Catalogue Number - PHZA-8
Label - Unicorn Records
Year Of Release - 1987
The above photo was taken by 'Chalkie Davis'.
|Chris Grierson - Vocals||John Kiely - Bass|
|Alick Letort - Guitar||David Crossley - Drums*|
*later to be replaced by:- Derwent
'Les Elite' was one of the early bands playing on the renewed London Mod scene in the late seventies. As it happens with a lot of groups, 'Les Elite' came about more by accident than design when Londoner 'John Kiely' and 'Chris Grierson from Durham met while browsing through a 'Stax' stall at a record fair at 'Alexander Palace' in the spring of 1978. At that time 'John' was promoting concerts while 'Chris' was roadie for 'The Damned', and the two decided to form a group together to play the sort of music they wanted - in the way they wanted. Although both were heavily into early Soul music (believed it could never be properly played by whites), Soul wasn't their main influence. That place was reserved for British bands such as 'The Kinks', 'Them', 'The Who', etc - but 'John' and 'Chris' wanted to play in a Modern way with some of the energy of Punk, as opposed to just doing covers. In short, they wanted to write and play British music about British things for British working class kids.
'Alick Letort', the band's French-born guitarist, was soon recruited via a friend of Chris's and their first drummer was found through an advert in 'Melody Maker'. Although 'Dave' played some of the earliest gigs, the band soon discovered what a zero he was (i.e. he couldn't do a runner from an Indian Restaurant at Midnight with eight pints of lager inside him), beat him up, and threw him out of the band. He then went onto join 70's "Pop" group 'Mud', which proved that they did right.
'Derwent' now entered the picture. He had supported the group since its earliest days and had been going on and on (and on) about how he could play drums, and as soon as the band discovered he actually owned a drum kit he was in. Incidentally, it was at this same time that drummer and guitarist for 'Squire' came for an audition and wanted to merge the two bands - they were quickly sent packing when it became obvious that they knew (and cared) more about Copyright law than Music!
'Les Elite' was one of the earliest groups to play at the mecca for Mod bands, 'The Bridge House' in Canning Town, and their first gig there (they'd spent almost a year writing songs and practicing!) was with 'Secret Affair'. Although they were set to play on the 'Mods Mayday' album, they had to pull out due to a prior engagement, but they did play at the three-day Mod festival at the 'Marquee' - the first time Mod really went West.
Les Elite's gigs were also very popular with the Police. One concert at the 'Trafalgar' in Shepherds Bush was broken up when they refused to stop playing, while another at the 'Notre Dame in Leicester Square made the National Papers when rival National Front gangs started fighting which spilled out onto the streetand caused a riot. Another episode was the night 'Les Elite' played three concerts: the first as headliner at the 'Hope & Anchor' in Islington, the second supporting 'The Purple Hearts' at the 'Music Machine' in Camden, and the third at a party in a warehouse in Wapping. At the end of the night the police broke up the warehouse gig after residents of tower blocks two miles away complained about the noise!
'Les Elite' continued gigging around and building up a loyal following, and were often courted by the music press and approached by potential managers / record companies and various other leeches - but the band would never compromise its initial stance that it was a working class group for working class kids. 'Les Elite' would have neither manager nor record company nor agent. Its philosophy was that if one follower had to sleep in the van, then all of the group would. Their music was from the heart, not the wallet.
'Les Elite' became more and more disillusioned as they saw the movement they believed in and were a part of massacred by record companies and the press for the sake of profit, when they saw dozens of plastic pre-formed imitators sent forth with absolutely no idea of the spirit or beliefs of the Mod scene. Disgusted by bands jumping up and saying "Look at us. We're a Mod group" (but in the end using Mod as no more than a stepping stone), 'Les Elite' called it a day in 1980. True to their roots, their last gig was where it all began - at the 'Bridge House' in Canning Town. Chris went back to Durham as a disc jockey in Northern Soul clubs; Alick went to Stratford in the East End of London where he is helping young people going into music, and John started the Mod disco at the 'Whiskey A-Go-Go and then joined 'Long Tall Shorty' with 'Derwent'.
Sadly the band never released anything at the time apart from they had a track featured on a compilation album that was put out by "Elton John's" 'Rocket' label in 1979. The track was 'Career Girls' which was a different version that appeared on the 'Beat Generation & The Angry Young Men' compilation and the 'Unicorn' release. The Rocket compilation was called '499 2139, this was the phone number to the 'Rocket' offices in London.
Then in 1987 'Unicorn' records released a mini album called 'Pathways, 1978 -79' that featured the following seven tracks:
All the tracks were recorded at the 'Pathways Studio' in Newington Green. Tracks 3 & 6 were recorded in 1978 and were produced by 'Rat Scabies' of 'The Damned'. Tracks 1, 2, 4, 5 & 7 were recorded the following year in 1979.
Three of these tracks, 'Frustration', 'Get a job' & 'Career girls' did appear on Eddie Piller's compilation album 'The Beat Generation & The Angry Young Men' which came out on the 'Well Suspect' label in 1984. Then it was re-issued in about 1988 on another of 'Eddie Piller's labels 'Re-Elect the President'. Then in the late 90's in was re-issued (yet again) but this time on CD by the 'Captain Mod' label.
|The above four photos are at 'The Trafalgar', Shepherds Bush, London by 'Julie Crispin|
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