The story of Terry Tonik

My first band The 3rd Party was formed in 1964 with mates Phil Brockton, Barry Mitchell and Alan Owen, we were friends from school days and we all shared a love of Soul and Blues music.

We were Mods and avid Soul & R&B fans going to Clubs and witnessing the best of the R&B bands such as The Who, Georgie Fame, John Mayall with Eric Clapton, The Yardbirds, Chris Farlowe Graham Bond and even Blues legends such as Sonny Boy Williamson and Howling Wolf. It was an obvious move for us to form a band, inspired by all that great music and being staunch Mods, we new there would be an audience for the cover versions of Soul and Blues classics we played. We were gigging around the North London area for a few years, enjoying our Mod lifestyle and holding down day jobs ploughing the money back into clothes and instruments. Music and fashion was always my passion! The band had quite a few names as the music we played changed, Conviction in 1966, Blues Tattoo in ’67 and in 1968 we morphed into a Blues band called The Earth. We auditioned for a new lead guitarist and up popped Alan Parsons one Saturday, his long legs appearing out of a tiny Messerschmitt Bubble Car! With Alan on board we scored a residency at Ronnie Scotts Old Place renamed by us ‘The Coffin Club’ in Gerrard Street, London. We were spotted by Douglas Mew, a producer for Mercury Records and offered a deal. We wrote and recorded an album of original songs and shortly after that in 1969, the band broke up when Barry and Phil quit.

In 2016, The Earth L.P. ‘Elemental’ was released by Record Collector Magazine as part of the ‘Rare Vinyl’ series, much to my amazement!

In the early 70’s I began writing songs again and I was also learning to play the Tenor Banjo, I needed to write lyrics and play an instrument to formulate my ideas, the first of which was a song called ‘Happy”. I found a small (and cheap) recording studio in Gerrard Street, called Gooseberry. Nervously, I sang and played my treasured pearl inlaid banjo and recorded the song in a few ‘takes’. I hawked the song around all the record companies and got a mixed reaction to it, but no takers. I then called my good friend from The Earth, Alan Parsons, who was working in Air Studios at that time at Oxford Circus, producing the band Pilot. He liked the song and played it to several A&R people at E.M.I. who showed interest but no deal. I still have the ¼” tape recording in an Air Studios box, unheard since 1971.

In 1972 I moved to Brighton and I was inspired to write a song about Mods, having been a witness to the Bank Holiday Mod mayhem in the 60’s. I wrote ‘Just A Little Mod’, my story about being an original Mod, the fascinating and influential youth movement that only the U.K. seems to produce.

Brighton is a great place to live but I was working in London as an Art Director for Hi-Fi Sound and Practical Hi-Fi Magazine’s and got fed up with commuting. Feeling restless I moved back to London, left the publishing world and gainful employment to start my own company called ‘Living Daylights’, hand painting bespoke roller blinds and murals. We had a large shop in Primrose Hill and our many clients included George Harrison, singer Alan Price, Eric Stewart from 10cc.

Things seemed to be going well but I had an ache in my heart and the need to make music again became overwhelming. I had been so busy that I had put my music on the back burner. I could not deny my feelings any more and walked away from the business to follow my dreams.

In 1979 I gathered together a group including my brother, Terry, on drums and guitarist Terry Murray. We recorded a number of demo songs including a very stripped bare version of Just A little Mod at ‘Quest’ Studios in Luton. I sent out the demo cassette tapes to all the major record companies and independents including Stiff Records who said “close but no cigar this time”. I still have a pile of rejection letters.

I never gave up, as I believed in my song ‘Just A Little Mod’ so played the demo to my old friend Andy Powell from Rock band Wishbone Ash. Andy played it to his manager John Sherry, who liked the track and wanted to release it on a new record label he and Andy had just formed called Posh records ( PO from Powell and SH from Sherry forming the word POSH ). They asked me to write a ‘B side’ for the single and I came up with ‘Smashed & Blocked’ – more stories of my Mod escapades from the 1960’s.

Andy and I went out for a long boozy lunch to make a plan and think up a stage name to inflict myself on the music world. Various names were banded about including Fred Perry! A week previously, I had bought a Tonik mohair suit from Johnson & Johnson in the Kings Road, a great shop where most of the Mods were buying their clothes. As there were two Terry’s on the demo, Terry seemed an obvious name, coupled with Tonik it had a certain ring to it. My alter ego Terry Tonik was born that fateful day.

I arranged a photo session with photographer Norman Brand who had his studio on the top floor of 26, Kingly Street, Soho, (my art studio was on the first floor). Norman Brand was the trusted photographic technician for society photographer Norman Parkinson who one day noticed me as he passed my studio on his way to the top floor. He liked my work, asked me if I wanted to be famous and I didn’t know quite what to say. He commissioned a large painting to use as a backdrop for a Harpers & Queens magazine photo shoot in Tobago where he lived. I didn’t become famous but still have a copy of the magazine with a credit caption.

Twiggy the fashion model and 60’s icon was photographed by N.P. in Brand’s studio when she was pregnant with her daughter Carly a few days after I had my T.T. photo session. Twiggy was a former Mod and came from Neasden, a town near Kingsbury N.W. London where I was bought up. I never got to ask her about her Mod days but I know she frequented the same clubs as me so I must have seen her around that area in 1964. She was just my type, a proper little Mod!

For the recording I suggested to Andy Powell that we use Gooseberry Studios where I had recorded a few years before. Andy produced the session, played guitar and hired a great bass player and drummer. We recorded and mixed Just a Little Mod and Smashed & Blocked in a few hours and it felt good to be singing again. I love the recording process, in a recording studio time stands still, you feel so safe and in those hours the world does not exist. I was also back in Soho, my stomping ground since 1963, singing songs about being a Mod in a studio situated a stones throw from the infamous Flamingo Club. It doesn’t get much better than that and it all added to the atmosphere of being a Mod in London’s Soho in the 1960’s.

Gerrard Street has played a huge part in my music life, as 10 years before in 1969, my band The Earth had been playing ‘all nighters’ down The Coffin Club at No. 39. All things must pass of course and Gerrard Street today is not the place of my youth. Now a traffic free zone, ‘China Town’ as it’s now known is crowded with tourists unaware of the true history of those seedy basements, the very soul of London in the fabric of the buildngs.

Gooseberry Studios was located in a tiny basement at No19 Gerrard Street and It’s worth noting that some successful artists recorded there. Gary Numan recorded his No1 hit ‘Cars’, the Sex Pistols recorded demos there and it had a reputation as a Dub/reggae studio used by Dennis Bovell among others.

We played the tapes to John Sherry who loved it, thankfully. I set about designing the logo for Posh Records and used a cubist caricature of a ‘Toff’ with a monocle (Rt.Hon. Sir Austen Chamberlain) from a set of Players cigarette cards I still own. I also designed the record sleeve with hand lettering in bold black & white on the front and the lyrics of the song typed on the reverse. While discussing the project with John Sherry I told him I had been designing and writing a fanzine telling the story of the music the original Mods listened too from my perspective. I was the only original Mod from the 1960’s during the so called ‘Mod revival’ of 1978-80 (apart from David Essex who released a single called M.O.D.) all the other performers were in their late teens early twenties and I was in my 30’s! John Sherry encouraged me to finish the artwork and we had 500 printed and my fanzine ‘Talkin’ ‘Bout My Generation’ was published along with the record in 1980.

‘Just a Little Mod’ c/w ‘Smashed & Blocked’ was released on 7” vinyl, which was an amazing event for me, my first ever record was unleashed on the record buying public!

John Sherry offered me a job as his assistant and I threw myself into promoting ‘Just A Little Mod’ sending copies to all the Radio stations in the U.K. and it actually got airplay on BBC Radio Penine much to my amazement.

These where exciting times for music and on the coattails of the Punk revolution there was room for any enterprising musician to start an Independent record label. I personally took the single to record shops around the country and even managed to sell a box of 50 to Virgin record stores. A promoter contacted me and invited me to a Mod convention in Edmonton London. I sold records and magazines to the young Mods and there seemed to be a lot of interest in the single.

There were many fanzines being produced for the Mod revival and I got a mention in one of the best – Direction Reaction Creation – who called me “60’s Ace Face”! Sadly, after months of promotion the impetus was gone and the Mod bubble had burst.

Not to be outdone, I picked myself up and began writing a follow up single. I had been busy writing and armed with new songs, John Sherry offered me some recording time on the back of a Wishbone Ash session at De Lane Lea Studios in Wembley, North West London. I was born in that area so it was like coming home to me, and what a homecoming! De Lane Lea was the first ‘proper’ recording studio I had been in let alone recorded in, it had a state of the art 72 track consul and the room seemed like the size of a football pitch. I had been used to small studios like Gooseberry and Regent Sounds with 4 track machines! I even bumped into Freddie Mercury in the corridor, Queen were recording the sound track for the film Flash Gordon in the studio next door and little did he know that the Mod legend Terry Tonik was in the building, ha!

I recruited my old friend Terry Murray for the recording session and he got Bob Morledge on bass guitar and Mark Brzezicki on drums. Mark later went on to join Big Country, a very successful band in the 1980’s.

The two songs I had written were Lost In A World Of My Own and Wishing Your Life Away.

Another song from that session is Eve of Destruction, the protest song written by P.F.Sloan and sung by Barry McGuire in the 1960’s. I had always loved that song and thought it was relevant to cover at that time -1980 - and is even more topical today with the upheaval in the world.

The recording engineer was a very affable Irish lad called Rafe McKenna who’s father is the famous actor T.P. McKenna. Rafe was very kind to me, as I was a comparative novice to this recording lark in a real recording studio!

I wanted a Military feel to Eve of Destruction, so asked Mark to play a marching drum intro over which I narrated a brief piece imitating U.S. president Carter (“I believe the free nations of the World, can only tolerate so much aggression”) trouble was brewing in the Middle East and the edited lyrics of Eve of Destruction were once again resonating. Andy co-produced the session with the late John Sherry who both gave me much encouragement. The other two songs from that session ‘Lost In A World Of My Own’ and ‘Wishing Your Life Away’ are both guitar driven unashamedly auto–biographical songs. The whole session went in a flash so it seemed, time standing still in that safe place.

Nothing happened with the songs despite John Sherry’s best efforts to get me a deal and those recordings were left on the shelf for many years.

Fast forward to 1993, I had been writing songs throughout the 1980’s for various projects but one song - Nothing Left To Lose – seemed to fit Terry Tonik. I got in touch with old pal Andy Powell and we arranged to record the songs at North Shore Studios in West Port, Connecticut, close to where Andy was now living in America. We made a demo of Nothing Left To Lose using a drum machine and Andy on Guitar in a Garage band style, sparse and aggressive, the nihilistic lyric reflecting my state of mind at that time! Andy played two blistering guitar solo’s and we used both, double tracking them. I came back to the U.K. and sent out the demo tape to Record companies but once again, more rejection letters.

In 1994 I had a phone call out of the blue from a friend asking if I had seen the latest issue of Record Collector magazine. In an article about Mod revival, the original 7” vinyl of Just A Little Mod was on a list of rare singles and then priced at £25. Many theories went round about whom T.T. really was and even Ian Dury was mentioned. I found the whole thing incredible as I had almost given up, so I wrote a letter to the magazine with my story, which was published the following month. Sometime later, Dizzy Holmes, founder of Detour Records got in touch with me to license the songs, which went on to be released as part of various Mod compilation CD’s.

So here we are in 2017, and all my Terry Tonik recordings are available from Detour Records, on CD or Download. Look sharp and grab yourself a piece of British Mod history, it’s A TONIK FOR THE NATION!

T.T. 2017.

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