Monday, July 2, 2007

Steve Swindells Biography

Steve Swindells' blogbiog.

Born 21.11.1952. Ipswich, England.

Died… TBC.

DanMingo frontman Steve grew up in the Bath/Bristol area and briefly attended The West Of England College Of Art before dropping out to join local band Squidd (,playing keyboards and singing backing vocals. The band toured extensively in the obligatory Transit van, supporting bands such as Deep Purple, Wishbone Ash, David Bowie (actually the van broke down, so they never made their slot, but got to see Bowie performing Ziggy Stardust live at the end of Torquay pier), Slade, Roxy Music, Black Sabbath and many more. They also appeared on some obscure TV show on BBC Bristol in '72 in which Mr Swindells wore football boots, fish-net stockings, sequined knickers, a black cloak and an afro wig whilst playing his colourful Farfisa organ!

Having moved to London to live in a squat in Camden in '73, Steve landed his first music publishing deal with Chappell Music (now Warner Chappell) and his first solo record deal as a singer/songwriter with RCA, which resulted in the album Messages, which is now something of a collectors item. It is not, however, particularly noteworthy, due to the dreadful production by Mark Edwards, who was a posh, gay, alcoholic junkie who was obsessed with Steve (who was not exactly ugly) and who was also a violent, control freak. Edwards' constant advances and alcohol and drug-fuelled, violent outbursts were spurned and Steve was kidnapped from his evil clutches by his best friends Tim Clark (who was more recently the Executive Editor of Wallpaper* magazine before his untimely death from cancer in 2006) and Tim's then girlfriend Caroline Guinness, after Edwards had blown Steve's deal with RCA by sweeping everything off the managing director's desk with his umbrella in a drunken/druggy rage. Steve's second album 'Swallow' was therefore shelved. WELL DONE Mark (the words 'karma', 'bastard' and 'die' spring to mind), but Steve does possess what is possibly the only surviving copy - a test pressing with a printed label. Could be worth a few quid one day! On hearing of his plight, Steve's phenomenal mother Audrey jumped on a train to London from Bath, grabbed Steve's copy of his management 'contract', went straight to a solicitor and was reassured that it was totally invalid and not worth the paper it was written on. So fuck you Mark-Gandalf-Edwards!

In '76, after a couple of years of abject poverty, Steve landed the job of keyboard player in the hugely successful band Pilot, who'd had number one singles with the songs Magic and January. This was because his friend Billy Lyall (formerly with The Bay City Rollers) had decided to leave Pilot and had recommended Steve for the job. He suddenly found himself being picked-up from his bedsit in Notting Hill by limo to perform in front of thousands of screaming girls and to record the album Three's A Crowd (produced by Alan Parsons) in Abbey Road, Studio Two (where some obscure group called The Beatles had been known to record occasionally). Unfortunately, this was to be Pilot's swan song, which didn't really bother Steve, as they seemed to be more interested in their expensive sports cars than serious songwriting, passion, or artistry. They were, at least, excellent musicians.

Sadly, Billy Lyall died from AIDS in the eighties. A large number of Steve's close friends, lovers and acquantances also died from AIDS. Thank god for the combi drugs of these last few years - enough grief already.

In '78, Steve's best girl friend Caroline Guinness found herself running the office of the management company who looked after Motorhead and Hawkwind, amongst others. Hawkwind needed a keyboard player; so Steve went to audition in Devon, got the job on the spot and went straight into recording the 'Hawklords' album 'Twenty Five Years On' with them, which was followed by a major UK tour. Steve left the band in late '79 because they no longer had a record deal and had no money. He subsequently discovered that Dave Brock (the self-appointed main-man of the band) had mixed loads of secretly recorded 'jam sessions' and had released them as tracks by himelf or under various pseudonyms on albums on obscure, indie labels. Classy! All written and performed by you were they Dave? One does not think so. Steve was at least able to get his bona fide 100% writing credits for 'Shot Down In The Night, which he wrote for Hawkwind and which has appeared on loads of Hawkwind CDs. Steve's version on his 1980 album 'Fresh Blood' is waaay harder, more dramatic and simply better than Hawkwind's version. In both the battle of the butch and the artistic, the queer won. Curiously, two of the same musicians played on both versions! Clue: it wasn't the bassist.

Slight rewind…. in '79, Steve had recorded some demo's with Simon King (drums), Hugh Lloyd Langton (guitar) and Nic Potter (bass) and was taken to New York for his first visit by an Italian Count (as you do). Caroline Guinness was by now running the offices of Trinifold, the management company that looked after The Who. Steve phoned Bill Curbishley - the boss of Trinifold - when he arrived in New York, to ask him to 'open a few doors' for him, and was signed to Atco/WEA by Doug Morris, the president of the company, within three days (Morris was until recently president of Universal Music) for a massive sum of money… on paper. Trinifold then took on Steve's management. David Bowie (himself), Bruce Springsteen's and Meatloaf's producers all offered to produce the album but Steve ended-up producing it himself (were the mega-producers' fees too high?) at Sawmills Studio in Cornwall. It was re-mixed by Bill Price, who'd worked extensively with one of Steve's favourite bands, The Clash. Entitled 'Fresh Blood', it was released worldwide in 1980 and garnered rave reviews internationally and reached number three in the US airplay charts in its second week of release, with no marketing at all. Why was there not a marketing and publicity blitz on the back of such a massive radio response? The word 'useless' springs to mind. Unfortunately, the following week was also the US radio 'ratings period', so the album subsequently sank without trace and that was that, apart from Roger Daltrey recording four of Steve's songs over three of his solo albums in the next few years. Steve's option with Atco was not taken up, which, strangely, coincided with him being dropped by Trinifold managment, despite having recorded some excellent demo's with what was to later become the legendary Live Aid rythmn section (from Big Country), and Simon (Pete's brother) Townsend on guitar. Nice.

So, totally disillusioned with the music mafia (although he never stopped writing and recording songs), Steve decided to become a club promoter, having visited the Gargoyle Club at 69 Dean Street in London's Soho on several, memorable occasions in '82 and '83. This was a hotbed of visionary, ground-breaking, one-night clubs like The Language Lab, The Mud Club, The Batcave, The Dirt Box, The Comedy Store and Steve's very own Lift Club, which opened there in late '83 with DJs Mel and John Richards. The Lift was the first-ever gay club in the UK to play streety, black music to a genuinely mixed black/white/gay/male/female/funky crowd and it became a major success story, evolving into a legendary landmark throughout the '80s, ending up at The Embassy club in '89.

Steve soon teamed-up with Kevin Millins (who promoted the wildly successful Asylum club night at Heaven) to bring their quintissential one-nighter Jungle to the world in late '83. This was held at Busby's (now Mean Fiddler 2) on Charing Cross Road every Monday and was an instant hit, attracting more than a thousand people every week, with Kiss FM's Colin Favor and the infamous Fat Tony on the decks (in his first-ever, proper, long-term DJ job). Jungle became another benchmark of gay/mixed, 80's cool and attracted a whole host of artists, pop stars, media-types, fashionistas and movers n' shakers including Culture Club, Frankie Goes To Hollywood, Vivienne Westwood, Bronski Beat, Mica Paris, Sade, Erasure, Dylan Jones, Sheryl Garrett, Pam Hogg, Robert Elms, Steve Strange, Marilyn, Paul Gambaccini, MP Chris Smith, Peter Tatchel, Marc Almond, Jellybean Benitez, John Maybury, Leigh Bowery, Bernstock & Spears, Rifat Ozbek, Jonathan Ross (his wife-to-be Jane used to be Fat Tony's record box carrier, so she could get in free… under-age!), John Galliano, Mark Moore, Jean-Paul Gaultier, The Pet Shop Boys, New Order and many more. Even Janet Jackson came once, but no-one recognised her. And the 'Indian' from The Village People once tried to pick-up Steve there. Was that the ultimate, gay-ghetto accolade? No. Ironic maybe, but Jungle didn't DO gay ghetto - that was the whole point. Then there was that triumphant Dusty Springfield tribute show by Fat Tony. A benchmark in, erm, most-podern ronicy! Oh! Whaddayamean U don't geddit? This is not a press release. Well, erm, I guess it's part of one (assumes foetal position in corner of room, virtually naked, whilst being photographed by Brian Adams), even though though this a blog, so therefore, one is excused.

Anyway, where were we? Yep, Jungle was also the first club in London to play deep house music from the underground, black, gay clubs of Chicago in '85. The night ran successfully until '89, when it moved to The Rex Club in Paris every Friday for a year (that's a whole story in itself), only to close when Steve and Kevin terminated their business partnership. Musical differences, naturally…

Their company, The Pure Organisation, was also responsible for Bad, which was a huge success every Friday in Heaven's Soundshaft in the late 80s/early 90s. The DJs were Vicki Edwards and the late, lamented Breeze, playing soulful, funky, vocal house and NYC-style garage to a wildly enthusiastic, mixed crowd. Vicki is currently resident at that most excellent and long-running institution Queer Nation.

The Pure Organisation also organised parties; Prince, Madonna, Warner Music, The Face and Time Out magazines were amongst their clients. Prince's after-show Love Sexy parties, Time Out's 25th and The Face Magazine Party in The Limelight (before it opened) were particularly fabulous. Ask anyone who was there.

Back in '85, Steve had embarked on another innovative project called Downbeat in a tiny piano bar in Soho's Frith Street. This was a jam session for singers and musicians, with Eric Robinson on the piano (because he knew millions of songs) and Jon (Culture Club) Moss on the bongos! Steve used to just do a bit of improv on the piano to warm things up. It was the first of its kind and people - many of them seriously well-known - got up and spontaneously sang soul, pop, dance, reggae, funk, (black) showtune or jazz classics. It was packed every thursday. It then moved to the larger Dakota Bar at Heaven for a while, before upscaling yet again to the Wag Club (where the entire Whitney Houston Band joined the jam one memorable night), then found its spiritual home at Browns, the celebrity haunt in Covent Garden, where it packed 'em in until the club burnt down in '89 (?). George Michael rarely missed a night there, (although he never sang with the band) and the entire Stevie Wonder band amazed the crowd by jamming one night - whilst Mr Wonder listened. Other regular performers and visitors included Mica Paris, Victoria Wilson James and Kim Mazelle from Soul II Soul, Juliet Roberts, Taka Boom, Sarah-Jane Morris, Angie Brown, Mary Pearce, Leee John, De La Soul, Alexander O'Neal, Chaka Khan, Jimi Sommerville, Stephen Dante, Robert Owens and many more. The concept then got copied by other promoters, so Steve upped the ante by re-naming the jam session Groove and moving it to Sunday nights at WKD in Camden, where the mantra was 'No known songs allowed'. In other words, the band and the singers had to make up songs on the spot, so it was totally unpredictable, entertaining and exciting. GROOVE was an instant success and soon switched to the Friday night, where it was packed every week for over three years.

Following a song-writing sojourn in the West Country, Steve returned to London in '95 wearing a new hat - as a journalist. He wrote the internet column for Time Out magazine under the name Spyder from '95 until '99. He also wrote the Sidelines gossip column for TO on a few occasions. This led to him writing a lifestyle/gadget column (well, they asked) for Attitude magazine. He then became the editor of Attitude Interactive, the online version of Attitude magazine, in '97. Then Steve was struck by a mystery illness.


Steve has been recording extensively over the last few years with his band DanMingo, which features him on keyboards and vocals, Jon (Culture Club) Moss on Drums, Winston (Massive Attack) Blissett on bass and Jerry (Hawkwind) Richards on guitar. Steve has also contributed extensively to Earth Lab, Jerry Richard's ongoing space-rock super-group project and is mentoring, writing with and recording with several conscious young rappers from his neighbourhood.

DanMingo make their debut headlining at Cafe Rocks at London's Cafe De Paris on Friday Sept 7th. With the band's collective age hovering dangerously close to 200, this may well qualify as an entry in The Guinness Book Of Records as the oldest live debut by a rock band ever!

DanMingo have featured regularly in the top ten most-played on the hugely successful US music web site, where they have received more than 40,000 plays and where their 'prequel' album Leap Of Faith is available to download for just $7.99. There are also five free DanMingo downloads available there.

This the DanMingo Player - just click and play and listen, or download.

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Official website:

Steve Swindells myspace:

Jon Moss's myspace:

Earth Lab: