Leutenant pigeon

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Description: Both Rob Woodward and Nigel Fletcher had played in bands in the early 1960s, they’d even been writing songs together in these times, but it would be much later in the decade before they would

Both Rob Woodward and Nigel Fletcher had played in bands in the early 1960s, they’d even been writing songs together in these times, but it would be much later in the decade before they would eventually join forces and launch ‘Stavely Makepeace’.

In the mid sixties Nigel fulfilled an ambition and joined the merchant navy, where he stayed for almost three years. In the summer of 1967 he left his last ship and moved to London where he stayed until early 1969.

Meanwhile Rob worked in various office jobs and continued to play in bands on a semi-pro basis. By 1966 however he was working full time in the music business, traveling the country with his one man cabaret act.

1968 ended with Rob traveling to see Nigel in London with a proposition. Join forces to recreate the song writing partnership, produce records and even build a sound recording studio.

Rob’s mother Hilda, herself an accomplished pianist, donated the front room of her semi detached house in Coventry to the boys so that they could record their own demo tapes. On a simple domestic reel to reel tape recorder, a Sony TC200, which they had modified to run at double speed, (ie 15 inches per second instead of the usual seven and a half), they produced a number of fine backing tracks which would be finished off in other recording studios.

This however was costing money, so to compensate for the lack of track facilities, (there were only two quarter tracks on the TC200), other musicians were brought in to help out on the recordings.

On August 29th 1969 "I WANNA LOVE YOU LIKE A MAD DOG " (Pyramid Records PYR 6072) became the first Stavely Makepeace record release and a new era of home recording emerged.

Rob fronted the band as Stavely Makepeace in those early days. After 1970 however he fronted the band under his own name.

The first line up was: Rob Woodward lead singer and keyboards, Nigel Fletcher drums, Don Ker guitar and Pete Fisher on bass.

"MAD DOG" wasn’t a hit despite being featured on several BBC Radio One programmes and despite gaining publicity for having the shortest ever "B" side, the 32 second long "GREASY HAIRED WOMAN".

Another Pyramid record was scheduled for late 1969, "REGGAE DENNY " (PYR 6082) but was abandoned only days before release! A reason was never given. Only one pressing of this rare record is known to survive!

Early in 1970 Steve Tayton, an excellent jazz guitarist and woodwind player was recruited and the band became five! Shortly afterwards Pete Fisher moved on and was replaced by bass guitarist/vocalist Steve Johnson.

Stavely Makepeace, already influenced by the ‘home recording’ ideas of the famous Joe Meek, were constantly experimenting with new methods of making and recording sounds. They achieved notoriety within the business and acquired the nickname "The Scrap Iron Band" because of all the weird and wonderful sounds they put onto record!

The next release, in the spring of 1970, was "EDNA " (Concord Records CON 008) and typified the band’s raucous approach to music. With Rob singing the lead vocal in falcetto, and with an up beat melodic rhythm, the mini-piano sound was born. (This comprised recording a piano at half speed then speeding it up to create a resounding honky tonk sound!) "EDNA" was raved about by several Radio One DJ’s and even earned the band their first television appearance, on "Top of the Pops" on July 30th 1970, but bad distribution by the small Concord Record company cost the disc its place in the halls of fame. By the time Concord finally got the record into the shops only Noel Edmonds was still playing it on his show. Despite this the record managed to show at No.46 in the Melody Maker’s charts!

At this time Decca records tried to sign the band but contractual problems meant that more singles were still due for release on the Concord label.

On October 23rd of the same year, "SMOKEY MOUNTAIN RHYTHM REVUE " came out, (CON 013) and once again a Stavely Makepeace record caused instant reaction! Muriel Young, the producer of a networked afternoon TV programme called "Lift Off", immediately booked the band to play on her show. 1970 was cer tainly the year that put Stavely Makepeace on the map!

1971 by contrast was a bit of an anti climax and it was a case of one rung up the ladder and two down! The third and last Concord record release for Stavely Makepeace was on April 16th when "GIVE ME THAT PISTOL " came out, (CON 018). It promptly faded without trace!

By a quirk of fate the option clause on the Concord recording contract was not exercised, on account that the girl who’s job it was to see to such things had left the company suddenly. The boys held their breath for the thirty day period within which the option had to be renewed, then sighed with relief as they realised they were free of all binding contracts! It gave the band the added impetus to succeed and also to widen their horizons.

The ‘B’ side of the previous Stavely Makepeace single, "SMOKEY MOUNTAIN RHYTHM REVUE", had been an instrumental song called, "RAMPANT ON THE RAGE". It featured the mini piano sound as a lead instrument. Out of this came a new idea by Rob and Nigel. Why not have a novelty band to run along side the main Stavely Makepeace band as an outlet for more ‘tongue in cheek’ and instrumentally oriented music?

The idea of a second string to their bow had always appealed to the lads so they set about producing half a dozen songs using just two pianos, bass guitar and drums.

As an additional gimmick they introduced Rob’s mother Hilda to the line up, which became; Rob on one piano, Hilda on the other, Nigel on drums and Steve Johnson on bass guitar.

With the recent inter est shown in Stavely Makepeace by Decca Records, Rob and Nigel used the new contact to present the Lieutenant Pigeon idea for a possible record deal. Decca liked the idea and selected "MOULDY OLD DOUGH " to be the first single. The rest, as they say, is history.

Released early in 1972, "MOULDY OLD DOUGH " (Decca F 13278) eventually went on to become the biggest selling British hit single of the year and earned Rob and Nigel the Ivor Novello songwriting award for 1972!

Meanwhile Stavely Makepeace was still alive and kicking! There had never been any intention of Lieutenant Pigeon becoming the main band, and despite one more line up change,(Steve Tayton making way for violinist Owen John), there were several new Stavely recordings in the pipeline. In fact less than a month after the release of "MOULDY OLD DOUGH ", Stavely Makepeace released, "WALKING THROUGH THE BLUE GRASS " on Spark Records,(SRL 1066), in March 1972.

For a short while things had never looked so good. Two singles out and yet another television appearance for Stavely Makepeace. Things could only get better! However, a week is a long time in p olitics so it is said. It can be a lifetime in the music industry because within days of the T.V. appearance, (when Stavely received an ovation for their performance of "WALKING THROUGH THE BLUE GRASS "), the news came through that neither of the two singles would be ‘playlisted’ by the BBC!

Nigel decided to take up the offer of some studio work in Erie, USA and left for the States in April.

The rest of the band took temporary work deputising with other bands. A break from Stavely Makepeace seemed a good idea!

It was whilst Nigel was in the USA that Central Television, (then ATV), decided to feature the ‘front room studio’, used by Stavely and Lt Pigeon, on their local current affairs programme in the Midlands. They sent a young reporter called Chris Tarrant around to interview the boys!

The producer decided to recreate the making of "SMOKEY MOUNTAIN RHYTHM REVUE ", but with Nigel in the USA and Steve Tayton having left the band, it was difficult to authenticate it exactly. Having said this, an excellent job was made by Rob, Steve Johnson and Don Ker and the publicity was most welcome!

Steve Johnson kept in constant touch with Nigel whilst he was overseas and during June of 1972 a letter was received by Nigel stating that both BLUE GRASS and MOULDY had finally ‘died’!

How wrong could Steve have been. Unbeknown by anyone at the time,(that is by anyone outside of Belgium), the recording of "MOULDY OLD DOUGH " had been used every weekday evening to introduce a Belgian nationwide news and current affairs TV programme since the spring!

By midsummer thousands of people had written in enquiring about the ‘theme music’. When the TV station announced that it was available as a single, sales began to rocket!

By July 15th, when Nigel returned to Britain, the record was climbing towards the number one spot in Belgium. In fact it was purely coincidental that a telegram from Decca Records to this effect arrived at the same time that Nigel arrived home!

"MOULDY OLD DOUGH " was re issued in the UK and this time Decca paid for some Radio Luxembourg coverage. By September it was in the Top 20 and on October 10th 1972 it went to the No. 1 spot in Britain, where it stayed for the next four weeks!

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