Monday, March 26, 2012

Backseat Romeos - No Ambition

A. Zero Ambition

B. In The Night

BACKSEAT ROMEOS (Lincolnshire, England, UK)
Zero Ambition b/w In The Night
Future Earth (FER-007), 1980

While in college, John Clay and some friends decided they wanted to start a band. After deciding who would play what, they went out and got instruments and proceeded to learn the rudiments. The band, which formed in 1972 was called Nebulah. They did a mix of covers and original material. From there, John found himself in a folk rock band called Terra Pax. Influenced by the guitar workings of Mick Ronson and Bill Nelson, he began coming up with licks in that vein.

He later joined a band called Seagull that started off doing covers but gradually worked originals into their set. They gigged all over the midlands in the UK for a few years, and then punk hit. John joined a group which was oddly enough called Six Pistons. Doing mostly fun punk-influenced rock, the project was short-lived following the departure of the drummer and singer. Bassist Ash Aisthorpe decided to bring in an old drummer acquaintance named Mick Freer. The new three piece group with John, Ash and Mick called themselves The Classics.

It was 1979 and the band started off playing primarily punk, power pop and new wave covers. In time John started writing original material which was mostly straight forward power pop. Eventually they phased out the majority of the covers, leaving only the most popular ones such as the Jam's "Down In The Tube Station At Midnight" and "First Time" by the Boys. The band played lots of gigs in Yorkshire and Lincolnshire, building themselves a strong fanbase over a 50 mile radius.

They practiced frequently. Typically John would come up with the basic song ideas (the structure, lyrics, and melodies), and bring them to rehearsal where Ash and Mick would help form them into completed songs. It came to their attention that another band in the area was going by the name The Classics, so they changed theirs to Backseat Romeos, which was the title of one of their songs.

Without having a booking agent or label support, John would sneak into empty offices at work to make calls to venues to try and get them gigs. At one point he was able to book them a short tour which got a mention in NME, but they never landed themselves on a bill with a large act. Nonetheless, they did catch the attention of Future Earth Records who signed the band.

In 1980, they went to Fairview Music in Hull to record two songs for a single. Since Future Earth had a limited budget, the band had to record and mix the songs in a single day. Being well prepared, they banged it out quickly. The only trouble they had was getting the right guitar tone, which they attest came out thinner than they had hoped due to the engineer wanting them to play at a low volume.

1,000 copies of the single were pressed. Future Earth did little to promote the record or get it reviewed, though it did get played on BBCs Radio 1 program. The DJ made a comment to the effect of "it won't be a hit." Sure enough, it wasn't. But still, "Zero Ambition" stands up today as a power pop classic and the single was even reissued on 1977 Records in Japan.

The band went through a couple line-up adjustments over the duration of their existence. At one point they brought in a second guitar player named Steve Robinson. When he left the band, they brought in a keyboard player named Shaun Ashworth who stayed around for about a year. Later on, Mick would leave the band and was replaced by Trev Fearnley, who John had played with in Seagull. That line-up took them in a more rock, less punk direction, and ultimately they split within six months. The band played a few reunion gigs about 10 years ago, going under their original name The Classics.

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