The Return of Gaffa
1978 was my first full year in Nottingham, the city where I’ve lived ever since. Most Tuesday nights, I’d head down to The Imperial, on St James St, to see Nottingham band, Gaffa. The place was always packed, even before they had a record out. Gaffa were a Nottingham band for Nottingham people. Listen to the download of ‘O.A.P. Sightings’ below to find the most authentic example of a Nottingham accent on record. In lyricist and vocalist Wayne Evans, they had a real original, perfectly complemented by guitarist John Maslen who wrote the music. Clive (“Myph”) Smith on second guitar and Mick Barratt on drums completed the picture (occasionally with Brendan Kidulis on keyboards). Their handful of records never really represented how good they were live but the John Peel sessions (which you can listen to here) give a more accurate picture. These were witty, adventurous songs with wry, down to earth lyrics about working class life in a run down city.
Gaffa’s first EP was an NME single of the week. Their first single, the extremely catchy ‘I Know I Love You (but I don’t know how I know)’ garnered great reviews. Had it been produced by Nick Lowe and released on Stiff, it couldn’t have failed to be a hit. But it wasn’t. They recorded their only album, named after the Nottingham phrase ‘Neither Use Nor Ornament’ at Berwick St. Studios in Soho. It had the songs, but lacked a strong producer. I well remember the night it went on sale, when they played the whole album, in order, at The Imperial, Wayne miming turning over the record halfway through. My copy is number 15. I was editor of the Nottingham University student newspaper in ’78, and wrote about the band whenever I could, chatting with them most weeks. Their second single, ‘Attitude Dancing’ was reminiscent of XTC, then starting out, while its double A side, ‘Long Weekend’ was always one of my favourite live songs. I hope they’ll play it in a week’s time, when three of the original four perform together for the first time in over 30 years. For free, at Nottingham Contemporary.
By 1980, the band had imploded. I only just realised that one of my oldest friends (I’ve known him for thirty years), cartoonist John Clark, was a roadie for Gaffa years before we met. Must have come across him, as I saw them live more often than any other band since, sometimes twice in the same week. We’ll both be there next Saturday night, reliving our youth. Even if (maybe especially if) you missed them the first time, you might care to join us.
14 Replies to “The Return of Gaffa”
Great article David. I, too, remember Thursday Nights at The Imperial – magical evenings for a 18 year old in 1978. I left my home town of Nott’m in 1992 but will be there Saturday night with a few mates to relive my youth too.
Excellent article David! I first saw Gaffa in 1976 at Nottingham Playhouse, where they shared the bill with Plummet Airlines, Cisco and the eardrum-busting heavy rock of Slender Loris, playing together in an event organised by BBC Radio Nottingham’s ‘Extravaganza’, a show that went out on Saturday mornings, fronted by Phil and John Holmes. In those days, Evans sported a waist-length hairdo…goodness knows how he could see what he was playing on the bass, but already, there was an emergent local fan base that warmed to the quirky, localised lyrics, jerky rhythms and Evans’ dry wit, delivered in an unmistakeable Nottingham drawl.My favourite track of the time was ‘Allotment’, a dreamy, syncopated homage to the joys of growing spuds in Bulwell…you could never imagine Evans catching the Marrakesh Express. Anyway, thirty five years later, I’m buried in the crowd at the Nottingham Contemporary to see Evans and the co. resurrect the local legend…I was not disappointed. Now then, who on earth did I lend my copy of ‘Nottingham Castle Rock’ to?
Great article David. I took wife wife to be to see Gaffa on our first date (Tuesday 14th Febuary 1978). Obviously, I always hedged my bets then (i.e. if we didn’t get on, at least I could watch the band). Later that year I was the drummer in a new Nottingham band, The Press. And we not only had the honour of having Wayne and Co coming to see us at the Hearty Goodfellow, but they opened for us when we all went down to Exeter University for a gig. Hard act to follow. I couldn’t make the Nottingham Contemporary, but see that there are some clips on Youtube.
Nice article David, which sums um many of my feelings about the band. I particularly agree with your sentiments on the production of the album which had some greats songs but a final sound that didn’t live up to the material. Still very enjoyable to listen to all these years later though.
And now it’s the ‘return of the return’ as Gaffa are booked back into the Nottingham Contemporary on 18 November for another night: http://www.nottinghamcontemporary.org/event/gaffa-0
Be sure and wear your ‘Stage Gear’ 🙂
I lived above a posh cafe opposite the Imperial on St James’ St in the late 70s, early 80s and used to sneak (as an underage, but sophisticated young gal) into gaffa gigs. Later going to watch them at the Hearty Goodfellow. Can’t wait for Friday to see them again at the nottingham contemporary … an trying to get my brother Adam Gray to go too …
Happy days back then. Jinny xx
See you there, Jinny!
Opportunity to relive your youth again as they’re playing at Sillitoe Evening at the Contemporary on 27 October 2012 (8-12)
Already in my diary, James. See you there?
Anyone remember desperate Dan the group around at the same time also at the imperial
Only just read this article, only 10 years too late! But I loved Gaffa. I was put onto them to someone I worked with and was hooked immediately. Wayne just got Nottingham and what it stood for. His lyrics were amazing. I met my then girlfriend there and my biggest regret was missing the Gaffa reunion gig…. and not marrying her!
Wayne once introduced a new song he had written. He said he had written it in his Dad’s pigeon loft after his Dad had locked him in there because he failed to pass his Cycling Proficiency test. He said I still haven’t passed my Cycling Proficiency…… and added But I can fly now! Classic
Thanks for this, George. I’m still in touch with the band and, indeed, am looking to do something with them in the not too distant. Watch this space!
Well it’s the 19 October 2022 and I’m off to your book launch tonight David and I have to say I’m quite excited at the prospect, well as excited as a 65 yr old man can get these days! And as well as listening to you read from your new book, I get to see Wayne, John, Miff and Mick (yes Mick!) knock out a few memorable tunes.I worked out its 42 years since I last saw Gaffa play at the Imperial. Gawd I do feel old…..
Here’s to a successful and memorable night for you and a lovely meander down that lane called Memory.
See you later