George’s Memories

George’s memories of Mark Drower and the Everyones:

If ever one individual had to be singled out as a driving force of pure inspiration, then Mark Drower would be the man. He probably doesn’t know it and none of us have seen or heard from him in years. Yet his contribution to all of this is crucial.

During a five-day school trip to Birmingham in September 1981, some truly remarkable things happened. Mark was the new religious studies teacher and kept getting his roles between student and teacher confused. He also played guitar and sang, something that Simon did and I at that time didn’t. Simon, myself and about twenty teenage girls were utterly transfixed by an impromptu performance he gave one morning while we waited to go on a trip to a place of religious worship.

A certain young lady happened to accidentally steal my heart away, utterly and completely, during this trip. It took years to recover from her unintentional thievery! Because the rumour at the time was that she rather fancied Simon and Mark, both of whom played guitar, I made an obvious choice. Soon after returning home, I picked my father’s rather lovely classical guitar and tried to learn things like E, A and D (although G and D minor were much harder than barre chords). In case you’re wondering – no, I never did get that girl (boo, hiss).

In 1982 came the House Music competition. I hadn’t been involved before and was quite a fearless guitarist, in that I could – and often did – play in front of other people without feeling any kind of nerves at all. My House, Raleigh, asked me to play guitar with a fairly large ensemble who would perform a cover of You’re Sixteen by Ringo Starr. It went quite well, despite only having one full rehearsal. Sue Dawe played a splendid solo on tenor saxophone.

Also at around this time, perhaps a little earlier at the start of 1982, I had joined a band for the first time. Achilles Heel was its name. It featured Simon on guitar and Roy Brimblecombe on drums, both of whom were in Coleridge House. (Dick White, on bass, wasn’t in Raleigh or Coleridge.) Simon and Roy were going to perform a cover of California Dreaming, with Leslie Santer on vocal. That sounded like fun and the chords were pleasing, so Simon and I rehearsed an arrangement of the song that Simon devised whenever we could, and had it properly mastered come the day.

Playing for two houses, i.e. for Coleridge as well as Raleigh, was strictly forbidden! So immediately after the You’re Sixteen performance, I sneaked away to change into a completely different style of clothes. A shabbily hand-painted white electric guitar that looked, sounded and played nothing like mine had been borrowed and stashed away. I used a bright yellow curly cable instead of the earlier black one, and wore a Coleridge red bobble hat.

When it was pulled down right over my head and face, all the way to the neck, nobody could recognise me and cause Coleridge to be disqualified. I could still see through the weave of the knitted wool reasonably clearly, but nobody could see it was me! The disguise worked perfectly and it was such tremendous conspiratorial fun, perhaps the most fun thing I ever did at school!

During the live performance, Simon and myself somehow seemed unable to play the song with Roy and Leslie. We had gone into the performance with no full rehearsal at all. It was disappointing after all the rehearsing Simon and I had done. We weren’t very good. Poor Roy looked particularly sick and gutted after we came off stage.

Soon after this, my parents moved house right in the middle of revising for ‘O’ Levels. The day we moved was April Fool’s Day, and the Falklands War had just kicked off. I had lots of friends in Sidmouth, where we had lived, and knew nobody at all in Exeter, where we were moving to. The prospect of being with friends and doing music for a week during Project Week, even though I had technically finished school by then, was very appealing.

Project Week came in July, at the very end of the school year. One project that the students could embark upon was the play known as Everyone, by Frederick Franck. Various people who had been on the Birmingham trip at the start of that academic year were involved and Mark was the main force behind it. He had written four songs and selected the taped music to go with the play, as well as directing the action. His performances were utterly mind-blowing, ably assisted by Simon’s wonderful lead guitar.

Mark was a genius songwriter. His songs were immediate and incredibly powerful. They could move your soul. He was self-taught on guitar and was an unconventional and eccentric player. I’d already had a classical training on piano to Grade 5 and found Mark’s approach fascinating, with his bizarre chords that were not in any book I’d seen and strange open tunings. Drop D is still known as ‘Drower Tuning’.

Everyone was such a success that many of the cast and crew went down to Blaze studios in Torquay that summer to record a tape of the songs, just before the new school year started. It was my first experience of a recording studio and very exciting. A verse I wrote for the Cabbage Blues ended up being used, so I was now a veteran studio vocalist! I remember drinking cider with Emma Leach at lunchtime in a nearby graveyard and talking about Dungeons and Dragons, which Emma had played and was new to me.

A repeat performance of the entire show was held in Exeter Cathedral in the autumn of 1982. By then the cast had changed due to it being a new academic year. Some people had left the school. This included myself beginning three ‘A’ Levels at Exeter College.

Although the Cathedral performances of Everyone were very good, they didn’t quite capture the magic of the original. Favourite memories from the Cathedral shows were watching Jo Wilson’s eye pupils dilating when the lights changed as we sat close together in hushed conversation on the flagstones, and our new buddy Grape turning up having cycled from Willow View in the rain.

It was time for Now!