The Other Side was formed from the end of the Dick Smith Band in 1982 … ….I got hold of a keyboard placed my fingers on it until I found something I liked , loved experimenting with unusual chords etc… as I never knew any of the chords that I was playing..I’m sure Kevin said to me one time ..,” you can’t play that..that doesn’t exist ” …Well ” after the hard rock of DSB ..the band had almost burnt themselves out…..and when we got back together we found a mellower more introspective sound and became more aware of some of the social issues of the day as shown in the songs Free them ..disappearing world…Wars…..up until that point it had just been straight ahead hard rock…. Welcome to “The Other Side”
blah blah blah …
Dave , Steve and Simon Catherall ( Sax ) started working together in 1982 on songs written by Dave Barrett .. Paul M got back involved later that year.. we started doing some demos in a bedroom in Wallasey using a 4 Track TEAC a stringman keyboard and a roland drum machine … the shower converted to a vocal booth… “Go on By” is one of the tracks we did at that time.. It went through various names , Blah Blah Blah , The other side of the mersey … had american management , and maybe other names that I can’t remember… when Max Beckham joined on drums we became a real band again … eventually we became “the other side” with four members , Dave , Steve , Paul and Max with Kev Roberts, and others on session keys.
Dave Barrett wrote all the songs , Max Beckham as well as drums created all the art work.. We started doing gigs and recording at Station House in New Brighton..
I wish I could turn the clock back and realise what we were and what we had …I’m still a bag of nerves and could have never have been that person who negotiated deals and plotted paths but with the band virtually back together after thirty five years something is definitely happening…fucking Max Beckham our drummer anarchist and urban guerrilla…is still despite being completely disabled with a brain disease or something is still the most argumentative little bastard I’ve ever known…I rather pompously said something on our reunion at his house a few weeks back only to be completely shot down by the little bastard….I don’t know how I’ve lived without him for all these years ..same goes for Paul our leader…..I’ve missed him more than I can say really and the old saying is completely correct ..add to this my rejuvenated bass playing brother who also has severe health problems and the merry crew are almost back together …..maybe thirty five years too late but we are going to give it another go… Dave
The art man
Its 2018 and our second meeting with max and his wonderful wife sue was remarkably civilised considering the persons present ….max has lost none of his bloody mindedness despite being physically disabled and it was a pleasure to hear him telling me to fuck off again ….Max was always the artist of the band …took the best photos we’ve ever had and provided us with inspired and anarchic artwork for the covers for our early cassette sleeves ….I was terribly saddened when he informed us on our first meeting in about thirty years of how he ” couldn’t draw anymore ” and I imagined him wistfully looking at his old artists kit with a tear rolling down his face…..lying little bastard…
when the subject of art was cautiously raised …..I said to Max that I’d seen him moving his hand in big animated circles as we talked and what did he mean ” he couldn’t draw anymore “..and was told ” I can’t draw fucking detail ” in a rather don’t fucking ask me again.way …..so taking my life in my hands I ventured ” errr what’s that folder there then ” ..
It was slid over to me by wife sue and revealed the most stunning artwork …literally a revelation…I said” when did you do this then ” and he replied “six months ago” ….” I thought you said you couldn’t draw anymore” I replied and max said ” I fucking can’t draw detail anymore ” …” fucking hell max ..” I shouted ..” This is fucking genius ” he then took self criticism ( I’m pretty good at that ) to a whole new level when he said…” they’re shit… I couldn’t draw any fucking detail ” Sue chipped in ” you should have seen the stuff he threw away “…Jesus….he’s still as fucking awkward as he always was
Strange keys and things
One of the strange things about being in The Other side is I have no memory of it beginning …only vague memories of it actually happening…and the only memory I have of it ending is shaking our keyboard player Stevo’s hand ,wishing him the best of luck and watching him trudge down my mums road in the rain carrying his last keyboard wrapped in a bin bag ….what made this scene so poignant was the fact that only months earlier he had arrived with many keyboards ..a little sports car and a page 3 girlfriend …
We got in touch with Stevo recently to see if he had any memories ..photos or tapes and guess what ….he’s managing director of one of the largest companies around and doing quite nicely thank you…….He very generously said how nice it was to hear from us again but just in case probably
looked out of his office window and checked that yes he had made a good life for himself and yes that was his BMW outside….phew!
We had quite a few keyboard players in The other Side by virtue of the fact that although I wrote most of the songs on a keyboard I couldn’t actually play one …
So roughly we had ( speaking quickly …Kevin and Simon and Steve and Jonathan and Kenny) and probably a few others I can’t even remember …
Each one of these keyboard players had to be shown the chords by me and as I don’t know any recognised chords and literally just close my eyes …move my hands around until I like the sound of something and then move onto the next ” chord ” this often caused bemusement from these often paid and hired virtuoso’s and I was frequently told ” you can’t do that …that chord does not exist …you’ll have to add a seventh ” or whatever it was but I stuck to my guns and insisted they played them exactly as written…..some of them used to sulk and even try to move the odd finger to make it into a ” proper chord ” but I would hear it and rather nervously go over and say ” that’s nearly it …just move that finger there onto that black key …there…that’s it …thanks..”….we would pay them their £50 ….have salmon paste sandwiches for tea because we’d given them all our money and I would say ” I’ll learn honest….its just..” and Max…Steve and Paul would look at me and think ” fucking salmon paste again ..because of him “…..thirty years on I still can’t fucking play properly and on one more recent adventure the person determined to make me ” play the fucking keyboard ” would count me in and of course I would come in at my own place and they eventually would give up……you can hear some of those wacky chords on songs like ” pity those who suffer ” and ” Alien ”
Peas and spoons
As I try to come to terms with the actual fact that we The Other Side are all sitting in the same room together discussing our next move ..it occurred to me….why didn’t we do this the first time round ..Sue made us coffee and Max talked then Paul then Steve and then onto me…..rounded points and honest nods were the order of the day….I almost half expected someone to say what my mum said to the vicar all those years ago when we first moved here ” Lovely day for it vicar ” she tooted….and then probably rolled round on the floor laughing with her just as incorrigible soul mate and drinking partner Sheila Cameron…..
We used to rehearse in my mums tiny kitchen in Langdale rd New Brighton …a full band …..I have been back there since and can literally not see how we did it……what did the people upstairs think or next door…and do you know what I don’t think we cared ….it had to be done and my dear old mum would make all and sundry tea and sandwiches ….and would literally welcome everyone with open arms……
My mums new husband Phil was just as accommodating and I will start the ball rolling on this one but expect my sister to come up with a more detailed account of how this particular person ended up sitting in my mums back room having a roast dinner and being served peas by Phil restaurant style with a fork and a spoon ..
The late Charles Comer was credited along with Chris Blackwell from Island records with bringing reggae direct from Jamaica to the masses all over the world…he was the Rolling Stones publicist…..he was one of the people in the helicopter that landed in Shea Stadium New York for The Beatles most iconic concert ever…he was Stevie Ray Vaughns manager and also had Cyndi Lauper ( who he called Sidney ) on his books and he was sitting in my mums back room being served peas with a spoon and a fucking fork……it seems so surreal now and if you put Charles Comer in Google there he is…
He allocated Greg Allen and Fran his wife as our personal managers …both American as can be and lovely fun people…we even thought about trying to track them down…maybe they’ve got the master tapes that no one can find…
And we still didn’t make it ?…..I can hear you ask……how come ….
I really don’t know but stick with me and together we’ll find out.
Janet loves John
One of the things I did think when I started to write the words for The Other side music was ..” I really don’t want to write about all the usual stuff like. ” ..I love you but you don’t even fucking like me anymore you horrible cruel bastard ” so chose in stead to write about addiction..nuclear war….senseless slaughter of the planets animals and other cheery subjects like chronic loneliness and self loathing…..I bet you can’t guess what ” Alien ” is about can you…maybe we should get some Max Beckham limited edition designed t shirts printed and reward those of you who send us either the closest or most inventive take on the lyrics with one of them …
Actually that’s not a bad idea …we used to sell T shirts and badges and posters and stuff at DSB gigs and they are collectors items on the internet now worth God knows what…Big Dave our roadie was tasked with making the badges on our own badge machine in the attic and as long as he had enough pot to last him he would do that all day until you told him to stop….Paul reminded us that at a DSB party someone had actually thrown the ridiculously heavy cast iron machine out of the attic window and how it didn’t flatten some poor bastard being sick in the front garden is a mystery to us all…..
Beer for the brain
Hands up who’s ever heard of a Simmonds electronic drum kit…they were all the rage in the 1980 ‘s and were set to revolutionise drumming…..our American manager Greg bought Max one…. Max’s old and much loved Hayman Kit was left at home and Greg stood at the front of the stage proudly admiring this new acquisition as Max grumpily bolted the large black plastic pads onto the shiny industrial looking frame..” Hey fella ” …Greg probably said ” that looks real good ”
I won’t go into too many details except to say the gig was at a large hotel in the North west…we had hired a massive PA from London off our friend Pab ( more about him in another blog ) and the gig unfortunately was a vicars and tarts themed party for the hard working staff of the hotel….now this as you can imagine is not really DSB or OS territory and as the gig wore on it became more like a comedy show with me at one point being asked to act as compère and host the judging as to who was the best vicar etc….
We were just getting into the last quarter of the set when it happened …the boom and thud of Max’s electronic kit had stopped and the rest of the band were jerking along without it …Paul did one final flourish on his guitar and then nodded to stop…..roadies came on stage and checked the leads etc…no it wasn’t that and I proclaimed to the audience in a big bombastic voice pointing to the kit as Basil Fawlty had pointed to his broken down car…” Don’t ever buy one of these ” I shouted ” they’re rubbish …we’ve only just bought it” …we slunk off stage and that was that ……fucking electronic drum kits what a waste of money…
It was only the other day that we learnt the truth…” I poured my pint into the brain thing…that’s why it stopped working….” said Max…..
” fucking hell max ” I Said ” why ” ……” Fucking shit gig wasn’t it…it had to be stopped didn’t it “……jeez
One of the unsung heroes of The Other Side I have just realised this evening is of course Keyboard player Mr Kevin Roberts…. it’s a peculiar thing but I the writer always looked up to him in some peculiar way as he had been one of the founder members of boy band Buster and travelled the world to great acclaim ..it was after all he and the late great Pete Leay who recorded the Dick Smith Band’s very first demo in PDs flat in New Brighton circa 1978…these guys turned up with knowledge of eq and stereo this and mono that that I really couldn’t contemplate at my then very tender age of maybe twenty years ..these guys had been on a proper tour and were literally ” Big in Japan “….Kevin was I remember rather studious in the studio and would look at me incredulously as I threw another non existent chord at him …the keyboards he had then if I remember were the legendary DX7 ..DX21 and other assorted DX’s….all Yamaha and as Kev would set them up I would look at him with bemused admiration as he messed with algorithm this and decay that….but I have just listened to his keyboard playing on the glorious Mika …to me it’s his finest hour …a musician released …a potential absolutely fulfilled …thanks Kev..
The road to Caterham
In 1984 we were in a pattern of recording demos, making cassettes and planning trips to the smoke ( London ) to see record companies , publishers or anyone who would talk to us .. We went to see Duran Durans management and a young lad (YTS) saw us.. made us a cup of tea .. and had a chat about life .. we encouraged him in his new job … fuck … another time maybe at warner music the guy said and I quote “You should think about the way you dress before you come down to London” we did I thought…. It was the shock that stopped us from strangling him … Max came down with us once and it became a military operation getting on the tube off the tube… to the meet and on to the next … by the end of the day we were shattered and decided to have a pint before getting the bus back to Caterham to a friends place … after a scoop or two … we went for the bus and were “dismayed” at the fact that the last one had gone …. we ended up walking 15 miles to Caterham with a gap of 100 yards in between each one of us for individual safety …. Never got any joy from London..