Part 4 – Synth Pop Beckons…

Early in 1983 my little brother, who was a Mod by the way (had to get that out there), played me a cassette tape of some songs that a mate of his called Adam had recorded. They were all made using a synthesizer and drum machine. I liked them a lot; I knew that they were very good.

It was April 1983 when I was eventually introduced to Adam. During our conversation he told me that he had formed a band with another guy. The band was called Malicieux Garde and they were looking for a singer. Hello!!!

It transpired that they might already have a singer, as he’d offered the role to a girl that one of his friends said could sing quite well, but he hadn’t heard her sing yet. He asked me if I wanted to go to an Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark gig at the Hammersmith Odeon. I wasn’t a big OMD fan, I was more into Ultravox, but I went along because I wanted to stay in touch, and I wanted to join that band!

A date was set when Adam was going to audition the girl singer at his house and he invited me along. There I met Simon the other synth player in the band for the first time. The best song that Adam had written so far was called Across The Wire and that’s what the girl was asked to sing.

Across The Wire by Malicieux Garde.

To be fair, she made a pretty decent attempt, but in my view her voice simply didn’t match the style of the music. She had a few goes at it, until Adam looked at me and said “Would you like to give it a try?”

It hopefully won’t surprise you that I nailed it and was offered the job. It’s an understatement to say I was very happy. 🙂

After the girl singer had left Adam played me a new music track he’d recorded. It was more orchestral than the other stuff and there were no lyrics. Something with that song clicked with me and within ten minutes I’d come up with a vocal melody, words for the chorus and the basic lyric structure for the verses. It was a simple song to be honest. I called it New Day and it was my first songwriting contribution to Malicieux Garde.

New Day by Malicieux Garde (The original recording is lost so I re-recorded it in 2013)

Whilst we were performing, the rest of Adam’s family were piled up listening outside the door. Adam’s brother told me after that he thought I was the best live singer he’d ever heard (he didn’t say how many dead ones he’d heard, lol). Praise indeed! It made me feel good.

The first known photo of Malicieux Garde. (Note the reel to reel recorder on the right.)

It’s a funny thing you know. I’m sure it must be the same for a lot of musicians, but you never tend to rate yourself that highly as a performer. It’s not down to lack of self confidence, I think it’s more to do with a search for excellence. I mean, I know I can sing reasonably well and hold a key, but I would rate myself as pretty average compared to most other singers I hear.

I’ve never had a problem listening to recordings of my voice like some have. When I do though, the imperfections just shout out to me. I hear all the bad bits. Those bits I could have done better, rather than the good stuff. I guess I’m just my own worst critic?

I could probably write a whole chapter alone on the history of Malicieux Garde. We were together for some 6 years; originally as a three piece, but from 1984 as a duo. To keep things brief I will simply highlight the most notable events.

We needed a decent demo tape so we booked into a studio to record Across The Wire and New Day. It was quite a frustrating time. The tape machine in the studio (no digital recording yet) kept chewing up the tape, and we had to start again at least three times before we got the tracks finished.

I remember that one night heading home from a long day in the studio. We were flagged down by the Police. There had been a spate of burglaries in the area so they were checking cars. I guess they thought the three of us looked a bit dodgy in my old banger of a car.

Anyway, the officer’s asked if they could check the boot, but wanted to know what they would find first. As Adam tells it, I was able to accurately describe the entire contents of my boot, except for forgetting about all of our synths and equipment that we’d been taking to the studio every day. You can imagine their surprise when they opened the boot. I managed to talk my way out of that one. Lol!

We sent copies of the demo tape far and wide, and even before we had our first gig were contacted by a minor label who wanted to release Across The Wire on a compilation album called Dream Sequence through CBS to promote new talent. The album was received very well, with our track on Side One often being highlighted by critics as one of the best tracks on it.

Photo taken at our very first live show.

We played our first gig on 21 June 1983 at The Regency Suite in Chadwell Heath, North East London, almost exactly two years to the day that Depeche Mode had played there. The venue was popular with newly emerging talent, as in January 1982 Culture Club performed a 20 minute set in one of their first live gigs. I heard that the gig ended prematurely because someone pulled the plug; literally shutting the power off. I don’t know how true that is, I wasn’t there.

They say that lightning never strikes in the same place twice, but funnily enough in this case it did!

Halfway through our first gig the power was shut off. I don’t know who did it or why, but it probably saved us at the time. The thing is, it wasn’t a good gig for us, oh no. We were very unprepared and didn’t have a proper sound system. I had no onstage monitoring at all, which in a small venue like that made it very difficult for me to find the right pitch. The result, I was singing out of key most of the time without knowing. It was a bit of a disaster to be honest.

In July of 1983 we played a gig at the Lyceum in London and as a result of that were booked by Mecca to tour their clubs around the outskirts of London. We often shared a dressing room with other acts at these gigs.

One night we shared with a punk band. They were the roughest looking bunch you could imagine, but the nicest guys you could ever hope to meet. That was a massive note to self; never judge people by first impressions alone. On another occasion we shared with two exotic dancers. It’s very interesting getting changed while a six foot python is slithering about in the same small room.

The question is, did we escape the python?

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