“I went to Park View school and chedah at the Rubbishries, or Shruberries. Then I went to Stand and they made us go all the way to The Rialto for Jewish lunches, which is a long fucking way from Whitefield. We’d get on the bus to The Rialto. Lol Creme also went to Stand.
I was living on Vine Street, off Bury New Road, when I was 18. It was 1972 because I remember Genesis Foxtrot came out and we were listening to it. I met some guys from Cambridge who had a band called Hamilton Gray and they lived in Chorlton. My friend Jimmy Morrison and another fellow called Brian Harpo Marks, who played harmonica, and I joined this group and we had a regular gig in Stockport. We got a contract through Indigo Studios in Manchester and did some recording there. My cousin, Victor Emerson, who was then in Sad Cafe, helped us. Victor was great, and, earlier than that, he came and did some session work with us because he had a Moog. He just came in and winged it and did orchestral stuff for us.
We changed our name to Gentlemen and we got on to Alan ‘Fluff’ Freeman’s show and did three songs at BBC Studios in Maida Vale. They played all three for twenty minutes on a Saturday afternoon and that was great. By that time we were living on Prestwich Park Road South, in Moorsby, or ‘BoresMe’ as we used to call it. After we were on Radio 1, Tony Wilson came to see us rehearse and said ‘Yeah you’re great, come on’. He’d just started So It Goes in 1976 and we were on first, then it was the Bowles Brothers Band, and then it was the Sex Pistols…
We almost had a fight with Johnny Rotten in the Green Room as he was trashing everybody…Joni Mitchell, Dylan…you name it, he hated them all. It was actually Clive James who heard us almost coming to blows and he came up to me and said ‘They’re not worth it, just ignore them’. He didn’t like them, apparently.
Rick Lee [not Alvin Lee], the drummer from Ten Years After, was our manager at the time and he got us a demo session with Bronze Records, which was part of EMI. We did the demos and they came to see us live in Bristol, I think. I didn’t know this ‘til thirty years later but they offered us a contract. Rick Lee asked for £50,000 and Bronze said ‘Fuck off!’. We didn’t know this! At the same time there was 10CC…
Phil Burgess was the new drummer for 10CC after they’d split in two, and he drummed with us when Tony Wilson came down to audition us for So It Goes, but he didn’t play on it. He liked us and they’d been courting our guitarist, Rick Fenn, to join them. He kept saying ‘No’ as he thought we’d get a record contract but when we thought that had fallen through, he finally said ‘Yes’.
…So the band broke up and I came back here and started playing with my friends also from along Bury New Road, Jim Morrison, who passed away about five years ago, and Pete Barrett. They already had a band called The Nodes and went on to become The Fruiting Bodies and had a couple of relatively cult successful CDs. They were great. And then Jim and Pete and Toby Lyons, who was also up Bury New Road, joined The Colourfield and had some success.
This was the early to mid 70s, 10CC part 2…and The Fall came after us. I knew a couple of the guys in passing but wasn’t close to them. There was no scene; we hated it up here, we didn’t like Prestwich. Prestwich was a dump. There was nothing going on but for some reason we ended up on Prestwich Park Road South. My parents lived on the well-named Bland Road, and there was nothing going on.
After Gentlemen, I started a thing in Bury called the Bury Union of Musicians (BUM) and did some live stuff in a pub in Bury. It was great as we had all these musicians from the Manchester School of Music with us playing cellos and stuff. Then me, Jim and Pete did lots of stuff on Piccadilly Radio at night. But we had to disguise ourselves as we didn’t want the dole to know we were getting paid, so I did some solo stuff as Nat Jacobs. We made good money doing that as they had to have a certain amount of live music after 10pm otherwise they’d lose their contract. We played every week, it was fun but nobody listened.
Prestwich was dead in those days. There were lots of hippies up there but not a musical scene. People were listening to music and there were odd pockets of musicians. We were into ourselves. We were a band and lived together, and we’d often go to South Manchester to party because it was more fun down there.
It was just the beginning of punk and we were at the end of the progressive era, that’s why we lost out. We didn’t really like being in Prestwich because we thought it was dead as a doornail for bands. It’s a funny thing isn’t it?”
Howard Kingston now lives in Montana and has his own radio show