A pub rock family tree

20 Feb

Spidery handwriting crammed into neat little grids: names, dates and places meticulously recorded for posterity. But what was this faded, photocopied sheet hiding inside the sleeve of the record I had just bought?

Tracking down a copy of Kilburn and the High-Roads ‘ 1975 album ‘Handsome’ hadn’t been easy. Second-hand shops were rummaged through, the internet trawled, and I was well chuffed when I found one being sold online by a shop in Tonbridge Wells, Kent.

Bonus features are now expected on cds and dvds, but this slice of vinyl was to give up some real treasure. The mystery sheet inside the cover that had been so beautifully painted by Ian’s wife Betty was a homemade history of the band. Logged in the tiniest hand was the name of every musician, manager and roadie who had passed through its bizarre ranks.

‘David Rohoman Jul ’74-Mar ’75: Returned for the crazy part. Never removed his big black hat. Nearly lost his pogo stick in the lavatory in Halifax owing to the sudden departure of Kilburn and the High Roads. At present working as drummer and singer with Mulatto.’

‘Davey Payne Jun ’72-May ’75: Worked with Bruce Lacey at the UFO and spent five years playing free sax in People Band and Omu. Blew until he bled. The rumours abounded and still do about the razor blades in his reeds. Added these attributes to his solos in the Kilburns. Three people once fainted during a Davey Payne performance. Spent time living on the Circle Line. In Clacton at present, but has not lost his wind.’ 

Then, there was a list of songs, many of which were hilarously Ian and new even to me: Bag of the Islands; Badger & The Rabbit; Patience Eames; A band called The Tights; Thank you Mum; Nervous Piss; I’ve left the rag trade to join the drag trade. 

I couldn’t believe my luck. As valuable as Pete Frame’s Rock Family Tree entry had been, this was something else. But who’d written it? The record had come from Kent, so I figured it had been discarded by a former Kilburn. They’d originated from Canterbury after all. None of it had been written in the ‘first person’, but surely only an insider would have had this kind of knowledge. So it had been written by a Kilburn?

By the time I went to Ian’s house in Hampstead towards the end of 1999, I’d solved it, probably after glancing at the cover of 4,000 Weeks’ Holiday. Chatting to him in his sitting room, I told him about how I’d come by the record and produce the folded piece of paper. “I think you wrote this Ian”, I said. His smile said it all.

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