A native of Hull, Geoff Appleby was born on 7 January 1949. He joined his first band in 1963 at the age of fourteen, playing bass in The UFOs along with guitarists Paul Spencer and Steve Smith, and drummer Glen Petty. The UFOs had evolved from The Martians earlier that year.
The Martians, 1963: Steve Smith, Glen Petty, Martin Bridges
By 1964, the UFOs had transformed into The Yorkies, with a lineup of Geoff Appleby on bass, Steve Smith on guitar, Peter Spencer (Paul Spencer's brother) on rhythm guitar, and Clive 'Spud' Taylor behind the drum kit. The Yorkies lasted for a couple years, taking Geoff into 1966.
1966 also saw the breakup of another Hull band, The Rats, when founders Frank Ince and Brian Buttle left for college and pianist Robin Lecore also called it quits. The Rats' vocalist, Benny Marshall, was keen to keep the band alive, so he and drummer Jim Simpson cast about for new members. Their first recruit was a local guitarist named Mick Ronson, who had just spent time with The Voice and The Wanted in London before retreating home to Hull and a job at the Queen's Gardens. At the suggestion of manager Joe Wilkinson, Geoff Appleby was asked to complete the Rats as bassist. (Although they were both Hull natives, Geoff doesn't recall ever meeting Mick before he joined The Rats.)
The Rats, 1966: Geoff Appleby, Jim Simpson, Mick Ronson, Benny Marshall
After an April 1967 audition in London, The Rats secured a month's worth of gigs in France, primarily at the Golfe Drouet in Paris. Drummer Jim Simpson declined to travel with the band, and so the gig was first offered to John Cambridge, who was then playing with a local Hull band called ABC. Cambridge declined the offer, and so the job was finally taken by Geoff's Yorkies bandmate, 'Spud' Taylor. The trip to France has been exaggerated significantly in David Bowie biographies, but the band did actually run into a few troubles along the way. Their van broke down and they arrived a few days late, and on the return trip they were stranded in London when they ran out of money.
In October 1967, John Cambridge replaced Clive Taylor as the Rats' drummer. Shortly afterward, the group entered Keith Herd's Fairview Studios to record The Rise and Fall of Bernie Gripplestone, an uncharacteristic slice of psychedelia for a blues based band like The Rats. 1968 saw The Rats flirt with a name change as they fell under the tutelage of Don Lill, who convinced the band to briefly change their name to Treacle. Geoff was married in November, and at this point bowed out of the band to be replaced by Keith 'Ched' Cheeseman.
Treacle, 1968: Geoff Appleby, Benny Marshall, John Cambridge, Mick Ronson
Over the next year, The Rats lost John Cambridge to Junior's Eyes, and replaced him with Mick 'Woody' Woodmansey. The band continued to gig in the area, although Mick Ronson took some time out to make his vinyl debut on Michael Chapman's Fully Qualified Survivor album. In November 1969, The Rats welcomed Geoff Appleby back to the fold, and the band re-entered Fairview Studios. They recorded Telephone Blues and Early In Spring, but once again the sessions remained unreleased. The Rats broke up for good in early 1970, when Mick Ronson received his now-famous rugby pitch visit from John Cambridge and went off to work with David Bowie.
The Rats, 1968: Geoff Appleby, bottom left
[The Applebys] The Rats split up when Mick went off to London with John Cambridge. Geoff left the rock scene for a few years, and did cruise work and cabaret, which taught him a lot. And even better, he got paid! He grew restless and missed the rock scene, though, so he left the cabaret behind and went down to East Grinstead to form a band with Woody Woodmansey.
One interesting artifact from this period is a rare live album featuring a performance by Geoff, Woody Woodmansey, and pianist Mike Garson. The three musicians were featured as part of The Eternal Variety Show, held at the Rainbow in London on 9 May 1974. This Scient ology concert was held to celebrate the 24th anniversary of the publishing of L. Ron Hubbard's book Dianetics. Other artists appearing at the show were Chick Corea, and the Incredible String Band. The show was recorded using the Island Mobile unit, and an album was eventually released under the rather unimaginative title Live at The Rainbow May 9, 1974. The disc was apparently available as a mail order-only item, and appeared sometime in 1974 on the Church of Scientology label (UK COS OTGB-1).
[The Applebys] Woody, Mike and Geoff did play the Rainbow concert with Chick Corea and the Incredible String Band. It was a Scientology concert - hence the picture of Elron Hubbard at the back of the stage. All the artists, except Geoff, were Scientologists. We had no idea that an album had been released!
Woody Woodmansey and Geoff Appleby at the May 9 Concert in 1974
By 1974, Geoff had teamed up with singer Paul Sutton and drummer Gary Burroughs in a trio called Jackal. The group was based in Yorkshire and released a single on the BASF label, The Year of the Tiger b/w Big Star. The record went into heavy rotation as a 'power play' on Radio Luxembourg in August 1974, and was also issued in Germany and Spain. The picture sleeve to the German release show the band in some rather alarming outfits!
[The Applebys] Geoff is not terribly proud of this band. They released a single called 'Year of the Tiger' which was played on Radio Luxembourg as a power play, on the hour, every hour, and it drove us nuts! The lineup was Geoff on bass, Paul (Prof) Sutton on guitar, and Gary Burroughs (now unfortunately deseased) on drums.
Yes, the suits were alarming, but also really expensive and lined with silk. Somehow Geoff didn't find the need to wear it afterwards! I recall the record company took them to a beautiful Japenese room for the photo shoot. Strange, as the song was about the CHINESE year of the tiger. The group later changed their name to Killers and were based in Newcastle before they split up.
Jackal, 1974: Geoff Appleby, top right
In 1975, Ian Hunter and Mick Ronson left Mott The Hoople and began work on Ian Hunter's first solo album. When it came to choosing a bass player for the band, Mick immediately thought of Geoff Appleby. Geoff joined keyboard player Peter Arnesen and drummer Dennis Elliott in the Hunter - Ronson Band, recording Ian's debut LP and touring the UK and US with the band. Although Geoff obviously knew Mick well, he says he had never met Ian before joining the band.
The group toured the UK in March 1975, playing about a dozen gigs. Peter Arnesen was injured in a car accident at the start of the tour, and so one-time Mott keyboardist Blue Weaver filled in for him on the UK leg. Mick Ronson was still a Mainman artist, and on April 11 he performed two songs on the BBC's Old Grey Whistle Test TV program. Although no video of the performance seems to have survived, an audio tape and photographs show that the band lineup consisted of Mick Ronson and John Turnbull on guitar, Geoff Appleby on bass, Blue Weaver on keyboards, and Jim Toomey on drums. The inclusion of Geoff and Blue were obvious; but Turnbull and Toomey must have been last minute recruits for this one-off performance.
[The Applebys] The Old Grey Whistle Test gig was supposed to be a Hunter-Ronson gig to promote 'Once Bitten Twice Shy', but Ian had to go to America before the gig so it was decided that Mick should do it solo.
Ian Hunter and Geoff Appleby in 1975
The Hunter - Ronson Band went to the USA in April, and were scheduled to play over two dozen dates. The tour was not the overwhelming success that everyone expected, and the group disbanded soon it tour came to an end. After the split, Geoff decided to stay in the music business.
[The Applebys] Geoff turned his hand to songwriting, and managed to secure a deal with Virgin. He was one of the first singles-only artists on Virgin, as it was an album-oriented label in those days. The singles were his only releases with Virgin, although I seem to think there are some demos kicking about somewhere. The tracks were recorded at The Manor, Oxfordshire sometime in 1976.
Geoff released two solo singles for Virgin, both of which were released in 1976. The first was 'Make Me Take Me' b/w 'Live Wire' (1976 UK Virgin VS150). Promo copies came with a picture sleeve, and the lineup for the recording was Geoff on vocals; Danny Wood on keyboards, guitar and backing vocals; Roy Neave on guitar and backing vocals; and Glen Petty on drums. Despite the fact that this was a Geoff Appleby solo recording, the bass was done on a synthesizer.
[The Applebys] The drummer on the first single, Glen Petty, was in Geoff's first band the UFOs. Roy Neave worked as a producer at Fairview Studios in Hull. He actually recorded and produced Def Leppard's very first demo tapes. Roy went down to London for a while, and worked with a guy called Mark Allain. They recorded a single for Island Records, and Geoff apparently played on the b-side. I don't know how that came about, but I vaguely remember it.
Geoff's second single was 'Hey Sadie' b/w 'Move On Down The Road' (1976 UK Virgin VS 157), which also featured Geoff, Danny Wood, and Roy Neave. This time around, however, Trevor Bolder handled the bass chores, and Backstreet Crawler's Tony Braunagel sat in on drums. Albie Donnelly and Bob Robertson played saxophone on the record. As with the first single, Geoff wrote all the material himself.
Robert John Lange - the now famous "Mutt" Lange - produced both singles and also sang backing vocals on all of the tracks. At the time, he was a little-known producer, having just moved to England from South Africa. Geoff's two solo singles were relatively unsuccessful, and there were no live shows, and no TV or radio sessions.
After the lack of success with Virgin, Geoff signed on with Zomba Records. He released two singles under the band name Buzz, which were issued in Germany only: 'The Rock Roller Coaster' b/w 'Come Back Baby' (1977 Germany Pinball 6.12086 AC), and 'Mony Mony' b/w 'Tell Me Where You Have Bin' (1978 Germany Pinball 6.12238 AC). Mutt Lange produced the singles, and wrote both tracks on the first disc. Geoff wrote 'Tell Me Where You Bin', and 'Mony Mony' was a cover of the famous Tommy James number.
The picture sleeve from the first Buzz single
[The Applebys] The guys who ran this label were from South Africa, and were friends of Mutt Lange. Geoff recorded two singles with them for the European market. As these were 'pop' songs, Geoff refused to allow them to be released in England, as he was at the time heavily into forming his punk band the Monitors.
The two singles did quite well in Europe. Three of the tracks were recorded with session musicians, with Geoff on lead vocals, and Mutt on backing vocals. The fourth song was actually recorded by The Monitors, who all posed for the picture sleeves of both singles. Both singles were recorded at Rockfield Studios in Wales, but I have no idea when.
The work for Zomba was a sideline to Geoff's main goal, which was putting his new band together. The Monitors consisted of Geoff on bass and vocals, Roy Neave and Keith Cheeseman on guitar and backing vocals, and Dane Morrell on drums.
[The Applebys] Whilst the Buzz singles were selling in Europe, Geoff was busy forming his new wave band in England, the Monitors. They gained a huge amount of local respect and support in Hull, and supported Chris Spedding on several dates. Geoff remembers Mick Ronson turning up to see them at the Marquee in London, and loving them. Mutt Lange also went to see the band at the same gig and was equally impressed. However, Geoff's friends at Zomba Records were not exactly thrilled. When they asked Geoff for a cover version of Johnny Kidd's 'Hungry For Your Love' for release in Europe, Geoff came up with a wonderful punk version - resulting in a parting of ways with Zomba! The song later became one of the most popular numbers in the Monitors set. The Monitors recorded demos at Fairview Studios in Hull, and they received good record company interest. Unfortunately, the Motors were signed up instead of the Monitors, and as the new wave began to fizzle out Geoff took up an invitation to join Woody Woodmansey again.
After the Rats and the Spiders from Mars, Woody had formed his own band, U Boat, which released one self-titled album (1977 UK Bronze BRON501). Woody then teamed up with ex-Lone Star guitarist Tony Smith to form the Screen Idols, and Geoff was asked to join them on bass. Geoff accepted, and also brought along his mate Ched Cheeseman.
The picture sleeve from 'Blind Man'
The Screen Idols auditioned vocalists, and soon turned up Michelle Nieddu. The group released one LP called Premiere (1979 UK Cobra CBR1001) which was recorded at Abbey Road in London. A single from the LP was released, Blindman b/w Hit Me Where It Hurts (1979 UK Cobra COB2), but it failed to make much impact. The group's next release was a single on Parlophone, with the non-LP tracks 'Something's Gotten Hold of My Heart' b/w 'Runaway' (1980 UK Parlophone R 6032). Again, it didn't light any fires and so Michelle eventually left the band and Ched soon followed. As a three-piece band, the Screen Idols recorded one last single before disbanding - 'Routine' b/w 'Power Supply' (1980 UK Superstition SR 001).
[The Applebys] Geoff doesn't know much about Michelle's past, but he does remember that she left to join a band called the Elgin Marbles. After her departure, Tony Smith took over lead vocals and Ched either left, or was surplus to requirements. Their third single featured a lot of electronic sounds. Geoff became increasingly unhappy with the group's direction, and so legged it back to Hull to form up with Ched again.
Back in Hull, Geoff and Ched formed a new band called The Arctic Raiders, along with Mick Greaves on vocals and guitar and drummer Brian Chapman.
[The Applebys] Now this band should have had the success it deserved. Their brilliant demo tape, recorded once again at Fairview Studios, received lots of record company interest. EMI, RCA, and CBS all wanted to record them. However, the Raiders management failed to pass on the good news to the band, and tried to secure a deal without their knowledge. They blew all three prospective deals, and sadly the band didn't find out about all this until two years after they'd split - which is probably just as well, as they'd probably all be inside for murder! Mike Greaves is still a very respected singer/songwriter. He and his band the Lonesome Too supported Beautiful South (also from Hull), and the Beautifuls recorded some of Mike's songs on one of their albums. He has received various awards for his brilliant songwriting.
The Arctic Raiders received favorable reviews in the local press, sometimes at the expense of the band they were supporting. David Blows wrote in one review: 'The Arctic Raiders are an outfit which seems poised on the brink of success - and this was their debut gig! With a few more gigs and wider exposure, they just might help put this city back on the musical map.' But the group wasn't winning everyone over, namely the Hull police. As a publicity stunt, the group set up in the back of a lorry and played a moving concert around the city center. They managed to play for 45 minutes before being collared by local law enforcement and threatened with summons under the Noise Abatement Act
The Arctic Raiders released one single in 1981, on the independent label Bayleaf Music: 'Clockwork Boys' b/w 'Gentleman Jim' (1981 UK Bayleaf Music). The A side was written by Ched Cheeseman, and the flip was written by Mike Greaves. During a radio interview of the band, Mike explained the rather odd subject matter covered by his song.
[Mike Greaves, from radio interview] There was poor girl on a documentary, who was married with a couple of kids. The whole documentary was devoted to this family. The woman was just obsessed with Jim Reeves. She had the whole room decorated in pictures of Jim Reeves, and spent the whole family's income flying to the States to lay flowers at Jim Reeves' grave. And she reckoned that she was to sleep with her husband on a night, and pretend that he was Jim Reeves!
Mick Greaves eventually left the Arctic Raiders, and the remaining members put together a working band called the MGBs. The MGBs brought out their own independent cassette, Sweet and Sour, which mixed various eclectic cover songs with a few Keith Cheeseman originals. The material was recorded by Ken Giles at his KG Studios in Bridlington, with the exception of a Bo Diddley medley recorded at Fairview in Hull. The songs selected for the album cover a wide range of styles. 'I Can Hear The Grass Grow' and 'I Fought The Law' are delivered with an attitude that no doubt recalls Geoff and Ched's days with the Monitors, as does a cover of the Strangler's 'Hanging Around'. They also radically reworked The Beatles' 'Here Comes The Sun' and John Lennon's 'Working Class Hero'. Ched's originals include the title track, as well as 'Shove It', 'Burn It', and 'Got To Get Away'.
[The Applebys] 'Gotta Get Away' is a song written about Geoff and myself when we went on holiday in the south of France, and left Ched behind in Hull! The cassette was recorded by local public demand, and wasn't on general release. Sweet and Sour sold well locally. The band had a huge following, but it was just a bread and butter band by now. Geoff and Ched were moving in different directions, and after working together for so long they decided to call it a day. Geoff wanted to play original material again, whilst Ched continued playing with various cover bands, and still does up to the present.
After parting with Ched, Geoff formed yet another band, Les Yeux.
[The Applebys] He found a young guitarist named Andy Blair, whose enthusiasm and zest for playing reminded him of a young Mick Ronson. Brian Chapman - Geoff's all time favorite drummer - stayed with Geoff to complete the three-piece. Geoff wrote the material with assistance on some tracks by Andy Blair, who wrote exceptional lyrics. Geoff truly loved this band, playing music he really enjoyed. Les Yeux recorded two demos - two tracks at Fairview, and a further five tracks at a newly opened studio in Hull called Angel Studios. Les Yeux were the first band to record there, and the owner based his Angel his logo on an image of Geoff with wings. Three weeks after a record company phoned and asked to see Les Yeux perform, Geoff suffered two massive brain hemorrhages, and there endeth an era.
Although his days of playing in bands are behind him, Geoff is no stranger to fans of Ian Hunter and Mick Ronson. He was spotted onstage at the 1994 Mick Ronson Memorial Concert in London, and contributed percussion to the bonus tracks that were recorded for the Angel Air reissue of the Rats CD. Geoff still turns up regularly at live shows, and in 1999 he and Moira could be found in the front row at many of Ian's gigs. He also attended the 1997 Mick Ronson Memorial Stage dedication, and the First Annual Mott The Hoople Convention.