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From an article "Bargain Bin Dreams"
in The Word magazine Issue 101, July 2011
by Mark Hodkinson
PDF version (whole article)
Tennis Shoes (Do The) Medium Wave
b/w Rolf Is Stranger Than Richard/
So Large (1978)
NINE MEMBERS OF TENNIS SHOES stare out from the back of their single, all beards and big glasses. They may look like escapees from a social workers’ convention but core members John Bayley and Ken Dampier were in advertising. They formed at Christmas 1976 and during a three-year lifespan played more than 200 shows on London’s pub circuit. As tracks such as Hank Marvin’s Plectrum and 4th Form Bullies suggest, they did not take themselves too seriously. ‘‘If you didn’t like the music it was still worth coming along to watch blokes in tennis shorts on the same stage as girls in black haute-couture lingerie,’’ said Bayley.
The single had a specific aim. ‘‘We decided it was time we had our own dance craze and thought it would be suitably bizarre if it was based around the iconic wrist action of our dear monarch on ceremonial occasions,’’ said Bayley. ‘‘We wrote it, as always, in our office on a battered guitar when we should have been dreaming up adverts.’’ It was B-listed on Radio 1 and ensnared interest from the American producer and writer of several hits for The Monkees, Tommy Boyce. He brought Davy Jones to a rehearsal in the band’s hometown of Penge, south-east London. ‘‘I was totally thrown by this as I had been a Monkees fan when I was about ten,’’ said Beverley Glick, one of the band’s two female singers with Fiona Imlah.
A close encounter with a major label saw them play at the opening night of Richard Branson’s Venue in Victoria, London in 1978. Both Branson and his protégé Mike Oldfield were in fancy dress, dancing at the front of the stage in nappies. “They were trying to grope my leg,” said Glick. “Pete [keyboardist] was my boyfriend at the time and kicked them away with his Doc Martens, not realising who they were.”
The band’s final concert was at the University of Kent in February 1980. Glick later adopted the pseudonym Betty Page and wrote for Sounds before becoming editor of Record Mirror in the early 1980s. She spent a period at the NME and now works chiefly for the Telegraph. She still treasures a copy of the single that was given to Garry Bushell of Sounds to review. Across the cover he scrawled: “Penge’s answer to Blondie”. Guitarist Colin Minchin returned to the BBC, where he had been a film editor, to work mainly on arts and music documentaries. Most recently he did the three-part Imagine series on guitars with Alan Yentob. Stewart Booth, singer, has his own company selling die-cast model vehicles.
Ken Dampier, whose quirky vision informed Tennis Shoes, died in 2005, just a few months after his 50th birthday. Peter Hornsby, a quantity surveyor, died in the same year of lung cancer.
Thank you for the music?
Stop-start postpunk. Defiantly silly.
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