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MIKE STUART SPAN & LEVIATHAN

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Biography

Though they made precious little impact at the time, Brighton-based quartet the Mike Stuart Span have been lauded by collectors for at least a couple of decades now as one of the most convincing late Sixties British psychedelic bands.  With their early 1968 single ‘Children Of Tomorrow’ b/w ‘Concerto Of Thoughts’ widely acknowledged as one of the finest (and rarest – a copy recently sold on eBay for in excess of £700) examples of the genre, their recordings have appeared on numerous illegal releases as well as the band-authorised mid-Nineties anthology Timespan.  

 

As with so many Sixties bands, the Mike Stuart Span’s roots stretch back a decade or so earlier to the skiffle boom.  “A number of us discovered Lonnie Donegan and skiffle when I was living at Ventnor on the Isle of Wight and going to Sandown Grammar School in the mid-Fifties”, recalls Stuart Hobday.  “Three of us formed a skiffle group (for which I remember writing a couple of skiffle-type songs) which then matured into a rock’n’roll group.  By the age of fifteen, and still at school, we were playing a couple of regular gigs each week through the summer months.  Tommy Steele took a camping holiday on the island at the time (can you believe that?!) and dropped in on a couple of evenings, causing mass hysteria amongst those present.  The lead guitar and my bass guitar were made in woodwork classes at school!”

 

Stuart was eighteen years old when his family moved to Brighton.  “I had little to do with pop music for the next twelve months or so”, he says, “until a group of friends came to practice at the Youth Club that I was helping to run.  I got into conversation with them, and mentioned that I’d been in a group on the Isle of Wight.  A couple of weeks later, I had a phone call from one of them to say that the bass player was leaving, and did I fancy joining them?”

 

“To begin with, we met in each other’s houses to play and rehearse for our own amusement.  The repertoire was solely instrumental at that stage, but then someone offered us a gig at a pub, and it was decided that we ought to be performing

vocals too.  I’d let slip that, years before, I’d been head choirboy in a church choir, so I was

told that I’d be the singer.  This group became the Mighty Atoms.  A problem arose when I

realised that I had some difficulty in singing and playing bass at the same time.  Roger

McCabe (a workmate of two of the other guys) was approached, and he agreed to join on

bass.”

 

With a personnel of Stuart Hobday (vocals), Chris Herridge (lead and rhythm guitar), Roy

Bowyer (lead and rhythm guitar), Roger McCabe (bass) and Ken Joseph (drums), the Mighty

Atoms cut one of Stuart’s songs, ‘Wanderin’ Eye’, to acetate.  “It was made for a local

Brighton competition.  I can remember little about it other than that I think there was a cash

prize, and possibly a recording audition.  ‘Wanderin’ Eye’ got us nowhere, but it was the first

song that I wrote that was recorded, albeit outside a studio.  Chris Herridge was an

electronics whizz: aside from building a multi-channel amp that we all plugged into for our

gigs, he brought along a tape recorder to our rehearsal and taped the song through the amp

and a microphone on the drums.” Unfortunately,‘Wanderin’ Eye’ didn’t get beyond the acetate

stage.

 

As their life priorities changed so did the both group members and the name. For a short time                        

in 1964/5 the Mighty Atoms became The Extremes with Stuart Hobday (vocals), Roger McCabe

(bass), Gordon Rock, Al Sutherland (both on guitar), and Ken Joseph (drums). Stuart is hazy about this short-lived line-up. “As far as I remember we did a few regular gigs such as the Pop lnn (part of the Starlight Rooms in Brighton’s Montpelier Road) and rehearsed at the Brighton Boys Club. They entered us for the British Association of Boys Clubs beat group contest. The local heat was held at Crawley in April 1965 and we were awarded the silver medal. Our set included a song of our own - which I think I might have written but can't remember - called ‘Only The One’".

 

Then a liaison with local promoter/manager Mike Clayton brought about a major change for the group. The Extremes became the Mike Stuart Span (a name created by reversing the singer’s two Christian names), with Stuart and bassist Roger McCabe joined by Nigel Langham (guitar), Ashley Potter (organ) and a teenage drummer by the name of Gary 'Roscoe' Murphy. Potter was then replaced by Jon Poulter, and a horn section (two trumpets and two saxophones) was added as the band concentrated their efforts on American-derived soul music.  “It was real ‘Knock On Wood’-type American stuff”, recalls Gary Murphy.  “Sam & Dave, but also more obscure material like Little Milton and Willie Mitchell.”    

 

Original Mighty Atoms

The original Mighty Atoms

l-r back row Chris Herridge,Tom Budd, Stuart Hobday. Front row Roy Bowyer, Roger McCabe