Copyright © 2005 Martin Newell
Pepys 0.1 Blogware © Steve Dix
As promised, a while back. The female bassist mentioned in this story was of course, my learned colleague, Lee Cave Berry now better known as Mrs Kimberley Rew.
To an engagement in Southend. We go the pretty way,
passing through the village of Woodham Ferrers. Nearby, I see a sign
for nearby South Woodham Ferrers and it unleashes a tale never set
down in print before.
It was the summer of 1980. At the end of a recording
session in Octopus Studios a rural 8-track in Stowupland, the house
musicians were reflecting upon our lack of beer money. A day or so
earlier, my late mum, a great one for cutting snippets from
newspapers, presented me with an item about the South Woodham Ferrers
Song Competition. As a skinny-jeaned, rebellious young would-be, I
was contemptuous. I'd never dream of entering, I told her, loftily.
In the spikey post-punk era, it might completely compromise my
credibility. She pointed out to me in due course, that the First
Prize in the contest, was £300 and a colour TV. Luckily, since
I've always had fewer principles than the average backstreet cat, I
immediately sat down at the piano and bashed out a song. I told the
lads this sorry story. Far from barracking me, they offered to help
me demo it. Dave, the kindly studio owner, even threw in a bit of
'dead' studio time. Half an hour later, we'd whacked the song
sloppily down on tape, made a cassette of it, borrowed some beer
vouchers and adjourned to the pub.
We needed a name. We borrowed “Marshall Davenport”
an all-purpose moniker cooked up by the bass player because it
sounded respectable and vaguely famous. I posted the cassette off
next day and forgot about it.
Weeks later, a letter arrived. It informed me that my
song had come in the top six of the South Woodham Ferrers Song
Contest. They wanted Marshall Davenport to perform our piece at their
showground. There'd be a beauty contest and a fashion parade on the
same stage. Tony Blackburn would be there. Wow, as they say. As I
regarded my team, Max, Stix and Tony, I was reminded of what
Wellington had said, upon reviewing his troops before Waterloo: “I
don't know what these men will do to the enemy but but by God, they
A bit of background may be necessary here. In summer of
1980, after much new housing development, South Woodham Ferrers, near
Maldon, was relaunching itself as a new town. It was a Milton Keynes
in miniature I suppose, although nobody at that time was anxious to
make the comparison. S.W. Ferrers was thirty-odd miles from London
and the planners were encouraging people to come and live there; the
incentive being that it was a family-friendly riverside environment
with a big supermarket nearby.
Disaster nearly struck when it was revealed that Tony,
our bass player couldn't do the date. He assured us, however, that
his then-girlfriend would not only dep for him, but she'd also drive
us there. “Oh, yeah?” asked the young men, warily. “And who's
she played for? ” It turned out that Lee, a willowy pretty girl in
her early twenties had played bass for Fats Domino at the Hammersmith
Odeon. She'd also toured with veteran rock'n'rollers the Wild
Angels. The young men all went quiet at this point. None of us had
so far done anything remotely that impressive.
Thus it was that on a blazing headachey July day, our
heroes duly turned up and played their song. Nobody was more
surprised than us when one of the organisers rushed up as we left the
stage, telling us, “Now, don't wander off too far please, because
when we announce the winner, we'll need you back up here fairly
sharpish. “ Does this mean we've ...won?” I asked, incredulously.
He said nothing.
Lee, our bass player went back to check the car, while
the guitarist and drummer disappeared to a nearby supermarket.
They soon returned with a cardboard box full of warm
canned lager and several flagons of cider. Shortly afterwards, a
grinning Tony Blackburn arrrived to judge the beauty contest. I'd
dutifully done as I was told by the organiser and hung around nearby.
Just to the side of me, I could hear a TV cameraman fussing and
complaining to his director. Was there a problem? I asked helpfully
Yes, he hissed angrily, there were two scruffy yobs lurching around
with bottles right in front of the stage and they kept getting into
his shot. I peered over his shoulder. There were Max and Stix
throwing drink down their necks and making a correspondingly merry
racket near the beauty contest. “Disgraceful.” I said.
We didn't win the competition. In the car on the way
home, it was speculated that it may not have helped our case when I'd
bounded up onto stage yelling “Good afternoon, Milton Keynes!”
The band who won the competition were very 'pro' and possibly, London
session musicians. You can still find their tune on the internet.
Naturally, it was ghastly. We had a puncture on the way home. For
three fuddled blokes who didn't drive, we did a pretty good job of
helping Lee to change the wheel. It only took us over an hour. We
dropped Max off in Braintree. We now believe he may have lived there.
Weeks later, a wooden shield arrived by post. Emblazoned on it were
the words. “ Marshall Davenport – South Woodham Ferrers Song
Competition Finalists.” It lived on my piano for many years and
rarely ever cropped up in conversation.