The following text is a slightly updated version of the official biography of the Deserters, written by Lee Newe.
One Friday night, the 17th September 1982, the BBC showed “Yellow Submarine”. The following Monday the idea was spawned:-
“SERGEANT BADDON’S LONELY HEARTS CLUB BAND”
then a few weeks later:-
“SERGEANT BADDON’S DESERTERS”
The original line-up was:-
Alastair Esson was not officially a Deserter, though he was at the first band practice. He never returned.
So let’s take the date of the Deserters being started as: 19th September 1982. Band Practices were few and far between. The second took place on Sunday 7th of November 1982 (Remembrance Sunday!) at Cajj’s house. Of this, no recorded or photographic evidence exists; in fact 68% of the time was spent playing with a VIC 20!? Nobody even remembers the first one which took place in LEE’S GARAGE, but present at both were all four original band members. At Christmas Angus Russell left the Deserters when he changed school.
Around the time Russell left, we also saw a new member joining the band – Montepalde Pentel came in as the replacement keyboard player.
This period also saw the greatest amount of songs written originally by the Deserters, for several years. Such classics as; “THE CHAPPIE IN THE NAPPIE”, “EYE OF THE WALRUS” (based upon “I am the Walrus” by Lennon/McCartney), and “SUICIDE” by McDonald. None of these, as yet, have been recorded.The former two were the much talked about “asylum” songs by McDonald. Stupid? Yes! But they did “make” the Deserters in a kind of way. They almost led to Cajj Wokkmann leaving the group to perform with the “Iron Skulls”, formed by Christopher Hanna as a “rival” to us.
Copying us became trendy; the “Iron Skulls” were soon joined by the “Midnight Maidens” formed by Rachael Bernard. Both groups had fallen apart by the Summer of 1983 – after only two months.
The Deserters and Cajj Wokkmann struck a bargain – we would have a guitarist as long as he did not have to perform “The Chappie in the Nappie” with us.
In the early Summer of 1983 we had our first recording session at “The Power Station” studio in Helensburgh. With Montepalde Pentel absent, Wokkmann, McDonald and Newe recorded 2 tracks for the band’s first single, OMP;“Orchestral Menagerie in the Park” b/w “Gostik Sobo”.
Both were instrumental pieces, “Gostik Sobo” being a Yobstick solo. Featured on the A-side was a washboard (B.McD.) for the first time.
Mention here must be made of the innovative Yobstick. Devised by Boris’ father, the Yobstick featured greatly at the drunken New Year’s Rave-Up (ie party) at the Inverbeg Inn. The model used by Boris was built for the Deserters by himself. It incorporates a biscuit tin and bungie (elastic luggage fastener) in the middle, with a welly boot at the bottom. When a microphone was placed inside it made a unique sound which no other band has since achieved!
This session marked the last time Cajj Wokkmann was officially a Deserter. This was also the last time the name Boris McDonald was used; MICK BORDET – trendy, with-it, macho(?), etc. replaced it.
During the Summer holidays the Deserters expanded from three to five with the introduction of two female vocalists, Jenna Yasdnil and Maggie Elver.
A recording and photograph session was arranged in mid-June 1983. Nothing was recorded, but the songs “JONES” (McDonald) and “THE THEME FROM ‘BANG'” (Newe) were aired. These were the first new songs since “I’d Commit Suicide” in the Autumn of 1982.
This time heralded the famous “sunning-in” of Bordet’s and Newe’s hair.This was the last official “get-together” by the Deserters for almost 20 months!
During this time all band members greatly matured and mellowed out to a wholly different style.
The line-up was now:-
Lee Newe ........... Drums Mick Bordet ........ Yobstick Monte Pentel ....... Keyboards Maggie Elver ....... Keyboards & Vocals Jenna Yasdnil ...... Vocals
Personally, I thought the Deserters had been grown out of. Mick had pulled a chick, Sarah Taylor, and most of his spare time was taken up by datingher. This romance lasted well over a year (despite her bits on the side inFrance – no names mentioned) and finally fell apart in October 1984.
Nothing solo was attempted by any member of the Deserters until early 1985, when Lee Newe planned a solo album, “The Yellow Washing Machine Syndrome”. The cover was prepared, songs were written, but nothing was ever recorded. The idea may still go ahead.
Two backing groups were enlisted for the album:- TRUDI TREWHOARE & THE TROLLOPS and ROKKIE MALLARD & THE KWAK PAK.
Saturday, March 30th 1985 saw the first Deserters get-together since the summer of 1983. It was also the first time that the band played at Inverbeg. There was much snow on the ground. It had been a hard one to get off the ground, but the complete band was there, plus all the equipment – including a Hammond-type organ for the first time ever – all crammed into a shed. We recorded!
It was an EP entitled “Banned Practice” which had two tracks on it; an unnamed solo piece by Maggie Elver on organ, backed by the rest of the band on a wide range of percussion instruments, plus the brief solo tune, “Makkie’s Rhythm” showcasing the talents of Montepalde Pentel.
Completing the EP were a number of excepts of dialogue which were recorded unknown to the band. These covered topics as diverse as antics in Germany, the effects of exploding confectionery and the psychological effects of mirrored bathrooms.
As well as writing songs, and being the mainstays of the Deserters, Newe and Bordet find the time to write books, plays, etc.
This was an incredibly short-lived spin-off band based in Inverbeg, and featuring Mick, Rui Andrade (our Roadie), Maggie Elver, and another chick from Inverbeg, Jayne Middleton. Nothing was planned for this band, and no songs were ever written specifically for them. They folded.
R.I.P. Prefab Artichoke.
Here is a brief selection from their respective bibliographies:-
- “Jocky” – take-off of “Jackie”-type magazines
- “Jocky II” – likewise
- “The Joey Stories” – the biographies of Joey Andretti, Eddy Sponge and their pals.
- “What I Do When I Should Be Doing German”
- “The Bible” – both compilations of sketches / plays / poems
Also written have been many other, less important plays and songs, such as “The Why in the Sky” by Bordet and “BANG” by Newe. Both plays (unfinished) featured Maggie Maggot as the star. Maggie, who in real life a maggot cunningly disguised as a school dinner lady, comes out with such fondly remembered phrases as “Braaak, where’s my dishmop?”.
Such literary magnitude has only been taken up by Mick Bordet and Lee Newe. “The Bible” has not yet been finished, and the date of completion is completely unknown. The Joey stories are largely complete and there were even plans afoot to make them into a film; unfortunately the original manuscripts have perished, so such an endeavour is now unlikely.
Throughout the summer of 1985 the Deserters were high in the minds of all members. The song writing entered a new era; almost folk-rock in some cases. Innovative songs such as “The Goldfish Song” and “Boring Things” by Bordet, and “Fire Engine Disco Remix (Part II)” by Newe were all included on the first album, “All It Took Was One Night In The Back Of A Fire Engine”, and each was completely different in presentation to the previous Deserters songs.
October 1985 saw the Deserters debut of Ray Cathode. Brought in as drummer, Cathode brought with him new concepts of mixing and mastering. His previous musical background has been nil, but is catching on to the game rapidly.
A new member was also signed just before the second Inverbeg gig of October: Ray Cathode. THIS WAS IT!
The first album was recorded, and then a fanzine was published. “DESERTED” was spawned by Mick (though rapidly became a full-band activity) to cater for a growing following for the band in the Western Isles, and summed up everything we are – stupid. It contained everything
you did or didn’t want to know about the Deserters.
This Renaissance also saw a new era in the musical equipment; the Yobstick was ever-present, of course, but also the Castrol Can, Washboard, Wobbleboard, Farfisa Organ and a BEDFORD FIRE ENGINE. George, a D-reg fire-fighter from the isle of Tiree, inspired various songs of this period, and also featured in some of them.
Originally the gig headquarters of the Deserters was “The Power Station” in Helensburgh, but when we acquired the Farfisa synth/organ, our gigs and recording sessions became based in Inverbeg. The Greenshed was a centre of activity of the land:-
“There must be a leyline going through the Greenshed” (Newe)
Unfortunately, the creation of a new A82 trunk road directly through the site meant the ultimate destruction of the studio. The feelings about this subject are summed up in Newe’s protest song “Why can’t they leave our Green, Green Shed alone?”
The cut-down trio that the band had become were never to record; a planned recording session which displayed the band’s new technology of Cathode’s mixer and Bordet’s new digital synth (bought to replace the Farfisa organ which literally blew up as it was being played) never amounted to anything other than an extended photo-session, although “The Complete 1978 Song” and “Pre-Urodicus in Post-War Trousers” were both played through without any vocals.
Whilst both Bordet’s and Newe’s singing voices were improving, the band was lacking a quality lead vocalist, and thus Jennifer Leigh was drafted in to sing and play occasional keyboards. Bordet was then made free to move over to play electric guitar, introducing a “rockier” edge to the band sound.
Work had already started on the songs for the new ‘difficult second’ album which started life being called “The Ah-lbum”, then “Renaissance”, before the band settled on the enigmatic “II” in true Led Zeppelin / Peter Gabriel fashion. It was to include versions of old songs never previously recorded, material from the first album which was unused due to space restrictions, as well as a host of new material – clearly a vast quantity, but not without a high quality of song-writing style which had developed fully by this time.
November 1985 – the two female (?) members of the band were sacked due to their lack of contribution to the band. Employed in 1983 as singers, Maggie and Jenna spent two years messing up gigs – their singing was abysmal. It also became apparent that they could not handle the new musical scene entered into during this highly conceptual period.
The Greenshed Studio Complex was upgraded with a larger and warmer studio, which was used for a great deal of writing by Bordet, although never used for recording. The band assembled there to try out the tribute to the mystic times of the druids and leylines that they
had been exploring in various articles for “Deserted”, namely “The Stones”.
This was the last time the Complex was used since the whole area, including Mick’s house, was demolished to make way for an intergalactic bypass, well, the A82.
The next session was to see a return to Helensburgh, the first session since the “Power Station” days of 1983. Ray Cathode’s “Soundwich Studios” hosted a bewildering array of technology, including a new drum machine and sampler combined. This was to be the downfall of this gig, intended to be a recording of the first heavy rock numbers; “Heavy Metal Ballad (Iain Laing)” and “Mercenaries”. Electronic overkill, combined with Cathode’s unfamiliarity
with his mixing console meant that these two numbers were not recorded.
The band organised four holidays around this period; the two “Happy Trips on Wheels” were ill-fated trips to Mull off the West Coast of Scotland. Both were rained off, but the latter was the more entertaining, featuring as it did; Rui (still a roadie at this time) chasing a pheasant around a field with a view to dinner, Lee’s sleeping bag being immersed in a river, a trip to see a stone circle which comprised only one stone, Rui’s bike disintegrating underneath him, and various unsuccessful encounters with young ladies.
Far more entertaining were the original “Happy Trips” undertaken in luxury cruisers run as part of the Inverbeg Empire.The first of these (with Rui, Lee and Mick) included Rui taking an unexpected swim fully clothed thanks to Mick, as well as crawling around the deck of the boat on a nine inch wide ledge in a less than conscious state, and Mick setting alight a stick deodorant with impressive results.
The second trip was more enlightening from a musical point of view. Lee, Ray and Mick took a larger vessel out a year later and many new songs were sung. The highlights were several humorous improvised songs with each person taking a line in turn, and a heart-rending performance of “The Woman in Red” by Newe, with solo acoustic guitar backing. This was
actually recorded – in the open air – but the whereabouts of the tape are completely unknown.
A mystic night spent on the deserted (no pun intended) Isle of Inch Lonaig also inspired Newe’s gothic tale in which the main character is dragged into the Underworld through a foot-shaped hollow in the rock at the top of the Isle.
Rui the (not) Roadie
After years of sterling service to the band as Road Manager, Rui Andrade was rewarded by being signed up full-time as bass player, although his services were unused until 1989 when the facilities of the new “Ferryman Studios” were put to use to record a version of Uriah Heep’s “Gypsy”.
After this time little was done to promote the band further for some considerable time, as each member branched off in new directions. However, the Deserters were not totally forgotten. A return to Power Station Studios in Helensburgh saw the band – now minus Cathode, who was creating obstacles to work by excessive use of technology which took too long to install and was often faulty – return to recording. A leap forward in musicality saw Leigh on vocals, Bordet on guitar, and Newe on flute – a skill sadly neglected in Deserters recordings
up until this point.
A cover version of Lindesfarne’s “Meet Me On The Corner” was recorded successfully to keep the music ticking over (but never released). This was the first ever time that the band had consisted solely of musicians (Cathode had not left at this point, although he was not present, and moves were afoot!). Without distractions like Elver and Yasdnil’s whining, Wokkman’s aggressive moods or Cathode’s supposed techno-brain, the band reached a peak of musicianship only dreamed of in the early years of the yobstick, drums and VL Tone.
A video documentary was filmed and released, although the master tape of the actual song mysteriously disappeared, and so was never released. This is a great shame since it was the first to incorporate the advantages of multitrack recording which Ferryman Studios offered, along with the use of various other effects devices. The song itself bore less resemblance to the original “Gypsy” than it did to the early style of bands such as Pink Floyd, Can or Soft Machine. Jennifer Leigh was absent from this session, although she had not actually left the band officially, since she had moved to London.
Ray Cathode planned a solo album entitled “One Sunday Morning in Dunoon”. Since he has left the Deserters it is unlikely he will ever complete this.
Rui Andrade left the country to live in Madeira for 6 months, returning in time for the “Gypsy” session. He had to leave his bass behind, and now uses Bordet’s bass.
Jennifer Leigh has become highly acclaimed for her voice, winning prizes for singing and piano-playing at music festivals and starring in Scottish Opera’s rock opera “Bet Your Life”. She also joined with Bordet and Andrade to form the folk-rock group “Jack O’ Lantern” which was intended to back Bordet on his solo album. This band only recorded one song of their own,
“White Silk”, but the collaboration led to Bordet and Leigh recording an album together, called “Mux Ip” which was a strange mix up of cover versions, instrumentals and folk songs.
Bordet and Newe both also had plans for solo albums – neither has yet come to light, but work continues. Newe’s album, “Alternative Experiences” has been proposed since the early eighties, but the track listing has repeatedly altered in light of many influences Newe has come into contact with since starting the album. It should include “The Newtron Bomb Band” backing him as well as appearances by his two earlier backing groups, Trewhoare et al and Mallard et al.
The Track listing of Bordet’s first solo album is still undecided as well, but will be released as a double album called “Breac Cailleach”, to cover musical styles varying from ethereal folk-influenced ballads to highly experimental modern-classical pieces.
1988 was a busy year for live Deserter-related events, involving the two founder members.
Newe teamed up with mad violist Julian Berry to perform as “The Raving Mads” on a bill with another local band, “The Rumour”. The show pre-dated the style of Mr. Vic Reeves with a mixture of songs (“Everybody needs somebody to love” by the Blues Brothers and the “Mad Rap” by themselves), humorous repartee, strange characters and audience participation ( with Bordet making a guest appearance as a quiz contestant).
Bordet appeared in the musical “The Drunkard” as a singing barman/landlord, whilst Bordet and Newe also appeared together as part of an all-star band performing “Under the Boardwalk”.
Newe now resides in Aberdeen, where plans are afoot to start another new band to perform authentic 70’s style music. To fully recall the “Splendour” of that era, the band has named itself after that epitome of the 70’s – crap, useless and dull: “British Leyland”. In the manner of 70’s Supergroups it was to include, amongst others, Newe and Spoon (from the Rumour), with Bordet being offered occasional mandolin parts. Let’s hope it has more success
than its namesake.
Bordet finished an album of old Deserters songs which have been variously re-mastered, re-recorded and re-written using digital sampling techniques and stereo imaging to bring new life to golden oldies. It includes a fair selection of the tracks intended to be used for “II”, but never recorded until now. Called “The Album That Never Was”, it features…..
1992-93 Saw a sudden increase in Deserters get-togethers and recording sessions, including several days of recording at the new “Ferryman Studios”, located on the banks of Loch Lomond, and an all-night session at an external studio in Glasgow.
The former saw Bordet, Newe, Leigh and newcomer Adam Arsenic record several full songs, and lay down basic tracks for a handful more. The latter saw the same team, minus Leigh, recording songs in a session which ran through the night, but resulted in some very high-quality recordings, most notably Newe’s epic poem “Generation of Fear” (a pessimistic view of life underpinned with haunting synthesiser atmosphere and wailing guitars) and Bordet’s
continuing fixation with fire-fighting “Fireman’s Lift” which heralded the long-awaited return of the Yobstick after an absence of many years, as well as featuring an Arsenic solo on the honk-hose.
Bordet later added some further overdubs to some of these recordings with the assistance of band members on their own and several guest musicians; Dawn & Jane Porter (providing backing vocals to “One Night In The Back Of A Fire Engine”), Scott Bisset (keyboards on “Remembering the Juicy Berries”), Andy (guitar on “Drevulon Poseiden”) and Bernadette McLaughlin (lead & backing vocals on several tracks).
The sessions were mastered for an album to be called “A Cavalier Attitude”, but this album has yet to be released.
The song “One Night In The Back Of A Fire Engine” was included on a compilation of various artists called “The Songwriters’ Guild” which received some critical acclaim.