Best Foot Forward

Best Foot Forward: a quick history (from where I stood)- by Simon Birch

Best Foot Forward - With Or Without You by X-Amt

The band began in 1986 with Carole Jones on bass and Andrea Morgan on vocals. Carole would play fast and furious bass backed by a Dr.Rhythm drum machine, whilst Andrea sang soulful socialist lyrics. The band were hard-hitting and had a political power and energy like no-one else around at the time. 

They both had both lived in Tredegar in Wales and had come to London to take on the music scene as well as sparking socialist and agitprop action. My memories of seeing them for the first time were vague, I think it was somewhere in New Cross. They seemed like a breath of fresh air to me at the time. In 1986 everyone seemed to be getting into bands like Sade and Lisa Stansfield, and although they sang well, it seemed like music for old farts to me, I was missing the vitriol and performance of the post-punk bands of the early 1980s. Bands like The Pop Group, The Raincoats  and The Fall. These bands all seemed to have something to say or at least a sense of vibrant artistic expression.

Best Foot Forward seemed to tap into that energy. They had something to say, it was important, they were not mucking about and it was done with real intelligence and musical dexterity. The lyrics were very well crafted, each song had depth and emotion. Nothing was throw-away. You got this sense that time was not to be wasted. Rise up and do something! Stop Thatcher, the racists, the police and the lazy-arsed pretenders!

Personally, I had been working with Tom Caldwell's South East London Musicians Collective for some time, and soon Best Foot Forward were welcomed into the fold.

Andi joined the band after having seen them play and, being quite moved by it all, asked if he could join. This added a new dynamic, urgency and fire. In 1988 I was asked to join. The band had seen me play guitar with Goat, and could see that my simplistic and unique way of playing would work with what they did.

I can remember the first rehearsals at Silo in Deptford, I was nervous as hell. I just listened at first and then leapt in when I felt I could add something. They said they liked me because I was not like other guitarists they had auditioned who all played "wanky guitar solos" over the top of everything.

I couldn't play a wanky solo to save my life, even if I wanted to. What I liked was the minimalism of the band. Bass, and a small kit (just bass drum, snare, hat and ride cymbal) and vocal. No effects, maybe just a subtle reverb on the voice. That suited me fine. I didn't use effects either at the time. I didn't want to play toss like The Edge, I wanted to play funk like James Brown's band did (mixed with a bit of Trout Mask Replica Captain Beefheart). We got on well.

We rehearsed hard and played loads of gigs thanks to the Collective and the vibrant scene around South London at the time. The Black Horse in Catford, Lewisham Labour Club, New Cross Goldsmiths Tavern, Deptford Albany Empire, The Amersham Arms New Cross, loads more.

Soon we had a manager too. Gary Parker was a photographer (I had known him in my college days).  I was a bit perplexed at first that he was taken on as the manager, because I was fairly sure that he knew bugger all about music promotion.  He was a nice bloke though, he believed in the band and had the bottle to promote us.
press release 1989

Carole and Andrea ran things though, quite rightly they wrote the wrote the songs and decided on the band's main direction. Andi and I would go to meetings, we would have some input, but we were mainly there as drummer and guitarist.

artwork by Cash

We played gigs mostly around London, but had the occasional foray out of town. We played at Newport TJs with Blurt. We played at the Pink Toothbrush in Essex. I can remember a hilarious gig at a Club in Bournemouth where the audience had decided that they didn't want us even before we had played a note and began heckling. They had no idea that we had spent our time post sound-check in the pub and that Andrea was up for a fight if tempted. She could bat hecklers away easily, and this lot did not know what had hit them. The thing was, even though the songs were serious and political and often angry, Andrea still came across like she had a sense of humour. Should you cross her though, you were doomed. Bournemouth got it - "We go on for another hour yet. This is about what the Tories have taken away from us..its called Pride.. its about what a wanker Maggie Thatcher is. Tories can fuck off! Thank you".
The Black Horse, Catford

The Collective was doing well and we were always looking to expand and develop further. Tom set up an exchange tour to Spain and we were chosen to be the band to go. I must admit I was worried about the fact that we would be playing English political songs to a Spanish-speaking audience, but surprisingly it went really well. 

live in Spain

The Spanish were fantastic hosts. They arranged press conferences, radio interviews and some brilliant gigs. They really looked after us. Plenty of people turned up to the shows, and very quickly we had a following. Each gig got bigger. At the end of the tour though Andrea's voice had gone completely and we had to tell the Spanish promoters we could not perform. They were gutted and told us that they were expecting a thousand or so to turn up, and that not playing was not an option. They reckoned that at least we should turn up and play instrumentally. So, reluctantly, we gave it a go.

It was unbelievable. The crowd was huge compared to what we were used to and when we started to play they sang the lyrics for us. They knew all the words! The whole experience made me realise how badly the arts were supported in England by comparison. When a Spanish band came and played the return exchange in London, hardly anyone turned up. It was embarrassing for us all.

That was our peak point I think, in terms of success. We carried on playing pub gigs in London and loved winding people up. We did a fair bit of recording too, but the songwriting dried up and cracks began to show. Andrea's voice began to deteriorate as well, she had to visit the doctor about it. The last time we played together was at a recording session in 1991 in Brockley. Strangely it produced some of our best recordings, but that was it. 

There is more to the story than this brief overview I have given here. Andi and I have since lost touch with both Carole and Andrea. Maybe they will stumble across this blog and put us right about a few things. I hope they still make music and/or write.

Simon: July 2011

Andi's comments:

B F F history

Was at the Amersham Arms.
Mid 80s.
Watch Best Foot Forward.
They (Carol & Andrea) were fantastic.
The lyrics
Didn't know them.
Introduce myself and asked if I could join them.
Told that a recording session has been booked for the following week.
And if I wanted I could come along.
I went and played.
We did about 4 tunes.
No practice. Just straight to recording.
Went well. Really well.
Next week played our first gig at the LCP with Stump.
That went well. Really well.
We did loads of gigs
Simon joined against my wishes as he's rubbish on the Ocarina.
But quite handy on the guitar.
Well funky actually.
We was good. If I do say so.
Hope yous lot out there get to hear them.
As soon as Andrea & Carol give the nod. Brother Birch will put then on the blog thing.