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GAMBIT OF SHAME

Mike Wallis memories

I wrote to Paul recently to let him know the sort of money the 'No Bounds' single was making on eBay (around £25). I was amazed when Paul reminded me that it was getting on for twenty-five years since the release of 'No Bounds' - it seemed like a natural time to look back at that era.

I remember there being a thriving post punk scene in Watford with bands like the Bears, Passion Killers and S-Haters. There were loads of bands around changing and swapping personnel. The great thing about that time was that talent and ability weren't deemed particularly necessary for being in a band; attitude and energy were all important - the rawness of the music made it more exciting, out of this maelstrom emerged the Gambit Of Shame.

I can't remember first meeting Gary but I do remember him coming up with the name Gambit of Shame, which was taken from the name of a chapter in Ian Fleming's 'Casino Royal'. Gary and I became close friends and I remember spending half my life round his Merton Road house, which became the Gambit's H.Q. Gary's Pad resembled a reptile house - large tanks of Terrapins, lizards axolotls, fish, newts, toads and snakes were just some of the residents. Thanks to him I have the surreal memory of being bitten by a grass snake while riding pillion on the back of his motorbike.

Songs were usually written during late night sessions at Gary's - the method of song writing was usually me composing the music and Gary going through one of his copious notebooks of lyrics till he found something to fit the mood.

The early gigs were pretty shambolic affairs and we were definitely an acquired taste. When Amanda and Lindsay joined, our audience got bigger and we started to sound better; I remember one early gig, just before we were to go on stage I accidentally touched a bare wire sticking out of the wall, causing my whole arm to go numb and temporarily losing the use of my fingers.

Real drummers were a scarce commodity so we made do with a basic Soundmaster drum machine that meant the whole band could rehearse in Gary's front room. The drum machine really was crap and in hindsight I wonder how we ever put up with it. Once it was nicked at a gig and put up for sale in a local shop - the guy selling it denied it was ours, even though it had our set list written on the inside of the lid! Unfortunately the police eventually returned it.

When we came to make the 'No Bounds' single though, we recruited wild man Raymondo. Ray's credentials were impeccable, having been sacked from some class bands like Ritual and Death Cult. Ray was a larger than life character and played as though his life depended on him hitting the drums as hard and fast as possible. I heard he went on to play with Sex Gang Children.

I vaguely remember the Spider's Web photo shoot. The Watford motel was chosen for its cheesy glamour although from the photos, I don't look all there. I remember the remit was to wear black and white, hence my white sock crime. It's a shame we didn't take more photos of this period, especially playing live - I'm hoping some might resurface.

I have good memories of making the 'No Bounds' single in '82 - I remember picking up Robert Wyatt from his house and getting hopelessly lost in London traffic en route to the studio. I asked Robert whether he'd done any producing before and he said the last time he'd done some was for Hendrix.

In the studio I remember him advising us to open the windows to let in the street sounds - it was a great production he did for us, as it still seems to sound fresh today.

When Paul left the Gambits, we drafted in Christopher Reeve look-alike Kevin Saunders (R.I.P.) on bass - at the time Kevin was Richard Strange's roadie. Before that he was John Ottway's Roadie. Ex-Event Group singer Bernadette Keeffe joined after Lindsay and Amanda left.

Mike Wallis, February 2006

Paul Mex memories

From the late 70s until the early 80s, I had been in more bands then is decidedly healthy, although feel that the Gambit of Shame were the definitive and most significant group I was ever in. The Gambits had so many line-up changes that none of us can actually recall them all, although it's fair to say the real essence of the band was the one which was also the longest and most stable, containing Gary, Mike, Lindsay, Amanda and myself. Luckily this combination is also the one that recorded our now sought after single release and over-priced eBay item, 'No Bounds'.

I had been playing with Gary in other bands for a few years and I guess the Gambits were formed out of this situation really. Although Mike wasn't in the first line-up of the group, he had in the past also previously been in bands with Gary and so it all came together fairly logically I suppose. Lindsay started life in the Gambit of Shame initially under the unlikely guise of 'roadie'. I can't really remember how Amanda came into the frame of things, although she added the classical touch and sex appeal, if that was ever such a thing we needed! Gary and Mike continued the group after Lindsay, Amanda and I departed in 1982, eventually evolving into a new cocktail, Skin Side Out.

It was a heady time - the initial pangs of punk were still echoing, yet things were evolving in different ways. 'Substances' played a role with the Gambits and could take partial blame towards the demise of our band, with the paranoia and craziness it ultimately brings. Perhaps blaming the drugs are an easy anecdote for me to use regarding my head scarf crime in that infamous photo-shoot.

I have a few favourite memories with the first being when we recorded our single…

We recorded it throughout a hot summers night, in what is now very trendy Hoxton, North London. When the session ended in the morning, Lindsay, Amanda, Ray (from Death Cult, our guest drummer) and hangers on went off, whilst Gary, Mike & myself went back to Robert Wyatt's house in Twickenham, where we spent some time drinking wine in his garden. Sleep wasn't required back then as speed was usually on hand and possibly why 'No Bounds' is such a fast song and practically over before it’s even begun!

I remember a gig at the Sportsman in Chorleywood…

I hadn't been to the dentist for 15 years and went on that day due to some pain. He took two back teeth out which put me in further pain and left me being unable to eat. Dentistry wasn't as good in those days as it is now, with my dentist from that period later getting the nickname, 'the butcher'. Consequently, I just drank loads - alcohol! As a result, I don't think I actually played a note, but just bounced on the spot in a pseudo dumb Sid Vicious manner. When we came off, Gary's back was a bit carved up, as the metal machine heads from my bass had been hitting him in the back, which I hadn't realised due to the drunkenness!

Other snippets include...

Seeing a car turned upside down and burning after student rioting on arriving in Coventry for a gig. At least we knew kind of what to expect.

We were playing a gig in Bedford and circuitry was installed in the venue whereby either the power went down if the volume was exceeded, or the music continued after 11pm. Well I can't remember which one it was but we managed to shut the power down! Our technique around this was to continue with an acoustic set. Gary sang, Mike got out his acoustic guitar, Amanda played her cello and Lindsay and I did backing vocals and danced. It went down great with the audience, not only enjoying the performance, but with our cheek at getting around the system.

A bygone era of past youth!

Paul Mex, January 2006

Lindsay Beard memories

I'm afraid I suffer from a lack of memory of the heady Gambit of Shame days - well the gigs in particular, and I don't think it is down to the drugs, as some would have you believe. It was just all a long time ago!

I remember getting started with the band as ‘a roadie’, progressing to operating the drum machine, and then to singing and finally picking up a saxophone, although that only ever appeared on some of our later demos that I don't think were ever released to the public, which is a shame as I think our later stuff, after the single really got good. If anyone has a copy of 'Settling', share it with your friends. I think it was the best thing we ever did. I could always imagine hearing it as a movie theme, something a bit espionage-ish, or certainly something of a very mysterious genre.

I remember rehearsals in Gary's front room, Sunday mornings I think, and remember that his cat was shaved one time, poodle stylie - I was really upset that other cats in the area would laugh at it.

I do remember the gig that Paul refers to in his memories, where the power went down. We were entertainment superstars that night and won the audience over big time. I remember one of the audience saying to his mate as I walked passed, 'she can actually sing'. I was thrilled, having arrived at the music scene through the stage door as it were.

The most thrilling moment for me in those early years was hearing John Peel play our single. I recall he introduced the single and publicised that it was produced by Robert Wyatt, ('a Robert Wyatt or the Robert Wyatt I'm not sure' was actually what he said), but that was really exciting.

Lindsay Beard, January 2006

Gambit Of Shame.mp3