The 35th Of May - a “brain-child” musical project of Pete Smith. The band formed
as Pete moved his focus away from the group he’d been playing in with brother Rob
- the Skiff-Skats. Pete wanted to form a pop/soul/roots band and showcase his own
original songwriting. This was despite the respectable success the Skiff-Skats were
already enjoying at the time with TV, radio and an album (Skiff-Skat Stuff) gaining
The band Pete assembled had daunting pedigree, especially to a “green” bass player
like myself: Avis (AKA “Roma Pierre”) used to be a backing singer for Eddie Grant.
Pete himself had been in various groups including Lee Kosmin and the wonderful Skiff-Skats
(who I’d paid to go and see). Eryl Price-Davies played with The Look on their tour
promoting the hit “I Am The Beat”. Stewart had played as a session player on various
hits and in many collaborations with Eryl and Martin Turner from Wishbone Ash. Lee
Partis played drums on Kirsty MacColl’s “There's a guy works down the chip shop swears
he's Elvis” single and toured with Jah Wobble’s band. The bass player I replaced
had played in Boney M. But he wanted to be paid for rehearsals. This caused some
friction with the others and opened an opportunity for me.
Dublin Castle Gig
In the original line-up with Terry Anderson on drums, we all played a storming set
at our first of many gigs at the Dublin Castle in Camden, London. I think we played
the gig before we signed a management deal with Nigel Thompson and his silent associate
Ken Trench (of Mirror Group pension fund fame).
Song for Amnesty International
Pete had penned a soul anthem called “Everybody’s got the Right To Live”. We were
told it had been picked up by Paul Gambaccini and put on the short-list for Amnesty
International’s theme song for 1987. Ultimately Amnesty didn’t choose any song to
promote their cause at the time, but “Everybody’s Got The Right To Live” would have
been a great anthem in promoting human rights. How many lives could have been saved
if it had been used, hmm?
We’d had interest and offers from several established management agents, but the
group consensus was to go for “nice-guy new-boy” Nigel Thompson. In trying to shape
us up for stardom Nigel got various stylists involved in dressing us. Initially we
all got grubby white suits (from Camden Market), then 50’s style zoot-suits. Avis
was of course exempted from these indignities and wore a selection of lovely dresses
instead. These image changes didn’t stick and I remember one final attempt where
the concept became individualising each band member’s innate style: A stylist dressed
me as John-boy out of the Waltons at the start of a rehearsal - much to the amusement
of the rest of the band.
Studio Time and Lost Soul E.P.
Our first studio session was at The Greenhouse Studios (I think). Nigel bought the
producer Pete Moss in for us. Pete Moss had worked with many famous female vocalists
(i.e. Cilla Black and the like) before. I think he also penned the theme tune to
Grange Hill! The band only did one song (All The Way There) and Pete Moss didn’t
spend much time with the band. He focused mainly on Avis’ vocals in-between phone
calls. The resulting demo had great singing but the band performance was rather lack-lustre.
Our second attempt at recording was more successful. Although I forget the name of
the producer, I do remember going to Madness’ Zar-Jazz recording studio in the Caledonian
Road to do 4 songs with our new drummer, Lee Partis. Pete had a connection with the
group Madness because some of them had played occasionally in the Skiff-Skats. The
demo mix on this site is not the final mix, but only a rough day 2 mix and lacks
some backing vocals and additional mixing from the final version. The final mix was
scheduled to be mastered and made into a 12” 4 track EP, then touted around the major
labels. The sleeve artwork (a suggestive pic in the style of Lou Reed’s Transformer
album art) was prepared and we were all set for stardom...
We were playing a gig at the Bull and Gate in Kentish Town when our manager Nigel
arrived in the audience during our set. He stuck out like a sore thumb in trying
to be anonymous: He was wearing a wide-brimmed hat, sunglasses and a raincoat with
the collars turned up. Something seemed obviously wrong with him. He told us after
the gig that he’d been implicated in something (to do with Boy George I think) and
was in the process of having a nervous breakdown. Our management contract effectively
ended there and then.
Last Gig At The London Midland And Scottish Arms
While some people in the band liked gigging regularly and wanted to continue, others
were getting tired of the effort needed to perform regularly on stage. I guess the
knock-back from our recently collapsed management deal and failed promises was too
difficult to recover from for the band.
Our last set at the London, Midland and Scottish Arms in Hendon was a sad and rather
drunken farewell. I was fortunate to continue on playing with Pete in the Blue Rhythm
Methodists, who were formed purely for rhythm section practice and to tighten 35
May up (and because we liked playing together). Pete, Lee and myself went on to play
for another few years and incorporated some of Pete’s songs with our blues covers.
Pete also continued playing with Avis in the swing blues band “Roma Pierre and her
Back Door Men” and various other bands, while also busking in London with his solo
blues and bluegrass material.
I loved my time in the 35 May and remember my time in the group fondly. Pete was
an inspiration, a true friend and a resource for all sorts of eclectic and rare music.