Chris Welch on The Steve Eggs Band

chrisChris Welch, former features editor of Melody Maker and editor of Musicians Only and Metal Hammer, has written books on Jimi Hendrix, Yes, Genesis, Led Zeppelin, David Bowie, Marc Bolan, Tina Turner and Eric Clapton.

Here, he writes about the Steve Eggs Band’s 2017 album, ‘Live at the Boom Boom Club’, and charts the origins of the band and the songs on the album.

 

Over to you, Chris….

 

 

You should have been there! Well for those who were, here is a souvenir of the night when the Steve Eggs Band fried up a storm and fans scrambled for a place in front of the stage. They were eager to witness one of the great ‘live’ gigs of the year and enjoy a cascade of songs that exude style, originality and excitement.

And if you missed the band’s show at the fabled Boom Boom Club, then keep calm and carry on listening to this ‘live’ album. It captures all the atmosphere and good intentions of a concert designed to raise money for charity – and raise the temperature of the audience.

It is thanks to the enthusiasm of promoter Pete Feenstra, that the Steve Eggs Band were presented at his rock venue par excellence in Sutton, Surrey as a headlining act. This followed previous successes when the group supported rock legends Focus and Curved Air. Now it was time for the Egg Men to take centre stage.

And thanks to the skill of sound engineer Simon Taylor, the show was recorded so well the band decided to unveil the results to the world. They had considered recording a new studio album in the wake of ‘Hometown Skyline’ (2014) a previous collection of Steve Eggs compositions that featured ‘Roll Over,’ ‘Falling Into You’, ‘Wish I Was A Cowboy’ and ‘I Believe.’

However, the band played with such fire on the night of Friday, June 17th, 2016 the recording was deemed a perfect showcase for new songs as well as old favourites. It will certainly please those who have followed the band since its inception, when it began introducing original material to audiences more used to a parade of tribute bands.

What makes the Steve Eggs Band special? It’s their combination of instrumental expertise, song writing ability and a great sense of humour. The S.E.B. comprises Steve Eggs (vocals, rhythm guitar), Jon ‘Jonny The K’ Kershaw (lead guitar, vocals), Peter Wass (bass guitar, vocals) and Mark ‘Wheezer’ Taylor (drums, vocals).

They have all worked in different bands over the years. But when the four finally met up in a joint venture, light bulbs flashed, eyes lit up and noses twitched. Yes, they had discovered their local pub was serving the finest real ale in town. The next step was to adjourn to a studio and rehearse. And that’s when the riffs hit the fan.

BIRTH OF A BAND

Steve Eggs has long worked as a seasoned solo singer/songwriter. Putting a band together was a major step forward in his career.

Steve Eggs: “It is very encouraging that more and more people are getting into us and playing our records on the radio. Before the band started, I had spent years doing solo acoustic stuff on the pub circuit. Then one day I met Chris Cowley who played bass guitar. He hadn’t played for years and was thinking about getting back into bands. He said if I ever needed a bass player I should let him know.

“A little while later I was introduced to Mark Taylor in a pub called the Old Bank in Sutton. He was drumming in a country rock band with Peter Wass. They did a lot of covers but had a couple of albums worth of original material. They were a good band but weren’t doing many gigs.

“I didn’t have a band but had all these offers from people wanting to play bass and drums. So, I asked Mark and Chris if they’d be interested in forming a group. They said yes and I said: ‘Let’s make some music and see what happens.’”

Mark and the bass player went to Steve’s flat armed with a snare drum, brushes and an acoustic bass. They ran through a couple of Steve’s songs and a couple of covers. “It sounded quite decent. We did that for a couple of weeks before going to a rehearsal studio in Croydon with a full drum kit, an electric bass and me on acoustic guitar. But there was something severely lacking. What we needed was an electric guitar.”

Mark suggested a good friend would be perfect for the band. “He turned out to be Jonny the K! The following week we went back to the rehearsal studio when Jon came along. As soon as he plugged in and played it all sounded so much better. It was perfect.”

Jon Kershaw: “The band has now been together for five years but not always with the same line up. Chris Cowley played on the first album but left when he wanted to stop being a musician and become a Tai Chi instructor. He was a lovely bloke and a good bass player and had known Steve from schooldays. Chris was replaced by Peter Wass, who had played in the band with Mark Taylor called Obviously Five Believers, named after a song from Bob Dylan’s ‘Blonde On Blonde’ album.

Peter Wass: “I’d first met Mark at a time when I’d got divorced and had moved from Tonbridge to Croydon and was living the artist’s life in a bedsit. Mark and I were both fans of radio DJ Danny Baker and part of his show included a website with a bulletin board. I put up a message saying is anyone in the Croydon area interested in forming a band? The musical influences were Bob Dylan, Neil Young and Nick Drake.”

His call answered, Peter met Mark and his wife Freddie at a pub in Carshalton. “We had a riotous evening with far too much beer and chat and said ‘Right, let’s form a band.’ That was back in 2001. We formed Obviously Five Believers with bassist Mike Atkins and rhythm guitarist Nick Constable. We started off doing covers until Mark and I began writing songs that included ‘Here Comes The Rain.’ That band went on for ten years and I was the lead singer and played guitar.”

Jon: “I’d also been in a blues band with Mark at the Oval Tavern in Croydon. I’d get up and jam so I had played with Pete quite a lot. When the Steve Eggs Band needed a bass player Mark suggested we asked Pete, even though he was a guitarist and singer. For him it was the people and the material that was most important. The nice thing is we all have a strong sense of humour. We certainly take the music seriously, but we’re not trying to be rock stars.”

Peter: “The story of how I joined the Steve Eggs Band is a bit odd. Obviously Five Believers was petering out. Then one day in January 2013 I was lying in the bath when the phone rang. It was Mark who said: ‘How do you fancy playing bass in the Steve Eggs Band?’ To which my answer was ‘I can’t play bass.’ But he said ‘You’ll pick it up.’ So, I said okay. It was my birthday in January 2014 and my parents gave me £100 that I used to buy a Fender Jazz Bass copy. After that I went to the dizzy heights of spending £60 on a Chinese made Hofner violin bass on e-Bay. I have invested a grand total of £160 in bass guitars since joining the band.”

Mark Taylor’s career in music began when he got hooked on playing drums aged 14, while still as school. As a fan of both rock and jazz (not to mention football) he played a pivotal role in bringing the S.E.B. together.

Mark: “One of my school mates got himself a guitar and another got a bass. I couldn’t get my head round all those strings so I convinced my dad to buy me a drum kit instead. I nearly drove him and the neighbours bonkers with the noise. Funnily enough the two other guys didn’t really pursue it. But I was hooked on drumming and one day I saw a ‘drummer wanted’ advert in a music shop from a band. I phoned them up and so joined my first group aged 16. My influences were John Bonham and Phil Collins, who was a great drummer in early Genesis.”

Mark later joined True Life Confessions led by John Dummer in the early 1980s. “Yes, John played the drums too, so there were two of us! We had a stand-up kit with a snare drum each and a load of tom toms. It was a fantastic band with three girl singers and we were signed to A&M Records.”

Next came a trip to America with a group called the Cannibals that played in Boston and New York. “We arrived with just some guitars. A couple of local bands lent us their gear and came along with us, hoping to share our gigs at clubs like CBGB in New York.”

Returning home, Mark met and married his girlfriend Freddie and stopped playing drums for some years. “I started playing football instead. But then I got the drum kit out one day. I’d let the genie out of the bottle again! I met Peter through our Bob Dylan/Neil Young type band. We started off playing covers then Pete and I began to pull together original songs ‘Here Comes The Rain’ being one of them.

“I met Jon Kershaw through a guy called Bill Smith who played harmonica. We were trying to form a blues band and he’d roped in a few guitarists. One of them was Jon. You can imagine what it’s like when you sit down and play in a band alongside Jon Kershaw for the first time. It’s like ‘Wow. Where have you been all my life!’

When Mark teamed up with Steve, he promptly suggested Jon would be a great lead guitarist for his new band.

Mark: “The first song we played was ‘Road to California’. I’d sent a demo to Jon and he’d done his usual, which was to learn his part and work out some great stuff. When we counted in the tune ‘1,2,3,4’ this sound came out of the guitar amp and we all looked at each other. ‘Did we really hear what we just heard?’ He was phenomenal and so much fun as well.

“Our bassist Chris Cowley left and we didn’t think we could replace him, because he was a top-quality bassist. But then we got Pete in and that was it. We’ve never looked forward since! No, we needed someone who could fit in and have a laugh, and if anybody could do that it was Peter Wass.”

As the group rehearsed and began playing gigs, they had to decide on a firm musical direction.

Steve: “We did talk about what sort of band we wanted to be and that was sort of like Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers. We didn’t want to be pigeon holed but that’s the country rock thing we’d aim for. As soon as I saw Jon Kershaw, with the big hair, all dressed in black and toting a yellow Telecaster with a black scratch plate I thought ‘That’s Mike Campbell, the guitar player from the Heartbreakers.’ Fantastic. As soon as he plugged in and started playing the whole thing sounded so much better. We asked Jon if he’d join and that was it. The band was born.”

‘Road To California’ turned out to be a perfect solo showcase for Jonny the K.

Jon: “Steve definitely didn’t want to do ‘covers.’ Maybe a few. I had been playing in covers bands for years and wanted to be more creative. Mark explained that while Steve wrote some great songs, they wanted to bring more rock into the band. Steve would come in with a complete song and then we would arrange the tune, with a beginning, stops and musical punctuation, using all our experience from being in other outfits.”

Steve: “Our first gig was at the Half Moon in Putney. We wanted to do a support spot and see what happened. They’d just had a cancellation and the lady who ran it said ‘What about playing next week?’ We said okay, we’ll do it, but what are we going to call ourselves? It wasn’t going to be called the Steve Eggs Band as it’s not my band really, although I do tend to write most of the songs.

“Rather than try and come up with a really cool name, Mark said ‘Why don’t we just call it the Steve Eggs Band?’ Of course, I have got a very unusual name. A record producer once told me to play up the name and use it all the time. I said: ‘It’s not rock’n’roll. I want to change it to something cool like Steve Springsteen.’ ‘He said, ‘No don’t do that!’ So, it became The Steve Eggs Band. Sounds a bit stupid but its memorable.

“Anyway, we did our first gig and we thought it would be busy, with loads of people. It wasn’t. I think there were about 15 people in the Half Moon and half of them were our friends. But it was fun, it went down okay and we realised we’d got something worth pursuing.”

Jon: “After a while it wasn’t such a struggle to get gigs. But it’s always going to be more difficult when you are playing original music. We did our first studio album ‘The Steve Eggs Band’ and then the next one ‘Home Town Skyline’ (2014) got Number 9 in the Amazon country chart. We couldn’t believe it and that was such a thrill.”

 

BIRTH OF A LIVE ALBUM

When the Steve Eggs Band did the Concert In Aid of MacMillan Cancer Support at the Boom Boom Club, joined by guest artists Yoka and Big Ray, they had no idea sound man Simon Taylor had discretely recorded the entire set.

Steve: “At the end of the night Simon told us he’d send us a copy. We just thought it would be nice to hear. A couple of weeks later when he sent us a mixed version, it sounded far better than we thought it might. Then we agreed that rather than record a new studio album, which is quite a big project, we would put out a ‘live’ album instead.”

The entire set comprised 17 songs and that would make the proposed album far too long. “I listened to all the tracks, and although I’m one of our biggest fans I thought ‘God, this is going on forever!’”

They narrowed it down to ten tracks including nine from the Boom Boom plus a studio version of Steve’s classic ‘We Humans’. Steve Eggs is often jokingly self-deprecating, but remains justly proud of the song writing skills he has honed since boyhood.

Steve: “I first started writing songs when I was 14. I was given an electronic keyboard one Christmas. Trouble was, I couldn’t play it nor read music. As I couldn’t play anybody else’s songs I started making up my own little tunes. I still can’t read music but can knock out some chords. It wasn’t until I got a guitar aged 16 that I started writing full-on tunes. My first complete song was called ‘Fading Pictures.’

“My whole involvement in music has always been writing songs. I’m not a virtuoso guitar player, although I played lead guitar in a covers band when I was 18. I wanted to be Eric Clapton! But I was never going to be like him or become a singer like Roger Daltrey or Paul Rodgers. The one thing I could do was create music and write songs.”

How does Steve get the creative inspiration that seems to flow so easily? “My lyrics do come out quite well! My earliest inspiration I guess was Lennon & McCartney, who were obviously fantastic. They were so melodic and even when their lyrics didn’t necessarily mean much literally, they scanned well. It’s so much to do with how lyrics sound.

“I was never going to try and change the world in a Dylan-esque kind of way. My priority is to get a nice melody and then hang lyrics onto the tune. When you are 18 you tend to write ‘boy meets girl’ stuff. which is fine. But now I try to develop a story line.”

How does Steve see the future of the mighty Steve Eggs Band?

“Okay, I know we’re not ground breaking. We’re just a guitar band. But we’re the only ones doing OUR music and it seems to go down well!”

CHRIS WELCH London, England 2017

 

THE STEVE EGGS BANDS LIVE AT THE BOOM BOOM CLUB

TRACK by TRACK commentaries by Steve, Jon and Peter.

GHOST TRAIN

Steve: This is one of our new ones that goes great at gigs. It took quite a while to write. I came up with a melody and tried to develop lyrics which are about ‘boy meets girl’ except boy now can’t find girl and he’s not very happy about it! Originally it was going to be called ‘Three Wishes’ about a chap not having much luck and feeling he’d used up all his wishes. Then I jammed some more lyrics and I’m riding on a Ghost Train came out of nowhere. As soon as I realised ghost train rhymes with going insane I thought this could be interesting. It now conjures up the idea of somebody going a little bit mad!

GOOD INTENTIONS

Steve: An upbeat, country rocker. Nice and simple. It’s got three chords, maybe four. A good tune to play early in the set and get an audience tapping their feet. Jon goes to town on this one with a great country style guitar solo.

Jon: A lot of guitarists go on and on. What I try to do is pick out bits from the song itself and put them into the solo. Even if the audience don’t know which chorus it comes from, it somehow sounds familiar and relevant. I put in a bit of the vocal line as well, rather than go off on a standard blues scale thing. Improvisation is great but in this band, we try to make solos relevant to the song.

FALLING INTO YOU

Steve: When we recorded this track for the ‘Hometown Skyline’ album we added Hammond organ in the studio, which sounds fantastic. The producer knew how to play the Hammond, which had a Leslie speaker attached. It’s quite a simple song and has a nice structure that works well ‘live.’

Jon: ‘Falling Into You’ is a bit jazzy and Steve came up with four chords at the beginning and it runs down on just two strings on my guitar. I do it again an octave higher.

THE S.S. CALIFORNIA

Steve: A simple folk melody that lodged in my head and had the working title ‘Road To California’ which is another of our songs! So, I couldn’t use that again, but I just liked the word California. It’s a very musical word, oddly enough. It suggested the idea of going off to sea in a ship, whose name rang a bell. After having Googled it I came up with the ‘S.S. California,’ a steam ship that sailed from Glasgow to New York in the early 1900s. Then I discovered it was sunk by a German U-Boat.

Jon: Steve looked it up and found a true story about this ship sailing from Glasgow to New York that got torpedoed in the winter of 1917. And he wrote a song about that. He writes a lot of songs about love and loneliness but here he was trying to find something different. Steve took a bit licence because ‘S.S. California’ actually got sunk on the way back to Glasgow from New York!

LOVE AND GRACE

Steve: Jon plays a great guitar intro with a strong country feel. It’s one of our new songs and it’s about meeting a stranger and even though you don’t really know them, it doesn’t matter because we’re all much the same at heart. But it ends up with the line ‘We lose our faith when love and grace have already left town.’ A neat little song with some good harmonies going on.

THAT’S NO GOOD

Jon: We use a tremolo effect here that you could get from an old-fashioned Fender amplifier. It automatically sends the volume up and down to produce a wobble. It softens chords and as soon as you get that reverb, it’s instant Johnny Cash. The guitarist Link Wray turned it up even more on his iconic record ‘Rumble.’ It gives a bit of texture and makes it sound more country.

HERE COMES THE RAIN

Steve: Well Pete wrote this one, so I don’t know much about how it was conceived. I guess it’s about rain! Of course, Pete and Mark were in a band together and that’s one of the songs they played. Theirs was a slightly more jangly, Byrds style version. Pete thought it might work for us and so we gave it a go and developed it during rehearsals. Our four piece harmonies work nicely and Jon goes to town on this one. A joy to play and it always goes down well.

Peter: We were very pleased with the gig at the Boom Boom. Musically it was great fun and we raised money for the MacMillan charity as well, so it couldn’t have been a better combination. The band mostly plays original material and this song is my contribution. We have thought about introducing some of my other songs but the quality of Steve’s song writing is astounding, just fantastic. Of all my songs ‘Here Comes The Rain’ is the one that fits best into the set.

Jon: Pete had done this in other bands. The first thing we did was change the key to G because Steve couldn’t sing it in D. Then I turned it into a kind of Glen Campbell number with a baritone guitar sound. That was my plan! If you listen to the lyrics they are quite pessimistic. We suggested Pete sing lead but he preferred Steve doing it, so that’s why we changed the key.

DON’T KICK MY HEART AROUND

Steve: When we started out, we’d based ourselves on Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers and this is my attempt to write a Heartbreakers song. It has that early Seventies Tom Petty kind of swagger. It’s another new one and doesn’t come across quite how we’d like it on this ‘live’ version. But it’s okay!

Jon: It’s got a stomping beat that is unusual for us. I remember thinking we had done a lot of songs like ‘Love And Grace’ and ‘We Humans’ and hadn’t got any rockers, which you need when you’re playing a ‘live’ gig. Then Steve suddenly turned up with this one. We started playing quite heavy and it all worked. Pete is not a natural heavy rock type person, but he thinks this is one of our best songs. We needed something a bit more ballsy. The other interesting thing about this number is it has a completely different chord progression for the guitar solo.

ROLL OVER

Steve: This was written very quickly. I had the riff for a little while. I remember being in my kitchen with a tape recorder and writing another song. I’d just pressed stop on the cassette player and I had my guitar handy and played the riff. All of a sudden ‘Roll Over’ came out. At first I thought does ‘Roll Over’ mean giving up? Roll over and die!

So many songs say you must never give up and have to keep on going. So, this is a nice up tempo song about the joys of giving up. It was written on a Sunday night. I did a demo on Monday, e-mailed it to the chaps, they liked it and when we rehearsed on Thursday they got into it straight away. Jon suggested a key change for the guitar solo, then on Saturday we played it ‘live’ for the first time.

Jon: ‘Roll Over’ is Pete Feenstra’s favourite. When you listen to this ‘live’ track you can hear Pete shouting in the background. He loves it! Steve does have the knack of writing catchy songs. We did a special video for ‘Roll Over’ that still makes me laugh. There’s a bit where we all lean forward, pick up some beer cans and have a swig. We had to do it in unison and it was like Dad’s Army. ‘Right, stand still. Up ,2,3,4. Open 2,3,4. Down 2,3, 4. We must do it together guys!’

The song has vocal harmonies and whenever we hit a four-part harmony at a gig, you can see the audience thinking ‘Oh, these people know what they are doing.’ I remember saying to Peter Wass: ‘Isn’t it great being in a band where everyone sings?’ And Pete said: ‘I’ve been in bands before where everyone sings. But this is the first band I’ve been in where everybody can sing.’

WE HUMANS

Steve: We almost ditched this one. We took it to a rehearsal and played around with it but couldn’t find a way to do it properly. So, we put it to one side. A few weeks later Mark asked about the song we’d done with the ¾ waltz tempo. We dug it out again and Mark especially liked it. So it’s thanks to him that we play it now. Pete added some nice bass lines and Jon put a bit of delay on the guitar. Once we’d added vocal harmonies we could hear it was gonna work. When we play it ‘live’ people stop and listen. We recorded it as a single in January 2016 in Rocket Studios, Croydon. It was produced by Gavin Kinch who added Hammond organ.

Jon: ‘We Humans’ has some of Steve’s best ever lyrics. ‘I know somewhere time will repair all the things that have gone wrong…’ Now that is quite deep, isn’t it? His lyric writing has matured and that line is really profound. As soon as he played it to us for the first time, we all thought ‘Bloody hell, this is great!’ We played it ‘live’ at the Boom Boom but Steve wasn’t happy with the vocals, so we decided to use this studio version on the album.

FOOTNOTE: Okay. Now play the record!