The History of the False Dots
The Line ups from the beginning
1 - 14th Feb 1979 Dave Edwards - Drums. Pete Conway - Bass/Vocals. Mandy Spokes - Guitar. Rog T - Guitar
The band had it's first official rehearsal on the 14th Feb 1979. Myself and Pete Conway had been mates since we were four and both loved Punk Rock. We had been talking about forming a band for two years. A chance encounter with Ian Dury in a cafe in Camden Town inspired me. I bought a guitar, Pete bought a bass. We wrote a whole stack of punk songs with names such as Bone, Mercenary and Political Warning that were quite awful in hindsight.
We just assumed that with a bit of attitude and some tough sounding statements in the lyrics, we'd sound like The Clash. Sadly we just sounded rubbish at first.
We spent six months writing the songs. We then recruited Dave Edwards from Finchley and his girfriend Mandy as drummer and guitarist. We'd met them in the queue to see Penetration and Sham 69 at the Roundhouse. We formed a collective of musicians and started our own rehearsal facility using the collectives pool of gear. That was how Mill Hill Music Complex started. We started on Valentines day as we were romantics and Pete thought if we asked a few girls down to watch, we might get lucky.
2- March 1979 Dave Edwards - Drums. Pete Conway - Bass/Vocals. Rog T - Guitar
Mandy couldn't play fast enough, so she was the first person to leave the band! We couldn't really play, but we worked very hard at rehearsal and produced what I'd describe as quite a tight sort of unpleasant noise.
3- 14th Feb 1979 Dave Edwards - Drums. Pete Conway - Bass/Vocals. Mandy Spokes - Vocals. Rog T - Guitar
Mandy rejoined on vocals. She sounded a bit like Souixsie of the Banshees and was coming down to rehearsals anyway with Dave. There were a couple of songs she sang that were very eerie sounding, most notably "The Factory", if a bit odd. I was at Orange Hill School and I played a few rehearsal tapes to friends who tried to stifle their giggles. We got reviewed by Xpert-I fanzine for issue 6, which said we were the worst band they'd ever heard. Pete Conway knew Charlie Harper of the UK Subs and we were meant to support them at a gig in Derby. Sadly Dave got attacked and thrown through a window in Mill Hill Broadway and severed a tendon, so couldn't play. A bunch of herberts who had previously had a fight with Pete Conway recognised him as a member of Pete's band and jumped him and Mandy at the 221 bus stop and pushed him head first through the window of W H Smiths. A passing police car saw it and they were arrested. One of the assailants also badly hurt himself on the glass. The police found Dave from the trail of blood, up at the Sacred Heart Church.
That was it for Dave and the band.
It all felt like it was going wrong. I had a massive row with Pete Conway, I felt he wasn't committed to the band.
On 3rd September The False Dots Split up......
4 - 1st January 1980 Deb- Drums. Pete Conway - Bass/Vocals. Rog T - Guitar
I'd not spoken to Pete since the row. I bumped into him in Mill Hill Broadway and we got chatting. We agreed that the band could be brilliant, but we needed to do it properly. The only trouble was Pete's idea of doing it properly was, in hindsight, not really the best way to put a band together.
Pete used to try and get girls by inviting them to join the band. It is fair to say musical ability was not a key consideration. Deb the drummer was Pete's fiance for a couple of weeks. When the band got back together, Pete insisted she joined. I can't remember if she could actually drum. We decided that we would only play songs that were properly written and sounded good. Previously there'd been no quality control.
We committed to writing two nights a week. Pete did this to convince me he was committed to the band. It worked. The songs were a lot better. We still play one of these, Not all She Seems.
5 - 16th January 1980
Paul Marvin - Drums. Pete Conway - Bass/Vocals. Rog T - Guitar. Lou Vocals.
Deb lasted about three rehearsals and then disappeared. She never really said anything, I never knew her surname. She was replaced by Paul Marvin, the son of Hank, of the Shadows. He arranged for us to rehearse in Hank's home studio in Radlett. Hank gave me some invaluable tips on being a guitarist - 'Play memorable riffs, always wear good shoes and get your hair cut properly before gigs' - We got Lou from an advert in Sounds. She got booted out when Pete realised she wasn't interested in being his girlfriend. Hank Marvin jammed with us and showed me the riff that is now the hookline of Not All She Seems.
If ever we have a hit with it, he'll have to get a credit. The song was about a transvestite prostitute who was having an affair with a Conservative politician. It is sympathetic to the prostitute, who has a difficult life, is used and abused and on the run from his/her controlling pimp. There is an element of dark humour in it that the prostitute has a very low opinion of the client and thinks he's a deluded idiot when she realises he's in love with her. It is based on a story I was told by a local Madam who's house I was decorating. The Dots always had an ethos of writing songs about subjects that no one else would touch with a bargepole. I guess that continues as not too many bands would write "The Burnt Oak Boogie" celebrating long lost suburban cafe's and eel shops. I think we are at our best when we do this with a bit of humour.
6 - 12th Feb 1980 Paul Marvin - Drums. Pete Conway - Bass/Vocals. Rog T - Guitar. Paul Hircombe - Guitar.
This was really the proper start of the False Dots. Paul Hircombe was the first person in the band who could play properly. He was also a devilishly handsome guy, although only 14 when he joined. Immediately the band started to sound like a proper band. Paul went on to be one of my very best friends, but he was hellishly shy when he joined the band. It was six months before I knew his name was Paul, we just called him 'Urcum' as that's what Paul Marvin called him.
7 - June 1980. Dav Davies - Drums. Pete Conway - Bass/Vocals. Rog T - Guitar. Paul Hircombe - Guitar.
Paul Marvin was not really able to drum. We decided to do a demo and get a 'session drummer'. Alan Warner of the Foundations, who was producing the demo, suggested Dav. He was an awesome drummer. To the amazement of everyone, the demo's sounded amazing. Paul Marvin did not return as planned. A shame really, I could have done with a few more hints from Hank. I blotted my copybook when I knocked over his favourite Strat in his studio.
8 - 3rd September 1980 Dav Davies - Drums. Craig Withecombe - Guitar/Vocals. Rog T - Guitar. Paul Hircombe - Bass
Pete Conway got a new girfriend and stopped coming to rehearsals. I got fed up with him and recruited Craig Withecombe, a schoolmate and an amazing musician to play guitar and sing, Paul moved to bass. We decided to redo the demo, as we were a far better outfit with Craig. We did our first gig on 13 December 1980. Pete got wind that we were planning a gig and rejoined on vocals with a promise to start turning up. At the first gig Pete was meant to be singing and didn't show. That was more or less the end of my friendship with him. The Demop with Dav was a really good piece of work and for a long time was our outstanding recording. We also made a video at Harrow College of Art.
9. 15 Jan 1981 Mark Barnett - Drums. Craig Withecombe - Guitar/Vocals. Rog T - Guitar. Paul Hircombe - Bass
Dav moved to Bristol. We recruited Mark Barnett, who had played with Craig in a band called The Heretics. Mark was nowhere near the level of Dav, but he was a good enough drummer for local gigs. We did some demo's at Ray Randall (from The Tornados) studio in West Hendon. Ray was a big supporter of the band for a while. The demo's sounded awful. It was a bit of a wake up call, as the previous demo's had sounded amazing. I realise now that the problem was we'd written them for Dav and Mark simply wasn't of the same calibre.
10. June 1981 Mark Barnett - Drums. Pete Trayling - Guitar/Vocals. Rog T - Guitar. Paul Hircombe - Bass
Craig was doing A levels and decided to quit the band. Paul bought some weed of a local looney called Pete Trayling, who convinced us he was wicked guitarist and vocalist. It turned out that whilst he could play really well in his bedroom with stoned mates, he wasn't really a live performer with us. Pete was a natural clown and we thought he'd be hilarious on stage. He was like a frightened rabbit. We did one gig with him at The Harwood Hall in Mill Hill and realised that we'd made a big mistake.
11. August 1981 Mark Barnett - Drums. Craig Withecombe - Guitar/Vocals. Rog T - Guitar. Paul Hircombe - Bass
After the chaos of a gig at The Harwood Hall in July, Craig returned to the band. Another demo was done at Ray Randall's, a tour of Scandinavia was performed as well as gigs at places such as the Moonlight Club. The Tour of Scandinavia was a real blast. I realised how hard it is for bands, being forced to be stuck with people you don't actually like 24 x 7, for weeks on end. A couple of highlights of the Sweden Tour were playing the Underground Club in Stockholm, which was a really iconic venue and had a young and very hip audience. Another was playing The Pub Bastun on Aland. We were the first UK band to play there and it was a riot. We had to play three sets of 45 minutes. As we didn't have the material, we learned a stack of covers, purely on the basis that they were easy to play. We ended the first set with Space Cowboy, by the Steve Miller Band. The whole place went nuts when we played it. We decided that if we did an encore on the third set, we'd do it again. When we did it, they went even more nuts and were dancing on tables. When we finished, they demand more. We didn't have any more, so the owner asked us to do Space Cowboy for a third time. They went even more nuts. We had a strobe light and we'd put it on for Mark's drum solo, which was quite eye catching. The crowd started doing a weird dance and when we got home, we included it in the set, it became the legendary Mork dance. I often wonder if Steve Miller ever got such a response with it. One interesting thing I learned is that many people think the track "The Joker" by The Steve Miller Band is called Space Cowboy and when we introduced it, were bemused to hear a completely different song.
12. June 1982 Craig Withecombe - Guitar/Vocals. Rog T - Guitar. Paul Hircombe - Bass
Mark left and the band started writing new material. There was a decision to become more of a pop band to try and get some commercial success. I wasn't entirely comfortable with this, but we wanted to earn money as musicians so it seemed a sensible course. Mark had never really fitted in with us, but I was endebted to him for his commitment to the band.
13. August 1982 Craig Withecombe - Guitar/Vocals. Rog T - Bass. Bill Lucas - Drums
Paul left the band to move to France. Ace drummer Bill Lucas joined. I started to play Bass. We did a bikers festival playing heavy rock covers for some cash. Bill was a superb drummer, an acolyte of Buddy Rich, really dynamic. He was perhaps the most serious musician we'd ever worked with. He wasn't used to our rock and roll ways, but embraced the music and the gigs.
One of the moments that stuck in my mind from the bikers festival was when we played Lou Reed's Sweet Jane. At the back of the gig was an absolutely huge Hells Angel. When we started the opening chords, he started staring at us and I made eye contact. He started walking straight towards me. I was terrified, I had no idea what was going to happen. When he was eyeball to eyeball with me, he removed a massive joint from his mouth and stuck it in my mouth. It was the strongest puff I'd ever had. At the end, he came up to me and told me that Sweet Jane was his favourite track and we'd done an amazing version. He was a really nice bloke and he'd lost his missus who was called Jane.
13. August 1982 Craig Withecombe - Guitar/Vocals. Rog T - Bass. Eleanor Caine - Vocals. Bill Lucas - Drums
We recruited Eleanor Caine. She had a passable Blondie(ish) voice. She was supposed to be well organised and promised to get us gigs. This never happened, I still did all of the admin.
14. September 1982 Craig Withecombe - Guitar/Vocals. Paul Hircombe - Bass. Eleanor Caine - Vocals. Bill Lucas -Drums, Rog T - Guitar.
Paul returned from France, the band recorded a track for an album at a studio in Sydenham. Jay Aston of Bucks Fizz was recording an album there, during the day. We did an overnight shift. When we got back to North London at 9am in the morning, we went to The Betta Cafe in Burnt Oak and had a tea and a bacon sandwich. I knew the owners from my Orange Hill days, but a couple of other band members were not ready for the experience.
On the back of the demo, we did a lot of gigs, including the Ad Lib Club Kensington, The Moonlight Club, The Tunnel in Greenwich, Harrow Music Festival, and Gooners on Tower Bridge. There were ever increasing tensions between me and Eleanor/Craig. They felt I was musically the weakest link (which was true, although they all acknowledged I was the best songwriter). I won't say what I thought of them. We split. Paul stayed with me and Bill went with them. To the best of my knowledge, they didn't do anything again once we split. I asked Paul why he stuck with me when they were better musicians. He replied that they were dorks and had never written a decent song between them. That was a very important affirmation for me.
15. June 1983 Bill Pithers - Guitar. Paul Hircombe - Bass. Vanessa Sagoe - Vocals. Adam Francis-Drums, Rog T - Guitar. Chris Potts - Keyboards (from Feb 84)
I had seen the split coming and had a new band lined up. Vanessa Sagoe was a half Nigerian/Half Jewish singer who had the most amazing voice. She could sing anything. She is a lovely person. Although she'd never sung in a band before, she threw herself at it heart and soul. The band was amazing. We recorded a basic demo at Ray Randalls to get gigs. This got us gigs at such places as Dingwalls, The Pindar of Wakefield (now The Water Rats) and the George IV in Kentish Town. We also did a residency four gigs at The Bald Faced Stag in Burnt Oak (an inspiration for The Burnt Oak Boogie). Chris Potts joined the band in Feb 84. Chris was an amazing musician and this was by far the best line up of the Dots to date in its pomp. The Dingwalls gig was perhaps the highlight.
At the Dingwalls gig we met a bloke called Dennis who became our manager, a pretty unpleasant character, who's cunning pan was for Vanessa to go solo. We recorded a pretty average demo at a studio in Reading under his guidance that lost much of the bands energy. After the band recorded the backing tracks, he bansihed us. We went to the pub and when that shut, we sat in the studio broom cupboards smoking joints. Vanessa spent hours working on vocal takes. He brought his mate down, who redid Paul's bass, which was actually really awful. Paul had a great feel and the mate was just a bog standard rock bass player, so it was all a bit charmless. Dennis never got us any gigs and we lost all momentum waiting in vain for him to fulfill his promises.
Bill and Vanessa started to go out together. I got a shared house with them and my then girlfriend. It all went horribly wrong and it was all my fault. I am not an easy person to co-habit with at the best of times and back then I was really terrible. I think Vanessa was none to impressed with me disappearing for days, not telling my girlfriend where I was and then come home, rolling in drunk and being surprised that I was in the doghouse. I felt it was none of her business and was between me and my partner, but our friendship suffered. In my defence, there were no mobile phones and we didn't have a house phone. I'd just meet up with mates and go out partying, but it wasn't nice for anyone else in truth. I probably wasn't ready for a settled adult relationship in truth. Paul had seen the writing on the wall and moved to France again.
16. August 1984 Bill Pithers - Guitar. Doug Witney - Bass. Vanessa Sagoe - Vocals. Adam Francis-Drums, Rog T - Guitar. Chris Potts - Keyboards
As it all disintegrated, Dougie Witney stepped in on Bass. It was not a happy time, although Doug really enjoyed it. A guitarist called Dave Peters also stepped in for a few gigs as a dep for Bill. I didn't note when sadly. We did one gig and some herbert in the audience started to heckle Dave. I tore the idiot off a right strip and said "If you had balls as big as Dave, it would be you up here not down there and if you say another word, we can go outside". Years later Dave told me he was about to have a panic attack and my actions made him realise that he had mates and people who liked him. He's still playing. Always stick up for your mates. You never really know how much it might mean to them.
The band split in December 1984 and I had some pretty servere health issues until April 85.
17. April 1985 Allen Ashley - Vocals. Pete Trayling - Guitar. Graham Ramsey - Drums. Chris Potts - Bass
During my illness, I stopped drinking, started practicing guitar very seriously and writing songs.
I bought a TASCAM 244 Port-a-studio so I could record the band. I thought I'd do things properly, work songs out and present them to the band as more or less complete items. I also figured it would save a fortune in recording studio costs. It also helped me sort my playing out. I got new inspiration from this. I also did a professional songwriting course, which was amazing.
In April, Pete Traylings efforts to get me playing live and to get back himself into the band, we recruited local poet Allen Ashley as vocalist. I really enjoyed working with Allen as he took writing lyrics seriously and would not settle for sub standard lyrics that didn't have something to say. Unlike writing with Pete Conway, we rarely sat down and worked together, we'd exchange ideas and work on them at home. I could give him tapes I'd recorded of backing music and he added lyrics.
Graham Ramsey joined the band on drums. I'd known Graham since Paul Marvin joined the band. Graham had the reputation as the best young drummer in Mill Hill. He was in Mod band The Capri's and later in the B'zukas. I'd wanted him in the Dots since Dave left, but he'd always had other bands on the go.
A highly productive period of writing followed and a string of five excellent gigs, including one in Belgium at The Tiki club and one at The Cricklewood Hotel.
Just as things were really coming together, the band split at Xmas. Allen was enrolling on a teacher training course and I felt that he wouldn't be able to commit to a tour I was hoping to get the band on. It was a mistake. Paul had been in France when we got the band together. Allen left, Paul rejoined. We started again. Chris Potts rejoined on keyboards. We recruited a vocalist called Mark The Fascist. He took charge of the band, which became "Urban Dance". I stayed until September 86, but didn't enjoy it and don't consider it to be part of the history of The False Dots.
18. Sep 86 Paul Hircombe - Bass, Graham Ramsey -Drums, Rog T - Guitar.
This was a period of writing songs, unsuccessfully auditioning vocalists and trying to get things going. It was a miserable period. The main problem was that I'd lost the love of doing it and was going through the motions. I'd bought a port a studio. The only redeeming feature was that we wrote some great songs, including Raining Outside.
19. May 88. Neil Cox - Guitar/vocals, Paul Hircombe - Bass, Graham Ramsey -Drums, Rog T - Guitar.
Neil Cox joined. Neil was a serious musician. He'd been in the Mods. He wanted us to be a a Mod Band. We did a couple of gigs at The Midland Arms (now the Claddagh Ring). I liked Neil, but it just didn't really work.
20. March 89. Tony Robotham - Guitar/vocals, Paul Hircombe - Bass, Graham Ramsey -Drums, Rog T - Guitar.
Neil left and Tony Robotham joined. Tony was a wonderful and charismatic singer and we got a great set of music together that was experimental and interesting. we wrote some great numbers and it should have been an amazing period, but I'd fallen out of love with playing and had lost the energy to keep a band going. I felt I was letting the band down and wasting their time. We did one gig, In June 1990, I told the guy that it was all over. I felt bad about it, but it had become a chore and I felt the need to step away. I'd given the band decade of my life. Time to move on.
---- The Big Break ---- 21. April 2001 Fil Ross - Guitar/Vocals. Paul Hircombe - Bass. Tony Cavaye - Drums. Rog T - Guitar.
The studio business was going well. I'd not played at all fr 12 years. I'd managed a band and now had kids. Tony and Fil worked at the studios and suggested I had a jam. I wasn't interested, but Paul suggested we record the old songs, as I had a recording studio. It seemed like a nice idea. We then did a benefit gig for the family of Ernie Ferebee at The Red Lion in Colindale. It was a blast. The Dots were back. Fil took on vocals duties. My best memory of the gig was when we played Not All She Seems and a whole bunch of my mates started cheering. We'd not played it since Criag left. Myself and Fil did a great Spanish guitar style version of it.
22. December 2008 Fil Ross - Guitar/Vocals. Ady Denton - Bass. Tony Cavaye - Drums. Rog T - Guitar.
Paul Hircombe left the band and moved to Portsmouth to become a career criminal, which was a truly sad turn of events. Hed developed a major cocaine habit and fallen in with a gang who were robbing gaming machines in Motorway service stations. The band was doing 1 or 2 gigs a year. Pauls final gig was a big charity bash at The Bull Theatre in Barnet, supporting Lee Thompson of Madness and Chris Speddings all star line up. Ady Denton worked at the studio and was an amazing bassist. He stepped in seamlessly.
23. Nov 2009. Connie Abbe - Vocals. Fil Ross - Guitar/Vocals. Ady Denton - Bass. Romi - Drums. Rog T - Guitar.
To my delight, we found an amazing vocalist in Connie Abbe. Connie is Sudanese and an amzing performer. All of a sudden, almost by accident, we had a solid gold band. We did gigs in Camden at The Fiddlers Elbow, Purple Turtle and Lock 17 as well as local festivals etc. Tony Cavaye did not want to play in town, so Romi joined, a very tapented drummer. We did some recordings and made a video of the track Spotlight, which I think is amazing. I thought it would be a no brainer for us to get a deal. To my horror, I was told that whilst the music was great she was the wrong singer for the music (for reasons I can only describe as rcist and sexist). I did not know what to say to Connie. She go offered a world tour as a backing singer for Emmanual Jal, a Sudanese Rapper, who she'd worked with before. That was that. The Manchester City website used Spotlight as the music for their goal of the month show on their website. It had 11 million views. That was that.
Around the time the band ended, long time member Paul Hircombe died of Cancer. His career as a criminal had not worked out. He'd been caught and gone to prison for a year. When he came out he found he had Oesophageal cancer, possibly caused by cocaine use. It topped a thoroughly miserable period. Without Paul, there would be no False Dots. I had always assumed that he'd come back to the fold when he got his life together. It was not to be.
24. Dec 2012 Allen Ashley - Vocals. Fil Ross - Bass. Graham Ramsey - Drums. Rog T - Guitar.
When Connie left, I was distraught. Pauls death took the wind out of my sails. I had no real desire to play. When the Friern Barnet library occupation was successful, I was asked if my band wanted to play at the party. I said yes. I thought that as Allen was now a successful author and we musically had unfinished business, it made sense to get that incarnation of the band together. Fil stepped in on bass and Graham returned. It was one of the best decisions I ever made. The gig was Ok, but between 2012 and 2019 we wrote a stack of great songs and did some wonderful gigs locally, mostly at The Chandos Arms, The Midland Hotel and The Bohemia.
We also recorded an unreleased album of material. It had been my plan to release it in 2020 to coincide with the 40th Anniversary of the Dots first gig, but Covid happened.
25. Feb 2021 Fil Ross - Bass. Graham Ramsey - Drums. Rog T - Guitar & Vocals.
Allen was unable to rehearse due to the pandemic. In January 2021, Graham's son committed suicide. We realised that we had to support him and get him busy. My initial mission was to write songs for a laugh that gave Graham a chuckle, as he needed it. I've always considered myself a lousy singer, but when I played some of the numbers to friends they said they were great. A new chapter opened.
Whereas I'd been enjoying the band plodding along, I've found myself energised. We went to Portugal this time last year to record six songs. As much to cheer Graham up as to do a serious record. But the songs sounded awesome, thanks to the brilliant production of my mate Boz Boorer. It became clear to myself, Fil Ross and Graham that this was the way to go. I was terrified that when we actually did a gig, my lack of vocal technique would make it all a bit of a joke. We did a low key gig at The Mill Hill Music festival. To my amazement, we got a great response. One song in particular caught many people's attention. The Burnt Oak Boogie.
We recorded this and made a video. We then got offered a gig and were asked to do a fill in slot at The Dublin Castle. To try and get an audience down, we released the video of The Burnt Oak Boogie on Youtube and to our surprise a decent sized audeince turned up and went wild! Being honest, the video wasn't finished. I wanted to splice in some footage of the band clowning around in Burnt Oak, but needs must. It went viral, with over 50 shares on Facebook and 1,700 views in a week. The gig was well attended and was a real triumph.
You can have a sneak preview of our new album BY CLICKING HERE
Rog T - October 2022