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Marvelous Kid

 
 

Years active:

1970-75

 
 

Location:

St Austell & London

 

 
 

Band Members:

Members (Cornwall)

Steve Betts – Keyboards & Vocals
Tony Coxon – Guitar
Paul Moon – Drums
Nigel ‘Spike’ Hooper – Tenor sax & bass guitar

Members (London)

Steve Betts – Keyboards & Vocals
Tony Coxon – Guitar
Paul Moon – Drums
Frank Artes – Bass guitar & vocals
Ivor Carroll – Tenor sax & flute - later replaced by
Pete Davey – Tenor and alto sax, flute


 
     
 


Written by Tony Coxon, with help from Phil Mears, Frank Artes

Tony Coxon

Beginnings

Paul & I had played together previously in Bent Cement. While I went to London with Joseph in 1969, Paul had played with a local band who had been more commercial than Bent Cement and thus gigged more regularly. When I returned to Cornwall in December 1969, Paul came round to see me to propose yet another band, but this time playing songs that people could dance to, but at the same time not selling out to commercialism. At this time there was a lot of new music coming through which we felt might meet this goal.

Ideally we needed a singer and a bass guitar and I wanted to work again with a keyboards player. After working with Dave Bassett in Dissatisfied/Jason’s Mind I knew this gave the guitarist more freedom to experiment. So we advertised in the Cornish Guardian.

What we got was a response from Steve who was then in the 6th Form at St Austell Grammar. He lived in Margaret Avenue, and Paul & I went to see him. His bedroom contained a piano and a Thomas organ. Steve knew of us and had been to see us in Bent Cement. We quickly found that we shared similar musical tastes and humour.

We never found a singer or a bass player but it didn’t matter because Steve was a great singer, and was also able to provide bass using the organ pedals. Although ours was an unusual line-up, a favourite band at that time was Terry Reid’s Fantasia – another trio who also had no bass player and used the organ pedals. Thanks to the understanding and support of Steve’s parents (and perhaps because they went out a lot) we rehearsed in Steve’s bedroom and put together enough songs to be able to get out to audiences.

We needed a name and Steve came up with Marvelous Kid. This was a minor character in some Rudyard Kipling story. Originally spelt with one ‘l’ most articles/adverts show it spelt with two.

First gigs

All our rehearsing had been in Steve’s bedroom and we now needed to perform in a hall. So we arranged a trial gig at Fowey Holiday Village inviting just friends along. This went smoothly enough and soon we were gigging. Pete Bawden’s Eclipse agency in Truro helped with some bookings.

Although our original intent was to be a bit more danceable, we developed our own style covering bands like Terry Reid’s Fantasia. The music was exciting, and we experimented often just seeing where it took us. We were listening to John Peels radio show, buying LP’s by scores of ’progressive’ bands and seeing many of them particularly at the Van Dyke Club, Plymouth (favourites included Yes, King Crimson, the Nice, Free, Family, Jethro Tull, Genesis, Soft Machine, Fairport Convention).

Early songs/covers included:
Born To Be Wild – widely covered by bands at the time
Superlungs – Terry Reid
Marking Time – Terry Reid
Speak Now or Forever Hold Your Peace – Terry Reid
Man of the World – Fleetwood Mac
Season of the Witch -
25 or 6 to Four - Chicago
I’m A Man – Chicago
Sleeping For Years – Atomic Rooster
*Karelia Suite – Sibelius

*Karelia Suite
A rock version of Sibelius’ Karelia Suite was initially a Nice (Keith Emerson) idea. We tried it out and it quickly became a huge crowd pleaser. We elongated it by adding various snippets in the middle – B. Bumbles & The Stingers ‘Nut Rocker’, a C&W guitar solo, some music from 2001. It became so popular that we usually ended with it. Although we focused on playing our own compositions when we moved to London, from time to time we resurrected Karelia and it retained its popularity and effect.

Early photos

Camborne School of Mines 1970

(the guy with the real long hair is a DJ but looks as if he’s enjoying the music).

Poltair School St Austell

Paul – there are several photos of Paul and Steve banging away at percussion.

Live at PJ's, Truro

The Bath Festival of Blues & Progressive Music – June 1970

To understand what was happening and the influences of the time musically & socially I mention this festival. This was perhaps the biggest festival so far in the UK. The line up of bands for this 3 day event was quite incredible – Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, Coloseum, John Mayall, Fairport Convention, Jefferson Airplane, Hot Tuna, Flock, the Byrds, Dr John, Santana, Frank Zappa, Country Joe, Canned Heat etc etc. I was recently pleasantly surprised to discover a site which is documenting the festival - http://www.ukrockfestivals.com/bA1.html

Take a look at the full line up of artists, there are plenty of photos which show the sheer scale of the event. Several of us went up to Bath by van pitching a couple of tents and from time to time going to catch some sleep. I can remember the vastness of the crowd and sitting in one spot for 12 hours. I must have slept through some acts as I do not remember Floyd and have hazy memories overall. My most enduring memory was the last night. The weather was bad and because of the rain and electric shocks Jefferson Airplane cut short their set. Then at about 02:00 the Byrds went on to play an acoustic set. I wasn’t particularly a Byrds fan but they were magical. I worked my way to the side of the stage and at 04:00 was still watching Roger McGuinn etc. After several encores they were followed by Dr John. At this point I crawled away to get some sleep.

Spike on bass

Steve & Spike Xmas 1970

Nigel ‘Spike’Hooper

For a short while MK was a trio and then Spike joined us. Spike was one of the greatest musicians that Cornwall ever produced. He was a few years older than us and was a hugely talented musician playing guitar, bass, sax. He often worked with jazz combos in the St Austell & Newquay areas, and had also played with the Individuals and Soul Society. At one of the Camborne gigs we did he was also booked to play with a jazz band. My recollection is that he already had heard us play and wrote some arrangements for the horn section so their band could join MK on stage and do a few numbers like Chicago’s 25 or 6 to 4 (which we were already doing as a trio with extended soloing).

Spike’s sax gave Marvelous Kid another dimension. We started introducing Traffic songs like ‘Glad’ and ‘Freedom Rider’. Where sax didn’t fit, Spike would play bass.Spike is remembered as an exceptional musician. He also experimented with electronics and developed an early effects box with different wave forms. He made one for me – I think this happened after the band had moved to London. It was difficult to use live but I did end up using it on one of Steve’s songs in ‘Berlin’.

Our own compositions

Even quite early on we started writing. One of Steve’s earliest songs was I’ve Lost My Trousers Again (something to do with launderettes). He also wrote the Three Piece Suite for Four and an instrumental called Space Junk Boogie. I followed suit by writing One For Sebastian and Concerning Clowns. Later, when we decided to take Marvelous Kid to London, we would focus on playing only our own compositions.

The Yardley/Laney Competition

Sometime in 1971/2 Yardleys & Laney ran a competition to find the best band in the South West. First prize was a Laney PA system and a recording test with Decca in London. By this time we were writing some of our own material. We entered and won the Cornish heat at Truro City Hall(?) playing One for Sebastian & Concerning Clowns. The finals were held in the Continental Hotel, Plymouth and we repeated the same pieces and won the competition.

The recording test was duly arranged and we drove to London staying in a flat on Clapham Common North Side owned by Frances & Steve Matta, friends from Tywardreath, Cornwall. (Some years later I would end up living in that flat for some months). The Decca studios were on the Embankment. I remember it seemed very quiet and it wasn’t very ‘rock n roll’. There were photographs of Decca stars like Frank Ifield and Matt Munro on the wall. We did the recording, can’t remember what happened to it, but there was no record deal – no surprise there. But we ended up with a free PA system and more publicity.

The picture below was taken at the Grand Finals at the Continental Hotel, Plymouth when we re-played one of the songs after being announced as winners.

Paul, Pete Bawden & Tony at Valley Farm


Glastonbury Fayre - June 1971

Nowadays most people associate Glastonbury with the annual ‘pop’ festival. However, the 1st Fair (or Fayre) happened in June 1971 and it was a hippy festival run by hippies. As I recall there were no tickets and most things were free. In Cornwall we had heard rumours of the festival and reports that some of our favourite bands might turn up. We decided to pack the van and drive up to be part of it and to see if we could get a chance to play.

As we got closer there were more and more people converging on the site – it all seemed a bit like Woodstock! If you want to get some idea of what this festival was like look on YouTube.

This is what I remember tho I can’t say it’s totally accurate. At one end of the largest field what became known as the Pyramid stage was still in the process of being built. This field was populated by a large number of tents including larger tents where you could get brown rice. I think we lived on brown rice the next few days.We parked the van close to the stage. Nothing musical was yet happening. Our manager, Pete Bowman went off to the farm to see if he could hurry up the stage completion. When he came back he told us to go off and be ready to play in a day or two. I can remember sleeping in a tent and being awake most nights due to the incessant drumming from tents further up the field.

Unfortunately we had gigs looming up back in Cornwall so could not afford to wait until the stage was sorted. Eventually Pete told us we were going to play in front of the stage around 3 o’clock. And so it came to pass. We played a 2 hour set to the assembled crowd and that was that. Luckily we have a few pictures and some newspaper clippings.

We either left that night or the next day, but which name bands would play was still unclear. As it happened, Traffic, Terry Reid, Melanie, Pink Floyd, Gong and others all played later. It was a great shame to have missed that. There is some great footage of Terry Reid on YouTube with David Lindley on slide.

The photos above were taken during and after our set in front of the incomplete Pyramid stage. After we finished Steve & Spike joined in a long meandering jam with a few of the audience!

After getting back to Cornwall, the following weekend we were again playing open air in St Austell – photos below. A slightly smaller audience…….

Transport

To start with we would hire local vans (Cox’s?) for gigs and Paul would drive. After some time Gary Littlejohns supplied a van and handled the transport. Gary was superseded by Pete Bowman who would then become our manager when we moved to London.

Where we played (gigs we can remember!)
Blue Shark Club Looe
Blue Lagoon, Newquay – Sat March 27th with Onyx
Bodmin Gaol
Camborne School of Mines
Chequers, Carharrack
Dobwalls Village Hall
Doublestiles, Newquay – Sat 6th?
Exeter University (support for Pink Fairies)
Flamingo, Redruth
Fowey Yacht Club
Fowey Town Hall – Fri Sep 18th
Glastonbury Fayre June 1971 – see photos and newspaper cuttings
Godolphin Hall, Helston – 24.07.1971?
Gorran ‘Summer Madness’ Festival 02.08.1970
Hayle Rugby Club
Mullion Village Hall
Old Barn Club Penzance
Old Mill, Boscastle
Perranporth Memorial Hall – 14.11.1970
PJ's, Truro - June 13th 1970 billed as “debut of new super group”
05.09.1970, 24.12.1970, 12.05.1971
Polgooth Valley Farm - Marquee Madness – 05.08.1971 organized with Pete Bawden

Poltair School – St Austell 01.07.70
Portscatho Village Hall
Quay Club (?) Exeter
RAF Culdrose
Rolle College, Exmouth
Rosehill Country Club (Trebetherick)
Room at the Top (Redruth)
St Austell YC
St Mabyn Penwine Farm – 06.08.1971
The Garden, Penzance - various gigs inc. headlining + supporting the Equals, The Edgar Broughton
Band, Hawkwind and The Groundhogs
Threemilestone Village Hall
Tintagel Social Hall – Sat July 17th
Truro City Hall – 31.05.1971 with Stackridge
Wadebridge Town Hall 23.07.1970
St Austell outdoor gig near the library/leisure centre following appearance at Glastonbury Fayre
(1971)
Van Dyke Club - Plymouth (recalled by Phil)

Extras

One of the things about MK was that various friends became involved and were almost part of the band. It was a bit of an extended family. Often setting off for a gig there were various vehicles – many of these friends helped with the tedious and laborious business of carrying equipment often up steep flights of stairs. This was the most unglamorous part of playing in a band, and we were grateful for the help. After gigs often involved long trips home, maybe ending up at someone’s house before we parted. Here are a few who deserve mention:

Phil Mears – Phil seemed to have been helping out as roadie from Bent Cement days onwards. It would have been unusual to do a gig in Cornwall without him. Not only carrying & organizing the unloading and reloading, he could set up the gear and organize a sound check. I can remember if he thought we were sounding bad when we were playing, he’d walk in front us blowing a raspberry.

Martin ‘Bert’ Zimber – I’m glad to see Martin still singing and playing over in Canada.

Rob Bacon – later played drums for Berlin.

Mike Shepherd – who started the Kneehigh Theatre - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kneehigh_Theatre

Peter Bowman - roadie, driver, manager and long time friend!

Richard Hubbard - as well as his involvement with the band in Cornwall, Richard moved to the Marlow area when we had moved to Walton. He spent a lot of time with us, coming to gigs, and was also responsible for the recordings made at the 2 live gigs. He may also have been responsible for the Beech Close tapes. (Perhaps Richard has the masters!!)

Bert & Richard in Truro

I’m not sure when MK ended the first time, possibly early 1972. There were various reasons for the split. We had been playing about 2 years, and had developed our own music, won the West Country Laney competition, played Glastonbury etc, but I think we came to a temporary halt with no definite plan or way forward. By this time Steve had finished A levels and wanted to try something new in London. He auditioned as a singer for an east London band called Granny and went off to London whilst Paul I teamed up to try something new with a band we called Badger. Spike went back to his various jazz ventures.

However, during the Badger/Granny time we all kept in touch. Steve came back to St Austell from time to time, and on one occasion Paul & I went up to London to see Granny, and even played as a trio with Steve during a Granny gig.

Eventually the three of us decided what we really wanted to do is keep Marvelous Kid going. It seemed if we were to progress we would need to move the band to London with the intention of getting a record contract. Our plan was to write enough material so that we could start playing gigs relying only on our own compositions. Unfortunately it was impossible for Spike to come with us as he was married with 2 small children. This meant we would need 2 new members, a full-time bass guitarist and a sax player.

Preparing for move to London

By 1972 Paul was living in a secluded cottage at the end of a lane in Milltown, near Fowey, with girlfriend Lynn Dickinson. With Badger we would have rehearsed here. When we reformed Marvelous Kid we rehearsed and spent most of our spare time here. It was an idyllic spot and we were able to play as loud as we liked without annoying any neighbours.

We placed adverts in the Melody Maker to find a bass player and a sax player. Quickly we found Frank Artés who had been playing bass in the Exeter area for some years, and Ivor Carroll who originated from Ireland and had spent many years playing in the USA. He had also studied with sax player Sonny Rollins while living in New York City. Frank & Ivor both moved into the Milltown cottage, and we started to write and rehearse more new material.

New songs at this time were:

The John and Valerie Music (Betts)
Katherine (Betts)
After The Race (Coxon)
Cowboys Who Ride At Night (Coxon/Betts)
Nickelodeon Queen (Coxon)
Instructions for Travellers – Suite (Coxon/Betts).

Before moving to London we decided to record as much material as possible so that our manager, Pete Bowman, could take tapes to record companies in the search for a contract. Ivor had a brother (Darcy) in Dublin who worked for the Eamon Andrews Studios and we arranged a visit to Dublin. So, in a transit van jammed full of gear and the whole band + Lynn we set off and caught a ferry from Holyhead to Dun Loaghaire just outside Dublin. Ivor’s family lived in a bungalow just outside the city and Steve, Frank & I were relegated to a tent in the garden. I think there was space for everyone else in the bungalow. We were there for a week and had a great time. We would normally go out each evening to a bar or club to hear live music.

Ivor introduced us to the great Irish jazz guitarist Louis Stewart. Ivor was really well known and thanks to that I think we English were tolerated. It may have helped that we were Cornish – fellow Celts. We even played an impromptu Space Junk Boogie at one of the clubs (Slattery’s Pub). At the end of each evening we would drive to the Studio and record through the night, not usually emerging until dawn. We’d then go back and sleep until lunchtime. At the end of the week we drove south to Rosslare to catch the ferry back to Fishgard in South Wales and thence to Cornwall. We came away with recordings, which were then converted to cassette.

Ivor, Frank & Steve emerging at dawn from the studio

The band.plus Lynn and Pete Bowman about to leave Dublin for journey back to Cornwall

For some time we toyed with a change of name and came up with A Day At The Seaside. Before the London move we tried a couple of gigs under that name to try out the new material (St Austell Arts Club and Portscatho). We then discarded the name and reverted to Marvelous Kid.

St Austell Film Theatre, billed as 'A Day at the Seaside'

In preparation for the band moving to London, Pete Bowman moved first and found a room in the Hammersmith area. Pete proceeded by visiting agencies & record labels armed with the Dublin tapes. I think this started to happen late 1973.Paul & Lynn then stayed on a houseboat in Richmond with Lynn’s brother Andy (who later did some roadying for us). They found a house to rent in Walton-on-Thames in Gainsborough Court, and the band left Cornwall and settled in. During this time we rehearsed at a pub in Staines usually weekly. When we first moved Pete had found us a week’s residence at a north London club called the Howff in Chalk Farm. Pete later managed the club. This was a good start but after Cornwall we found it more difficult to get gigs despite Pete’s best efforts.

Beech Close

After a short time at Gainsborough Court we found a much better & more suitable detached house in Beech Close. This is where we lived right up to the band split. Being detached we were able to rehearse there. We set up the gear in the main living room and did our best to soundproof with thick curtains etc. I’m sure neighbours would have heard but don’t recall any problems. Living together meant we could play whenever we felt like it, and try new material. It was a great house and was host to various friends over that period. The landlord had no idea we were there and we had to lie low whenever he was due to visit, and thankfully he never entered the house.

Outside Beech Close

Whilst we were still at Gainsborough Court we parted company with Ivor, who went on to play as part of the pit orchestra for the West End production of the Rocky Horror Show. We then advertised in the Melody Maker for a new sax player and Pete Davey joined us. Pete was a terrific sax player and had done some session work with the band Patto. He would play two saxes at the same time, and also played flute. He composed Ants for the band.

 

In 1974 I bought a 1958 Gibson Les Paul for £400. Unfortunately it was stolen in 1980.


Where we played

Most gigs were in London or Surrey.
The Howff – Chalk Farm
The Greyhound – Fulham Palace Road – a great venue where we played many times
The Windsor Castle – Harrow Road
The Marquee – Wardour Street – only 1 gig where we shared billing with the French band Ange on July 12, 1974 (although we aren’t listed on the Marquee calendar) see http://www.themarqueeclub.net/1974

South Bank Polytechnic – 2 or 3 times, once with The Groundhogs
Guildford University – multiple times (once with Fusion Orchestra and again with Barclay James Harvest)
Bottleneck Club, Star, Guildford
Southampton University
Guildford Civic Hall – support to Argent concert (the first..and last time someone asked for my [Frank] autograph)
Mershsam, Surrey – Village Hall & The Railway Inn
Weybridge?

This doesn’t seem like many gigs – there may have been other venues…. Whenever we had a gig we would be on the phone to various A&R and record companies to try and get them to come along. The main objective was of course to get a record contract. It was a frustrating experience.

Weybridge

Live at The Greyhound

Live at the Marquee Club, London. 1974

Guildford University. 1975

Students' Bar, South Bank Poly. c1975

Songs

Our performances were all our own material in London. We wrote more material and gradually dropped some of earlier pieces from live performance. New pieces were:

Clench (Betts)
Don’t Speak with Your Mouthful (Betts)
Oedipus Wrecks (Betts)
Ants (Davey)
Immanuel’s Manual (Coxon)

Generally most were lengthy – not uncommon at that time. Immanuel’s Manual could last up to 20 minutes live.

Fragmented memories

At some point Pete Bowman became acquainted with David Cross, violin player with King Crimson. There was some talk of him joining us and he came to one of the South Bank gigs. This didn’t happen however. I can also remember having a telephone call with Robert Fripp who at that time was setting up some new method of playing guitar, which meant discarding everything you knew. It all sounded very odd to me but it was an interesting call.

Frank recalls:

I remember one gig where a rep from a well-known record company (can’t remember which one) had come to hear us. He sat by himself reading a newspaper during our set, which eventually fell apart because a large dog (God knows where it came from) started running across the stage and barking. Steve got really upset and stopped whatever song we were playing and stomped off stage shouting out “I didn’t want to be a rock star anyway.”

Not sure if this was the Howff, but we were playing a week-long gig at a dinner club/pub (somewhere near Regents Park I think) and we arrived one evening to find the doors locked because a Playboy-type photo shoot was happening inside. Bowman eventually convinced the photo director to let us in and we found the girls (all naked) on stage sitting at Paul’s drum kit, Steve’s keyboard, and standing at the mics pretending to sing. We ended up playing a couple of songs while the girls stood at the mics miming the tunes. I remember they all grabbed fur coats which they put on after they got off stage. I bought the magazine a few months later to see the photo spread, the girls and our gear were there…but not us.

We also entered a competition for either MM or NME? and played just one composition. I think we went under the name “Synergy”, (or was that the name of the song) which the compare pronounce “sniggery”, the idiot. We were up against a very good band called Charlie and the Wide Boys, who ended up winning the competition. I have no idea what the prize was.

Audio recordings

The audio recordings below are the best so far salvaged from mainly old cassette tapes which were copied from originals 40 years ago. Some of the recordings are not really in a fit state and have not been included here. We hope some may yet be restored, or better still, hope that the original masters will turn up.

The 3 songs from the Dublin tapes are the best quality as they were converted from open reel copies.

The 2 live gigs and the Beech Close tapes were recorded on inexpensive machine with a single microphone.

The Dublin Tapes. 1973

 

Nickelodeon Queen  

 

Instructions For Travellers (Suite)

 

Space Junk Boogie

 

The BBC Session – probably 1974

There are 2 takes of Ants and 1 of John & Valerie Music. No idea what happened to the masters.

 

 Ants

 

John & Valerie Music

 

The Beech Close tapes – 1974-75

Recorded on domestic equipment in the house.

 

Don't Speak With Your Mouthful

 

Immanuel's Manual

 

Live at Mersham 21.06.1975

Recorded on the same domestic equipment.

 

Live at The Railway Inn 13.09.1975

The last gig.

 

 

The End

By the summer of 1975 it was increasingly difficult to find gigs. In August Steve and I took 3 weeks out, went over to Paris and hitched from Paris to Corsica and back. By the time we came back we had all decided to bring an end to the band. We played our final gig at the Railway Inn in September.

Final Gig. Railway Inn, 13 September 1975

 

With thanks to Tony Coxon

Tony now plays with his new band Life Without Roger, more information can be found on their facebook page - here

Steve Betts is still playing and his music can be heard - here

 

Tony's post MK band Berlin, 1976. Promo shot taken at their flat in Earls Court

 

 
 

 

 
 

Links to other bands:

Tony Coxon played with Intruders, Dissatisfied, Bent Cement, Joseph, Badger, Berlin
Paul Moon played with Bent Cement, Badger, The Books
Spike Hooper played with The Individuals, Soul Society and many others
Frank Artés played with Berlin, now lives in Canada & plays with the band Timeline
Steve Betts played with Granny, Berlin, The Books and others

 
     
Did you play in this band? If so please get in touch!
 
 
     

 

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