Just A Little Mod / Smashed And Blocked
Catalogue Number - TOFF 1
Label - Posh Records
Year Of Release - 1980
We were Mods and had socialised together going to Clubs and witnessing the best of the R&B bands such as The Who, Georgie Fame, John Mayall with Eric Clapton, The Yardbirds, Chris Farlowe Graham Bond and even Blues legends such as Sonny Boy Williamson and Howling Wolf. It was an obvious move for us to form a band, inspired by all that great music and being staunch Mods, we guessed there would be an audience for the cover versions of Soul and Blues classics we played. We were gigging around the North London area for a few years without much success but enjoying our Mod lifestyle and holding down day jobs ploughing the money back into clothes and instruments. Music and fashion have always been my passion! In 1968 we morphed into a Blues band called The Earth. With a new lead guitarist -Alan Parsons- we scored a residency at Ronnie Scotts Old Place renamed by us ‘The Coffin Club’ in Gerrard Street, London. We were spotted by Douglas Mew, a producer for Mercury Records and offered a deal. We wrote and recorded an album of original songs and shortly after that in 1969, the band broke up when Barry and Phil quit. For 48 years the album gathered dust until 2016 when Elemental by The Earth was released on limited edition vinyl by Record Collector Magazine!
In the early 70’s I began writing songs again after the disappointing break up of The Earth. One of those songs was called ‘Happy’, I was happy with my life, I had recently married and was working as an Art Editor and technical illustrator on Hi-Fi Sound magazine. I was also learning to play the Tenor banjo and ‘Happy’ was the first chance for me to write both words and music with the few chords I had mastered. I managed to find a small (and cheap) recording studio in Gerrard Street, called Gooseberry. Nervously, I sang and played my treasured pearl inlaid banjo and recorded the song in one take. I hawked the song around all the record companies and got a mixed reaction to it, but no takers. I then called my good friend from The Earth, Alan Parsons, who was working in Air Studios at that time at Oxford Circus, producing the band Pilot. He liked the song and played it to several A&R people at E.M.I. who showed interest but no deal, so life went on. I still have the ¼” tape recording in an Air Studios box, unheard since 1971.
In 1972 my wife and I moved to Brighton and I was inspired to write a song about Mods, (Brighton being the ‘spiritual’ home of the Mods)! The song, ‘Just A Little Mod’ was my affectionate take on my time 10 years earlier, as an original Mod. London was calling and we moved back in 1975. I left my job as art director on Hi Fi Sound magazine and took a leap of faith in forming a company ‘Living Daylights’ - hand painting bespoke roller blinds and murals. We had a large shop in Primrose Hill and became very successful, clients included George Harrison, singer Alan Price, Eric Stewart from 10cc and various wealthy Arabs.
Things seemed to be going well but I had an ache in my heart and the need to sing again became overwhelming. I had been so busy that I had put my music on the back burner. I could not deny my feelings any more and walked away from the business to follow my dreams.
In 1979 I gathered together a group including my brother, Terry, on drums and guitarist Terry Murray ( 3 Terry’s!) We recorded a number of demo songs including a very stripped bare version of Just A little Mod in a small studio called ‘Quest’ in Hertfordshire. I sent out the demo cassette tapes to all the major Record companies and independents including Stiff Records who said “close but no cigar this time”. I was getting used to the word ‘no’ and I still have a pile of rejection letters.
I never gave up, as I believed in my song ‘Just A Little Mod’! I played the demo to my old friend Andy Powell from Rock band Wishbone Ash. Andy played it to his manager John Sherry, who liked the track and wanted to release it on a new record label he and Andy had just formed called Posh records ( the PO from Powell and SH from Sherry forming the word POSH ) They asked me to write a ‘B side’ for the single and I came up with ‘Smashed & Blocked’ – more stories of my Mod escapades from the 1960’s.
Andy and I went out for a long boozy lunch to try and come up with a stage name to inflict myself on the music world. Various names were banded about including Fred Perry! I had just bought myself a Tonik mohair suit from Johnson & Johnson in the Kings Road, my Brother is named Terry and Terry Murray was on the demo so Terry was an obvious choice coupled with Tonik, it had a certain ring to it! Terry Tonik was conceived that fateful day.
I arranged a photo session with photographer Norman Brand who had his studio on the top floor of 26, Kingly Street, Soho, (my Art studio was on the first floor). Norman Brand was the trusted photographic technician for society photographer Norman Parkinson who used his darkroom to develop his Black & White photos. ( he used a painting of mine as a backdrop for a Harpers & Queens magazine photo shoot in 1980 and that same year, Twiggy the fashion model and former Mod had a photo session at No.26 too - it was all happening ! ). My photo shoot went well, I played the part and inhabited the role of Terry Tonik. My Mod alter ego was taking shape!
Gooseberry Studios was located in a tiny basement at No19 Gerrard Street and It’s worth noting that some successful artists recorded there. Gary Numan recorded his No1 hit ‘Cars’ and the Sex Pistols recorded demos there around that time -1979.
Gooseberry had a reputation as a Dub/Reggae studio and the engineer told me a true story: Dennis Bovell the reggae artist was recording a heavy dub song one day and in his ecstasy while singing, he put his hands above his head and touched the low ceiling which collapsed on him releasing a swarm of fleas that smothered him and his dreadlocks!
I suggested to Andy Powell that we use Gooseberry Studios to record my songs. Andy produced the session, played guitar and hired a great bass player and drummer. We recorded and mixed Just a Little Mod and Smashed & Blocked in a few hours and it felt good to be singing again.
I recruited my old friend Terry Murray for the recording session and he got in two of his friends to complete the group. Bob Morledge was on bass guitar and Mark Brzezicki on drums. Mark later went on to join Big Country, a very successful band in the 1980’s.
The two songs I had written were Lost In A World Of My Own and Wishing Your Life Away ( a song about my marriage break down).
Another song from that session is Eve of Destruction, the protest song written by P.F.Sloan and sung by Barry McGuire in the 1960’s. I had always loved that song and thought it was relevant to cover at that time -1980 - and is even more topical today with the upheaval in the world today.
The recording engineer was a very affable Irish lad called Rafe McKenna who’s father is the famous actor T.P. McKenna. Rafe was very kind to me, as I was a comparative novice to this recording lark in a real recording studio!
I wanted a Military feel to Eve of Destruction, so asked Mark to play a marching drum intro over which I narrated a brief piece imitating U.S. president Carter (“I believe the free nations of the World, can only tolerate so much aggression”) trouble was brewing in the Middle East and my edited lyrics of Eve of Destruction were once again resonating. My vocal delivery was rather more aggressive than normal and coached by Andy Powell I really ‘Acted’ my vocal and recorded a post Punk Mod sounding version. Andy co-produced the session with the late John Sherry who both gave me much encouragement at a very difficult time in my life, for which I am eternally grateful to them for. Of the other two songs from that session ‘Lost In A World Of My Own’ is a guitar driven unashamedly auto -biographical pop song and on ‘Wishing Your Life Away’ I sang at the top of my range, sounding a bit like Sting from the Police! The whole session went in a flash so it seemed, time standing still again in that safe place. Nothing happened despite John Sherry’s best efforts to get me a deal and those recordings were left on the shelf for many years.
Fast forward to 1993, I had been writing songs throughout the 1980’s for various projects but one song - Nothing Left To Lose – seemed to fit my Terry Tonik persona so I got in touch with old pal Andy Powell - who has always been there for me with my music – and we arranged to record the songs at North Shore Studios in West Port, Connecticut, close to where Andy was now living in America. We made a demo of Nothing Left To Lose using a drum machine and Andy on Guitar in a Garage band style, sparse and aggressive, the nihilistic lyric reflecting my state of mind at that time i.e. pissed off! Andy played two blistering guitar solo’s and we used both, double tracking them. I came back to the U.K. and sent out a cassette demo tape to Record companies once again –more rejection letters but I was undaunted.
In 1994 I had a phone call out of the blue from a friend asking if I had seen the latest issue of Record Collector magazine. In an article about Mod revival, an original 7” vinyl copy of Just A little Mod was on a list of rare singles and priced at £25 ( now worth over £100). Nobody new who Terry Tonik was and all sorts of theories went round of who T.T. could possibly be, they even thought it was Ian Dury! I was flattered and wrote to the mag to put them right. They published my letter and my world changed forever. There was renewed interest in my alter ego and that’s when Mod fanatic Dizzy Holmes of Detour Records got in touch with me to licence my songs to his label.
In 2017, Detour Records are releasing the complete recordings of Terry Tonik, an amazing event for this original Mod.
Mod, this culturally significant youth movement from 1960’s Britain which still resonates today, influencing music and fashion all over the world. Who would have thought it. Once a Mod always a Mod!
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