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Sommerville

The 1980’s was an amazing decade for Birmingham bands and music. We are all familiar with those that went on to world wide success. Of course there are always a few that somehow slipped through the cracks.

Sommerville are one of those bands.

Formed in 1983 from the ashes of three of Birmingham’s most popular post punk bands. Sommerville were :

Paul Adams (guitar) TV Eye, The Hawks

Simon Colley (bass) Duran Duran , The Hawks, Dance

Matthew Edwards (vocals) Dance

Paul Comaskey, drums The Nervous Kind.

They recorded their first demo in 1983 , and were soon in negotiations with Virgin Records.  More demos were recorded at The Barge Recording Studio in London, and within a months they were signed to Virgin Records dance label 10 Records.

The progression from post punk guitar bands to concise popular dance tracks had felt quite natural for all the members. Now with all the classic 80’s equipment at their fingertips, they were ready to roll.

The year that followed saw the band write and record their first two potential singles  only to have the label sit on them; more recordings languished in the Virgin office, and 18 months slipped away. With no live shows and no record releases, completely frustrated, Paul Comaskey left the band and headed to New York where a reformed Nervous Kind needed a drummer .

The three remaining members, still believing wholeheartedly in their music, took up the challenge of letting the world know they were here. What followed were some legendary live shows.

A massive 12 piece band kicked off a huge dance /pop extravaganza in Birmingham. Managed by DJ Dick of Rockers Hi Fi fame, their shows were events not to be missed. Even the posters for the shows depicting a gun toting Elvis or Jimmy Cliff or reinventing the iconic Che Guevara became collectors items.

The music progressed to become even more dance oriented.

After an acrimonious split with Virgin 10 Records, and legally unable to release songs as Sommerville, the band by passed Virgin by releasing tracks on Swordfish Records as Django Three, Mephisto Love and Flamenco Massive, channeling their tracks into the burgeoning Rave scene. They enjoyed their anonymous club success.

As the 80’s danced toward the 90’s, band life was anything but a party. After having their studio and equipment stolen twice in a matter of months, Sommerville finally called time on the project. The three members leaving Birmingham for far flung destinations in different parts of the world….. Only to meet again in San Francisco a few years later, but that’s another story! 

Back then Sommerville recorded some great songs. Songs that never saw the light of day and were only heard by a handful of fans. After more than thirty years hidden from the public, five Sommerville songs are available to hear for free on YouTube.

Each song is accompanied by a video. They contain live footage, photos and lyrics to each song.

Life With The Lions was part of a demo recording that got the band signed, featuring the full Power of Paul Comaskey’s electronic Simmons kit and Paul Adams guitar synth. 

Make You Stay was recorded at Air Studios and produced by Pete Walsh and featuring Wham’s brass section and backing vocals by P P Arnold.

Trust, again recorded at Air Studios with the same line up as above.

Bad Money was recorded as three piece and features Simon Colley’s exceptional bass synth playing and Matthew’s easy interpretation of the modern soul vocal while Paul’s guitar is the perfect counter point to the rhythm. 

Take Me To The City was one of the final recordings Sommerville made, short simple commercial and full of energy.

You can find them all here ( https://youtu.be/9Jt3l_d2Sl8 ). Take a journey back to the eighties with Birmingham’s lost band Sommerville.

The Nervous Kind

This is part one of the Nervous Kind Story 1979-82 sent in by Paul Comaskey.

The Nervous Kind came together in late 1979.

They were:  Gregg Nicholls   = lead guitar ,and backing vocals
                   Owen Comaskey= lead vocal and rhythm guitar
                    Paul Comaskey = Drums
                    Maurice Wolfe    = Bass 

Formed by Gregg Nicholls , who at the time owned the coolest cloths shop in Oasis Birmingham called Route 66, and by Owen Comaskey who was the lead singer with the short lived mod band The Townies .

It was watching The Townies gig at the Golden Eagle which prompted us all to do something better . Gregg approached Owen ,Owen invited me (Paul Comaskey) and Maurice Wolfe came on board to play bass . We were all regular “shoppers ‘ at Route 66. So the band was born . Gregg and Owen wrote most of the songs.
We played our first show at The Star Club on Essex Street supporting local band Dance. Steve Gibbons was at that show and invited us to open for him as JB’s Dudley .So the Nervous Kind were off and running .Our first demo was recorded in Erdington we have no copies of that . Our next demo was recorded with Bob Lamb 
Screaming Rita and Help from us which lead to us being offered a deal with Graduate Records , who at the time were the label UB40 were on. We recorded a single for them called Five to Monday (unreleased)It was now 1981. We played regularly at The Cedar Club and headlined many times at The Holy City Zoo. Toured with The Beat , and played with UB40 and Dexy’s . After the deal with Graduate fell through we struggled to find a label .We continued playing locally and recorded a BBC session for Kid Jensen (I think) produced by the late great Dale Griffin (Mott The Hoople)By 1982 we were floundering and Gregg left to go live in NYC. We replaced him with Paul Adams from the Hawks 
Maurice left shortly afterwards and we replaced him Simon Colley from The Hawks .By now Owen was the main songwriter. The new line up recorded a demo at Pete Kings studio and we were preparing to 
to start play out again, when Owen quit and moved to NYC to write with Gregg .

Enter Matthew Edwards…
 
Owen and Gregg lived in NYC for about 18 months returning to Birmingham late in 1984 . They had written an albums worth of songs and were ready to put The Nervous Kind back together. 
 
While they were away, Paul Comaskey,  Simon Colley and Paul Adams had joined forces with Matthew Edwards and became Sommerville. They signed to Virgin TEN where ironically their stable mate was Stephen (TinTin) Duffy that is another tale that should be told?  
 

While Sommerville were writing and recording there album, Paul Comaskey rejoined the Nervous Kind. 

The Nervous Kind (2) were now in search of a bass player, Maurice Wolfe had made the smart move to take a break from music and go teach in Montserrat!! Mick Llyod had just left Felt and he played bass for a short while .Ultimately after open auditions they recruited Bill Stair from the Bristol bands Art Objects and Blue Airplane, the new line up was set and began gigging mostly in London and recording while preparing to return to NYC.

This track England Swings was written in NYC by Gregg in 1984 recorded with the London Philharmonic a demo session for CBS. 1985.

Moving the band to NYC in 1986  turned out to be harder than any of us thought. Obtaining visa’s and a place to live and work was not easy even back then. When the dust had settled in early 87 , Gregg was in London getting married and starting a solo career. Owen Paul and Bill were living in Manhattan and had recruited two new members. Dave Houtson (a scouser) who played guitar on some early demo’s but ultimately was replaced  by Mark Spencer on lead guitar.

Mark was with us until 1990, and went on to play with The Blood Oranges, Lisa Loeb, Freddy Johnson,  SunVolt and Jay Farrar and many others. MJ Mynarski a piano player and composer joined to play keyboards also with us until 1990. He moved to LA in the mid 90’s to compose music for film and has a successful career to this day working in TV and film .

The Nervous Kind played the New York circuit for a few years with some success, and recorded with some up and coming engineers back then namely Tim Hatfield now at Cowboy Technical Services and Tony Maserati now at Mirrorball.

Towards the end of 1990 it was clear  The Nervous Kind had run it’s course. We made the tough decision to call it a day .
Bill Stair stayed in New York and became a hard working successful session player, sadly he and his darling wife Doreen died in a tragic car accident down in Oaxaca just 18 months ago and are greatly missed by us all.

 
Owen and I moved to San Francisco with our families . I stayed there for many years playing with as many different bands as possible . 
 
There are lots of albums out there with me playing drums on them . 
The Hairdressers, The Sunshine Club, Richard Buckner, and my personal favorite The Music Lovers, which reunited me with my dear friend from Birmingham Matthew Edwards.  
 

I now live in Maine I write and record at home, there are four solo albums of mine out there on Bandcamp and soundcloud. I also still write songs for film and TV with MJ Mynarski available on iTunes and youtube. 

Owen moved back to New York where he managed a club on the lower Eastside for many years called Arlene Grocery , famous for his HeavyMetal / PunkRock Karaoke. 
He developed and produced a short lived TV show for VH1 called “album covers ” which had new bands covering albums that had most influenced them a great show and idea that someone else will do again I’m sure.

 
That idea lead to Owen forming The Major Tom’s in New York . Now he is back living in Birmingham you can catch The Major Tom’s (UK) at least once or twice a year and the famous Hare and Hounds Kings Heath .
 
So there you have it an abbreviated history of The Nervous Kind the story of  four lads from Erdington Birmingham who took the world by storm . 
 
You just don’t know it ….yet .

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