Back in 1972, a band called Blackfoot Sue scored a top 5 hit in Britain with Standing In The Road, and then followed it up with Sing Don't Speak, which made it to number 36, though further chart success eluded them.

Blackfoot Sue - Standing In The Road - 1972 However, they were far more than "two hit wonders", as anyone who has ever seen them perform on stage will readily attest.

They suffered unfairly from comparisons with their contemporaries Slade, due to the stomping rhythms and percussive style of their singles, and found themselves uneasily poised between the singles and album markets (which, in the early seventies, were entirely separate entities - serious bands made albums, whereas lightweight pop acts made chart singles), carving out a successful niche in neither, despite firmly establishing themselves on the British touring circuit as a popular and dynamic live act.

They have perservered for many years through any number of set-backs, musical detours, reinventions and relatively few line-up changes, emerging with both their credibility and their legendary wit intact.
The Blackfoot Sue story began in their native Birmingham, in the early sixties, when identical twin brothers Tom and David Farmer met Eddie Golga in a 2-a-side football game in a local park. As Eddie recalled of that fateful day, "I’d never seen them around before." After the match, the conversation inevidably turned to music, which was a passion for all three, and the twins proudly invited Eddie around to view their prize possession, an electric guitar! Becoming good friends, they decided to form a band. However, at the time, as they recalled, "nobody could play an instrument, and everybody wanted to play lead guitar".
The Virus Once they had sorted out who was playing what (and Eddie was ultimately the one who ended up on lead guitar), they and another fellow named Phil Smith set about the important task of actually acquiring instruments and learning how to play them.

The Farmer brothers had a minor set-back at this point, when their mother, needing some capital in a hurry, sold their treasured guitar, and so David settled on playing the drums (having spent much time belting on the guitar case, and pots and pans, with his mother's knitting needles!), and Tom elected to go for the bass guitar.

Next came the all important decision - what to call their fledgling band! Early choices were Google Eyes and Pack, but the first act to hit the road went by the name of The Virus. The foursome could be found diligently rehearsing every Friday night at Shard End Boys' Club.
 In The Beginning: The Virus
The band were not slow to pick up engagements around the local area, receiving enthusiastic write-ups in all their local newspapers. No-one can quite remember the exact wording any more, but this early incarnation of the band had a slogan which roughly ran, "Come and see them play, but don't get too close - they're catching." Transportation, publicity, bookings and everything else were handled by Tom Farmer Senior, the twins' father, an enthusiastic supporter of the band.
Somewhere along the way, The Virus mutated into Gift, and the flyers for the "the young and talented Kingshurst beat group", as the local papers put it, made an even grander boast: "God's GIFT to the nation!" they boldly proclaimed. History records that they were finalists in the Scene 66 Group of the Year Contest, but not whether they won. They were regulars at the local youth club, St Barnabas', on Meriden Drive in Kingshurst, in the late sixties, and in fact regularly played all over Birmingham and the Black Country.
Gift drumhead
Before too long, however, Phil quit the group, due to the conflicting demands on his time, as per the age old musician's dilemma. His girlfriend was unhappy he was spending time with the band he could have been spending with her, and so the search was on for a replacement guitarist.

Into the breach stepped Alan Jones, already a veteran of the local music scene at the age of sixteen. At the time, he was already playing lead guitar in another band, The Zanties, but he was less than happy with the situation. The other members were all in their twenties and thirties, with wives, children and other commitments which left them less focused on the music than he would have liked. Hearing about the vacancy in Gift from a friend, he went along to audition, and they immediately clicked (despite the language barrier! Initially at least, Alan's Black Country accent sometimes made it difficult for the others to understand him).

After some deliberation amongst the band, the twins came to visit Alan at home between Christmas and New Year 1966-67, while he was laid up convalescing from jaundice. He was officially in. For his part, Alan was utterly delighted to find himself with a bunch of like-minded guys of his own age, seriously determined to make it. So it was that Jones replaced Smith, and the clincher was undoubtedly that Alan was just as much of a die-hard Aston Villa supporter as the others!

Thus the definitive band line-up became:   Tom Farmer  (bass, lead vocals)
 David Farmer  (drums, vocals)
 Eddie Golga  (lead guitar, vocals)
 Alan Jones  (guitar, vocals)
Blackfoot Sue - first publicity shot
Gift - the first publicity shot, with new member Alan Jones
Even before six months had passed, the band had turned pro, though Tom, David and Eddie were still obliged to attend school, having not yet reached the minimum leaving age.

Right from the start, all four members of the band sang, with Tom taking lead vocals. As he explained, "I can’t sing harmonies very well. So, I opt to sing most of the lead parts, simply because my voice is harsh, and we've discovered that the other three blend together better." The resulting rich harmonies became a distinctive feature of their sound. Despite the slight rasp in Tom's voice, twin David's voice is so similar that, to this day, the brothers have the utterly enviable ability to sound as if they are a single singer multi-tracked, with David typically taking the higher part.

While playing at The Cedar Club in Constitution Hill, one of Birmingham's premier music venues, Gift were often joined on stage by a tall, lanky blond guy on harmonica, who tried to convince the band to go with him to London and try their chances. However, they felt they were too young and inexperienced for this major career move - one that might have changed British music history - because that 'tall, lanky blond guy' was none other than one Robert Plant!

This didn't mean that they weren't deadly serious about making it in the music business. At Tom and David’s school, with growing concern about the general scruffiness of the student population in the era when boys were first beginning to grow their hair long, the headmaster called a special assembly. His message was very clear - all students were to smarten up their act, cut their hair and wear the school uniform, with the exception of the Farmer twins, who were forbidden to wear the school uniform and badge anywhere near the school grounds! Aware of their intention to quit school at the end of the year and pursue their music career, he displayed remarkable enlightenment.
However, things were not nearly so convivial at Eddie's school. The wanna-be rock guitarist and actual straight-A grammar-stream student was summoned to the headmaster's office for a blistering lecture on the folly of exactly what he was throwing away. Despite this, Eddie remained undeterred - he had never wanted to do anything else since first picking up a guitar. The situation was a little easier for Alan. A year or two older than the others, he had already fought, and won, the battle with his parents to leave school and in fact was the only member of the group to hold down a job (albeit the most unexciting task of sewing pockets in a trouser factory!).
the cottage in Hereford
The cottage in Hereford, 1969
Accordingly, in 1969, they left home, school, and job respectively, finding a small cottage in Hereford, on the Welsh border, for the band to live and practice in. It was the perfect opportunity for them to hone their chops in complete isolation, with few distractions and no neighbours to complain about the racket. Unfortunately they weren't making enough from gigging to live on, and times became tough. They would sneak into neighbouring fields with blackened faces in the dead of night to steal potatoes, barely surviving on about one meal every two days, supplemented by the occasional tin of pilfered soup plus trout that their roadie caught in a local stream. They stuck it out for 6 months, but with the onset of winter it became unbearably cold, without any heating or even a bathroom!, and they had to give up and return to Birmingham.

Considerably more confident and polished after their self-imposed exile, it wasn't long before they finally decided to make the big shift to London, renting a pad in Mill Hill. There, alas, their living conditions became even more dire, and they survived mainly on gifts and meals bought for them by girlfriends. However, when they couldn't scrape the money together to pay the rent one too many times, their landlady confiscated some of their microphones. Thus rendered unable to play gigs, they eventually returned home to their parents', flat broke, many pounds lighter, and suffering from severe malnutrition, with Tom even suspected of having TB.
Gift, c.Mill Hill
The first big move to London - Mill Hill
This minor setback was not going to deter them from their dogged path towards fortune and fame. Once they had a few solid home-cooked meals inside them, and they had replaced the missing equipment, they had soon started playing again. Despite the detrimental effect on their health, their musicianship had significantly improved thanks to their sojourn in London, and people couldn't help but notice.

Despite their youth, Gift were regulars on the Birmingham circuit, playing on bills with all the best-known Brummie bands of the time, such as The Move, Idle Race, Trapeze, and Robert Plant’s Band Of Joy. In the latter’s case, Plant would slip them 20 quid for the loan of their far superior P.A. system, something the impoverished band were unlikely to knock back! Birmingham was a hotbed of musical talent, as Eddie related: "There were so many great musicians around the area at that time. The nights that we weren’t gigging, we would always go somewhere to watch a band, and most bands knew each other. It was a really good friendly atmosphere, not competitive at all."

It may not have been competitive, but the sheer number of musicians trying to make it meant that the bar was set very high right from the start. Factoring in the tough breeding ground that was the West Midlands meant that survived was so much the better and stronger for it.

The band's repertoire quite literally expanded from day to day: with the radio playing as they drove from gig to gig, they would pick up new songs on the fly - while Alan and Eddie were figuring out the chords, Tom was memorising the lyrics (though where his memory failed him, his gift of improvisation resulted in a free and easy interpretation of the words, often, so Alan related, resulting in a complete reversal of the original meaning of the song!) By the time they arrived at the venue, they would have fleshed out their own version, and would play it right then and there, with David providing the solid beat on which it all hung together. Songs like The Move's Chinatown were particular favourites, often being played twice during a set: the first time very early in the piece, when there weren’t so many people around, and then again much later when the room had filled up and everyone was so busy having a good time that no-one would even notice the repetition.

Deciding that it was time for another crack at the big city, the band again made the move to London, this time sharing a house in Streatham, but once again, they bottomed out. Unable to make enough to pay the rent and their bills, they beat a strategic retreat back home to Birmingham.

 
 

What kind of life ?
 
 
By this time they were steadily composing their own songs - one of which, Celestial Plain, eventually became the B-side of their first single. The song had been written especially for the BBC Television children’s show, What kind of life ?, produced by Dorothea Brooking and written by John Tully, which went to air in 1971. In fact, the highlight of that freezing winter was the trip back down to London to stay in a B&B for a few weeks while filming took place. The band played themselves in the show, a remarkably prophetic tale about the real-life pitfalls of being in a band versus the apparent glamour, fame and fortune.
It wasn't too long before they had moved back down south, this time basing themselves in Brentford, and now had enough smarts to sign up with London-based booking agent Derek Savage, who ran his business from a tiny office located above a hair-dressing salon in Putney. He offered to pay them a steady £100 a week, promising them that in no time at all they would be playing 7 nights a week. Relieved of the burden of organising their own gigs, all they had to do now was turn up and play, an infinitely more appealing situation. Sure enough, their gig diary was soon full, playing cover versions of popular songs for sometimes eight gigs a week, all over the country, for up to three and a half hours at a time, often with both a matinee and a late show on weekends. It was nothing out of the ordinary to travel 200-300 miles to a gig and then the same distance back home in the early hours of the morning, averaging 1000 miles a week all up. In fact, in one gruelling six month period alone they went through three cars.
The Windsor Castle, Hounslow, 2004
The Windsor Castle, Hounslow, in 2004
The household soon swelled, with the addition of a cat called Blackfoot and three dogs, named Bobby-Socks, Wellington and Boot (what else!), and there was always room for road crew, friends, acquaintances and in fact anyone needing a place to crash for the night. This same generosity was extended to their gigs, where friends were always guests of the band and got in for free. In return, it was considered to be an honour to buy the band members a drink, so that they never went without. It was a similar story with food, as there never seemed to be any shortage of females concerned about how skinny the boys were and determined to fatten them up!

The same was true for their later move to Hounslow, where the household was naturally divided into the "Snobs" and the "Yobs", with neat-and-tidy non-smokers Eddie and David rooming together, while smoking, self-confessed slobs Tom and Alan shared a room. The Yobs somehow also found time, despite their busy gigging schedule, to play for the competition darts team of their local pub, The Windsor Castle (nick-named "the Star Wars pub" by the band, due to the varied and often bizarre nature of the local clientele, including the publican's three-legged dog!). Household responsibilities were shared between all four in turn on those odd occasions when there weren't willing girlfriends around, but the driving was left to David and Eddie - neither Tom nor Alan bothered to get a driving licence for many years.
Gift
Metamorphosis imminent...
After months of this hard slog, Gift got their agency to give them one night a week off. Not, as you might imagine, to take a break, but instead to book themselves a gig under the pseudonym Blackfoot Sioux. Then they were free to play the kind of music they really wanted to - their own original material and covers they personally enjoyed playing (for example, they did a version of Tomorrow's classic My White Bicycle, which they reworded to "My Right Testicle" - an early example of the band’s characteristic wit).

After coming home from a gig, they would unload their gear out of the van and straight away set it back up in their front room, ready for rehearsing and noodling out new song ideas. It was here that Standing In The Road was written, in January 1972, during an extended jam session, based on a rhythm that had come to David in a dream!

They knew at once that they had created something very special, and kept their masterpiece tightly under wraps, waiting for exactly the right moment to unleash it on the world. They did not even dare play it during their gigs, for fear that someone else might steal their idea.
The creation of
Standing In The Road
On Thursdays and Fridays they would always aim to get to the venue early, and use the extra time to rehearse their steadily growing repertoire of original material, but even then they were wary of airing Standing In The Road. Once, just once, they tried it out, opening right up, a magical moment that, as Alan recalled, "made the hair on the back of my neck stand on end," and then Eddie immediately choked it off, because, as he cautioned, "You never know who’s listening."

And people were listening. The band soon came to the attention of United Artists staff producer Noel Walker, who promptly signed them up, and they were assigned to none other than Roy Thomas Baker for their first recording sessions, which included a Philip Goodhand-Tait song ("Jonathan Joe"), along with their own compositions. Despite this immensely promising start to their recording career, the resulting tapes were an unexpected disappointment. However, Walker was still so convinced of the band's potential that he went with them when they left United Artists, becoming both their producer and manager.

He soon got them signed up to the record division of music publisher Dick James Music (DJM), and took them straight back into the studio. This time the outcome was far more successful, with a recording session, fuelled by a crate of champagne, in which they finally captured the essence of their song.
Blackfoot Sue logo Then came the all important decision - under what band name would the record be released? After two weeks' very serious contemplation, they chose to become Blackfoot Sue (rather than Sioux). Another name which they briefly considered was DATE (for David · Alan · Tom · Eddie), but they decided (quite rightly) that it was far too poppy and that the magazines would have a field day with it.
In the meantime, they continued to gig as Gift, waiting for exactly the right moment to unleash Blackfoot Sue on an unsuspecting world.

Amongst the slew of publicity material created for the name change were stickers printed with their new moniker and logo, which they gleefully plastered on all the light poles up and down Hounslow High Street!
Standing In The Road - Blackfoot Sue - JAM13
At last it was all beginning to happen, just as they'd always believed it would.

Standing In The Road was released on June 2, 1972, on DJM's fledgling pop label JAM, and consequently bore the catalogue number JAM 13. As David recorded hopefully in his scrapbook, "Lucky for some?"

Blackfoot Sue on Top Of The Pops, 1972
 First appearance on Top Of The Pops, 10 August 1972
It certainly seemed so. In the very week that they moved from Brentford to Hounslow, Standing In The Road was starting on its run up the charts, though not without a great deal of tireless promotion on the part of the band themselves. Before too long, they were appearing on Top Of The Pops, a dream come true for the eager young band.

(Regretably, it appears that no footage of this episode survives, due to the ill-considered policy of the BBC to wipe and reuse the then relatively expensive 2" recording tape. The same fate was in store for an estimated two out of every three episodes of Top Of The Pops recorded during the era, with 1972 being one of the most ruthlessly pruned years. By a stroke of good fortune however, a filmclip of the song from German TV does exist, which aired in November of that year.)

Though the band were playing the very same venues from one week to the next, with the launch of the single, the name change and their appearance on the hugely influencial television show, there was an extraordinary surge of interest, resulting in gigs literally packed to the rafters, with those unable to squeeze inside crowded onto the pavement outside to listen.

Altogether the band appeared four times on Top Of The Pops, three times performing Standing in the Road in August 1972, and a single appearance performing Sing Don't Speak in early December of that year. Such was their gigging schedule at the time, Tom recalls somewhat bitterly that the band were never able to enjoy any of the perks associated with being on the show, as they had been obliged to rush straight to that evening's gig venue. In particular, as he related, to The Greyhound in Fulham Palace Road, which had been utterly heaving, to the extent that they'd had to battle their way from the dressing room through the hot, sweaty horde to the stage, rather than chilling out in the Green Room with a glass of champagne, as their fellow performers on the TV show were undoubtedly doing at that very moment.
After their television exposure, obligatory pin-ups in all the teen magazines quickly followed. As David recalled, "Tom and I were quite pretty boys, and so young looking we used to paint moustaches on our faces to look more mature!" Though the band were keen to be taken seriously, it was the height of the glam rock era, and they initially allowed themselves to be guided in that direction, despite keeping a determined eye on the serious rock scene (meanwhile penning a sarcastic commentary on the demise of glam called Glittery Obituary).

Most bands can namecheck influential DJ John Peel, and Blackfoot Sue were no exception. David recalled Peel commenting that Standing In The Road was a great rock record, but then he had seen the band on Top Of The Pops and "thought it was a shame about our clothes".
Ready-made pop idols
Eddie, too, felt it was a shame about their clothes, and took matters into his own hands. During filming of the clip for Sing Don't Speak, he created a furore when he turned his back to the camera, revealing bare buttock cheeks through two strategically cut-out holes in the seat of his jeans! He was promptly sent off to change into something more "suitable" before filming could commence once again, and media accounts afterwards made cryptic comments about the band "arsing about" on Top Of The Pops.

Uneasily straddling the pop-rock divide, as they abruptly found themselves doing, meant that they had to please two seperate audiences, with the very real danger that they might well alienate both.
Seeing double
 Seeing Double: the pop journalists
Also diverting attention from the band's music was the media fixation on Tom and David being identical twins. At first they went along with it, adopting matching outfits such as the denim dungerees they wore for their first appearance on Top Of The Pops (complete with a huge 'T' and 'D' emblazoned on their chests). However, they soon tired of the fuss and reasserted their individuality by wearing whatever they felt like, though the magazines were far less willing to let it go, with interviewers constantly requesting to speak to only the twins, and writing articles with twee headlines such as "Seeing Double". Tellingly, those huge initials had been removed from their clothes only a few months later, when they appeared on German television performing Standing In The Road.

They were painfully concious of the "one-hit wonders" label that so many people were surprisingly eager to slap onto them, so they quickly set about writing their next single. Unlike the spontaneous jam which had spawned Standing In The Road, the band deliberately took some time over deconstructing their hit record, with the intention of recreating the magic all over again, focusing on the driving tribal rhythm, riff-driven melody and a vocal line sung an octave apart. Then it was back into the recording studio, and then the nerve-wracking wait when Sing Don't Speak was released to the world. It was sweet vindication indeed when their second single entered the charts in January 1973.

In the meantime, despite continuing their relentless touring around the UK, they would head straight home to rehearse and compose new material, in either the front room of their shared house in Hounslow, or their "tin shed" (not big enough to be considered a garage, nor actually house a car!), which they had attempted to soundproof themselves, while they turned out more songs.
They were so busy making a living by gigging that it took a little while to get down to actually recording enough of those songs for an album, a delay which they belatedly realised was a mistake. People who had never seen them perform live and had bought Standing In The Road because they had heard it on the radio or seen the band on Top Of The Pops had every reason to consider them merely another singles (= pop) band.
Tom Eddie Alan Dave
(Left to right) Tom, Eddie, Alan, David
In the recording studio...
Des, über-roadie
Photos: Steve Orme
Nothing To Hide
Blackfoot Sue's first LP, Nothing To Hide, was eventually released in April 1973, boasting a textured gatefold sleeve with gorgeous front cover artwork (by Anne Meisel), arty portrait photography inside and a full set of lyrics on the back cover.

The album showcased the band's exquisite vocal harmonies and solid musicianship over songs ranging from the whimsical nonsense rhymes of My Oh My to the apocalyptic vision of Messiah and the poignant sadness of On His Own. The final track Gypsy Jam was even recorded live in a single take, as the mikes just happened to be left open while the band were messing around in the studio (with manic laughter at the end supplied by Alan!).

Alan had in fact come up with what was, in that era, a radical suggestion - for that last album track, why not use the band's original, far rockier version of Standing In The Road? However, once again, management prevailed, and the track was omitted. Unfortunately it was not to be the last time the band would be overruled.
detail from the Australian album cover
The Australian release of Nothing To Hide
Australia being one of the many countries in which they had scored a hit with the single, an interesting compromise was made. The album sleeve was cut back from a gatefold to a standard LP sleeve, there were no photos and no lyrics, and the image of "Sue" was clipped and placed on a bright blue background. However, both the A- and B-sides of the single were added, creating a twelve track album, and the words "Featuring 'Standing In The Road' " were added to the front cover.

The band had every reason to think that they were on their way at long last, but they were soon brought crashing back down to earth. Despite its promising start, Sing Don't Speak had stalled in the lower reaches of the charts, and their subsequent singles were ignored due to poor publicity. As Alan explained, "Disc magazine wanted to put us on the centre poster spread, so they went over to DJM and asked for a photo. The secretary said that she didn't have one, then said, 'Oh yes I do', and fished an old, crumpled one out of a pile of trash on her desk."
Strangers - Blackfoot Sue
Blackfoot Sue's second album, Strangers, was recorded in 1974, but disputes with their management meant that its release was postponed indefinitely. (Fortunately, it finally saw release on a US label, Import, in 1977. The cover looked like more of a designer's rough sketch than a finished piece of work, but was intriguing none-the-less. It depicted an alien-like being controlling the band on puppet strings, while a fully-fledged battle raged around the stage, an interesting reflection on the band's situation at the time!)

As prolific as ever, the band had completed many song demos for the album, but their manager/producer and their record company chose the tracks solely for their commercial potential and then made them even more gimmicky in the studio.

The title of the album was derived from the track Shoot All Strangers, which refered to hostile redneck attitudes, whether, as the band said, in Texas or indeed, in English pubs. One song which hasn't stood the test of time is Tobago Rose. Originally written as a straight-forward country rock tune, Prairie Rose, Walker pushed the band into performing it reggae-style, even drafting in Blue Weaver from Amen Corner (another of the bands he produced and managed) to play synthetic brass, which, as David pointed out many years later, "...sounds quite comical now."

In fact, the recordings didn't really do the band justice at all. The exception is the almost side-long treatment of Tchaikovsky's "1812 Overture" as 1812, which ventures into the free-flowing world of progressive rock and gives some idea of the energy of the band on stage - the song was a highlight of their live show. As David described it, "It was all done with violin bows on the guitars... we had huge great artificial stone letters spelling out "1812"... We used to smash it up with axes and strobe lights flashed while the cannons exploded." They were thrown off a tour with The Kinks after only two days for doing just exactly that, and making too much of a mess on the stage!

In the meantime, tracks for a third album, with the working title of Gun Running, were recorded (it was touted in the press under various alternate names by Tom, with tongue firmly in cheek, such as Don't Push Your Mother While She's Shaving and Stick With Me Baby, And You'll Wear Diamonds). It was David's idea to have a theme for the album, which was to use a harpsichord in every song. They specially hired the harpsichord and player and laid down all the tracks, only to have disaster strike. One of the tapes - the one with the harpsichord on it! - was accidentally erased.
The Best of Blackfoot Sue
Though the album was never officially released in its entirety, bits and pieces of the songs have been reworked over the years into new compositions, and some of the 'lost' tracks have subsequently surfaced on the CD compilation The Best Of Blackfoot Sue, released by Connoisseur Collection in 1996.

A fourth album's worth of material, the Seasons Suite, remains unissued, with the exception of Summer, which was released as the band's third single. As Eddie explained, the Seasons Suite "tells the story of each season of the year, opening with an acoustic number for winter and gradually progressing to electric sounds for the rest of the year." The fate of this material is unknown, though it's thought to be languishing in storage somewhere.

While the lilting instrumental Summer was a very deliberate attempt to side-step the "singles band" label, their fourth single, Get It All To Me, was a glorious return to pure power pop, so strongly constructed it's difficult to believe it wasn't a hit (it was in fact a retake on the Standing In The Road riff)! Unfortunately, neither made any impression on the charts, and a similar fate was in store for subsequent singles Bye Bye Birmingham and You Need Love.
Bye Bye Birmingham, as originally written, had been a highly personal account of the band's own experiences since leaving their hometown, but their producer convinced them to rewrite it, the end result being a classic Tom Farmer lyric, a tongue-in-cheek tale of a somewhat naive Brummie lad's experiences of swinging London.

Nothing To Hide and Strangers have since been re-released on CD by Repertoire Records, with all of these single A and B sides as bonus tracks, and lavish liner notes. In recent years, there have been Russian releases as well, but these unfortunately don’t include Chris Welch’s detailed essays.*

As David noted, "We were always a hard rock band, but that didn't come across on record. The first two albums were anything but hard rock - they were pure Seventies. We did lots of quirky things and there was quite a lot of country rock influence."
* An aside for anyone who has the Repertoire issues of Nothing To Hide and Strangers - David revealed that he and Tom and Chris Welch had met up and consumed about 15 beers apiece during the course of the interview, and consequently things got a little blurred in the translation. Where the liner notes report Tom saying, "If all this fails, we are going to have our hair cut, strip to the waist, sing to tapes and call ourselves Codpiece," in fact the name of the band was meant to be "Cop This!", a response to the then popular band "Take That".
It was on stage, of course, where the band really showed what they were made of. After a rousing assortment of singles, B-sides and album tracks, they would play an acoustic set, a kind of Blackfoot Sue Unplugged. Eddie, David and Tom also played keyboards, with Eddie occasionally on banjo, and drummer David even taking up acoustic guitar, demonstrating their musical dexterity (and the many, many years they had spent paying their dues, slogging away in clubs, pubs and school halls all over the country). Then they would close the set with the grand spectacle of 1812, complete with wild feedback, explosions, special lighting effects and everyone hammering away on the drum kit, guaranteed to bring the house down. The inevidable shouts of "More!" were followed by at least two, and often more encores, one of which was always the heavily anticipated Standing In The Road.
Blackfoot Sue live, 1973
Blackfoot Sue, live, 1973: on stage at The Grey Topper, Jacksdale. (Photos: Steve Orme)
One of the secret weapons of the live Blackfoot Sue sound was Rick, their Australian sound engineer (whom they, probably inevidably, nicknamed "Skippy"), a wizard at the mixing board. Much of the art of playing songs like Standing In The Road and Sing Don't Speak was in the expert application of echo, reverb and fade, and Rick was an unparalleled master at it. He was widely considered to be one of the best engineers on the circuit, and the band struggled for a while to find a suitable replacement when he was lured away by the promise of three times the money elsewhere.

Another invaluble member of the team was Des, the "super-roadie", driver of the band's equipment van, The Musical Express, and always around to lend a hand, not to mention entertain all and sundry with wild stories of the band's life on the road!

Recognising the importance of good quality gear, any money that the band made from gigging was ploughed straight back into their equipment (in December 1972, the value of their equipment was estimated at around £4500, a not insubstantial sum for those days). Their kit also included a Mellotron, an early electronic organ (a Birmingham invention!), though they were not foolhardy enough to try and take the beast on stage with them. As they noted at the time, "We don't want to base our act on electronic sounds, and Mellotron is diabolical to tune. If the motor slows down a bit, it's disastrous."
Bad Tom
Self-confessed bad boy Tom, bucking the system again
The rewards weren't always monetary. Eddie recalled one particularly memorable gig in York: the club owner had, somewhat rashly, promised the band a bottle of champagne for every encore they performed. Naturally, the band milked it for all they were worth, playing a grand total of seven encores!

The band's gritty determination not to compromise and their tendency to live life to the full sometimes led to conflict, such as an incident which occurred in Dublin. During the first of two scheduled gigs at a particular club, the owner asked the band to turn the volume down, but they refused. A few nights later, Alan had had a few two many and had thrown a plate of food across the room, resulting in the band being banned from the club for good.

"We were the bad boys of rock for a while there," Tom confessed. He recalls being so worked up by the incident that he walked out of the club and hailed the nearest cab, saying, "Take me home!" When the cabbie enquired as to where home might be, Tom answered, "England! I hate Ireland! Get me out of here!"

Subsequent newspaper headlines blared "BLACKFOOT AGGRO". Must have been a slow news day in Dublin...
Blackfoot Sue, c.1974
 Blackfoot Sue c.1974
Unfortunate incidents in Ireland aside, though the band were having a ball out performing, the situation behind the scenes was far less rosy. The increasing estrangement between the band and their management ultimately led to a parting of the ways. The relationship had steadily deteriorated as the band had stubbornly stuck to their guns in terms of their musical direction, and their discontent had grown as they became more and more aware of the true nature of their management contract. "Unfortunately we weren't looking after business," David recounted. "Someone made money, but it wasn't us. We were straight out of school and our parents signed our contract."

The band's final release was the whimsical and gently autobiographical single Moonshine, with the B-side Corrie, in 1975. Both tracks were taken from the Gun Running sessions, possibly as a last ditch attempt by the record company to salvage something from the situation. Certainly there was no discussion with the band over its release. After splitting with their management, they continued to gig for the next few years, but with no promotion and no recordings to keep them in the public eye, it was an increasingly disheartening experience.

The once vital live music scene gradually fizzled out, succumbing firstly to the energy crisis which crippled Britain mid-decade, and then, in the watershed year of 1976, to punk rock, the angry counter-reaction to the perceived excesses and musical pomposity of the first half of the decade. Seemingly overnight, if you weren't part of this new scene, you were branded a dinosaur. In the light of this onslaught, working with little reward, receiving no royalties, and their audience slowly but steadily diminishing, Blackfoot Sue finally called it a day in 1977.
Yes, it really was that bad… NME's careful preface to its weekly gig listing, January 1974
As David recognised in hindsight, "We could have been much bigger. We were totally stifled by greed. Other bands of that period had half the attention we got and went on to do much bigger things. …it's not a sob story, but looking back, we never thought about where we were going or what we were doing."

Standing at the end of the road…
Standing at the end of the road…
By this time, Alan had had quite enough of the music business. He had met and fallen in love with the Australian girl he would ultimately marry, and was more focused on securing his future with her. He made the first of several trips to her homeland after gaining himself a job with BA, and before long had decided to stay.

He has few regrets about the years he spent with Gift and Blackfoot Sue, and has many stories to tell about those heady days. He still maintains a keen interest in music and football, being possibly the most avid Aston Villa fan out of all of the band, and though his accent has mellowed over the years, he can still summon an authentic Black Country accent at will!
Continue on to part 2
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