Des Henly's Rock and Roll Circus

music paper articles

NEW MUSICAL EXPRESS
Jan 6 1973

There's no flies on Fumble

Des Henly looked confident as he started singing the first number of the set. Sure, he noticed the rocker near the front who was drawing his attention to his flies. But he wasn’t goin to fall for that old trick – oldest one in the book , when the guy out the front makes you believe you are undone.

Five minutes later, Henly manoeuvered his guitar into a "cover up" position and, looking suitably embarrassed, pulled his zip up.
Such is life for Fumble – the band who specialise in playing mouldie oldies from the late fifties/early sixties, and who in recent weeks have developed a cult following.
Fumble aren’t cool and groovy – they don’t specialise in long guitar solos or the like. What they try to do is bring it all back to basics. Life, they have decided, has been taken far too seriously, certainly by most people in the music business of late.
Simply because they play music of the fifties/early sixties era, coparisons are bound to be drawn between Fumble and Sha Na Na. In fact, Fumble say they are in no way a cheap carbon copy – nor indeed a poor man’s Sha Na Na.
"We haven’t in any way tried to copy them," I was informed. "In fact I’ve never seen them," Henly expounded, and then pulled a funny face in case it should sound as if he wrote off Sha Na Na of no significance.
The main difference between the two bands seems to be that while for Sha Na Na it’s a big send up, Fumble do it for real. They like the music of that era, and the feel it generated.
"When we do a number on stage we aren’t tryin to sound exactly like the record – the important thing is to get the feelin across. We’re certainly not trying to revive the songs – just the nice feeling they had about them.
People had been so serious they have been missing out on so much.

Kids go along to a gig and worry – worry that the music they hear, the band they see, should be something they are really into. It’s even got to the point where it’s very cool to know about technique, amps or whatever. Everybody’s a critic." Certainly, Fumble do have a point. There’s been a lot of boredom.
One band who universally go people bopping last year were, of course, Slade. And interestingly enough, Fumble have something in common with Slade, in that both bands stick their necks out each night on stage, trying to get something going in audience participation.
For Slade there’s now no problem – audiences are so bewitched and bemused that they’ll do virtually anything. Noddy Holder commands. And amazingly, Fumble, too, seem to have the same effect – getting people to lose their cool (shoes, braces or whatever) and get down to the business of bopping.
Their idea of a good gig was summed up by drummer Barry Pike as "One where the audience get off on what you’re doing". Note he mentioned audience – not "my drumming" or "Des‘ guitar playing". Fumble are not self-indulgent.
"The important thing is the show – and trying to instill in everyone’s mind that it’s for fun." Fun is perhaps one reason why we haven’t heard of Fumble until comparatively recently.

Under the name of The Baloons, the present line up – Sean Mayes (keyboard), Mario Ferrari (bass), Barry Pike (drums) and Des Henly (guitar) – did a lot of work on the Continent. They liked travelling, having a laugh, and as long as there was some food they were happy. Money was a minor concern.- and playing bottom of the bill was no hang up. "No one ever expects you to be any good so they are never let down. An if you are good they seem to appreciate it more."
Perhaps the person mainly responsible for getting the band together was their manager, John Sherry. When he first met Fumble, Sherry was a man with one phone in someone else’s room, struggling to start some kind of agency. Now he’s highly successful, handling people like Wishbone Ash and Vinear Joe.

It was Sherry who said the immortal words to Fumble: "I can’t get rid of you, you’re my friends." Which perhaps made them realise while he was becoming successful, they were stagnating.
"Fourteen months ago we changed the name to Fumble and the whole thing became more intense. On stage we knew we had something and we knew it was good, but we had tended to be a bit lazy."
Fumble have certainly hit the right chord with a lot of people.
They sing songs of heartbreak ("Take Good Care Of My Baby"), sorrow ("Ebony Eyes"), wonder ("Poetry In Motion") – in fact any basic rock number of that era fits any mood you care to name.
You can wallow in nostalgia with lyrics where boy loves girl, as opposed to boy lusts for girl. Dwell on a time where the highlight of the week was sitting in the back row of the pictures – or waiting for your mum and dad to go to bed so you can have a quick grapple on the sofa.
"Today’s audiences – say 11-year-olds, have very few lyrics to identify with. Lyrics in most songs just don’t apply to them. The lyrics of the old songs we do can still be identified with by any age group."
Certainly, Fumble are one of the strongest contenders to do well in the coming year. Behind them they have a solid musical background, a tight stage act and a lot of laughs. The one drawback could be that they might become an "in" persons band, which is all very nice but somewhat limiting.
However, I don’t think that will happen, because they seem to have universal appeal.