Friday, December 19, 2008

Between A Rock And A Hard Place - The Construction Of A Cutting Crew

The pop-rock quartet, the Cutting Crew, were yet another of those 80s bands with a seemingly American sound and image, like The Outfield, When In Rome, Wang Chung and Breathe (see previous posts), who didn’t actually hail from the U.S. They were in fact British, well three quarters of them at any rate. At the time they were in the charts, I was under the impression that they were Canadian, but then again I thought Mr. Mister (see previous post) were Canadian, and they were American. It just illustrates that my geographical intuition, when it comes to rock bands, is a wee bit askew on occasion. But it’s all great music, so what does it matter where any artist hails from.

Cutting Crew comprised Nick Van Eede (vocals/guitar), Colin Farley (bass), Martin ‘Frosty’ Beedle (drums), all from Britain, and guitarist Kevin Scott MacMichael, who did actually hail from Canada - so I was one quarter correct. They took their name from a phrase that singer Nick Van Eede had scribbled down in his trusty notepad. He was reading the British music rag ‘Sounds’ one day, and spied an article about rock giants Queen. The article was about Queen entering the studio to lay down tracks for their new album. The report used the phrase “cutting crew” to describe them, as in a “recording band”. The phrase “cutting crew” caught Van Eede’s eye and he made a note of it for future reference. Van Eede’s notepad would come in handy again a few years later.

Singer Nick Van Eede turned professional at just 18, and soon found himself touring as an opening act with the likes of Leo Sayer, Slade, David Essex, and Hot Chocolate (see future post), with naught but guitar and kazoo in hand. For a time he was managed by ex-Animal Chas Chandler (he has that in common with Jimi Hendrix). Van Eede soon formed his own band called the Drivers (who released one album in 1983 titled ‘Short Cuts’). The Drivers followed the touring road to Canada, and a local Canadian band called Fast Forward opened for them in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Van Eede was impressed with Fast Forward, but more particularly with their lead guitarist Kevin MacMichael. MacMichael had been committed to music since his childhood, and formed his first band the Martian Minstrels, when he was but 12 years old. MacMichael was one of countless thousands who had felt their life changed by witnessing The Beatles’ performance on ‘The Ed Sullivan Show’ on February 7, 1964. He had discovered his true calling and set forth on his quest for pop stardom. That path soon had him playing guitar, not just in his own band, but in Van Eede’s band the Drivers. Van Eede later remarked that he felt an immediate musical chemistry with MacMichael, and a symbiosis that could allow his songs to reach their full potential. There was a slight problem initially though, they lived on opposite sides of the Atlantic Ocean. Van Eede had returned home to England, but maintained regular contact with MacMichael, urging the guitarist to shift to the U.K. In the end, Van Eede made the leap across the big pond, and returned to work and live in Toronto. The work was scarce, and Van Eede had to make do with dossing down on friend’s couches, for the most part of 18 months. Meanwhile, MacMichael couldn’t bring himself to press the stop button on his duties with his band Fast Forward. Now, had MacMichael belonged to Van Eede’s old band called the Drivers, the following turn of events may not have happened. Just two days after Van Eede had indicated to MacMichael by phone that he was going to pack up and go home, MacMichael’s band Fast Forward were driving between gigs in their tour van, when the van ran off a mountain road, and rolled several times before coming to a halt. As fate would have it, MacMichael was the only member of the band to escape any major injuries - it must have been a sign to move on, so he finally took Van Eede up on his offer.

Van Eede and MacMichael set up a new base of operations in London, and gave themselves a time limit of one year to snag a recording contract. Hang on a minute. Singer…..guitarist….hmmmm…..there’s something missing here. Bass player Colin Farley had worked extensively as a session musician, and was working in Spain (and living in a castle to boot) where he met up with Van Eede and MacMichael, who were on a working holiday. Drummer Martin ‘Frosty’ Beedle had been playing around the traps since he was 17, when he landed a gig with a cabaret band on board the QE2. He played back up with a number of artists over the years, included Denis Waterman, the Three Degrees and John Parr. When bassist Colin Farley discovered Beedle playing in a pub in Lewisham, he knew the group had found their drummer. So, with the final piece of the puzzle now in place, Van Eede consulted his trusty note pad and declared that Cutting Crew shall be there name. The quartet then set about getting a record deal. (It should be noted that keyboardist Tony Moore supplemented the line-up for live shows during this period).

All the members of Cutting Crew had done the hard touring yards with other bands, and felt they had paid their collective dues. Time for a more direct approach. Cutting Crew organised to stage a showcase of their best material at a London recording studio, with invites issued to representatives from several prominent record labels. The band had built up a solid live rep, and so it was no surprise that all the reps were on hand for the showcase. Cutting Crew blew them away, and were signed up to Siren Records, a subsidiary label of Virgin Records. It was late 1985, and Cutting Crew were cleared to take their dream to the next phase - recording an album.

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