The Members formed in London’s commuter suburb of Camberley, Surrey, in the winter of 1976. Nicky Tesco, a political science graduate working as an insurance salesman, was the instigator.
He’d long dreamt of forming a band, but it got no further than that until he gate-crashed a party at a rehearsal studio run by a couple of chancers, Joe Snowden and Mike Kingsbury. Kingsbury approached him while he was banging away at a typewriter and asked what the fuck he thought he was doing.
Tesco saw that he had the chance to indulge what he still ranks as one of his greatest attributes – blagging. He volunteered the wholly untrue statement that he did indeed have his own band, and was offered an audition the following week.
However he was quickly disabused of any notion that the Two Stooges might provide a route to stardom when the band turned up one day at the rehearsal studios and had to wait in line while the bailiffs cleared it out. They moved on to work with Buzz Carter and Robin Eggar – two young guns who were working for RCA.
Tesco thought they were great, as they kept the dole-financed putative pop star alive by giving him loads of promo albums to sell so he could eat.
Initially, Tesco roped in guitarist Gary Baker, bass player Steve Morley and drummer Clive Parker. Parker was the first to leave, his replacement was Adrian Lillywhite, brother of producer Steve.
‘JC’ (Jean-Marie Carroll) was brought in on guitar after he’d enjoyed a brief flirtation with Graham Parker’s Rumour and had been spotted by Tesco at several wild parties entertaining the world with weird songs and strange sunglasses.
The line-up was solidified when BA technician Chris Payne touched down on bass after Steve Morley had been deemed “too difficult”.
Their debut at the Roxy in July 1977 saw Tesco acquire his new surname after he spent much of the evening blagging drinks. Their debut vinyl release was Fear On The Streets, an anti-National Front tract included on Beggars Banquets’ Streets sampler, the first release from the label.
Stiff, their ear bent by old friend Graham Parker, were persuaded to offer them £150 to record a one-off single at the start of 1978. Solitary Confinement was the result – a starkly realistic appraisal of life as lived by young, new arrivals in London, produced by Larry Wallis of the Pink Fairies.
After Nigel Bennett replaced Gary Baker, Virgin stepped in to release Sound Of The Suburbs, the group’s touchstone single, which broke into the Top 20 selling 250,000 copies.
It was a near-perfect summary of the hicksville grind, and of that curious English phenomenon of the dormitory town, whose men-folk condemn themselves to spending large amounts of their waking hours crammed into commuter trains when they could be playing punk rock songs.
Adrian’s brother Steve Lillywhite produced the ensuing debut album, At The Chelsea Nightclub. The LP combined wit with intelligence and a sharply defined sense of self-deprecation, sketched over rousing, joyous tunes that mined the rock, pop and reggae canons without cheapening any of those traditions.
The hits stopped coming though, despite a more polished second album, 1980 – The Choice Is Yours.
The band ploughed on regardless, touring heavily in Britain, Europe and the US. Their last album was Going West, issued a year earlier as Uprhythm, Downbeat (1982) in the US. 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 exposure in North America via MTV.
The band broke up in 1983 when Tesco left the band after their last tour of the US.
They were reunited in 2007 at The Inn on the Green in Ladbroke Grove, London and, in 2008, a lineup of Carroll, Payne and Nick Cash resumed touring.
In 2009 a new single International Financial Crisis (a re-write of Offshore Banking Business) was released, recorded by Tesco, Carroll, Payne and Bennett, with artwork by the original Members’ album sleeve designer, Malcolm Garrett.
The band have continued touring and recording since.
JC (Jean-Marie Carroll)