I have received a number of e mails about M.I.5. recently (we were also mentioned in Record Collector magazine).
While browsing the Internet I have seen our single offered for sale on auction sites, even on sale in Japan.
I thought it might be an idea to look back on the past in this section (I usually like to "Keep on keeping on").
Being a hoarder, I still have most of my clothes from this period.
There is now an M.I.5 Face book page. Have a look and please click LIKE
M.I.5. from left to right Kevin Leigh (guitar), Pete Muller (drums) and Keith Smart (lead vocals and bass).
I still have the Candy stripe blazer. We were later joined by Brian Taylor on keyboards.
The band were based in South London. We rehearsed at Toyah's place in Battersea. Toyah Wilcox was a really interesting person. She had the most amazing hair. There was a documentary being filmed about her one of the times we were there. She also appeared on the cover of the Radio Times and in the film Quadrophenia.
M.I.5. recorded in various studios. I have always experimented with recording at home and in studios, so we achieved very good results. One of the songs we taped was "Alright on the night". We sent a copy of the tape in reply to an advert looking for new groups. It landed in the office of ATV (who looked after the Beatles songs).We were signed by Patrick Campbell-Lyons (of sixties band Nirvana) and Gloria Satin (a fashion designer). Patrick was using the office as a base (he was signed to ATV as a writer).They set up their own label distributed by Spartan, called Public Records. Kevin was the main songwriter of the band, he also took lead vocals on some of the later songs.
Above: Kevin was the main songwriter of M.I.5. In later years he sang some lead vocals.
Above. 31/01/1980 City of London University. ROCK AGAINST RACISM!
It was suggested that we release our demo of "Alright on the night" as, according to Patrick, it had a certain magic. It did sound fresh, however I messed up the lead vocal line at the end of the song singing the wrong lyric!!! At the very end of the single you can hear me say "I mucked up the last bit".
M.I.5. recorded at Tittenhurst Park the former home of John and Yoko. I have been contacted and asked to type out the story of our visit there. So, sit back with a cup of tea and join me on a magical trip. If you suffer from insomnia, it may be an idea to read this while in bed attempting to fall asleep.
As a Beatles fan, I was delighted to hear that M.I.5 were going to record at Tittenhurst Park. The former home and studio of John and Yoko that was currently owned by Ringo. He hired it out for 1000 pounds a day, as a residential studio. The record company booked us in for two days.
I knew Ascot well and had often driven past the house and looked along the Rhododendron lined drive. I must confess I had driven up the drive before and round the small roundabout, looking up to see a Star stuck above the door, just under it the glass pane with the message “This is not here”.
There was a small gatehouse at the start of the drive. I drove up the drive and parked by the front of the house. A full size model of a T Rex was in the front garden (now that would give a burglar a fright in the dark). There didn’t seem to be anyone about. I rang the bell, still no reply (good title for a song that). I could not believe I was standing at the house I had seen on the Imagine promo video so many times. I pushed the door and I could see it was unlocked. I was worried that guard dogs may come running out (Ringo and Barbara were often seen locally with their dogs). I opened the door and noticed a micro switch on the frame. I assumed it would perhaps set an alarm off or notify the gatehouse there was someone there. Eventually a friend of Ringo’s from the Cavern days turned up (from the gatehouse where he lived). You enter the house by the front door and there is a staircase in front of you and various doors on the ground level. I took the left door and ended up in the huge white room where you see John and Yoko performing IMAGINE. On the right wall was a huge brushed stainless steel industrial washing machine door. When you opened it, there was a fire inside it! This was designed by Ringo and a friend of his called Robin. The white wooden shutters that Yoko closes in the video were still there. I sat down at the piano at the end of the room and yes, I admit, I played IMAGINE!!!!!
I went back out through the hall into a very large kitchen. There was a long rustic table and next to that a Moog synthesiser. The kitchen was very well equipped with state of the art appliances (that now seem very dated). There was a spiral staircase that took you upstairs.
I went through to the studio part of the house (still on the ground floor). The control room was quite small, I remember on the mixing desk there was a plaque that said something like “Acorn Studios, John and Yoko recorded Imagine here”. I looked through the window into the recording area and the wall looked striped, due to the use of panels. The band Judas Priest had been in there just before we arrived. I saw a plectrum on the floor and when I looked at it closely it had “Judas Priest Glenn Tipton” printed on it. If only John Lennon had left a plectrum there!
Above : Judas Priest plectrum and M.I.5 cassette from Tittenhurst Park
We were there to record some songs for a forthcoming single, so I had to strap on my Hofner violin bass and start recording. M.I.5 were a three piece band, I played bass and was lead vocalist. Kevin was a superb guitarist, but didn’t sing and Pete was the best drummer I have played with, but didn’t sing. This meant that after we laid down basic tracks, I was stuck in the studio recording backing vocals while the other two could go and explore.
Above : Startling studios T. Rex mascot.
During a break for some guitar overdubs, I had a wander round the house. I believe there were forty four rooms. I went upstairs and looked in all of the small bedrooms, most were bare. On top of one of the wardrobes was some broken glass (thankfully I didn’t cut my hand on it). I looked in the master bedroom, WOW! By the door was a light switch, instead of “On” or “Off” it had “John” and “Yoko” printed on it. There was lots of wood panelling behind the huge bed. I don’t know why, I went up and pressed a part of the wall and a secret draw opened! There were jack sockets by the headboard for instruments and headphones. This enabled John and Yoko to record using the studio below while lying in bed. The ensuite had an enormous circular bath in it. I don’t think there was a door leading to it. I seem to remember the carpet was really thick and my feet sunk in to it up to the top of my ankles. From the bedroom was a terrace with dovecot looking out over the land. I left that room and went down a long corridor. I must have been right at the back of the house by now. There was a glass door with frosted glass and a sign PRIVATE. What should I do, I didn’t want to cause any embarrassment………..
I went through the door, inside was an office. Unlike the rest of the house, that was quite deserted and a little tired, this was obviously being used. By the desk was a cork notice board with lot of Polaroids on it. I remember there were a number of George Harrison dressed up as a boy scout (or something similar). Maybe they were taken when he was hanging out with Monty Python. I noticed on the way in a micro switch on the door frame. About a minute later, as I was on my way out, Ringo’s friend appeared from the gatehouse.
I went back downstairs and got back to recording. As you entered the control room from the kitchen, on the left was a door leading to an area where tapes and suchlike were stored. We were given some inlay covers to put in cassette copies of the mixes we would be taking away with us.
Entering the house from the front door there was another door on the right. This was full of odds and ends. I remember there was a receipt from Bell and Howell to Ringo Starr and Apple films for a projector. Going through to the main white room, there was a huge bookcase at one end and I decided to check inside each book, in case there were any messages from John or Yoko. There were not!! I went out of one of the French windows that led outside, the lawn swept down to a lake with an island, but there was no way to get to it. There were also a few houses further down the hill.Walking towards the house, if you went to the back you saw the huge Oak door that features on the HEY JUDE album cover. The trees had plaques by them with numbers.
M.I.5. I still have the specs!
It was a very peaceful place and very familiar, having seen it in films and magazines. The thing that amazes me was, I did not take one photograph while I was there. I believe I may have left my camera at home as it had developed a fault. I take lots of photographs all of the time. Other places of interest I have worked (such as Abbey Road studios), I have taken photos to record the day. Still, I have the master tapes, inlay covers and many treasured memories of the time I visited that magical place.
Above. This is the finished master tape from Ringo's Startling Studios based in Ascot.
Above. 31/01/1980 City of London University. The Hofner violin bass was a 70's model with bass boost.
The badge I am wearing is ROCK AGAINST RACISM.
M.I.5. were rehearsing at Toyah's once a week. There was a real buzz about her and fans started to gather outside.
Above.The Polaroid photograph of Toyah was taken by the Radio Times photographer. I assume he was checking the lighting and composition of the picture. Toyah gave it to me.
Below. An invite to a party given by Toyah at her Battersea home.
Above. 09/05/1980 The Wooden Bridge, Guildford, Surrey. Historic music pub. The ROLLING STONES played there (Brian Jones fathered a child there).
The record received good reviews (one not so good in Smash hits magazine). We were played on the radio and scored a number of plays on Radio One. Legendary John Peel played it. Mike Read lived round the corner from me (in Surrey), so I posted a note through his letter box and he played the single. Chris Welch (respected Melody Maker journalist) said "M.I.5. were pioneering a whole new sound".
Above 09/05/1980. M.I.5. with some of the crowd who came to see them.
Above. The single "Alright on the night" was released om Public records (distributed by Spartan).
The A side ("Alright on the night") and "Television screen heroes" were recorded at RMS studios in Thornton Heath (London).
"Don't make waves" was recorded at Tittenhurst Park , Ringo Starr's studio (the former property of John and Yoko).
Above. Good review from Melody Maker's Chris Welch.
09/05/1980 I loved my Vox Foundation bass amp. I bought the Yamaha as it was a little LOUDER!
Brian Taylor joined the band circa 1981. He was a friend of Pete the drummer. In the studio he played keyboards and helped with the harmonies. Although Pete and I could bluff our way through on keyboards, Brian could play chords other than simple triads! I love his piano work on Green back. You can hear it at www.myspace.com/mi5uk
WHAT THE PAPERS SAID
My chopped Mini caused a stir when I went out in it. The Police took an interest in it. I have to declare it did conform to the construction and use act and also the section of the Police manual regarding visability. A few newspapers ran stories about it.
31/05/80 M.I.5 playing at a benefit concert in Surrey. After the gig I went to a party to celebrate the opening of Denny Laine's music shop. Wings were supposed to turn up, but Paul McCartney failed to get there. I was asked to play bass instead. Jimmy Pursey of Sham 69 got up to have a sing.
Above. 31/05/80 Denny Laine playing at the opening of his music shop.
31/05/80. Fresh from gigging, I was asked to sing and play bass. Dig the Ben Sherman shirt!
I still have it, of course!
Above. Jimmy Pursey of Sham 69 sang a few songs. We all had a splendid time
Below. A while later I was at a charity do and so was Denny Lane. I was chatting with
him about his Ibanez doubleneck 6 and 12 string guitar. Years later I bought one.
He gave me this Venus and Mars badge.
Above : Denny Laine could often been seen wearing his Teddy Boy jacket. I have chosen a"Von
Ryan's Express" coat. Denny is a talented musician, I wonder where his Ibanez doubleneck is.
Above : Kevin and I booked Crow Studios in Surbiton. We had some mad ideas that didn't suit M.I.5 We spent a day recording and called ourselves BLINDED BY SCIENCE. At one point during the recording I thought it would be fun to pick up the telephone and speak down that. We left it on the finished tape. I sang, played bass and synth. Kevin played guitar. We sent the tape to Melody Maker. It got a very good review (see below).
Above. Melody Maker review 1982.
Above. MI5 reunion (well half of the band). Brian and I display synchronised arm folding.
Out of the blue I received an e mail from MI5 keyboard player Brian Taylor. I last saw him around 1983. We met up on 17th March 2010 to catch up. It was brilliant to see my old band mate after all these years (decades in fact).
Brian had tapes of songs that I was missing and I had tapes of songs that he was missing!
July 2014. I have been contacted by a record company. They want to release a track from M.I.5's single. It will appear on a compilation called MILLIONS LIKE US, due to be released in the Autumn.
January 2015. MILLIONS LIKE US CD set was released in December. The M.I.5 song TELEVISION SCREEN HEROES is on there. The set comes with a book that features write ups of all of the bands.
Here are photographs of the three original members of M.I.5 taken in 2017.
Keith Smart in 2017
Kevin Leigh in 2017.
Pete Muller in 2017