My name will always be forever associated with The Jam and The Style Council. However, during a long career I worked with many groups, some famous and some, that, only a handful of people will ever remember. As I look back over my career it is not necessarily the big or the famous bands that bring back memories. True working with likes of Paul Weller, Siouxsie, and The Who etc had its moments.
Looking back at all the bands that I worked with after The Jam I have warmest memories of working with The Chords. The first time I came across them was when Paul mentioned them to me during the late 70's mod revival. Being a first generation (60's) mod myself I was intrigued (as I was by the Jam when I met them) by this revival. At the time I was also A +R manager for Sham 69 and when Polydor decided to let Jimmy Pursey have his own label deal, one of the bands he wanted to sign was the Chords. However, after causing a riot (typical Pursey!) at their Guildford gig the band decided not to go with Pursey's label and subsequently signed directly to Polydor. 'Now It's Gone' produced by Peter Wilson was the first release. It didn't set the charts alight but it announced to the world that The Chords had arrived. Andy Arthurs was then brought in and produced the bulk of the Chords recordings
When I met them they were five young guys (I'm including their manager Paul Halpin). They were quite a handful and they always seemed to be in my office. They were certainly full of themselves but retained a certain naivety and were excited by signing their deal with Polydor and hopeful of making it to the big time. One thing that I do remember is, that, on the day they signed to Polydor they played a gig at The Nashville and they were terrible, it was a gig to forget.
I remember whilst they were recording their LP, it seemed that whenever I visited the studio the band always seem to be at The Redan pub drinking with Andy and Roger T. Wake. One thing about The Chords their hobbies consisted of drinking, drinking and more drinking! (Although they were one band I did not mind abusing my expense account). In fact when they played a gig in Paris, Paolo Hewitt came along to write a piece for the Melody Maker. Paolo certainly was not ready for the drinking spree we all went on and the next morning looked terrible and just about managed to do the interview.
When staying at the same hotel as the Chords (big mistake!) one of the lads had gotten hold of a large rubber stamp from my office, which would stamp, 'approved Dennis Munday'. When I went into Chris and Buddy's room there was two things that I noticed. First the bath was full of beer and secondly, someone had stamped on just about every inch of wallpaper in the bedroom, approved Dennis Munday. A few days after their stay, I got the bill for re-decorating their room, which I duly passed on to Paul for payment, even I could not have persuaded Polydor to pay this bill.
When they recorded 'British Way Of Life' at a residential studio in Sussex I came out of the studio to find bricks piled up on the roof of my (company) car! I still have a photo of Chris sitting on the roof as well.
One other abiding memory is being on stage with them at the Loch Lomond festival. It was a good gig to play, apart from the violence that went on.
I have always believed that in Chris they had an exceptionally gifted songwriter. I always thought that had they gone all the way, Chris would have developed in to one of the finest songwriters in this country. Testament to Chris's talent is that Brian Morrison signed him up for publishing. Brian was no slouch when it came to recognizing talent, as well as Weller he had signed up The Cure, Pink Floyd, Bee Gees and George Michael in his time.
Buddy who to this day still remains a close friend had this amazing naivety about the business (at the time incredible refreshing). His drumming technique (influenced by Keith Moon) at the time was busy to say the least. When I saw them at the 100 Club recently it was great to see that he has developed into a really solid drummer.
My memory of Martin was when we were mixing demos in Polydor's studio he always wanted the bass to be louder than any thing else!
I also remember when they played 'Something's Missing' on 'TOTP, Billy was doing Townshend impersonation (windmill arm) on his Rickbacker guitar whilst watching him self on a monitor in the studio. With regard to TOTP I also remember we had a drink with Bon Scott of AC DC. Bon turned out to be a nice guy and was very complimentary about the Chords, sadly a few days later he was found dead in his car.
Why didn't The Chords make it to the top? This is a question that I have thought about a great deal and I have had many discussions with Buddy over the years. I certainly wanted it for them; also, they were not short on talent. It has been put to me that perhaps had they been on a different label to the Jam things may have been different. I was extremely close to the band (perhaps to close?). Certainly when Billy left they lost their momentum and perhaps took to long to find (Kip) a replacement. I also have always felt that Chris should have been more forceful. There were times when dealing with The Chords it was like wrestling an octopus.
'Maybe Tomorrow' and 'So Far Away' stand up with best tunes of this. I know Chris (and the band) hated comparisons with Jam, but they were the yardstick at the time and The Chords almost measured up to them. They were also streets ahead of all the other 'Mod' bands of this particular revival.
Unfortunately life is full of ifs, buts, and the reality was that, though they were so close to making it destiny was just not on their side? In life I have always been a fatalist, what's meant to be is, meant to be. The Chords alas were feted not to make it to the very top.
This does not change things for me; they are still one of my favourite bands. I had some great times; good laughs and enjoyed working with them.
Their music and gigs made a lot of fans happy and they were a part of my life that I remember fondly.
Dennis Munday September 2000