Des Henly's Rock and Roll Circus

music paper articles

Melody Maker
May 12, 1973

Rollin' and Fumblin'

Fumble attempt to re-incarnate the spirit of an age - that of America in the late fifties and early sixties.
It was the golden era of Highschool, hype, true love, payola sandals, notes in class, dates with Wilbur, V-neck sweaters and acne.
It was the sunny age when it was a joy to be young and in love, and when the Beach Boys sang immortal lines about being "true to your school".
These are the themes that constantly appear in Fumble's music both in the oldies they do, and in the numbers penned by members of the group, Sean Mayes, pianist with the group explained their basic philosophy (he has a degree from Cambridge in Philosophy although he looked somewhat renegade in Hawaiian shirt and genuine baseball boots).
"Yeah, we try to capture the innocence and naivete of that period but not in a nostalgic or academic way. We reckon that the same basic first-kiss, boy-next-door, teenage-heartbreak, emotions are just as important to kids today but they're being bombarded by seriousness and progression.
"We're trying to bring back enjoyment and simplicity to music like it was before the Beatles and Dylan. Fumble do their music for the kids - we don't want to know about the incrowd nostalgia scene."
I asked Sean if, by being older than the kids and being strongly influenced by the original oldies, they might be out of touch with the teen market they were aiming at?
"Well, I guess if we're wrong, we go under; if you're too old you die. But I don't think so. Y'know we get kids coming up to us all the time asking us if we wrote all the numbers we do - they've never heard the originals bot they still like the songs.
"That's why on our next LP we're going to do 60 per cent of our own material - numbers embodying everyday teen sentiments with a more modern presentation. Like our next single has a strong driving beat with the same feel Slade get and very simple lyrics - it's called 'Million Seller'."
How did Fumble land the plum job of supporting David Bowie on his tour of the U.K. and America?
"David wanted a really good warm-up group to appear before him. We tried one gig at the Hard Rock, it went well, so we stayed. Actually Bowie never saw us before that. He used us on the strength of our last album cover which was done by Hipgnosis - that cover has really done well by us in getting our name known. Mind you, our next LP cover will be more modern as we don't want to be tied to the fifties image." I thought for a moment about falling between stools but remained silent.
I asked Des Henly, lead vocalist, whether they made a deliberate attempt to copy 50's and 60's style as well?
"Not really; we just like to be different. The other day I went into a shop to get some trousers and was told that the trend was towards the more flared look. I immediately thought that was a good reason for having tight bottoms. We just happen to like the clothes from that era and we're just as likely to wear our stage clothes in the street."
Fumble "live" are a competent, crowd-pleasing English rock'n'roll band - they are certainly not great, lacking somewhat in the necessary class, flash and technical expertise. But they have no pretensions to such greatness - they used to be a pop group called The Baloons so they know the road and enjoy playing to the kids who go to local Friday night dances like the one at Ilkeston, where I saw them.
Apart from Sean and Des, the group is Mario Ferrari on bass and Barry Pike on drums. Their act comprised soft rock numbers a la Bobby Vee, a finale of Little Richard-style hard rock for the leapers in the audience, and four original numbers including "Get Up" part of which went:
"Someone put a sign up 'No Hippies in the Hall,' But everyone's invited, gonna ball, ball, ball."
Fumble went down really well with the motley crowd of local youths but they dissappointed me 'cause they only did the numbers that were well-known - there were none like "Palisades Park" or "Come Go With Me." As regards stage presentation they were definitely not "too fast to live, too young to die" - I mean it's just not right to rock a small electric piano during "Jailhouse Rock."
David Milton