Sunday 26 April 2015

The Others: Veterans of the 1960's Richmond & Eel Pie Island R'n'B Scene at Sunbury-on-Thames

The Others photographed by Paul Slattery
The Others are veterans of the early British 1960’s R’n’B boom that sprung up in the lush suburban greenery of the affluent Thames Valley area to the South West of London. Based around many now legendary venues and club nights such as the Crawdaddy in Richmond, The Ealing Jazz Club, Eel Pie Island Hotel in Twickenham and the Ricky Tick in Windsor, the scene became a fertile breeding ground of talent, spawning many bands such as The Artwoods, The Birds, The Yardbirds and The Downliners Sect. These bands were influenced by their contemporaries such as the Rolling Stones and The Pretty Things along with more established acts such as Long John Baldry, Cyril Davies, and Alexis Korner who introduced the British youth to the original Chicago Blues sounds of artists such as Bo Diddley, Howlin’ Wolf, Jimmy Reed, Buddy Guy and Muddy Waters. 

The Others, Paul and Rob photographed by Paul Slattery
The Others were formed while they were still pupils at Hampton School which also included founder members of The Yardbirds and, a few years their junior, Paul Slattery, the legendary Rock Photographer (and my Retro Man Blog colleague…!). Paul kindly wrote a few words about his memories of the time and you can check them out at the end of the feature. The first line-up consisted of Paul Stewart on lead vocals, Rob Tolchard on rhythm guitar, Ian McLintock on bass, John Standley on lead guitar and Nigel Baldwin on drums. John and Nigel left before the release of their debut single “Oh Yeah” and were replaced by Pete Hammerton and Geoff Coxon. Another Hampton School student, Brian May was so influenced by Pete Hammerton’s guitar playing that he too started a band called Smile before going on to form Queen with Freddie Mercury. 

The Others, Pete Hammerton photographed by Paul Slattery
Fontana Records released “Oh Yeah” in 1964 and recently the influential California based musician and journalist Mike Stax declared in his excellent “Ugly Things” magazine that it was “one of the best records to have come out of the early British R’n’B scene”. It certainly made waves across the Atlantic, with Garage Punk legends The Shadows of Knight having a minor hit in the States with their own version of the single. However, The Others failed to capitalize on the promise of this debut release as they split soon after the single’s release. So, despite their impeccable credentials their short-lived career meant that they were quickly overshadowed by many of their contemporaries. In 2012 Paul, Pete, Rob and Geoff decided to re-form The Others but unfortunately it would be without the original bassist Ian McLintock who had sadly passed away. Rob moved from rhythm guitar to bass and they started to write new material as well as mixing in plenty of those classic Blues songs that had originally inspired them. They have recently released a live in the studio CD entitled “Gold” to celebrate 50 years of The Others but have announced that they will finally call it a day with a gig at the Crawdaddy Club in Richmond later this year. So, it’s quite appropriate that I see the band in Sunbury-on-Thames, right in the heart of that legendary R’n’B Scene, just steps away from the river. 

The Others, Rob Tolchard photographed by Paul Slattery
Before tonight’s gig Rob explained to me that they were just happy to be playing music again with no pressure. He insisted that they didn’t want to be thought of as purely a revival act and that they liked to inject some energy into their performances and make sure the songs sounded fresh and contemporary. He wasn’t wrong, as despite Paul’s banter about the advancing years of both band and audience alike, The Others played with an energy that would put most bands half their age to shame. Paul has an impressively raw and authentic Blues voice that sometimes veers into classic Soul and on some occasions even Gospel territory. He’s a great front-man, tall and charismatic with a nice line in self-deprecating chat between songs. Unfortunately he forgot to bring his harmonica. Paul Slattery saw him play harp when he joined Robert Hokum’s Great West Groove on stage in Brentford recently and he was mightily impressed so I was really looking forward to hearing him play. Let’s hope he doesn’t forget the harmonica next time we see them! 

The Others, Geoff Coxon photographed by Paul Slattery
Although, Rob plays bass with a nice laid back but funky style, he really immerses himself in the music, dancing about the stage, swaying along with the rhythm and taking lead vocals on his excellent self-penned number “Can’t Get You Outta My System”. Drummer Geoff holds it all together nicely in an understated and effective way. Pete Hammerton, with his dangling ear-ring, drain-pipe jeans and silk scarf, looks every inch the classic guitar hero. His superb guitar playing is something to behold, mostly playing without a plectrum, it’s difficult to take your eyes off his deft fret-work. Pete and Paul take the stage at the start of their second set armed with acoustic guitars and play an impressive flamenco number that proves the band are definitely far more than just an R’n’B tribute act. My personal highlights were versions of Al Green’s “Take Me To The River” which I got to love after seeing the Talking Heads play it in their “Stop Making Sense” movie and Allen Toussaint’s “Fortune Teller”. I first heard this via the blistering version on The Who’s “Live at Leeds” album and the excellent Freakbeat take on the song by the under-rated Tony Jackson Group. It was a great evening’s entertainment, so enjoyable in fact that I can only feel a bit disappointed that they will be calling it a day. However, it is fitting that their very last show will be at the new home of the legendary Crawdaddy Club in Richmond on Friday August 21st so keep an eye on their web-site for more news and try and catch them while you can. Now, over to Paul...

The Others photographed by Paul Slattery
"I was 14 in October 1964 when The Others released "Oh Yeah", their only recording on Fontana records. What made the record special for me was that the band were still students at Hampton Grammar School, the very school I was attending and for many of us the new sounds of Rock and Roll were having a huge effect on us. For the first time kids wanted to be different from their parents, they wanted to think differently, dress differently and grow their hair long, causing a massive social change. Many of our parents were horrified and the constant battles I and many other boys had with out parents and our teachers about our hair length and choice of music still remains with me. We knew who The Others were at school although we were far too young and insignificant to talk to them - we just admired them and wanted OUR hair that long too. They were three or four years older than us, the same age as Brian May, who also went to Hampton, and they were all following in the footsteps of Jim McCarty and Paul Samwell-Smith who had started The Yardbirds in the summer of ’63. We all went out and bought a copy of the record and played it to death, but I never managed to see The Others play live. In fact I had to wait over fifty years to see them play the gig at Sunbury Cricket Club last week,  and I was not disappointed as the gig was a scorcher. These guys all in their late sixties ooze rock and roll and show that half a century after they got together they can still rock with the best of them.

The Others photographed by Paul Slattery
The Others will be continuing to gig this year and will be playing at the Eel Pie Club this Thursday 30th April. Check out their website for future gigs.  Their CD "Gold" is a real classic chock full of  R'n'B gems and  you can read a fantastic interview with The Others about life in a schoolboy rock band and the burgeoning Richmond music scene of the Crawdaddy Club and Eel Pie Island, in an article in "Ugly Things" which you can download from The Others website here."

Photo by Paul Slattery
With thanks to Paul for the words and photographs. All photos copyright Paul Slattery 2015.

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