The History of Bad Manners
The TV personality of Bad Manners
The band was a household name in Britain for three glorious years 1980-1983. They made it into the top three twice, the top ten twice and the top thirty eleven times. They were a most welcome addition to any TV show and made it onto Pebble Mill, Gloria Honeyford, Breakfast TV Workout, Hold Tight (for which they wrote the theme music), Educating Marmalade (for which they wrote the music) and many more.
The Top of the Pops appearances were among the band's favourites. Louis Cook and Buster have recalled how they all enjoyed being paid to get drunk and fool about as they mimed to their records! Some of the more noted appearances included Buster's Can Can dress and DM boots while the performance of Just a Feelin' saw him set up as a human 'blackhead' with dark stage paint on his bonce and tongue a wagging. In 1981, Bad Manners performed Can Can for the Brits awards and Buster again did the human blackhead impression while Sayagg stood at the back of the stage motionless bar his wild arm movements on the kettle drums.
However, no history of TV Bad Manners can be complete without the TISWAS period. This is a sacred and hallowed time zone. In 1980-1981 they made several appearances on the cult live kids' Saturday show with Chris Tarrant, Sally James (stand on the cold lino' lads), John Gorman, Lenny Henry, Sylvester McCoy and the Phantom Flan Flinger himself. Here, Bad Manners were in their natural environment. Everything was spontaneous and unexpected. Things would be sheer brilliance or utter, hilarious disaster. Slapstick lunacy was balanced by ingenius wonkiness. The band performed Lorraine in 1980 and promoted the 2Tone film Dance Craze while they were all locked into the infamous Cage and almost drowned in water and custard. Buster also had the opportunity to show his culinary penchants for drinking disintegrated pork pies mixed with pickled onions from the jar (live), as well as offering a three week old pair of pants (from a tour) as a prize to the TV viewers in a competition. In 1981 during another appearance they performed Can Can and Monster Mash with custard pies flying and blocking up the bits where the sound came from in saxaphones and trumpets etc.
Bad Manners - 'live' in the 1980's…
And what was a typical Bad Manners gig like in those chart-topping days! It would start with a darkened stage. The lights would dim. Shapes and figures would drift across the stage and plug in etc. The audience would be mental but they would get shouted at and told to shut up perhaps by Chewitt. Alternatively, the whole band would wail a chorus of 'Whooooooooooooo?' into the mikes. Then the spotlight would go up on the drummer Chewitt who would be kitted out in Clockwork Orange bowler hat and whites or a Jungle hat and silk shorts. It was time for Echo 4-2.Echo 4-2 has achieved a legendary place in every serious Bad Manners fan's consciousness of what the band is about live. It is akin to a religious rite or a ritualistic, primitive communion with the spirit of SKA.
It begins with a solitary drum-beat on the toms which is played in true jungle-gallop style and immediately grabs the crowd's attention and gets them jumping. A mighty brass fanfare kicks in and the full pelt starts with a crucial off beat from the guitar. From here, long horn parts and calls are answered by a fast-fingered melody that simply makes people hop, jump, scream and shout. The piece builds up to a mighty, horn-led climax and Buster then walks onto the stage. That's it. That's the trick. It is simply magic.
The band had lifted the theme from a lesser known 1960's Cops and Robbers show of the same name. Echo 4-2 was the signal given by the boys in blue as they signed on/off in the show. By the time Buster and his chums had finished with the orginal Laurie Johnson arrangement, it was a devil's gallop and a primeval, primordial call to arms for all SKA fans. It still is to this day.
Early into Echo 4-2, Alan Sayagg would walk onto the stage in full Winston Bazoomies attire of a cheap suit, shirt, tie, kiddie yellow sunglasses and harmonicas in hand. He would then speak gibberish into the microphone until the end of the tune when he had to complete his next job - introduce 'Mr Buster Bloodvessel - all the way from the moon…' and Buster would walk onto the stage and the place would go mental. Alan also served an important function in that he was regularly introduced as the Loony and would sing Never Smile at a Crocodile from the Disney film Peter Pan during any possible lulls in the Manners set, giving the band a rest from the hectic pace.
Louis Al's stage persona was chip-shop man/scientist in white lab coat and boots/hat while David Farren sported a tropical straw sun hat and suit. Martin Stewart preferred the Clockwork Orange Droog outfit of boiler suit, boots and bowler (as did Buster), while the brass were in a world of their own. Chris Kane sometimes resembled a Teddy Boy with his draped jackets and crepe shoes (Bill Haley influences), while Andy Marson might drift from leopard skins to gold lame' jacket and slicked back hair. Paul Hyman was always immaculate in waistcoat, trilby and smart trousers.