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The Early Years (3)

Written by Mark Hodkinson (OMUNIBUS PRESS)
*If you want to buy this book, go to Amazon.com!*

Clive Castledine, The Opposition's ex-bassist.

Chapter 1 : Clucksville (p.17--p.20)

The Opposition had been encouraged to dispense with Clive by Peter 'Pedro' Bartholomew, the singer with another local band, The Rapids Rave. The extrovert front man had been guest on one or two songs when the two bands were on the same bill, but his days with his own group were numbered. His dad had ordered him to leave The Rapid Rave because their busy schedule was affecting his engineering apprenticeship. Peter saw The Opposition, with their somewhat lower profile, as an ideal alternative, and they were keen for him to join. As Peter explains: "I said, 'Yes, I'll join you, on one understanding: you're all very talented, but your bass player's crap.' He just wasn't very musical. Clive really looked the part though, he was a good looking lad, but he just couldn't play. I told them they were a great little band but the bass player was spoiling it."

Clive, known within the circle of friends as 'Cluck', had, in fact, looked the part more than any of the others. He was one of the first in Oadby to own a Vespa scooter and properly embrace mod culture. It was, of course, a diluted version of the one colouring the streets of London but, all the same, skirts were getting higher, suits sharper and bellies were filling with attitude. "I was buying and selling scooters from home," said Clive. "Obviously the environment of Oadby was quite affluent so we were mainly mods. We weren't extreme at all. The background we all had was quite sheltered, we were brought up in a decent way with a good lifestyle. We'd have rum a mile if we saw any rockers."

Peter Bartholomew lays claim to being the person who first suggested John Deacon should take over on bass. The group resorted to subterfuge for their first practice at Oadby Boys' Club featuring John on bass and Peter on vocals. Without informing Clive, they arranged to meet early so John could borrow Clive's equipment and run through a few songs. At the time the band was 'managed' by Anthony Hudson, an acquaintance who adopted the title of manager though no one could remember him ever earning it. "Anthony stood at the door of the club with his foot jammed in it," said Peter Bartholomew. "He was on the look-out for Clive and was going to signal to us if he saw him coming. John Deacon was brilliant on the bass straight away, he really took to it."

After a failed attempt to appease his parents by training as an accountant, Clive went on to make a career out of his hobby. Castledine Scooters became Clive Castledine Motorcycles, the main Honda and Suzuki dealer in Leicester, with a workshop and saleroom on the busy, shuddering dual carriageway of Humberstone Road. During the busy summer period he will sell ten bikes a week, and he is already planning to pass the business on to his son. In the shadow of two ugly tower blocks, surrounded by cans of Swarfega, oily rags, zips waiting to be stitched into motorcycle suits, and rows of burnished bikes, he has never coveted the lifestyle of his former musical colleague. "It has never gone through my mind to wish I'd followed the musical route," he points out. "It seems so long ago, almost insignificant really. I nearly gave music another go during the punk era. I liked the rawness of bands like The Stranglers and Sham 69, but I was working 60 hours a week on my business. I wouldn'! ! ! t know which way up to hold a bass guitar now."

Without Clive the band were able to develop at their own pace and there was no shortage of bookings. Leicester, like the rest of the country, was teeming with venues, from church halls to working men's clubs to theatres, and for the first time the UK had an infrastructure to support live music made by young people. Pop was also on television on its own terms, rather than as an addendum to light entertainment programmes, and everyone read the Melody Maker.

Although, like every other group, they harboured covert ambitions, The Opposition were largely content to learn their craft, become one of the best bands in Leicester, and then trust to the future. They appeared almost every Saturday night at the Co-op Hall in Enderby. They received a fee of £4 for their performance at the Co-op Hall, though by the end of 1966, when they were playing venues like Market Harbotough Working Men's Club and Leicester Tennis Club, the fee had risen to £12.

Many of the shows were as support to Peter's former group, The Rapids Rave, whose membership comprised slightly older lads managed by Les Taylor. Eventually Les, whose stepson Robert Prince played lead guitar in The Rapids, also became manager of The Opposition. "I wanted to keep an eye on Robert," Les recalls. "They were playing in some rough places and I thought if I was manager at least I could keep a watch on what he was up to. The Opposition were just their back-up group. I didn't know them very well at all." Les often sold both groups as a package to venues, but his interest was always primarily in the well-being of his stepson, 'the Eric Clapton of the Midlands' as he refers to him. He remembers John Deacon as 'a lovely kid' but it was only decades later when he learned of John's phenomenal success. "I never had any ambitions in the music business," he says. "I just wanted to stop Robert falling into bad company. I used to just get them a few bookings here and there, it! ! ! was easy in those days."

David Williams, another school friend, joined on lead guitar in July 1966 and Richard Young moved to his first live, keyboards. Appropriately, they added covers by The Zombies and The Spencer Davis Group. They made random attempts to write their own material, but a few instrumentals in the mode of Booker T and The MGs was the limit of their success.

When he first heard The Opposition, Dave Williams was unimpressed. He had already played in local bands The Glen Sounds and The Outer Limits and knew some of the elementary factors of life in a group, like tuning. "I went to a rehearsal and they sounded awful, like they hadn't tuned up," he recalls. "They had tuned up, but only to their own instrument, so they were all out of tune with each other. I advised them to get a pitch pipe and after that they didn't sound too bad."

John Deacon was a dedicated group member, anxious that the songs were arranged and performed properly, his perfectionism was already evident to the others. He was also, along with Richard, the group's archivist, collecting every newspaper cutting, even the tiny adverts for shows published in the Leicester Mercury.

Molly Deacon still considered the group a frivolous aside in her son's life. Her husband had died in 1962 when John was just ten and she was determined to hold some discipline over him, especially in directing him toward an academic career. In September 1966 the band had been booked to play the Tudor Rose pub in Atherstone and, wary of Molly's strictness, they coaxed John out of the house and into the garden while they related the details. Unfortunately the kitchen window was open and she overheard. "She came storming out saying, 'John's not playing in any pubs', and that was it," said Nigel Bullen. "We had to get a stand-in for the night. He was only about sixteen at the time and under age, but that's just the way she was, a bit strict."


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