Saturday, 21 November 2009


Mike Applebee just reminded me that back in 1973, several of us bought copies of Golden Earring's 'Radar Love' single from a couple of school prefects for 15 pence a copy. My memory is hazy but I vaguely remember playing football out on the playing fields and then being distracted by a small crowd forming around a cardboard box full of vinyl 45s.

I don't even know if I'd heard of Golden Earring before but I bought one anyway so as not to miss out, just in case it was any good.

Little did any of us know that it would go down in history as a classic rock standard.

Where did the prefects get them from though?

Thursday, 19 November 2009

Classic Albums - Crime of The Century

Warning: If you don't like whimsical whimsicalness...don't read this.

I haven't done one of these for a while but I spent a pleasurable few hours yesterday re-visiting some old Supertramp albums. The reason? Well, I heard 'School', the opening track to Supertramp's classic 1974 album on the radio and it instantly transported me back in time to Droof Days. I'm pretty certain I first heard this album at Paul Eustice's place, above his parent's pub in St. Day. It was always winter and dark outside in those days, probably November. Electric bar heater set to one bar. Fags would have been smoked. Almost certainly a pint or two of Devenish bitter would have been consumed. Piles of records stacked against the wall were flicked through...and chosen...

Even before you put the record on the turntable, the striking cover artwork sets the mood. The eerie blackness and infinite vastness of space sets the tone for the similarly immense and dark music about to envelop you as the needle hits the deck.

The first few soulful notes of Rick Davies' lonely harmonica drift upwards from a cavernous space and slowly pull you down into it. Faint rumbling kettle drums echo in the distance and Roger Hodgson's textured guitar begins the hypnotic chord sequence to 'School'. Already, I'm lost, drawn in...floating in the vast arena of Supertramp's space opera soundscape.

The sound on this album is just so rich and textured...and so dark and moody. So perfect for the time. No, make that just 'perfect'. I spend almost the entire length of the album with goosebumps running up and down my arms. It's one of those albums which totally and absolutely envelops you. How did they do that?

Well, aside from the outstanding musicianship...

I don't know.

What I do know is that it was recorded at Trident Studios in London and was produced by the young and very talented Ken Scott. Yes, that's right, the same Ken Scott who just a couple of years earlier had co-produced Hunky Dory, The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and The Spiders From Mars, Aladdin Sane and Pin-Ups. The first two albums back there were also recorded at Trident Studios.

T.Rex, The Beatles, Queen, Rod Stewart were just a few of the other artists who recorded at Trident back in the day. Is there time to mention that the grand piano at Trident can be heard on Elton John's 'Your Song', The Beatles' 'Hey Jude'? (sure, go ahead - Ed). Presumably this is the same piano used on Crime of the Century throughout. (and presumably Hunky Dory and Ziggy Stardust?- Ed)

Trident Studios

This struck me at the time because I could then, and still can, hear a very specific sound on both Crime of the Century and Ziggy Stardust. This interested me many years ago and I did some research which frustratingly I cannot repeat even with the internet and the power of Google.

What I remember discovering was that Trident had a unique echo chamber. I saw a diagram of the main studio on one of the upper floors and the echo chamber which was actually a few stories down in what must have been the basement I guess. Instrument sounds were fed into this chamber and 'echoed' before returning to the mixing console (Trident had unique custom built consoles like the one below). This must be a 'true', natural echo which is more often than not usually created using echo plates and reverb springs etc. Anyway, to my ears at least I think that the awesome echo and spaciness on both Ziggy Stardust and Crime of the Century have a very similar quality to them. Listen to Mick Ronson's guitar solo on Moonage Daydream...that's what I'm talking about.

Anyway, don't get me started on Mick...

Put Supertramp's Crime of The Century on now. I dare you.

Suddenly it's 1974 and you are a Droof Boy. You have to be at Redruth Grammar School in the morning. You'll freeze outside the main doors with your mates, waiting for some prefect to let you in. Probably have a double Classics lesson to not look forward to. Who cares. Lose yourself in Crime of The Century for an hour or two...

Posted by Steve

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Halloween Meet Up

From left to right: Steve Rose, Nick Arkle, Steve Cox, Paul Eustice, Mike Applebee and Philip Gilbert

It's been quite a while since the last post but there was a small gathering of Droofers last weekend in Bristol on Halloween to be precise. Four Droof Boys were in attendance with the addition of two old friends and band members who used to play in bands with Paul and Steve in the eighties. Steve Rose, originally from Bristol but now residing in Baltimore, USA. He still plays drums with his band Vulgaria. The other honorary member for the night was Nick Arkle, keyboard player and prankster extraordinaire.

In true Droofboy fashion, nobody could be bothered to make the effort to dress up for Halloween but Nick did bring along a bag of witches fingers, fangs and dubious looking lollies which came in very useful whilst sampling the delights of the Chinese food spread out on good old lazy Susan.

Plumping for the 'eat as much as you can for £15.50' option, the boys acquitted themselves well and managed to come back for seconds on several dishes. We didn't quite manage all 65 dishes on offer but it was a good effort. Phil tried squid for the first and last time.

The friendly staff at The Water Sky Restaurant were more than attentive as the lads quaffed oriental lagers and fumbled with chopsticks late into the evening. Much fun was had by all and we all piled back to Mike's to reminisce and talk nonsense into the small hours before falling asleep on inflatable things that snored in the night.

Posted by Steve

Friday, 10 April 2009

Bacon Sandwich

From left to right: Perry Watson, Steve Cox, Jon Handley (kneeling), Mike Applebee, Paul Eustice, Robert Hellings and Simon Hart discuss bacon sandwiches.

This rather blurry photo (taken by Anthony with a cheap camera he tells me), shows a crowd of Droof boys on the way back from one of Jon Smith's legendary parties at Nancemellin. I think we were all a little worse for wear and probably hadn't had more than a couple of hours sleep amongst the hay bales in the barn. My memory is a little hazy but I recall somebody mentioning the fatal words 'bacon sandwich' at which point we all started salivating and the mission was then on to go and track one down in Camborne.

I think it may have been a Sunday so our quest became quite desperate but we finally managed to track one down somewhere. I remember trying the bus station but we might have eventually found a little cafe somewhere that made them. They weren't actually very nice I remember but they sated our hunger and off we departed to our separate homes.

Posted by Steve

Thursday, 9 April 2009

Parker's Kitchen

Mike brews up

Parker's kitchen at Melrose House was...and probably still is the centre of the known universe. Anyone who has experienced the joy of sitting around the Melrose House kitchen table whilst enjoying one of Sheila Parker's magnificent meals will know the true joy of 'home cooking' and being made to feel welcome...even if you were a virtual stranger.

This is me and Mike just back from picking 'shrooms' I believe. Shroom tea was a splendid way to end off a Sunday afternoon walk in the 'Roly-Poly' fields above Melrose House in Lanner. Our parents had to put up with insane giggling over Sunday night roasts and we are sorry for that...

Footnote: I am kitted out in full Pratts Army/Navy Surplus Great Coat (Sgt. Evans 6'7" it said on the inside pocket) gear with obligitory college scarf. Mike has settled for the casual combat jacket.

Posted by Steve

Thursday, 2 April 2009

Looking For The Aliens

click on image for closer look

Strange events have occurred since last week. Firstly, I suddenly found myself in contact with Paul Eustice again after an 18 year estrangement. Emails have been exchanged, memories have been jolted and a pledge to meet up in the near future has been made.

Secondly, an alien visitation happened yesterday when I discovered a package had been delivered and was left on the tank of my motorbike. On opening, I discovered two copies of the Flight Seven Seven single: 'Looking For The Aliens/Stranger'. All of my vinyl 45s disappeared after I left home as I carelessly left them in the care of my parents who duly disposed of them after I had flown the nest. My copy of this (and Mushy Doubt) were dispatched to a Lanner Women's Institute jumble sale no doubt.

Anyway, these two songs were the first ever to be recorded by the band in May 1982 (so it says on the sleeve notes). I remember two days spent at John Knight Studios, near Coverack, Helston. Recording, mixing, drinking cups of tea and smoking fags at the studios which must have been a converted military installation of some sort. From the outside it appeared to be a giant grassy mound with a door in it in the middle of the middle of nowhere. I remember going outside for a smoke at one night when we were there late mixing the tracks down. My eyes scanned the starry skies looking for aliens but there were none. None that I saw anyway. I believe Paul took a few photos whist we were there...Paul?

Flight Seven Seven at Carlyon Bay

John Knight, who also ran a small advertising agency (and still does by the look of things) was so taken with us that he asked us to return and record a couple of short jingles for the local drinks manufacturer 'Jollys'. I think they were used on a TSW TV ad a few times. "We're the Jollys...."

Fun times indeed.

I have yet to set my turntable up to listen to and convert these track into MP3s...but it will happen soon.

Posted by Steve

Monday, 16 March 2009

The Brainiac Five

Front and back of the EP 'Mushy Doubt'

Anyone who used to drink at The London Inn in Redruth at the end of the seventies would remember the fabulous Brainiac Five. Fronted by singer-songwriter Bert Biscoe on lead vocals and guitar, Charlie 'Dickie Hart' Taylor on lead guitar (I remember a fantastically battered antique white Fender Telecaster), Woody on bass and Steve Hudson on drums.

I had one of their posters for a gig at The London Inn on my bedroom wall for sometime and I'm pretty sure it had the date November 1978 on it. I am also pretty certain it was after this particular gig that several of us made the night-time assault on Carn Brea described here.

Anyway, I loved the Brainiacs. As I'd just started playing in band, The Imports, myself, I used to look up to The Brainiacs as something to aspire to. Bert Biscoe used to put on a great performance, usually whilst wearing a huge floppy pointed felt hat. I remember that towards the end of their second set he would suddenly put his guitar down, rush through the audience and exit through the front door....only to reappear several minutes later through a door at the back of the pub. My memory is vague but I think he used to do this during the middle eight/guitar solo of 'Endless River' which is one of the tracks featured on the Mushy Doubt EP pictured above.

I went down to watch them rehearse in Newlyn once. It was a hot summer's day and they had a basement in this amazing old house with a rambling terrace at the back which had stunning views over Mount's Bay. I thought that was so cool...being in a band and rocking out, entertaining the seagulls and probably half of Penzance at the same time.

Another favourite from their live gigs featured on the EP is "(I was a) Vegetable". The lyrics went along the lines of:

I was a vegetable...on a Saturday morning
I was a vegetable...she gave me no warning
I was a vegetable...I was a vegetable for yeeeewwwwwwuh....

It's a classic.

I'm not sure where my copy of Mushy Doubt has got to but in my Google quest to see if I could find anything relating to The Brainiac Five, I came across a Bert Biscoe compilation album called An Kynsa. You can play samples from this website.

To my delight, I discover two Brainiac Five tracks on it, the aforementioned 'Endless River' and another called 'Marilyn Munroe'...a punked up blues stomper (that Jean Genie riff) that I also vividly remember from their live shows.

Reading some of the blurb on that page I read:

"All Aboard" – a home recording of a song written in a moment for the moment – a warm time around Sal’s wedding to Ian – many friends."

Furthermore, as I play the sample I realise that it is in fact me accompanying Bert on my fretless bass to a song we basically jammed and made up on the spot. It was a lazy Sunday afternoon and we'd just had an even lazier lunch at "Ian and Sal's". Bert had some lyrics and we started messing around with some chords and bass lines to go with them. Bert had a little basic cassette recorder with him and it was recorded probably in one take to maybe do something with at a later time. To me, the song was always called "Riding Along on My Best Friend's Dream". I think it very much captures the feeling of the moment...such a buzz to hear it again.

It was indeed a warm time as Bert suggests. A key time in my 'leaving home' phase. I was living at Ian and Sal's in Truro at the time. I think I'd just left college and was working at Trurographics. I was also playing bass with Flight Seven Seven. Ian & Sally would often come to our gigs and if we'd played a gig at The William in Truro they would often invite everyone back to theirs for drinks afterwards which is where I got re-aquainted with Bert again.

I believe Bert still lives in Truro and is a Truro City councillor as far as I know. Here's his MySpace site.

A few years ago he brought out a book called "Meditations on Carn Brea". It's a collaboration with a photographer Cliff Jones. Some poetry and musings well worth looking at if you know the area.

Anyway, enough of the free plugs!

Must drop him an email at some point...

Posted by Steve

Saturday, 14 March 2009

Lanner Post Office

Lanner Post Office - The Glory Days

Hands up who remembers Lanner Post Office back in the 'Good Old Days'?

Every time I drive past the place these days I can't help thinking it's just a pale shadow of the establishment it used to be. The red phone box has gone for a just doesn't look right.

In it's day, Lanner Post Office was one of the key bases from which Droof Boys would launch operations throughout the late Seventies. Probably on a par with Melrose House around the corner, it was from these two key establishments, parties were held, decisions were made and much fun and frivolity was had by all.

My parents (in the photo) were deemed by most of the DB, a 'softer touch' than their peers so alcohol was supped, roll-ups were smoked and other various 'things' were consumed here on a regular basis with minimal interference.

The shop itself was obviously a major draw. Endless supplies of tins of beer, fags, chocolate and anything else you fancied at whatever time of the day or night. One just had to disarm the burglar alarm and avoid waking my parents to gain access to anything from a packet of Rizlas to a full-on Vesta Curry at 2am.

The so-called (by Mike A) 'Stevie-Snack' was forged right here at Lanner Post Office in the 70's. On occasions, several of us would regularly return here after a trip to The London Inn in Redruth feeling rather 'peckish'. (Don't forget Kebabs hadn't even been invented yet). No problem...

The Drill:

Arrive home and let ourselves in. Talking and giggling would cease. Make sure our dog ('Pickles' the American Beagle) is conscious and not going to start barking and wake everyone up. (He knew he would get tit-bits so he was on our side most of the time). Turn off the burglar the door to the shop, ever-so ever-so quietly.

In we would sneak..."Can of McEwan's anyone?" "Cheese?" "Shall I cut some ham?" "Anyone need any tobacco?" etc.

Firing up the bacon slicer in the shop at 1am in the morning was a risky business but sometimes it just had to be done.

Types of beer consumed at Lanner Post Office in the Seventies

Carrying our booty, we would cram ourselves into the tiny kitchen and pull the sliding door closed. Drinking beer, smoking fags whilst cooking cheese (and ham) on toast in a kitchen measuring 4 foot square at 1.30am in the morning, whilst trying not to wake one's parents is not always possible. Most of the time we got away with it though.

The fatal error of forgetting that the dog had followed us into the shop was one of the reasons we might get caught out. His howling wouldn't almost certainly wake up my dad...."SSSTEEEEEPPPHHUUUUUUNNNNN!!!!!????"

Still, the punishments were never severe and I don't recall anyone ever getting sent home.

The only interior photo of the counter at Lanner Post Office I can find. Cigarettes on the shelves behind and the bacon slicer just out of shot. Proper Cornish pasties, sticky buns (and a box of Waggon Wheels?) visible on the counter. It was here that many of the DB would muster to purchase items of fancy at any hour of the day or night. The lady pictured here was a kindly lady named Irene if anyone remembers her.

Once ensconced in the sanctuary of my bedroom, lighting would be subdued, music would be low but audible, talk hushed but not whispered as we sat up late into the wee hours, listening to some great albums, smoking and enjoying each others company.

It was on one of these occasions that I remember the concept of 'getting a girlfriend' came up. Literally within less than a fortnight we all had one...not bad going boys.

My mother would sometimes appear in the morning with mugs of tea to the sight of several full sleeping bags over my bedroom floor.

If it was a Saturday morning we had probably already planned to walk/hitch our way to St. Agnes or Tregajorran or down to Nancemellin for one of Jon Smith's awesome parties.

To drive past Lanner Post Office now...well, you would never know...

Friday, 13 March 2009

Hair Today...Gone Tomorrow? Or Just Hair Yesterday?

As Anthony has already mentioned in several previous posts, hair has always been a big feature if you came from Redruth. Ok, that's not exactly true but if we cast our minds back beyond the Eighties and the Uber Mullets, you might begin to understand where we were coming from...and that it wasn't our fault particularly.

I present...Hair of 1973. Just a few heads plucked out at random from a school photo of the day. Hell, even the teachers were at it (bottom row).

Click on photo for closer look

My personal favourite has to go to the young man, far left, middle row. I don't know who you were sir but I am amazed that they actually let you into the school looking like that. Bloody hell...what happened? Looks like you slept in a tight corner or something. What did you think to yourself when you looked at the mirror in the morning? "Hey, nice hair...the girls are going to love that"?

Ok, that's enough about hair for now.

Posted by Steve

Famous Droof Boys No.2 - Rory McGrath

Rory McGrath on 'Have I got News For You'.
Not quite as good looking as the rest of us and slightly older, Rory McGrath is probably the most famous droof boy to come out of Redruth Grammar School and that's saying something obviously.

He was in the Sixth Form whist we were in the first and second years I think during our time at RGS. I don't really remember him specifically to be honest. He might have sold me a cream bun or a giant Tea Cake out of the 6th Form window, as they did before Buck took over and legalised proceedings with his 'Tuck Shop'.

Cream bun - as sold by Rory McGrath as a Sixth Former

Most older boys at the school had so much hair they all looked the same anyway. Hair was definitely 'in' in the early Seventies. Just look at the school photo again. Scary. Rory's hair has calmed down a bit but is still essentially a slimmed down 1973 job in my opinion. (More on hair later).

(Temporarily I am unable to locate Rory in one of the panoramic school photos. Perhaps Anthony or Phil or Mike can help out there?)

I saw Rory ranting about how he hates carrots in Cornish Pasties on 'Grumpy Old Men' a while back. He protested that they shouldn't be allowed to include carrot as they have no business being in there. With you on that one Rory mate. That also should include peas. Don't get me started on Chicken Tikka pasties either.

Beef?...yes, potato?...yes, onion?...yes, swede/turnip?...yes, salt and pepper?...yes.

Carrot?...on your bike mate.

Ban Ginsters as well whilst you're at it...bloody horrible state of affairs.

Posted by Steve

From Phil: I can remember calling Rory McGrath a poofter (for not letting me inside at lunchtime) and regretting it - got held upside down over the lav til I apologised. As I recall he was ok though.

Nice one Phil, thanks for sharing.

Famous Droof Boys No. 1 - The Aphex Twin

One of my favourite Aphex Twin tracks (shame about poor sound quality)

It recently came to my attention that not only is Aphex Twin (Richard James) from Cornwall, but he is a 'Droof Boy' proper as he went to Redruth School in the Eighties. More than that...he actually grew up in Lanner, just down the road from me. He is also exactly (minus one day) ten years younger than me. Shit, I probably sold him sweets over the counter at Lanner Post Office.
Posted by Steve