Although having only existed for a relatively short timespan (from 1980 to 1984), the band Bashful Alley has nevertheless made a name for themselves during the turbulent period of the N.W.O.B.H.M. Their one and only single called "Running Blind" (released in 1982) is a masterpiece of the genre.
Pretty unusual for a Metal band in the early '80's, Bashful Alley was born at university (in Lancaster, North-West England, to be precise). Original guitarist and founder Rob Tidd remembers: "We played at the university several times - mainly at the smaller, individual bars, but a couple of times at the 'Great Hall'. At the time this was a very popular venue on the UK college gig circuit. I saw loads of bands there, including Wishbone Ash, The Scorpions, Judas Priest, Motörhead and many more. So it was quite a blast to play on that stage. One gig was a 'local talent' night, and the photo on the cover of the "It's About Time" CD (which was taken by my brother) came from that gig. The other time we played there was as support to The Sweet - which turned out to be a real disappointment as the audience was tiny!" As mentioned, Rob was studying at the university of Lancaster at the time, and even got a degree in the end: "I ended up with a degree in 'Marketing', which was a relatively new thing at the time. So technically I'm 'Rob Tidd B.Sc.(Hons)'!And no, I never worked in marketing - although the fact that I had a degree did help me get other jobs. But they've always been just 'day jobs' to me …"
Rob started out as the guitarist for Bashful Alley but after a time he also took over vocal duties, which might have given him a hard time, doing two jobs at once: "Truff and I were a bit older than Dave and Donkey (our original singer and drummer), so when we graduated they were still at university. The two of us relocated to Lichfield (Staffordshire) and wanted to carry on with the band. We found a drummer (Robin Baxter) easily enough, but finding a singer was more difficult. I basically started doing the vocals at rehearsals and yes, it was tricky at first, but once I got the hang of it we all thought I was doing an OK job so I stuck with it. I was writing the songs anyway, and would have had to teach them to a new singer, so it just seemed easier. Would we have had some real success if we had found a 'proper' singer? Probably!"
However, in 1982, Bashfull Alley recorded and released their first and only single "Running Blind" (500 were pressed through Ellie Jay and another 1,000 through Graffiti a couple of months later). In my opinion, the numbers "My My My" and "Running Blind" did both have huge hit potential, very catchy songs. Rob feels flattered: "Thank you. 'Running Blind' is basically a pop song I wrote for a band I was in before Bashful Alley. (They were called 'Next' - don't bother looking, there's nothing to find!) I just beefed it up a bit. But I always tried to write good tunes - didn't always succeed, but at least I tried. I am still waiting for some big band to cover one of my songs and finally make me some money!" Even before the single was out, me, then a 14-year old headbanger from Berlin in what was still West-Germany, had heard the band's first three-track demo through the global tape trading network. Rob is still baffled by this fact: "I was aware that tape trading was going on - the forerunner to Napster and online file-sharing! - because we actively encouraged people to send us blank tapes and stamped, self-addressed envelopes and we'd just copy our tape for them! I don't personally remember sending any outside the UK but I guess we must have … the idea that we might have been 'big' in Europe, or even just had a handful of fans at the time, is quite mind-boggling, even now!"
Even after the single had been released in 1982, Bashful Alley was not approached by record companies: "No, we never had any interest whatsoever from any record companies, even local Midlands-based labels like Heavy Metal Records. Somewhere - don't ask me to find them - I have a load of record company rejection letters. It was very frustrating. I knew that our stuff was better than a lot of other bands who were getting signed - and this is why we thought we'd press a 7" single ourselves. Not many bands were doing that at the time and we thought it might get us some attention (hey - it worked for Def Leppard!). Also, it gave us a product to sell at gigs and through local record shops (remember record shops ...?)."
However, the release of the single spurned the busiest time in Bashfully Alley's career, with them appearing live at London's famous Marquee club and the more seedy Ruskin Arms pub in London's East End (home of Iron Maiden and a number of early '80's Oi! Bands). Rob thinks back: "The Marquee and the Ruskin? We only played one gig at each of them. At the Marquee we were supporting Midlands glam-rockers Wrathchild. They had a cage built around their drum kit which they refused to remove for our support set, so we had a ridiculously small amount of stage left to fit onto! There were not many people in the venue when we took the stage - but we won them over! As for the Ruskin, it wasn't as rough as you may have heard. Don't forget, we were used to playing at some seriously dodgy venues around the Midlands … Anyway, we were the only band playing but once again it was sparsely attended and the audience didn't seem very enthusiastic at first. But - and this is something very annoying that happens to a lot of bands - after we finished (to very little response all night), almost every person there came up and said something like 'That was great! When's your record coming out? When are you coming back?' etc., etc. And as a performer you think: 'Well, if you liked it so much, 'WHY DIDN'T YOU APPLAUD OR CHEER!?' But my main memory of that Ruskin gig is this: we had previously been contacted by a Dutch fan, a girl called Black Rose (probably through the tape trading network!) who was going to be in the UK at the time and wanted to know if we'd be playing anywhere. I told her about the Ruskin gig and she said she'd be there, along with a friend who was traveling with her. And she did indeed show up - ten minutes before we finished! Lovely girl …"
By 1984, Rob Tidd had been disillusioned with Bashful Alley and moved to the capital: "When I moved to London in 1984, that was what ended the band. Looking back, we hadn't been going very long at all, but I was getting frustrated at our lack of progress and I wanted to give London a try. So I left. I didn't go to London to get a 'proper job'. I went with every intention of joining a 'proper band'. I played in several bands while I was there (again, don't bother looking …). The closest I got to success was in a band called Dollface in the mid-'90's. We had a deal with an indie label (Kill City Records. They're not around any more.), put out three EPs and an album, toured the UK and Europe (including the support slot on Slash's Snakepit UK tour in '95) but, once again, couldn't seem to get to the next level and split up in 1997. It was cool to get to meet Slash and Gilby Clarke, though - even got to meet Paul Rodgers, who turned up at the London gig at The Forum. The Dollface album, "Giant" is obviously long-deleted but doubtless there are copies to be found. It's a good album but I was never that keen on the overall production." Totally out of the blue, a couple of years back, a CD titled "It's About Time" was published (which is now out on vinyl through High Roller Records). Even Rob was surprised: "I was contacted by Olli Klemm from High Vaultage. He'd got my e-mail address from somewhere (must have googled me!), asked if I was the guy from Bashful Alley and would I be interested in putting out an album? I wasn't sure at first - the only material I had was a bunch of demos on cassette tapes. Were they good enough to release? Olli assured me he had the technology to master from the cassettes and make them sound good on CD. But were the songs themselves, in demo form, good enough? At first I didn't think so, but then I decided - well, what good are they doing me on a bunch of cassettes in a box in my attic? So we went ahead with it. I wrote sleeve-notes and provided some photos and clippings, as well as the tapes and a mint copy of the original single (I still had a few left). High Vaultage did the rest and I was pleased with the result - the overall sound was much better than I expected and the CD package was pretty good, too.
Not through family connections but otherwise there is a certain bond between Bashful Alley and the girls in Girlschool: "Excuse my language, but Girlschool fucking rule! There is no family connection but I do know the girls pretty well. I met them and became friends when I was in that band Dollface in the '90's. Kim was going out with our bass player at the time and I was thrilled to get the chance to meet them as I'd been a big fan. We (Dollface) supported them a couple of times and I even worked as their roadie on occasion and played lead guitar on a demo for them once, too! Kelly was still in the band at that time and she borrowed my Les Paul for a few gigs when hers was getting repaired. Somehow, it sounded sweeter when she gave it back to me … She was a beautiful person and a fantastic guitarist and she is sadly missed. They're great girls, all of them. Love 'em to bits. Haven't seen them for a while, unfortunately, but they seem to be more popular than ever these days - which is exactly as it should be. Cheers you lot!"