NICK TESCO R.I.P.
Vive Le Rock was deeply saddened by the announcement yesterday of the death of NICK TESCO, frontman of hitmaking Surrey punks THE MEMBERS and a much-valued contributor to this very magazine for over a decade.
“We are devastated to announce that Nick Tesco, founder member and original lead vocalist of the Camberley punk reggae legends The Members died on friday 25th February 2022 after a short illness at the age of 67 in London,” said the band in a collective statement. “Although his health had not been good for a while (he had not performed regularly since 2008) Nick was a fiery commentator on social media and a great writer, broadcaster and journalist.
“Born Nicholas Guy Lightowlers into a military (RAF) family in Belfast in 1955 his childhood was spent travelling around the world. The family eventually settled in Camberley, Surrey. Nick did a degree in politics at Liverpool University before returning to Camberley where after seeing The Stranglers he decided to form his own group The Members in 1976.
“After playing the seminal Roxy Club in 1977 the original line up of The Members of Tesco (vocals), Gary Baker (guitar), and Steve Morley (bass guitar), and Adrian Lillywhite (drums) was joined by songwriter and guitarist Jean Marie Carroll (aka JC Carroll). The next to join was British Airways aircraft electrician bass player Chris Payne.
“The band performed their first gigs at The Roxy Red Cow (London W6), The Windsor Castle (London W9) and The Nashville Rooms (London W14).
“Nick’s original 1977 Punk name was Nicky Ritz but he was rechristened Nick Tesco by Carroll who thought that Ritz was too classy and that Tesco (the name of the (UK’s cheapest supermarket at the time) suited him better.
“Nick was always a punk rock original who brought something completely new to the stage through his onstage persona (an amalgam of pint sized dynamo Eric Burdon and cheeky chappy Ian Drury ) with his ingenious ad libs, speaking parts and energetic dancing.
“The Members first released recording was ‘Fear on the Streets’, produced by Lillywhite’s brother Steve Lillywhite. This song was included on the first UK punk compilation Streets (1977). The song-writing collaboration between Tesco and Carroll moved The Members’ sound towards an incorporation of reggae, shown in the first single released for Stiff Records, ‘Solitary Confinement’, produced by Larry Wallis. Following these releases the band personnel became Tesco (vocals), Carroll (vocals and guitar), Nigel Bennett (guitar), Payne (bass) and Lillywhite (drums).
“In 1978/79 The Members continued to play the London pub and club circuit becoming a feature in the music press and were championed by John Peel (for whom they recorded many sessions). They signed to Virgin Records in 1978, and recorded ‘The Sound of the Suburbs’, again produced by Steve Lillywhite. This became The Members’ biggest chart success and their best-known song in the UK. The follow-up single, ‘Offshore Banking Business’, a reggae tune written by Carroll based on his experiences working in offshore banking at a private bank, was also a mainstream chart hit for the band who were joined by the trombone reggae legend Rico Rodriguez MBE for its recording.
“The Members released two albums on Virgin records and toured extensively around Europe, the US, Australia and New Zealand before moving to Human League producer Martin Rushent’s Genetic Label to record their classic 1980s album Uprythmn Downbeat. The album featured the singles ‘Radio’, which made the Top 10 in parts of Australia, and ‘Working Girl’, the music video for which gave the band a massive US MTV hit.
“The Members toured the United states extensively in the 80s on the back of the success of ‘Working Girl’ before returning to the UK when Tesco left the band to become a solo artist and songwriter where he wrote songs for Roger Daltrey amongst others.
“Nick appeared in Leningrad Cowboys Go America, a feature film written and directed by cult Finnish Director Aki Kaurismäki, about a fictional Russian rock band touring the US. This fictional band then toured as an actual band, and recorded Nicky’s song ‘Thru the Wire’. Kaurismäki directed a video for ‘Thru the Wire’, featuring Nicky Tesco.
“The original line up of The Members reformed in 2008 to play two shows. One at the Inn on the Green in Ladbroke Grove and another for long term fan’s Phil Jupitus’ birthday party at the 100 club. Nick continued to appear occasionally with the re-incarnated Members featuring Carroll, Payne, Bennett and new drummers Nick Cash and Rat Scabies until his health and mobility prevented him.
“As well as working as a music journalist for the magazine Music Week and Vive Le Rock, Nick was a commentator on new releases for BBC 6 Music’s ‘Roundtable’. He was also an actor appearing in movies including Iron Horsemen and I Hired a Contract Killer (in which he co-starred with Joe Strummer) as well as Kaurismäki’s Leningrad Cowboys sequel Leningrad Cowboys Meet Moses.
He is survived by his wife Francesca and children Lucy and Ned.
Nick you were an inspiration and we will miss you!”