Band biography and recollections

Band Biography  – by Steve Harrison

 

So the band was formed.

 

Initially Jon brought some self-penned material along which he wrote to fit into the folk rock blueprint. Steve also suggested a few Trad covers to rock-up.

 

Meanwhile a small revolution was going in the folk music world outside and bands like The Waterboys and The Pogues brought a fresh punk edge to A.E’s largely “late 70s” musical game-plan.

 

Martin was soon to contribute his own material and was developing his aggressive theatrical delivery and unforgettable stage presence.

All these elements, coupled with Lesley’s pure classical fiddle gave the band a great depth to the music.

 

The rise of the contemporaries The Levellers, together with the whole ‘crusty’ musical scene spear-headed by bands like New Model Army, meant that AE were soon swept up by an unexpected rise in the fashionability and wide spread acceptance of “folk-rock”, and were soon head-lining and selling-out, large Brighton venues.

 

This line-up released two cassette EPS, Five Short stories and Simple Bond before Lesley and Jules left.

 

The band recruited Jane Barker as their next violinist. Having recently graduated from the Royal College of Music, she was an able replacement for Lesley and soon fitted into the anarchic social world and increasingly crusty dress-sense of A.E.

 

With Jane, the band recorded their final EP; Times Like These. This featured some of the band’s best collaborative song writing efforts; in particular, the Wood/Weymouth composition ‘Runaway’. This was a track with elements of ska and psychedelia with Martin’s articulate, storytelling lyrics at their absolute best.

 

A.E went on to rehearse and gig some of their best compositions after this, truly having settled on an identifiable sound of their own. Chris Way added another dimension to the sound by also playing Sax in addition to his normal role a precision rhythm guitarist. This material was never to be released.

 

There had always been tensions within the band. People had different aspirations (being a mix or day-jobbers, mortgaged and signers-on). There were other inter-personal tensions that had being simmering under too. So when cracks began to form (normally catalysed by trivial disagreements) the band swiftly disintegrated in a flurry of acrimony and bloody mindedness.

 

There were 3 ‘farewell’ gigs, which were excellent, but despite this no one had the will to carry on.

Recollections of Altogether Elsewhere – Jules Lawrence

Altogether Elsewhere were the first proper band I played in, and what an experience that was. From rather chaotic 'how are we going to make this work' rehearsals in an architect’s office through to mosh pit mayhem and festival headlines, the rise of AE had the energy rush of a plane taking off.

Take seven disparate people, plonk them down - with almost surgical precision - in the right place and at the right time and light the blue touch paper. The band's first ever show set the template - set to be up first at a benefit show in Hastings we ended up with the headline slot, (I vaguely remember the official headliner had pulled out at very short notice & the other act - Neil Stone's Animal Magic wanted to perform their set to a less drunken audience).

Anyhow - AE hit the ground running, an hour later we'd aced our test flight and I was addicted for life. From there on in, in our youthful self-confidence, we felt unstoppable and - to a large extent – it actually seemed to be just that.

The chemistry, though at times spiky, was held firmly together in the absolute faith in what we were doing... that gang mentality that bands are traditionally supposed to have but often seem to lack...

I've spent many years since then playing in a huge array of groups, and it has been incredibly rare to find an outfit that had such dynamism and that certain indefinable something which, well, means I'm writing this - half a lifetime on from our crazy nights down at the Duke of Wellington.

Recollections of Altogether Elsewhere – Jon Wood

Time is a great healer and although I recall good and bad times with AE, it is the good times that dominate my recollections.

There were far more bad times by 1992 and the first half of 1993 so my recollections centre more on the glorious early days. However, as Steve says in the Biog, the reunion gigs in December 1993 were brilliant and we did go out on a high. 

1989 is where it all started and although the band only played two gigs that year, right at the end of it, the build-up was amazing. We grew from three members to seven members over the course of 8 months and it was a glorious time of creating new music and getting to know the musicians involved.

I met Steve Harrison, the founder of the band, when a mutual friend introduced us at an Oyster Band gig in March that year. He suggested we got together with Chris Way and see what comes out of it.

 

To prepare for the first session, I wrote a quick tune that I thought was a folk-rock style (my key refence point being the seminal album Liege and Leaf by Fairport Convention). Steve was then far savvier than me re more modern reference points like Boiled in Lead and Pressgang, but he soon educated me!

 

That first session with just the three of us went really well and when Chris added lyrics for the verse and chorus we had our very first song, Promises.

https://soundcloud.com/altogether-elsewhere/five-short-stories-ep-1990-promises

The rest of that year was amazing. Hearing our initial songs and cover versions fleshed out more and more until we grew to the full line-up was a wonderful trip. Hearing Martin singing Promises for the first time, Lesley adding the fiddle riffs and solos to the tunes, Jules harmonica riff for Chris’ song Crime before dawn plus of course hearing the songs kick ass when JC joined and we had a drummer! 

 

Coming up with a name for the band was a tortuous affair with lists of names discussed in the pub after rehearsals. After much debate and beer, we decided on ‘The sound of many shotguns’. When we saw the barman struggling to chalk our name on a board for our first gig because of the length of it, we decided on a rapid change to one of the also rans on the list and Altogether Elsewhere was born.

Is it a good name? Well in one way at least, the answer is no. People struggled to get it right! So we were advertised as Altogether Everywhere, Almost Elsewhere and many other combinations.

1990 was an incredible year for the band and all of us as individuals. We rode the crest of a wave of enthusiasm for folk-rock music, both nationally and locally. It was one of those fantastic cases of right band at the right time – we were part of ‘a scene’.

The Levellers were of course important, but the band that really got the Brighton scene going were McDermotts’ Two Hours in the mid to late ‘80s.

We were playing to capacity houses by our 8th gig. A great example was playing a support to McDermotts in May at the Old Vic (Ship Street – now an Irish theme pub) to a 300 capacity crowd and then achieving that as headliners at the same venue 4 weeks later and again at The Pavilion Theatre a fortnight after that.

We also played a support gig to Ozric Tentacles early that year – we did a good job of supporting a band at the top of their game, it was a brilliant evening.  

Such rapid progress pulled others into the bands’ entourage. We had the lovely Stan and Matt as our roadies. Stan did a veg round and early gigs we were picked up in his van still with veg in the back. Plus partners were doing getting involved in promotion and photography.

Song writing was also a joy in 1990 and 1991, with great collaborative efforts going on. I vividly recall the writing session for the song Landlord. It was at my house and Martin had the lyrics and a melody in his head but his guitar skills at the time were not good enough to articulate the chords.

Chris and I coaxed the chords out around Martin’s melody and we heard it taking shape….and knew that it was a classic in the making. It was a real crowd pleaser, the audience would join in with that killer line ‘At 6 in the morning you kick down my door’

https://soundcloud.com/altogether-elsewhere/simple-bond-ep-1991-landlord

The downside with the early success of AE, was the expectation this would be the norm. As any long serving band will tell you, there is a lot of hard work behind the scenes and a lot of trust between those involved to keep a band fresh and sustained. AE didn’t have the stamina for that. As Steve says in his Biog, the mixture of part-timers with day jobs and those signing on made discussions about where the band was heading really tricky.

We were creating some really interesting music near the end and some of these tracks were caught in rehearsal and can be found on the Soundcloud site. Here is just one example:

https://soundcloud.com/altogether-elsewhere/rehearsal-archive-shame-on-you

In early 1993 we received a letter from the lovely Richard Allen of Delerium Records suggesting that if we get our new material together then an album deal could be in the offing. That such good news could turn out to be the nail in the coffin for AE was typical of the poor relationships by 1993. Just discussions about who should play on what and what tracks should be chosen ended in bitter argument.

However, my overall recollection is of fantastic times and life changing experiences – in short I loved it!

© 2021 by Orange Sky