It was 40 years ago today. We were holed up in the now-demolished Queen’s Hotel, Westcliff-on-Sea, writing and learning songs for our third album. The hotel was still in business as a pub, ‘restaurant’, and dance hall, but the three upper storeys, that once offered 4-star accommodation for visitors to the town, were mothballed and patrolled by ‘security guards’. In a nightmare not far removed from The Shining, Alsatian dogs roamed the corridors and shat wherever they fancied. The canine excrement was rarely cleaned up, and we had to step over it each morning when we turned up for work during that long hot summer.
Recording contract-wise, we had been dropped by Jonathan King’s UK Records after two poorly-selling albums. We were about to work with producer Mike Batt and ‘CBS were gonna pay a great big advance’. Kursaals guitarist Graeme Douglas and myself had written some songs, and Paul and Vic and Richie were also becoming productive. We had an item called ‘Little Does She Know’, which started life as a waltz time country song, music composed by Graeme. I had written the lyric and both Paul and Graeme added further musical ideas, including changing the time signature and transforming it into a ‘Spectoresque’ production with a ‘Be My Baby’ beat. By the time Batt got his hands on it at Wessex Studios, it became a grandiose production with orchestral sound effects.
Punk rock, as in the Pistols and the Damned, was still in development, yet little did we know the upset punk would cause; as a working group we made our living on the club and college circuit, but it wouldn’t be long before promoters and social secretaries were fancying a flutter on Rat Scabies and his custard pies rather than the more conventional entertainment approach that the Kursaals and similar bands offered. That August, ‘Clash’ would open for us at London’s Roundhouse, and the signs were obvious, to me at least. I loved the punk onslaught and have never stooped to using the word ‘energy’ in describing those groups.
Here are ‘the Kursaals’ on TV:
Come autumn 1976, we were signed to CBS and touring the UK and Europe in support of our ‘Golden Mile’ LP. ‘Little Does She Know’ was released as a 45 and it slowly scaled the hit parade, aided by our appearances on Top of the Pops. Though not all of us would admit it, we had generally longed to become ‘pop stars’, and for a fleeting moment we were. We are ‘one hit wonders’, as those who score a solitary fluke hit are often known. It was a briefly fabulous time and strangely feels like yesterday.