My musical ‘career’ began in June, 1955, when I joined St. Peter’s church choir in Bexhill as a treble and we would have two practises per week and sing at three services every Sunday. By December, 1959, I had worked my way up through the ranks to become head boy, by which time our choir was described as being of cathedral standard. I cannot think of a better way of learning all the intricacies of harmony singing, something which has been very important to me in my musical career. In November, 1961, I was taught to ring on the 8 bells at St/ Peter’s, an art which I still greatly enjoy today, although my ringing is now based in Hastings. ‘Pop’ music passed me by until I heard DEL SHANNON’s ‘Runaway’ in the summer of 1961 and, by the time his second single, ‘Hats off to Larry’, was released early the following year, I was hooked. Of course, I loved THE BEATLES, but when Mum and Dad began liking them too, THE ROLLING STONES became my favourite band. It was not The Stones, but another London group that was to change my life so completely: THE WHO. I had never seen anything so loud and exciting in my life and when I saw Keith Moon playing drums in his wild, unique style, from nowhere, I wanted to be a drummer like him.
In early 1966, for £20 (borrowed from my parents) I bought a small Gigster drum kit and, soon afterwards, fellow Bexhill Youth Club member, Steve Miles on guitar and vocals and I formed a 2-piece group called THE SOUNDS OF SILENCE. On the few gigs that we did, we went down extremely well, but my first ‘proper’ group was to be THE PROHIBITION, with Frank Isted on lead guitar, Roger Crerie on rhythm guitar and my fellow chorister, David Laffar on vocals. David Laffard didn’t last long with us and, eventually, Dave Levett from St. Leonards became our much needed bass player. We worked regularly every weekend, but Frank became bored after 9 months, so we disbanded and I became the drummer with THE MONE, with Dave Neale on lead guitar/vocals and Philip Earle on bass guitar/vocals. We played heavy rock covers, but not that many gigs, after which I went back with Franck Isted to form ‘Rael’, a pop harmony group with Dave Austin on bass guitar/vocals. Again, we had plenty of work, but Frank Isted lost interest after 9 months and I became part of another heavy rock trio in 1969 called ROCK MUSEUM with Terry Corder on bass guitar/vocals and Dave Gurr on lead guitar/vocals. Tony Carr joined us on lead vocals, but I was never happy with his contribution and in the spring of 1970, I arranged for Andy and Tony Qunta, Geoff Peckham and I to have a try-out at my normal rehearsal hall in Bexhill. The outcome of this was the formation of FACTORY.
Being away gigging so much, I had to leave St Peter’s church choir in the mid-1970s as I was unable to attend practises and a lot of new material was being learnt. This was not the case with my bell ringing and I continue this art to this day.
After my unexpected and sudden departure from FACTORY in the summer of 1976, I was band-less for several months until Tel Corder (bassist from my ROCK MUSEUM days) asked if I might be interested in joining a slightly heavy pop harmony band with him and vocalist, Tony Brookes. With the other musicians not being dedicated enough to want to get on, Tel and I later formed was intended to be a heavy 60’s band. On guitar, we had former keyboard player from STALLION, Phil Thornton, who I remember had played guitar earlier in his career, and on lead vocals was Kevin Williams from Rye. Called DIE LAUGHING, we performed our first gig at Scamps, Norwich, in July 1977, after which we regularly played at several of my old FACTORY haunts, but after a 17 day residency at The PN Club in Munich, Phil Thornton resigned at the beginning of October that year. His replacement on guitar/vocals was Mick Mepham and, after Kevin Williams left us in June, 1978, as our music was getting too heavy for him, we became the definitive 3-piece DIE LAUGHING that most people remember. Tel and Mick were now writing most of our material but one cover, which we became quite famous for, was GOLDEN EARINGS’ ‘Radar Love’, our rendition being an extended version of their album recording. In the summer of 1979, we entered the Melody Maker Rock Contest and, much to our surprise, we made it through to the finals, but with our lack of management and direction, we did not benefit from this success.
Mick Mepham was asked to leave at the end of October, 1981 and his replacement was Dick Parkhouse on guitar. He didn’t like to sing, so we took on his friend, Gary Broughton on lead vocals. We immediately changed our name to FOKKER TRIPLANE, but Gary left us in June, 1982, so that we were back to being a 3-piece and reverted back to being called DIE LAUGHING in January, 1983. When Dick left in February, 1984, Dave Wood took his place on guitar, but he only stayed with us for six months, when Mick Mepham kindly came back to help us. It was good to have the ‘real’ DIE LAUGHING working again, but it didn’t last long as, 4 months later, Tel Corder said he’d had enough as we had so little work and we weren’t’ getting anywhere. He was right, of course, and we played our last gig at The York, Bexhill on 15th December, 1984. We did later reform to play successful reunion gigs in Hastings in January, 1989, June, 1988 and July, 1999.
I then ‘banged my head against a brick wall’ for 9 months trying to form what should have been a very nice 3-piece rock band, with Dave Wood on guitar and Bill Balkham (from Hastings) on bass. We were called AFFAIRS OF THE HEART and we first rehearsed in January, 1985, but we only appeared in public the once, playing just 4 songs in the downstairs bar at The Carlisle, Hastings on 28th August with a different bassist. We just fizzled out in September that year.
For the last 6 months, or so, of DIE LAUGHING, Tel Corder had arranged for me to help out with him in the Hastings’ country and western/60’s band, The ALAMO, fronted by Bob Smith. This was a very strange experience, playing rather quietly (how are the mighty fallen?) but something I found difficult to get used to to begin with, was the receipt of wages at the end of every gig. After suggesting to Tel one night, that we formed our own 60’s band, The 6Ts were born with Bruce Cameron on lead vocals, Dick Parkhouse on guitar, Tel Corder on bass and me on drums. We performed our first gig on 30th August, 1986, but Dick left us in November, 1987, to be replaced by none other than our old buddy, Mick Mepham. Bruce left just 2 months later and there we were, a sixties version of DIE LAUGHING. All went well until Mick decided he didn’t like being regarded as “musical wallpaper” on some gigs, so he left us in February, 1990; Andy Leaney took over on guitar. He went his own way at the end of May, 1993 and Harry Randall took his place and he has now clocked up 22 years with us. We are still going strong 29 years on, not bad for a band that we didn’t think would last more than 5 minutes!
Laurie Cooksey, February, 2016.
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