Over nearly 40 years later prolific singer songwriter and bassist, guitar player and multi instrumentalist MARK LE GALLEZ releases his follow up to MARK ONE. Mark is best known as bassist and singer with MOD/POWERPOP band THE RISK, also singing in garage psyche band THE SACRED HEARTS and garage punk band THEE JENERATORS, and of course not forgetting mod/power pop band SPEAKEASY! also known for such alter egos as STEAMPUNK ARTISTE and general mischief maker THE CROWMAN and BABA GANOUSH rhythm and soul nutter. He has also played bass and guitar in skiffle turn THE JOHN WESLEY STONE. Mark has toured extensively played many many gigs and worked with quite a few, shall we say interesting people.
We asked prolific singer songwriter and bassist, guitar player and multi instrumentalist Mark Gallez for an insight into his life and career in music following his latest release distributed by Detour Records and released on his own label F.A.B Records. He did us one better and sent us an excerpt from his personal memoir. It’s a very honest snapshot into his life and experiences along the way. It’s an enjoyable read with Mark telling us he has plans of publishing it in the near future. We have received the memoir in it’s entirety but here is an unedited snippet from the first chapter which I hope you enjoy reading as much as we did.
A SMALL EXCERPT FROM MY MEMOIR – ‘THE STRANGE AND CRAZY WORLD OF MARK LE GALLEZ’
Chapter 4 – Being a crap musician, and still am.
This reminds me of mum’s usual remark ‘oh no, what has Mark done now?’
I was making mod friends in Exeter. My pal Garry Moore and I are still mates and we used to illegally ride around on his Lambretta but went down to Torquay on the train for a good old bank holiday punch up. I can see why people riot because the buzz is just amazing, the adrenalin rush, my God. I did get caught by the police, though, who let this diminutive little ‘mod’ off with a warning, ‘and by the way son what is this all about?’ I was eternally grateful to an Asian shopkeeper who hid me in his clothes shop, away from a gang of marauding boneheads – not skinheads, those are different. I was not too scared, really. I knew it would hurt if they had caught me but I had survived Beaucamp, (rough secondary school) so there you go. I would also go to Bristol and London to buy clothes and Derek Shepherd and I would spend a great deal of money on getting clothes made. Derek is of course famous for the fanzines In The Crowd and Tailor Made and would lend us money for The Risk’s first record, but that is a future tale.
So my apprenticeship was going OK and now, at the age of 17, for Christmas mum and dad bought me a short-scale bass guitar, so this was it the big one, the start of my musical adventures.
The band Single File was born, although I must admit we had formed Rigor Mortis, a punk band in a tomato packing shed which was comprised myself shouting down a microphone (some things would never change) plugged into (very accomplished guitar player) Shane De Carteret’s 30 watt amp. Mark Guppy, who is with me to this day and fine guitar player himself, playing the biscuit tins with drum sticks. I was finding some form as a songwriter. ‘King Rat being very punk and it was a start, I suppose.
I did have some form as a writer though having poems published in the local paper when I was a nipper. The same paper I would go on to work for and steal money for records, clothes and trips to the UK. It felt like stealing as definitely not work! Single File comprised Johnny Inder on drums and the aforementioned Mark Guppy on guitar and we were, yep, a mod band and that was that. John could sing well, and so can Mark, but nobody wanted to do it so I got the job (I was by far the worst singer). We rehearsed at my mum and dad’s house, cramming the kit in to the bedroom and making a hell of a racket. Johnny could play, Mark and I not so much but I was starting to write songs, one of which would later be an early Risk favourite. It was great fun. Were we dreaming of world stardom? No, we were from Guernsey, don’t be silly, nobody was going to take us seriously. But we may be able to make a few girlfriends along the way so that seemed a bonus, plus it was enjoyable and took us away from the gang we had been running with and more into the island mod crowd. We had a ready- made audience and great support with the local mods. Derek ‘In The Crowd’ Shepherd and Jackie ‘In The Crowd’ Meecham being absolutely vital. So, the first gig for some nineteen-year-olds with their own self-written songs. And they could actually play.
A small hotel near the airport was the chosen venue. Mark and I were shitting ourselves because we saw posters plastered everywhere and Pete de Moulpied, our designer friend, had put them all up. So the venue was Whitewoods – full of drunk 14-year-olds – where the manager Carlo said that ‘half a lager won’t hurt them’. It was a triumph. I still remember it. And we were off. We started playing The Savoy Club in town, the biggest punch-up venue in the island, where you stuck to the carpet. And if you went to the toilet you were at risk (pardon the pun again) of a good beating. This became our home venue for quite a few years, before I decided to get ideas above my station. I wanted to make a record, Mark and Johnny were not having any of it. ‘We are not good enough to make a record’. I was not having any of that. I was not a great musician and I’m still not but I wanted to get my songs on vinyl. And then I asked my favourite band in the island to help. They had been Blue Movies, a cover band, and they were now called The Difference. Steve Free, the band’s guitarist, had a studio and he was up for it, as was Colin Austin, dad of current Thee Jenerators drummer Stuart ‘Ozzy’ Austin, and bassist and keyboard player George Crossan and of course guitarist Monty. They were really good and I hero-worshipped all of them, George in particular as he was so funny and so good, great harmonies and amazing bass playing and keyboards.
Single File was over, I was not happy with Mark or John and had started another band with Mr Colin ‘I can only play ska’ Leach (he still does) and Steve, now Chrissie, Collenette. Great people and still good friends, and I still annoy Colin to this day. Colin turned up to rehearsal with an amp his dad had made out of a radio and only played, as I said, ska. He was fucking awful, but as Steve the drummer said, I know a fella who is really good and I said to Steve ‘nah, the kind, terrible, friendly bloke is the one’. One of the best decisions I have ever made. From now on I knew what this was all about. We would never make it big. Don’t kid yourself on, as our next drummer Billy Finnerty would say. Most bands fail, being in the right place at the right time with the right music is the key and we almost got it right but being Johnny-come-latelys after the mod revival in 79 I don’t think that was going to happen, so I managed expectations. We would be a good band and a mod band and that was what we wanted, we had our audience and I loved them. We also had a little remembered band called Private Eye and the mods hated the keyboard player so they set fire to his amp and then there was Single File second time around and that was with Colin Leach and Mark Guppy and Johnny Inder and the time that being loyal paid dividends. Mark and John were out and Colin stayed loyal, as he has always been. How he has put up with me over the years, I have no idea.Mark Guppy is still my friend and playing with me still and Johnny is a good mate, so nothing awful happened. Why would it? I love my friends. We were going to record and that was it, no negotiation.
I had decided, and Mark One was born. So the studio was booked, Colin ‘Alfie’ Austin was the drummer, unfortunately we had to use an electronic drumkit. I was not keen, but beggars can’t be choosers and all that. So Colin Austin played the Simmonds electronic drums. He is a good drummer, as is his son, so that side of things were OK. George Crossan and Steve Free helped out with some over dubs and vocals and also with the recording and producing. I sorted out all the pressing and paid for everything, also pasting up the cover and sticking them all together with friends and the long-suffering Churchill twins.
I had had an interesting conversation with Colin whilst leaving the pub and walking up to the studio in the Charroterie Mills complex. I repeated what I had said before, ‘we are not going to make it big and I don’t really care too much, the cash would be OK but all the rest I really can’t be bothered with it’. It is good the record is back and we can try and sell a few copies and promo it out to people and who knows what will happen and Derek will help with the fanzine (oh, he helped alright, as did Jackie of course). I said, ‘the mods like us, it’s our thing and I am a mod, so let’s carry on with that. This was the time of Duran Duran and bands like that, but the mod and scooter scene was huge worldwide and had connections all over the place. We were promo-ing the record out everywhere and suddenly mum had a phone call from BBC Radio 1 breakfast DJ Mike Read who wanted to speak to me.
He loved Guernsey and the mod stuff so next thing we knew we were being played on the breakfast show to 8 million listeners, and he kept playing it. I met him in Guernsey when he was over and his producer wanted to know why I hadn’t moved to London to take advantage. ‘I live here,’ I said. I had, of course, put my phone number on the back of the record, thinking that would be handy for people to get hold of me to book gigs. What happened was mum kept picking up the phone to lots of girls trying to talk to me, most of them seemed to be Irish. And then the fan letters started to arrive from all over the place and kept arriving till the end of the Sacred Hearts, really. I had some quite interesting things and letters sent from girls, letters from fellas seemed to be wanting gig info and if I was going to be touring and making records. So to the next stage. Things were going well.
I had been to meet a couple of my mentors, Edward Ball (The Times) and Tony Meynell (Squire) both lovely blokes, and Ed’s friend, a skinny little, quiet, nervous red-headed chap called Alan McGee. One piece of advice they gave me was you have to get a proper band together again. I said I needed to buy a P.A. as all the local bands did that. They said spend the money on recording and making records. That was the birth of The Risk and life started to get even more interesting. We even had a fan club run by the Churchill twins. Steve Collenette was a good drummer and Colin was getting really good on guitar. He was quite scared of me at first as I was four years older than both of them. He thought I was really moody, yep sorry still am. So lots of local gigs, the mod following increasing. aided by In The Crowd fanzine. Time to make a single, back to Steve Free and George Crossan, and Forget the Girl was born. George Crossan played a great sixties-style keyboard riff and did some fantastic harmonies, we had 1,000 copies made and it sold out in a month!