To get in my face Chris would have to bend down, quite a bit actually, but he had no hesitation doing that. He was well over six feet tall and had a mop of curly hair bouncing around on top of that. He once famously told our audience to stop clapping because the song we were playing wasn’t finished. I have that moment on tape if you don’t believe me. Chris was the one who found gigs for us and generally acted as cheer leader for the band.

Vaughan amazed me with the range of his musical skills. He could play just about anything and to my ears he could play it well. I’ve only ever personally known one person who had a wider range of musical skills and that was Gerry McLoughlin. How Gerry didn’t make it as a musician is beyond me, people with half his talent became superstars. Maybe it’s because his group was called Pigs Trotters. They were an arrogant bunch of know-it-alls but I liked them, almost as much as I feared their acid wit and sharp tongues.

If you think that Pigs Trotters was the worst name for a band you’ve ever heard (and personally I do) then the name we finally chose for our band was at least as bad. We must have tried out a hundred different names as we practised and dismissed each one. When I tell you the name we finally chose then it makes you wonder just how bad the others were.

The Roman name for Ilkley was Olicana. Chris occasionally got the nickname Olly after his surname Halstead. We slammed the two together and came up with Olocana.

I didn’t like it at the time and it hasn’t aged well either. But at least being called Olocana stopped us struggling to find another name for the band and allowed us to concentrate on the music.

We had effectively become the house band for the folk club in Ilkley. I think that had more to do with there being no other rival for the position as much as our musical skills. I don’t remember the first gig we played as a trio but I do know that I got very nervous before we played and although that got slightly easier it was an effort at first just to control the full body shakes. Anyone, even on the back row, couldn’t have failed to notice that yours truly was shaking like a leaf every time we played. Quite why I’m not sure as I actually liked performing for a crowd, in fact the bigger the crowd the better. It was more difficult for me to present a new song to the band than it was to perform.

Chris seemed to control his nerves by being loud and quick to confront any problem, Vaughan on the other hand seemed to assume a Zen-like state where the world just washed around him. I honestly think he would have looked cool in a bin sack. Vaughan, like me, had long black hair. In fact there was always an awful lot of hair present at Olocana gigs, certainly in Ilkley anyway.

I have no idea how many gigs we played, probably not as many as I seem to remember. We did get some local gigs at folk clubs where we would horrify the purists and not be asked back again. For example, we took to the offensive at a gig in Otley where the other acts seemed to be of the warbling folkie variety, one finger in an ear and a drone you wouldn’t wish on your worst enemy. Olocana, fuelled by an evening’s worth of beer, hit the stage and thrashed out a selection of our songs and Lindisfarne classics and went down in a blaze of glory to horrified mutterings rather than applause. To no-one’s surprise we weren’t invited back.

I remember us discussing the chances of being invited back as we travelled home in the tumble down Land Rover Defender Chris drove. There was usually at least six of us crammed into the beast, but many more could and were accommodated when the need arose. The fact it had a nought to sixty time measured in the minutes and hours probably saved our lives as there was no way we could speed around in the thing unless it was downhill with the wind behind us. But time and again it got us all to where we needed to be.

There was one memorable occasion when the entire folk club decamped to Malham to some sort of hostel thing and we played until our fingers bled, getting increasingly raucous as the smuggled beer and the adrenaline increased throughout the evening. A good 10 minute long third rendering of Fotheringhay sealed the evening and finally got me the eye of a young lady, despite the fact we were under the watchful eyes of several supposedly responsible adults who were charged with ensuring that no-one’s honour was besmirched. Honour besmirching was something we all wanted to happen very much though.

There were three other memorable gigs that stick in the memory for widely differing reasons. We played at some music festival held in a school in west Leeds where the organisers kindly arranged for the most basic PA equipment any band ever plugged into. We had no idea who else was playing but we did get there early enough to bag the only dressing room. I’m being generous here, I’ve seen more spacious WCs but at least it was ours for the evening and no-one could or would be getting into it.

The girls joined us that that evening but we hadn’t really practised enough and we certainly hadn’t arranged the songs for best effect. Basically we all started singing together and didn’t stop. There had been a couple of acts on before us who had gone down like lead balloons in front of the young audience who were keen to be entertained by something with a beat.

We gave them what they wanted by playing five or six songs all but one of which were beat driven. There were several hundred in the audience and they cheered us enthusiastically at the end of our set. We scurried off back to the refuge of our dressing room convinced that we’d been crap, the PA had been crap and the whole event was crap. Just as we had decided that there was a knocking on the door. One of us opened it, half expecting to see the irate organiser stood there wanting to know just why we’d been so crap. Instead there was a throng of small people aged from about ten to fourteen, many dressed in Brownie uniforms. They wanted our autographs. Yes, you read that right, these kids, even though they were just a few short years younger than us, were shoving bits of paper at us wanting our autographs. I guess that qualifies as our fifteen minutes of fame.

I don’t know who organised it but word came from on high that the mighty Bradford Telegraph and Argus newspaper were coming to the Ilkley Folk Club to do an article on us. The resulting article didn’t change the course of popular music but I bet it was the first, and almost certainly the last time, someone was pictured in the outfit I had cobbled together for this auspicious event.

Please remember this was 1973 and glam rock, big hair, hippies and skinheads were all fighting (often literally) for their own space in the sun. Yours truly decided that in addition to having hair that comfortably extended beyond my collar I would assemble an outfit that few would forget. I borrowed my sister’s purple velvet loon pants, God alone knows how I got into them. I added two-tone blue suede desert boots. I had a fleck pattern purple and white roll neck sweater and topped the whole ensemble off by wearing my then girlfriend’s pink satin jacket.

I arrived wearing a duffle coat and paisley silk-like scarf and I swear that no-one thought I was the slightest bit weird when I took off the outer layers to reveal the full majesty of my stage outfit. It’s not the sort of outfit you forget, even many decades later and I remember it all too well.

The man from the Telegraph and Argus asked us some questions, took some photographs and watched us perform a few of our songs. A week or two later we occupied half a page in the Saturday edition. The photograph was awful and he quoted a couple of lines from one of Vaughan’s songs. I was both mortified and delighted in equal measure. A second fifteen minutes of fame? We were really pushing our luck.

I remember our final gig very well, mainly because I had recently purchased a Philips cassette recorder and I recorded the gig. I made the mistake of placing the recorder on the rickety little stage so it duly picked up every foot tap, let alone the general shuffling about that went on. Despite this it captures us well. We were well rehearsed, we’d been doing these songs for some time and we only tired out one newish song, the rest were all tried and tested.

I’m not sure if we knew it was going to be our last gig but I think we did. We went out on a high with the audience singing along and a general level of organised chaos that summed us up. The tape I have is of three friends and their friends having a good old time sharing the moment. The last song we played together was Lindisfarne’s We Can Swing Together. It was oddly appropriate and it descended into a shambles of an ending that everyone seems to enjoy.

On the 3rd March 1973 Olocana played our last gig. We didn’t set the world alight, we didn’t change the course of music history but we did have some really good times, made some people happy for a while along the way and gave ourselves some lovely memories that have lasted a lifetime.

Could we have ‘made it’? Well, we’ll never know. Almost certainly not but I think we do ourselves a disservice if we belittle what we had. We wrote and performed some very good songs, yes we could and should have arranged them far better than we did, but that doesn’t detract from what we did. Olocana were a good little band. It took me many, many years to do something else with my music, I just wish I had the courage and the opportunity to do it when I was young.

Chris, Vaughan, Liz, Theresa and Judith and all the many friends I made in that short time with the band, thank you all. We did something special, we created memories that for me at least have lasted a lifetime, memories that still bring a smile to our faces even today. That really is special.

(Picture: The infamous article in the Bradford Telegraph & Argus February 1973)

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