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Smoke clears on tales of hit Bradford band
Smokie fans now owe a big debt of gratitude to regulars at a Burley-in-Wharfedale pub.
Because it was constant cajoling by friends at the Red Lion that convinced bass player Terry Uttley to write his new book about the legendary Bradford band.
Smokie: Life Beyond Alice, which has just hit the bookshelves, sees Terry give a unique insight as a “rock and roll survivor” into what being part of such an enduring group has been like since its formation in the 1960s.
As the blurb for the book puts it, Ilkley resident Terry has “experienced it all, from chart-topping singles and albums to lawsuits and near bankruptcy; from immense highs to the deepest of lows, both personally and professionally”.
Talking to the Wharfedale & Aireborough Observer from Germany, where the band is currently touring, Terry said: “I still live in Ilkley but my social life is in Burley-in-Wharfedale.
“Expensive beer when taxis are involved, but I like Burley.
“The motivation for the book was in fact my friends at the Red Lion, who really shoved me into doing it as they said that every time I come home from a tour I am full of stories and that I should put them into writing.
“I had never thought anyone would be interested but there you go. It took a few years as I did 63 pages and would re-read and re-write, and then Tom Balaam wanted to do a book so we teamed up and finished it in 18 months on the days where I was free.
“All done in the Red Lion over a few beers!”
It was 1965 when Terry joined fellow St Bede’s Catholic Grammar School, Bradford, pupils Alan Silson and Chris Norman, along with Ron Kelly, to form the earliest incarnation of the band.
There were several name and line-up changes before the group signed a professional contract and eventually, in 1975, started enjoying widespread success as soft rock act Smokey (later changed to Smokie).
Their elevation to superstar status came the following year when they released a cover of Australian band New World’s single, Living Next Door To Alice, followed by the similarly successful Lay Back In The Arms Of Someone.
Though the band’s popularity inevitably waned as the ’80s approached, and their line-up has continued to evolve, they have never really gone away – despite tragedy striking in 1995, when vocalist and guitarist Alan Barton was killed following a tour bus crash.
They are still, in 2013, touring the world to eager audiences as Terry is delighted to confirm. He said: “We’re still doing 100 gigs around the world every year, never less than 160 flights a year.
“We played at President Putin’s New Year party two years ago and that was second time for him in the Kremlin.
“We’ve played at the president of Kazakhstan’s 60th birthday party and I’ve been an honorary citizen of South Korea now for 11 years. Not too shabby for a boy from Bradford!”
- Smokie: Life Beyond Alice, by Terry Uttley and Tom Balaam, is out now.