Iconic Bands. Deaf School.

There are music albums (vinyl, cassette, cd) that creep into the psyche. There are musical artists/artistes that creep into the psyche. There are a handful of albums that truly matter to the person who listens to music everyday for pleasure.  If you’re John Peel, Whispering Bob Harris, Tony Blackburn or…..many of the other ‘music DJ/writers who do it for a living’ as professionals, you probably have hundreds/thousands in your collection of albums or bands/artists you simply go back to again and again. But, as an individual who happens upon songs from the radio, you get 3,4,5,6 dozen song favourites that stay forever locked in your heart. Chosen one’s you’d take to a desert island.

My two favourite artists are Marc Bolan/T.Rex and The Beatles/as Solo artists too.  No particular top favourite. The number three and four are Harry Nilsson and Morrisey. And yet, if you asked me if I would take their whole collections to a desert island, I’d say “No!” If you asked me if I would take Deaf School’s 3 (now 4) albums? Yes…definitely. All 4 are now entrenched in my essential listening. 

Albums of artists or bands can be listened to at times of profound experiences or change in your life time. This then provides the musical background to something that has had a massive impact upon you as an individual. The Buddhist Monks chanting Hare Krishna back in the 1970s on a hot summers day in the City Centre of Coventry mesmerised my youthful mind. Various songs from certain other specific Buddhist chanting sends me into a calm state every time I hear it.

How did it happen that a student band called ‘Deaf School’ from Liverpool got it’s hooks into my brain? Well…..I was in hospital for about 10 weeks with a complicated osteomyelitis symptom in the lower leg that could have resulted in an amputation. I was 17 years old at the time. Needless to say I was a bit panicky. Into the hospital radio headphones that came out of the wall, came a song. Deaf School’s first single ‘What a way to end it all?’ Me? Not maudlin at the time, but pretty low with the situation of worrisome thoughts. I heard this song and….I got into what? The lyrics? No actually. It was the overall feel and tune. It was parody. Exaggerated self pity. Deaf School sang about the thought process of intended act of suicide that was not actually intentional. Inherent musical influences within one song? Take a listen. Sidewalk French cafe, Tamela Motown morse code guitar notes, old school banjo/ukulele, girl backing singer 1950s romantic ‘oohs and  aahs ‘ and so much more.

I got out of hospital, cried a lot at my escape from the nightmares of imaginings (with leg intact) and also cried from having to leave the safe and routine entrenched environment I’d grown to depend upon. I thanked the doctors and nurses for the blessed attention they provided and went to town on the bus, on my crutches and bought the first album. 2nd Honeymoon, as it turned out, was hauntingly beautiful. Sitting with said crutches in Mum and Dads’ house I played that album over and over. As said, it was an album of infinite beauty and epic songwriting abilities. At first, I was a bit ‘What the F**k. How have they achieved this?’ 

I already played in a band, wrote songs and went out gigging in pubs. Basic stuff of 6 or 7 chords, several covers and three or four originals that I wrote, and a view on life born from my limited experiences of youth, love, hardships and imagined adult possibility thinking. But here was an album that changed my whole thinking both musically and lyrically. Musicianship abilities a class apart. Just pre-punk but no rock anthem inclusions. Quirky, yet very, very clever. Synergy of sound with stops, starts and rhythms that took incredible journeys.

For example. Bette, in the song ’The Final Act’ from 2nd Honeymoon’, sang of both self despair/criticism/analysis of presentation to the public eye (Don’t like what I see in my mirror’) and what was borne from the imagery of what people perceive in imagined thought of the persona.  The singer/actress/dancer, in front of their eyes. Bette sings of an artiste, who is sought after the performance is over, by ‘admirers and friends who’ve waited for hours’.  The fragility of her wanting to be perfect. Wrapped up in her appearance to the public, whilst having the underlying realistic knowledge that in what she presented….‘Had no time to be frightened or scared, but nobody cared….but me……just me!’ By the way……that high note she reaches! Cheered at live gigs on hitting the seemingly impossible note.

Below. A great link:

https://www.punk77.co.uk/groups/deaf_school.htm

They were formed early to mid 1970s. Forty plus years ago. Way ahead of their time. Their songs were worldly wise, surreal, quirky, an observation of human nature, oozed with eclectic influences or just achingly sad. I realise now, but not then, how great Deaf School were with the subject matter and inclusions in those lyrics. Not then. I was too shallow. I was too young in emotional intelligence and experience. How did Deaf School, the band, tap into such deep, insightfulness of happenings, lifestyle and relationships? They were young recent art school students. A bunch of ‘get together individuals in a hall and see what happens’. About a dozen and a half people by all accounts, eventually whittled down to the members of the band I know and love. Sadly, two members have died. Live gigs? I saw them in the early days a few times and a few years ago in Shepherd’s Bush, London. Fantastic gigs. With a huge crowd of serious followers in attendance too. Cult status is very apt to apply to this band.

  • Bette Bright (real name Anne Martin) – vocals
  • Enrico Cadillac Jnr (real name Steve Allen) – vocals
  • Eric Shark (real name Thomas John Davis) – vocals (b.1950 – d.2010)
  • Ian Ritchie – woodwind instruments
  • Max Ripple (real name John Wood) – keyboards
  • Cliff Hanger (real name Clive Langer) – guitar
  • Steve “Average” Lindsey – bass guitar
  • Tim Whittaker – drums (b. Timothy John Whittaker, 8 October 1952, Clitheroe, Lancashire – d. 20 July 1996, Liverpool)

Albums:

2nd Honeymoon                                  1976

                Don’t Stop the World.                       1977 

                English Boys/Working Girls.             1978                 

Lets Do This Again Next Week.        2017

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