Back in the early eighties I started writing poetry mainly about life on a council estate where I had lived with my parents and three younger brothers. The poetry turned into lyrics and as I went along melodies would come into my head, at an amateurish level of course because I had no musical background and couldn’t play a note on any instrument offered at primary school nor indeed was I interested in the music club at grammar school. However my parents loved ballroom dancing (they met at the Hammersmith Palais) and I was brought up on a mixture of big band music, the light programme and assorted 78’s of the late forties / early fifties variety. That was when I was pre-teen! The very first 45 I bought was Buddy Holly Rave On on Coral Records. But wait….I had no record player! How could I play this black vinyl item of worship? From an early age I was always looking for a way to do “stuff”, so I looked at my mum’s 78rpm wind up record player complete with what now looks like a drill bit for a stylus (needle they called it in those days) and decided that I could reduce the speed of the rpm down to approx. 45rpm by stuffing cotton wool between the platter and edge of the bodywork so to speak. After several attempts, Hey Presto! I had it licked and played and played and played the Coral Record until the needle almost went through to the B side (which was incidentally called Take Your Time ….something I rarely did).
There was no stopping me from there on in. Scores of 45’s later I decided to buy a Dansette 33/45 auto-changer with the money I saved from my paper round and odd weekend jobs. The trouble was that when I christened the Dansette with “Rave On” the ultra technical diamond stylus on my new record player skidded across the black vinyl of worship as if skating on ice! Yes you guessed it, the needle on the 78rpm had gouged its own furrow that resembled agricultural ploughing of the deepest kind. Several months later with mother’s help I managed to replace my original 45′ and have never looked back since.
Fast forward to the eighties. My neighbour’s daughter went out with the drummer of a local band Chevy 57 and as the band only did rockabilly covers they asked me to write them an original song which I did, titled 57 the lyrics based on the classic motor driving down the road with connections to the band itself e.g. ” 57 is a real mean machine” no Pulitzer prize for that line! The band rehearsed once or twice a week in the lead singer’s dad’s garage so I popped over to hear what they had come up with after giving them the demo to listen to.
It was interesting as my original demo was me singing into a cassette machine with no instruments whatsoever and the band managed to come up with a raw raucous two chord wonder featuring drums, upright bass, lead guitar, vocals and wow, wait for it, backing vocals! As the band were regularly gigging the working mens club circuit we decided to record the track with another Malski original Alias Smith & Jones based on the western tv series of the same name. Lyric e.g. “Alias Smith & Jones also known as the naughty boys, naughty boys you ought a boys be good boys”. Again I wasn’t shortlisted for the Booker Prize Awards.
Now came an interesting learning curve. We booked into a local 8 track studio to record the two tracks and as I was funding the project, we decided on a “one take live as possible session” so as not to get bogged down in the expense of £££ per hour unlimited budget. The band and I had absolutely no experience of recording but we went ahead with a day session and ended up with a reasonable result that prompted me to further fund a limited 7″ pressing so that the band could sell the single at gigs etc., There was however a fundamental problem! We recorded on tape at 71/2ips but hadn’t told the engineer that we were going to master the tape for a vinyl pressing. Had he known in advance we would have recorded at 15ips so the master was then “Industry Standard”. To cut a long story short the master produced 1000 singles which were below par and the vinyl jumped in several places. I had revisited my old Coral Records days but this time I couldn’t bodge the issue!
Luckily Sony Records in Aylesbury were very accommodating and offered to remaster from the original tape using some technical wizardry and re-pressed 1000 singles at a special deal. After releasing the single on my own Maestro Records label (MR001) the band were now performing their set of rockabilly covers along with several of my original songs namely 57, Alias Smith & Jones, Girls World, Cliff White of Dover and an interestingly poignant / ambiguous poetry based ballad about my upbringing on the council estate titled 5 Star Living. To my disappointment, the Chevy relationship petered out when the band’s drummer was involved in a freak accident when his car was hit by a falling tree and the band stopped rehearsing and gigging as a result.
I really enjoyed my experience with Chevy 57 but the band’s demise led me to pursue a different avenue for the recording of my songs. I joined BASCA (British Academy Of Songwriters Composers and Authors) and an issue of the quarterly magazine I received featured an advert that offered demos for £poa dubbed to cassette and arranged and recorded by an experienced musician whose name was Barry Gibbons (who later became one of my best friends). His set up sounded professional with his HQ address as ‘Beach House Recorders’ on the south coast. One of the benefits of being a BASCA member was the ability to set up meetings in London at their offices in London W1 so without further ado I set up a meeting with Barry and we met “in town” so that I could discuss and play my music to him. He was rather interested in what I was trying to achieve and the first demos he did for me were 5 Star Living and Can’t Speak French. In those days it wasn’t necessary to attend a studio as the demo service was primarily aimed at people like me who would hum a tune into a cassette machine and then send the tape with your £££’s and await the results. I have to say that the day the finished demos arrived I was mightily impressed!
My two songs were transformed from a hummed, babbling, scrambled, out of tune rendition of a set of lyrics into what sounded to me like a masterpiece. In fact the only tangible thing that Barry had to work with was a set of typed out lyrics. The rest was down to his imagination and musicianship skills. This was so so different. Imagine the drift away from live rockabilly three-piece band trying to interpret a bunch of pop songs to suit their style and then hearing the mighty Barry Gibbonsesque epics that followed that were full of well crafted synth pop sounds, drums in time and wait for it, decent vocals! I loved Chevy 57 but this was brilliant to my ears and worth every penny. Accessible CB Radio came along that year and I bought my son a hand-set which had a glossary of CB slang / terminology in a little booklet so I wrote a ditty called Breaker One Four that eventually became the second release on Maestro Records (MR002). As Barry was based near Folkestone I decided to name the B side Channel Tunnel. Appropriate as this was the same year ‘Le Tunnel’ was given the go-ahead for private funding with the project two years earlier originally called “The Mouse-hole” which sort of echoed my moniker! Barry and I then released a tongue-in-cheek version of Da Doo Ron Ron (MR003) b/w an original Malski epic Clever Boy that originally started life as a George Best tribute poem “Belfast Boy”. At this time a band from the Thanet area called Naughty Thoughts were recording with Barry and were finishing off a cover version track of the Small Faces All Or Nothing I was keen on this band and this was released on Maestro Records MR004 b/w a band original Weekdays The band’s manager, Andrew McPherson, (nicknamed McSpokesperson), had high hopes for his protegés who were the leading lights in the area but he couldn’t land a deal for the album he hoped would elevate them to the next level. I decided to invest in this band and hired the services of Clive Scott (he of the band Jigsaw and the hit Sky High fame) as producer. This put a slight wedge in my relationship with Barry as he felt left out of proceedings having introduced the now newly named and maturing The Thoughts to me in the first place. We got through it though and, as described in a later chapter, got together again for The Titanic Suite.
So off we went with Clive Scott to Majestic Studios in downtown Clapham (London) that Clive had recommended to me as he had produced there many times with his engineer Andy Pearce assisting as the so-called ‘knob twiddler’. We recorded 15 new tracks, all originals written by different collaborating combinations of the band members, notably Chris Waters and Mark Edwards, who were the driving force behind the power pop unit. Clive was an excellent musician and songwriter in his own right, writing and performing a string of hit singles by Jigsaw (who were massive in Japan) and providing hits for acts such as Camberwick Green and so on. He brought a musical discipline to the band and played keyboards on many of the tracks. We decided to put three of the tracks on an e.p. (extended play) on a new label I formed called Straight Eight Records. The marketing idea behind this was to distance the band from Maestro Records by having a new deal with a new label. The flagship track of the whole project was a track called ‘Wait A Long Time For You that guest-featured top saxophonist Gary Barnacle who put a marker down with his solo riffs and expert playing. Next up was Who said Anything About Love a racy number that was softened a little by Clive’s ‘Horse Of The Year Show’ string arrangements that brought the band into unknown musical territory with understandably hilarious reactions in the studio and the e.p. was topped off by a band favourite Fooled Again. We had pro sleeve-designers dagama on board for the whole project and released the 3 track e.p. as well as a 12″ 3 track maxi-single as a teaser for the album but, due to a lack of mainstream airplay, had limited success and poor sales. Mainstream airplay was a vital ingredient in those days to have any chance of a chart place. In the meantime, with no revenue coming in, I set about looking for a deal with a third-party record label to licence the album. Networking in Europe would come to fruition as I had struck up a friendship and business relationship with Rudie Holzhauera who owned an indie publishing company based in Hamburg, Germany and he liked the album a lot. He touted it around several labels for a GAS (Germany, Austria and Switzerland) deal and, as luck would have it, had an offer from Teldec a leading label in that territory. Teldec initially just wanted to licence the single but I refused that deal and stood my ground and we did a deal for the whole project that was a two single release with the album released in between the singles promotion. It was looking good as Teldec managed to get the band on Formula Einz, a sort of Top Of The Pops TV show that was the leading promotional tool in Germany. We had good sales and this led to a negotiation with another label for a worldwide release but a stuttering second single release put paid to that deal. It was a Maestro Record Production that failed to bring in the revenue for any further investment in the band and we drifted apart.
However, around the same time, I did have some success with my Disco-Dance label Tivoli Records