A Songwriter's Saga by Graham Trust

 

Childhood

St Mary's GrassendaleMy upbringing provided me the ideal start for a songwriter. My father Eric was an accomplished organist and choirmaster, who began playing the church organ as a 13 year old in 1942. He was a Senior Architectural Assistant by trade, but his spare time was dedicated to St Mary's church choir in Grassendale, Liverpool. Dad lived by the maxim "If a job's worth doing, it's worth doing well" and worked tirelessly to ensure that he and his choir delivered cathedral standard performances. Apart from the routine  Sunday services, weddings, christenings and funerals, he staged magnificent works like Handel's ‘Messiah'and Stainer's ‘Crucifixion'. The high point of every year, though, was the Christmas carol service. Rehearsals for all these occasions began months in advance.

St Mary's Choir, 1971It was impossible for me to remain unaffected by dad's boundless enthusiasm and, in 1969, at the age of eight, I asked if he would take me into his choir. I already loved singing all types of music. The Beatles, The Beach Boys and The Monkeesn were, by then, particular favourites of mine, but so too were the songs I'd heard in church and at the Sunday school whose intrusion into my weekend I so deeply resented. I recall performing my entire repertoire in our back garden where, apart from the bemused birds, I was completely alone. Dad welcomed me into his choir with open arms, but made it quite clear that, now I had made up my mind, I would not be allowed to change it. He could never tolerate ditherers or quitters.

At my first practice I was astonished to find that all the boys and most of the adults addressed my dad as "Sir". Wanting to avoid any whiff of nepotism I too always called him "Sir". The choir had the utmost respect for him because he was a brilliant teacher who could sing all of their parts - altos, tenors and basses. It was only the higher end of the soprano range, beyond his falsetto, that he demonstrated to us boys on the organ. We were taught how to project our voices and to develop a pleasing tone. No detail was too minor for dad. Before teaching a piece, he fully explained the meaning of its words. Words were as important as melodies and harmonies to him; it was all important. For the unfortunate few afflicted by Liverpool accents there were elocution lessons - but only for the specific purpose of not offending the Lord's ears while singing in St Mary's. You had also to sing with passion. If any half heartedness was detected, your semi slumber would be broken either by a volley of his finger clicks (which, I swear, were as loud as castanets) or by his bellow: "SING, you blighters". Dad taught all the choristers how to breathe properly. One technique he employed, while consulting his wrist watch, was for us to slowly draw in breath for ten seconds, then hold that breath for a torturous twenty seconds, and finally to gently exhale over another ten seconds. The whole process, which was repeated two or three times,  helped us to sustain long notes, and that was vital because he wouldn't let us breathe until the sheet music denoted a full stop or a comma. You really didn't want to incur his wrath by breathing out of turn. Any chorister who ever learned to sing the ‘Gloria' from ‘Ding Dong Merrily on High' PROPERLY will know the benefits such lessons bestow.

I remember singing at Christmas carol services when it was night time and the church was illuminated purely by red wax candles. These were mystical, nerve racking occasions. One Christmas I sang solo Harold Darke's version of ‘In the Bleak Midwinter' and on another two occasions, ‘The Sussex Carol' (On Christmas Night). Dad's reflection on ‘In the Bleak Midwinter' was that it had been quite apparent, from my big red face, that I was the one who was about to sing. I have no doubt that this was the case with all my solo performances. Even at that tender age I found public performance both daunting and, in a strange way, exhilarating.

My dad accepted a new position at St Bridget's in Wavertree in the early 1970s but I remained at St Mary's under the tutelage of Brian Lee, a much younger, though no less enthusiastic musician. I rose to the position of Head Chorister and achieved a qualification (I can't remember which) from The Royal School of Church Music. To attain this, the chorister had to demonstrate an ability to read music - something I never did grasp. I just found all the dots and other symbols bewildering and, in truth, I wasn't in the least bit interested in clefs and staves, rests, bars, minims, crotchets, breves or semibreves. It was all a bit too scientific, far too mathematical for my liking.  Dad thought the important thing was that I could sing well, and not being able to sight read was of little relevance. Brian, too, understood my academic limitations and, since it was on his word that the RSCM issued their certificate and medal, he fudged me through the course.

I seldom watched the BBC's 'Top of the Pops' because it was screened on a Thursday - choir practice night, but my sister Barbara threw me a lifeline to the modern world. She spent nearly all her pocket money on rock albums and singles, and introduced me to Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix, Jethro Tull, T.RexDavid Bowie and many others. Her taste was impeccable, but Dad despised these "long haired weirdos" with their "bloody banjo music". I eventually left St Mary's choir in 1975 having absorbed, over those six years, an immense wealth of melodies, harmonies and words. My scatter brain jumbled these up with all the pop songs I'd heard. In years to come this blend of the ancient and modern helped me conjure up new melodies with relative ease (relative, that is, to the unease with which lyrics came to me).

One day while I was mauling the piano at home, Carol Haughton, a neighbour, remarked "You look like a young Paul McCartney". I didn't, of course, but this comment sent a little tingle through me; "Wow! Wouldn't it be great to be a pop star like McCartney?" But that remained a forlorn hope while I was such a useless pianist. Blast. Nevertheless Carol had planted a seed in my head. An added impetus was that Quarry Bank Comprehensive, the secondary school I attended from 1971 onwards, boasted a rather famous old boy by the name of John Lennon. In 1975 I befriended a pupil called Alex Hanley. He told me that he could play electric guitar and, one lunch hour, invited me back to his mum's place for an impromptu concert. When he switched on his amplifier, plugged in his guitar and microphone and launched into ‘Caroline' by Status Quo, I was hugely, hugely impressed. As we walked back to school over the playing fields, I jokingly sang "I'm dreaming of a white Christmas for those in peril on the sea." Mixing and matching songs was something I often did to amuse myself, but Alex recognised this as a valuable trait, and told me "You could write songs!!" That was the biggest seed to have been planted in my head so far.

By 1976 I had in my possession two portable cassette players with which I began experimenting... One of those seeds was beginning to sprout at last. I recorded myself singing along to Eric Idle's 'The Song O' The Continuity Announcers' on one of the machines. Then I played back my performance and harmonised with myself while recording my two voices on the other machine. I then played back that recording of my 2 voices while recording a third harmony on the other machine. The sound quality did deteriorate as I added more and more voices, but I had established a method by which I could compose my own songs.  

“A Songwriter’s Saga is a registered trademark and copyright © of Graham Trust

1977

In the spring of 1977 something magical happened. My friend, Michael Tasker, gave me a compilation tape of music he'd recorded from the John Peel show on BBC Radio 1. This was like nothing I'd ever heard before. It was very up tempo, the guitars were horribly distorted and nearly all these guys were singing, not in the usual mid-Atlantic drawl, but with genuine venom and mostly in Cockney accents. At first I was shocked by what I heard. "They can't get away with this, can they?" It made adrenaline course through my veins. This was the music of The Damned, The Clash, The Sex PistolsThe Ramones, The Jam and others now lost to history (unless you're a complete saddo, like me). It was my great privilege to have been at the right age to appreciate this howl of disaffected youth. I was hooked to punk rock (or "new wave", as it became known when the masses jumped on the bandwagon) and I began to spend my nights tuned in to John Peel, perched over the "Record" button on the family music centre. Most nights I heard nothing of worth but on others there were gems which made the wait worthwhile.

Using my cassette machines and dad's metronome as sole accompaniment, I began to write my own pseudo-Punk songs. I used two songs as templates for my own lyrics. These were ‘Naïve' by The Killjoys and ‘Man of the Year' by The Models - both very obscure, but great songs. An example of the kind of thing I came out with was (in a convincing Cockney accent, naturally):

"Zombies, morons, all of this and more, what do people take us for?

Do they do the same to you or have you got a IQ?
Or are you thick, thick, thick as a brick? Us stupid buggers get on your wick.
No one gives me a chance - treat me like dirty underpants.
Do they do the same to you or have you got a IQ?
Or are you thick, thick, thick as a brick, us stupid buggers make you sick."

I am less intelligent than a dog. I should be flushed down the bog.
I know my brain is hard to find; it is one of the small kind.
Because I'm thick, thick, thick as a brick. Thick, thick. THICK! "

I took my lyric sheets into school and sang the "songs" to anyone I could corner. They were warmly received, and this encouragement made me think about accompanying myself on the dusty old Spanish guitar my dad bought and promptly abandoned in the early '70s. Armed with his ‘Play in a Day' type book, I found that eventually, after weeks of trying, and with sore fingers, I could falteringly knock out some of the most basic chords - E, A, C, D and G. Simplicity was the very essence of punk rock so it was not long before I realised I could actually play poor imitations of some of the more basic songs that I loved. The guitar, though, was dreadful and, in the summer of 1977, I swapped, with Chris Adamson, (a Quarry Banker in the year below me) my bicycle for his Jedson electric guitar and practice amplifier. I named this dreadful guitar "the cheese grater" because its jagged frets shredded my finger tips, but it did give me that raw punk sound I craved. I wrote, in homage to Billy Idol of Generation X - ‘Billy was a Punk Rock Star'. I don't recall any of the lyrics at all. They must have been truly moronic.

 My love of punk rock became all encompassing, but one band more than any other, captured my imagination - The Jam. With their smart suits and '60s inspired music they stood apart from the ripped T-Shirts, bondage trousers, leather jackets and safety pins of the Sex Pistol impersonating opportunists who took a ride on the back of the punk movement. While The Pistols sang "Get pi**ed. Destroy!", The Jam sang "What's the point in saying destroy? We want a new life for everywhere." The Pistols and their immitators offered only anarchy. The Jam dared to swim against the mainstream by offering hope. In December Mike Tasker and I went to see them on their "This is the Modern World" tour at the Liverpool Empire. I was surprised to find the place only half full. The Jam filled those empty spaces with their youthful angst - and all that energy was generated by just 3 members. Mike said that I had the same earnest look as their singer  / guitarist Paul Weller. I had no idea what "earnest" meant, but took it as a great compliment anyway. I thought I looked more like their bass player Bruce Foxton. Whatever, that comment contributed towards my enduring admiration of The Jam.

“A Songwriter’s Saga is a registered trademark and copyright © of Graham Trust

1978

Early in 1978 my school mate Pete Cresswell let it slip that he and another pupil Martyn Gilbert had been writing and recording their own songs onto  cassette. I suspect Pete kept these collaborations secret for fear of a rival "songwriter" muscling in.  When he played me the tape I was blown away. They'd composed three immediately appealing songs: the punky ‘Having Fun', a mid tempo bluesy number called ‘Rush Hour' and a slow, melodic song called ‘Future Mission' about a failed space flight - "People said it couldn't be done; I'm here to prove they were right." Martyn had been practicing guitar for four years and his playing was outstanding. Pete didn't play an instrument but he did write the lyrics and sang in the fashion of the day - gruffly, just about in tune and with very little melody, but all the same, to great effect. I wanted a piece of the action. I told Pete to let Martyn know that I could keep good time and I would like to play rhythm guitar to his lead. Naturally, I had no idea whether I could keep good time but this lie was enough to secure me a place in Pete's living room at the next session.

I hardly knew Martyn but I'd formed the opinion that he was somewhat distant and moody. I felt intellectually inferior to him but, at the first session, he demonstrated no signs of a superiority complex. In fact, he actively encouraged me by teaching me various 12 bar blues techniques and, that vital component in the rhythm guitarist's arsenal, the bar chord. This takes some practice as you need to accumulate enough strength in your left hand to enable you to hold down all 6 strings at the same time with the long side of your index finger. Then you form an E major chord with your other 3 fingers (your thumb rests unseen on the back of the fret board), and move this hand shape anywhere up and down the fret board. Depending on which fret the barring index finger is placed upon, your basic E major chord becomes any major chord from F to E flat - that's 11 chords. If you take your middle finger off the fret board, then all of those major chords become minors. Then, by removing your ring finger they become minor 7th chords - so that's a total of 33 bar chords at your disposal. Martyn showed me the five stringed A major bar chord and the A major 7th and the A minor and the A minor 7th too. BUT ENOUGH. This was like presenting an artist who had previously sketched only in black and white, a beginner's colour painting set.  I was delighted by how freely and how patiently Martyn continued to impart his knowledge at these all too infrequent sessions. Had he not been so forthcoming, I would have had nowhere else to turn for tuition. I might have become frustrated or bored and then given up. As it was, Martyn equipped me with some significant song writing tools. He had shaped my destiny. 

I contributed a punky simplicity to the early sessions, and out of these came another of Pete's comedy songs ‘That Monday Morning Feeling', which he would later perform with No Exit. We all entered into the spirit of the age by adopting punk pseudonyms. Pete became Stud Crabtree, Martyn was The Gap and I christened myself Wedgie Cesspit. How we laughed. We sent John Peel a tape under the name of ‘The Lemons'. We didn't get a reply, but what did John Peel know, anyway?

I continued to learn and progress - slowly. At school my academic progress was also slow. Pete Cresswell and I were both relegated to the year below. It was a bit embarrassing at first, sitting in lessons with pupils a year younger, but as fate would have it, this brought me under the influence of a great English teacher called John Ayres. Like my dad, he knew and loved his subject and infected those in his company with enthusiasm. We sat entranced as he read out loud Shakespeare's ‘Hamlet', Evelyn Waugh's ‘A Handful of Dust' , Tom Stoppard's ‘Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead' and Ben Johnson's ‘Volpone'. He didn't just read them, he became all of the characters - male and female, adult and child. It was a privilege to sit in his class and be enchanted in this way. How else would a dullard like me have possibly developed a deep appreciation of Hamlet, and identified so strongly with his youthful melancholia? The complex Elizabethan text was explained so well that it read like everyday language. John Ayres recognised that I was a "late developer", that I had great potential. No one else had ever expressed any confidence in my abilities before, and I was inspired.  "To be or not to be", "what a piece of work is a man" and all those other famous quotations made me realise that no emotion I had ever, or would ever feel, was unique to me. Everything had been done and felt before. So my life, and life itself, seemed utterly meaningless. Through my songs I could never hope to offer insight into humanity's dark heart with Shakespeare's eloquence, but hey, I could at least give it a go.

In May I made the first of many visits to the legendary Eric's club in Mathew Street. I was not yet 18, and therefore under age, but accompanied by Martyn and Dave Evans, (another school friend) I evaded detection. Down the stairs we went and through the matt black doors into a room almost as dark as the doors. The first thing that struck me about Eric's was the inexplicably sulphurous smell of hamburgers cooking at the far end of the room. As I advanced toward the bar, the second thing that struck me was that my feet were sticking to a beer soaked carpet. The third thing that struck me was that the urinals in the gents' toilets were overflowing and that the stickiness on the carpet was not necessarily all attributable to beer. Nevertheless I was like a pig in dirt, and I don't think I'd ever been so excited about anything in my life. This was the place that nearly all my punk and new wave heroes had played. That night we saw The Motors - and they were marvellous.

I felt I deserved a better guitar than the cheese grater and, in June, with my 18th birthday money, I bought myself a black Gibson Les Paul copy which I could actually play for sustained periods without wincing in pain. As a result, over the next few months, my song writing came on in leaps and bounds. Combining simple open chords and bar chords with my Hamletesque gloom, I penned my best song yet - 'Nothing New'. It was hardly Shakespeare but it hit the spot for me:

"It's nothing new, nothing new. Don't know what to do.
This summer's day sweeps clouds away, still the sky is blue;
Sad and blue, sad and blue - I feel like that too.
It's nothing new, nothing new. Don't know what to do."

Even at this early stage, I knew that the vast majority of pop songs' words were inane. They were certainly not poetry. Most of The Beatles' early hits conveyed trite love messages (' Please Please me', 'From Me to You', 'She Loves You' and 'I Want to Hold Your Hand') but in spite of that they were still great songs. Often lyrics made no sense - either grammatically or in subject matter - but that didn't detract from a fantastic song. For instance Bowie's use of words was brilliant; they just sounded right and conjured up vivid pictures in your mind. But the words were not enough by themselves. They had to be accompanied  by a great melody and / or an outstanding musical arrangement. Unlike poems, most song lyrics are not intended to be read or listened to in isolation. They are just one component in a larger body of work - the song. I knew, then, that my words didn't have to make sense and they didn't necessarily have to rhyme. They didn't have to be autobiographical and they didn't have to be sincere. In fact they didn't have to be anything. They just had to sound right. 

I'd known Nic Corke since childhood when we were both in the choir at St Mary's. He was now a tall, dark haired, athletic looking youth who was seldom afraid to speak his brains; he was hilarious. Nic had just bought himself a drum kit and, in the school holidays, he invited me round for a jamming session at his parents' mansion in Fulwood Park. This was a place so huge, with so many rooms and cubby holes, that a visitor could quite easily become disorientated. I arrived with my guitar, and went into an upstairs room where Nic had set up his drums and also a microphone and an amplifier - for me! His dad, Charlie, was in the room, repairing a window frame. I began by demonstrating ‘Nothing New'. Charlie stopped work and looked me straight in the eye in amazement (I think that's what it was). He congratulated me on a "good song." In the months ahead he came to regret ever having given me that encouragement.

Penetration at Reading, 1978Punk / new wave bands were now mainstream and this made the Reading Festival of 1978 an attractive proposition for me. That August Bank Holiday weekend I shared a tent with Martyn Gilbert and Dave Evans. Amongst a whole host of others, we saw Status Quo (while still at, or maybe just past, their very best), The Motors, a reformed Pirates   (without the deceased Johnny Kidd), Ultravox   (before Midge Ure joined), Sham 69, Patti Smith, Penetration (a favourite of Dave's) and the Tom Robinson Band. Dave and I teased Martyn throughout TRB's song ‘Martin'. Robinson sang "No one ever had a brother like Martin" and the whole audience chanted back "MARTIN!!" We selected an ear each to bellow "Martin" down. Martyn was not amused. At slightly over 6 feet tall, he was the same height as me when he didn't stoop. He had a shock of curly black hair which prompted Dave to christen him "Springhead". He looked like Charlie Harper, (singer in the punk group UK Subs) and would cheerfully sing their hit ‘Tomorrow's Girl' when reminded of that fact (I would have preferred 'I Live in a Car', but never mind). Martyn was very intellligent, and articulated his thoughts with measured precision. I had never before encountered a person who took the time to think about what he did or said before acting or speaking. He was an unwitting master of the pregnant pause. 

The Jam topped the bill on the opening night and I remember how proud I felt to be a fan of theirs as they delivered a particularly beautiful rendition of ‘Tonight at Noon' in the balmy, Berkshire twilight. "One day", I thought, "I'll be up on that stage." After The Jam, Dave and I went back to the tent. Martyn went missing for hours. He'd been collecting discarded, but unopened cans of beer, and brought back two bulging carrier bags full. Few people would have had the intelligence to do that. He let us have a couple of cans each, (also a smart move) but he was very tired and not in the best of spirits after the ‘Martin' incident, and so went to sleep. We borrowed a few more cans and helped ourselves to two large mugs of Martyn's expensive single malt whiskey. We didn't wake him to ask for permission because we were sure he wouldn't have minded. Dave began recording our drunken meanderings on a portable cassette player. Adopting the characters of the vulgar Cockneys, Derek and Clive (as played by Peter Cook and Dudley Moore) we sprinkled our conversation with Fs and Cs (and I don't mean the chords). If that tape were ever to resurface then my squeaky clean façade would be blown clean out of the water. Incredibly Martyn slept through all that racket and next day made no comment about the  alarming rate at which his whiskey had evaporated. 

Back in Liverpool, in September, Martyn and I made a number of trips to Nic's house while his mum and dad were away. In an upstairs room, overlooking the Corke family's tennis court, and in Pete Cresswell's absence, we practiced the staples - ‘Rush Hour', ‘Having Fun' and ‘That Monday Morning Feeling' over and over again, and also ‘Stepping Stone' by the Monkees / Sex Pistols. We started to get quite "tight" (more in time with each other and in tune). Nic's drumming was still erratic, though, and he filled the songs at unpredictable intervals with drum rolls, after which he often lost the beat. Still, he was improving. All too soon it was time to say goodbye to Martyn as he went off to Swansea University for the next three years  to study Biochemistry. We vowed to get back together again in the holidays.

SLug, Spike and BellaDuring this summer, a former school mate, Mark Adamson, made a surprise visit to my house. Mark was very slim, with brown hair and spectacles, but his unassuming appearance was deceptive. He was immensely strong, and loved to demonstrate how tough he was by punching parking meters so hard that they would reverberate and you could hear the coins rattling inside. He reminded me of James Coburn in the film ‘Our Man Flint'. Like Mr Spock from ‘Star Trek', he was superhumanly strong willed. When he made up his mind to do something he did it. No matter how circumstances changed around him he would always complete his task - sometimes, unlike Spock, in defiance of all logic. He had a brilliantly wicked sense of humour with which he ribbed me mercilessly. I began to realise, as he became my closest friend and confidante, that he only mocked the people he loved; everyone else was treated with the utmost courtesy. He sounds like a nightmare, you may think. Absolutely not. He was the kindest gentleman I'd ever met in my life.

When I opened the front door Mark immediately barked out the order "Get your coat on; we're going into town to get wrecked." I was taken aback, but on reflection, it seemed like a good idea, so we caught the train from Aigburth to the city centre, and spent the evening in St John's Precinct at The Star & Garter pub, playing Space Invaders. When a high score was achieved the machine offered four fields in which to type your initials for posterity. Mark inserted "Slug" and I tapped in "Toad". He has been "Slug" ever since, but I managed to shake off the "Toad". That night we saw Exit (later Saratoga), a very good, though uninspiring heavy rock band. The only thing that really appealed to me about them was that, like The Jam, Exit were a three piece. I thought "That's what rock music is all about" - stripped to its bare bones with one drummer, one bass player and one guitarist. If any one of them messed up there was nowhere to hide and nobody to fall back on. I believed the three piece to be the ultimate set up for a real man's band.

“A Songwriter’s Saga is a registered trademark and copyright © of Graham Trust

1979

Our regular Friday night visits to 'The Moonstone' (a heavy rock pub in St John's Precinct) inspired a song called ‘Shelly'. Shelly was a strikingly beautiful barmaid by whom Slug was besotted, but surprisingly this was not reciprocated. I wrote an unrequited love song: 

"The first time I saw you standing there -
Those eyes and that smile, that long brown hair.
How could I begin to get to within a million miles of you?

Shelly please stay with me, I want you stay
and I wish you would say to me that you'll be mine forever.
I will be yours today - give all and more but
That ain't to say that I want you to stay for evermore."

Twaddle, I know, but again I employed all the different chord types I'd learned. This song had a middle eight (a short section with a melody which differs from the verse and the chorus) and a guitar solo and a vocal harmony. I reasoned that by tuning down the E and A strings on my guitar by one octave, I might be able to replicate the sound of a bass guitar. I reasoned correctly. So, apart from there being no drums (just dad's metronome), I managed to record, using only my two little cassette machines, a performance resembling a full band. Over the months I applied the same recording technique to a number of other songs and piano pieces. I also continued to bunk off school with Pete Cresswell to co-write more songs.

Everything other than music began to seem so unimportant to me, and my education suffered as a result. I had failed to attend a single General Studies lesson. Pete told me that the teacher taking the roll call cried out "Graham Trust? Does this person exist?" With one month to go before my 'A' levels John Ayres took me to one side and said there was no more he could do for me. I would either get a straight ‘A' grade for English or I would fail - miserably. It all depended on which Graham turned up on the day. The penny finally dropped and, in a dreadful panic, I abandoned my guitar and spent every waking hour revising English and History. I began displaying signs of stress, and habitually scratched my head in the false belief I had nits. It was actually the roots of my hair that I was gouging out. I began to worry about going bald (that only makes things worse) and told my friend, Phil Williams, that if I failed these exams, I would kill myself. He defused my anxiety by replying, calmly "That's a bit extreme, isn't it?"... Though almost bereft of common sense myself, I was very receptive to those who spoke it, and Phil had buckets full of the stuff. He wasn't introspective; he wasn't a worrier; he wasn't a misery; he enjoyed life, and people loved him for that. I tried hard to adopt Phil's joviality and Slug's strength of mind as a means of keeping my own meandering, depressive thoughts in check.

Another close friend of mine was Brian Steele, an anagram of whose name is "a silent beer"... Enough said.

The exam results came in July, and John Ayres's prediction turned out to be remarkably accurate - I got a straight ‘A' for English and, having also passed 3 other subjects, I qualified for a place at Lancaster University. The rest of the summer was a productive one, a lot of which was spent in Nic Corke's basement performing our limited repertoire over and over. You would expect  the clatter and thud of Nic's drums to have disturbed the household, but it was my voice which caused most offence in the upstairs quarters. Nic's dad stayed well out of the way but his mum Jan cursed me and mocked my warbling - and with total justification. In an effort to make myself heard above the general din I had to shout, and all I'd learned about singing at St Mary's became irrelevant. If you can imagine a wailing, recently bereaved Kevin Rowland  impersonating Paul Weller on a bumpy train journey then you have some idea what the Corke family had to endure. They wished away the days until October, when I would p**s off to Lancaster University and never again assault their ears.   

Lancaster was a windswept, pollution blackened, shabby old place. The campus, which stood on a hill a mile or so south of the city, was an ugly 1960s architectural nightmare, further disfigured by the high rise Bowland Tower.  It came as no surprise to me to learn that, over the years, and with unerring regularity, the more discerning students flung themselves from that tower to their deaths. But these were trifling issues, and I was going to give University my best shot. Within a fortnight, though, I was writing home, pathetically paraphrasing Hamlet - "To me Lancaster is a Prison." I seldom played my guitar. A charming Yorkshire man called Adam, once snarled from the cell next door, "If you play that guitar once more I'll come in there and wrap it round your f**king neck." I didn't do much academically either. In the first week, at the end of an English seminar, the lecturer told me that the following week I would be required to talk about the works of W B Yeats...I did nothing. The night before the seminar, panic stricken, I scurried off to the University Library and plucked every Yeats book I could find from the shelves, and read and read and read without understanding a word of it. Where was John Ayres when you needed him? I didn't attend that seminar or any other thereafter. My confidence was shot, and I began to think the unthinkable - I was going to leave University.

In November The Jam released their fourth album ‘Setting Sons' and were booked to play the Great Hall which my room overlooked. In the late afternoon on the day of the gig I heard strains of ‘Private Hell'. "Wow - they're doing a sound check!" I dashed down the stairs, through the open door of the Hall and upstairs to the balcony. The Jam all looked up at me and carried on playing. Other than their road crew I was the only person there. Feeling a little self conscious I left after a couple of numbers. That evening, in the bar, I accosted Colin the Mod and, with wild excitement, told him about my private audience with The Jam. He trumped me with "I've been sitting talking to Paul Weller for half an hour. He's right behind you. Come over. I'll introduce you to him." I didn't dare. I took my pint of bitter shandy off the bar, turned round and gave the merest glance to my left. "Alright" Weller called across to me. I waved and muttered back "Alright" then proceeded rapidly and red faced to the Space Invaders machine just outside his line of vision. I watched Weller perform that night from a far more comfortable distance. Needless to say, The Jam were great, and Weller went up even higher in my estimation. When a brawl broke out in the arena, he stopped the band mid song and yelled "Oi! You're ruining this for everyone. If you want to fight why don't you f**k off outside?" The combatants stopped - immediately. The orderly majority cheered and applauded. Now that's magic.

One night, while I was wholly engrossed in Space Invaders, a student called Keith shouted "You looked like Sting then, you sexy bastard." At that time The Police's 'Message in a Bottle' was at number 1, and everyone knew Sting's face. Many of my friends, and some strangers, reaffirmed (unprompted) that I did, indeed, look quite a bit like him. I began to model myself on him, but I drew the line at damaging my precious locks with peroxide. I read that Sting was a runner so I immediately took up jogging, gradually increasing the average length of my runs to 8 miles. I became fit and lean, and my cheeks began to hollow. As a consequence, even more flattering comparisons were made with the great man. Having said that, one woman did shout out in the street, "He looks as much like Sting as my pet goldfish." Sting, it seemed, was in the eye of the beholder.  

After 6 weeks at University, I returned to Liverpool - defeated. Dad tried to persuade me to go back and finish my education. "Have you thought about...What if you...How about...Maybe if you..." but to no avail. I wasn't going back. Eventually he asked "So where do you belong, son?" Somehow, as I began to well up, I managed to utter "Nowhere." There was a short pause. "No, son", he replied, "You belong HERE." Through watering eyes I caught his glance and we smiled at each other. That was the nicest thing anybody ever said to me, and it signalled the end of the debate. I could now move back into the box bedroom in my parents' home - the workshop in which I fashioned, for the next 14 years, virtually every lyrical, and certainly every musical utterance I ever made.

“A Songwriter’s Saga is a registered trademark and copyright © of Graham Trust

1980

The greatest legacy of my short spell at University was much needed spending money. As a less well off student I'd been awarded a "full grant", £60 of which I brought home with me. This saw me through to December when I signed on as unemployed. I applied for clerical jobs in factories, banks and insurance companies, but the only interview I secured was with the Prudential Assurance Company in North John Street. I was very lucky to land the job. One in 10 of the UK's working population was unemployed. 2 million were on the dole. These were hard times. I began work in the Motor Underwriting Department on 4th February 1980, filing record cards, writing out cover notes, answering phones, giving quotations - all good stuff. For the first time in my life I had more money than sense and, in March, bought a cream Fender bass guitar from Ralph on Accounts Department. At Easter my bass and I were invited to Swansea University for a jamming session with Martyn. He asked me to play something - anything - but I was just a novice, so he made up a simple sequence of 4 notes which I played for hours while he indulged in some fantastic lead guitar work. I never forgot those notes, and years later, used the same ones in the verse of ‘Television's Home'. 

Back at home I started to take a little more interest in my bass. Bruce Foxton, Jean Jacques Burnel and Sting - all of whom played beautiful melodies - were great role models. I hit gold with the first song I ever wrote on it - ‘Dunkirk'   (later renamed ‘Hero'). I used the bass notes from Martyn and Pete's 'Having Fun' in my verse, but gave them a punching beat like Argent's ‘Hold Your Head Up', and in the chorus I played a melody similar to TV's ‘The Sweeney' theme tune. My neighbour Gordon Roberts' experience at Dunkirk (France) during the Second World War inspired the lyrics. He, and 335,000 other retreating troops, had to wait several days on the beach for boats to evacuate them back to England. Thousands died after being bombed and strafed by the Luftwaffe. For those forgotten souls blown to smithereens I wrote "Now you'll always be, in loving memory, the man that no one knew. They say you were a hero." My interest in the bass was shortlived. I soon went back to writing on the 6 stringed guitar- it was far more exciting.   

In the early summer Martyn, Pete, Nic and me reconvened in Nic's cellar, but as the weeks went by, Pete drifted away. The 3 of us made significant progress and, under the name of 'No Smoking',  booked a day at the 'Open Eye Studio', Whitechapel to record my songs - 'Hero', 'Merseybeat' and 'Cover Girls'. Merseybeat was an up tempo Jam type song about the demolition of the Cavern club (the place made famous by the Beatles). Quite how anyone thought it a good idea to destroy the spiritual home of Liverpool's greatest ever export was beyond my comprehension, but destroy it they did. I sang "Just take a walk to the street where the music played, you'll stand there in despair. See there's nothing there. Merseybeat is dead and gone away." Cover Girls was a pure pop song in the style of Elvis Costello's 'This Year's Girl ' with a chorus of "Those hips, those hairs, those lips - who cares? There's a thousand girls like that. Her wiles she bears, just smiles and stares. One thousand other cover girls like that." 

No Smoking entered the recording studio for the first and only time on 20 September. We were a shambles. Martyn's performance was predictably proficient, but my singing was just dreadful - strained, whingeing and whining. The sound engineer tried to mask my deficiencies by piling on oodles of reverb and echo, and by "double tracking" my vocal (I sang it twice and he blended the 2 performances into one). Nic lagged an incompetent half beat behind and ballsed up every drum roll he attempted. I'm sorry to say that nothing could be done to help the poor lad. He was exposed for the duffer he was. Although the recordings were truly awful, I failed to recognise that blindingly obvious fact and instead visited Radio Merseyside every Friday evening for the next 6 weeks in an attempt to persuade them to play a song. The DJ Phil Ross succumbed to my browbeating, and with great reluctance, broadcast 'Merseybeat'. At that point, when I realised there were thousands of other people listening, it dawned on me what a pile of crap we'd produced... Oops. Shame faced, I took back my tape and paid Mr Ross no more visits.

In October the Teardrop Explodes released a brilliantly poppy, but progressive album called 'Kilimanjaro'. This followed on from Echo & The Bunnymen's less poppy, but no less excellent July release 'Crocodiles'. I was privileged to have been around at a time when the Liverpool music scene was at its most vibrant since the Merseybeat of the 1960s. U2's fantastic first album 'Boy' was also released in October. I'd never heard anything quite like it before, and I began to emulate Bono's high pitched vocals while still trying to sound hard and manly like Weller. I was slow to digest all this new music, and kept knocking songs out in a traditional, rather than a progressive vein. This was exemplified by a Joe Jackson inspired blues-rock number called 'The Government'. "Evade the axe and dodge your tax, but they know all the facts - that's the government. They make you spick, they make you span, they're gonna make a man out of you. You act so cool but you're a tool, coz you can never ever fool the government. They make you sweat, they make you steam, they make you wanna scream 'Murder Blue'." 

 Eat your heart out, Billy Bragg .

“A Songwriter’s Saga is a registered trademark and copyright © of Graham Trust

1981

Songwriting was now an obsession. I thought about my songs all day, and yearned for the evenings when I could get into my bedroom to develop my ideas. Mr Hickey (my office manager) soon snapped me out of this trance. I sat 3 insurance exams in October 1980, but walked out of each of them after staying in the exam hall for the mandatory hour (there were 2 more hours available to serious candidates). Despite the Prudential having paid for the lessons and having given me one half day a week release to college, I'd learned nothing. Once again I started with the best of intentions but found myself bamboozled by it all. I really couldn't have crammed any of that insurance stuff into my head anyway - there was simply no room to spare.

Early one Friday morning in January, beetroot with rage, Mr Hickey called me into his office. He was very disappointed (to say the least) with my results and asked (rather bluntly, I thought) "Did you attend ANY of those college lessons?" I assured him I had. He smelled a rat and adjusted his line of inquisition. "Right... Did you attend ALL of those college lessons?" Genius! He'd got me. I said I may have missed a few. He enquired as to what I'd done instead. Had I come back to work? "Er, no - I went jogging part of the time." After some more harsh words he screamed "I want a signed statement on my desk, 9 o'clock on Monday morning, as to precisely which lessons you missed and what you did with that time - AND IT BETTER BE HONEST." His fury was understandable. I had effectively defrauded the Company by accepting payment for work I'd not done. "NOW GET OUT." A succession of others was called into his office, but I was the only one to accomplish three 'Z' grades (unclassified failure). Ian Ashcroft was praised to the rafters for his two ‘D' (for distinction) grades as was Gary Drain for his three ‘A's. At about 11 o'clock, though, Gary was called back into Mr Hickey's office where he was given a far more vitriolic dressing down than the one I'd received. He was placed on a "Disciplinary Stage 1" and watched like a hawk for months after. Poor Gary. We never did find out which sneak informed Hickey that ‘A' stood for "Absent." 

At least my songwriting was coming on in leaps and bounds. I used the title of Shakespeare's ‘Midsummer Night's Dream' as inspiration for a bouncy mid tempo rocker. 

"I remember my dream on that midsummer night. I saw you.
You were praying to your God and you were giving it your body and soul.
I remember your face as you tried to justify your existence.
As ever self assured. Oh but your desperation showed in your eyes.

You were howling to the moon, you were howling to the moon.
You were howling to the moon. You were howling:
‘Show me the way back to the day, tell me what you're gonna say.'
‘No time today. Get out of the way' that is what He's going to say.
That is what He's going to say."

Hard on the heels of 'Midsummer Night's Dream' came  ‘I Hear You Call My Name', a cheery little number about death, and the first song whose lyric I had truly agonised over. The weeks I spent getting the words just right paid dividends. This was by far the best lyric I'd come up with yet, and one I'm still very pleased with.  

"I saw you in the mirror and the end had begun so I ran away from you.
You know all my secrets and you know what I've done to be so deserving of you.
You can mix your martinis from the blood of the sun.* There's no satisfying you.
But you carry on fighting though the battle is won. There's no escaping you.

I see you every day in the papers, and the headlines scream.
I see you so far away as you laugh and smash another dream.
I'm near you all the same and I hear you call my name.

The mourning is over and the memory fades so you sweep away unmoved.
In the real world, justice at the slice of a blade or it can peel your skin so smooth.
I am never surprised but I'm always dismayed by the mysterious way you move.
The law is administered, the precedent laid - I wonder what are you trying to prove?

Tomorrow's another day to mock or pulverise or to abuse.
No sorrow from you - no way - in your race to win the front page news.
I fear you all the same and I hear you call my name."

* I only intended to use this line from T Rex's ‘Crimson Moon' until I could conjure up words of my own but it fitted the bill so completely that I kept it. If I ever detected the slightest resemblance to anybody else's melody in a song I was working on, I either changed it or scrapped it altogether - there were plenty more where that came from. Lyrics, though, were a struggle for me, and I regularly used the rhythm (or cadence) of other people's work as a template (alternatively I just sang the first phrase which came into my head - usually absolute nonsense). The template gradually got discarded as my own words, carrying their own cadence, fell into place, resulting in an unrecognisably different song. That is not theft. All songwriters draw on other people's work for inspiration as well as on their own life experience. Those who deny this are liars or else seriously deluded. Nothing comes out of the ether. Only what has gone into a writer's brain can ever come out.

My overriding priority, when writing a song, was a strong melody. I would sit on my bed for hours with guitar, cassette, pen and paper at the ready, playing around with note and chord sequences while chain smoking. I was always sober. Nothing good ever came to me after a drink. Sometimes the melody I was hearing in my head dictated which note or chord I played next, and other times, when I'd already established a chord sequence, I had to craft a melody to go on top of it. Before I began to seriously contemplate words, I always had the structure of the song in place - how many verses and choruses I wanted, and where the middle eight would be. If you had a decent melody sitting on top of an interesting musical accompaniment, then your lyrics didn't have to come up to Shakespearian standards. I tried very hard to write good lyrics but often had to make do with passable ones, hoping that the strength of the rest of the song would win the day. I used anything to trigger inspiration - things I'd seen or heard on TV or radio, in books, newspapers or magazines, road signs, graffiti, people's tattoos, witticisms on toilet doors - anything. You turn those thoughts inside out, outside in, upside down, downside up, back to front, tnorf to kcab. You do anything, N. E. THING to get those creative juices flowing. The word "Inspiration" itself inspired a song which never saw the light of day:

"I long for inspiration, the gift of innovation.
The prize of adulation - the warm hand of ovation."

Whilst my lyrics may have appeared seamless, they were actually conceived in shambolic fashion. It wasn't a matter of starting with the opening line and then writing the ensuing lines in logical order. In reality, if a word or phrase popped into my head, I would think "Yes. That will fit in line 3 of the second verse." Then another phrase might arrive, and be dispatched to line 2 in the first verse. Before you know it, you're looking down at a lyric sheet resembling a giant crossword. You've got the first, second and fourth lines of the first verse and the second and fourth of the second verse, but there's a word in one of those lines you're not happy with. That's only 3 more lines and one word to think up, but then you come up with a real nugget of a line which doesn't fit anywhere, and it messes up the whole sense of the other lines. You can't allow your best line to go to waste; you have to build the song around it, so you start discarding or rewording other lines to accommodate it. Your lyric sheet ends up littered with crossings out, words in different coloured pens, arrows pointing here and there, asterisks and footnotes everywhere. It really can be like squeezing a balloon full of water, but eventually, out of all this chaos you get to the stage where you think - "Yep, that's alright. I won't be embarrassed to share this with other people now." If no one laughs at your words then they must be OK, at least.   

MartynIn the summer of 1981 Martyn completed his degree and signed on as unemployed. It was he who suggested we form a band. I insisted, for reasons already stated, that we had to be a three piece. I also insisted we would be called No Exit - firstly in deference to the heavy rock band 'Exit' (who Slug and I saw at the Moonstone) and secondly because the No Exit signs positioned around buildings, roads and car parks were a great source of subliminal advertising. Nic still had a year to run on his degree course so he couldn't possibly be our drummer. Phew! We'd already established that Martyn was not prepared to sing. At first I found this extremely frustrating because I wanted him to harmonise with me. Weller had Foxton behind him, Bono had The Edge, and Sting had Summers and Copeland, but having heard Martyn's attempts at singing, (a sort of slurred, out of tune Lou Reed style) I knew it would be far better if I sang unaccompanied. Martyn wanted to concentrate solely on playing the guitar, and by default, the bass playing was left to me. I didn't write another song on the guitar for 3 years; everything from now onwards was written on the bass. I bought a green two tone John Birch Rickenbacker copy, a WEM 40 watt valve amplifier and a Selmer speaker - all ancient and second hand. I was tooled up for business.

''No Exit' was the first song I wrote on my new bass.  It was born out of a desire to write in the style of  The Jam's 'The Butterfly Collector' - an influence I managed to disguise so well that nobody ever drew comparisons. Like most of my songs, it wasn't really about anything specifically. Martyn told me I'd better make some explanation up, but I never did. Some people thought it was about the marriage vows, and maybe it was; I don't know:

"We made a vow we could never, ever keep.

Still somehow the thought of it runs deep.

There is the glory of the coming of the glory of the Lord

And there's an answer where there was no call.

But I've been so unkind, no heart, no mind.

If I could give it all. I would give it all. I would give it all to you."

'No Exit' was the only No Exit song later to be included in The Vow's set. I imaginatively renamed it  ‘The Vow'.

We booked ourselves into ‘The Ministry' rehearsal studios in Preston Street and, throughout the sweltering summer, auditioned drummers. The room had no ventilation. We suffered in the heat and the humidity, but we were just standing there and playing. The poor drummers, though, some of whom were quite old and out of condition, sweated and reddened worryingly. Despite their herculean efforts we found them all entirely unsuitable.

You could sometimes bump into a star at The Ministry. The Bunnymen occasionally rehearsed in the basement studio and The Teardrop Explodes upstairs. I recall one day a rather beautiful wood encased electric organ being left in our rehearsal room. I'd sat myself down on this for just a few seconds when I glanced up to see the unmistakable figure of Julian Cope in the doorway. He was very tall and very narrow - rather like a white Massai warrior. He said nothing. I said nothing. He stared me out. The message was clear - If you damage that instrument I will damage you. I joked for weeks after that I'd sat on Julian Cope's organ, but it wasn't his - it was Dave Balfe's.

Perry LeachIn early September, a handsome young fella with dimples and a cheerful demeanour came for an audition. I recognised him immediately as the brother of Jimmy Leach, an old school mate. He introduced himself as Perry. We liked the look of him straight away. We were very conscious of the importance of image, and Perry, although carrying a little "puppy fat", exuded charisma. He was certainly not the best drummer we'd auditioned, but the overall package was more than we could have hoped for. The important things were that his drumming was powerful and energetic, he could keep good time and was willing to learn. There were no quibbles - Perry was in. It wasn't long before he shed the extra pounds, and along with them, his girlfriend and his job. Within just a few months he transformed himself into a Rock ‘n' Roll god.

No Exit was officially born on 21 September. By then I'd just finished writing ‘Breakdown' which had a bass line similar to those Peter Hook (New Order) used to weave around his open D and A strings. I wanted to play melodic bass lines, and I knew that, as we were only a 3 piece, I would have to "pad out" my bass parts to help us achieve a full sound. ‘Breakdown' was the quintessence of a pop song, with just 3 root notes - D, G and A. There were, however, more than just 3 chords for Martyn to conjur up. I'd been toying with words for months, and the original opening line was

"We are hated. We are high class.
We're backdated. We are high class."

For a while I replaced these with

"Got this hang up about sunshine blue eyes.
They can light up my grey clouded skies."

Oh dear, Oh dear, Oh dear. They just would not do for No Exit. We needed lyrics with street credibility, so I reverted to depressive type and instead began to write about a nervous breakdown. "I need it. I need it alright - a needle to help me tonight." That was more like it. It took weeks of practice until I was able to simultaneously sing the melody and play the bass part with accuracy. I first performed it for Barbara, who offered the encouragement "That's a good song." I was only half joking when I replied "Of course it's a good song - I wrote it." Her response to that was "I think you need bringing down a peg or two". Perhaps I did, but if you don't have confidence in your own abilities you can't expect anybody else to.

With his recently acquired Fender Telecaster, Martyn took 'Breakdown' to another level. He garnished it with discordant chords, some of which reminded me a little of The Jam's ‘Start!' This was the first song to feature Martyn's trademark "disco" playing, and the first to include No Exit's trademark "skip" - a double snare beat at the end of each line of the verse (in the manner of ‘Girls on Film' by Duran Duran). Martyn, who learned to play drums at Swansea, demonstrated some of the techniques Perry needed to adopt in order to play in a modern style. Perry gradually developed a liking for the avant-garde drumming of artists such as Budgie from Souixsie & the Banshees. He worked hard to improve his playing, and soon found his own style. I often took advice from my workmate, Keith Leary, who was the guitarist in a Crosby based group called 'Scope' (later 'Passion Polka'). He told me it was vital for the drums and bass to be as "tight as a duck's arse" and, to achieve such water resistance, my bass speaker needed to be positioned "as close to Perry's anus as possible - so that he can feel the beat." That was great advice - it worked.

For the first couple of months we rehearsed 3 times a week, and made great progress. Martyn insisted we pay close attention to the songs' arrangements. He seemed to care for those songs almost as much as I did. Now that I was the bass player, I no longer had to find the right guitar chords to play, and relieved of that responsibility, I was free to sing melodies in any scale I happened to bumble into. It was, therefore, no easy task for Martyn, but through trial and error he found those chords. He had no idea what many of them were called - and neither did I. Was the time signature 4 beats to the bar or 3? I didn't know, and what's more, I didn't want to know. I thought that if I started taking an interest in such technicalities I would lose, for ever, my ability to write freely, in my own style, and instead begin to write with my head, employing sinister songwriting formulas or cliches. I put some basic ground rules in place:

1) I was not going to write any more silly pop songs like 'Cover Girls'.

2) I would curb my inclination for overly melodic tunes like 'Shelly'.  

3) I would not repeat any chorus more than 3 times. Dad used to shout at the TV "That's enough." or "How many more times?" or "We get the message - now wrap it up!!!" when pop groups repeated their choruses ad nauseam. Such repetition was a low trick as far as I was concerned. I wanted people to be able to listen to my songs time and time again without getting bored.

I have no idea which dark recess ‘Life (not sorry)' came from. It certainly was an enigma, and murder was something I had never and would never write about again:

"Killer in the night as near as he can be.
Killer in the night, his eyes too close to see.
But you cried and you cried.
You've got nowhere to turn - you burned your bridges behind.
You've got nowhere to turn and all you have is your mind
And you're praying he thinks that you're two of a kind.
But does he think? Oh no. Not sorry, not sorry, no."

Another early song ‘Dream', an up tempo Joe Jackson type jaunt (without being too poppy), carried far less menace:

"Dreaming of peace in our time is not an illusion of mine.
There's never true harmony, always an enemy.
So tell me where I stand today.
Tell me what the modern world requires of me.
I'll tell you about the way things used to be."

Dave EvansDave Evans became a regular visitor to rehearsals. Like Martyn, he'd recently graduated, but had little or no chance of finding a job. He was a music lover with a deep appreciation of punk / new wave bands such as  The Clash, Siouxsie and the Banshees, The Cure, Penetration, and Magazine - to name just a few. With his "strawberry blonde" hair he bore more than a passing resemblance to The Damned's drummer, Rat Scabies. His wild creativity usually found an outlet in jokes or in elaborate practical jokes. It seemed almost everything was just a laugh to Dave. The amazing thing was that he didn't see anything funny about No Exit; in fact, he was positively serious in expressing how good he thought we were. He was an accomplished photographer with a particular penchant for moody black and white shots which he printed on expensive Ilford paper. Whenever he took photos he put us all totally at ease, and we were made to feel worthy of this attention; he instilled confidence. It gradually dawned on us that he would make a great manager, and Dave was up for the task.

From hereon in Dave kept a scrapbook of photos, posters, press cuttings and other memorabilia connected with the band. He (almost exhaustively) recorded the dates of significant events in the scrapbook and on cassette recordings of various gigs. I have never kept a diary, so without these documents I would not even have contemplated embarking on this saga. They have enabled me to write the story of my part in No Exit utterly confident of its historical accuracy.

In October, U2 came to the Liverpool Royal Court to promote their second album, also called ‘October'. Punk rock showed me the sheer levels of energy it was necessary to inject into a performance to make it in any way engaging, but Bono took this to a different plain. His performance was full of punky energy but free of its juvenile rage. This guy had an intellect and he had the soul to sing every song as if it were his last. Well before the end, he'd sung himself hoarse - but that didn't matter; the crowd adored his passion and so did I. I also liked bass player Adam Clayton's melodies on songs like ‘Scarlet' and the string slapping technique he employed in the middle eight of ‘Gloria'  - a method I copied in my own ‘Deep Dark Sea'. Accompanied by Martyn's thrashing chords, 'Deep Dark Sea' was quite a stop - start affair with lots of twists and turns, but NO repeated chorus. Dave considered it "the best song in the world". I recall only fragments of its lyrics:

"In this convenient world; in this high ideal world
You've got to work away hard, you got to work away hard,
You go faster, faster, faster, faster.
You go faster, faster, faster - Oh Where?"

Another "chorus" ended:

"You are wasted, wasted, wasted, waste away
You are wasted, wasted, wasted, waste away. Away."

The words "faster" and "wasted" were punched out in the manner of Stiff Little Fingers' ‘Suspect Device' - ie - "You gotta Suss. Suss. Suss. Suss. Suss. Suss. Suss suspect device."

In this action packed October, I presented the band with ‘In the Dark'. The inspiration for its title (and for 'I Hear You Call My Name') came from a Cherry Boys song whose chorus went "In the dark I can see you. In the dark I can feel you (?) In the dark I can hear you call my name." The Cherry Boys  were an excellent Liverpool band - a sort of cross between The Jam and The Beatles, but too retrospective to be a musical influence on me. Regardless, I was not too proud to pinch a few of their words if it led to two new and completely different songs of my own. ‘In the Dark' was, like ‘Hero' and ‘Breakdown', good enough to remain in No Exit's repertoire from the beginning to the end of the band's existence. I spent weeks at home creating the bass part and, once I'd perfected it, I had to practice for weeks more, singing along to its broken rhythm. Nothing ever came easily to me. It all had to be worked for. Slug's brother, Chris, accused me of stealing the bass line from the Gang of Four's ‘Damaged Goods'. I swore I'd never heard that song before and I didn't believe it sounded the same anyway, so 'In the Dark' stayed in the set.

Broadly speaking ‘In the Dark' was about infidelity. Words from the wedding vows I'd heard hundreds of times as a choirboy at St Mary's - "forsake", "love" and "cherish" slotted smoothly into it. I imagined how, in the event of marital breakdown, those sincerely uttered vows might come back to taunt the happy couple - "As long as they both live...if...if...she will not forgive. I can see. I can see in the dark." As with all my other songs I handed cassettes of my solo performance of ‘In the Dark' to Perry and Martyn so that they could have a think about their parts prior to the next rehearsal. Martyn did a lot of home work, and astounded me with the performance he put in at the next rehearsal. I loved those harmonics at the start, the choppy rhythm of the chords in the verses and the scintillating guitar solo at the finish. I already knew he was a very good guitarist, but now he was displaying real innovation. His desire to be different from the crowd matched my own. In the way that The Stranglers and The Jam stood apart from the punk scene, we wanted to be detached from any Liverpool scene. There was to be nothing parochial about No Exit. We would reach out to the world. I resolved to write songs from the bottom of my heart, songs which conformed to no stereotype, songs with a quality and an individuality deserving of Martyn and Perry's talents. I was confident we were taking our first steps along the road towards those heady heights, and soon we would be ready to demonstrate as much in public.

October was a busy month. In all the excitement I almost forgot about my insurance exams. I certainly "forgot" to do any revision for them, but I did at least turn up to complete my name on all 3 papers. Having been to see a fortune teller in July, I was confident I wouldn't need to pass anyway. She told me "You can do anything you put your mind to" and foresaw "...a lot of singing", and even asked "Why don't you get a synthesizer?" Perry said a fortune teller once told his mum, Rose, that she would have a famous son. Jimmy, his only brother, now lived in Wakefield, Yorkshire  - and nothing worthwhile was ever going to come out of Wakefield.........was it? So Perry was the chosen one. It all added up. "It won't be long now", I thought.

I remember, at a number of rehearsals, Martyn querying "What's the point?" I think I knew what he was on about. He, like me (and everybody else for that matter) sometimes spiralled down into pits of despair. My moody songs were heavily infused with his moody playing, and we seemed to feed off each other. Martyn once queried "Why do we want to be famous, anyway? That's the scary thing - when you examine the reasons for it." I wondered what it would be like to be famous. I wouldn't get a minute to myself - and I treasured my solitude. Without complete privacy I couldn't write songs - and crafting them was my raison d'etre. Skeletons would come out of closets. My nonsensical lyrics would expose me for the idiot I was. It would all end in tears or a nervous breakdown or worse. In the unlikely event of fame making me wealthy it would not have brought me any lasting happiness, and isn't that what we all crave? Well, no actually. It took 2 decades before I fathomed out what "the point" was. It was not happiness, money, birds, booze or any other transient thing I wanted; it was the hope that my music would secure me a kind of immortality; that it would speak for me from beyond the grave. I wanted it to say "My name was Graham Trust. I once walked this earth, and I was the singer, songwriter and bass player in No Exit. Look us up in the Guiness Book of Hit Singles. See! We existed. We were special." So that was the point. I wanted to rank alongside the 20th century's immortal singer/songwriters - Lennon & McCartney, Bowie, Bolan and all. And what about all those 19th century ones like.......erm........er.......don't tell me. And all those 18th century "immortals" like......oh......ah......actually I don't know any. Oh dear............So, if immortality itself doesn't last forever, what exactly is the point?

No Exit's First GigDave managed to get us our first gig at Brady's (formerly Eric's) on Thursday 26 November supporting an R&B band called MI5 who played early Rolling Stones type stuff. Their guitarist, a dead ringer for the actor Peter Lorre, could do the Chuck Berry ‘Duck Walk'   but, apart from that they were pretty unremarkable. I was acutely aware that we needed to put on a show. With Perry stuck behind drums and Martyn fully focused on his guitar it was down to me to do something visual. I'd been secretly practicing at home, playing bass and "dancing". I'd seen Andy McCluskey of Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark at Eric's, and I copied him to some extent - head popping and body twitching, while thrusting his bass around unpredictably. My movements were far more pronounced than his, though. I was so well rehearsed that all those spasms didn't affect the accuracy of my bass playing one little bit.

So we were well prepared musically but what about image? What to wear? We were all clueless. In the run up to the gig I took the sleeves and collar off an old black shirt and got mum to sew thin white "dog collar" strips around its mutilated neck and shoulder holes. There was also the option of my Uncle Stan's cast off Arran pullover which mum later mangled irreparably in an experiment with a spin dryer. Then again, I could have plumped for wearing the waistcoat from my work suit, inside out, over a white T-shirt. Choices. Choices. In the end I wore lime green drainpipe jeans and a white T-shirt, but this was no ordinary white T shirt. Oh no! I punctured two holes in the breast bone area, and another couple of holes around the belly button, and through these I threaded a long red football bootlace which I fastened, unseen under the shirt. Voila! Martyn sported a second hand prisoner's shirt I bought from The Army & Navy Stores; and I recall that Perry modelled a green T-shirt made from material which resembled a tea bag.

Dave put his weird and wonderful imagination to work on designing posters. In fact he made a different poster for almost every gig we ever played. We couldn't afford to pay Boxhead (a professional bill poster) for his illicit services, so our posters were mostly stuck up by Dave and me, but often by Dave alone. The routine was that we caught the bus into town laden with a carrier bag containing an empty bucket, the posters, a large paint brush and a packet of Polycell. Once there we dived into any pub, and while I ordered 2 halves of bitter, Dave sloped off to the toilet, filled the bucket with water and stirred in the wallpaper paste. Back out on the mean streets we selected our targets - pillar boxes, lampposts, electric boxes and general grot spots. The only rule was that you didn't post over anyone else's poster until the event date had passed - we didn't want Boxhead after us. At the chosen site, Dave handed me a poster then whizzed out his loaded brush and covered the target in seconds. In the blink of an eye the poster was snatched from my hands, slapped in place and glued down in a frenzied blur of brush strokes. My job was to look out for the Police or any other objector - after all "Bill posters will be prosecuted" (it said on the walls). For the next few years we plastered the city centre with hundreds of posters without ever once being detected. For his sins, Dave ended up covered in wet sticky paste, and this is how he earned the monicker "Spunker Evans". However, in the interests of decency, I shall continue to refer to him only as Dave.

Nothing I had experienced so far prepared me for the shock of playing live. The floor of our rehearsal room was carpeted, and the walls were padded and draped with sackcloth to dampen down the noise. Pubs and clubs, on the other hand, usually have no sound insulation, so sound waves bounce off the walls and around the room uncontrollably. Every venue has its own unique way of violating your music with hideous echoes and distortions. On stage at Brady's the crash of a cymbal became an eardrum-piercing torment.  My bass seemed to drip out of its speaker and slither along the floor towards the audience, like a morning mist hugging the grass. I could barely hear it. The shrill wailing of Martyn's guitar, which he'd cranked up to an ungentlemanly maximum volume, drowned out my vocals. I couldn't hear myself think, so as for being able to hear myself sing - I could forget it. I just had to shout louder. My dad would have been horrified to hear what I was doing to my voice. I knew exactly what he'd have said - "You're singing from the throat. It should be coming from your diaphragm." To this day I still can't figure out where my diaphragm is. 

There were only about twenty or thirty people in the audience that night, but among them there might just have been one important person with connections. For no other reason than that, you must always give your best - and we always did. Our Brady's debut was a success. We played well, and I danced like a Dervish. Although chronically self conscious offstage, I performed without even a hint of embarrassment on it. This was my domain. It wasn't me up there. I took comfort from the thought that the real me was hidden behind a bass guitar, a microphone and a microphone stand.  I slept only fitfully that night. My slumber was interrupted by dreams of international mega-stardom. I woke early the next morning, and skipped off to work in the certain knowledge that I would be an insurance clerk for not much longer. An unwanted souvenir from the night before was the ringing in my ears which continued long into the afternoon. That was a sign of damaged hearing - an occupational hazard which rock musicians have to live with in pursuit of their goal.

Gigs were now coming up thick and fast so I really needed to do something about my appearance. On the following Saturday I went to a boutique off Mathew Street (run by the girlfriend of Dead or Alive's singer, Pete Burns) and bought myself 2 pairs of black and white striped drainpipes. These fitted me better than any I'd ever worn before. They were my "No Exit trousers" - ones in which I felt as free as Bono probably did in those black jeans he wore habitually in the early days of U2. I had to make a minor modification to them, though, to make me look less of a clown. I dyed them black, but because it was poor dye, the stripes turned out black and purply-grey. Perfection! These 2 pairs would have to withstand whatever rigours awaited them until I was wealthy enough to afford a different pair for every night of the week.

Our next gig was on Monday 30 November at the Masonic pub in Berry Street (since known as Trader Jacks, The Black Horse and Rainbow, The Liverpool Brewing Company, and The Metropolitan). The Masonic's walls were black, and decorated with caricatures of legendary Jazz, Blues and Reggae artists - Bruce Springsteen inexplicably among them. This intimate little venue was a great place for young bands to learn their trade, to tighten up and discover what works and what doesn't. The acoustics were a hell of a lot better than Brady's too. At this gig Slug presented us with 2 fantastic ‘No Exit' lights (metal boxes with bulbs illuminating a plastic screen featuring our logo). Martyn and I placed them on top of our amplifiers. Slug had also spray painted the same logo onto a black canvas which we hung on the wall behind Perry whenever we played there. We played the Masonic at the very least a dozen times.

In a different way from Dave's, Slug's contribution to the band was considerable. Dave and Slug were effectively our fourth and fifth members - ever presents as dedicated to the cause as the 3 performers. Slug's lights and banners etched our name on audiences' minds, but his other contribution (apart from keeping my feet firmly on the ground with his brilliantly acerbic put downs) was his physical strength. He loved lugging the heavier items, especially the gigantic "bass bin" speakers I used for my vocals. He could single-handedly haul these burdensome and absolutely useless beasts up three flights of stairs to our locker room in The Ministry, without pausing for breath. We were all roadies but Slug was our king. It was no surprise that, by the time The Vow began gigging, he was suffering from a bad back and could no longer be our carthorse.

We were invited back to the Masonic on 7th December because another band had pulled out. We made ourselves available, sometimes at only a few hours notice, for as many cancellations as we could get. The set list for that particular gig survives. I always took reponsibility for compiling the order of songs, just like my dad did for his church services:

Merseybeat
A Midsummer Night's Dream
Deep Dark Sea
The Government
Life (not sorry)
I Saw Her Standing There

Interval

I Hear You Call my Name
No Exit
Breakdown
Dream
In the Dark                                                                              Hero

Neil Tilley wrote a remarkably insightful review of this gig in issue no.8 of his magazine 'Breakout'. "No Exit are a young three piece who I must admit to knowing nothing about. So here I sit with no idea of what I was about to hear. After the first three tracks I decided I still didn't know what I was listening to. The bass player / vocalist was playing apparently up to date bass and the guitarist played a blues type style reminiscent of some late sixties bands. What the drummer lacked in technique he made up for in energy, he pushed the three piece on through the mostly up tempo set. A couple of the songs showed a good imagination for arrangement but what a bummer when they played "I Saw Her Standing There" (a nifty selling song The Beatles once recorded) not a good choice of padder in my mind. However, they played well and I liked the bass player's vocals. The Masonic crowd received them warmly."

Against my better judgment, dad convinced me we should incorporate at least one song by another artist in our set so that people could use it to gauge how good our own music was. That was why we played a Beatles song - you've got to think big in this game. We later replaced this with ‘Teenage Kicks' by the Undertones, and that, in turn, was discarded for 'Fireball'  by Don Spencer (on which we were often accompanied by an inept saxophonist called Andy). 

Despite being sat behind a drum kit, Perry was a joy to watch with his flailing arms and his tongue poking out of a contorted, red and sweaty face. OK - he was no Keith Moon, but very few drummers have the charisma to draw an audience's eye like Perry did. As for the songs, Neil Tilley's confusion was entirely understandable; they were a real hotch potch. There was no coherent No Exit sound, but there again, we were young and we were gradually fashioning one. Martyn did have a certain bluesy inflection to his playing, but I suspect Tilley's judgement was swayed by the Rory Gallagher type lumberjack shirt Martyn wore that night. I came out of the whole affair rather well, I thought.

We were paid £20 for the gig, which was about average for the Masonic. Out of this we had to pay Frank, our van driver, £12. Frank was in his mid sixties with a shock of grey hair, and dressed always in a blue boiler suit. These were his "work clothes", but he never raised a finger to help us with the gear - he just drove. We named him "The Smelly Dog Man" after his constant companion, an ancient black Labrador bitch called ‘Blue', who was in perpetual need of a good bath. If you were fortunate enough to ride in the front seat you had to work your way around Blue as she lay there, seemingly close to death, stinking and denying your existence. Frank spoke like an English version of The Doc in the ‘Back to the Future' films and, funnily enough, he took a particular shine to Martyn. He virtually ignored the rest of us - thankfully. At first Martyn took this unwanted attention with good grace. "Martyn", Frank would bellow, "Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine said ‘Let your food be your medicine and your medicine your food'. How can this be so? If a butterfly in China flaps its wings, Martyn....blah, blah, blah" As the months went by Martyn became less and less tolerant of Frank and, in the end, either made his own way to gigs or sat in the back of the van pretending to make sure none of our equipment fell over when we went round corners.

Daley's DandelionOur last gig of 1981 was on 17th December at Daley's Dandelion on Dale Street. This was the first of four gigs we played there. It was busy that night. There were probably about 60 or 70 people in to start with. As our set progressed the crowd began to drift away, so I made a point of saying "good night" to every person who passed by me to climb the stairs up to the street. The fear of embarrassment made others think twice about escape. As we raced through "Dream" I noticed the dance floor was full. "Great", I thought. "They love us. They really love us." I was notoriously short sighted and far too vain to wear glasses. The dance floor had, in fact, been filled only by dozens of mirror reflections of Phil Williams and Barbara jiving. One thing I did spot correctly that night was an underage drinker who suddenly leapt up and began "dancing" in front of me during ‘Deep Dark Sea'. I didn't like the look of him. He was pretending to be entranced by the music, but I could see his sneaky eyes sizing me up as he snaked his way closer. I knew he was going to swing for me, and I was ready to duck and then crown the bastard with my bass - like Sid Vicious once did (and what a marvellous role model he was). Luckily the bar manager appeared from nowhere, bear hugged the scumbag (that's the other guy - not me), and frogmarched him up the stairs. I didn't even get time to say "good night" to him.

“A Songwriter’s Saga is a registered trademark and copyright © of Graham Trust

1982

The results of my insurance exams came through in January, and I was called in to Mr Hickey's office once again. This time he didn't seem to care much about the 3 ‘Z' grades I'd achieved. I expected another roasting, but he greeted me instead with a benign smile and the words "You are one of life's drifters, aren't you?" Little did he appreciate (and neither did I tell him about) the work I was putting in "out of hours" on my song writing, rehearsals and gigging. There was no way I was drifting; I had a purpose to my life. Hickey wasn't prepared to let me waste away any more time on a department so vibrant as Motor Underwriting, so he moved me to the Household Department where I would have to toil as the only man amongst a workforce of 15. I didn't mind at all. This department was so well organised and the work so mind numbingly simple that a fool could do it - and I did - for the next 4 years.

On 27th January we played The Mayflower pub in Fazakerley Street in Liverpool's business district. This lively venue had gained notoriety as both a Mod and a New Romantic hideout. Although we were neither, I just knew that these were our people, and I was really excited by the prospect of converting them to No Exit. The place was not quite full on the night. At the start of our set there were two men sat at a table to my left...but nobody else other than my sister Barbara and my brother Stephen. There had been some sort of a mix up, and the gig had been advertised for the previous night. The 2 men left during the interval, so in the second half, there were more people in the band than in the audience. At the end the publican was gracious enough to give us £10 for our troubles. Smelly dog van man had, by now, raised his fee to an exorbitant £15. He offered to reduce it to £12 after hearing our tale of woe, but we insisted upon settling his bill in full. In years to come, I thought, our Mayflower experience would be a winning anecdote in television interviews; a low point to help us hang on to some degree of humility... Anyway, we quickly made up for the financial hurt with 2 college gigs which paid us £50 each AND they were very well attended by drunken students. In an instant the Mayflower was ancient history.

We booked ourselves into the Open Eye Studio in Whitechapel on 26 February to record ‘Hero', ‘Breakdown' and ‘In the Dark' over a 2 day period. Open Eye was an 8 track studio. What's that? Imagine a band playing and there being 8 microphones recording their performance. The drummer is isolated in a big room, and one mic records just the snare drum, one the bass drum, another the tom-toms, and yet another two mics the cymbals. That's 5 microphones recording 5 tracks. In a separate, sound proofed room, a further mic records just the bass guitar; in another room the guitar is recorded in isolation, and the eighth microphone records the vocalist's performance in a sound proofed booth. All the musicians wear headphones so they can hear what everyone else is playing. The 8 microphones feed the various performances into one big recording machine - the mixing desk. Because everything has been recorded separately the sound engineer can apply individual effects (like echo or reverb) in varying degrees to each instrument. He might want no reverb on the bass drum, but lots of it on the snare. He might want to increase the volume of the guitar when the guitar solo comes in, and slide it back down again afterwards. The more "tracks" a studio had the more expensive it generally was. 8, 16 and 24 track studios were the norm in those days. There were even a few 48 track studios, but not in Liverpool. Today this is of little relevance because everything is computerised. Whereas we had to play or sing every last note, nowadays they have software which can make even the out of tune, the out of time and the tone deaf sound great.

Although No Exit had come a long way, I believe we went into Open Eye 6 months too soon. As in 1980, with 'No Smoking', the recording studio exposed our deficiency - we weren't tight enough to withstand scrutiny. Having said that, we did do a good job on ‘Hero'. The lads were very impressed with the vocal harmonies I'd worked out only two nights before. Perry was a hero too for climbing into the roof space and clattering a metal reverb pipe at exactly the right moment to create the explosion at the end. The other 2 songs didn't come out quite so well. Dad said of ‘Breakdown' that it sounded like the 3 of us were playing 3 different songs, and he was right. We played ‘In the Dark' far too slowly and sloppily. A local DJ, Phil Easton of Radio City, played ‘Hero' on his show ‘The Great Easton Express' and commented that "This is the only one of broadcastable quality". We resolved that next time we went into a studio we wouldn't waste our money in the same way. Dave sent out cassette copies of this session to record companies, but these were met with emphatic indifference. We were not in the least perturbed. Dave assured us "Quality will out!!" - and I believed him. We got back to rehearsing and gigging and tightening up.

'Deep Dark Sea' was played for the last time at the Masonic on 7 March. While we loved "The greatest song in the world" our audiences responded to it with bemused silence and then muted applause. It needed time to be appreciated; time we didn't have. In its place came ‘Tiny Mind', a song I felt embodied both No Exit's raw edge and musical accomplishment. While 'Tiny Mind' was not a better song than 'Deep Dark Sea' at least people could understand its bludgeoning rhythm. I was never happy with the words, but when I hear them now they seem OK. "No lover's lies, no sweet goodbyes. Forgive me. Forgive me. I don't understand. I don't understand." later I changed the lyrics completely and the song's title to ‘What it takes to be a man.' "We play to win. We fight to kill......We're not scared to die, we never cry. I understand that's what it takes to be a man." The new words were actually nowhere near as poignant as the originals. In fact, I used to slur them because they were never finished.

In the spring of 1982 I had my fortune told again. The tarot card reader told me to ask a question. The cards had been jumbled up so that there was a random assortment of upside down and right way up ones. My question was "Am I going to be an internationally famous rock star?" The reader said she would turn over 9 cards (it may have been more). Those which came out the right way up indicated a ‘Yes'. I turned over the cards - Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. No.........What the hell did that mean? I decided to ignore the implications of the ‘No' and comforted myself with the overwhelming sequence of Yeses, implying I was far more likely to succeed than fail. Maybe it meant ‘No' I would not become famous with No Exit but with a future group or maybe as a solo artist or maybe even.......?

Regardless of how I believed my destiny was being shaped and how good I thought No Exit were, there was a juddering reality check on the night of 7 April when we played the Baltimore Rooms (above Kirklands wine bar - now ‘The Fly in the Loaf') in Hardman Street. It was a joint gig with a Widnes band called ‘Wild Weekend' who were sensational. They reminded me a little of Haircut 100. They were very, very tight, full of energy and had obviously paid close attention to their image. We were, by now only relatively tight, certainly energetic but bereft of a coherent image. We were some way short of the mark, but clothing and image was not No Exit - and they never would be. When it boiled down to it the only thing we were capable of improving was our music. Better songs and more hard work were called for.

My latest composition ‘Now You're Talking', like ‘Deep Dark Sea', had a number of twists and turns but, unlike DDS, it had a chorus; in fact it had 2 choruses - both of which I repeated twice. At more than 6 minutes it probably went on for far too long. At Easter, Slug and I went off to Amsterdam for a weekend of sightseeing and binge drinking. While nearing the height of our drunkeness, a Dutch artist entered the bar to sell his pictures, among them was one of a golden eagle etched in multicoloured tin foil on a white card. "What an incredible coincidence!", I thought. My latest song contained the line "Like an eagle only silence is golden in my mind." This was a sure sign of the impending success of ‘Now You're Talking' - destiny was calling me yet again. I gave the Dutch master an English five pound note for the picture and he swiftly headed towards the exit. A group of his countrymen, recognising what a ridiculous price this was to pay for such tat, retrieved my money and told me to pay him what they thought it was worth - just a few guilders. To me it was priceless, and I treasured that picture for the next three years - that's how long it took before its worthlessness was proven.

Within days of us returning home No Exit played the Carnatic Hall in Mossley Hill for the astronomical fee of £100. We were beginning to accumulate a pot of dosh. Maybe we could go into the recording studio again? Everything was progressing swimmingly until the early summer when Perry announced that he'd sold his drum kit in order to pay off the rent arrears on his flat. Having done so he now intended to move to Manchester with his friend Leon Yeaden. After all these months of practicing and gigging, Dave, Martyn and I knew what a massive workload awaited us if we let Perry go. So we offered him financial assistance to purchase a new kit. For a couple of weeks there were no rehearsals while Perry scoured the earth for a replacement kit. In the end he found it close to home, and he even knew the Aigburth based owner. Fantastic! No Exit paid half the asking price, there and then, in cash. Perry promised to pay the other half in instalments directly to the owner over the next few weeks. He said he had some paid work coming his way which would enable him to settle both his debt to the owner and to No Exit. Great! What could be simpler? Everybody was happy and we were back in business.

In June I bumped into Carl Eaton, a neighbour and associate of mine since childhood. He was a natural blonde blessed with the physique of a farm labourer. His future lay in his physicality, maybe as a nightclub bouncer, I supposed. How wrong I was. Unknown to me he was the lead singer and bassist with ‘The Ponderosa Glee Boys' who had played not only Liverpool but other towns and cities. The Glee Boys gained a reputation, not just for the quality of their music, but also for their eagerness to exchange blows with members of the audience. Now that they'd disbanded Carl was writing and recording by himself. He played me a cassette of his latest song ‘Sorry' (recorded at SOS Studios behind Stanley Street). I was impressed by the standard of his writing, playing and singing, and by the fact that he used a drum machine (state of the art, don't you know). Most of all I loved his use of the word "sorry". Carl's song was the lyrical catalyst for my own ‘Anything You Say', which I developed over the summer. I'm still pleased with the apology I committed to song - "Sorry for deceiving you. Sorry I don't mean to. Untrue - every word I said, every word I said, every word I say. All my emotions are tangled inside. I could not show how I feel if I tried. That's why I'm never alone, never alone, never alone or lonely." Bob Faith, a gruff, middle aged Glaswegian workmate at the Prudential, inspired the opening lines. On occasions he joked "Some say good old Graham...Others say he's a right f**king bastard." Hence "Some say everything must end. Others say got to try again." The musical catalyst was a record I'd heard a couple of times on John Peel's show by The Passions called 'Man on the tube'. It told the story of a woman's discomfort at being ogled by a pervert on a London underground train. "The Man on the tube - he's looking all around you. He's got his eye on your thigh." The song was dominated by a bass guitar played in a mock disco style - a technique I copied for my bass part in ‘Anything You Say'. This triggered something off in Martyn, and he was given full rein to develop his unique disco-funk rhythms in a lengthy guitar solo. In fact all 3 of us developed our own intricate parts over the weeks.

In August I saw the classic black and white movie ‘Casablanca'. It dragged me through the whole gamut of emotions and I was moved to write a love song. ‘Casablancan Night' got the usual heavy sprinkling of magic misery dust - "See love in its death row" and "I can only sing to you, pray for you, read our last rites."  Siouxsie & The Banshees' ‘Happy House' was going through my head at the time, and you can hear that influence in my staccato bass playing in the verses. I tried to capture the wistfulness of  Mike Nesmith's 'Rio ' in my vocals. This strange blend of influences seemed to gel. I was biased, but I honestly believed that each successive song I wrote was better than the last, and while I was working on ‘Casablanca' I thought "wait ‘til the lads hear this one." The lads were indeed bowled over by it. We all thought it was hit single material and put everything into our arrangement to ensure it would be. I loved Martyn's soaring intro and his morse code message of a guitar solo. Perry's pounding tom-toms gave ‘Casablanca' that extra layer of menace and foreboding. Great stuff.    

Every gig we'd played so far had either been in the city centre or in south Liverpool, but having responded to a newspaper advert placed by the Norris Green Centurion Social Club, which virtually begged bands to play there, we made our first foray into the north. The word "Centurion" probably alluded to the average age of the clientele, and the venue was desperate to attract new young members. Norris Green itself was one of those districts which could best be described as "challenging". We arrived, on the evening of the 26th August, in a van borrowed from 'Friends of the Earth.' While we were unloading the gear a disgusted gentleman yelled from his bedroom window across the road "F**k off. You weirdo bastards." I was expecting a lot more of this sort of abuse in the hours ahead, but it didn't materialise. The club was sparsely populated by well dressed elderly people who shuffled around at the rear of the hall, drinking milk stout, smoking, chatting, playing one armed bandit machines and refusing to take a blind bit of notice of our performance. A middle aged lady, who should have known better than to have been there in the first place, told Dave "The singer can't sing". I recognised that my "style" might not be to everybody's taste, but when she added "That guitarist - he's very tasty but he can't play" I knew she didn't have a clue what she was on about. This reminded me of a pig ignorant comment someone in work had made about the  Sex Pistols being sh**e, to which I responded "Do you not realise how good you've got to be just to be sh**e?" 'The Brotherhood of Man', 'Dollar', or maybe even 'Bucks Fizz' might have felt at home at the Norris Green Centurion Social Club, but with its spangly stage curtains and its coffin dodging members, this was no place for No Exit. We took our money and ran.

The NME's (New Musical Express) gig guide for 23 September listed our next performance at the Pyramid Club in Temple Street DIRECTLY below The Jam's concert at Leicester's Granby Hall. This was no mere coincidence. It was a portent of our impending elevation to the big time. Unfortunately, the Pyramid Club closed down and our gig was cancelled. No matter, shortly after, we got the lucky break I thought we deserved. Purely on spec, Dave and I visited Liverpool Polytechnic in Tithebarn Street. We spoke to the Social Secretary, a genial young Irishman called Conleth McConville. Without even listening to our music he offered us the support slot to The Icicle Works on the John Peel Roadshow which was due to come to Liverpool on 12 November. We received a letter on 24 September officially confirming our booking. This was a dream come true. We would actually be able to speak face to face with Peel, and maybe persuade him to give us a session on his show. Who knows what doors might be opened? In anticipation of illuminating the bigger stages we'd be playing in the future, Slug bought an impressive multi coloured lighting system (including strobe lights), and this made its debut at IM Marsh College in Aigburth on 1st October. There were also two whirling orange lights; these and the strobes were reserved exclusively for our new opening number ‘Casablancan Night'. To create the right ambience Dave lit joss sticks and played a tape of Gregorian chants before we went on. I found the whole concoction very intoxicating.

I felt sure we were on the brink of Jam type greatness. Pete Creswell and I went to see them at the Royal Court on 25th September. They'd just released ‘The Bitterest Pill (I Ever had to Swallow)' and were at the top of their game. The audience consisted of a mass of mods in Parkas and archery target T shirts. Pete and I, though only 22, were considerably older and taller than virtually all the other fans; we stuck out like sore thumbs. The Jam had scored 3 number one hits - ‘Going Underground', ‘Start!' and ‘A Town called Malice' - and the adulation this brought them should not have affected my appreciation of the band, but it did. It was more personal to me before they made it big. I had followed their fortunes from the start of their professional recording career, and I personally willed success on them. Now that they were stars my work was done, and it was time for me to move on. Anyway, there wasn't much more for them to achieve now, and 3 months later they split. R.I.P. What a great band, and what a hard act for No Exit to follow, but follow it we could and follow it we must.

Inspiration continued to strike me and, in October, I presented yet another opus ‘Don't Walk Away' to the band. This caused us some work - the interchanges in the instrumental solo evolved over a number of weeks. I don't recall any particular artist as having inspired this one. I played bass in the choruses in a style similar to our own ‘Breakdown', and in the verses with a fractured rhythm - a little like 'In the Dark'. No Exit's own sound had proven the main catalyst for ‘Don't Walk Away' and it became my favourite song to sing and play. I was particularly pleased with the rhymes "I can't spell it out more clearly or say it more sincerely" and "Get away from all this madness, this soul destroying sadness." I was happy that I had written a very good song. With the Polytechnic gig coming up we rehearsed harder and paid more attention than ever to the fine detail of the songs. We crammed in more gigs at the Masonic, at I.M. Marsh college, and at the Left Bank Bistro (now Lennon's Bar) in Mathew Street. Posters for all our gigs at the Left Bank featured Dave's artistic representations of works by Toulouse Lautrec - naturellement. On one occasion we were supported by Craig Charles, an upcoming comic / poet, destined for greater things. As a child he had briefly been in my dad's choir at St Bridget's, but behaved so badly that he was invited to leave. Red Dwarf or no Red Dwarf, dad remembered him only as "a right little bugger."

Everything in the garden was rosy. We wanted to notify record companies of our presence on the John Peel Roadshow so Dave organised a photo session, intending to send publicity shots here and there. I arranged to meet Perry in the Aigburth Arms one Sunday morning. On entering the bar Perry spotted the young man who had sold him the drum kit. It turned out that Perry hadn't settled a single penny of the debt. Confident he'd not been seen we scurried away to the bus stop. After a short while Dave joined us, then two rather less welcome characters attached themselves to our company. There was a tall guy brandishing a pint glass with menace and the very short man to whom Perry was indebted. He snarled "Where's the f**king money, Perry...hand over the f**king money...money Perry...money, money, money, Perry" each word being accompanied by a swinging fist which was either blocked by Perry or missed its target altogether. Perry told Dave and me to "stay out of this." We didn't need asking twice. What could have been a very nasty situation soon deteriorated into a farce with the tiring assailant engaging Perry in a very one sided wrestling match. During the course of this he jumped onto Perry as if taking a piggyback ride. Just as it was becoming clear this fight was going nowhere the tall guy landed a succession of carefully placed, solid punches on Perry's defenceless face. The farce was over. Dave suggested that the violence should stop and that surely we could come to some amicable arrangement. Everybody seemed relieved at the cessation of hostilities and it was agreed that No Exit would pay off the debt in full next day.

Battered PerryWe caught the bus to Allerton to meet Martyn, and despite, or rather because of Perry's battered face, we went ahead with the photo session - another great anecdote for future interviews. I wore a Japanese sunset T-shirt bought from Top Girl, together with my black PVC trousers. In an effort to make us look like a group Perry, who was also dressed in a white T-shirt with red markings, lent me a studded leather wrist band and a red sweat band to wear on my left bicep. He wore another on his right bicep. Martyn referred to us disparagingly as "Twins". I lent Martyn, who was the least fashion conscious of all of us (by far), my leopard skin T-shirt. As the session progressed, poor Perry's face started to swell up and his eyes began to narrow. I jokingly offered him my Japanese sunset T-shirt, but he refused... The following evening, I personally delivered the cash to the pint sized aggressor. He apologised for his behaviour, explaining that he was at the end of his tether. With no prospect of Perry getting a job the drum kit became the property of No Exit.

Just a couple of weeks later, on 29 October, Dave and Martyn went out to celebrate our school friend, Ian McEvoy's bithday. That night, outside the chip shop on Rose Lane, Martyn got pushed and jostled by a thug. Dave asked him to stop, but was met with the response "Why, what are you going to do about it?" The word "it" was accentuated by an empty pint glass being smashed in Dave's face. He was left in a pool of blood and scarred for life. Dave attended to his usual managerial duties at St Katherines College, Crompton's Lane just 5 days later wearing a giant white bandage on his face. His bravery and defiance and his dedication to the No Exit cause were typical of the man. Nothing was going to stop us now.

On 5th November, just one week before the John Peel Roadshow, Dave received a letter explaining that, because the Polytechnic was unable to get a late licence, the show had been shortened and No Exit were off the bill. It was a bitter blow, but never mind, there were sure to be other opportunities. It was only in the days leading up to the gig that it emerged the Poly did have a late licence and that another band called ‘The Conversation' were going to support the Icicle Works. And who was the manager of The Conversation? Why - none other than the Poly's Social Secretary, Mr Conleth McConville. Dave immediately despatched a letter alerting the Poly's top brass to the presence of a rat in their midst, and Con McConville, I suspect, found his position untenable. A few months later he re-emerged as a DJ on BBC Radio Merseyside's Sunday evening "alternative music" show. He was actually quite good. I, for one, was prepared to let byegones be byegones. Dave held his grudge for many years to come.

"Dancing", at the same time as singing and playing the bass, occasionally caused me problems. It may not have affected my bass playing, but it sometimes did my singing. I was fine in rehearsals, but at gigs you tend to give that little bit more, when the adrenaline's pumping and anxiety dries out your throat. With hindsight it's easy to see that, if I was hitting notes at the top AND bottom of my vocal range in virtually every song, I would inevitably exhaust myself, but dancing as well could only accelerate a loss of tone and of tuning. The upshot was, that when it worked, my singing was highly effective, and when it didn't, it was dreadful. The dancing had to go. Dave suggested we try a female backing singer, and Martyn said he knew someone in his workplace at Alder Hey Hospital whose sister might fit the bill. All credit to Liz Souness for learning  ‘Hero', ‘In the Dark' and ‘Don't Walk Away'. The problem was that she had never sung in a band before, and in the din of the rehearsal room, it was obvious her voice was too weak for rock ‘n' roll... Well, that was my take on it anyway, but the others wanted to persevere. After this unsatisfactory rehearsal we all went for a beer downstairs at Rigby's on Dale Street, and I'm sorry to say that I was quite rude to Liz over the course of the next couple of hours. My position at the forefront of No Exit was under threat, and I was defending my corner. Quite how that poor girl prevented herself from punching me in the gob I shall never know, but my shameful antics helped convince everyone that I would not be dislodged. Sorry, Liz

Our last gig of the year was at the Masonic on New Year's Eve where we were supported by a bunch of U2 rip off merchants called ‘Boy Secret'. Despite my aversion to their inflated egos I found their interpretation of David Essex's ‘Rock On' most appealing. Because there was a late licence we were permitted to carry on playing until midnight. After we'd finished our set we invited onstage a German guy called Heinz. He was a middle aged, grey-blonde haired, denim clad wanderer whom Perry's mum had befriended. She assured us he was a very good musician. Though Heinz spoke little English he played some mean blues on Martyn's guitar and on a harmonica. Martyn moved on to the drums. Initially Perry squatted stage left playing percussion but gradually began to prowl around the pub paradiddling any inanimate object he could lay his sticks on. I stuck to the bass. We played a number of variants of the twelve bar blues, and although we hadn't practised with him beforehand, it just seemed to click with Heinz. He was very professional, and I was genuinely flattered when he told me I played "good bass". This couldn't have been the same Heinz who had a number 5 hit in 1963 with 'Just Like Eddie', could it? Probably not, but either way, 1982 ended on a happy note for band and audience. I felt very optimistic about 1983; I just knew, this would be our year.

Unfortunately we were never to play the Masonic again. We already had two bookings arranged for next year, but at the end of March, the police took away the Masonic's liquor licence on the grounds that it was the drugs capital of North West England. In all my time as a performer and as a punter I'd never seen drugs traded or cannabis smoked (admittedly, though, I was short sighted). For No Exit it was the end of an era. The Left Bank Bistro took the Masonic's place as our ‘bread and butter' gigging venue.

“A Songwriter’s Saga is a registered trademark and copyright © of Graham Trust

1983

Renee and Renato were at number 1 in the charts with ‘Save Your Love', and everything was right in the world. We kicked off 1983 at the ‘Liverpool Warehouse' in Wood Street on Friday 7 January. The Warehouse could hold possibly 1,000 people, and although it was less than a quarter full that night, it was still a decent crowd by our standards. We played support to a local band called ‘Dark Continent' who were the complete antithesis of No Exit. They were big on hair, big on make-up and big on fashion. Their big on ego keyboard player decreed that the minuscule dressing room was only for the use of Dark Continent and that we should go forth and mingle with the audience. Thankfully his band mates were kind enough to ignore him and so were we.

Martyn caused quite a stir when he proudly revealed his new stage attire, a hideously inappropriate Hawaiian shirt. I was taken aback. "Woaaahhhhh!" Perry said nothing, but you could tell he was thinking "I'm keeping out of this." Dave was utterly appalled, and immediately expressed all our concerns. "You're not wearing that, are you? Is this some kind of joke?" Martyn was genuinely astonished and somewhat upset by the suggestion he'd committed a fashion faux pas. He's the sort of guy who, if you tell him he can't do something, will go right ahead and do it - just to spite you. Consequently, he wore that shirt at this, and almost every subsequent No Exit gig. To keep the Day-Glo glare out of his eyes, he often donned a pair of thick, black sunglasses. You have to respect him for at least daring to be different, but he was a stubborn old so and so.

When we took to the stage the lights went up, but they caused the PA to buzz loudly, and the vocal monitors (speakers on the stage floor pointing up at the singer so he can hear himself) conked out. We stood there while engineers fiddled about incompetently. In the end we had to play our entire set illuminated only by Martyn's shirt and a solitary 100 watt light bulb situated above our heads, stage centre. I loved that. I thought it was brilliantly minimalist and it reminded me of Bowie's 'White Light, White Heat'. The gig was a triumph. Perry's drumming was beefy and unerringly accurate; my bass and Martyn's guitar were...well...beefy and unerringly accurate. It was one of my better vocal performances too - sung as if it was my last - cheers, Bono. When Dark Continent took to the stage - hey presto! - all the lights worked, there was no buzz and the volume of the PA doubled. I strongly suspect that the vocal monitors sprang into life at the same time. We'd been sabotaged!...... The Warehouse burned down on 4th May in mysterious circumstances (Big Country were last to play there, and I saw them). Could an electrical fault have been the cause, I wonder? Perhaps we should not have judged Dark Continent so harshly after all.

In mid January we recorded ‘Casablancan Night' and ‘Anything You Say' at the 'Pink' 16 track studios in Ullet Road. From every point of view that version of ‘Anything You Say' was No Exit's best ever recording. Great credit goes to the engineer, Steve Power, for this. His balancing of the instruments during the final "mix" ensured that no one instrument dominated the song. You could hear every note each one of us played or sang. Although we were very well rehearsed we struck lucky and gave the perfect performance on the first and only take. Perry's drumming was immaculate right up to the very last beat, at which point a drumstick slipped from his grasp and onto the floor. He thought he'd botched the whole recording, but the clatter of stick on parquet and Perry's despairing cry of "Bastard" were swiftly erased by Steve. Among the song's highlights were Martyn's acoustic guitar overdubs (he brought his Antoria acoustic along despite not knowing what he was going to do with it) and, of course, his frantically rhythmic guitar solo. Ironically ‘Anything You Say' sounds much better than Casablancan Night, which Steve spent far more time on when mixing. We weren't allowed in the room while he performed that task. If we'd have been in control we wouldn't have let the drums dominate the song as they did. All in all, though, I don't think we'd wasted our money this time. While the production quality exceeded our expectations, it still fell far short of the standards set by major record labels; for those you had to pay £1,000s, or even tens of thousands. Dave noted in the scrapbook that the bill for the entire Pink session amounted to £186.30.

Such triumphs as the Warehouse gig and the thrill of entering a "big" recording studio, always seemed to spur me on to greater heights. They made me feel more confident and confidence got my creative juices flowing. It was shortly after this that my ideas for one of No Exit's best loved songs came to fruition. Bearing in mind The Jam had released the singles ‘All Around the World', ‘The Modern World ' and ‘News of the World', I could see no reason why I couldn't continue that run of good form with my own ‘The Real World'. I'd worked on incorporating that phrase into a song for some time but I was experiencing "writer's block." I couldn't find a place to go after singing the first "In the real world". In the end, to break the mental deadlock, I tried a deliberately random fingering on my bass - and hit lucky. As I repeated this new sequence of notes, the melody sprang into my head "In the real world. In the real wer -er -erld." I pieced some lyrics together which, as ever, didn't make complete sense but just sounded right. I thought they reflected in some way the despair Britain's unemployed (by now over 3 million) may have been feeling, and perhaps too their animosity towards the government of the day. "We're all of us in good care" was, of course, written with irony. I kept the bass line mercificully simple this time, and we worked on Real World's arrangement throughout January and February. Martyn thought up one of the song's best ‘hooks' - the snare drum rolls on the parts which go "But he's only a child" and "But it's only your life" etc. He had an uncanny knack of communicating his ideas very quickly to Perry and Perry was quick on the up take. His interpretation of Martyn's idea was possibly better than what Martyn himself had envisaged. I was convinced we had a hit single on our hands.

Real World' presented me with a real dilemma as I'd decided that, for maximum effect, I would swear in the final chorus, but it was whether to sing "You don't get sod all..." or "You don't get f**k all in the real world". Paul Weller was a notoriously angry young man who often swore in his songs, but I was a notoriously mild mannered young man, who seldom swore in conversation and never before in song. What a quandary! Dave suggested I blurt out either "sod" or "f**k" as the mood struck me, but I never did anything instinctively. I needed to know precisely what I would sing. At one gig I thought "Oh sod it; I'll sing F**k all" - and I did, but it really wasn't me. I needed to make a once and for all decision. "Oh f**k it" I decided, "I'll sing "sod all"........ So, "sod all" it was then.

We resolved to release ‘Casablancan Night' and ‘Anything You Say' as a 7" single. On 11th February, hoping to save ourselves the expense of financing it, Dave and I went down to London. We trudged all day through the snow from record companies to music publishers, and never once got past the receptionists. "They all leave early on Fridays"... "They're at lunch"... "There's nobody in A&R today" etc, etc. In the evening we retired to a pub in Stoke Newington where we had our ears assaulted by a group of Swansea City football supporters. Readying themselves for the game against Tottenham Hotspurs on Saturday they chanted incessantly "We'll be running round Tottenham kicking Yids" to the tune of "She'll be coming round the mountains." Our spirits sank even lower. Next morning, exhausted and dejected we went back to Liverpool. Where were we going to get the money to pay for our record now? We would just have to carry on gigging and saving until we filled the coffers. 

It was also in February that I stumbled across the bass line which soon became ‘White Man'. Inspiration hit me late one night, and over the course of an hour or so, I worked out the bass guitar for the verses - but no lyrics or melody. So that I wouldn't forget it, I recorded my idea onto cassette, and went off to bed. I had work in the morning. As I lay there the words "I built myself a desert" came into my head. I struggled to ignore them, but when I conjured up "It took seven days, no day of rest, to build the Promised Land" I knew I was on to something. All those years in church listening to biblical stories were beginning to come in handy. And when "For forty days and forty nights, the prodigal son" came to me I knew I would forget all this by morning so I sneaked downstairs without disturbing mum and dad, and got it down on tape. Then it was back to bed where I was hit by another idea - a barren landscape demanded a barren chorus of just 2 chords. I remembered how Cassius Clay changed his name to Muhammad Ali and denounced Christianity as a white man's religion. Singing in pidgin English I began to fashion the chorus's words and melody: "White man he say - white man gives where need be. White man he say, white man he don't need me." I got it all down on tape at around 3 o'clock, and that was enough for me. In my semi-slumber I started to think about work. "I lost my way at sundown. I had myself to blame. Waited there for morning light. Morning never came." One thing I know is that when inspiration calls, you must never ignore it. It won't wait around for you. I always worried that it would never call again. I've no idea what time it was when I'd decided enough was enough, but next day I was too excited by ‘White man' to be weary. I refined it over the next couple of evenings, and presented it to Martyn and Perry as a fait accompli at the next rehearsal. We worked at it throughout February and March, and carried on gigging.

DingwallsOur next gig of note was the "Phil Easton Showcase" at 'Dingwalls', Mount Pleasant, on 21 March. Easton (the Radio City DJ) didn't turn up, and nothing good came out of it for the bands 'Bad to the Bone' or 'Open Mind', but particularly not for No Exit. On this night, Perry dropped a bombshell by  announcing he was leaving us after our next gig to become a percussionist with 'Danse Macabre' (a new band formed by Pete Carroll of Dark Continent). This was a major disappointment but I can't say it was a big surprise. The 3 year age gap between Perry and the rest of us had proven unbridgeable. He had his own circle of friends, and although we got on well, the two groups rarely socialised. Perry was always by far the most image and fashion conscious of us all, and his defection reflected this. In our minds it was a victory for style over substance. If, like us, he believed that the quality of the music was all that mattered then surely he would never have left us. There was no point discussing the matter, though. The man had made his mind up....... That night at Dingwalls, halfway through one of our songs, Perry's friend Leon Yeaden suddenly appeared in front of us, dancing like a maniac, dressed only in his shoes and underpants with a black bin bag over his head. He'd also placed a lit torch (flashlight) down his undies - signifying what? We'll never know, but he stole the show, and everybody went home happy - everybody, that is, apart from the drummerless remains of No Exit.

Perry's Last GigPerry's last gig was on Tuesday 26 April at 'Mr Pickwick's' off London Road, where we played support to Tao Tao Bay Beep (Tao Tao was pronounced like ‘how, now'). The Taos had clearly consulted their solicitors before drawing up an agreement over ticket sales which we thought unnecessarily complicated and unfairly weighted in their favour. It read:

"100 tickets @ £1.50 each given to No Exit. First 33 sold - money retained by No Exit. Remaining 67 - proceeds to be split 50/50 with Tao. £50 to be paid to Tao Tao Bay Beep. £10 extra to be paid to PA hire firm on the night."

F**king hell...

We wanted the gig desperately as we hoped to impress the A&R men who, we were told, would be there watching the Taos. Come the big day we'd only sold £30 worth. In panic I considered giving them the other £20 out of my own pocket but Dave stepped in to save the day. "Leave this to me" he whispered, and then explained the situation to the Taos. Their faces were a picture of furious disbelief - that is apart from their weed smoking drummer who didn't seem to care a jot about anything. "£30 - that's your lot, plus £10 for the PA, and here's the unsold tickets back." The night ended in more disappointment for the Taos. They didn't impress the A&R men (neither did we) and disbanded shortly after. ‘White Man' made its debut and we played a fine set which closed with ‘Hero'. At the end of this song, for his impromptu finale, Perry launched into a long series of drum rolls, beating the hell out of his kit (I mean our kit) to such an extent that he was stopped only when one of his sticks snapped ... A jagged half-stick whizzed past my head. "That could have taken my eye out", I thought. It hurtled high into the air, then descended with a clatter, and scooted away across the wooden dance floor ... where an audience should have been.

By now we had received a stack of rejection letters from record companies in response to our various cassette demos. We intended to make a collage of these and feature them on our debut album cover. Our first priority, though, apart from finding another drummer, was to press ahead with the Casablancan Night single. The money from the sale of the drum kit made this possible. Thankfully I played no part in this complicated and tedious exercise. Dave directed operations. He appointed Phil Rowlands to design the picture sleeve, and Phil sketched what he thought a suitably Casablancan image of a hacienda and a palm tree for the front cover. The spider's web on the rear was my idea, and Phil designed that too. Dave's friend Nigel Humes designed the labels for the 'A' and 'B' sides. When I was shown the prototypes of these I saw that both songs had been credited to ‘No Exit'. I was furious, but kept a civil tongue in my head when I challenged Dave about it. When Martyn was at home did he spend night after night digging for inspiration, sitting on his bed with his head in his hands, pulling his hair out (literally), juggling with words and phrases and rhymes and rhythms and melodies? No he bloody didn't. Did Perry lie in bed at night worrying that he'd lost his muse, wondering how he would tell the rest of the band there were no more songs? Did he pray to be allowed to live just long enough to complete that one last song, because then he could die happy? Somehow I doubt it. No. Outside of rehearsals and gigs those guys could go home and get on with the rest of their lives. They could not even begin to imagine how hard I had to work to come up with MY songs. It wasn't as if I turned up at rehearsals with some half-baked idea for us to all knock about a bit in the hope that something decent might come out of it. Usually, the entire song structure was already in place. I knew how many verses and choruses there would be, where the middle eight would go and where the guitar solo would go. I acknowledge that Martyn and Perry had to create their own parts, but that made them arrangers, not songwriters. Would someone whose sole involvement had been putting the icing on top of a cake, claim to have made the cake? Dave altered the songwriting credits to ‘Trust'. A good point well made.

Dave made contact with a number of vinyl pressing plants at which albums and singles were mass produced. He sent them our master tapes and they sent back "test pressings" (sample 7 inch acetate discs) for us to analyse. Each pressing plant had its own way of doing things, and its machines could subtly alter the sound of your record. We were disappointed with all of them. Our test pressings were very quiet. This meant that, in order to hear them at the same level as other people's records, we had to turn up the volume on the record player, and that just accentuated the pop and hiss of the vinyl medium. We ordered several more pressings hoping to boost the volume, but the louder they  got the more distorted the music sounded. In the end we settled for a pressing from Abbey Road Studios, not because of the Beatles connection, but because it was the best of a bad bunch. The whole process took months, and we found ourselves getting more and more disillusioned with that tinny recording of Casablancan Night. Unfortunately, the ‘B' or "Better" side, ‘Anything You Say' was too long to be an 'A' side.

On 7th August we finally released Casablanca  on our own 'Slug Records'  label. We only wanted 500 copies, but the minimum number the plants were prepared to press was 1,000. Slug printed the picture sleeves free of charge, and we all met round at Dave's to fold them over, glue the loose flaps together and slip the records inside. About 300 copies were sold through a national cartel of record shops including Liverpool's Probe Records. We sold others to family and friends for £1 each. Some copies were given away, but about 300 remained unplayed in my wardrobe and also in Dave's bedroom, where they languish to this day. Perry's dad Jim, who worked at the Traveller's Rest pub in Aigburth Vale, made sure it went on their juke box. I suspect nobody other than us ever played it. I got rid of twelve at work. One of my colleagues said that he was so disappointed with it that he almost felt like demanding his money back. Another thought 'Casablanca' sounded like 4 unrelated songs rolled into one. Several said that the A and B sides sounded like the same song played twice - I never could get my head round that one. If anything positive was said I disregarded it and assumed they were just trying to protect my feelings. I felt such a fool, but eventually I came to the conclusion that these were the views of clueless insurance clerks, and I should ignore them.  The person we respected most, John Peel, played the song on the BBC World Service and on his regular show at least twice; after the second playing he decreed "That's very good indeed." God bless you, John.

Conleth McConville had, by now, resurfaced as a DJ on Radio Merseyside. Dave and Martyn wanted nothing to do with him so I went to the radio station to present him with a copy of the record. Throughout our conversation I addressed him as Conville in the honest belief that was his first name. He smiled accommodatingly and promised to play Casablanca on his show the next Sunday. YES!!!! True enough  it got played just before the 8 p.m. news and, to my utter astonishment, it sounded great. Then, all of a sudden, about 2 minutes through there was a loud scratching sound and the record stopped. "I'm awfully sorry. I don't know what happened there" he lied. There was no attempt made to put it back on, and in all likelihood it got tossed in the bin. Conleth had exacted his revenge. I smiled resignedly. Nice one. "Game, set and match to you, Conville", I thought, "and good luck to you, you c***."

Martyn and I spent the summer auditioning drummers and even a keyboard player - all to no avail. I bought myself a new bass guitar - a black Aria Pro II which I felt I deserved, and also a new combination amplifier/speaker (combo). They improved my sound immeasurably. At the same time Martyn sold his Carlsbro Stingray amplifier and speakers, and bought himself a new Fender Twin Reverb combo. This took out some of the shrillness of his old sound, and introduced a more full bodied, sophisticated tone. The accompanying reverb and vibrato effects, which were activated by a foot pedal, were put to immediate use. Around this time I came up with a particularly depressive ditty which Dave christened ‘Martyn's Brain'. Martyn didn't seem to mind at first, but as the lyrical content sank in - "I've got no morals, out of my head. No tomorrows, better off dead" - he raised some half-hearted objections. "Jesus wept" was, dad told me, the shortest sentence in the bible. I twisted this into "Weeping Jesus, help us through. You will appease us. Is that true? Is it true? It's a lie." As a church man dad really wasn't happy with that line and neither were other people, but whose song was it anyway? Were Shakespeare's works written by a committee? "I hate to criticise the things you hold so dear" I sang, but "It's all lies, blind lies, white lies, a pack of lies." I know now that what I was subconsciously doing was chiselling away at one of the oppressive forces in my life - religion. The verses were moody but low on melody, so I inserted a highly melodic middle eight to compensate. I presented this song to Martyn round at his mum and dad's house, and he latched on to the doom and gloom of it immediately. His contribution was, as ever, brilliantly imaginative. If I could recognise his guitar work was superb why couldn't anyone in the music industry? Dave reassured me once more that "Quality will out", and I continued to believe him.

In September we finally found our new drummer. Colin McCormick joined us from ‘Last Chant' (a band none of us had ever heard of). He was not like Perry. Colin was shorter and skinnier with dark hair, and walked with a limp which he sustained in a motorbike accident. He was very, very quiet. I never could tell what he was thinking, and his face gave nothing away. He was probably expressing himself through his drumming, and boy, could he play those drums. What he seemed to lack in charisma he more than made up for in technical ability. Colin made it all look so effortless, and Martyn's Brain gave him the opportunity to stamp his own mark on the future sound of No Exit - this he did wonderfully. We rehearsed him hard through September, October and November. As ever, our progress was slow. We were all in full time employment so, at the rate of just a couple of four hour rehearsals a week, the songs took months to perfect. "One day when we're professionals", I thought, "we will have limitless rehearsal time", but for the time being we would have to cut our cloth accordingly.

Slug's MasterpieceThe fact that the band was back in business prompted Slug to invest months of his time in making a new No Exit banner. He hand sewed an enormous spider's web in silver twine onto a black cloth, in the centre of which he placed a large red spider. He ensnared the ‘No Exit' logo in the web. It was an incredibly intricate piece of work. In fact I would go so far as to say it was a masterpiece. He put as much of himself into this as I did into any of my songs, and I was proud to be associated with it. We all were.

By now we'd decided no longer to play pubs, and instead chose fewer but better quality venues. For Colin's debut we booked ‘The System' (previously the Pyramid) in Temple Street, where we were to be supported by a young band 'Tell No Lies'. The System (our regular Saturday night / Sunday morning drinking hole) was frequented by our type of people - punks, new romantics and Goths. To advertise the gig, Dave organised a photo session on the Dock Road. In those days the Albert Dock, and most other dock buildings, were derelict, making predictable locations for photo sessions. I was hoping for something far more abstract. The moment I saw a dump of enormous old truck tyres I knew that was it. Without hesitation I walked into the middle of them and plonked myself down. If they ruined my clothes then so be it; I wanted that shot. Like a couple of girls in party frocks, Colin and Martyn flounced into shot (eventually) and Dave snapped No Exit's best photo. We sent pictures from this session to Peter Trollope of the Liverpool Echo, who thought us a right gruesome bunch. He asked if he could describe us in his column as "the ugliest band in Liverpool". We agreed, thinking this would be a great gimmick, but it backfired on us and  undermined our credibility. Ironically, Dave secured us a slot on the Halloween Party night at Adam's Club in Seel Street. Considering Colin had only been with us for one month this was quite a bold move, and it was a patchy, albeit encouraging performance. Although I remember nothing about it, I have no doubt we were more proficient by the time we played The System on 25th November.

Our next 3 gigs were cancelled for various reasons. One of them was at Dingwalls where, due to an electrical fault, the whole stage area was afflicted by a "live loop". The sound engineer explained that, if I were to accidentally spit into the microphone while singing, it might result in everybody within that "loop" getting a potentially fatal electric shock. We concluded that our lives were marginally more precious than our music, and withdrew our services - much to the annoyance of the promoter, Neil Tilley, who snarled "That's the last favour I'll ever do for you." He never again gave us any gigs. We stayed to watch the other band, Politburo, dicing with death, but nothing happened. A victim of the recession, Dingwalls closed down shortly after... Hey Ho.

“A Songwriter’s Saga is a registered trademark and copyright © of Graham Trust

1984

Following The System gig we didn't play live again for over 4 months. All our efforts were concentrated on avoiding death and rehearsing. My own efforts were focused on coming up with a new song of the same quality as ‘Martyn's Brain'. After more than 6 years of writing, I had amassed dozens of fragments of song which I stored on cassette tapes stacked under the radiator in my bedroom. As the years wore on, that space between the floor and the radiator became darkened by scores of cassettes holding hundreds of ideas. The vast majority of these never saw the light of day. Every song's progress was recorded, from the first crumb of an idea, through to its completion. Nothing was ever erased - it might come in handy one day.

At last, in April, one of my ideas finally came to fruition. I was convinced that ‘The Stories You Tell' had everything it needed to be a hit single. Like 'The Real World', this song was about Britain's desperately high  unemployment levels and the feeling of hopelessness this brought to entire communities. The words of the verses were so surreal, though, that nobody but me would ever have understood what I was going on about. I was never happy with them, but I'd been struggling to find the right words for months and, in the end, had to go with what I'd got. I often used to slur those words to cover my embarrassment. When I presented ‘The Stories you tell' to the band my only request was that, in the chorus, Martyn should play the same melody I sang. That idea had worked well in Hero's chorus, and it  was one of the reasons why I thought ‘Shot by both Sides" by Magazine was so great. Martyn's interpretation of my idea, as ever, exceeded my expectations. The quality of Colin's drumming was, by now, exceptional. The brilliant shuffling technique he used on the snare drum in the verses helped distract attention from my words. Thanks, Col. After a couple of months rehearsing this belting, up tempo number, it was ready for inclusion in our live show.

No Exit had not yet ventured outside of Liverpool. The first logical step would have been a trip down the M62 to Manchester, or failing that, a short drive through the Mersey Tunnel to Birkenhead. Instead we decided to follow in the pioneering footsteps of 'Danse Macabre' and 'Ex Post Facto', and beat the dusty trail to Middlesbrough, of all places. On Wednesday 25 April we departed in two cars. My brother Stephen transported us and some of the gear in his Morris Marina while Martyn drove his dad's Vauxhall estate and carried the bulk of the gear. Middlesbrough is over 100 miles away but Dave insisted, for reasons of fuel economy, that the motorway leg of the journey be made at a constant speed of 56 miles an hour. It was a long trek. Martyn and I were interviewed on BBC Radio Tees in Stockton prior to the gig. Other than our idiotic persistence with the ‘ugly' gimmick, nothing of any interest was said, but we sounded confident and relatively articulate. The gig itself was unremarkable. We were not quite firing on all cylinders yet, but we were getting better. On the return journey to Liverpool, Dave's theory about 56 miles an hour was ignored . After this brief taste of life on the road and of media attention, I awoke for work the next morning feeling that little bit more like a rock star.

On 14 May ‘Stories' made its debut at the Everyman Foyer in Hope Street. I have no recollection of this gig whatsoever, but according to the No Exit scrapbook we were supported by a funk band from Rotherham called ‘Kid Salami and the Cabone Brothers', and by a "hard hitting" Liverpool poet called Rita Burgess. Dave sent free tickets to the ‘Garden Party' magazine, which had given ‘Casablancan Night' an unfavourable (although not entirely so) review. He was hoping they might reconsider their opinion. Unfortunately the reviewer, writing under the sobriquet of Victor Snide, was not for turning. "OK they were tight and they obviously knew what they were doing as far as delivering the songs was concerned. But they were on for too long and due probably to the static confines of being a 3 piece, a lot of the songs sounded the same. Variation is not a feature of a No Exit gig. They've been around for a while now, and to my knowledge their greatest claim to fame is that they reckon they're the ugliest group in Liverpool. If they cut the length of the set, and maybe get an extra member in the group (suitably grotesque of course), then the songs could be done some justice, and hopefully, people would remember No Exit as being a good ugly band."

OK, the "Snide" surname was a giveaway and therefore the article should have been read in the spirit it was intended, but it still hurt. The writers of the 'Garden Party' had their own band ‘The Persuaders', who were a cross between the Style Council and Dexy's Midnight Runners. That would have been fine except for the fact that their lyrics were puerile. Believe me, I know. I later auditioned to be their singer after Tony Upham left, but I failed the audition. I was hoping to get the job and then begin introducing songs of my own. They either sussed this out or perhaps thought my intentions were to sabotage them. It is just possible, though, that they rejected me because I was a crap singer...  

Never mind...

At the end of May I presented the band with an unnamed song. Martyn's Duane Eddy style accompaniment prompted Dave to call it ‘Duane's Brain'. Months later, on a night out at MacMillans Club in Concert Street, Dave asked me what I was really going to call it. The DJ had just played the Specials' hit 'Gangsters' and Marvin Gaye's 'I heard it through the Grapevine' so my reflex response was "Don't call me grapevine face" - and the name stuck. If Grapevine Face was about anything in particular it was about oppression: "I'm learning to know my place" and defeat "You bring and buy me, classify me, immerse me in the role. There's one thing I'm wanting - I've got no soul." This was a very simple song with only 2 bass notes - G and A, and considering those limitations, I came up with quite a decent tune, but the crowning glory was Martyn's brilliantly melodic guitar work which was greatly enhanced by the reverb effect pedal on his new amplifier/speaker.

In June, for a total cost of £20 we recorded ‘Martyn's Brain', ‘Don't Walk Away' and ‘The Stories You Tell' at a 4 track studio in Colquitt Street (formerly the Blind School). Although the quality of the recordings was poor, the quality of our playing was not. It was now apparent just how tight we'd become. This fact was reinforced on 14th June when we played The Blitz Club in Duke Street. Due to a mix up, we'd been left standing outside the venue with our gear for hours, and Martyn found time to carry out the mercy killing of an already fatally injured pigeon using one of Colin's drum stands. Colin hadn't yet turned up so there was no need for him to know. Despite the unsettling wait, we were the epitome of professionalism that night and played exceptionally well. With confidence at an all time high, I looked forward to our next booking, on 29th June (my 24th birthday) at The Pavilion night club in Wolstenholme Square. 

Before gigs I followed an established routine whereby I left work early and went home to enjoy a hot bath. During the course of my soak, I poured myself a large whiskey as a relaxant - it was cheaper than Radox. Then, after drying myself off, I slipped into a thong (Bono didn't have a VPL so neither would I) and all my other stage gear.  From the sound check at the start of the night until the encore at the end, I would have only one, or maybe 2 pints of beer. When we'd finished we always packed up our gear immediately and headed off into the night. On 29th June, though, I was feeling a tad more psychotic than usual. I hated my birthdays because I hated being the centre of attention. A performer who hates attention???  In my anxiety I drank half the bottle of whiskey, so that by the time I'd left the house I was already half-cut. We got all the gear to the venue and sound checked. Chris Adamson offered me a birthday drink which I accepted without thinking. "A bottle of Pils please, Chris." It was only common courtesy for me to reciprocate...and so the drinking went on.

To make matters worse, who should turn up, looking suave, sophisiticated and entirely out of context, in a sports jacket, slacks, collar and tie, but my Dad? Oh God - that was all I needed - a proper musician. He'd never been to a No Exit gig before so why the hell had he come to this one? It started to dawn on me now just how drunk I was, and I began to worry that I was about to make an unholy fool of myself. I watched the support act ‘Life Academy' in fidgety detachment as I contemplated my fate. When they came off stage, one of them asked me what I thought of them. I told him I was very impressed, that they were very tight, and I liked what they were about. Then he asked if I had any advice for them. I asked him whether all their songs had evolved from jamming sessions. They had. I said "I thought so. Maybe someone needs to take responsibility for the song writing." .......He decided to stay along and watch our set.

The Pavilion had the most unforgiving acoustics. The sound bounced around like never before. Had there been a decent audience, their bodily mass might have dampened it down, but the place was virtually empty. From where I was standing we sounded wretched, and to top it all Martyn broke a string mid-song. He wasn't prepared to use his back-up guitar (why bring it in the first place then?) and insisted on changing the string. Rather than stop the "show" I carried on, accompanied by Colin, with a version of ‘Princess of the Street' by The Stranglers. Still Martyn wasn't ready (What the hell was he playing at?) so I tried a version of ‘Joan of Arc' by OMD ("Little Catholic Girl is falling in love" and not their other single 'Maid of Orleans' which was shite). In the middle of this song a profound melancholia descended upon me, but ever the consummate professional, I saw it through to the bitter end. To make things worse Pete Cresswell turned up, asking if he could perform ‘That Monday Morning Feeling' with us, as he had done many times before. Still Martyn was fiddling about, and things were starting to get fractious. When we explained to Pete that he couldn't just turn up at our gigs and expect us to drop everything for him, you could see the hurt on his face, and he went away with his tail between his legs. We got back on stage, just went through the motions and finished our set as quickly as possible. It was dreadful, absolutely dreadful. Dave didn't think it was that bad and neither did anyone else, but I was deeply displeased with myself. My dad's only comment was "Why does it have to be so loud, son?"

Because it was my birthday the rest of the band packed up the gear and took it home. After a few more drinks a student called Ruth offered to give Chris and me a lift home. I was now bordering on utter despair. It was all swimming around in my head - my drunkenness, my total lack of professionalism, the worst acoustics ever, the broken string, the ridiculous Stranglers/OMD cameo, upsetting Pete Cresswell, and the whole sorry mess having been witnessed by my dad. Oh, and who the hell was I to dispense advice to ‘Life Academy' anyway? They were a perfectly good band and they blew us off the stage that night...... What a t**t. I had always predicted I would die on my birthday (which birthday, I didn't know) and I told Ruth and Chris that I wanted to kill myself (It had gone midnight, and so technically, it was no longer my birthday). Ruth drove us to Sefton Park. Chris, recognising that my threat was idle, decided to make his way home on foot. Ruth walked me round Sefton Park until daybreak, talking sense. "Don't beat yourself up about it. You cannot perform while intoxicated, so don't ever do it again. Consider this a valuable lesson and move on. It was your birthday. Everybody's a bit mental on their birthday." Thanks Ruth.

In July I heard, for the first time, the live version of 'A Forest' by The Cure (issued with their 'Hanging Garden' single). The bass guitar had a sound effect on it called "chorus". Chorus immediately mimmicks the note the guitarist plays, but this echoed note comes back very slightly out of tune. The resulting effect is a thicker tone (there are 2 notes being heard) and a swirling, haunting quality. The moment I heard that sound I knew it would work well on many of our songs. I used my new chorus pedal on some of the more moody ones like 'Martyn's Brain' and 'Don't Walk Away'. It was also effective on 'In The Dark', 'Real World' and 'Breakdown'. This was the final piece in the jigsaw of the No Exit sound.  

To truly appreciate the highs you have to have tasted the lows. By July all those rehearsals and all those gigs were, at long last, beginning to pay off and we'd acquired a small fan base. We played to a full house in the Baltimore Rooms above Kirklands Wine Bar, Hardman Street (now the "Fly in the Loaf"). Two days later, on the 28th, we put in our finest performance to date at ‘The Lime Street Bop'. This was a free, two day festival of live music, held on the plateau outside St George's Hall, opposite Lime Street Station - an event organised by local reggae band ‘Escape Committee'. The idea was to give younger bands (15, 16 and 17 year olds) the chance to perform before a large audience, and also to give bands like ours, which fell outside the Liverpool clique, an opportunity to shine for once. The weather was kind to us that day; it was a little windy but it was also sunny and that brought out a good crowd of several hundred. 'The Voice', 'Street Legal', 'Infinity' and 'After Glow' preceded us, and we were given the prime Saturday afternoon slot. Our set, which was restricted to half an hour, was: The Real World, Breakdown, The Stories You TellDuane's Brain (as Grapevine Face was still known) and In the Dark. When we'd finished, the sound engineer whispered "At last, a proper band. What a relief." The crowd  felt the same way judging by their positive response to us. The fact we'd played so well and with no sign of nerves on this big occasion proved that we had the mental strength to cope with whatever the future held in store for us.   

It took a few days before my feet came back down to earth, but when they did, the Lime Street Bop spurred me on to greater heights. For the first time in years I picked up my 6 string guitar and began to experiment with a chord sequence in which I played as many open strings as possible. It sounded very eerie. I'd never heard anything like it before. Dad asked "Who's that ghost music for? Is it for me?" The first words which came into my head were "Wheels within Wheels", and I repeated these over and over. Then came "The constant winding, binding, grinding wheels within wheels" It took weeks to find the right words, but "From the bottomless pit of my heart, From the murky depths of my soul, I'm asking you to give me a start. I'm telling you to let us go" were worth the struggle. Brian Eno and David Byrne's ‘The Jezebel Spirit' influenced 'Wheels'. I'd heard this "tune", based around a real life recording of an exorcism, several times on John Peel. A girl called Elizabeth was possessed by the spirit of Jezebel which the exorcist tried to bawl out with screams of "Out, out Jezebel. Come out now. Out in the name of Jesus. Come on destruction. Come on grief"... Bloody Hell! It used to frighten me so much that I would hide under my bed clothes.  The Jezebel Spirit inspired my own cries of "Let it out. Come on. Let it out." My song's final line was originally going to be "For symphony in black", but  that was a bit pretentious. "Don't paint us all so black" fitted this merry little ditty so much better. I taught the song to Martyn, and he played it with a greater fluidity than I ever could (although I actually preferred my original ham fisted interpretation). So as not to distract from those strange guitar chords I kept my bass line very simple. With Colin's pounding drums and Martyn's superb guitar work, ‘Wheels' became Dave's new "Best Song in the World". It became our favourite too. I felt very proud to have written it. I still feel very proud to have written it.

During the summer "Jamming!" magazine published league tables of the best bands in Merseyside. No Exit appeared in Divisions 3 and 4. So good they named us twice! ....But, forget about Division 2; why were we not among the top 22 bands in Division 1? (the equivalent of the Premier League today) Surely we were better than The High Five, Mr Amir, The Room, Pink Industry, Ex Post Facto, Ellery Bop, Cook Da Books and Western Promise, weren't we? We were at the very least the equals of Division 1's The Lotus Eaters, It's Immaterial, Black and The Farm. We had to accept that Frankie Goes to Hollywood, the Bunnymen Dead or Alive, OMD, Wah!China Crisis, Julian Cope, Pale Fountains, Icicle Works and A Flock of Seagulls were untouchables - if only because of their chart success.  I couldn't quite believe how lowly No Exit had been rated. How could 'Jamming' have got it so wrong?

In August we went into ‘The Ark' 8 track studio in Benson Street (now Hard City Records) to record ‘The Real World', ‘Martyn's Brain' and ‘The Stories You Tell'. The engineer, David Dickie (bass player in 'Black') failed to turn up in the morning, so  his assistant, a teenage girl, began recording Colin's drums very slowly and very badly. When 'Dix' turned up hours late, instead of scrapping the session and starting again, he chose to disguise the lousy drums. Colin was asked to reproduce his entire snare drum performance on a touch sensitive key pad - a sort of drum machine played with the fingers. It took the best part of the afternoon for him to familiarise himself with this new technology. The recordings of Colin's real drums and of the drum machine were blended together, but this made us sound less tight than we actually were. With time pressing on we had to abandon ‘Martyn's Brain' altogether. The next day Martyn and I rushed through our guitar, bass and vocal parts and we came away with "rough mixes" of 'Real World' and 'Stories ' on a ¼ inch tape. For various reasons we were forced to wait until October for the final mixing session which was performed by Henry Priestman (later  the keyboard player and brains behind ‘The Christians'). The final outcome was a tape featuring Henry's mix of ‘Stories ' and Dix's rough mix of Real World'. The whole thing cost around £120 but it wasn't value for money. Dix later redeemed himself with 2 fine recordings of Colamericana and The Brain Drain.

Every year, over the August Bank Holiday weekend, a festival of local music was held in Sefton Park. ‘Larks in the Park' was attended by thousands, and we were desperate to play for them. After 3 years of constant gigging we felt we deserved to be on the bill. Martyn's brother David knew the organisers, and he and Perry said some words on our behalf, but we were overlooked. Apart from three or four decent bands, as usual the line up was filled with ‘fly by night' trendy groups benefiting from the organisers' nepotism. Who the hell were these bands? Why had we never seen them or even heard about them playing in the city? We were all sick about it, and I boycotted 'Larks in the Park'.     "That'll teach them...... The Bastards."

Plans for our debut album were  now beginning to take shape, but we couldn't afford any more trips into professional studios. Colin's brother offered to record us on his portastudio (a box containing a 4 track console which recorded onto cassette tape). At one of our midweek rehearsals he recorded ‘White Man', ‘Now You're Talking' and ‘Don't Call Me Grapevine Face' in the space of an hour. The outcome was good considering it had cost nothing. We asked Colin again and again for another session so that we could have a go at ‘Wheels within Wheels', but his brother refused. I don't know why, but he was very shy - even shier than Colin.

'Wheels' made its live debut at The System on 4 October, where we were supported by ‘Catch 22' and ‘Street Legal'. Martyn managed to break a string while thrashing his way through the guitar solo, but Colin and I quickly and professionally ended the song. Our entire performance was captured on poor quality video - the only surviving live footage of No Exit. Colin was rendered almost invisible by shadow and, for the first and only time, Martyn's was not the worst outfit on show. Dressed in a black suit jacket and a white T shirt I looked exactly like who I was - an office worker on his night off, not a rock star.

Record companies had shown no interest whatsoever in our demos of 'Real World' and 'Stories', and from October onwards our persecution complex developed into "backs to the wall" defiance. We were invited to contribute an article about No Exit to ‘The Garden Party' magazine. Dave took it upon himself to write this, but the rest of us approved of his "If we're going down, we're going down with all guns blazing" tone:

"We have never pressed for a recording deal believing that when we are ready the companies will come to us. This is what will happen. We are not about to grovel to anyone. Therefore we will never be part of any clique.

"We play aggressive but melodic music. Although keyboards, saxophone and a female vocalist have been experimented with they are not No Exit. We have our own sound and we're sticking with it. If some people don't like it, that's their loss. It's impossible to please everybody and it's futile to attempt to do so.


"No Exit has been around for a few years and will be here for a few more. We will improve, we will wait and with that one elusive break we will succeed."

We returned to The System on 25 November. I'm sure we played very well but the only thing I recall is that we had no support band and were paid a percentage of the door takings. It was so well attended that we came away with around £160 - the most we'd ever been paid. This all went towards funding the album. It was fashionable among local unsigned bands at the time to put out cassette albums, and that was the format we chose. A vinyl album was way beyond our means - it would have cost thousands. We desperately wanted ‘Wheels within Wheels' to be included, but not the version with the broken string. On December 12, in the hope of getting a decent recording of it, we played a coal miners' benefit gig at the Mardi Gras in Bold Street. The country was deeply divided by the miners' strike which had been dragging on for many months, causing genuine hardship. I was never one for getting involved in politics and was reluctant to do this gig, but any chance to get 'Wheels ' down on tape had to be jumped at. On the face of it, then, we were good guys, but we got exactly what we deserved for our cynical opportunism - a very poor quality recording of ‘Wheels'.

My last memory of 1984 was of ‘Sputnik' and a songwriting experiment gone wrong. I tried smoking cannabis at University but it just made me feel a bit queasy, giggly and light headed. As a result I'd since treated all drugs (other than alcohol and cigarettes) with contempt. After a Saturday night out at The System a friend persuaded me to try this 'Sputnik' stuff which was all the rage in druggy circles. He rolled me 2 joints so tightly that they reminded me of candy cigarettes. He suggested I "Go home and write a song" after smoking them. At around 3 o'clock on the Sunday morning I sat down in the living room with guitar in hand, pen and paper at the ready. I smoked the first joint, inhaling deeply and holding the smoke in my lungs for as long as possible - just as I was advised to. I waited for a few minutes...nothing happened. "Useless", I thought. Then, as I rose out of my chair to fetch the second joint, my brain burst into flames. I sat back down and held my head in my hands for comfort, but to no avail. How do you extinguish a brain fire? It was as if someone had doused it with petrol and tossed in a lit match. Would getting some food in my system help? I went into the kitchen and took a bite out of one of my mum's home made Cornish pasties, but my addled brain told me it tasted like vomit so I spat it out. I thought it best then not to eat or drink anything else.

I began to hear voices. It was a bit like that episode of Tom and Jerry where an angel mouse appears on one of Jerry mouses's shoulders and a devil mouse on the other, but it was a lot more frightening than that. The devil 'me', speaking from the ether to my right, suggested I go upstairs and murder my parents. Then, from somewhere in the air on my left, the angel ‘me' responded with "No. Don't listen to him. That would be a terrible thing to do" I opened the back door in the hope that fresh air would help me ride out this bad trip... It was raining and it was very cold as I sat myself down on the doorstep in just a cotton shirt and jeans. My teeth began to chatter uncontrollably and I gradually became aware of a live reggae band playing dub behind me. Although there were no musicians on the stage I could see (without turning around) a vacant drum kit and all the other instruments perched on their stands. The battle between good and evil continued to be played out to this accompaniment. I sat there for hours, and began to hallucinate. Looking down at the soaked driveway I could see large worms disappearing down the cracks - unendingly. I slowly became aware that the real me and the angel me were winning the battle. By 6.30, when my mum came downstairs to find out where the draught was coming from, the devil me was all but defeated. "Have you been drinking again, Graham?" she asked. "Yes", I lied. "When will you ever learn?" Just in case the devil me attempted one last decisive reappearance I told mum I was going for a walk round the block. There were still worms slivering down the cracks in the pavement, but the worst effects of the drug had worn off. I got home, had a wash, cleaned my teeth and went to bed. Next day I threw the un-smoked joint away and I've never touched 'drugs' since. 

“A Songwriter’s Saga is a registered trademark and copyright © of Graham Trust

1985

Dave pressed ahead with his plans for the album. He tried to persuade us that the ‘Wheels within Wheels'  recording from The System was excellent and our over all performance rendered the broken string fiasco irrelevant. His sage advice was rejected, and consequently one of our best songs was omitted. ‘Anything you say' was also overlooked on the basis that we couldn't possibly fit all our favourites on the 45 minute tape, and in the end only 9 songs were included. One Sunday morning in February we had a photo session at St Andrews Church in Rodney Street. Its overgrown grounds were dominated by a large pyramid shaped tomb, and Dave took a number of typically moody black and white shots of us. Only one of these would eventually appear on the inside cover  of the, as yet, untitled album. He'd already selected the artwork for the front cover - a bizarre, 16th century French wood etching of a devil seemingly perched on a man's shoulders, but on closer inspection you couldn't tell where the devil began and the man ended. That artist may well have been on Sputnik at the time. 

In the evening Dave gave us cassette copies of the album, stating "This is a good representation of our sound". Without having heard it, I replied "It's not." "It is", he insisted. "NO IT'S NOT" I argued... Dave said no more. After all the trouble he had gone to, it must have been soul destroying to have been confronted with such negativity. He was right. It was absolutely representative of No Exit's sound. I was too inarticulate to express my real point which was that, after 3 years together, we were releasing an album, the recorded quality of which was way, way below that of the professionals. After all that time, the songs hadn't been given the treatment they deserved - weeks (or months) in a proper recording studio with a great producer, using all the recording gadgetry money could buy. The Pistols, The Jam, The Cure, The Banshees, U2 and The Bunnymen ALL had that, so why not us? Thankfully, Martyn was more realistic about what we'd achieved, given our limited financial resources, and Dave went ahead with the album regardless. Tears for Fears had recently released their great ‘Songs from the Big Chair' album, and Martyn suggested ‘Songs from the Wilderness' for ours - a wholly appropriate title which was agreed upon unanimously.  Slug once again printed the sleeves and labels, and Dave credited my songs to Trust / No Exit... I bit my tongue.

Throughout the winter I'd been working on two new songs, but how could I possibly better ‘Wheels'? I couldn't. I had to go in a different direction. Martyn and I both liked The Who's ‘You Better You Bet' and admired its key change at the end. "A key change", Martyn said, "now that's the mark of a great songwriter." I had never before attempted that feat, but as the chorus of my own ‘Love is There' developed, it became apparent that I could take it up a couple of notes, thereby achieving the key change. In fact I could take it up a further couple of notes, and then another and another, but I decided not to be a smart arse and restricted myself to just the one. 

The verses were somewhat surreal:

"The shameful waste of drip drying dreams.
Tests my faith, tears at the seams.
A cigarette for you. A silhouette of you.
A sea of sweat from me.
One more regret for me.

I never said this was do or die.
I never saw the sense in an eye to eye.
I never saw your tears fall from the sky."

Then it was into a very strong, poppy chorus:

"Anyone can see love is there,
Deeper than your thoughts,
More pure than prayer.
I'm trying to understand what it's all about.
Wonder if I ever will find out."

After the second chorus we slipped into the key change. Martyn was the only one inconvenienced by this as he had to remember a whole new chord sequence. I simply had to move my fingers up two frets on my bass, and it didn't make a blind bit of difference to what Colin played. We never recorded 'Love is There', and that's a shame because it was a good song. 

In February I began work on a solo project - an orchestral arrangement of ‘Wheels within Wheels' along the lines of Bowie's ‘Life on Mars'. I thought that a big production might generate record company interest in No Exit. I never discussed my songs with the band until they were completed, and I certainly wasn't going to mention my plans for 'Wheels' to them. If there had been outside interference at this early stage I would have quickly lost confidence and abandoned the project altogether. So as usual, my work was carried out in private, where I didn't have to justify my decisions to anyone else. Keith Leary, who had recently transformed 'Scope' into a synthesizer pop band called Kinetics, (later ‘Passion Polka') was the one person I did confide in. I'd worked out all the parts for flutes, violins and glockenspiels on my guitar and I asked if his synth could reproduce those sounds. It could, but not only that, Keith was prepared to programme the drum machine, come along to the recording studio, lay the synth parts down, and leave me there to finish the guitars and vocals. I honestly don't understand why he was so kind to me. This was not a "one off" act of kindness either; he was always generous in dispensing advice, and in later years, when he owned and managed his own recording studio, he allowed me discounted studio time. Keith never once asked for anything in return - never. For him my thanks were enough. Thanks again, Keith.

In early March, with my secret plans for 'Wheels' in full swing, ‘Songs from the Wilderness' was released with a running order of:

Side 1

1) ‘The Real World' - from The Ark session
2) ‘White Man' - portastudio.
3) ‘The Stories You Tell' - from The Ark seeion
4) ‘Don't Call me Grapevine Face' - portastudio 
5) ‘Now You're Talking' - portastudio

Side 2

1) 'Hero' - from the Open Eye session
2) 'Don't Walk Away' - live at The System 
3) 'Martyn's Brain ' - live at the Lime Street Bop
4) 'In the Dark' - live at the Lime Street Bop 

The cassettes, probably no more than 20, were put on sale in HMV, Probe and a couple of other city centre record shops. We sent copies to various local publications to court opinion. The reviewer from 'Bluer Skies' (Echo & the Bunnymen's fanzine) said that it was "...excellent - and I mean excellent" but inexplicably failed to expand on this high praise. Such an inarticulate review, only two sentences long, no matter how positive, was never going to help our sales. Peter Trollope wrote 'Hero' is the opening track (it wasn't) and a strong indication where their strengths lie - in strong melody and working together as a tight unit. Other highlights on side one include The Stories You Tell  and the engaging Don't Call Me Grapevine Face."  The overall reaction to our album was muted and, as usual, there was no interest shown whatsoever by anybody in the recording / music publishing industry.

Between December and March we performed only once - at a social club in Widnes - to a small crowd of polite, but zombified teenagers. The policy of not playing pubs had led to our live appearances dwindling to a disappointing trickle. On the last Sunday in March we appeared at The Everyman Bistro - just the sort place we did want to play. This was a students' and trendies' stronghold. Unfortunately, most of the students had already gone home for the Easter break, but there was still a fair sized crowd. Mark Roberts, a reviewer from 'Making Time' magazine, wrote:

"Sunday night in Liverpool is a nightmare. It is not only quiet but also pervaded by an air of hangover fallout. And so it was NO EXIT'S turn to play the Sunday night bash at the Bistro and liven the place up a bit. A gig needs two things to go off well - A good band and a responsive audience. In this case the audience was largely made up of ‘Bistro Kids', the type who don't think it's "particularly clever to drink, thank you very much" and who dress like Wallies in the name of Art. That's right folks, FACE readers. These were in the red corner.

In the blue corner we had Graham Trust, (bass and vocals) Martyn Gilbert (guitar) and Colin McCormick (drums).

It is impossible to categorise the band's music. Pop music? Yes. Psychedelic? Only Martyn Gilbert's shirt. Punk? Many of the old D-I-Y virtues came through here. New Romantic? Not in any way whatsoever.

They opened their set with the powerful ‘Real World'. While many bands pretend to have all the answers, ‘Real World' is typical of No Exit's knack of going against the grain - the lads are asking the questions.

‘Is there an honest man anywhere?'

Well, it may not be the height of philosophical debate but when most bands couldn't give a sh*t anyway, so long as the hair's looking good, I find this very refreshing. Musically I defy anyone not to like ‘Real World'.

‘Martyn's Brain', ‘Stories you tell' and ‘Wheels within Wheels' dominate the set. When songs are instantly likeable, like these are, writing new material must be a facing. The songs carry themselves along with great ease. They strike the ear and stick in the mind.

Every time I see NO EXIT I get the feeling that they have been drinking confidence and professionalism cocktails at the pub. They have mastered their material and learned so much about stage craft in the past few months that it is difficult to describe them without sounding sycophantic. Having said this, they are great to watch and listen to. In an age when Roland Rat can be described as one of the least manipulated pop personalities about, NO EXIT are like a breath of fresh air. The gritty independence and honesty of this band reminds me of what attracted me to Dr Feelgood and Graham Parker when the pompous warblings of Genesis, Yes and Horslips were ‘all the rave'."

I wished everyone could have had Mark's grasp on what No Exit was all about, but he was a rare breed. How long could we carry on banging our heads against a brick wall?

Back at The Ministry we were working hard on a song called ‘2,000 Years' which was quite a challenge - rhythmically. It had a syncopated bass guitar part, which means that the "off" beat is accentuated. Think of The Police's 'Bring on the Night' or 'The Bed's too Big Without You' without the white reggae lilt and you won't be too far off. Inevitably religion had a major part to play in ‘2,000 years' - the clue was in the title:

"No, my child, you mustn't brood,
You will drown yourself in solitude.
Can you help me? Can you help me?
When I say ‘Good God above,
Will we really find true love
On the other side? On the other side.'

Early morning greet the dawn,
Will I curse the day that I was born?
Any excuses, any old lies.
Can I still believe my failing eyes?
When you say you will never
Will you ever leave me to my own devices?"

Then it was into the impassioned chorus

"We would wait 2,000 years ‘til you show us the way.
All I need is one more smile to brighten up my day."

Every March, the Prudential rewarded its staff with a productivity bonus. In the past I used this to get myself out of debt. This year I cleared around £500, the lions share of which I earmarked for a day in 'Studio One' (a reputable 24 track studio in Saughall, near Chester). I booked myself in for the end of April, leaving plenty of time to get my ideas for 'Wheels' together. In early April Keith invited me round to his house to program the drum and synth parts. I played him the song on my guitar, and he applied a basic drum pattern to it. Then I demonstrated all the orchestral parts, and he quickly programmed these into his synth. Given that this was a very expensive piece of kit the quality of the sounds was disappointing. I liked the glockenspiel, but the violins and flutes seemed like rough approximations of the real thing. Damn. This was not going to end up sounding like ‘Life on Mars'. Still, beggars can't be choosers. Keith gave me a cassette copy of what he'd done. I took it home and practised my electric and bass guitar parts and vocals (for which I'd worked out 3 part harmonies) over and over and over again for the next few weeks. Keith reminded me that you should never enter a recording studio unless you're fully prepared. It's not a rehearsal studio. Time is money - YOUR money.

I was not in the least bit concerned when the issue of adding another member to the band was raised again. (my thoughts were elsewhere) On 18th April the Merseymart - a free newspaper - announced that "...No Exit would like to experiment with the use of a singer. They are looking for someone with both a good voice and a strong visual impact." Needless to say, we were hardly inundated with applicants. Well actually, we didn't get a single response. That just added to the whole negative vibe, and we still had no gigs to look forward to.

Wheels within Wheels' was recorded on 28 April and I was very, very pleased with the outcome. A few days later I told Martyn what I'd done, and he agreed to break the news to Dave. I was too much of a coward to tell him myself. Dave, not unexpectedly, hit the roof. "The selfish bastard" was one of his more restrained utterances. Martyn spent some considerable time trying to calm him down, and eventually managed to placate him with "Graham is not like other people." Although I'm not entirely sure what he meant by that, I took it as a great compliment anyway. Thanks to Martyn, Dave's reaction, upon hearing my "masterpiece" was confined to a few sniggers and mildly derogatory comments. I'd got away with it, but I'd done an incredibly divisive thing which sent out an enormous pulsating negative signal to the others. Was I losing interest in the band? Was my ego out of control? Who the hell did I think I was?

The consequences of my actions came to a head in mid May, when Colin told us, at a rehearsal, that he was giving drumming up completely so he could do other things. He would not be joining another band, and neither would he be playing our one remaining gig at Rudi's wine bar in Cumberland Street.  Dave and Martyn wanted to find another drummer, but I flatly refused to consider going through that whole wearisome process again. I wanted out, but not until we'd fulfilled our commitment to play Rudi's. Perry agreed to drum for us one last time, and we had half a dozen rehearsals in the basement of a flat in Ivanhoe Road. It was around this time that the news filtered out that Colin had joined a band called Cracked Actor.........Cracked Actor? .........CRACKED ACTOR? ........Yes, exactly. I never saw Colin again. The last I heard of him was a year or so later when he sent Slug a letter from India where he was on a motorcycle journey, trying to find himself. "He'd better find himself before I bloody find him", I joked.

 Saturday 22nd June was a beautiful day, and it was still sunny as I made my way to Rudi's in the evening. I felt very sad but also very relieved that it was nearly all over. There was nothing remarkable about the gig other than how well Perry played after having not drummed for so long. So ended No Exit's marathon slog of gigs. I believed we had played about 150, but that was a preposterous claim. The scrapbook by no means details all of them, but in the first 12 months alone, it records 33.  Overall we actually played around 80, but it may have been as many as 90 - it just felt like a lot more. When you take out the 7 months in 1983 when we didn't play at all, we averaged more than 25 gigs a year. That was an incredible number for a bunch of amateurs performing their own music in a city with severely restricted opportunities to play any live music whatsoever. Had we been a cabaret band we may well have played more often and been paid better, but I am proud to say we were a genuinely independent band with high principles. To our disappointment those principles didn't bring us commercial acclaim, but the hit parade is only one means of measuring success. The measure which mattered most was the one in my head, which reassured me that No Exit had been an artistic success. Given the choice between the two I would pick art over commerce every single time (but, as a commercial failure I suppose I would say that).

Given the constraints of money and time, our achievements, as demonstrated by 'Songs from the Wilderness' were highly commendable.  The fact that we weren't signed to a record company was a blessing which gave us complete artistic control. No pressure was put on me by money men to write in a certain style, and I wasn't contractually obliged to churn out an agreed number of songs within a given time period. As it was, I had all the  time I needed to let my ideas come to full fruition. None of my songs was ill conceived; they were the best I could have possibly written.

For nearly four years Dave had been an unpaid guru, working boundlessly behind the scenes, and his unswerving faith instilled in us the confidence to keep going even in the face of despair. Alas, quality did not out. And Slug? What else could Slug have done to advertise our presence on this earth other than wrap the moon in a spider's web and plant a giant No Exit light on it? Martyn? Well, you know my feelings about Martyn. They don't come much better than that - a gritty, independent minded kindred spirit who fought hard against the prevailing trends in music and fashion (but particularly fashion). His guitar work marks him out as an innovator, a true original. Perry and Colin were superb drummers in their own different ways. No Exit had everything but luck, and we just had to accept that it was not meant to be. Ours was a great band which didn't deserve to fail so abjectly - but I suppose I would say that too, wouldn't I? 

On my 25th birthday ‘Frankie' by Sister Sledge hit the number one spot. It made me wonder why I'd bothered investing all my spare time and money in the band when crap like that satisfied public demand... Anyway, I had business to attend to, and went into town to buy myself the cheapest drum machine I could find - Korg Superdrums. The afternoon and evening were spent experimenting with it. I was meant to be meeting the lads at The System that night, and Phil Williams rang me half a dozen times between 11 and 1 o'clock, in an effort  to get me there. Dave had made a giant birthday card out of a blown up photo of me standing on my front doorstep striking a particularly gormless pose. But I wasn't in the mood for frivolity. I always hated my birthdays and so remained, quite contentedly, in my bedroom tapping out drum beats all night.

The words of The Jam's ‘In the City' had been taunting me for months - "In the city there's a thousand faces all shining bright, and those golden faces are under 25. They wanna say, they're gonna tell you about the young idea." It was clear that I was now too old to be a rock star (or a credible one, at least). So had I wasted my youth? If I'd taken my insurance career seriously and passed my exams I might, one day, have ended up as an office manager like Mr Hickey, or maybe as a Senior Underwriter, and on good money. But had I wasted my youth? I could have had cars and girlfriends and spent my money on nice clothes and going to fancy restaurants and snazzy nightclubs. I could have bought a house, got married and had kids and led a decent, sober existence. So I had wasted my youth, then? ............................Hell, no!!! Credit me with some sense, PLEASE. What mattered more to me was that I had written two or three very good songs, a few good ones and a few not so good. That was infinitely more important to my self esteem than anything else life had to offer. There was at least a possibility that, if I died now, people would remember me as a songwriter and not as an insurance clerk. The mantra which ran through my head while I was out jogging came to mind now - "Just keep going, Graybo. Just keep going." So I kept on with my songwriting. I had to. I was too far gone now. It was in my blood. From now on, I was going to have total control over my songs, and would record them as a one man band.

In July I met a guy called Phil, who was an associate of my sister Barbara. "I hear your group is no more", he said. "No", I replied, "it's No Exit."

THE END

Graham Trust, December 2007

No Exit played a minimum 33 gigs in their first year as a jobbing band.

                                      Those recorded for posterity are:

1981

26 November - Brady's (formerly Eric's), Mathew Street. 

30 November - The Masonic, Berry Street.

8 December - The Masonic., Berry Street.

17 December - Daley's Dandelion, Dale Street.

1982

7 January - Daley's Dandelion, Dale Street

21 January - Daley's Dandelion, Dale Street.

27 January - The Mayflower, Fazakerley Street.

30 January - Christ's & Notre Dame College, Taggart Avenue.

12 February - St Katherine's College, Taggart Avenue.

15 February - The Masonic, Berry Street.

25 February - Daley's Dandelion, Dale Street.

7 March - The Masonic, Berry Street.

22 March - Star & Garter, St John's Precinct.

7 April - Baltimore Rooms, Kirklands Wine Bar, Hardman Street.

8 April - The  Masonic, Berry Street.

23 April - University Carnatic Hall, Rose Lane. 

date unknown - The Masonic, Berry Street.  

"           "             "        "           "        " 

"           "             "        "           "        " 

"           "             "        "           "        " 

"          "   - Party at 6 Sefton Park Drive, Toxteth. 

29 July - Baltimore Rooms, Kirklands Wine Bar, Hardman Street.

13 August - The Masonic, Berry Street.

24 August - The Masonic, Berry Street.

26 August - Norris Green Centurion Club,

2 September - The Masonic, Berry Street.

1 October - IM Marsh College, Barkhill Road.

7 October - The Left Bank Bistro, Mathew Street.

10 October - The Masonic, Berry Street

3 November - St Katherine's College, Taggart Avenue.

13 November - The Masonic, Berry Street.

24 November - IM Marsh College, Barkhill Road.

26 November - The Left Bank Bistro, Mathew Street.                         

                       -----------------------------------------   

“A Songwriter’s Saga is a registered trademark and copyright © of Graham Trust