It could hardly be termed a quantum leap, moving from Pub Rock to Punk Rock, but like several others in the late Seventies, it was one made by East London band The Leyton Buzzards a year or so after their formation in 1976. There may be only a fine line between the two styles of music, but adopting the ‘punk’ label certainly attracted more attention and it wasn’t long before The Leyton Buzzards became regulars at iconic London venue, The Roxy.
Formed by long-time pals Geoff Deane (vocals) and David Jaymes (bass), they were joined by Kevin Steptoe (drums) and David Monk (guitar.) Their three-track debut single was released on the Small Wonder Records label in July 1978. Frenetic and anthemic ‘19 And Mad’ reflected the feelings of UK’s bored and pissed-off youth of the time. It was backed with the equally frantic and strident ‘Villain‘ and slower paced ‘Youthanasia.‘
The record found its way to BBC Radio’s John Peel who, well impressed, in August of that year invited them into the studio for the first of their four sessions for the show.
As happened so often in those pre-internet (pre-CD, prehistoric) days, it was through the Peel Sessions that my music preferences were shaped and the song ‘I Don’t Want To Go To Art School,‘ sticks in my mind as the first I heard of them
They reminded me a bit, one way or another of my favourites Radio Stars. And that could only mean good things. That was it. The Leyton Buzzards, eh? I was in!
Not long after this, and with Vernon Austin having replaced original guitarist Dave Monk, they won a ‘Battle of the Bands’ type of competition, organised by Radio 1’s David ‘Kid’ Jensen, and The Sun newspaper. (Punk and The Sun? No – me neither!) The prize though was well worth the association and the first release under their new contract with Chrysalis records was the single which some readers will surely remember, ‘Saturday Night Beneath The Plastic Palm Trees.’
More ‘New Wave’ than ‘Punk’ an with an underlying ska / reggae beat, it was an autobiographical track, recalling the lads’ days of riotous nights out, drinking and chatting up girls. It was hugely different from their earlier single but highlighted the band’s versatility.
As we’ve seen with various other bands featured on 70s Music, ‘versatility’ does not guarantee success. Delivered with that cheeky kind of ‘serious but not serious’ attitude, there was perhaps a little bit of an issue in that their target audience perhaps didn’t take them seriously? After all, they were presented as winners of a Pop Idol type competition sponsored by a newspaper that was itself not considered a ‘serious’ conveyor of current affairs. Would the street punks of the day buy into this?
I also understand that BBC, having been involved in sponsorship of the competition which won the band their Chrysalis Records contract, did not want to be seen to be ‘favouring’ the band and so restricted their airplay.
John Peel didn’t care though. Did he ever? He again offered The Leyton Buzzards a ‘Peel Session’ in January 1979 during which they previewed the forthcoming single, ‘Saturday Night Beneath The Plastic Palm Trees.’ Despite the various obstacles placed in their way, it eventually entered the lower reaches of the UK charts on 3rd March 1979. There it remained for five weeks, peaking at #53 but earning the band a (mimed) appearance on Top of the Pops.
One of those tracks played in that Peel Session was ‘Love Is Just A Dream,’ showing the band had not lost any of their initial, snotty, punk attitude.
Third single ‘I’m Hanging Around‘ arrived in early May ’79 and the fourth, ‘We Make A Noise‘ (the picture sleeve of which was designed by Terry Gilliam of Monty Python fame) followed about twelve weeks later. By now, for reasons of which I’m unsure, they had dropped their hometown name, ‘Leyton’ from their name.
Their ranks had by now also been swollen with the addition of former Cockney Rebel keyboard player, Milton Reame-James.
They were now The Buzzards and as such, embarked on a UK tour with The Only Ones.
To fulfill their contract with Chrysalis, an album was released, containing their earlier singles, future (and final) quirky single ‘Can’t Get Used To Losing You,‘ some Peel Session tracks, some demos and all in all some excellent, raucous punk numbers.
**(They reverted to their original name The Leyton Buzzards for the final single release, below …. although the album on which it appeared was credited as by The Buzzards. Also, towards the end of their time, drummer Kevin Steptoe left, being replaced by Tony Gainsborough.) **
Entitled ‘Jellied Eels To Record Deals,’ it was pretty much an account of their time together as a band. Confirmation, if you like, that they had come to a natural end was indicated with the final sentence of the back sleeve notes: ‘The band now intend to make significant changes of direction ….’
And that was that. The Leyton Buzzards had come to an end.
That’s not the end of the story, however.
Now, this is a 70s Music site, and we’re straying into the prohibited territory of ’80s Music, so I’ll keep this brief.
In 1980, Geoff Deane and David Jaymes put together another band, which despite their first two releases failing to impress the record-buying public, would go on to record eight Top 40 singles between August 1981 and August 1983.
That band? Modern Romance.
Their biggest hit was ‘High Life’ which reached #8 in Spring 1983, however, I think they be best remembered for this:
I know, I know. But what the heck – there’s no law says just ’cause you like Punk and New Wave you can’t shake it all down to a bit of fun salsa, right?
And so the story ends … almost. On leaving Modern Romance at the height of their success (after their #15 cover of ‘Cherry Pink And Apple Blossom White‘) co-founder of both Modern Romance and The Leyton Buzzards, vocalist Geoff Deane left to focus on personal projects.
Not just any old little projects, mind . Oh no, no, no. Projects like writing the dcreenplay for films such as ‘Kinky Boots‘ and ‘It’s A Boy Girl Thing’; writing scripts for TV series like ‘Birds of a Feather‘; contributing to the soundtrack of ‘Shrek.’
Oh …. loads of things. The boy done good (sic.) that’s all I can say!
Yeah, Pub to Punk Rock may be a baby step. Pub rock to writing comedy series and film screenplay, via Punk and Salsa – now THAT is a QUANTUM LEAP!
(Post by Colin Jackson from Glasgow – November 2022)