Dave Irving joined Sad Café in time for their third and most successful album, Facades. He made his name working with bands like Albie Donnelly’s Supercharge and he is a drummer of the first order. When Tony Cresswell left the band after Misplaced Ideals, he was the obvious choice. He stayed with the band from 1978-1984 before moving onto new challenges.
His solid beat and imaginative drum work are a crucial part of the completion of the tracks that Paul Young was working on before his passing.
Over to Dave himself:
60s Merseybeat start
I was dragged into the Merseybeat world when some guys called at the house to check me out. They were forming a band around a guy called Terry Hines who had just jumped out of a well known Liverpool outfit of the times called ‘Clayton Squares’.
Initially we were known as the Terry Hines Sextet and did the rounds of all the well known now ‘legendary’ nightspots; Cavern, Iron Door, Peppermint Lounge, Mardi Gras, Hope Hall, Litherland Town Hall et al. The Cavern was the most prolific, and we spent years doing lunchtime, all nighters, and evening sessions. We shared the same stage with some fantastic acts of the time all now legends. I remember Stevie Wonder coming up to me at a sound check and asking to borrow my kit which he played as we all know extremely well – that was a fantastic night. Also remember Wilson Pickett giving us some great compliments. Great times.
Another item from those days I remember was when George Fame and the Blue Flames were to appear. Something transpired like a van prob and the Blue Flames weren’t able to appear even though Georgie was all ready there. We offered to back him as we knew the numbers. We did the show with him, he went down a bomb and for young bloods we did him a great service. The guy just pissed off after the show without a thank you or offer of a drink. Nice bloke NOT!
The Beatles had left town about two years previous so Liverpool was in much the same state scene wise as when they were around with a mass of bands still aiming at the ‘big time’ The band was a lot different to the standard Merseybeat outfit as we were all influenced by jazz, blues, and rnb, and played unusual stuff for the time. We were at one stage managed by the infamous Bob Wooler and we toured GB with the ‘Cavern Road Show’. Stuff evolved and we changed lead singers to a black guy called Steve Aldo who had a few records released previously with no success. The band name changed to ‘The Fix’.
I remember that version of the band was hugely popular in Liverpool at the time and had a residency at the ‘Mardi Gras’ Renshaw Street. The place was heaving every time we played and it was quite a successful outfit locally. Steve left and was replaced by Eddie Cave. The band did a month at the legendary Star Club in Hamburg, and gigged quite a lot around the UK recording a single ‘Its Almost Good’ on ‘PYE’ records (vocal backing by Dusty Springfield and Madeline Bell would you believe!) managed by Tito Burns and produced by Chris Curtis from the Searchers. This culminated in an appearance on ‘Ready Steady Go’(jeez that dates me!) together with The Who, Zoot Money, and Cliff Bennett and the Rebel Rousers. The show opened with Cathy McGowan sat behind my brand new Super Classic Ludwig Silver Sparkle kit – Outstanding!! Still no big chart success on that one so eventually we moved on.
Cabaret Clubs and American Bases
Next phase as the 60s moved to the 70s I played more on Social, and Cabaret Club Circuits. I was involved in a band with Beryl Marsden, and Paddy Chambers(Escorts etc) called Sinbad resident at a club called ‘Banyan Tree’ in the Adelphi Hotel basement. Hybrids of this band and the ‘Fix’ also had a residency at the Victoriana in Victoria Street. Paddy, myself, and bass player Pete Newton took Sinbad as a three piece to a long residency in an infamous nightclub in Liverpool called ‘The Wookey Hollow’. Also as the Buzz Band with augmented lineup.
Many big cabaret stars came through the place and were very complimentary about our late night spot. I met Lenni through this as he was playing with Tony Christie’s Penmen and he would later become my passport to Sad Café. Albie Donnelly joined later as we augmented the band but drifted away again later. Things came to pass and we were out on the streets again.
Albie and myself joined a Liverpool soul band called the ‘In Crowd’ which had Steve Aldo fronting sort of a Four Tops Tamla flavoured group. We spent quite a few years on the North east cabaret circuit which was a very busy time. I remember doing triples (3 gigs one night!) with this band which thinking back was astonishing. All of the above bands played American bases in England and around Europe and I would suppose all this graft actually honed our playing skills and moved us forward.
I jumped into a band called the ‘Ray Smith Band’ with a large American bases contract and spent 6 months touring round Europe playing in some great places. The hours were long but it was enjoyable playing away from the UK for a while.
After the American Bases stuff I was pretty pally with Albie Donnelly and we decided we would form a band to play stuff we liked just for the heck of it. We enlisted Ozzie Yue from another well known Liverpool group called the Hideaways (remember the Tick -a -Tick Timex TV ad??) and a guy called Alan Peters from The Almost Blues. Ozzie came from the Liverpool Chinese Dynasty and his father was the main point for newly arrived Chinese to the city. We pulled in a crazy guy called Alan ‘Gaz’ Gascoigne who would prove a major attraction due to his crazy antics on stage. We weren’t looking for anything other than to have a good time and play stuff we liked.
We scored a residency Monday night at the Sportsman’s pub next to the Royal Court and from then on it was history. Punters came from miles around to pack the place and those gigs turned out to be extremely enjoyable both from a playing and going down an absolute bomb point. I don’t think we’d ever been in front of that much appreciation before. Things went from good to brilliant and we started a two night stint there eventually moving out to gigs all around the country. The band played the University circuit a lot and was voted No 1 live band on the circuit in a Melody Maker Poll. We forced ourselves onto the London circuit with a residency at the famous ‘Hope and Anchor’ pub and a few others around the Camden area and it was much the same reaction as the Sportsmans, punters came from all over to witness the spectacle. Sort of a Frank Zappa and the Mothers do bizarre music and on stage antics with a Chinaman and a bald Turk who looked like King Faruk’s bodyguard (Albie as he was piss takingly known, amongst other titles!). Jonathan King was amongst the many people after signing the band and used to attend various gigs and chortle his head off at the stuff going down. We also had a residency at a pub in Fulham called ‘The Nashville’. Same story, packed to the gills every time we played with lots of ‘faces’ turning up cos we were deemed fashionable at the time (Fashionable – My God!). I can remember Peter Cook turning up, buying us all ale and dancing on the tables pissed as we played. Bob Hoskins was a regular too.
I remember also performing at JB's a famous rock venue in Dudley(still going!). We were so popular there after a small residency that they asked us to do their anniversary gig for them. Many Brummie/Midlands rock faces turned up. Roy Woods Wizard, people from ELO including Bev the drummer and Robert Plant, John Bonham from Led Zep. Our band had two drummers at the time and John liked the band so much he asked to jump up. Phil Chitwick who was on the other kit obliged so I got to play a duet with Bonham on 'Them Changes' by Buddy Miles. Great stuff!! although Phil look concerned his kit might end up as matchwood John hit em that hard!
We were that much in demand that we were invited by Richard Branson to entertain at his garden party at The Manor Studios in Oxfordshire. I had never seen so many famous faces before and they all crowded around and went ape shit as we played. Branson offered us a two album deal and we’d arrived so we thought.
Branson, and his cohort Simon Draper (of white South African origin) knew of a new and upcoming producer called Robert John Lange (also S. African -later called Mutt). Poor bastard was enrolled as producer. The difficulty with Supercharge was that it was primarily a live animal and that was difficult to transport to a luxurious studio surrounding (still is). We didn’t have a lot of original songs so Mutt augmented with some of his compositions which most of the guys would tell you were absolutely wrong for the band in every possible way. However, being green, and not wanting to lose our new life of luxurious surroundings and wild Branson parties every night, we played ball.
The first album ‘Local Lads Make Good’ was completed at The Manor and Ridge Farm Studios. Poor old Mutt I can remember a mike being set up at Ridge Farm with a press now when fart ready button. People rasped at pleasure and one of the tracks on the first album consisted solely of farts from the band. I bet he had fun mixing that! Mutt was all muesli for breakfast followed by a two mile jog for which he had the relentless piss taken out of him. He probably got his own back by asking for take after take to get things right. After ten takes it just becomes numbers not music.
After that we carried on gigging relentlessly. We scored some gigs with Queen at the Edinburgh Festival and elsewhere. They were nice geezers and invited us to lig at all their parties no expense spared. They were also very ecstatic about us opening their shows and invited us to open for them at the now famous ‘Party in the Park’ in Hyde Park in front of 20,000 people. I remember being driven through the crowd in a closed Transit fully attired to go straight on stage thinking ‘this is it, the big time’s here!’ Albie went on stage with a one piece body suit exactly like Freddy’s much to his amusement. The crowd thought it was pretty funny too – we went down a storm. Lots of bands were scared of Supercharge as we had the capability of blowing people away, but Queen knew that having a good opener paid dividends and kept you on your toes. Queen invited us to open for them on their forthcoming world tour – wow BIG exposure! Virgin Management screwed it up by putting too many clauses in, Bye Bye World Tour Thanks again Richard (spent many hours watching tv hoping the balloon would deflate over the shark infested waters! Sore loser - too effin right!)
The 2nd Album ('Horizontal Refreshment') was recorded at Headley Grange using the Manor Mobile. Mutt again in the driving seat. He gave us a bit more leeway to get involved in some of the production aspects and for me the result was a lot better. Pete Wingfield from Olympic Runners (‘18 with a Bullet!’) guested on keys and did some promo gigs with us including Victoria Palace with Crazy Arthur Brown (Fire!) as MC.
Supercharge split and I was left with an eight month pregnant wife and no job. After a couple weeks on the panel I bit the bullet and took a factory job in Runcorn. It was hard work after doing the band thing. I’d been a musician all my working life since age 18 but I ground it out. It qualified us for a brand new centrally heated council house so wife and baby were comfortable again. After about six months the itchy feet started and I began to ring around everyone I knew to see if there was a gig out there
I was sat in front of the telly one night when ‘Sad Café’ were aired on a Tony Wilson program called ‘Don’t Call Us?’ or something like that on Granada. I thought the band sounded very good and the songs were great. I recognised Lenni (from Tony Christie’s band as above). I didn’t have Lenni’s number but got it from Paul Latham a trombone player who was a friend of Lennis and had done a small stint with Supercharge.
I rang Lenni to see if he knew anyone who was looking for a drummer. Lenni said I’d hit lucky as Café were auditioning for a new drummer after Tony Cresswell had left. Lenni mentioned me to the band, I also knew Ian Wilson from Greasy Bear as he had been guesting with the Albertos when Supercharge and Albertos had done a double header at Manchester’s Palace Theatre. They set an audition up at a rehearsal studio near Deansgate and I got the job.
The rest is history so the saying goes and can be viewed on the site. I must add that Sad Café has been my most enjoyable experience in a long musical adventure. This is not just from a musical standpoint, but also as a journey with excellent, extremely talented, humorous, and compassionate people all of whom I was proud to call my friends. When you go through so many highs and lows together then an irreplaceable bond develops whatever circumstances arise. At its height the band was so good live, and in the studio that when that chemistry kicked in everything would rise a foot off the floor. There’s no other way to describe it!
I left the band around 84 on a sad but friendly note. We had just finished a very successful sold out tour (we always sold out!) and as usual everybody else but the band made money, crew, pa, catering, transport, lights, ad infinitum. I didn’t want to make other people money anymore as I had a young family to keep so I wanted to make some for myself! A few lean years followed on the dole. Many of the band were made bankrupt, I lost my house.
So here we are in 2012 getting ready to do some retrospective gigs! We've all been through so much since the Caffs wound down. We were all hit very hard after the band finished. From bankruptcy to house losses we were taken to the cleaners by the business in general. Many people out there who were involved leeched the band dry-they know who they are and hopefully will get some kharma in return. The 'Chronicles' album was rewarding and difficult at the same time. A labour of love by the band as a tribute to a lost friend. Hearing that voice again in the cans was great and his songs were as ever; wonderful. Hopefully the new tour will be well received by our matured fans out there but it will obviously be a different band. We are not trying to emulate the past but pay respect to it and move on. Will be as always a great pleasure to play that brilliant catalog again. Look forward to seeing all the old faces and drinking a beer to salute absent friends.
People I’ve recorded/performed with
Terry Hines Sextet, Pete Becket (KingBees now US band 'Player' million seller 'Baby Come Back'), Georgie Fame, The Fix, Sinbad, Buzz Band, Ace (Paul Carrack), Supercharge, Albertos, Sad Café, Sneaky Pierre, Bay City Rollers, Aynsley Dunbar, Santana, Queen, Nils Lofgren, Wishbone Ash, Toto, Jan Hammer, John Bonham, Roger Daltrey, Mike Rutherford, Jim Capaldi, Loz Netto, Richard Darbyshire (Livin in a Box, Zu Zu Sharks), Simon Philips and Mel Gaynor (fellow Zildjian endorsees), Robert John ‘Mutt’ Lange, Dave Lee Travis, John Punter, Pete Wingfield, Arthur 'Fire' Brown, Andy MacPherson, Dave Rohl, Eric Stewart, Graham Gouldman, Paul Di’Anno (Iron Maiden), Virginnia Woolf, Poacher, Kenny Johnson's North Wind, Joe Houston, Bare Wires, Bog Trotters, Recent stuff: Bill Brooks Blues Band, Nearly Dan, Redgrave, ProTools. 2007 TV 'Never Mind the Buzzcocks'
Festivals of note: Reading (Twice; once with Supercharge, and again with Cafe), Glastonbury (with Sad Cafe), Hyde Park and Edinburgh Festival (Supercharge with Queen)