Mick at work in his studio
(photo: Mick Lister)
another of our local legends. In bands since early schooldays, he came to
be known to the Friars audience through The Stowaways brand of mod rock,
playing no less than four times in 1979, and again in 1980. He came back
to Friars in 1981 in another local outfit Dream Soldiers. In 1982 he
played as support to the legendary Kinks in new band The Truth and he
fulfilled a dream one year later when he headlined Friars with The Truth
who had by then found the pop charts with the great single Confusion. Mick
has remained active in the music industry managing and creating and works
from his own studio in rural Buckinghamshire keeping close ties with
up with Mick at his studio in March 2011.
Thanks for talking to the Friars Aylesbury website. Actually your first
Friars appearance supporting The Lurkers was quite unique. One of the
Stowaways was 15 and minimum entry to the club is 16!
was Ray (Rowswell)
By the time of The Stowaways first appearance, you'd been together a
while, but how did you get together as I know you went to different
started as a band when I was 11! Me and Cliff (Rowswell) were in the same
class at primary school and we lived close to each other in Aylesbury. We
struck up a friendship and decided to form a band. I'd got my first guitar
from Woolworths for £14! Cliff bought a drum set and Ray bought a guitar.
We started to gig round social clubs in Aylesbury playing covers. We
didn't have a bass guitarist. And because we were so young we entered
talent contests and this was at the time As It Is were the big local band
(featuring Mike Carroll and Pete Lumley who went on to form Cruise). We
were looking a bass player and Adrian Bailey lived across the road and he
had a bass guitar so he was in the band! Usual story!
went to the Grammar School and with Robin Pike there was the Friars
connection which helped us played the Christmas sixth form dances. We
called the band The Stowaways which thinking about it was a shit name
really! Then we started to write songs. The punk thing had come in then
though, but I was more on the Beatles melodic side. But we were influenced
by the likes of Buzzcocks and The Jam. Adrian and me wrote most of the
songs. Adrian was a big Jam fan. Our image was a kind of 60s mod type
I was going to mention that as your next appearance at Friars in 1979 was
on the Secret Affair/Madness gig which was obviously a ska/mod bill, I
certainly remember you being bracketed into the mod scene locally.
was always a Weller fan and a massive Who fan. Pete Townshend was a huge
influence on me. There was a big mod revival at the time spearheaded by
The Jam and it was a really exciting time. We loved all that sort of music
- we gave it a go and it was good fun. I was always more excited about
supporting Madness that I was Secret Affair.
I think Friars caught them (Madness) at exactly the right time when they
were on the up and they played and sold out Friars three months later.
amazing band with a great atmosphere and great songs.
My first experience of The Stowaways was at the Gang of Four gig in
November 1979. I guess one of the advantages of being a local band is you
could be called upon at short notice if there was a problem which in this
case was Swell Maps pulling out.
just gagging for gigs anywhere really and playing at Friars - well there
couldn't be a much better place to play. Adrian would get a call from
Stoppsy and it went from there. I'm not saying that The Gang of Four was
the best type of gig for us! But we were up for that.
I understand fully why you got the call, but
musically it was perhaps a bit of a mish mash.
good to get those sort of gigs where you might get something thrown at
you! (not that it did) and not have a ready made audience.
The last gig of 1979 also saw you replacing a band at short
the Christmas party gig? We were never going to turn that down!
That was the last time The Stowaways played as a four piece as by the time
The Stowaways played again supporting Bad Manners in summer 1980, Adrian
had left so obviously it had changed.
was a very bright kid and he left to go to university. I was probably the
only one who was driven to want to make it as a career. Adrian quit as he
furthered his education. We worked as a three piece for a while but I
found I was doing everything, I was writing the songs, sorting out the
rehearsals and so on. We made an EP which was financed by our school drama
teacher, Andrew Bolton, who became our manager for about 10 minutes! He
was a lovely guy. We did a few school gigs but I don't think The Stowaways
were destined for anything more than local gigs, but that wasn't enough
So at this point, you must have decided you wanted to be a full time
of decided at 8 years old. Music was everything for me. And football but I
couldn't play at a high enough level. But once I got a guitar that was it
really. I was sure I was destined to do this. After the Stowaways split, I
formed a band with Spencer Harris who used to be in The Liggers (another
Aylesbury band who played Friars).
So that must have been Dream Soldiers?
was awful. We didn't really have a good drummer and it just really wasn't
a good time for me.
You played Friars once as Dream Soldiers
supporting Steve Harley.
was a time when I was searching for something better than what I was
in....which ultimately led to me auditioning for The Truth.
I was coming on to that!
Dream Soldiers, Dave Stopps didn't like name! He was like "what are you
I never saw the band sadly.
being the local lad you look around and see what's around for musicians.
And at my age a lot of people were going into higher education so I was
tired of being that 18/19 year old. And I think I was at a musical
crossroads by then and by the end of the 70s/early 80s, the likes of U2
were getting noticed for example.
It started to go really good for you when you auditioned for The Truth.
One of the best gigs I ever saw at Friars was Nine Below Zero....
It was awesome. I had heard so much about them before I saw them, bought a
couple of records and they should have been so much bigger.
it was Spencer Harris who phoned me up at work and said that Dennis
Greaves from Nine Below Zero was putting together a new band and should we
go for the auditions. I said "oh fuck off, we'll never get that!" and then
I thought OK I'll do it. I was a massive Nine Below Zero fan and saw them
all over with Neil Smart (legendary Friars security man). The audition was
surreal being auditioned by Dennis Greaves. I got the gig and Spencer
unfortunately didn't. So many guitarists went for that gig and he
obviously saw something in me that he liked. We got on and started a
writing relationship straight away.
Your seventh Friars gig was supporting the Kinks as The Truth in 1982 and
I remember you weren't bad at all. Come 1983, you're on Top of The Pops
and headlining Friars. Great times!
headline Friars was one of my ambitions. I think when you are young, your
ambitions aren't too high and to headline your local town at the premium
gig is an ambition. That will always stick with me.
It's got to be a big thing, the local boy with your name written large on
the posters in your home town. You're in select company with Otway and
Barrett, Marillion, Kajagoogoo and Howard Jones.
It was a
bizarre time for me because our first TOTP was also Marillion's first TOTP
and we were backstage chatting and it was a big thing in the local paper -
local boys do good on TOTP, it was quite surreal to see people from
Aylesbury on TOTP!
The Truth carried on till about 1989?
we made a lot of mistakes. I was a local boy going into a big arena with
Dennis Greaves and we got signed to Warner Brothers straightaway and we
chose all the wrong producers! We could have had Langer/Winstanley and we
ended up with Swain and Jolley who had done Spandau Ballet??.......there
were a lot of things in hindsight we did wrong. We had a couple of hits
and the new indie music swept in and Warners dropped us, but we got picked
up by Miles Copeland and the IRS label which was a lot cooler. But they
wanted us to lose any 'mod' tag and break America which we nearly did but
IRS didn't really have any money. We had a top 5 radio hit at the same
time as U2's With or Without You and were on MTV 12 times a day. It was
amazing but they didn't have the money or the clout to push us further. We
made an album for six months in LA with some great musicians from the
likes of Mr Mister and Huey Lewis and The News. It was a good time but all
good times come to an end.
So tell us what you're up to now?
I am now
a songwriter and producer and had several top 10 hits and worked with acts
such as Amy Winehouse, BB Mak, Dum Dums, Holly Valance, S Club, Gareth
Gates, a load of pop stuff and some cooler rock stuff. Have just
collaborated with legendary record producer Hugh Padgham ( Police, Phil
Collins, Genesis, Sting) on a project for big film TV Music company
"Extreme" who are based in LA. Just finished 2 albums for that. Also I am
a partner in a management company called West 4 Music.
Cheers Mick and all the
This interview and its
content are © 2011 Mike O'Connor/www.aylesburyfriars.co.uk and may not
be used in whole or in part without permission.