After nearly 30 years Terry & Gerry, the Birmingham based cult skiffle punk band reformed in honour of their biggest fan, the late John Peel. The BBC Radio DJ received a demo tape from Terry & Gerry, the name of the best friends of Peel’s wife. He thought the coincidence was too great to ignore so he played the tape and immediately bacame a big fan. He asked the band to travel down to the BBC and record a few songs for his show. It was a case of right time, right place, right name.
Gerry: ‘Sadly, we never met him, although he did give us a fond mention in his autobiography. We met his friend and producer John Walters who was a skiffle fan and totally top bloke. In 2014 I was invited to play a John Peel commemoration concert and got in touch with Terry, Su and Mick. We were all amazed that we were all still alive!! The old wounds had scabbed over and we decided to give it a go’
Where did it all begin for Terry & Gerry ?
Terry: ‘Just buy a guitar, learn three chords, write a song about something you are passionate about and off you go! We were both in bands in Birmingham so knew of each other. Gerry bought a double bass from a bloke he met on a train and I went round to check it out. We found we wrote well together. We tried to come up with a cool name but our names rhymed so it was just a happy coincidence.’
Gerry: ‘Our sound needed some percussion and our mate Su Richardson, had a ridged dinner plate which provided the backbeat…it was a natural progression for her to get a washboard!! The inclusion of a second guitar, originally Andy Downer and then Mick Howson created a really exciting, fun sound’.
Su Richardson: ‘Our line-up and sound was created by accident. We all loved Buddy Holly, The Everly Brothers and punk and we wanted to write songs that reflected that, but with lyrics about 1980’s Britain with the Political and social problems that people faced’.
Terry: ‘The indie scene in the 1980’s was like a family, everyone helped each other. We were lucky enough to go on tour with The Nightingales, The Pogues and Billy Bragg and had a blast with everyone. We were so different and eclectic that we fitted in with any band. There was a very real feeling of being part of a movement that was fun, exciting and saying something about issues of the day. You have to write what comes out and what angers or inspires you, otherwise it’s no fun to play. I’d like to add that we always had an independent spirit, Terry and Gerry never had a manager we were always, and continue to be self managed’.
Did the band make any appearance’s on TV ?
Sue: ‘Televison was good to us and we appeared on The Tube, Whistle Test, loads of Kids TV. On one show Noddy Holder from Slade sang backing vocals’.
Terry: ‘My recollection is that we got the gig at The Tube through the recommendation of Mike Davies who was a DJ at Beacon Radio. He suggested us to Chris Phipps and that we auditioned for the show in Su’s front room. I remember Chris Phipps commenting that he wished he had filmed the audition – clearly bands did not usually audition in a front room.
Our original appearance was cancelled due to the broadcast of the funeral of Indira Ghandi at the beginning of November 1984 and put back to February 1985. Also on the show were Killing Joke’.
‘I remember that we hired a Birmingham P.A. company to provide holdback as the production company at Tyne Tees were charging us to use theirs. I understand that the Musician’s Union subsequently negotiated an additional payment for us as a result of this practice. I think that although the broadcast sound was reasonable no sound was sent into the studio with the live audience. My guess is that the record company for Killing Joke paid the in house PA companies fees.
I’m not sure how we got the Whistle Test Gig. Personally I remember that it was the day I had an allergic reaction to sea food and that we went on a search for a pharmacy because I was feeling dodgy as a result. The things you remember eh !
We went down to London to play live at the Mean Fiddler, where it was being filmed. It was great to be broadcast from there as Vince Power gave us our first ever gig in London. It’s also the one television appearance that goes some way towards capturing what our live shows were really like at that time. When I watch it now I remember many of the faces of the people in the audience that used to come and see us play whenever we appeared in London. Yes, a great time!’
In the mid-eighties the four piece band released six singles and one album. The band toured extensively in the UK, Europe and America gathering fans from Joe Strummer to Shane MacGowan and one of the singles was reviewed by Morrissey for Radio One ‘I love it!! Don’t know why!!’ At this point things were really looking up for the band but could they keep the pace up ?
Gerry: ’Morrissey was very complimentary about our EP ‘Clothes Shop Closed’ and Shane McGowan and the guys made us feel so welcome on their tours. Joe Strummer even came to a gig in New York!! Looking back we still can’t believe it’.
Terry: ‘At the end of the 80’s we were all pretty burned out and wanted to do something different but we all stayed in music. Terry and Gerry fell out and rarely spoke. Doing something together again had never been on the cards’.
What got the band talking again ?
Gerry: ‘In 2014 I was invited to play a John Peel commemoration concert, got in touch with Terry, Su and Mick and we decided to give it a go’
Mick Howson: ‘Our first rehearsal in 27 years was absolutely amazing. It all came flooding back and the songs were as relevant today as they had been in the 1980’s. Now we don’t wanna stop!’
In 2015 you were invited by Status Quo to be special guests on their U.K. tour. What was that like ?
Terry: ‘The Mighty Quo and their fans have been brilliant. They sang along, waved their hands in the air and gave us a wonderful reception. We even got a standing ovation at The Royal Albert Hall!! They are a brilliant band to tour with and we are so grateful for the opportunity’.
Gerry: ‘We have concerts coming up all year as well as festivals, we plan to keep going for as long as we are enjoying it, there is a host of skiff-punk bands out there which shows indie music still lives on.’
Check the official website for the latest tour dates and information at http://www.terryandgerry.com.
Interview by Gary Alikivi April 2017.