I want to go back in time, to before where this blog began, and return to my latter school years. Yes, it is the same school in whose uniform I was pictured in an earlier post (Auditions, teachers and early tragedy). Whilst at school, some friends and I started a ‘group’. We loved the Beatles, the Kinks and all those groups of that era. I, of course, was the singer and two mates – Norman Snell (bass guitar) and John Edge (drums) – began looking for two other guitarists.
We eventually found them after trying out several others first: they were Chris Cooksey (lead guitar) and Gene Hatfield (rhythm guitar). We would rehearse where and when we could: at our homes and in friends’ garages. At the start we called ourselves ‘The Pinkerton Men’. I think we arrived at it after watching an American film by that name on the theme of private or government investigators. It seemed different at that time – and different was always eye catching. We even had matching clothes: black trousers and pink shirts. How eye catching was that?
We became quite popular on the South London scene, and started to get bookings every week. Our respective parents would transport us to each gig when they were able. Then, one day, we met a chap in the local ‘Wimpey House’ who had a van, and he joined the band as our roadie. His transport was no ordinary van, but a beaten up old police Black Maria – and it wasn’t even black, but painted with that orange oxide paint which is a rust repellent.
From left: Chris Cooksey, Norman Snell, John Edge, David Rendall, Gene Hatfield
I was approaching the end of my education at this time and applied to the Royal Navy to become an Articifer Apprentice. This would have involved eighteen months of studying general craftsmanship and the rudimentary principles of all types of machinery used in the Navy. I passed the exams and, at the end of my secondary schooling, was due to start at HMS Fisgard somewhere in Cornwall. My father had served in the Navy during the Second World War, and his stories made me want to have a life on the waves, and maybe even a girl in every port. However, our band was going from strength to strength, and the thought of being famous on land was more appealing than being infamous at sea, so my choices became only one: music, music music!
So, at this time the group went on, but a new band appeared on the scene called Pinkerton’s Assorted Colours. We had to change our name, and because we were always having arguments with our drummer, we called ourselves ALL ON EDGE. We were really flying; we had several gigs each week, and we were well paid for that time (the mid-sixties).
As we were doing so well, my father paid for us to make a demo disc, which we did at a local recording studio in South London called ‘R G JONES of Morden’. There is a link to three of the songs below. We didn’t write our own music; we were a cover band with a sense of loyalty to the original, but occasionally made it our own.
After one gig we were travelling back in ‘The Orange Maria’, when the drummer said to me, “It’s about time you stopped singing and started shouting.” I took offence at this as I was their front man, and the whole situation ended in fisticuffs. I left the band with some bruises, but if it hadn’t happened, neither would the career I have had in Opera – but then again, I might have become the first Freddie Mercury!
However, that isn’t quite the end of the story. Watch this space for news of a further twist in the tale.