|The Rushden Echo and Argus, 25th April 1958, transcribed by Gill Hollis
‘Spasm’- peculiarity to oust skiffle
Its music with a difference you hear at the CYA Youth Club in North Street, Rushden, when the “Spatters” are in session. The “Spatters” have deviated from the Donegan Duncan style of music and have formed themselves into the county’s first “spasm” band.
A distinguished pose for the photographer, please gentlemen. The members of the ‘Spatters’ Spasm Group, are (l-r) William Dickens, John Kitchener, David Johnson, Patrick Teat and Russell Rose (sitting, centre)
What is spasm? That is a question many people may ask and they may be forgiven for not having become familiar with it. “Spasm” is a new word for music played on improvised instruments, but whereas the hundreds of local skiffle groups throughout the country improvise with tea-chest bass and washboard, “spasm” goes much further.
Tunes of Twenties
Playing mainly tunes of the Twenties, the “Spatters” produce their unusual music from an amazing assortment of instruments which would more easily be found in the home than in a music shop.
The tea-chest bass, with its old broom handle and length of string is included, and the washboard is featured too. The washboard, played with thimbles on all fingers, has a number of attachments, including half a cycle rear-lamp holder.
A kitchen funnel such a utilitarian object contributes to the musical art when a trumpet mouthpiece is added. A stone ginger-beer jug is another instrument, and added rhythmic noises issue from such articles as bottles, spoons, combs and paper. Anything is acceptable, in fact, the more unusual the object the greater the temptation is to include it in the band.
The performances by the “Spatters,” who are 19 or 20 years old are quite remarkable, if unorthodox. Few people would ever expect to hear music produced from the instruments used, but the effect is easy on the ear for those who like a tune with a beat. Most surprising is the tone which comes from the kitchen funnel.
So far the news of the group has not spread far and wide but there are already a few girl “spasm” fans, who enter fully into the spirit of the sessions.
As in a few London jazz clubs where “spasm” shows have taken pride of place the “uniform” for the girls includes “Little Nell” stockings in scarlet, black or bottle-green, loose sweaters and striped jeans, not forgetting long cigarette holders for the smokers.
The “Spatters” also dress in a manner of slight eccentricity to fit in with the type of instruments they play.
When the group was in session at the weekend, William “Avery” Dickens stepped forward to play his kitchen-funnel solos with a black waistcoat, but without a jacket, and sporting a bow tie and pince-nez. His sandy hair was parted in the middle and combed forward, giving him a music hall professor appearance.
Russell Rose, playing a more orthodox guitar with a “kazoo” or “bazooka” fixed on with a wire, so it could be played at the same time was also more orthodox in dress, with bow tie and a trilby hat shoved back on his wavy hair.
David “George” Johnson, who played a clarinet and was the only one without an improvised gadget, wound a long coloured scarf around his neck and under his bearded chin.
Patrick Tear, on the washboard, also had a scarf and achieved a “zany” look by wearing a gay checked cap back to front.
But it was the tea-chest bass player, John “Harris” Kitchener who attracted the eye of the onlooker with his corduroy trousers tucked into thick striped football socks, a thick crew-neck sweater revealing at the top the collar of a tartan shirt, and with a Davy Crockett hat rested squarely over his eyes and ears.
At that time the group was not up to full strength other players being out of town. When the others join in with their own peculiar instruments and ideas on dress for the occasion the effect is really worthwhile seeing and hearing.
Will the “spasm” craze grow? The “Spatters” don’t know but one thing is sure. They personally get a big kick out of it.