WHEN TALENT cries out for recognition, you can almost feel the pain when it’s ignored. Terraplane have been like a tightly wound spring, just waiting for the chance to unwind and lash out, and now the pent up energy of this exciting band is being tapped.
Recognition is coming fast for singer Danny Bowes and Luke Morley, his old sparring partner on guitar, and Terraplane are clawing their way out of the South London homelands and into the national consciousness.
Critics and record company men have been beating a path to the Marquee to see them in action and have came away impressed by the roaring power of Danny’s soulful vocal style and the band’s relentless attack. At last they’re getting the gigs, the reviews and the backing they’ve been working towards. Terraplane are winging skyward, fortified by their mini-triumph at the Reading Festival, and encouraged by manager Robert Wace.
The man who used to manage The Kinks quickly spotted the band’s appeal, in their previous incarnation as Nuthin’ Fancy: He helped them become more professional, bawled them out with scathing comment, and aroused a sense of self-criticism.
I first bumped into Nuthin’ Fancy in 1979 and saw them a few months later playing at the Tramshed in Woolwich. They were a nice bunch of guys and an amazingly bright, sharp band. I thoroughly enjoyed seeing their gigs at The Brecknock, The Greyhound and the and the Thomas A Beckett, even if it was difficult to convince editors that there was a band to be written about. Meanwhile, internal dissent was building up.
Eventually came a traumatic split. Drummer Chris Hussey and bassist Mac McKenzie left the band to be replaced by Gary Aitken and Nick Linden respectively. The break up caused a lot of ill feeling among loyal fans and Danny and Luke came in for some stick. But as they explained when I went to see them at their Blackheath parents’ house – it was a painful decision they had to make.
Nuthin’ Fancy were heavy on the glam side, wearing tight satin pants in eye boggling colours. But torn tee shirt and jeans is good enough for the tighter, harder and louder Terraplanes. One thing has stayed the same, however – the lack of money, though they remain high spirited, with a capacity for booze, jokes and riotous escapades that leaves the most seasoned journalist wrecked and shattered. There’ve been midnight streaks across Blackheath and pubs have barred their right to a pint, yet they command tremendous loyalty, with roadies, friends and even ex-members of the band helping out with equipment and coming along to gigs to cheer them on their way.
Their personalities bounce around each other in a complex weave that is often the hallmark of a successful group. Luke, with hip fiery red hair and calm assurance, list with a smile while Danny, extrovert and full of humour, tells some tall story with the deft expertise of a music hall comedian. Gary guffaws a Max Miller to Danny’s Jim Davidson. Nick shakes his head and wonders how he got involved in all this madness.
Terraplane have made endless tapes but so far have failed to come up with quite the right blockbuster to impress hard–bitten A and R men. Says Luke: “We’ve been very lucky and people have been nice to us and given us quite a lot of studio time. We’re just hoping that the new stuff we’ve done will get us a deal.”
“We’ve just been through our first year together on the road as Terraplane,” explains Gary. “The first nine months we spent getting to know each other and planning what we were going to do and getting the material together – in Nick’s lovely bedroom. We were all knocking around doing bits and pieces to earn money. I’ve always had a job, but this lazy bastard Nick never does anything!”
The band did some recording at The Point, In Victoria then started their live set together. Luke: “We had a meeting and, as we were starting afresh, we decided to change the name to Terraplane. Nuthin’ Fancy had become associated with pub gigs and we couldn’t get any further, and since we’ve changed the name everything has been going really well for us.”
“And the music has changed as well,” says Nick. “None of the old Nothin’ Fancy songs are in the set except for “Losing My Mind” and “Burning For Your Love”. A lot of bands are just slung together and start gigging. We’ve been working at is for years.
“It’s been my secret ambition to play Reading for a long time,” adds Luke. “At the beginning of the year it seemed we were in for a bad time because a lot of venues were closing down. It seemed there was nowhere to play. Then Robert got us a one- off support date at The Marquee. .”
Gary tells how they filled in with odd gigs at the Tramshed before the Marquee breakthrough: “We had a good but mixed reaction because of all the trouble over me and Nick joining from rival bands.”
“They all hated us!” announces Danny suddenly.
“Yes, we weren’t very popular,” agrees Luke particularly Danny and me. But we’ve made up any differences now. It’s a very tight scene in South London. Everybody knows everybody else. There were three bands, Nuthin’ Fancy, Moon Teir and White Noize. Danny and me sat down and decided the time had come to replan the future. We saw Nick and Gary play with the other bands, I went away for a week to think about it, came back and said to Danny; “Right, this is what I wanna do.” He agreed, we did and the shit hit the fan”
There were angry remonstrations from girlfriends and a stunned silence from Nuthin’ Fancy fans when the news broke the band had been cut in half. But the wounds have healed – slowly.
“We began the year with an absolutely awful support gig ” recalls Luke, “playing to about three people. (it was right in the middle of the tube strike. But the Marquee were impressed with us and we began to get more support dates with Grand Prix and Budgie. So we got to play to a lot of people, and now we’ve made the transition and are headlining. We deserve it because we’ve worked bloody hard.”
Did Terraplane decide to move away from the glam-metal image of Nuthin’ Fancy as deliberate policy?
Danny: “We sat down and said: how are we going to make ourselves a bit different from everybody else?’ We thought what we were playing was different from most of the other Heavy Metal bands around. The music took care of itself, especially with Gary and Nick becoming more and more involved. And then we said: ‘what are we going to wear clothes-wise’. I was getting a bit fed up with Spandex trousers. Apart from anything else they make your balls itch. We went on from that. Let’s face it, everyone loves wearing jeans, so we thought why not wear something the kids who some to see us can identify with? Then we thought we’d make it a bit more exciting. Nick comes home with some black and white striped trousers. He cut the legs off and stuck them on the arms of a Levi jacket he’d ripped to pieces. Put a bit of leather on the back, y’know, a bit of bondage and he was away. “Danny pointed at the rest of the boys. So he did it, and he did it . . . I didn’t do it. Yes, I did too. Now we’re a cross between The Ramones and a deckchair.”
Loud laughter greets this surreal concept. Where did they get their original stage stuff?
“Oh anywhere,” says Luke, “Chelsea Girl . . . oops.”
The interview is beginning to break up, especially when Danny launches into an amazing impersonation of Dee Snider of Twisted Sister giving Terraplane heavy verbal encouragement. He gave Luke a slap on the back at Reading and said: “Hey man, that was f****** great!” Luke nearly fell on the ground. So while he was putting his shoulder back in its socket, Dee shouted, ‘Great band . . .great songs . . . great singer . . . you really kick shit man!” And Luke is hobbling about going “yeah, yeah, yeah,’ rubbing his shoulder.”
“At Reading we didn’t go out with the idea of killing anyone,” says Gary. “We just wanted to if people knew we are a good band who have a point to put over and are going somewhere. AND we were the only band throughout the whole weekend who didn’t get anything thrown at us. Our theory was they hadn’t drunk enough so they didn’t want to.
Reading Review SEP 1982
It was up to Terraplane. to get the final day underway, and they did so with a blend of early ‘seventies rock and ‘eighties pop star panache. The mainstay of the band’s set was their blues roots which at times conjured memories of early Free and, despite the heavy emphasis on guitar workouts, numbers like ‘Living like a Madman’ and ‘I Survive’ showed signs of real class, the latter showcasing the band’s use of harmonies and hopefully giving a clue as to future direction.
TERRAPLANE: If That’s What it Takes (Epic) – Review by Chris Welch
What does it take for the world to wake up to Terraplane? Great band, amazing singer, total commitment and still radio plays and media acceptance elude them. But if there is any justice, this powerful production with blazing guitars and a highly imaginative arrangement should get through the all powerful mogus of Wireless Telegraphy House, where DJ Christopher Stone is, even now, preparing his weekly recital of gramophone records. This is Luke Morley and Danny Bowes at their most vibrant and soulful on a cut from ‘Moving Target’, their current LP.