A Brief Biography - The Tempest (Updated October 2018)

 By Ian Finney

When I was thirteen years old I began to teach myself to play the guitar. I would sit by a record player (an old Redifusion) and listen to records, playing along on my brother’s old acoustic guitar. After a while I got better and then after a little longer, I got good. The music was a mix of Rush, Santana, The Sex Pistols, British Punk, Buddy Holly, New Wave and 70s rock bands. My initial reason for learning was to write a song about a girl who had dumped me.
I played in garage bands throughout my school years with my old friend, Lee (Latch) Parker who now owns Tuff Gong Studios.

Rehearsals 1982. Alan, Tony, Latch, Me



My first experience with recording was while I was briefly in a band with Greg Oldfield in November 1982. I recorded two tracks of electric guitar on reel-to-reel tape for a song of Greg’s called ‘Wood Burning’ which I recall he was planning on sending to Mute Records. I respected Greg because he could ‘do vibrato’ in his vocals and owned a real synthesizer.




I couldn't wait to leave school. I had planned to go to Art College and had done really well getting an ‘A’ grade O Level in Art. I bunked off from school in my last year a lot and went to Latch’s college with him. I wore jeans under my school pants and changed out of the rest of my school uniform in the back of the bus each morning. The highlight of this adventure was going to a Peter Phillips art exhibition in Liverpool. I missed nearly all of my last year of secondary high school due to truancy and illness. This was due to Agoraphobia that has affected me at varying levels of severity throughout my life. I didn’t know it back then and I wasn’t even diagnosed until a few years ago. In a nutshell, the reason for this was that my parents had lost me in New Brighton when I was four and a half years old. My dad had given me a shilling to buy sweets and even though the kiosk was a few yards away, I managed to wander off. I had been lost for an hour until a woman had helped me find my family. I recall the whole incident as a waking nightmare.
Just before the new term of College began (I was going to study Art and Theater) I went to London for the first time with my sister to buy trendy new clothes. We shopped around the King’s Road and I bought a ton of really cool stuff. On the way back, while I was standing at the front of Euston Station I saw a blonde woman staring at me smiling. It was Shirlie Holliman from Wham, with Pepsi. This was an odd kind of foreshadowing of things to come.

I began my ‘A’ level art and Theatre studies at College in September 1983. College was great. I recall the principle once found a friend of mine smoking a joint in the student lounge room and then, incredibly, said “I’ve told you before about smoking those in here  - smoke it outside”.
I enjoyed college more than school. Freedom of expression was stifled at school. Here, it was encouraged, but I found my interest in music becoming an obsession and it overshadowed everything else, including my studies. I enjoyed playing in bands more than anything else along with Drummer Barry Cox and Bassist Jim Free but then I was suddenly expelled from college in March 1984. Somehow, I knew without any doubt I was going to fall on my feet. This is not a pompous statement for at that time I genuinely felt like something good was about to happen. All my guitar practising was about to pay off.

Me, summer 1983


A few days later, I was hanging around in Dawsons Music shop in Widnes talking with the manager, and jokingly asked him if there were any bands about to sign a record deal. He replied that there was. I went for the audition and got in with flying colours. The band was called Going Gah Gah and they had a residency at Abbey Green studios in Warrington. 
EMI, Stiff Records and a bunch of other people wanted to sign them. One of the companies was Magnet Records, owned by Michael Levy. Mike, the band’s founder and songwriter seemed to prefer Magnet as they seemed to offer better terms in regards to the band’s creative control although this was ultimately proven to be untrue.
The band at that point (April 1984) consisted of: Mike 21, Lead Singer, Rhythm Guitarist and songwriter, Lyn Smith 24, on backing vocals and Stuart Dunning, 18, on Bass Guitar.
I was the band’s Lead Guitarist, just 17 years old at this time.

Our first drummer was Mark Olly. He left the band just before we signed the deal as he was about to be married and couldn’t bring his wife on tour. His marriage ceremony was really something else, with a full gospel choir hidden in the background. When they suddenly appeared and launched into ‘Oh Happy Day’ for the first hymn, everyone was stunned.
Mark has done rather well for himself since, becoming an Archaeologist and TV personality with his own show on Granada TV called ‘Lost Treasures’ which ran for several series. I’m still in contact with Mark and composed music for a TV documentary on King Arthur (The History Channel) and Robin Hood (Robyn Hoode film documentary) for him.


 The Tempest 1984 at The Workhouse Studios:  (L-R) Mick Burland, Stuart Dunning, Ian Finney, Mike Sheerin, Lyn Smith


The next drummer was Mick Burland from Preston. We got Mick in the band after signing the recording contract in May 1984. Later, while recording our album with Glenn Tilbrook in London, he tried to strangle me in our hotel room after he got a ‘Dear John’ break-up letter from his girlfriend and I made the wrong joke at the wrong time. I still have the scar. Mick was sacked.
Next was Jonathan Sumpton. A really nice guy and great drummer. He had a few reservations about continuing within the band and left after a few months.

Our third and final drummer was ex-Prefab Sprout Steve Dolder. A great guy and colleague. We are still in touch. Steve was a great practical joker. One time I recall is that I got an urgent wake-up phone call from Steve frantically saying we were late and to get my arse in gear as we would be leaving for the studio shortly. I dressed and ran down to reception. Outside the sky was pitch black. It was 2 am. Steve had simply got up to have a wee and decided to hoax call me. Another time he slowly poured a salt cellar over my head in a Thai restaurant.

Among the people hanging out at Abbey Green at that time was Siobhan Maher from the band Passion Polka, who later became The River City People. I bumped into her and Tim Speed years later at Rudi's club in Liverpool before their album was released and went global. There was also a paranoid cat with Eczema that used to sit on the top of open doors and leer at everyone.
(Interestingly, many years later, I briefly played in The Coal Porters with ex-Long Ryder Sid Griffin, who shared an apartment with Debbie Peterson from The Bangles; Debbie later formed 'Kindred Spirit' with Siobhan Maher).

Abbey Green was run by a lovely couple called Pam and Derek. Pam had a morbid and terrifying fear of Spiders. The in-house engineer was Tim Merlin-Davies, who was the band’s first manager.
A short time later a young lady called Nicky Martin stepped in to manage the band and then held the reigns for the rest of the band’s career. Nicky was part of The Cheshire Set, with posh parents (who were friends with a few royals). Her family were also responsible for creating the Golden Gates in Warrington and those at Buckingham Palace.

Pic taken literally just after signing the contract. Stuart, Tim Merlin-Davies, Me, Lyn. May 1984.

We signed the deal with Magnet Records in May 1984, just around the corner from Baker Street in London. I had bleached blond hair and was just seventeen. Legally a Minor, my parents had to co-sign the contract. The band changed their name to The Tempest. Next followed a few months of inactivity.
We got the advance through. Although we had signed for £1.25 million, the money was only an advance on royalties that were fully recoupable, and it was paid in lump sums at periodical intervals. We were paid a salary. 

I bought a Gibson Les Paul Deluxe, in Burgundy Red.
Photo by Paul Oakes, 1984



Confirmation arrives




Eventually we began auditions for a drummer in Liverpool and then we moved to London to begin recording our first single, Bluebelle, with producer Gus Dudgeon at CBS studios. First came the pre-production rehearsals then the studio session. After CBS we moved into Maison Rouge studios located at Fulham Broadway. Owned by Ian Anderson from Jethro Tull, Maison Rouge was a top-class studio which had then recently been used by Duran Duran.

We recorded Bluebelle with Gus until our A&R guy, James Todd 'thought Gus was the wrong choice for our producer' however, there is a deeper story to this, which I might cover at a later time.
We ended work on Bluebelle in September 1984 but I still have the only existing record of the session, which is a cassette copy of monitor playback. I'm extremely proud and grateful to have worked with Gus as he produced David Bowie's Space Oddity , The Zombies' 'She's Not There' and a string of classic records.
Gus was a great guy and a real gentleman. He would sit between the studio monitors and bop his head in time to the music. At some point he’d stop the tape and make suggestions. He spent a lot of time getting the snare sound right and I later found out he was renowned for his 'fatback snare sound'. The most impressive thing about Gus which I never realized at the time, was his incredible pedigree up to that point in the music business, but what impressed me the most of all then was an anecdote he told me about working with John Lennon.
Gus told us this story with pride as he said it was his ‘claim to fame’ and was very proud to have worked with John Lennon who he was “In awe” of.



Gus was Elton John’s producer in the 70's and worked on Elton’s classic ‘Goodbye Yellow Brick Road’ album. The story, as Gus recalled, took place during the session for Elton John’s cover of ‘Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds’ at Caribou Ranch Recording Studios in the Colorado Rocky Mountains.
Gus turned up for the session to see Elton sitting wearing a pair of fine cowboy boots. Elton said he'd found a particular store in the area that sold them. John Lennon turned up a day or so later for the session and noticed Elton’s boots and said he was going to buy some. John then disappeared and came back with a few pairs. Gus thought he wouldn’t be left out so went to see the shop for himself. He walked in and talked with the stunned shop owner. “Man you won’t believe this but Elton John walked in the other day and bought my boots now today John fucking Lennon…” The point of this Gus said, was not this punch line but the fact that this is the first time John Lennon ever bought cowboy boots, and if you look at what Lennon wore on his feet later throughout the 70’s and even up to 1980, you’ll see why. “That’s my claim to fame” Gus said. “I was there when John Lennon bought his first cowboy boots”. This is partly true, as there is a photo of John Lennon in his Hamburg days wearing a pair, but his cowboy boots look in the 70's was iconic.


It was with disbelief and shock that I read of Gus’ passing in 2002 from a car accident. He decided to drive home in the early hours from a party with his wife, fell asleep at the wheel and drove into a water-filled ditch. A pointless and needless accident that could have been avoided. His legacy is that he produced some of the most classic albums and singles from the 1960's and 70's. He also produced one of my favourite childhood songs, Elton John & Kiki Dee's 'Don't Go Breaking My Heart' which ruled the airwaves during the wonderful hot summer of 1976.

Gus in the 70's.



Shortly after our working relationship ended with Gus, we moved into a pre-production rehearsal room near the Thames with our new producer Glenn Tilbrook, from the band Squeeze. He would be producing the new debut single, which was no longer to be Bluebelle but ‘Always The Same’.
It was surreal meeting Glenn. I had bought all of Squeeze’s singles only a couple of years previously while at school.
Glenn’s a great guy and a genuinely nice person. I’ve met up with him since those early days and he’s always been a smashing bloke. I learned from Steve Dolder a few years ago that Glenn actually considered me as one of his favourite guitarists, which is very flattering. He also thought I was a very funny guy. Especially when we were talking one evening while walking along The Old Kent Road and I walked straight into a tree in mid-sentence. Glenn drove a Volkswagen Beetle with the words ‘NOB HEAD’ stencilled on the back. We hung out, went the pub, ate dinner at his place.
During pre-production we were in the room next to The Cure, who were also rehearsing. As we started playing 'Bluebelle' the Cure stopped playing and quickly launched into 'Boys Don't Cry', which has the same chord structure. I think they assumed we were ripping them off !

Glenn outside The Workhouse Studios.



Rehearsals with Glen led to the first sessions on our debut single (and album) and the single was finally released early in 1985, to good reviews in the Melody Maker, NME, Smash Hits and No.1 magazine. We even appeared in Jackie Magazine.
The single had saturated airplay across the UK and especially on Radio 1 where it was adopted by DJ Paul Jordan. Still, sales failed to get it into the top 100, even though we learned it had charted within the top 150. Later we also learned that Michael Levy (then-head of Magnet Records and now 'Lord Levy') had a dispute at the time with his distributors that meant our single wasn’t in the majority of stores. We were all a bit puzzled and felt let down.

Me, Mike; Glenn Tilbrook, Workhouse Studios 1985

The album was recorded through Autumn ‘84 to the Spring of ’85 at The Workhouse Studios, on the Old Kent Road. The Workhouse was owned by Manfred Mann, who appeared from time to time, and was described by some in the studio as a ‘grumpy and constantly irritated man’. I once accidentally erased a cassette of his by mistake after photocopying it as part of a collage. It had a vital monitor mix of an album on it. He was furious but didn’t learn who had done it. Sorry Manfred! Our chief engineer on the album sessions was Pete Hammond, who later went on to become part of PWL, Pete Waterman’s company. He was singly responsibile for mixing some of the biggest hits of the 1980's, including all of Kylie Minogue's Stock-Aitkin -Waterman hits and Rick Astley's 'Never Gonna Give You Up'. I was also mentioned in Pete's autobiography 'Get Down Here and Mix Yourself A Hit'.
From time to time various people would pop in and I met Paul Young and Beki Bondage. At one point Depeche Mode producer Daniel Miller was in there too.
We also worked with Graham Lyle’s son, Aaron, who was a trainee engineer at the workhouse.

Me and Glenn looking a bit happy. The Workhouse 1985.

Glenn also had his own claim to fame. He told me and Steve Dolder that he had once driven Stewart Copeland to audition a guy called Sting for a band Copeland was putting together called The Police...

After the album was complete we began a series of tours. The first was a UK tour supporting U.S. band The Untouchables, who had a UK hit with ‘Free Yourself’. Our tour manager was Desmond Jabir, a touring pro (he tour managed Terraplane, a hard rock band, and had a blood-curdling collection of anecdotes), who was joined by Dave Manley, an old friend of Tim Merlin-Davies. This was the tour promoting our first single ‘Always The Same’. We played dozens of gigs in good venues all across the UK. We were also fortunate to play in the original Marquee before it disappeared.
After this tour we supported Squeeze on the UK leg of their ‘Cossi Fan Tutti’ album tour, promoting our second release ‘Bluebelle’ in summer 1985. At one point in the tour, Jools Holland (who was Squeeze’s keyboard player) had to present The Tube (a prime-time music TV show) live in Newcastle, so we all got invited as VIP guests and shared the green room backstage with Dave Gilmour, Pete Townsend and the other guys. I remember standing behind Dave Gilmour at the complimentary bar thinking his pants were too tight and Pete Townsend looking at me oddly. I was wearing a paisley shirt, winkle picker boots and had sideburns with a Beatle mop top. In 1985 it was really out of place and unfashionable. The Squeeze tour was the best, and the high point for me was two sold-out nights playing the Hammersmith Odeon. Apart from these tours we must have easily played over a hundred or so gigs.



Stuart & Lyn, Abbey Green Studios, Warrington 1985
 

Below: Me, Glenn and the late Rik Mayall: NME photo of the Squeeze 'Cosi Fan Tutti' after-tour party

The end of tour party was even more of a blast. All of BBC Radio One turned up as well as Rick Mayall, Robbie Coltrane and a bunch of other people who are incredibly famous but I didn’t know them at the time. I managed to partially appear on one paparazzo shot in the NME with Rik Mayall (see photo below). Rik’s sister, Libby was actually working at Magnet Records at the time and we liaised with her regularly. Also worth mentioning is that Spandau Ballet's drummer John Keeble's sister was on the reception desk at Magnet Records.

The photo session for the Bluebelle cover and publicity pics was shot by photographer Peter McArthur, who was also the boyfriend of Strawberry Switchblade’s Jill Bryson. Jill was there for the shoot and helped make some props, which were covered in blue dye that got everywhere. During a break she asked me to accompany her to the shops near to the studio as she was Agoraphobic. We talked and she remarked that Rose was looking for a boyfriend and hinted that I should think about it.

For the third single, ‘Didn’t We Have A Nice Time’ we made our first video. It was shot at Wimbledon Chase School (featured in the film in P’tang Yang Kipperbang). I got really bad food poisoning on the second day of filming outdoors and they had to hire a portable loo for me. Filming was held up and as it arrived someone on the crew shouted in a thick cockney accent “Ian, your shitter’s here mate”. I had been successfully chatting up a gorgeous young woman on the film crew and it completely killed my chances with her.

A still from the video 'Didn't We Have A Nice Time'. The track featured Steve Nieve (Elvis Costello) and Violinist Bobby Valentino (Bluebelle's: Young At Heart)

The video made it onto Saturday morning TV's ‘Saturday Superstore’ but at the last minute, broadcast of the video was withheld on a technicality because Steve’s Musicians Union membership hadn't been renewed. Later on we recorded a slot for BBC’s Wogan show, which was memorable for a huge lamp exploding over our heads and landing on Mike, setting fire to his shirt collar. The video was shown on BBC2’s The Money Program. I have no idea why.



Steve, Lyn, Mike, me, Stuart. West Wycombe photo shoot for the cover of 'Didn't We Have A Nice Time'. Spring 1986.


 The band at the BBC Studios after filming a slot for 'Wogan'.

After ‘Didn’t We Have A Nice Time’ we recorded a session during summer 1986 with producer Steve Levine. This session included James Todd’s suggestion of a cover version of the Small Face’s’ ‘Lazy Sunday Afternoon’ as our next single. By this time I had begun to write my own material and was feeling restless with my role in the band. I'd learned that I had a good reputation as a guitarist on the London scene but I never exploited it because I was worn out from the intensity of working in the band. At a party, Adele Nozedar's (Indians in Moscow) manager tried to give me his card but I wasn't interested. Adele kept elbowing him in the side because he was hustling a bit too much. I didn’t want to stay in London. I had no idea the nerves and apprehension I was feeling was to do with being agoraphobic. This session with Steve Levine was my last with The Tempest. I briefly helped Mike record some demos during Autumn of 1986 but by September 1986 it was all over. There was talk of working with a relatively unknown producer called William Orbit but then the band got dropped after Lazy Sunday failed to make the top 75. All the money I made had been spent and even then at the end we eventually owed the taxman a bundle. Months after leaving the band I was made to give my equipment back to the management and had to buy back what I could afford.

I'm glad to say that even though we didn't chart in the UK we made it as a cult pop band in Japan and Spain. Japanese fans still contact me and Lyn, and The Tempest is something of a cult 1980's acoustic pop band over there. In Spain the 12-inch release of Didn't We Have A Nice Time went down well in clubs in the 80's and is a popular track. Oddly, the unreleased album was reported to exist as a bootleg in Japan but the appearance of a real album cover online proved that some copies were pressed.


When Glenn Tilbrook played in my home town in 2016, we met up before the gig and caught up on old times and new ones. Later at the gig he very graciously asked me to play one of my songs onstage. It was like time hadn't passed at all.


Me & Glenn, November 2016. Photo by Philippa Harper





If you want to see what I'm doing these days check out my pages. I have formed a Rock n' Roll band called The Coralaines:
https://www.facebook.com/thecoralaines






All content unless otherwise attributed to other authors is Copyright © Ian C. Finney - All rights reserved.

Comments

  1. I liked this a lot, sir. Thank you. Some of the details were very close to what happened to me a few years later. Cheers. Tony

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  2. amanda houghton23 March 2011 at 17:56

    fish finney, this is great, thank you - I have enjoyed reading this. I know my friends (Sue + Jean at least) + I saw you in 'the tempest' , performing on stage, + supporting Squeeze.

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  3. Thank you both :) There's quite a bit more to come.

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  4. Rachel Zvirblis24 March 2011 at 21:44

    Really enjoyed this Ian, a brilliant idea to document it all, bet you had fun digging deep into the memory bank, Rachel Z X

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  5. Great story! You did well to avoid Rose from Strawberry Swithchblade though; i had a brush with her in the late '80s, that woman was way, way too into her S&M...

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  6. ha ha ha Great Ian! How are you doing? Jonathan Sumpton here in a hotel room in Oslo where I'll be smashing up a piano and screaming for the next two weeks. I still have EVERYTHING from "The Tempest" (I vaguely remember the "meeting" at Magnet to change the name from "Going Ga Ga"). I have the polaroids and other stuff from the Sheila Rock photo session. I still have the gear I bought for the photos session. I think Magnet gave us £500 each to buy clobber for the photo session. I bought a genuine £350 Yohji Yamamoto jacket from the shop down South Molton Street and the rest was just guff from Oxford Street. Was that the beginning of the Japan connection? ;-) .... hang on .... where was Sheila Rock from?
    I'm easy to find if you want to get in touch. I work under the name of Jon Asher as a pianoentertainer. I still have the same drums I played with you at Camden Dingwalls in my house in Norway and smash them about now and then. The MU gave me some problems as well after being in The Tempest. I'd never had anything to do with them until I was in The Tempest.
    By the way, it wasn't just dealing with Mike that worried me. It was when I was asked to sign the deal and got my calculator out!!
    You look after yourself pal and thank you for so many happy memories. Be lucky! Jon.

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  7. Here's a scan of a polaroid from a photo session! Grab the pic and put it here if you don't want this link on your blog!

    http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=400508453404&set=a.400497703404.176297.539953404&theater

    ReplyDelete
  8. Stephen O'Connor23 June 2011 at 17:17

    You know Ian, we were in the same area at the time. I was around the corner in Kings Road, Chelsea, for three years. It is such a shame we lost touch then. Once again, it is great too read your journal of life, so interesting Ian. Either way we were cool Mods, No matter what people say!

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  9. Thanks Ste - I remember those good times well.

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  10. Hello Ian. It's Lyn (yes, Smith) Tiny point, I think you got the ages a little out. At that time of first meeting Mike was about to turn 21 and I was 24. D'you remember puttin' a poem under my door in the hotel? And yes. Strange days, indeed. Love to you, me old matey.

    Smith x

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  11. Hi Lyn, amended the ages, hope you enjoyed the read x poem -vaguely, not too many fine details I'm afraid after this time. Got a feeling you have a better memory than I do...

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  12. Just wanted to give a shout out about (sounds good that, I might use it as lyrics!!) Carbon 13. This is / was Lyn's band ... I heard some of their stuff quite out of context, didn't know who it was and thought "this is interesting" ... gave it a harder listen and realised it wasn't that new and was, probably predicatably, ahead of its time. It sounded like loads of stuff you hear now. Ian, good luck with your 2012 release ... am I putting pressure on you? Good! Get it finished and released (I use CDBABY by the way) and let me know when it's ready and I'll send as many punters your way as I can! Be lucky! Jon.

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  13. Do you know where I can get a copy of the video for 'Didn't we have a nice time'? my brother was in it and I would like to give him a copy to show his daughter. Thanks Sam

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    Replies
    1. Hi Sam, I can't find a copy but I'm sure someone will upload one to Youtube at some point. I'll keep you posted.

      Best Regards,
      Ian

      Delete
  14. I saw tempest supporting squeeze at leicester demontfort in sept 1985. It was my first gig and I remember thinking tempest were good and very loud but I never saw or heard of them again. I remember I enjoyed the set.

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  15. Yes I remember. MJ Sheerin very well. Fellow Radiography students early 80's

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