Des Henly's Rock and Roll Circus

music paper articles

Sounds
April 21, 1973

IN A CLASS OF THEIR OWN

"When this band started all we wanted to do was to play Europe and get to see as many coutries as we could. We actually never were conscious ofthe fact that someday we might hit the big time the way I suppose most bands do. Yeah, we were in it to travel."
Des Henly, Fumble's big guitarist and lead singer, was reminiscing slightly about the beginnings of the group and talking generally about their time together, a perion which has lasted five years and for at least four of those years Fumble really did take up on all the foreign work that was made available to themand work without even a whiff of big-time publicity.
Things have moved pretty fast, thought, for the group over the past year. Last Autuum they put out a delightfully refreshing debut album full of most of the most memorable early sixties' punk rock anthems. Naturally, they were eyed with a certain amount of sceptism especially just as most of the "rock and roll revivalist bands" had fallen flat on their faces as the initial novelty began to wear a wee bit thin. The difference was, though, that Fumble really were playing solid heartfelt rock and roll and all their covers of the old standards were presented in their true light.
Their next step up was when none other than D. Bowie invited the band to accompany him on his last American tour - quite a hot handful for a band who were virtually unknown here, not to mention their complete non-entity in America: "The tour was an eye-opener in so many ways," said Des after pulling mighily on a pint of Guinness. "Obviously the thing that really scared us was playing to so many bloody people every night, and then half of them were pretty weird. Bowie attracts some real freaks.
"He'd heard us play at gigs in this country and then he asked us to do the American tour because he wanted a band that could warm an audience up and make them hot for him. Most of the gigs were really incredible and one night at a gig in Philadelphia we had gone down really well and some people were getting ready to leave, they'd forgotten Bowie was to come. I'm not saying that's what happened in a big way, but it gives you an idea of how good the gig was."
Another most unusual asset Fumble have going for them is their sheer consistency. The album, for example, revealed no audible weak spots and the quality of their live gigs have already put them into a class which is all their own: "We kind of pride ourselves on the fact that we are consistent," said Des. "At the moment we are writing more original material and we're going to work them in so we do about 50 per cent our own stuff. The band has got a very definite and positive thing of it's own and although we more or less became known on the strength of things like "Hello Mary Lou" we didn't play these things as a novelty. It was all just rock and roll and I think that's where a lot of the revivalist groups failed. They just couldn't rock.
"We've used what we did in the past as a vehicle I suppose, to be able to introduce some of our own material. I don't know whether people will see our songs as a drastic change to the band."
Des says America taught him the necessity of treating all audiences on the same level, though in the early days he adds that for the sake of prudence there had to be variations of approach.
"We might be luckier, thought, than a lot of other bands because we do about an hour's set and none of the songs are over three minutes. I know it probably sounds old fashioned, but the perfect set is the one that begins, builds up and then is brought to an end and that's what we aim for every time we play.
Later in the year Fumble are to do a second Bowie US stint. "Bowie," says Des emphatically, "is a performer above everything else and he knows the value of being a good one. Touring with him is an experience not to be forgotten because you learn such a lot in a short space of time.
"I think we've stood up to the strain the tours brought with them because we'd been through so much together before. We're a pretty solid unit, I reckon if one of the four of us left the group'd quit altogether. It's pretty tight."
- Ray Talford.