High energy and theatrical spoof 70s glam rock
How it came to be - Steve had had a sabbatical from bands for a few years after Fremsley Starecase had split up. So much energy and passion had been put into that and it was a real knock back that it ended so suddenly. After backpacking around the USA and a short while living in Berkshire he moved back to Nottingham. In an office he befriended someone that told him of his friend, Andi, that had been in bands in the Northampton area and was thinking about forming one in Nottingham, would I be interested. ‘Oh go on then’ Steve replied, now missing music.
Andi and Steve got on well from the start and Andi had the idea of revamping ‘The Andi Tinsel Band’ he had formed in Northampton (Click here for link to their facebook page). This original version was probably more punk, early 80s noir than 70s glam (think Pete Murphy) although Andi’s dress code had plenty of 70s glam about it. Steve thought it would be great fun and they set about writing songs together, Andi putting lyrics to Steve’s riffs, which were edging more to sounding like 70s glams than the original Tinsel band. To make the set more accessible there was going to be about a 50/50 mix of covers and originals.
The beginnings – With song writing developing fast a band was needed. Steve managed to convince friend, and skilled multi-instrumentalist, Colin to play bass. Colin was brother of Simon (from band Tarragon Steve was previously in) and also in a folk/acoustic group with Steve called Stranger Fayre. We advertised for a drummer. A couple auditioned but the clear winner was a young and very talented Paul, also bringing bundles of fun & enthusiasm. To help the impact of sound and stage presence, backing singers were needed and Paul brought in two of his friends and very able singers Donna and Lisa to help cover the need. We rehearsed hard and generally with smiles on our faces. The first ever concert was at Bobby Brown’s in Nottingham. It’s fair to say it pretty much shocked everyone that was there, including the band who got to see Andi’s alter ego and outrageous costume changes for the first time!
The ‘classic’ line up - Donna and Lisa were magnificent but left soon after. Through work connections Steve knew Lulu and she brought in Finnish Suzanne, a student staying in UK on a student exchange from Finland. Steve and Colin knew singer Suzie Creamcheese (aka Sahrah) who, like the others, brought in masses of fun, enthusiasm and stage presence to the band. And so the glamourous Tinsellettes were born and was this, the Andi Tinsel band version that gigged the most: Andi Tinsel - lead vocal, Suzie Creamcheese, Lulu & Finnish Suzanne - The Tinselettes, Paul 'Normal Clothes' – Drums, Colin Cul-de-Sac – Bass & Stevie-Lee Shagbag – Guitar
This line-up went on to play many high energy and outrageous gigs in and around Nottingham in their spoof British 70s Glam Rock style. Charismatic lead singer, Andi Tinsel, put on a glittering show full of costume changes, flowers to the audience, covering the front rows with snow spray and wiring up streams of tinsel (well maybe not the last one but it was considered!). He was ably supported by the wonderful backing singing and synchronised moves of the Tinselettes and a now solid backing band of drums, bass and guitar. We had regular guest slots for sax (Al & Keith) and violin (Helen – to play on 'that' Slade song!). These guests had interesting connects to Steve's music in that Al aka Capt Chaos (from Hairy Canary) was Tarragon and Fremsley Drummer Dave’s brother and he and Steve had recorded together with 'Barney McGrew', Keith was the Tarragon keyboard player and Helen was in Steve’s other band Zarabanda.
The live set included covers by: Gary Glitter (it was ok for that back then!), Slade, T Rex, Bowie, Queen, Suzi Q all had the Tinsel treatment (none more so than the band's heavy rock version of Donny Osmond's 'Puppy Love') but their own self-penned songs began to get more attention & highly recognised, most notably 'Get yer Tinsel Out', 'Belinda's Boots', 'I'm a dummy', 'Stylophone Suzi' and, most of all, 'Chipshop!'. The latter when played live had an extended 'Zappa-esque' middle section telling a theatrical story of Andi and his fantasy love affair with Big Doris, owner of a greasy chip shop from Grimsby, which proved very popular at gigs
The band played regularly in Nottingham and got many festival appearances, bookings supporting some 60/70s stars and a slot on the BBCs Children in Need
The End and a reunion - The band split up, ironically, as a result of increased success and demands for booking; many further afield than just Nottingham. Andi felt he couldn’t devote enough time and energy to this as much as the others in the band wanted, and sadly The Andi Tinsel Band stopped. There was a brief reunion due to demand. For this last concert the Tinsellettes become Lulu with a new Suzie stand-in and, with Colin being unavailable, Paul knew an incredibly talented guitarist Lee. It was easiest for Steve to cover the bass and draft Lee in on guitar, who learned the set in very limited time, and created a slightly more modern harder rock edge to the sound. The final gig was an Xmas special tinselfest at the Arboretum Pub in Nottingham, a large student popular venue, which was packed, and the concert went down extremely well; as they had mostly done during the band’s 2 year life.
Recordings - Fortunately, the band managed to record a studio album, ‘PG’, at the Canning Factory, Nottingham – the recording was by local sound engineering legend Dave Chang. It was recorded mostly live, band altogether, in one afternoon with some vocal & guitar overdubs (only could afford limited studio time so we had little choice but, hopefully, the flip side is that the live feel came through). It was transferred to DAT by Sherborne Sound in Oct 1996 and remastered by John Braddock at Rubber Buscuit Studios Nov 1996 for a re-issue the Tinsel Album 'PG'.
This was another band Steve has very fond memories of. It was good doing gigs again and to mostly full houses. It was also a pleasure doing music for pure fun and making people smile and laugh, which we did on all occasions. Not sure if this band would have ever made it big but certainly wouldn’t have been short of bookings and had plenty of full house audiences leaping about and singing along. The backing band with Paul and Colin (and later Lee) also got very tight, (and way too technically good for 70s glam rock!). All these fantastic musicians went on to have careers connected with music thereafter.
I think one of the sad missed opportunities is that Steve tried to get The Andi Tinsel Band to represent the UK at the Eurovision Song Contest. After about 10 phonecalls he finally got to the panel that made the decision but, as usual, they wanted to play safe. We, of course, would have been a hit and if not and you’re going to get ‘nil points’ off everyone, why not do it in style and be remembered!
After the Tinsel Band split up the band, minus Andi, stayed together to form Savage Jelly.
Special thank yous go to:
John Supercooper for his roll as spoof 70s band manager and also all the support and wacky costumes
Stuart for always being the best and loudest raver in the audience
Simon x 2 for the many PAs done for us
Richard for the support at gigs and introducing Steve to Andi in the first place.