‘Tis the festive season of advent calendars and countdowns to Christmas. To mark the occasion, what better way than to have a completely non-festive A-Z of Medway songs.
There’s the obvious stuff, of course. You could go back to July 1888 and try persuading Mrs Hitler she’s got a headache. Or perhaps you could head back to 1555 to see if Queen Mary really was the spitting image of Dennis Waterman.
Then again, it could be fun to find Cellar Number Five beneath Rochester Bridge at some point in the mid-1980s and see if The Daggermen are rehearsing down there.
Maybe it’s me over-romanticising things, but there seems something just a little bit magical about the tales you hear about three lads kicking up a storm in a room not tall enough to stand in. If the stories are to believed, whenever the doors were open, there was a party going on down there.
It wasn’t just The Daggermen who practiced down there. It’s where a band called The Pressure went to rehearse (and have their amplifiers cannibalised) and where The Prisoners recorded ‘Gravedigger‘ – which features as a bonus track on their final album, In From The Cold.
And it wasn’t just down in ‘The Hole’, as they called it, where the party happened. Wherever they went, The Daggermen took the chaos with them. Their performances at The Nag’s Head saw them get thrown out by the landlady, Angie Minto. They would try to secure gigs under an alternate name, but she soon got wise to it.
The band would take their play fights – or bundles – out onto the street, or even across the Channel to France. And they would wind up overseas promoters by making out they were too drunk to perform.
The Daggermen form a cornerstone of much of the music that followed. Two members, Johnny Barker (bass) and Wolf Howard (drums) in particular have appeared in many of Medway’s bands from the 1980s to the present day: The James Taylor Quartet, Johnny and the Bandits, Goodchilde, The Kravin’ “A”s, The Prime Movers, The Solarflares, Dodson’s Dogs, Micky and the Salty Seadogs, Sergeant’s Mess, The Vandebilts, The Musicians of the British Empire, CTMF and, most recently, Senior Service have featured either or both members of the The Daggermen’s rhythm section. And it was a fondness for The Daggermen that saw Billy Childish form The Buff Medways alongside Barker and Howard. The Buffs even released an EP tribute to The Daggermen.
‘One More Letter’ comes from The Daggermen’s EP, Introducing the Daggermen released in 1985. It conveys all the frantic energy you would hope to find from a garage band who practiced in a cellar and terrorised landladies with play fights.
The song hurtles along against a basic blues chord progression with all three band members throwing everything the have into it: David Taylor on guitar and vocals, Johnny Barker on bass and Wolf Howard smashing into his drumkit like it would be of no use come tomorrow.
Writing about it doesn’t really do it justice. You’re just going to have to listen to it for yourself.
Find out more about Jon Barker and Wolf Howard’s latest project, Senior Service (also featuring Darry Hartley and Graham), on their Damaged Good page.
Read more about The Daggermen and many, many other bands and artists from Medway in my book: Do it Yourself: a History of Music in Medway.