The catalyst for The Vicars
was a band called '8% Proof'. Formed in Mr McNealey's 'O' Level Drama
class at Furtherwick Park School, Canvey Island, Essex, in 1976. Kirk
Matthews, Michael Coleville, Martin Benson and Dave Knight would all prefer
to spend time in the store room/office learning to play guitar on Mr McNealy's
acoustics than poncing around pretending to be trees. This then led to
the band getting their own guitars and playing along to the likes of David
Bowie, Roxy Music and T. Rex round Dave's Nan's house, where Dave tapped
out a beat with a couple of drumsticks on cushions. Once big amps and
cabinets became the order of the day, rehearsals moved to a room at the
back of "The Clockhouse" a second-hand bookshop on Canvey High Street
and then into Kirk's Dad's garage.
Late 1976, having left school and not seeing so much of each other anymore,
along with changes in musical tastes, Michael Colville and Martin Benson
no longer played any part in the band. Influenced by local R&B heroes
Dr. Feelgood, and very early Punk, the band took off in a new direction.
Dave's younger brother Brian, had a mate a year younger than the rest
of the band and still at school, but he could play a mean Rhythm guitar.
Mark Salkeld, who had just moved to Canvey from Blackheath was recruited
into the band. During this time of uncertainty Kirk had been auditioned
by another local band to play Bass, but realising they were only into
Beatles covers he paid no more interest. However, the lead guitarist and
drummer from that band were more interested in what Kirk, and now Mark
were hoping to put together, so asked to join up.
This was now 1977 and the very first line-up of The Vicars as the band
were now known. Dave was let go as drummer as 2 drum sticks and a tambourine
really didn't cut it anymore. Rehearsals took place in Kirk's dad's garage
with Kirk on Bass/Vocals, Mark on Rhythm guitar, Andy Stevens on Lead
guitar and Micky Ogden on drums. Another school friend, Mark Saville was
auditioned on vocals but was no where near committed enough, so he was
out as quick as he came in. Over a few weeks a set was put together consisting
of self penned Punk and R&B tunes along with some Punk and R&B covers.
This very well rehearsed and extremely 'tight' set was only seen and heard
within the rehearsal garage or the "Musicians Workshop" held at the Zero-6,
Southend, on Monday Nights.
The first gig by The Vicars was a support slot on Xmas Eve 1977 to another
Canvey Island based Punk/Garage band, Deenos Marvels at The Admiral Jellicoe
pub which was the local watering hole for Dr Feelgood, Eddie and the Hot
Rods, Lew Lewis and any other band on the Island. Having seen the band
at the Zero-6 a few times and that first gig at the "Jelly" Chris Fenwick,
Feelgoods manager, offered the band a support slot to the Felgoods at
the Shrimpers Club in Southend.
A front man/vocalist had always been the 'edge' the band felt they were
missing and this spot was shortly filled by ex Barracuda front man/vocalist
'manic' Mike Maynard. Mike was fully rehearsed and well gigged by the
time the Feelgood support slot came around and that really was the launching
point for The Vicars. A really busy few months followed, both supporting
and headlining in their own right, including a support slot to "Dave Dee,
Dozy, Beaky, Mitch and Titch" at the Odeon, Salisbury, Wiltshire, where
the band and entourage got accused of stealing the headliners gear and
spent the night in Rayleigh police cells before being released the next
morning without charge. The publicity from that infamous incident did
the bands reputation no harm whatsoever.
Just as the Vicars were making a name for themselves and gaining a large
fan base both locally and in London having headlined at both Dingwalls
and the Hope and Anchor, Mike Maynard left to form Potters Clay with John
Potter who had just left Wilko Johnsons Solid Senders. All vocal responsibilities
went back onto Kirk. As well as playing Bass, arranging gigs, rehearsals,
transport, fly posting etc etc. Kirk then had the responsibility for laying
down the vocals for the bands first demo. 4 hours free studio time had
been given to the band by Dr. Feelgood. The Feelgoods had the studio booked
for them by United Artists who were their record label at the time, but
they couldn't make it. Instead of wasting the time they offered it to
The Vicars. A 3-track demo was produced of two self penned tracks "No
one listens" and "School" and a cover of the Dead Boys' "Sonic Reducer",
a live version of which, from the Hope and Anchor gig, was described in
New Musical Express as "making the Dead Boys sound as though they had
been marinated in Dettol"!!
The rest of the year saw Kirk on vocals for all remaining gigs whilst
on the look out for a replacement for Mike Maynard. During this time a
local Singer/Songwriter, Dave Sparks was auditioned and a number of his
songs ''Punked-up'' and included in the set. Despite it not working out
with Dave, his songs stayed in The Vicars sets until the bands final demise.
After watching Laindon based Punk band The Vandals a couple of times Alf
(Alison Moyet) was poached and she joined The Vicars on Vocals for a first
rehearsal Xmas/New Year 1978/79. Very regular rehearsals took place after
that. Much more so than before, as the band had gigs booked and wanted
to get the new line-up out as soon as possible. Rehearsals started one
on one with Alf and Kirk in his bedroon at home. Then the trusty garage
as before, then alternate Monday nights at Furtherwick Park School Drama
Studio (ironically where it all began) and the Zero-6 Musicians Workshop.
So intense were rehearsals at that time Alf would always come to Canvey
straight from college in Southend, have dinner cooked for her by Kirk's
mum, and then get stuck into learning the material. All of which now had
to played in different keys in order to suit her vocal range.
Following all of the usual small time local gigs, came Southend College
of Technology supporting The Bishops, and then support to The Banned at
Shrimpers Club, Southend. The Alf-fronted Vicars then won their heat of
the annual Southend Rock competition and then went on to take second place
in the final. A support to the Damned at Crocs, Rayleigh, saw the band
return to headline the same venue a few weeks later. That was followed
by a support slot to Eddie and the Hot Rods at the Moonlight Club, West
Hampstead. During this time a very poor quality sound, studio demo tape
was put together which in no way reflected how good this particular line-up
really sounded. The final gig with this line-up was at Lindisfarne Centre,
Westcliff on Sea, in May 1979.
By August 1979, The Vicars had returned with a new drummer and guitarist
to play at Scamps, Southend, and on the same bill that night were The
Screaming Ab-dabs fronted by Alf with the old Vicars, Andy and Mick in
the band. The Vicars still had Kirk on Bass/Vocals and Mark on Rhythm
guitar, with new boys Alan Bell (ex Savage) on Lead guitar and Doug Gibbings
(ex Magnus Opus) on Drums.
That final gigging line-up of the band managed to hold onto the hard core
of the fan base by playing at several local venues and also cut a 3-track
studio demo, before once again requiring a replacement guitarist due to
musical differences. The very final line-up of the band with Paul Zucker
(ex Magnus Opus) on Lead guitar, never made it out of rehearsals in early
Text by Kirk Matthews