Hereward Kaye composer singer song writer title
Hereward Kaye composer singer song writer title

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Cafe Society



cafe society


Café Society

As I dismantled my drum kit at the end of a Dance in my home town of Middlesbrough, Davey the guitarist came over.
“You should meet my friend, he’s good. I’ll get him round your house.”
Very next day, there filling the door was a big lad in a donkey jacket with a bass guitar. He had deep eyes, acne and a tumble of curls. He looked like Paul Jones from Manfred Mann.
His right hand was out already.

“Tom Robinson.”

The grin lopsided, the handshake warm, the eye contact magnetic. Davey was tucked in behind. Tom followed me up to the attic and Davey followed Tom. With a thunderous crackle of interference Davey plugged in.

When Tom plugged in, he took care to turn down the volume on the amp first. Davey was blasting forth with his one good lick and I was riffling round the kit with the drum solo from ‘Diamonds’, but Tom managed to block us both out. He gently bent his ear and fine-tuned to the harmonics, tenderly adjusting the giant keys at the top of the neck.


He played the bass properly and had the ragged voice of a seasoned bluesman. Whatever twelve bar jag we set out on, he managed to steer it towards a proper song. Tom was more Davey’s age than mine. He was eighteen. I was fourteen. But I noticed he took me completely seriously. Davey might as well not have been there. In fact, after a while we both noticed he wasn’t.

Then Tom padded to the piano and sang a song I didn’t know.
“Who wrote that one?”
“Me actually.”
“You write your own songs!” Now I was impressed. “I wish I wrote songs. I write poems instead.”
“Perhaps you should put tunes to them and then your poems would become songs,” he said wryly and casually changed my life.

Tom attended a school called Finchden Manor. It sounded well weird. Everybody just did what they wanted. They didn’t have lessons and they didn’t have holidays.
“But next time I come up I’ll bring Ray,” he said. “He writes songs too. He’s a singer.”
Ray was sitting out in the den above Tom’s garage playing an acoustic guitar. He had long hair, a smelly green jacket and flip-flops in the middle of winter. His Irish eyes were gentle but fucked up. His real name was Raphael.
Raphael sang with his eyes shut, by candlelight usually. His eyelids fluttered and his words were delivered with almost holy care. When the loud bits came he squirmed agitatedly behind his guitar, clubbing the strings crudely, ham-fisted and fat fingered, spittle, hair and words flying. Jesus! The lyrics were all his own and smelt of trouble. How I longed to be deeply troubled like him! Although I too was setting my poems to music now, my words were waggy tailed Scotties, jumping up to lick your face and over eager to please.


Tom sat by Ray, the two of them cradling acoustic guitars. Their voices rose and fell in cadence, Tom’s harmonies taking a rasp to the rich mahogany furniture of Raphael’s voice. But what Tom took away from the vocal purity of Ray, he repaid instrumentally, smoothing over Ray’s acoustic guitar playing with pearly strings of chords, most of which neither Ray nor I had seen or heard before.
I was spellbound by the pair of them.
I’m thinking of the days….
Nineteen now, I was passing through London after living in France, wearing Donovan’s kaftan. I’d nested in it since my own leaving party forty-eight hours earlier. Oh what a night! Playing my guitar on a pornography millionaire’s yacht, one foot up on the chair and no underpants on, and Miss Sweden puts her hand up my kaftan…
Fondled memories.



I dropped in on Tom at Mrs. Mac’s, where he lodged, and sang him The Creed and Felicity, epics wrought from poverty and hunger in the Mediterranean sun.
When I got to ‘G’s for ga ga gurus getting giggles on the floor’; Tom slid to the floor himself and had hysterics. I knew I’d got it right, at least for one line. Tom cautiously agreed that this might be the time to form our group with Raphael. I hammered back to Middlesbrough, to ring John McCoy.
McCoy ran The Kirk (best club for many a mile) and managed two local singers. I went round his house and sang him Sailor and The Family Song and Living In The Lap. One of mine, one of Raphael’s, one of Tom’s.
He started telling me about the songs that his other two unknowns wrote, Claire Hamill and Chris Rea. Chris I knew. He was a burger chef at the Kirk. I sat with him once on his fag break and we bet on which of us was going to make it first. But I didn’t want to hear about those two. I wanted to hear about us.

“I’ll call you,” McCoy declared, crinkly eyes inscrutable behind incredibly fashionable glasses. The smile was fireside.
I went straight home and stood by the phone in my mother’s bedroom. I was supremely confident. I knew it was about to ring. I knew it would be him.
It rang. It was John McCoy.
“Great songs man” he declared. “I’d like to manage the band.”


  In London, we rehearsed in earnest. We performed guest spots – three numbers usually – at folk clubs like Bunjies. Our harmonies were as close as we could get ‘em.
We got a weekly residency downstairs at the Troubadour, as ‘Hereward & Friends’. We didn’t have a name. Then McCoy came up with ‘Café Society’ and assured us that the whole Café concept was the next big thing. McCoy was king of the next big thing so we believed him.

Ray Davies of The Kinks checked us out there. He’d formed England’s first independent record label and he was shopping for talent. It was the night Alexis Korner played for a bottle of Scotch. Alexis was a Finchden Old Boy. As well as being father of the British Blues, he was also father figure to Raphael and Tom. He arrived late, sneaking through the crowd to our cubbyhole behind the arch, where we were tuning up our acoustic guitars. Alexis produced a huge spliff.

“Red Leb,” he rasped. “It’s extremely strong!”
It had a devastating effect. Our tiny cell became a cocoon and started to revolve. Now it was a pulsing womb. Outside, the final Ledbelly track of Side two crackled and died away. Coughs and shuffles settled to silence. Our audience was waiting. We three stared at one another in open panic. We were totally incapable of performing, we couldn’t move!

  “Take off your shoes and socks,” Alexis croaked benevolently, “Get your bare feet on the cold floor. Always works!”
The audience cocked a collective ear. Alexis stepped out into the spotlight, while we cooled our heels…
He played until we’d straightened up enough to follow him on.
We were mid-song, underneath the arch and just suitably stoned when a fashionable stir occurred at the back. Raymond Douglas Davies was amongst us, old melon grin.
So moved was he by our songs, that he got up and joined us. Or we joined him….
Us: ‘La la laa!’
Him: ‘Chilly chilly in the evening sun, Waterloo sunset’s mine…’
After that he was ‘Uncle’ Ray. The deal was as good as signed.

  Smash Hits declared ‘Café Society’ their album of the month, but it didn’t do much for the sales figures, which finally settled on the six hundred mark after my mother went out and bought eight copies. To promote it, we supported Barclay James Harvest over thirty British dates for no money at all, in fact I think we paid. Quite difficult when you’re on a retainer of £25 a week. We squeezed into the postage stamp of stage they had left us with our acoustic guitars and soundchecked in the two moments left available.
We were terribly green. At Malvern Winter Gardens the local promoter asked us if we would like any girls after the show. We all stared at our feet. Nobody said anything. The promoter was startled. He’d never had this reaction before. Usually, bands crowed like cocks and played air guitar.
“I’m married,” Raphael mumbled.

Pat and I had only just tied the knot so I was reluctantly forced to mumble ‘me too’. Tom brightened and looked up. He’d just thought of something.
“Have you got any boys?”


At the Victoria Hall, Hanley, Tom developed an eye-catching manoeuvre where he banged his right foot up and down like a maniac during the groovier numbers. As we left by the stage door a bunch of kids waiting for BJH crowed “There’s that mad bastard with the leg!” It was in every night after that. We were learning as we went along. At the Kursaal Southend on a Saturday night, Raphael attempted the trickier manoeuvre of appearing in an army uniform. He was bombarded with bottles. At the Theatre Royal, Norwich, I donned a top hat and cane to give our single Whitby two Step that extra push. It hadn’t bothered the charts, whereas Chris Rea’s first single, ‘Fool If You Think It’s Over’ was Number One in the States. Er, cancel that bet….

We took on a new manager, Colin Bell. He was a milkman when we first met him, but he was going places faster than Ernie. We acquired drummer Nick Travisick, and Nick South, bass player with Vinegar Joe. We got out there and pubrocked: Hope and Anchor Islington, The Brecknock, The Nashville. We were becoming a proper rock band. Sounds thought so, anyway. They dubbed us Most Promising Band of ’76 – though with hindsight, perhaps that title should have gone to the Sex Pistols.
Tom saw the Pistols at the 100 club. He saw the future. One week later he played a solo gig at the I.C.A. and turned up at our rehearsal next day with a wrecked guitar.
“I had this moment, this joyful moment, when I just threw it at the floor!” he exclaimed, eyes ashine.
That was our guitar, Café’s guitar, our beloved Strat. Tom knew that! Had an alien replaced him? I realised we were in trouble.
Trouble doubled. Having a peaceful pint with friends in his local gay pub ‘The Coleherne’, the police moved in and Tom found himself herded into a group and pushed up against a wall. It politicised him, instantly. He went home and wrote a song, then steamed straight round our house on his motorbike and sang me it, trembling with excitement.
‘The British Police are the best in the world’ it began. I was startled. We didn’t write songs with first lines like that. Then he got to the chorus: ‘Sing if you’re Glad To Be Gay’….

  It was at that moment that I began to suspect he might be a homosexual!
It was a greater song than anything he’d written by far and we both knew it. In fact, it made me cry. Once introduced into our set, it blew away every other song as far as audience reaction was concerned. I still sang original songs about me and Raphael still sang original songs about himself, but it was just no contest. Tom was more interesting.
Then every review seemed to begin: ‘Darlings of Earl’s Court’, or ‘Gay band Café Society…’
Raphael and I were trapped. Sympathetic to Tom’s cause was one thing. Tarred by the same brush was another! After a while, when we got to the chorus, Tom sang: ‘Sing if you’re glad to be gay’; Raphael sang: ‘Sing if you’re glad to be Ray’; I sang ‘Sing if you’re glad to be Kaye’!
Tom’s world had changed. He was a political animal now. Life divided neatly into Them and Us. He started writing angry, sloganistic songs: ‘You’d Better Decide Which Side Your On’, ‘Up Against The Wall’, etcetera. We were still listening to ‘Tea For The Tillerman’!
Tom’s new songs didn’t square with Raphael’s and mine and he was dancing with frustration on the spot where loyalty tethered him to us.
Against this backdrop we went into the recording of our second album. On day two Producer Jon Miller sacked our keyboard player and drummer.
Manager Colin Bell convened a hostile meeting between Ray Davies and us. Colin was good. He put Uncle Ray under enormous pressure, to the point where, halfway through the meeting he excused himself and disappeared.
Well we sat and we waited. Then his secretary Claire appeared.
“What have you done to Ray?” she said. “He’s just left in an ambulance.”
It was a fabulous exit, in retrospect.

I won’t forget the daze….
Tom departed in disgust to form his own band, leaving the two of us on the kindergarten floor, trying to fit together the pieces that were left. We carried on recording but suddenly it was as if we had a Beatles album with only Paul and George’s songs left on it. It made even ‘Tea For The Tillerman’ sound like the work of some rabid fundamentalist….
The first time I saw T.R.B. was at The Stapleton, a pub round the corner from Konk where Raphael and I slaved over a not so hot record. You could hear them down the road. When I walked in, Tom was playing bass lying down on the stage, his head inside the drummer’s bass drum! A desultory few watched over the top of their pints with amusement, but six or seven young lads went mad at the end of the number, pulling each other about by the fronts of their T- shirts and pouring beer over their heads.
When he came over to hug me, the same six or seven followed and stood round him, beaming, wearing him like a badge. He knew all their names.

There were more disciples the next time, and they knew all the words. Tom was more than just a performer in a pub: he was a Leader. Third time, the pub was The Brecknock, and it was packed, jammed, heaving. Illegally full. Don Arden was on the prowl. Steve O’Rourke, manager of Pink Floyd. Eager teams of A&R men. They were all fighting for his signature. Imminent success was so tangible it smelt of hot metal. Tom was surfing his own powersurge, grinning, winning.
After the umpteenth slagging off from Tom in the N.M.E. Uncle Ray finally picked up the phone. Tom was free from his contract. With one bound we all were unbound. Like two caged birds whose door has been accidentally left ajar, Raphael and I waddled to the edge and waddled back. We were in the middle of Café’s second album. It was all our own material. We didn’t want to be free.
Tom signed to EMI and Motorway went to Number Four.

His first British tour (via TOTP) wound up at the Lyceum. Raphael and I entered the arena together. A clenched fist stood thirty foot high, a towering backdrop to a vast stage. A jostling circus thronged, ready to cavort at the first powerchord. It smelt like the Christians and the lions. And we were the only two Christians there….
A phalanx of press photographers amassed at the front, barriered off from the rabble. When the houselights died for the mighty advent of T.R.B. the air seemed to fry. The mosh pit contracted, sucking in a hundred more, and to the screaming of seagulls, in a battery of flashlight, the band appeared. They were wearing school uniform. So was the audience. Tom’s jacket was covered in the same badges as theirs. His guitar had the Ford logo on it. Except it said ‘Fraud’.
Danny Kustow hit the opening chords of Motorway.
Chank Chank Chank Chaggang!
It was the death knell of Café.

Days I’ll remember all my life…


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