Life – Terror. Ecstasy. Fight. Denial. Flight. Failure. PAIN. Forgiveness. Reconciliation. Hope. Love. Peace – Death.
In 1985 Liverpool did a 36 hour Drumathon Concert – Drums Over the Mersey, the second such event, the first being a mere 24 Hours, in aid of Alderhey Children’s Hospital, 1983. Both concerts were organised by a local muso (drummer), Joe Musker. The 1985 concert was specifically in Aid of an Anti-Heroine Campaign and was supported by a fantastic line up of local bands and more – Madness, China Chris, The Farm, Come in Tokio, Virgin Dance, The Hexmen, The Reverb Brothers, Adrian Henri, LAWNMOWER, Room, 3D (3DaFishInSea), High 5 and many many more.
Stefan Nyland worked with Joe, on the 2nd Drum Marathon, Valerie Elson also worked with Stefan and Joe as the project administrator. Apparently Valerie still has all of the paperwork and photos. Stefan left just 4 weeks before the actual show after dedicating months of his time to the marathon. Joe was the public face.
Saturday 26th January, 1985 10.00am , it had snowed heavily, probably the coldest day of the year, the drumathon started onboard the ‘Overchurch (Mersey) Ferry with Joe Musker and Keva Cocombes started drumming, joined by guests, Madness, The Liverpool Pipe Band and celebrities from Liverpool Soap, Brookside. Then they set off with the Pipe Band Marching thru the City ‘thru Town’ from the Pierhead to the Liverpool Royal Court Theatre to commence the 36hr drumathon concert. Joe commenced drumming on stage at ‘The Court’ at 11.15am. The drumming did not stop for 36 hours,
It was a sell out show and remained, near enough, maximum capacity for the full 36 hours. Admission was £2 (£1 for unwaged). Many local bands brought their own partisan ‘following’. Groups of Fans would arrive (and leave) for, and after ‘their’ band performed. I personally know a few (friends) who stayed for the full 36 hour concert.
There was always, at least one drummer playing, on stage, for the 36 hours. Bands would come and go but there was always a ‘resident’ drummer playing, between sets. Some would stay onstage and continue to play, joining in with, the various bands as they played. Messy!
We (3D) were scheduled for 3.15AM Saturday (early Sunday morning), I was patiently waiting, at home for hours and hours, eventually picked up around 5.00AM to perform at a now, rescheduled 6.00AM (ish). The show was, inevitably, running behind.
Drummers! What do you expect? Drummers keeping to time?
By the time I was (eventually) collected I was so fucked, annoyed, tired, I was way past caring if we played or not. We arrived at the Royal Court Stage entrance just as Suggs was leaving, I recall him mistaking me for Paul Reynolds, Flock of Seagulls, greeting me, enthusiastically, at the stage door entrance – ‘Reno Seagull, how you fucking doing man?’ I told him to ‘fuck off’. I wasn’t in an enthusiastic mood. (Those days) I was often mistaken for Paul ‘Reno Seagull’ something that annoyed me immensely as Paul was much more famous than myself!
When we eventually hit the stage, no soundcheck, just get on, plug in and get on with it. Despite the cold, the snow and the failed heating in the old Court theatre, the atmosphere in the ‘Court’ was, unrealistically ‘fantastic’. An other (resident) drummer was playing ‘on stage’. John Legit the drummer from local band Cook Da Books. Another Jon, our front man, Jon Corner literally bounced onto the Royal Court stage with his bass, inspired by the large crowd, running from one side to the other, thumping the heavy bass line of our opening song, whilst ‘we’ the rest of the band sorted our amps, keyboards and pedals out.
Our drummer, Andy Redhead was trying to persuade the resident drummer to cease, at least a little bit, to lay off (even stop). Our opening song had a distinctive, tricky drum sequence. Eventually, Andy, dived in, joining Jon’s bass-line (our first song would normally start with Andy’s drum sequence), and we went for it!
I literally could hear fuckall onstage other than John Legit’s drumming, which was completely out of time with Andy! I was screaming across the stage, throughout the set for him to stop, to no avail, the louder my protests the louder and more determined he was to fuck us up!
We just put our heads down and hoped for the best.
Jon (Corner), our singer, front man and bass player was a great front man. He went for it and the crowd, instantly responded. Whatever they were hearing, it had to be better than what we were hearing as they went nuts for us!
We were a decent live band, well rehearsed, tight as fuck as we had been gigging quite a bit promoting a single (even at 6.00AM with no sleep). I played by shear instinct, by sight rather than ear. Visually, watching Andy and Jon for cues, for endings and beginnings. I played, basically ‘deaf’. I hated it, it was a nightmare, the finish could not come quick enough. We left straight away, fearing the worse.
The Bunnymen headlined the Sunday at 8.45pm closing the ‘bands’ element of the 36 hour concert with a strong 8 song set.
- She Cracked
- Action Woman
- In the Midnight Hour
- What Goes On
- Angels and Devils
- Villiers Terrace
- Do It Clean
A few months afterwards we were contacted by Eel Pie Studios, via our record label. Eel Pie had ‘live recorded’ the Mersey Drumathon via their 24 track mobile recording (van) studio. Eel Pie Studios was owned by Pete Townshend (The Who). Eel Pie was the only studio (to my knowledge) in the 80’s that employed a female house engineer – producer. It soon became an iconic ‘rock’ recording studio until around 2008 when Townsend sold it and the building was converted into a private residence.
There was a plan to release a live album of the 24 hour live concert to raise more money in support of the cause. Work had already began re-mixing the various sets. We were invited to Eel Pie to complete some ‘overdubs’ The plan was to use one of our tracks for the album.
Some bands had already flat out denied permission, label/publishing/politics. Others insisted on re-recording out of tune vocals, prior to any release permissions. As such we had been offered the same opportunities, some re-recording time to tidy things up.
Gobsmacked is an understatement, how they had managed to get anything worth using from that fuck-storm of a gig was beyond a miracle. We had huge trepidations yet we were extremely curious to hear the mixed results.
On arrival at ‘Pie Studios’ we were informed that the legend (Pete) himself had mixed our set. It was him who had nominated one of our tracks for the album. Apparently, he had ‘taken a special interest’ in the band, as he really liked the guitar! The good old Gibson Explorer and Marshall Master Volume had left an impression on Pete Townsend! WTF!
I was pretty chuffed to say the least.
We heard the tracks, some (not all) of our Royal Court set for the first (and last) time. A set that the guitar god, Pete Townsend had mixed! The tracks sounded fucking amazing (to me). Townsend had mixed the guitar that high! The guitar parts were, at least, twice as loud as any other instrument on the tracks! Fine by me!
The rest of the band were, unsurprisingly, less keen.
Overall, there was very little ‘tidying up’, re-recording required, even the lead vocals were good enough. I think Jon added a couple of backing vocals on the chorus’s just because he felt obliged to do so. But that was all. We (and our label) were happy for our track to be, remixed and released.
We weren’t allowed copies of the first Townsend mixes.
We never did get to hear any end product, re-mixes. Our label was fine with the charity release, however, other bands/labels/management were less enthusiastic. As some were more prominent, ‘bigger bands’ therefore critical for potential sales, without them onboard the project was abandoned without release.
Children in need’s Drumathon is not the first. I am not even sure if either of ‘Liverpool’s’ (1983 & 1985) drumathons were either? I would love to hear those earlier mixes again and indeed, any of the final mixes, if they ever materialised?
It will be The Drums Over The Mersey’s 37th Anniversary on January the 26th 2022. 37 years on Joe Musker is still (actively) drumming and still, tirelessly campaigning for several charitable causes.
Whilst preparing this post, I published a shorter Tweet and Facebook post to which Joe has already replied, correcting a couple of details but also letting me know he is currently ‘getting ready’ for his 29th Drumming 4 Life on Easter Saturday 2022. Joe will be helping, raise money for friends at The Macmillan Unit in Bournemouth and The Youth Cancer Trust, where he is a proud Ambassador!
Thanks for reading