In the early 90’s I was employed as a Social Worker based in a Derbyshire town. Tuesday was court duty day where we would hang about the magistrates youth court picking up any work related to the Juvenile offenders of that fair county. One day, at a bit of a loose end, I popped into the adult court next door to find it had been taken over by a gaggle of less typical defendants. The new crowd, there was about six of them, were a mixture of perms and mullets or perhaps even permed mullets and although they were dressed in court suits they all had their sleeves rolled up like 80’s pop stars. One of the ushers informed me that they were in fact 70’s pop band Paper Lace in court that day over some legal matter about who were allowed to be Paper Lace anymore.
Its pretty unlikely that any young person spending hours in their room learning to play an instrument would ever consider they are preparing for spending a lot of their time in the future with solicitors but ever since the break up of the Beatles this was to be the future of many musicians. Paper Lace were just one group trying to keep their name to survive.
Its perhaps not surprising that Mick Fleetwood can replace Lindsey Buckingham and carry on as Fleetwood Mac, he’s been doing that ever since Peter Green had a breakdown, its not what we want but I’m sure Fleetwood Mac are raking in the dollars without Buckingham as usual. It’s a strange phenomenon though that even fans of a band don’t seem capable of making fairly simple musical judgements outside that band’s existence. Take Mike Scott for example. He had piloted the Waterboys through various incarnations and various musical styles, it was even debatable who the Waterboys were apart from Mike Scott. However, Scot was soon to discover that as a solo troubadour he was capable of filling rooms above pubs but not much more. As soon as Scott revived the Waterboys moniker he was back in the concert halls and festivals. One would have thought that Waterboysfans would know who their leader/singer/songwriter was and would support him at gigs, but clearly most of them didn’t.
So, possession of the band’s name is hugely financially important, it doesn’t matter if that band now contains the original drummer, the bass player’s son and a couple of hack musicians, a huge percentage of their potential audience just won’t care.
Researching (yes!) last weeks post brought this whole phenomenon into sharp reality. All four bands, Mud, The Glitter Band , the Rubettes and Sweet had a life beyond their glory years with inevitable legal jousting for most of them.
Mud fared the best. Singer Les Gray went on to front Les Gray’s Mud. You couldn’t really argue with that, he wasn’t pretending to be Mud, he was the singer and he fronted his own version of Mud until his early death.
The Sweet hit a compromise with Bass player Steve Priest fronting an American version of the band and Guitarist Andy Scott doing the same in Britain. This took over a decade though with a version of singer Brian Connolly’s Sweet also limping round the British gig circuit. Now with two of the roginal members dead and the survivors living on different continents its just about possible for the two Sweets to coexist.
With some sort of irony, Brian Connelly played his last ever gig at the Bristol Hippodrome with Slade II (Slade without the creative members) and John Rossall’s Glitter Band. Despite the fact that Rossall had formed the band he was the sax player and had left early anyway so laying claim to the name took a bit of a nerve especially as legally he had been ordered not to use the Glitter Band’s moniker (he eventually received a one year suspended prison sentence for breaching this). Guitarist/Singer Gerry Shephard, usually aided by one of the band’s drummers were able to use the name and after Shepherd’s death Bassist John Springate returned to take over the band.
If that smacks of desperation wait till you hear about the Rubettes!
As you may remember, the original vocalist Paul Da Vinci who sang the distinctive falsetto part on ‘Sugar Baby Love’ declined to be in a proper band and was replaced by Allan Williams who seemed to be able to cover the vocal parts pretty well. The band split in 1980 their time had been and gone and we thought that would be the end.
However, with their white suits and flat caps the band had a distinctive brand. You could dress almost anyone like that and they could be a Rubette especially as the caps would cover the inevitable male pattern baldness as years advanced. No only were the band future proofed but they were absolutely huge in certain parts of Europe. In a couple of years they were back with a watered down line up which cleaned up on the continent but after a decade everyoine had had enough. The Rubettes split again.
Matters soon hit the courts in a dispute between Williams and Keyboard player Bill Hurd. Hurd had left the band in the mid 70’s but had returned for the watered down 80’s version. Both had been given legal permission to tour as the Rubettes as long as it was clear who was fronting the band. Both musicians had breached this agreement however given a choice between Rubettes fronted by the singer and frontman who sang on nearly all their hit and Rubettes fronted by the keyboard player who left after a couple of years I know who I would go and see! Hurd actually went bankrupt as a result of the hearing but has carried on as The Rubettes featuring Bill Hurd to this day. At one point he added to his marketability by recruiting original vocalist Da Vinci but it wasn’t long before Hurd was fronting yet another band of people who were not Rubettes at all.
Alan Richardson was in a pretty strong position with original drummer John Richardson who was always the bands second most focal point. He also had the original Bass player for what it’s worth. Bizarrely these sidemen both then formed a break away band with the keyboard player now calling themselves The Rubettes featuring John Mick and Steve.
You might imagine that having a choice of three versions of the Rubettes would be too much for even the most ardent fan. Maybe it’s a sad inditement of our welfare system that men in their 70’s are still dressing up in white suits and touring the clubs in order to earn a crust. Maybe it’s just naked ambition or, most likely, its just not being able to stop doing the thing you’ve done all your life.
Which is pretty sad really.
On the other hand…
Here Bill Hurds Rubettes from only last year, yes, there are old, yes, it’s Germany ,no it’s not the real Rubettes …but isn’t everyone having a great time !