Nothing To Do In A Town Like Leatherhead / University '79
Catalogue Number - EJSP 9327
Label - Ellie Jay
Year Of Release - 1980
Quantity Pressed - 1000 (confirmed)
The Head Bio
The Head were formed as The Stikkers in
the summer of 1978, by Greg Wilson, Kevin Abbott and Brian Jones in Leatherhead,
The original concept for the band started a little earlier, as a result of conversation by three eighteen year old friends, Bill Bennett, Brian Jones and Greg Wilson. This related to the musical talents of a sixteen year old, Kevin Abbott, who then lived down the same street as Bill in Fetcham and was mutually known to them all. They agreed that Kevin was the most talented musician they knew and wouldn’t it be a great idea to have him join their band.
After further discussion and approaching Kevin to form a group, The Stikkers got together for their first rehearsal in the local Scout Hut in Fetcham near Leatherhead on the 22 August 1978. The band originally included Mark Willis on lead guitar and Brian on drums who soon left to be replaced by Stewart Taylor. Bill, who never played with The Head in the end, together with Brian and Mark went on to play in a spin off group called the Spiteful Horses. They managed two gigs, ironically both supporting The Head at Ashtead Peace Memorial Hall and Leatherhead Football Club (But that’s another story!)
After many rehearsals, various personnel changes and a name change to The Head, the first gig was held at the Odd Fellows Hall in Leatherhead on the 22 April 1979. The line up had established a little earlier on the 4 March 1979 to a four piece, Greg, lead vocals and guitar, Kevin, vocals and keyboards, Bill’s brother Terry Bennett on bass and vocals and Stewart Taylor on drums.
Other local gigs followed including a second night on the 5 May 1979 at the Odd Fellows Hall, plus notably a ‘wine and cheese’ concert at Ashtead Peace Memorial Hall on 26th May 1979. Due to the ‘enthusiasm’ of the crowd of over 200, this resulted in The Head being banned for life from ever playing there again.
The 8 June 1979 saw The Head supporting Nicky and The Dots, a Brighton band at the Royal Hotel in Guildford.
On the 22 June 1979 The Head played Beare Green Community Centre and experienced their first taste of trouble, from the National Front and from a group of Bikers who took umbrage to The Heads cross over Mod / Punk Image. Many of The Head fans who had travelled up from Leatherhead, picked up from the football club by coach that evening, were involved in confrontations.
Terry was also threatened in the toilets by members of the National Front before The Head were due to play, for wearing a Sex Pistols ‘No Fun’ badge.
The situation was not helped by Kev and Greg who barracked the support band with their critical opinion during their entire set.
The reception to the band when they came on stage therefore was fairly intimidating; however The Head were able to stand their ground and asserted themselves positively with the crowd.
As was a regular occurrence at Head gigs at the time, the band played two sets that night. Despite all the trouble beforehand and some during the gig, The Head went down well and came away from the night virtually unscathed.
Probably the most controversial incident that involved The Head however, revolved around their three-gig residency at the Wellington at Waterloo and Sounds Magazine. On the first night, the 3 August 1979, the venue was packed full of British Movement skinheads, together with the coach load of fans who had travelled up from Leatherhead. The skinheads took great delight informing The Head that they had beaten up and had smashed up the instruments of the previous band the week before, who were members of the Anti Nazi League. ‘Unfortunately’ for The Head, they had an anti Nazi song called ‘Hitler Was Right (sic) Hitler Was Wrong’ and not the good sense to leave it off the set list.
The Head faced with their impending annihilation, as this was by no means an ideal threat, when the time came to play the song the words were mumbled by Greg. The only audio part being the first part of the title! The result being that The Head went down a storm with their newfound audience, with Garry Bushell writing a damning piece on the band in the following weeks Sounds Magazine. Despite a complete retraction by Garry Bushell in the next edition, after a phone call from Kevin to Garry explaining the real words to the song, the damage was done.
The following Friday when The Head arrived, the venue was again full of skinheads. The Wellington Management however, due to the adverse publicity and fear for everyone’s safety, cancelled that evening and the following week’s gig.
During this time the band were joined by their ‘fifth’ member, Pete Bantin, who was a local DJ. Pete officially became The Heads first manager on 7 August 1979 and was already by then the bands sound engineer. He also provided regular support to the band with ‘The Pete Bantin Roadshow’ at many of the early gigs.
The Head played their first concert at Leatherhead Football Club, supported by The Spiteful Horses on the 27 August 1979 Bank Holiday Monday, to a small crowd of around 70 people.
Leatherhead FC was to become the bands spiritual home over the next few months, where the band rehearsed and were to play two further gigs that year.
Stewart Taylor left The Head on the 23 September 1979 following a difficult group practice on 20 September where the band virtually split. The band subsequently cancelled a gig planned for the Royal Hotel in Guildford that same Sunday.
Stewart was replaced by stand in drummer Nigel Wilson (no relation to Greg) while the band continued to look for a permanent replacement for Stewart. Nigel had played a couple of practice sessions with The Head previously and had been the drummer for the gig at The Wellington at Waterloo on the 3 August 1979.
Terry Bennett left The Head on the 19 October 1979, after their second and what was to be remembered as the The Heads best gig at Leatherhead Football Club. Two sets again were played that night plus an extended encore set.
Terry gave the The Head arguably the biggest contribution by any member of the band, with the now infamous title and the original lyrics to ‘Nothing To Do In A Town Like Leatherhead.’
After auditions held at Ashtead Youth Centre, Colin 'Sledgehammer' Wales from Redhill joined The Head on 31 October 1979 as their new drummer.
The Head were now ready for their first recording session, which would also prove to be the sessions for their first single. The line up for these sessions was, Greg, Kevin, Colin and his mate stand in bassist Steve Hoskins who joined the band temporarily on the 7 November 1979.
Studio time was booked at Granny Records, for 17 November 1979, an independent four track studio based in an attic in a town house in Norbury, Croydon. Ian Shaw, who owned Granny, was roped in as the producer and engineer for the sessions. That day three songs were recorded, ‘Nothing To Do In A Town Like Leatherhead’, ‘University ’79’ and ‘Sounds Like Sounds’.
The Head with the line up of Greg, Kevin, Steve and Colin played Leatherhead Football Club for a third and final time to just over 100 people on the 30 November 1979. The band went down reasonably well despite the line up change. Terry’s presence however was sorely missed on stage and his absence did not go down well with the hard core Head fans.
The final gig of the year was on the 22 December 1979 at Merstham Village Hall. This was a low point for The Head as they struggled with getting the new line up to gel. In Greg’s own words at the time “…the gig really was a big failure, in fact it was a flop – badly organised, just right to finish the year off!”
Although the concert was attended by over 100 people, the PA system hired for the night was faulty. This and the fact that the sound engineer screwed the sound up only added to the frustration of the night.
Things however were soon to get much better in 1980!
With help from a loan from the HFC and Greg’s Dad, the first (and only) single was released on the 12 January 1980 on the Ellie Jay label as a Molebeat Production. This was a double A side ‘Nothing To do In A Town Like Leatherhead' and ‘University ’79’. 1000 copies only were pressed.
Radio play was hard to come by, although 'University’79' was played a number of times by John Peel on Radio One and ‘Nothing To Do In A Town Like Leatherhead’ was a contender (but never made the final top 10) for Kenny Everett’s ‘Worst Record Of All Time.’ ‘Nothing To Do In a Town Like Leatherhead' was also featured on the breakfast show on Capitol Radio and 'University'79' received numerous plays on the Nicky Horne show 'Your Mother Wouldn't Like It!’ also on Capitol.
The single was ignored by all the major music papers, with the exception of Melody Maker, who memorably described ‘Nothing To Do In A Town Like Leatherhead’ on the 2 February 1980 as “a great title, a certain ramshackle, beery cheer but little else…”
The single was put on sale locally at Tower Records, Leatherhead and Kevin’s Dad’s Fish and Chip shop in Fetcham. The single sold no more than 150 copies from these two outlets and sales direct from the band.
The Head returned to Granny Records studio on 19 January 1980, to start work on their demos for a second single. The songs recorded in this session were ‘Middle Class Revolution’, 'I Don’t Think You Love Me’, ‘It’s Fun To Die’ and ‘No Girls For Billy'. Again all produced by Ian Shaw.
Andy Sadler from East Horsley joined the band on bass on the 27 January 1980, after further auditions were held at Ashtead Youth Club following an advertisement in Melody Maker. This marked the beginning of the ‘definitive’ and most successful Head line up of Greg, Kevin, Andy and Colin.
Following the second recording session, demo tapes were sent out and the band got through the door with interviews at A&M, Polydor and Virgin. Rejected by A&M and Polydor, Virgin showed some interest and promised to see the band the next time they played in London.
On the 26 February 1980 The Head commenced the ‘infamous’ Nothing to do in a town Like… tour, playing youth centres in Redhill, Caterham, Horley, Ashtead and two gigs at The Star in Croydon.
At this time, the band agreed to be managed by a local management company Clever Dick Promotions, run by three local promoters Phil Boswell, Keith Bartlett and Nigel Raven.
One of the first things that Clever Dick arranged for The Head was a distribution deal for the remaining 800 copies of ‘Nothing To Do In A Town Like Leatherhead’ / ‘University ’79’. Notoriously these singles went missing as did the distributor, an ex member of the 60’s one hit wonder band, The Honeycombs. To this day it is not known what became of these 800 singles.
Ellie Jay, who had produced the first single, had shown interest in taking on The Head on their label full time and offered to pay for a new one day recording session. This was arranged to take place at the Quarry Hanger Studios in Surrey.
These sessions were produced and engineered by Geoff Boswell, brother of Phil, who had previously worked with, amongst other bands, The Police and had been the bass player in local 70’s rock band ‘Leather Head’. Songs recorded were ‘Middle Class Revolution’, ‘Outer Space’, ‘Cheap Romantic’ and ‘My Girlfriend Loves Billy Idol’.
When Ellie Jay heard these recordings, they agreed to finance the recording of The Heads second single ‘Middle Class Revolution’, lyrics were written by Kevin, as a ‘pop’ at Greg, who didn’t seem to mind and who in turn provided the catchy hook that makes the song so distinctive. The B-side was to be ‘This Is My Town,’ although after some dodgy vocals by Greg, this was replaced by a new version ‘No Girls For Billy’, again with Greg on lead vocals.
The recording session took place in London, at Hallmark Studios an underground studio in Soho just off Leicester Square. This time a ‘hit’ record producer was brought in to take charge of the proceedings. Although the band played on this session, additional guitar and keyboards were added afterwards, to beef up the sound. Greg in particular was not happy about this and demanded that he go back into the studio and re-record these parts. Unfortunately, Ellie Jays owner, Jack Applebaum, was taken ill as this dispute was going on and the second Head single was never released.
Interestingly before the single was canned by Ellie Jay, Chas Chandler (Animals, Jimi Hendrix, and Slade fame) showed interest in the single and the belief was, after various playbacks to some influential people in the music industry, that the single would have made the UK top thirty. Sadly we will never know.
In amongst all this, The Head continued to gig on a regular basis over the next 12 months, promoted by Clever Dick, including a show piece London concert at the Greyhound at Fulham; their best gig ever on 24 May 1980 at Leatherhead Leisure Centre, where they blew the headline band ‘Private Patients’ right off the stage and Ashtead St. Georges Hall, to name just a few.
Worth a special mention is the gig The Head played at the Greyhound in Fulham in the summer of 1980. The Head were the support band that night and played a blistering set to an almost full venue. This was despite Greg breaking a guitar string in their first number and having a near death experience by eating a whole hot chilli from the local Kebab shop, minutes before the band were due to take to the stage.
The headline band that night, their name thankfully lost in the mists of time, were booed off stage mid set. The Head as a result were requested to play an additional session, which they did, to an appreciative audience.
With thirty years of hindsight this gig should have been capitalised on and used as a steeping stone to establish The Head on the London circuit. Unfortunately at the time it was considered ‘just another gig’ and the band returned to playing local Surrey venues.
Further the failure of ‘Middle Class Revolution’ to be released signalled the start of the decline of the band and it was obvious that their hearts weren’t in it anymore. Kevin was the first to leave and The Head were never to play a gig again.
By the summer of 1981 it was all over. Although Greg and Colin held some sessions in early 1982 with a new bass player and guitarist The Head were officially well and truly dead by then.
Ironically Greg and Kevin were writing some of their best songs to date, namely ‘My Girlfriend Says’ and the ‘The Answer Is Not With Me’, which featured Kevin on trumpet, however these were never committed to tape.
Kevin after The Head split, joined Montrachet with former Head members Stewart Taylor, Terry Bennett and Mark Willis. He then went on to have much greater success (but probably not the same notoriety as with The Head?), with Line Design and McCavity’s Cat and worked with various other musicians including the Housemartins. Kevin now lives in Kent and is a successful banker.
Greg disillusioned with the music business, went backpacking around Asia and Australia and finally ended up working on Cruise Ships in an unrelated role. Greg now lives in Australia on Sydney’s Northern Beaches. He is now putting together a new band and plans to be gigging and recording again once his Head commitments are over. Greg now works for a well known Cruise Company in their head offices in Sydney.
Andy moved to Southern Ireland and despite concerted efforts by the rest of the band, his whereabouts at the time of writing are still unknown.
Colin became a local DJ and after a failed attempt to reform The Head with a new guitarist to replace Greg, continued to play drums with various local bands including Red Violet, Deadless and Crystal Sunset. He is now a full time professional drummer and plays with his latest band Easyrider. Colin still DJs and is currently writing a book on The Head called 'Nearly But Not Quite...The Head’
Terry after leaving The Head formed Montrachet with Mark Willis, Stewart Taylor and, later, Kevin Abbott. After this he managed Line Design in their infancy. In the mid 1980s he went to teacher training college and is now Head teacher of a primary school in east London.
Stewart after Montrachet sold his drum kit to Clive Abbott, Kevin’s younger brother who went on to play in McCavity’s Cat and Some Dogs. Stewart still lives in Fetcham and works in the motor trade. His son James plays drums in a London based band Meet John Doe!
Pete after The Head split up continued his interest in sound systems, booze, Tibetan Tobacco and Jamaican Jaffa Cakes. He was always on call to supply music, sound and lights for the price of a night out. These days it's orange juice, cats, his wife and computers.
The single ‘Nothing To Do In A Town Like Leatherhead’ is now a sought after collector’s item and valued at over £60 by the Rare Record Price Guide 2008 (Diamond Publishing Group Revised Edition 4 Oct 2006). Not a bad investment on the original price of 99 pence!
At today’s book value therefore the 800 missing Head singles would now be worth £48000!
The Head have agreed to reform for their thirtieth anniversary with original members Greg, Kevin, Terry and Colin. They have planned a six date ‘Something to do in a town Like… tour’ including a return to Leatherhead Football Club on the 16th and 17th May 2008. An ‘EP’ of new material is also scheduled to be recorded around the same time for release in the summer.
The above photo was taken on 'Dorking High Street' and appeared in the Leatherhead Advertiser on the 22 February 1980.
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