Various ‎– The Apprentices Dance

Sounds Interesting Records ‎– SILP 007
Vinyl, LP, Compilation


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August 5, 2013
Further to this review, it may interest some that Ronnie Mayor himself has recently got in touch with me via email. With regards to my assumptions about the selection criteria, Ronnie says that he approached all the leading bands on the local scene for inclusion on this compilation, but that every one of them turned him down and therefore his own tracks were used as filler...


January 10, 2010
edited over 6 years ago
This compilation was put together by (local legend) Ronnie Mayor showcasing the musical talent of aspiring pop stars from the (Bournemouth &) Poole area (on England’s south coast) in the early 1980’s. Ronnie couldn’t get an indigenous label to pick it up (possibly because the locale was not exactly considered a hip musical place in those days), but was able to use American contacts to get a Stateside release, the irony being that local fans (there was a vibrant “originals” live scene at the time, in which I myself had begun to participate) couldn’t get hold of the record unless they paid sky-high prices for imports.

Mayor’s efforts weren’t without an element of self-interest as his own bands Tours and Da Biz each have two tracks featured. The former come across to me as a politer English version of the Undertones; Ronnie has a pleasant enough if unremarkable voice and the melodies are catchy, but the meat-and-potatoes musical backing (including a drummer who seems compelled to do utterly predictable tom-tom rolls at the end of every other bar) leaves me completely unmoved. Much the same can be said of Da Biz, albeit that their brace of tunes have some added production sheen. Contacts also have a similar power-pop sound, but worship at the altar of the Buzzcocks, complete with laissez-faire Pete Shelley impression. Surfin’ Dave was the cult hero/joke figure (every local music scene probably had one) who would apparently turn up at gigs and ask to bash out a couple of numbers on his acoustic guitar, but here his puny pipes and sardonic sentiments are backed by a beefy combo influenced by (or perhaps anticipating) the rockabilly revival. “Livin’ White Hell” was most likely intended as an Eddie Cochran pastiche but it’s a good job Eddie’s lawyers (presumably) never got to hear it! All the tracks on side 1 (described as the “light side” in the sleeve notes) touch lyrically on particularly parochial subject matter such as foreign language students and the beach (the latter used by more than one band in a rhyming couplet, followed by perhaps-inevitable anguish that “the girls are out of reach”). As an ex-resident of the area, such references make these songs a bit more interesting than they might have been otherwise.

Side 2 (the “dark side”) dispenses with local observations, but is more interesting and adventurous music-wise, if flawed. “Steering Solo” with its droning synths and dour vocals, more than suggests that Paul Chambers has been listening to Gary Numan. However, “Take a Ticket” takes the more tasteful template of Kraftwerk’s “Trans-Europe Express” (even the lyrics are train-related), although there's still not much in the way of a tune. CaVa CaVa (who later scored a substantial record deal after impressing Radio 1 DJ Peter Powell) come over as indie-prog (if that makes sense), contributing a pair of long and meandering tracks that don’t really go anywhere (and the rather fey and mannered vocals don’t help either). That leaves Hollows, who in my view are by some distance the best thing here, their two atmospheric contributions glisten with Edge-style guitar harmonics and spacey delay effects, anchored by a rock-solid rhythm section.

Although the area hardly began to rival the likes of Liverpool or Manchester in terms of pop success, it’s my opinion that it was by no means a musical wasteland, and there were other more accomplished local outfits around active at the time of this release (none of which involved me, I hasten to add), that perhaps staked a stronger claim for inclusion on this compilation than one or two featured here. But whatever myself or anyone else thinks of the quality of the music on this disc, in retrospect it serves as a great snapshot of the English provincial music scene from that era, the like of which will probably never be seen (or heard) again.