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The Still

Sent in by Peter Neal: The Still were formed in 1976, inspired by the burgeoning punk scene. Early songs mainly had just 3 chords as that’s virtually all they could play. Don’t Waste my time, Tied Up, Beanz, Saffron and Sally was a Discotechque rider were all in the first few sets. The first gig ever with the full line up took place at a hotel in Stockport for the Lex Motors Christmas party, Christmas 1976. The collected dinner jackets and evening gowns looked on in stunned silence. When the set ended, the DJ, a guy named Duke Ozzy, announced that “even the Beatles had had to start somewhere”. Hmm Undeterred, the band learned a few more chords and introduced some more sophisticated songs and a few covers in such as Times Up, Do anything you wanna do, Warlord of the Royal Crocodiles, even a Led Zep track (Babe Im gonna leave you?) The line up comprised Max (Richard) Singleton- Vocs and guitar, Taff (Nigel) Davies,-Drums, Beef (Pete) Neal –Guitar, vocals and Bill (John) Hallam- Bass, vocals. Gradually, the band got tighter and started to build quite a following, playing every week at Ups n’ Downs in Stockport, Deeply Vale festival, joining the Manchester Musicians Collective, attending the meetings at North West Arts, playing at the Band On the Wall, Mcr Poly and Cyprus Tavern on their band nights, and anywhere else that would have them. Gigs were reviewed in Sounds, Record Mirror and the local fanzines. The highlight for the first line up was probably their recording on the MMC album, Unzipping the abstract. The track was “9.5”, recorded with John Brierley at Cargo in Rochdale. The track got good reviews, Sounds describing it as “gorgeous pop” and suggesting the band deserved a break due to a couple of them supporting Stockport County. John Peel played it twice at least, again seeming to enjoy what he heard. The albums name was suggested at a heated meeting of the MMC at the Sawyers Arms by Max (other suggestions I remember included “Manchester, United”). Later on I discovered it was a quote from an interview with Marc Bolan. If the cool dudes at the meeting had known the origin maybe that album would have been called something else completely- Bolan was decidedly uncool at that time. Unfortunately, this raw but edgy version of the Still imploded with the loss of Bill and Taff shortly after. Replacements came in the form of Bathroom Renovation’s John Bidet (bass and vocals) and Cliff Milner (ex Stress) on drums/ vocs The sounds got even more complex with John at times treating the bass like a lead guitar, and Cliff beating off interesting of drum patterns. This line up recorded several tracks, and though none were released on plastic, some got played on the radio- Mark Radcliffe picking up on “Find out”. With this line up The Still also recorded perhaps their most energetic pieces ever at Franks Burton Road Studio- including In the Basement, which was planned as their first single. John Bidet gave way to Dave Lewty – things got a bit tricky when he turned up for rehearsal one day without his bass- he had swapped it for a Jag XJ6. Dave jacked in the Still to join the Cheaters and gave way to Mick Williamson who had been in several early Manc punk bands Some great gigs and recordings (e.g. Sad Day, recorded at Hologram) came from these line ups, and the sound was augmented by a guy from Bristol called Malcolm on Sax, plus sometimes a 3 Piece brass section (The Stone Smashed Brass) and Nige Jepson on Keys. During this period the band adopted different names- Starting Red, Shout and Secret Agents- (this latter name being used when the band went out playing cabaret clubs in places like Skem and Wigan)- they only did the cabaret to try and raise enough cash for what was planned to be their “best ever” recordings at Revolution Studios. However before they got to record what could have been their masterpiece, Cliff departed and they ended up going in to the studio and using a drum machine. It was the 1980s after all, but the results left a lot to be desired. With no drummer and little enthusiasm to look for a new one, the Still called it a day in the mid 80s. However……in 2009 we find a new Still with Richard, Pete, Nigel being joined by Johnny Beever (Rockslide, Drones) on bass/ vocals and Jimmy Rush (Agency Music) Drums. OK they do covers, but they do interesting ones and enjoy what they do. Nige is also in Viva Morrissey (you can guess what they do!) Look out for them- you might even catch a Bathroom Renovation, a Manchester Mekon an Undercoverman, a Jekyll or even a Connection in the audience!