Don Weller's Major Surgery

Fuck the Mortgage.

It’s probably 1972... the 60s are done but The Dog and Bull is still the hang for Croydon’s hipsters. Unlike the nearby Star Hotel, this tiny, ancient Young’s pub in the heart of Surrey Street market, doesn’t book bands. It’s a typical smoke-filled, rowdy, market boozer, jammed tight with traders, art students, jazzers, drop-outs, drunks and hustlers. There’s a record player behind the bar and astonishingly, the album du jour is “The Inner Mounting Flame”. By popular demand, the guv’nor – Norman – regularly allows the miniscule space next to the stinking Gents toilet to be given up one night a week to Major Surgery. Squashed at the back with the open window behind him is Tony Marsh with his crazy assortment of old drums and cymbals. Sitting next to him on his right is bass player Bruce Collcutt with guitarist Jimmy Roche standing on his left. In front of them all is the barrel- chested, bearded, Tenor Titan, Don Weller and they are collectively raising the roof with their trademark racket. There is not an inch of space. Ale is swilled, fags are smoked and the jug is passed round for the guys. It’s very, very special and we’re all diggin’ it like mad...

...just down the road, the dreadful but spacious Gun Tavern in Church Street enjoys the luxury of a stage in the back bar. It’s not long before the band de-camps to this new home, where we can keep diggin’ it for a few more years.

It’s 1976... and, all the better for a few pints with Bruce in the Dog and Bull one lunchtime – having followed their progress from the start and irritated that they are unrecorded - I offer to produce an album for release on my own record label. The guys agree to it and so I pull the rabbit out of the hat and convince my new wife Miriam that this is a good idea. Fuck the mortgage. The album is cut over two days. A lot of whiskey is drunk while Jimmy sorts out problems with new foot pedals and Tony assembles and tunes a vast new drum kit – bought for the occasion. Don convinces a reluctant Bruce to lug his double bass to the studio to try recording a ballad with it and time is gobbled up fruitlessly positioning mics around it. Don blows his arse off but the ballad gets shit-canned because the bass sound scrap. Everything is done in one take with no overdubbing...I get five hundred LPs pressed...manage to sell a few hundred...keep the disappears into legend.

It’s pal Joop Visser drops into the office and tells me Don is recovering from a bypass operation. I hear Tony Marsh is dead. I pull my vinyl album from the archive and give it a blast...

…It’s 1972 Again 


I get out the original tapes and we take off all the compression that smothered the original vinyl release.  Don and Bruce visit our current studio and immediately endorse the re-issue when they hear what we’ve got. 

Order yourself a copy and get back to 1972 too. -~ Malcolm Mills.


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