Being different from everyone else is something I specialise in. It’s often put me at odds with others around me who want to take the easy route in life. I suppose it’s got something to do with my early childhood in British Guiana, where I had a different kind of upbringing from others in my village. I was encouraged to do things for myself and to love learning new things. I have my dad to thank for teaching me to have courage, my mother to thank for taking me into the household of Parson Munroe and his wife, where my enquiring mind was fed and encouraged rather than quashed, and to Parson himself for setting me a great moral example. In my army career it led me to volunteer for just about every course that was available to me, including a padre’s course, a stint in the regimental police, a course for becoming a PTI, courses for paramedic work, water purification and even being the regimental rat catcher! During my time in Malaya, I volunteered to go on a minesweeper removing mines from the South China Seas. I volunteered to help famine victims in the Sudan and saw service in Kenya during the MauMau uprising, as well as raising funds for Albert Schweitzer’s hospital in Africa. These experiences made life interesting for me and I have never been one to stick to the same boring old format in life that suits many other people. So it was for me in music and now I was Band Serjeant Major, I wanted to do something different with the music that we performed.
There is a lot of snobbery in music, but one thing that Band Master Roger Swift was not, was a music snob. I certainly knew my limitations as an academic musician and had never been afraid to ask for help from my colleagues who were superior musicians when it came to understanding the technical aspects of the classical, military and light music we usually played. However, by the time Roger Swift joined us, I think I had become a very competent percussionist. His ability as an outstanding solo pianist who was equally at home playing classical, jazz or popular music filled me with admiration. I asked him to play as soloist in our Band cabarets and he paid me the compliment of asking me to sing “Blueberry Hill”, “The Lady is a Tramp” and “Crackling Rosie” to his accompaniment. At this time my family and I were living in officer’s quarters in Marienloh and I was glad when Roger was given quarters very near to my house as it made it very easy for us to get together and practice. He helped me to improve my conducting when we were preparing for the Kneller Hall Inspection as I had been teased for having the stance of a boxer when standing in front of the band with my baton.
The kudos we gained from getting an “outstanding” for this inspection was followed up by interviews with “The New Musical Express” and “Melody Maker” the top popular musical journals of the day. It was during these interviews that I found out from the reporters that the best studio in London in Baker Street was that of Michael John and from then on, I was set on getting the Band to perform on a new kind of record that would reflect the wide range of musical entertainment our military band could perform. We had already made two vinyl long playing records by then during my time in the QRIH Band. One of them was “The QRIH in Concert” and the other was “In Martial Mood”. I was therefore no stranger to the process of immortalising music on vinyl using studios in Germany. They were excellent examples of military music, but I felt they did not showcase the full versatility and quality of military band musicians who I felt could play anything musical anytime and anywhere very well. During Band discussions about making our next record we weighed up the pros and cons of whether to record it in studios in Germany or in England. We decided despite the difficulties of travel we would like to record it in England. Band Master Swift, the Band President and the Colonel all agreed that if we wished to make another record we had permission to do so.
Next we had to reach a decision as to which pieces would be included on the record. We wanted to include pieces that would highlight the soloist skills within the band as well as demonstrating the different styles and genres. We wanted to include special arrangements and compositions made by Band Master Swift, pieces by the regimental cavalry trumpeters, Dixieland music, the theme tune from the film “Shaft” by Isaac Hayes, an exciting instrumental popular at the time and lively vocals in both English and German. It was a controversial thing for a military band to do, but as I saw it, there were sound commercial reasons for doing so. If we were to fund this record from record sales we would have to make it as appealing as possible to the German public we would be playing for in most of our bookings, so that they would want to buy the records from us when they came to hear us perform.
I got permission from the Band Master and regiment to go on a “recky” trip to London. The accommodation for the entire Band was easy enough. Of the various addresses the regiment had given me, I went to the barracks in Hounslow where I had been before for sports events, so I knew what it was like there. Having made arrangements with them for what we would need, I went on to visit the Audio International Studios in Baker Street. It was there that I met record producer Michael John for the first time and explained to him what we wanted to do. He was a very busy man but was generous with his time considering his studio was, as he told me, where all the top artistes and bands of the day had recorded. Michael seemed taken aback by the fact that I had travelled all the way from Germany to visit him. I was shown around the impressive studio and left in no doubt that the top professional standards would be used in making any recording there. I began to wonder if we had not been aiming a bit too high. Did I realise that studio time there would be very expensive indeed? I was aware it would be costly but we were a working band and I was sure that we could easily sell enough records to make back the money we invested. However, I wanted to keep the costs to a minimum. Michael advised me to come to the studios well-rehearsed so we could do the recording in a single take. That way we could keep the cost down to the minimum. The cost would also depend on how many records we wanted to press. We would need to press thousands to get our money back. He asked what kind of numbers we would be putting on the record.
“It’s not going to be all marches and Gilbert and Sullivan”, I said. “That’s all been done before. We want this one to be different.” I explained to him how we played all over Germany the UK and even on tours in Canada and how we were so popular that we had raised funds from our bookings to buy our own instruments, pay for a new band uniform and embroidered banners and even buy our own minibus. “Why don’t you come and visit the regiment in Paderborn so you can see for yourself how good we are,” I said to him. “We’ll make sure you are well looked after and you’ll have a very good time.” Michael referred me to an artist he recommended for designing the record sleeve, so I went on to Richmond to discuss what information would be put on the cover. It would be called “Nice and Easy” and would have a reggae design with photos of all the band members on it.
In due course, Michael John did indeed visit us in Paderborn and spent quite a few days with us listening to us playing and seeing how we lived. He was pleased with what he saw and how he was treated. He said the army was different from what he had imagined. We had to obtain permission from Isaac Hayes the copyright holder, to include his theme tune for “Shaft” on this album. To our delight, he gave us the go-ahead and so all that was left to do was for us to rehearse the set over and over so by the time we got to the studio in Baker Street, we could play it all in our sleep! As planned, it went like clockwork and we did the recording in a single take with no mistakes. As soon as word came to us back in Germany that the records were pressed and we could collect them, Mick Matthews and I drove the Band mini-bus across to Michael John’s house in England to collect the records. Then loaded up to full capacity, we drove back through Europe with them. Belgian customs gave us some problems but they were solved and we arrived back with our cargo to the schutzenfest in Schiefbahn where the band was playing at the time. In the first few days of the shutzenfest we sold hundreds of records. We took them along to every booking and sold them to the public who heard us play. It soon paid for itself and earned us all a good amount of royalties as time went by. Sales continued well throughout my time in the army and even after I left.
If you want to know how I went on to achieve my ambitions in international sport and music around the globe, then click on the “follow” pop-up button at the bottom right hand corner of this page, and sign up, or follow me on my “Jane Joseph author” page on Facebook. Earlier parts of the story are also found on this website. If you want to find out what happened in my later life when I returned to help develop my birth country Guyana in South America, then order “The ElDorado Affair” by Jane Joseph ISBN 978-0-9932409-0-4 published by Sapodilla Press available in paperback or Kindle format from Amazon.co.uk, order it through Waterstones or your local book store via Nielsens teledata or read it in Kindle format ISBN 978-0-9932409-1-1 available worldwide on Amazon.com