselves as that, nor as Heavy Metal or Punk. We just wrote, produced and played what we wanted to do and never got too much involved in trying to label ourselves. The main thing was to enjoy what we were playing and have some fun along the way. This was way before the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal broke. I had no idea about it until I discovered that there was an interest in some of our old recordings in about 2004 and I also discovered that we had a write up in 'The New Wave Of British Metal Encyclopaedia'. I was not aware of any change and have never tried to classify my, or our, musical interests. We just went with the flow, so to speak, and did what we wanted musically, without any real influences or attempts to be labelled.”
The band became popular on the local scene playing in pubs and clubs in Essex, Suffolk, Norfolk, Cambridgeshire, East and Central London. Diamond Lil also supported such New Wave and Punk acts such as Ian Drury And The Blockheads or The Vibrators who were touring the colleges and clubs at the time.
Eventually, Diamond Lil recorded an album of eleven songs, which has now been released on High Roller Records. This compilation album provided a snapshot of the group as it was during the late 1970's, with four tracks recorded in 1976, four from 1977 and three from 1978. The group recorded eight of the tracks at Spaceward Studios in Cambridge, which is today most famous for Iron Maiden having recorded their legendary “Soundhouse Tapes” 7" single there over Christmas 1979. “It was a really great little studio,” says Harry Spooner. “And because it was run by Gary Lucas and Mike Kemp it had a very low key, unpretentious feel to it. Very relaxing. Gary and Mike were both very talented and got a great sound. Plus it was affordable so we could finance the recordings without it being too much of a financial burden to us. I recall that it was set up in the basement of and old terrace house in Cambridge.”
Back in the 1970's, the album was never formally released but was only produced in acetate format with a plain sleeve. Harry Spooner explains: “The acetates were really produced just for archive purposes and to see what they would be like on vinyl. They were never used for promotion. At that time cassette tapes were used for promotional purposes, not vinyl.”
There also was a very limited number of acetate singles produced, as Harry recalls: “There was an acetate single of 'Tonight’s The Night' and 'I Don’t Care' taken from the album. Again, this was cut at PRT Studios in London and I paid for this single, too. It was cut sometime in 1978 but not at the same time as the album.”
A number called “Yobbos And Tarts” (also on the High Roller album) was probably the most popular Diamond Lil song. “This was just a song that regulars who came to some of our gigs used to sing before we performed,” remembers Harry Spooner. “We were flattered that people remembered this song sometimes two or three months after a previous gig.”
In 2004 Harry Spooner was approached by Malc Macmillan, author of “The New Wave Of British Heavy Metal Encyclopedia”, with a view to releasing a limited edition retrospective single from the 1970's album (on Malc's own Zerlinda Records label). The result was that the tracks "Patron Of Hell" and "The Loser" were selected, produced and issued in 2005.
The last gig of the original incarnation of Diamond Lil took place on the 30th of December 1978. That line up ceased to exist in early 1979. Harry Spooner left to form Berlin Ritz and Diamond Lil carried on for a very short while with another guitarist. “Berlin Ritz was definitely the direct follow up to Diamond Lil, particularly for me,” says Harry. “Marcus Foakes, the Diamond Lil drummer, joined up with me to form the original Berlin Ritz in the summer of 1979 and was on the first two Berlin Ritz singles. Alan Letch, bass Player with Diamond Lil, got involved with Berlin Ritz much later on and is with Berlin Ritz today.”
Diamond Lil – brief history
Diamond Lil was formed during 1975 and continued until 1978 with the line up of Lorna Oakley (vocals), Harry Spooner (lead guitar), Alan Letch (bass guitar) and Marcus Foakes (drums).
The group started in Braintree Essex as a 'covers band' playing standards taken from groups such as Wishbone Ash, the Pirates, Thin Lizzy and other 70's bands as well as playing some rock classics.
During their first year, Diamond Lil evolved from a pure covers band to become a totally original group playing a repertoire of some forty self penned songs. The band became popular on the local scene playing in pubs and clubs in Essex, Suffolk, Norfolk, Cambridgeshire, East and Central London. The group played at such places as Whites in Norwich, The Griffin Bury St. Edmunds, The Alma in Cambridge, The Royal William in Ipswich, The Rock Garden in Covent Garden London as well as many more pub and club rock venues.
The group supported such 'New Wave' and 'Punk' acts as Ian Drury and The Blockheads and the Vibrators who were touring the colleges and clubs at the time. The band was soon performing a totally original set and became known and accepted as an 'original' band not reliant on covers to sustain a working itinerary.
As well as playing local gigs in Braintree Essex, Diamond Lil covered the East Anglian Pub circuit around Ipswich and Colchester, particularly at 'Whites' in Norwich where Diamond Lil began to get well known for its original material.
During this period Diamond Lil recorded an album of eleven songs, all originals and from the typical live set list at the time.
The compilation album provided a snapshot of the group as it was during the late 70's with four tracks recorded in 1976, four from 1977 and three from 1978. The group recorded eight of the tracks at Spaceward in Cambridge which at the time was involved in recording many of the new wave, punk and heavy metal bands that were around in the late 1970's. The remaining three tracks were recorded at Speedway Studios in Romford Essex.
The Album was never formally released but was produced in Acetate format with plain sleeve. Also there were a very limited number of Acetate singles produced. The Band produced a small run of album cassettes at the time. Amongst the tracks, 'I Don’t Care' and 'Tonight's the Night' were popular with both the band and followers. 'Yobbos and Tarts' became an 'anthem' for followers of the group.
In 2004 Harry Spooner was approached by Malc Macmillan of Zerlinda Records with a view to releasing a limited edition single from the 1970's album produced by Diamond Lil.
Malc Macmillan is the compiler, editor and historian who produced the 800 page New Wave of British Heavy Metal Encyclopedia which is a comprehensive account of many obscure and successful outfits operating in the late 70s and 80s period.
The plan was to produce a run of 500 limited edition singles on 7" vinyl, each individually numbered. The result was that the tracks "Patron Of Hell" and "The Loser" were selected and produced and issued in 2005.
The Set List
Diamond Lil eventually became a completely original band and produced approximately 40 original numbers (maybe more) over two to three years. They were all written by Harry Spooner but Lorna Oakley and Alan Letch co-wrote two particularly good numbers, one of which was "Wild Fire Lover", which is on the Diamond Lil album, and "Hemophilia Rock".
Of these numbers the following were recorded:
27th September 1976 at Spaceward Studios, Cambridge
"Black Rat", "Patron of Hell", "Red Man" and "The Loser"
21st July 1977 at Spaceward Studios, Cambridge
"I Don't Care", "Tonight’s The Night", "Discontinued Line" and "Wild Fire Lover"
26th May 1978 at Speedway Studios, Romford (we called it the "Fridge")
"It's Down To Me", "Spring Fever" and "Yobbos and Tarts"
During 1977/1978 some other tracks were informally recorded.
Good After Bad, Be With You Tonight, Crazy Nights, Come On and High Flyer were later recorded by Berlin Ritz during 1978-1980 period.