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A story about the ups and downs of making a charity pop record!

Doing It For The Kids MARK CUNNINGHAM 1


“Yeah, right!”

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Doing It For The Kids A story about the ups and downs of making a charity pop record!

MARK CUNNINGHAM

a Liveculture Group Publication Š 2015 www.liveculture.co.uk

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, o g me a n I e a s r h en c t a t . r t e d s c r d y ne l s a ’ i o y i d c h t h or r ’s f e C i s r i c t C i o Th ex e e t r B r B r B th s e e l s a f h t E eth cia o e , y r b i m to g f h f t e a o l t a o h ig y s g l t t g l n t s i n n a i r s s u i c n f n o e d i n r C e u nd , e t e C c N rk h a e fT j r o a e pr o . c . M . s u t r h d w t o o o f n r l f o p m e d y n t a i 2 r 1 hs a h g i h e’s c in L

S

ince George Harrison’s Concert For Bangla Desh in 1971, music for charity has been big business and occasionally very lucrative for the associated causes. In the mid-‘80s it seemed that everyone was at it. Several records – not just Band Aid’s ‘Do They Know It’s Christmas?’ – were released around the world to fund the Ethiopian famine relief program, while others were recorded to benefit causes ranging from the Bradford City disaster 4

appeal to AIDS research and Comic Relief. In 1985, I was a mere 22 years of age and although I had played numerous fund-raising gigs, and recently had a minor involvement in the Band Aid campaign, I’d never given any thought to the prospect of organsing a charity project. That was about to change. It was David Bowie’s performance of ‘Heroes’ at Live Aid that July that fuelled my inspiration. A few months after that extraordinary event, I


was watching VHS tapes of some of the performances and Bowie’s dedication of the song to “my son, to all our children and to the children of the world” got me thinking. Halfway through the BBC’s Children In Need live telethon on November 22, it began to dawn on me that although the phenomenal efforts towards aiding the starving in Africa were so tragically critical, it had all served to divert attention away from the young and needy closer to home. At the risk of being regarded as a ninth-rate Geldof – which was inevitable anyway – I made the decision to put together something of a musical nature that would benefit the following year’s BBC appeal. The concept was simple: form an expansive line-up of rising talent and famous names with a connection to Essex, and record a track for release as a single. The artists didn’t all have to be musicians; they could be sports stars, authors, maybe politicians or even former residents. I needed a group title and a line from Simon & Garfunkel’s ‘Keep The Customer Satisfied’ – Cunningham and his fluffy mullet in a cheesy press shot. 5


One of the first press reports when the project was at an early stage. The Echo’s Martin Neal was very supportive.

“I’m one step away from the shoe shine / Two steps away from the county line” – prompted the choice of The County Line: Essex Artists for BBC Children In Need. What about the song? I considered several possibilities before realising that the ultimate choice had to be the number that inspired this whole idea in the first place. It had to be ‘Heroes’, the song co-written in Berlin by Bowie and Brian Eno in 1977 – one that I’d bought as a teenager in the early autumn of that year – but with an arrangement closer to Bowie’s bouncy Live Aid version than his arty original. 6

Now, these lofty notions were all well and good but how was all this going to come together in reality? Task number one was to alert the community via the local press and thereby engage potential contributors to the record. Around nine or 10 newspapers came through with sizeable reports and the phone started ringing. The line-up began to swell within days. Little did I realise that the eventual number would total an unwieldy 70 individuals. One of those calls was from two gentlemen who turned out to fulfil an important background role in the organisation of the project:


A photo of Mark, Andy Price, Alan Jones and Max Reinsch working on ‘A Long Way To Go’ at Bamboo Music Studio in Basildon, December 1985.

Steve Kohler and Paul Bappoo (a.k.a. DJ Paul Rogers) of Southend-based entertainment agency UK Leisure Ltd. As well as offering me free office space and resources, Steve and Paul used some of their own contacts to spread the

word, and get a number of additional contributors onboard. [This turned out to be the beginning of a three-year professional partnership, during which time Steve, Paul and I would drive a 7


L-R: Steve Kohler and Paul Bappoo of UK Leisure with Mark Cunningham.

number of projects including two for Essex Radio.] Task number two: seek the permission of Messrs. Bowie and Eno to use ‘Heroes’ and request that they waive their royalties for this special cause. Two weeks in, I was thrilled to receive an affirmative letter from publisher E.G. Music Ltd. The support was fantastic and there was a real buzz about it all. SOUND AND VISION It was in that week, in early December, that I started work on the recording and for that purpose I had already secured the support of Jim Woodford, the owner of Diploma Studios, a 8

countryside retreat in deepest Bicknacre, Essex, who offered me as much free time as I needed to complete the recording – and, sure enough, it was going to take many hours over several weeks, with his step-son Darren Woodford (then using the surname Brown) engineering. Diploma was then arguably the best equipped studio in the county even though its facilities would now appear very basic. A 24-track facility, running two-inch tape on a Lyrec 532 multitrack machine, the studio hosted a 32-input M-Jay mixing console and boasted a good selection of microphones such as Neumann U87s and AKG C12s, as well as offering standard tools like a new Akai S900 digital


When the Bronskis arrived at Diploma in February, the Evening Echo – South-East Essex’s most popular daily newspaper – visited the session to report on the progress of the recording.

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Wendy Roberts and Suzi Quatro in a still from the ‘Heroes’ video. Below: Gossip in The Sun’s entertainment pages.

sampler and a Yamaha DX7 keyboard that few studios in the ’80s could get by without. And what Diploma may otherwise have lacked was more than made up for by creative expertise. As the pre-studio organising was taking shape, brothers John and Gary Marshall of Viking Video, a video production company from Southend with little experience outside of weddings and birthdays, asked if we would be interested in having the sessions filmed for the

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purposes of a promotional video. Naturally, we were not going to turn this down, especially as this was the peak of the ‘80s pop promo era. What the Marshalls failed to grasp at the outset was exactly how many hours they would need to be present at Diploma in order to capture at least a sample of all the action. Bearing in mind they were a constant presence at every session and ended up with two large boxes full of U-Matic tapes, it’s likely that they cursed that initial phone call. Nevertheless, it did teach John and Gary to never again get involved with music video! My role on the sessions was primarily that of producer and arranger. With the exception of a


few minor overdub ‘fixes’ and effects, I decided to leave the majority of the music performance to others. Diploma wasn’t a big studio so I had to carefully group the artists on different days. The basic backing track was completed within two sessions spanning December 11-12 and featured Martin Stringer (bass), Terry Steward (guitar synthesizer), Dean Hobbs (electric mandolin), Ian Gibbons (organ), Peter Belsham (piano), Clive Salmon (synthesizer), Steve Hooker and Warren Kennedy (guitars), Paul Reynolds (drums) and Dave Martin (drums), while I sang a guide vocal. I returned to Diploma the following day to make a good mix of the instrumental backing track and made reference cassettes for others who would start to make their contributors early in the New Year. Meanwhile, there was the matter of a B-side and a chance phone call from Andy Price, the main songwriter of local hit group The Pinkees led to us teaming up one afternoon at his house to co-write ‘A Long Way To Go’, a middle-of-the-road ballad that, in hindsight, sounds more than a little like a low-fi Carpenters number. Another studio, Basildon-based Bamboo Music came forward to offer some free time and with Andy and I sharing lead vocals and production, we cut the B-side in a six-hour session

A tidy version of the final master tape track sheet.

with the help of engineers Mike Nash and Kevin Daintree, Dave Engel (drums), Martin Stringer (bass), Alan Jones (lead guitar), Ian Gibbons and Gary Strohmer (keyboards), and Lorraine Trew and Lesley Price on backing vocals, just

The reality of just how much work this project would entail began to sink in. 11


Bronski Beat’s John-Jøn Foster, Steve Bronski and Larry Steinbachek with the producer.

days before Christmas. [Although this version came out on the eventual single, I was never happy with it and we ended up re-recording it at Diploma a few months later with a different line-up for the soundtrack of a second promotional video… more on this later.] As the New Year approached, the reality of just how much work this project would entail began to sink in. I was running my own music production and graphics business at the time, and also had a part-time job at an east London music shop. The latter had to go especially when Steve, Paul and I began talking about a live County Line one-dayer at Southend United Football Club’s Roots Hall Stadium during the summer of ‘86. This gig would comprise of a number of bands represented 12


Above right, L-R: Mark Cunningham, Chesters manager Steve Webb, UK Leisure’s Babs Kohler and Colin Dench of local band The Third Section. 13


Graphic artist and former Pinkees drummer Paul Reynolds co-designed the sleeve for the single.

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No stone left unturned... everyone who contributed to the project received a credit on the back of the sleeve.

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The BBC’s trade advertisement for the single in April 1986.

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The release of ‘Heroes’ was celebrated in advance by a local event at Southend’s Fantasy nightclub on April 8. After plans for a major Live County Line ‘86 concert were cancelled, the idea was scaled down to a series of club-size fund raisers.

on the record with the added attraction of a few top names, including Hawkwind who gave their immediate commitment, and it was very much on the cards until Southend Borough Council stepped in to quash our plans owing to a high risk of noise complaints and local traffic mayhem. It proved to be the first of several failures. Alternative plans to hold the concert at Purfleet speedway venue Arena Essex also fell by the wayside when some of the headliners pulled out due to conflicts with their touring itineraries, and so the event was replaced by a se-

ries of smaller club gigs around the county, starting with a record launch night at Fantasy nightclub in Southend-on-Sea. STUDIO PROGRESS Hogmanay hangovers were only just beginning to subside when, on Monday 6 January, work continued on ‘Heroes’ at Diploma with the arrival of some new blood. Laurence Parry (now a member of UB40) and his colleagues John and Chris Willmott from Rent Party provided the horns, while Clive Dimmock and John Pugh recorded brilliant duelling sax solos.

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The backing track was now virtually complete. Time for the icing on the cake. Over the next few days, we pressed ahead with the first of three lead vocal sessions, all of which involved individual singers performing most of ‘Heroes’, with the best lines selected to eventually form a seamless, composite lead vocal track, à la Band Aid. I didn’t drive back then, and often relied on my then partner to collect me from the studio late at night, so I arranged to meet Wendy Roberts at the Wimpy bar in Basildon (oh, the glamour) and took her to Diploma via two buses.

The Wednesday saw ex-Pinkee Paul Egholm and John Haseltine of the All-Crucial British Soul Band laying down their lead vocals, but I was still short of at least two lead singers and fired off a couple of well targeted letters. [Yes, handwritten letters with postage stamps on the envelopes… remember them?] During a fortnight’s break from recording, I was extremely pleased to receive a very positive reply from one of my favourite artists of the ’70s, Suzi Quatro, who then lived close to Chelmsford, not far from Diploma Studios. We agreed on a convenient date in late January for

Suzi was the consummate professional and great company on the day. 20


Mark Cunningham and Steve Kohler with the BBC’s Ed Bye during the video editing at Elstree Studios.

her to come down with her guitarist husband Len Tuckey, and she proceeded to lay down a dynamite vocal track, duetting with my guide vocal – and Wendy – on a few lines. Suzi was the consummate professional and great company on the day, and we chatted about her recent work as well as the big Quatro hits I bought as a kid in the early ‘70s. I’m not so sure that she agreed on the choice of song but she was very helpful with ideas. Next on the list was Basildon boy John-Jøn Foster, Jimmy Somerville’s then-new replacement as frontman with Bronski Beat, who arrived at Diploma to record his lead vocals while his bandmates Steve Bronski and Larry Steinbachek grooved around for the benefit of the cameras. One space for featured vocals remained and,

as it turned out, sections from my original guide vocal track were just about passable enough to fit in as part of the final composite lead vocal track. It wasn’t planned that way; it just happened. If you’ve been keeping up with this story so far, you’ll know that around 70 people appeared on ‘Heroes’. There was still more to be done but before we flung Diploma’s doors open wide, we had to address the ever-so-slightly important issue of how this record would be released. It seemed appropriate to approach BBC Records, the division of BBC Enterprises Ltd that, since 1964, had been putting out educational records, TV themes, sound effects albums and the occasional novelty hit. This didn’t go quite as easily as I had hoped. 21


The Pinkees reunite at Basildon’s Eastgate Centre in early November 1986 as an extra boost to the Children In Need fund. Above L-R: Paul Egholm, Andy Price, Paul Reynolds, Max Reinsch and Mark Cunningham (guest bassist).

The A&R manager was concerned that the localised aspect might alienate the rest of the country’s record buyers, but after three meetings and endless phone chasing, he relented and agreed to a single release and a slot in their schedule: Monday 28 April 1986. 22

RECORDING THE ‘CROWD’ With the BBC deal in the can, we now had a deadline and I returned to Diploma in mid-February to complete ‘Heroes’, inviting the first ‘cluster’ of backing vocalists to Bicknacre. Those who were approached but were oth-


erwise engaged included Steve Marriott, England 1966 World Cup hero Bobby Moore (who was appearing at a Football League tribunal as Southend United F.C.’s manager), West Ham United’s Frank McAvennie, Olympic athlete Fatima Whitbread, Depeche Mode’s Dave Gahan, Alison Moyet and Procol Harum’s Gary Brooker. A broad cross section of

talent was achieved, however, as members of Eddie & The Hot Rods, Dr Feelgood, Kursaal Flyers, The Kinks, The Rubettes, Little Roosters, The Shakers, Automatic Slim, Famous Potatoes, Plan B, renowned punk poet Attila The Stockbroker and many, many others added a ‘crowd’ ambience and a fun atmosphere to the proceedings over three separate sessions. 23


Football legend Bobby Moore couldn’t make one of the sessions...

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...and neither could Pink Floyd’s guitarist.

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Stills from the two videos.

Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour – once a longtime resident of North Essex – was similarly asked to take part and add a short guitar break, but declined by way of a polite letter. At around 10am one morning in late February, Darren Woodford (later of hit band Sunscreem) and I started work on the mix of ‘Heroes’, which took us through to the early hours. After all the channel bouncing to form composite stereo guitar, drum and vocal mixes, the track sheet was now a mess of coded messages that could only be understood by Darren and I. What’s more, by late evening, the two-inch master was beginning to wear thin because of

the sheer amount of times that the oxide layer had passed the tape heads as we adjusted what was a difficult mix. We were running out of time but, by 3am, we were relatively happy with the end result and prepared the final master for pressing. Soon after, speculating on possible demand for a 12-inch release, an extended mix of the track was produced, featuring a long intro I’d written and a middle section rap by a friend of Steve’s called ‘Bim’. My reference copy of this appears to have drifted off to cassette heaven, which is a pity because, to me at least, it sounded wider and better than the single version. At

We were running out of time but, by 3am, we were happy with the result. 26


this point, personalised jingles were also created for BBC Radio I DJs Simon Bates and Bruno Brookes. Sporting a sleeve co-designed by drummer Paul Reynolds and I, BBC Records’ plan was to put the single (BBC RESL 185) out in late April and

encourage interest to develop in the hope that sales would peak in the lead up to November’s Children In Need appeal. With that in mind, Viking conducted a “live” shoot of ‘Heroes’ in, of all places, Basildon’s busy Eastgate shopping centre.

Scenes from The County Line’s set up and performance at the live BBC Children In Need telethon at Clements Hall in Hawkwell on November 21 1986. 27


John Marshall and his brother Gary then arranged for a promo of the re-recorded ‘A Long Way To Go’ to be shot on Southend Pier and in a local nightclub, featuring a group of young schoolchildren. 28

Steve Kohler and I also earned the support of BBC producer Ed Bye who invited us to take both sets of footage to BBC’s Elstree Studios where he edited the two videos with us, offering a hands-on crash course in TV production


One was pleased to meet one. World famous impersonator of Her Majesty The Queen, Jeannette Charles was present at Clements Hall.

along the way. The Elstree experience also involved a sneak viewing of the EastEnders set as well as mingling with members of the cast in the canteen. Ed later arranged to have ‘Heroes’ played on The Queen Vic’s jukebox during an episode of the soap, and it was quite a moment when, out of the blue, it appeared on my TV at home one evening. Around the time that the video material was being finalised, my mother Joan generously offered to have 250 County Line T-shirts made to help with promotion. Just over a year earlier, Mum had made a similar gesture of support when the Band Aid single was released. It was typical of her charitable nature.

THE FINAL STRETCH This was to be the very first official Children In Need single by a British act – Irish folk-rock stars Clannad’s ’Almost Seems (Too Late To Turn)’ had been released the previous year and had reached a fairly dismal No.80 in the chart. Perhaps that was a sign of things to come because, in the end, ‘Heroes’ peaked far too early at No.76. The chart performance of the record sadly failed to match the effort that had been invested in the project, not to mention the ambition, even though it received plenty of airplay and the videos (or short clips of them) had been broadcast on ‘Wogan’ and other prime time programmes. The 15,000+ copies that were 29


The single appeared at the ‘Thames Delta’ local music history exhibition at Southend’s Focal Point Library in 2012.

sold would achieve a Top 20 position today, but it was a very different market in those pre-download days. Re-promoting the single at the time of the November 1986 appeal coincided with the launch of BBC Essex, for whom I had the honour of choosing its logo from a shortlist of 20 design pitches. The country’s newest local BBC radio station hosted the Essex portion of the telethon at Clements Hall Leisure Centre in Hawkwell on November 21, and a selection of The County Line’s artists including John-Jøn from the Bronskis performed both sides of the single live to track on-air along with legendary tap dancer Will Gaines. Record Breakers’ Roy Castle and the famous Queen impersonator Jeanette Charles were also among the guests. Despite all best efforts, however, the curse of the Children In Need’s outside broadcast unit got the better of us when, halfway through our spot, BBC Television Centre lost the feed! 30

It is entirely possible that BBC Records’ A&R man was right all along about the local bias being a challenge to national sales, but we later learned that the label had exhausted most of its promotional budget on its other releases of the time… namely, big hits by the Grange Hill cast and EastEnders stars Anita Dobson (‘Anyone Can Fall In Love’) and Nick Berry who scored a No.1 with ‘Every Loser Wins’. Maybe it was just one charity record too far for a public that had been urged to support so many causes over recent times. Perhaps it just wasn’t a good enough record and I often wonder about that because both sides of the single and the accompanying videos sound and look extremely dated 30 years later, even though we seemed quite satisfied at the time. It was a disappointing climax to a busy 12 months but one that provided many of those involved with some enjoyable, long-lasting memories. Was it worth the effort? Absolutely... every single mad moment! •


VIDEO HIGHLIGHTS

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VIDEO HIGHLIGHTS


The Official Singles 1985 - 2014 YEAR

ARTIST

TITLE

CHART PEAK

1985

Clannad

‘Almost Seems (Too Late to Turn)’ 80

1986 1988

The County Line Spirit Of Play with Paul McCartney

‘Heroes’ / ‘A Long Way To Go’ 76

1989 1995 1997

BBC Children in Need Choir Patsy Palmer & Sid Owen Lou Reed & Various Artists

‘If You Want To Help’ 78 ‘You Better Believe It’ 60 ‘Perfect Day’ 1

1998

Denise Van Outen & Johnny Vaughan with Steps

‘Especially for You’ 3

1999

Martine McCutcheon

‘Love Me’ 6

2000

S Club 7

‘Never Had A Dream Come True’ 1

2001 2002 2003 2004

S Club 7 Will Young Shane Richie Girls Aloud

‘Have You Ever’ ‘Don’t Let Me Down / ‘You And I’ ‘I’m Your Man’ ‘I’ll Stand By You

1 2 2 1

2005 2006 2007 2008

Liberty X Emma Bunton Spice Girls McFly

‘A Night to Remember’ ‘Downtown’ ‘Headlines (Friendship Never Ends)’ ‘Do Ya’ / ‘Stay With Me’

6 3 11 18

2009

Peter Kay’s Animated All-Star Band

‘The Official BBC Children In Need Medley’ 1

2010 2011

JLS The Collective

‘Love You More’ 1 ‘Teardrop’ 24

2012

Girls Aloud

‘Something New’ 2

2013 2014

Ellie Goulding Gareth Malone’s All Star Choir

‘How Long Will I Love You’ 3

‘Children in Need’ DNC*

‘Wake Me Up’ 1 * Did not chart

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The author of this ‘heroic’ tale would like to thank everyone who contributed to the project. Steve Kohler, Babs Kohler, Paul Bappoo, David Bappoo, Joan Cunningham, Andy Price, Darren Woodford, Jim Woodford, Mike Nash, Kevin Daintree, Paul Reynolds, Lesley Reynolds, Terry Steward, Dean Hobbs, Warren Kennedy, Ian Gibbons, Martin Stringer, Lesley Price, Lorraine Trew, Alan Jones, Gary Strohmer, Dave Engel, Andréa Stubbs, Steve Hooker, Clive Salmon, Peter Belsham, Dave Martin, Laurence Parry, John Willmott, Chris Willmott, John Pugh, Clive Dimmock, Suzi Quatro, Len Tuckey, John-Jøn Foster, Paul Egholm, Wendy Roberts, John Haseltine, John Marshall, Gary Marshall, Ed Bye, Martin Neal, Nick Pynn, Paul Shuttleworth, Alan Williams, Foster Pilkington, Attila The Stockbroker, Garrie Lammin, Dean Mullally, Sandra Jeakins, Gary Smith, Del Davies, Tim Aves, Phil Kilburn, Rod Quinn, Andy Hayes, Steve Hexter, Martin Trenaman, Colin Dench, Flo, Jimmy Pankhurst, Paul Darrenmore, Karen Blackaby, Rosalinda Elliott, Andy Cavan, Elaine Barker, Chris Turner, Charlie Short, Kirk Rogers, Nigel Roberts, Al Bye, Geoff Chapman, John Waterlow, Sean Arthy, Tony Winn, Stephen Webb, Tim Hatcher, Steve Drewett, Colin Dredd, Simon Lomond, Diz Vart, Keith Baxter, Richard Baxter, Will Gaines, Shelley, Neal & Gary at Diploma Studios, Viv Hotton, Verna Fenner-Fownes at Eastgate, Enrico Milieu, Bernadette Doley, Wendy Tobitt, Mark Patterson & Bruce Talbot at the BBC, Graham Pass, Dave Monk, Alex Lester & Ken Crowther at BBC Essex, the pupils and teachers of Temple Sutton Infants School, Blenheim Primary School and Belfairs High School, John Henry, Adrian Rondeau and the management teams at Fantasy Discotheque and Southend Pier.

‘HEROES’ VIDEO https://youtu.be/6FfMtt2nmzM

‘A LONG WAY TO GO’ VIDEO https://youtu.be/BKTEzUEnZEg

Pudsey Bear design © BBC Other images © BBC Enterprises, Newsquest (Essex) Ltd, NewBay Media, International Thomson Publishing, News UK, Tindle Media, Local World, Viking Video, Andréa Stubbs, Mark Cunningham/Liveculture Group Media Archive

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DOING IT FOR THE KIDS  

Mark Cunningham’s story of The County Line, a line-up of around 70 individuals from – or connected with Essex - who, in 1985-86, came togeth...

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