TONIGHT' History by Russ Strothard
|Chris Turner and I met in the summer o f 1974, Chris was already a confident singer influenced by Paul Rodgers (Free) and Rod Stewart. I had just left school and had already played i a few local bands, learning the Bass listening to Free and Led Zeppelin. We hooked up with another two Southend lads, Gary Warr on drums and Mark Duckworth on guitar, and formed a band called Hiker based on a Free/Faces type of sound. Gary Warr was a Rock drummer with big hair plus lots of drums, Mark Duckworth had a Gibson Les Paul, and liked Paul Kossoff's fretwork which impressed us. But things out there were changing musically, Chris always had a keen ear for new music trends, and alerted us to the new sounds coming through.
Dr Feelgood from Canvey Island, 5 miles from Southend along the Thames Estuary were starting to make waves, exploding with energy on stage. Another band hitting the charts from the Southend area back in '75 were the Kursuaal Flyers, they had a country-rock sound and well crafted pop tunes, very inspiring. This was a golden era for the Southend music scene, it had a big influence on how we tailored our sound, in the transition period of 74-77.
Of all the new bands coming through, Chris was obsessed with Eddie & The Hot Rods in particular, and I could understand why, again from the Southend/Canvey area. The rods were young and full of energy, modelled on the American Garage Rhythm & Blues sounds of the late 60's, like MC5 and The Flaming Groovies. Chris and I were up for updating our sound but Gary and Mark were less convinced, preferring to stay in their Rock roots. A manager was found by the name of Pete Scarbrow, a university friend of Chris's recommended us to him, Pete was enthused and had experience in his job with an advertising agency, more importantly he had contacts in London.
We did our first 3-Track demo tape still as Hiker at Surrey University (1976), recorded by a young music engineer called Phil Chambon, Phil was a competent guitarist and a budding songwriter, who had a great sounding Rickenbacker guitar, he loved the Beatles/Stones music and very keen to form a pop group. Phil joined us and our sound became more melodic, Mark left to go back to his Rock guitar. Our name changed briefly to The Toys, now medelled on a Hot Rods/New York Dolls type of thing, slightly glam with faster songs! We then saw The Damned at 'The Queens Hotel' a local gig at Westcliff-On-Sea, they were phenomenal, a huge rush of energy, with fast furious songs and little pop hooks, the whole thing was scary, funny, powerful, and so new, again ispiring us to get on. Finally Gary Warr our Rock drummer cracked, he wouldn't cut his hair and and didn't want any part of this new scene and left.
In Winter '76 to Spring '77 we set up camp, at myself and Chris's parent's houses, forming songs for a new band with Phil commuting from Guilford. We decided to add a lead guitarist to fill out the sound, as Phil was more into playing rhythm, we found Dave Cook another Southend musician who had been playing in a Rockabilly band, who knew Chris from school in Hockley. Dave Cook's preferred Rock & Roll sound was perfect, fitting in simple effective exiting guitar phrases, in the solo's & gaps. Jubilee '77 summer arrived, and we found a great drummer sympathetic to our needs, in Gary Thompson from Southend, Gary Thompson had just finished a tour with Radio Stars, who had started to some sucess as a New-Wave outfit in '77, and his drumming was tight, loud and faster, which suited Chris and Phil's new energetic pop songs. The right chemistry was in place, we were exited about our new sound, it seemed to work instantly with the introduction of Gary & Dave.
At first we did't feel part of the Punk/New Wave thing, we drew from the energy of it all, but were very song orientated, confident young musicians, who sung and played with our modern take, on a Beatles/Stones stant. As '77 morphed into '78 we felt more at home, as artists like: The Jam, Elvis Costello, Blondie, The Stranglers and The Boomtown Rats came through, they were more melodic sounding than the Punk bands.
Our regular pub gig spot in Southend would be The Top Alex. Still without a name we started to gig with very little live experience, but soon tightened up into a fiery pop band. Finally we thought of our name, when the bar manager of The Top Alex's said, "So wot are you lot going to call yourselves tonight, ay?" after numerous made up names in the previous months, we settled on the band name of Tonight.
Pete Scarbrow meanwhile was making inroads to the London scene, vital in those days for record company interest. We started to secure some gigs at popular London venues, like: The Hope & Anchor, The Music Machine, The Nashville Rooms and The Rock Garden, Phil's close friend and song writing buddy Andy Arthurs, became a producer in 1977 for United Artists which was well handy for us, as he sneaked us into De-Wolf studios, Wardour Street in London, to put down a 4-Track demo. Our demo managed to get us a deal with Target Records, a subsidiary of W.E.A. Rds, Target was run by Roger Greenaway a song writer, who had lots of hits in the late 60's early 79's, his talent scout/record plugger partner Harry Barta came down to see us at The Top Alex, by that time we were storming the place, Harry also came to The rock Garden, we were still a supporting act at that time in London (Oct '77).
Pete had us shipped out to tour Holland, in a freezing transit van with a broken passenger window, we stayed in digs at Gronnigen, in a smelly flea bitten attic at the promoters house, on a diet of chips and mayonnaise, we then found out his wife was in prostitution, the whole idea of this was to harden us up to touring the road, it certainly did! Just after arriving back we signed to Target Records in November 1977. Now things start to pace up, Pete talks to T.D.S. & W.E.A. setting up office in London, while his brother Paul now looks after us as tour manager.
'Drummer Man' would be the obvious 1st single choice, being a bit of a novelty pop song, we made it sound very of the moment, true Power Pop 1978. we performed 3 times on TOTP, twice for 'Drummer Man' and once for our 2nd single 'Money (That's Your Problem)'. After TOTP we raced through the year, concentrating on recording songs for a proposed album, 'Drummer Man' was a bit if a throwaway song, and we felt actually had better songs in the pipeline to showcase. Chris and Phil were the main songwriters, but we all had a hand in arranging the songs onto the Tonightsound: snappy, loud guitars, melodic and powerful.
The reviews of our gigs