Bad Manners Ska Tour

Bad Manners On Tour

The History of Bad Manners

Forging Ahead!

SkaThe band's next and fourth album offering was probably one of their most important in terms of the critical edge. Bad Manners were now offering a superb latino/soul/stax fusion to give their SKA sound the edge. The jazzy skank through Exodus, was matched by the excellence of Rose of Italy, Salad Bar, Tonight is Your Night, Samson & Delilah, Seventh Heaven, Lollipop, What's Up Crazy Pup and others. The now familiar final oddity added on to end things was a songster version of the ITV show Hold Tight. The band had re-christened and re-recorded this fairground/circus arrangement to include full lyrics and chorus and it was simply amazing!

The excellence of the album was matched by the choice of cover. Hogarth's Election Entertainment had been adjusted to accommodate Fatty and the band engaging in an 18th Century election banquet. Wigs were flying, food was being scoffed and wenches were a-serving in so many different ways.

While the band and their loyal cult following were ecstatic about the album, there was a definite shift in the tastes of the record-buying public. Bad Manners had to some extent been pigeon-holed into the 'good time' niche market and this meant silliness and the image of the fat man and his band playing Lip Up Fatty forever… Of course, every fan who knew the band knew that there was far more to them than this but the difference between the real Bad Manners and the TV/Public Bad Manners was a problem. In some respects, 1983/84 saw the band stumble to redefine themselves in a world that was becoming more and more distinctly post-SKA.

New faces, new places, Mental Notes and the United States 1984-1987

In the mid 1980's, Bad Manners 'disappeared' from regular media spots, the TV Fatty and other useful vehicles for their show and sounds. They were in permanent work all over the world but they were not hitting the TV spotlight as much as they had done. There is nothing new in this. Many super-groups have gone through this stumbling stage after big hits to face the issue of trying to find more. Manners didn't have to worry about work as it was all out there. Their big concern was the direction they should be taking. Where next! Should it be SKA or should it be the commercial pop direction!

Worryingly for them, Magnet Records allowed Telstar to release all their charting songs on a Greatest Hits album. As the band had only been charting for three years, it felt a little premature to allow a sort of R.I.P effort to hit the shops, but the deal went ahead.

Another issue was band size. As a 9 - piece mini-orchestra there were plenty of people to pay and mouths to feed, plus the overheads of maintaining a sound crew and transport/security/marketing organisation. Buster and others recall the difficulties of managing '9 member democracies.' The band even used to argue about toilet stops while on tour and then put it to the vote. Within the band there were enough people to form 'gangs' who tried to keep the group on the sort of course that they wanted. Louis and Buster did not talk for some years because one had not told the other of a party they were invited to. Things were a little silly at times…

Louis, Matt and DaveAgainst this backdrop, Alan Sayagg took another health-led break from the band and was replaced by the excellent blues harmonica player Jerry Tremaine. The band was also joined by the veteran musical figure Jimmy Scott who had helped pen the classic Beatles song Ob La Di Ob La Da. Jimmy was on percussion and other effects and was a very good stage worker, despite his more advanced years.

It was at this point that an important video company suddenly offered the band £10,000 for rights to film and sell a live concert. The band eagerly agreed and Live at the Regal was thus made. It was not the band's most favoured gig as several original members have since acknowledged, owing to the crowd and venue but the music was absolutely brilliant and showed how seasoned the boys had become. The input by Jerry Tremaine left some question marks as to his future. Tremaine was and is a top harmonica player but his style was very blues-orientated and some of his licks were not appreciated by some of the longer-serving members of the band. Perhaps this is unfair but at the same time, there will only ever be one Alan Sayagg and Alan played simple, beautifully silly, tuneful lines that made the songs the classics they are. Change them and you change the song. The Regal video was also characterised by the finale appearance of the Can Can girls - much to the delight of every fan and band member!

As the band reflected on its future, they were offered what appeared to be a Bad Manners Drumsonce in a lifetime opportunity by Portrait records. They were going to be US-backed mega-stars with secure work and recording, plus big budgets! Bad Manners had pulled it off. They were signed to this large American label with the prospect of super star status and numerous album deals. The prospect of global distribution and earnings was very attractive to a hard working nine-piece who had all gigged till they dropped since 1976. The vision was somewhat different to the outcome however and things began to move in new and worrying directions. For 'contractual reasons' their new 1985 album Mental Notes could not be purchased in the UK or Europe and this naturally cut them off from their fans.

An additional factor was the actual content, style and direction of the material on Mental Notes. It represented a big win for those in the group who wanted to push further towards a brass led soul/funk fusion and in many respects, the album's content was alien to all previous ones. Nevertheless it was very interesting, if somewhat over-mixed and produced and contained rare single releases that DID reach the shores of the UK - Tossin in My Sleep and Blue Summer, neither of which reached the higher parts of the charts. Other better tracks included Bang the Drum All Day and What the Papers Say.

Jerry Tremaine had since gone and his replacement on harmonica was Stevie Smith who was regarded as a world class player, ranking in the top 10 UK players alongside the likes of Paul Lamb and Johnny Mars. Stevie brought back more melodic lines into the songs. His recordings on Mental Notes are sublime and while not Sayagg style, they represent an extension to the sort of places Sayagg was going with his playing before he had been forced to give up. Another factor with Stevie was his solid experience as a jobbing player. He was and remains one of the top class blues performers in the UK to this day, via Ruthless Blues.

Bad Manners PosterPortrait poured incredible amounts of money into Mental Notes without a big, guaranteed market such as Europe or the UK. Literally tens of thousands of pounds were spent on production of one single track while US producers were flown across the Atlantic in order to mix the records at great costs. As the budget expanded, it became the case that the band would need to sell literally millions of albums before they could make a single penny for themselves. Buster and co began to suspect rightly or wrongly that Bad Manners were being used as a tax fall for the Portrait organisations.Louis & Stef Amsterdammmm

Despite these later opinions, the mid-1980's tours at home and in the USA were sublime times for Bad Manners. They made some excellent videos while in the states, including a knock-out version of My Girl Lollipop, featuring Buster as a hopelessly love-sick ice cream parlour boss, trying to woo a sweet babe away from her beau. Back in the UK, they were occasionally called upon to perform on the Saturday night TV cabaret circuit or chatshow and on one memorable occasion Buster dyed himself silvery-blue then threw buckets of glitter all over himself and the host while performing Special Brew - live.

Stevie Smith (in interview with this writer) has spoken of the 'reality problem' the band faced in these middle years of the 1980's. The band (he claims) were never stupid but they were under the odd impression that somewhere 'out there' was an entity called Bad Manners. This band was somehow making their money for them and they were therefore unable to appreciate the importance of getting things together with Portrait and other companies. It was as though the band had become lost in terms of realising who they were.
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