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 Londons pub circuit. As tracks such as Hank Marvins
Plectrum and 4th Form Bullies suggest, they did not take themselves
too seriously. If you didnt 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,
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 bands 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 bands two female singers
with Fiona Imlah.
A close encounter with a major label saw them play at the opening
night of Richard Bransons 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 bands 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: Penges 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
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.