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The Roadbreakers - Big Road Blues, Released Post - Humously

In another episode from his Claremont Road biopic, Paul H recounts grabbing at the Stranglers coat tails in an attempt to turn back the M11...

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by Paul Hawkins, for outsideleft.com
originally published: September, 2006
I found out from a friend, John Ellis, that we had released an album last year! Much to my surprise
by Paul Hawkins, for outsideleft.com
originally published: September, 2006
I found out from a friend, John Ellis, that we had released an album last year! Much to my surprise

Following some further research for my intended book on my life and weird times living in Claremont Road, London, which was the last bastion of resistance to the intended M11 road extension way back in the early nineties, I found out from a friend, John Ellis, (http://www.mapoflimbo.co.uk/ ) that we had released an album last year! Much to my surprise, I had forgotten about the album plans as everyone drifted away into their own cosmos in late 1994.

The Roadbreakers were made up of local musicians whose houses and lives were at risk if the proposed M11 extension plans went through. We formed the band and played 3 benefit gigs, to packed houses at The Grange, Leyton, East London. The album is a live recording of one of those gigs. The gigs kicked ass and were a rallying point early on in the campaign for those Thatcher-affected like-minded people to get together and let their hair down. Many other benefit gigs took place with local musicians and bands performing. More about those some other time.

The band comprised of painter and artist Steve Rushden ( drums ), Gary James ( gtr and harmonica ), Paul Roberts ( vocals ) and John Ellis ( gtr ). I played bass. I whored myself out to whoever wanted me and was in the process of forming Backwash # 1, Gary played with folkers The Porcupines, Steve played with the amazing Mosquitoes. At the time, both Paul and John played with The Stranglers, and, at the time the Stranglers fan club was, shall I say, big in numbers and a mite obsessive about their bands' side projects. Hell, some of them would buy spit and bile encrusted underwear if it had been dangled somewhere near a Strangler or his bodily parts and, even better, any bodily secretions.

Way back then it was felt that making an album, with the proceeds going to the Anti-M11 Campaign Fund, would be a good way of getting some money in the coffers. Those Stranglers fans, we hoped, would lap up the main chunk of the pressings. A local fella by the name of John Pridige kindly manned the sound board knobs and faders at the gigs and sneaked in a recording of one the gigs. He was keen to release an album of us. Due to the usual life commitments, Stranglers tours, Thatcherism and fighting for our homes, we never got into the studio, but, JP did release, posthumously, a Roadbreakers Live album, entitled Big Road Blues, on his own Powerzone label. It was from a gig on 18th July 1992 at The Grange.

It was a real good time playing with those guys, acoustic rehearsals the day before a gig, that sort of thing. I remember rehearsals in my room, upstairs, at 18 Claremont Road very fondly. Perversely I drive over Claremont Road now on that god damned M11 extension whenever I visit friends in London. Always feeling when I do that, the good, bad and bloody ugly memories tinged with utter sadness with the futile government obsession with road building. We played old blues songs with a desperate passion and a smile on our faces. Blues songs that were road related, as many of them were in times gone by. Those gigs and some rehearsals were filmed by east London artist and film maker, Ian Bourne (http://www.luxonline.org.uk/artists/ian_bourn/index.html), you never know, even they may see the light of day................................

John Pridige, who had long said that he "had a personal dream to release interesting music in limited editions on my own label ", pulled the rabbit out of the hat. Thanks John. Following some re-mastering, the recording came out well, considering it was live and not recorded by a Robbie Williams-hired mobile recording rig. It faithfully captured the vibe of that packed summers night gig. Sadly the venue has bitten the dust, and, is probably some plush flats or houses now. There have been so many changes to that part of London since the building of that fucking motorway. If anyone is interested in getting a slice of raw blues performed by an eclectic bunch of musicians and would like a document to mark those heady, frontline campaigning, direct action days, or who may just want to see if I have just dreamed this whole thing up, contact me at Outsideleft.

Go on, I dare you, call my bluff why don't you....................?

There are some copies in a box behind a sofa somewhere I am sure.................... Hell, JP may even do some bulk discount for any campaigning group wanting a raucous blues momento of Direct Action history from East London, where and when disparate groups all momentarily gelled in the UK and who have continued their various campaigns and struggles up to this day.

Paul Hawkins

Paul Hawkins has been interested in popular culture and music, protest and survival for as long as we can remember. He began writing about things, making music and other noise at an early age. Paul has interviewed musicians, writers, poets, protestors and artists.

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