Des Henly's Rock and Roll Circus

music paper articles

Record Mirror
Feb 24, 1973

Rumble, rumble...here comes Fumble

LOOKING out at an audience full of smiling faces doesn't make Fumble's Des Henley feel vaguely insecure, and set him off on a check of his apparel, to see that everything's done up where it ought to be. Instead, he feels happy that the kids are enjoying Fumble's music. It's the reaction he hopes for - and frequently receives.
Young audiences today, he believes, have been saturated by too much music, and having passed through the era of cross-legged introverted enthusiasm, are just learning again how to show their liking for a band. At a Slade gig he accepts that the kids let themselves react spontaneously...
but Des believes there are far more times when the audiences don't relax.
"You expect that older people who come to see us will say oh it's Mary Lou, I had that record for my 15th birthday, and straight away they like what we're doing. But more and more we're getting young kids about 13, 14, 15 coming back to see us and saying it was fantastic, and 'did you write all those songs?'' That's how little they know about it, because even their older brothers and sisters would have been playing Little Children, or something similar."
Though Fumble are writing their own material - and will possibly release one of their compositions as a single - they perform a great number of good old Fifties favourites on stage. And their first album, Fumble, war, of course, compiled entirely from rock classics like Ebony Eyes, Oh Carole, Teddy Bear and It Might As Well Rain Until September.
"We want to write songs like they used to be written," says Des. "But it's very very difficult, because you have to try to capture the feeling of the culture, and how can you? To an extent we use American jargon to help with that, and because it's pleasing to do it. All the songs that we're doing are American, and there wasn't anything as good on the English scene - Marty Wilde, Cliff Richard, they didn't compare to Jerry Lee Lewis. Some people say you can't manufacture that original feel, but the way I look at it is you can't get nostalgic about a line like squeeze my lemon till the juice runs down my leg. But in the Fifties boys went out with girls when they were 15 or 16, then they left them and the boys cried, or the girls did. Nothing's changed as far as that's concerned... and in those days there was music for the kids."
Rick Nelson's It's Late, sums up Des's point. But when I suggested that T.Rex, David Cassidy, the Osmonds and more might be fulfilling the role for young teenagers, Des added:
"I don't think T. Rex do. I can see why the kids like them, but they don't bring across that feeling of naivity, if you like. Romance and that fantasy feel is important."
Des was first introduced to rock'n'roll courtesy of his mum's lodger who took him to see an Elvis Presley film. Despite his initial feeling that it would all be "rubbish", 11-year old Des found himself standing up in his seat, throwing himself about ecstatically, revelling in this new found experience.
Some nine years later Des joined up with Sean Mayes (piano and vocals), Mario Ferrari (bass and vocals) and Barry Pike (drums), to become the Balloons.
"All we wanted to do was get four guys together and go abroad to some nice places to work. Basically it was always fun. At one time we were doing about one gig a month, but then we had the chance to worrk for six weeks abroad, working seven nights a week... five not counting hangovers.
Balloons spent most of their time in Switzerland, playing to the rich visitors - and in fact visited the Burton's chalet. They found themselves with large audiences to entertain - and proved just how well simple rock songs were received in a congenial atmosphere.
Des is now just wondering how Americans are going to accept hearing their songs presented by an English band. But if the response of Americans in Britain is the same, Fumble should have no problems. Des tells me they are also well received by Teddy Boy crowds. In fact their bodyguards during a tour with Bill Haley were genuine Hells Angels.
"Rockers in England like anyone who is playing their music well. If you play a Presley number to a rocker and play it badly they'll punch you in the face... or if you try to do a pure thing and then think 'well we could do a bit of rock'n'roll because it's not going down well', the rockers are going to shout for you to get off."
But there's no danger of that occurring for Fumble. What they do, they're certainly doing well.