On 19 September, DAVE KUSWORTH passed away. A veteran of Midlands rock’n’roll since co-founding seminal garage-rockers TV Eye as a teenager in Birmingham in ’77, Kusworth was revered as a songwriter, and as a member of The Jacobites (with Nikki Sudden), The Rag Dolls, Dogs D’Amour, The Bounty Hunters and more, recently returning with new material in The Dave Kusworth Group. Longtime bandmate and friend Dave Twist pays tribute with his Top 10 Kusworth moments…
TV EYE – DREAMING OF YOUR CARS
“This was the Dave that I first encountered on 15 August 1977. How can I pinpoint the date? I still have the dayglo orange signwritten poster for Barbarella’s little sister club Rebecca’s ‘New Wave Monday’. They were booked in as TVI, presumably having secured their place on the bill by telephone. I was there with John Taylor to play our first ‘professional’ show as Shock Treatment. We’d totally bought into the ‘here’s one chord, here’s another… ‘ manifesto, but had taken that further and skipped the part where you actually learned the chord. Neither of us were in the role that we’d later take up – John was on a viciously high-actioned telecaster copy which he thrashed until his hand bled from the raw metal edge of the uncovered bridge. I ‘sang’… a camp approximation of something I hoped might sound a little like Howard Devoto. It didn’t. But the Prefects had been good enough to lend us their Fender combo and John just buzzed on the air it shifted around us.
“And then came TV Eye. Same age as us, 17, from a tougher part of the South side of the city and undistracted by ‘A’ levels. They had everything, breathtakingly, together. On guitar was a kid who looked like Johnny Ramone or Mick Jones when you could clock the profile. Which was hard because Dave had this thing where he’d blast away with one leg raised and he’d whirl the foot around fast in a tight kicking circle – until the momentum was almost enough to topple him. At which point he’d buck and swivel like Johnny Thunders on The Whistle Test, if they’d run the film double time like a silent comedy chase. Then he’d find a new part of the stage, and repeat the whole thing again.”
THE SUBTERRANEAN HAWKS – BIG STORE
“Not a Dave song at all, Stephen Duffy had brought this with him from his time in Duran Duran. But Dave loved this song and took it on with him again to The Jacobites, where it appears on their Robespierre’s Velvet Basement long player. I’d borrowed / stolen the parts of something approximating a kit from a discarded snare gifted by The Prefects’ drummer Paul Apperley and a 1950s relic I’d spirited out of my school’s store cupboard. So now I’m Dave’s drummer. I was so thrilled by that, and by this song, that my joy transmitted into my speeding up, very noticeably, within the opening bars of this and almost every other song. I wonder why we weren’t signed? When Simon Colley quit the band, a little after we recorded this, Dave switched to bass guitar. Like Ron Asheton, like Ronnie Wood, like Keith – Dave was a great bass guitarist too.”
NIKKI SUDDEN & DAVE KUSWORTH / JACOBITES – KINGS AND QUEENS
“The Hawks folded when Stephen and Dave both decided that they needed to do their own things, apart. I was, of course, bereft. Even while my expressive stylings were limiting our prospects to a proto-scene in between that didn’t exist yet, I’d believed in us as some new Beatle-band. We’d had two of the greatest songwriters of the era in that one place at that one time, and I knew we’d given up on the toppermost even as our rivals were cresting the summit and pitching their colours. We stayed friends, Dave and I, fooling around with a revolving door of a side project we called The Bible Belt. Nikki Sudden had Dave guesting on his second solo album for Flicknife around then, and lifted our name for his album title. Dave was a curious mix of shy and, if not self-deprecating, at least grounded. But he was also someone who’d stand his ground on what he had achieved. ‘All of the lead guitar on those records is me, you know…’.
“Then came The Jacobites, whereby Nikki and Dave made their unlikely partnership a thing – and here’s where we first heard Dave as lead vocalist, and how very affecting. What a natural he turned out to be. ‘Kings And Queens’ is the song from this era that remained in any Dave set until the end, although he was maybe a little bored with it by our last show together at Christmas 2019. On what became his last full band show, he instructed me to play it like the Iggy Pop Party also-ran ‘Pumpin’ For Jill’. And what do you know, it worked very well.”
THE JACOBITES – IT’LL ALL END UP IN TEARS
“So now I’m the sleeve designer. In the era of Prittstick, scalpel, fineliner and Tipex I’m considered something of a whizz kid. The sleeve of Robespierre’s Velvet Basement goes to the printers and comes back all wrong. Luckily the record is ace. According to legend, in some ‘five records you’re currently grooving on…’ list somewhere, Tom Waits picked this album out as a fave-rave. I’m not sure if he did or not and, outside of a press release, it doesn’t really matter anyway. Dave’s hair is bloody fantastic on the cover shot. I often wonder if that fabulous accident of a front cover didn’t fix Dave right there in 1985 for most people. Quite understandably, everyone gets giddy around Robespierre’s…, losing their bearings in that crazy lo-budget 80s reverb and never finding their way out the other side…”
THE BOUNTY HUNTERS – EVERYTHING’S FOR HER
“He got close. Signed to Creation and the zeitgeist halfway between the cheap thrill of Appetite For Destruction and the dull thud of Use Your Illusion. It seemed there might be a chance that a flying ember flung from Keith Richards’ smouldering Redlands closet would catch light again. That’s how the boys look in the hot glow of Bleddyn Butcher’s cover image anyway. Then again, Dave detested Heavy Metal so there was nothing for the Kerrang Krew here.”
DAVE KUSWORTH & THE TENDERHOOKS – DANDELION BOY
DAVE KUSWORTH & THE TENDERHOOKS – LIKE WONDERLAND AVENUE (IN A COLD CLIMATE)
“I’m making personal choices, and I’m very much aware of that. It’s unforgivable that there’s nothing here from Wives, Weddings and Roses or All The Heartbreak Stories. I’d re-enlisted early in the grim new millennium to form The Tenderhooks, and that reunion prompted the co-write ‘Dandelion Boy’. With all those autobiographical, self-mythologising Mott The Hoople songs in our heads, here we are swapping lines to come to terms with glorious failure, romanticising those blood-to-the-head teenage choices. Break ups and reunions were inevitable in Dave-world. You’d spend time there until the relentlessness of Dave being Dave, and Dave’s friends being Dave’s friends, became too much, at which point you’d have to step back and let someone else come on from the bench. ‘Wonderland Avenue…’ documents such a time, with things becoming quite dark on the edges of Moseley Village.”
THE DAVE KUSWORTH GROUP – FOR ALL THE PERFECT PEOPLE
“I wanted to choose the mid-sixties baroque of ‘Are You The Girl’ with its lovely harpsichord part, then I realise that I haven’t picked an all-out rocker… So how about ‘Someone Else’s Shoes’ or the Stooges rush of ‘Blood on The Knife’? Maybe I should choose something to represent the album he made temping with Dogs D’Amour? Dave could do a great Johnny Thunders, but we can only pick ten songs, so why pick anything that isn’t just Dave being Dave? Here’s ‘For All The Perfect People’.”
DAVE KUSWORTH & THE TENDERHOOKS – THE RIGHT TRACK
“Another lovely autobiographical song with our reliable friend, Go-Cart Mozart’s Terry Miles on Hammond. This has a shamefully low number of views on YouTube as I write, so here’s your chance to join an inexplicably exclusive club.”
“There hasn’t been an hour in the last week that my thoughts haven’t turned to Dave, and the soundtrack in my head has been this. Dave wrote this in the week after his father passed, then sang it at his funeral. He took his acoustic to the front of the chapel and sang his heart out. When it was time to record I asked that he put it to tape just like that, no clatter of drums, no added sweeteners. Playing it again now helps a little.”
Dave Kusworth products are available from Easy Action Records.