Restless, Why Don't You Just Rock

Marks' first meeting with Ben occurred when he and Paul were rehearsing "Johnny B.Goode" for the parents' entertainment evening early 1978. They were practising in a classroom somewhere when in walked this strange looking kid with slicked back hair, lumber shirt, Levi's, Chukka boots and "New boy from London" reputation and attitude uttering the immortal words; "Oi Mark.... You wanna start a band?" They soon got to know each other and rapidly became best friends. Ben told Mark that it wasn't cool to be playing "Johnny B. Goode" or "Long tall Sally" and that everybody in London was listening to Charlie Feathers, Sonny Fisher and Johnny Burnette. When Ben played the records, Mark was sold. They started the band that same year and after numerous auditions and instrument swapping, they settled on Marks' brother Paul on Bass, Mark on guitar/vocals, and Ben on Drums.

The band's name has recently become a Bone of Contention since Ben insists the name came from a "Johnny and the Pirates" album with a song called Restless on it. Mark swears it was from a Carl Perkins album called "Jive after Five". Either way, as "Switchblade" was the best they could come up with other than Restless, they chose the latter.

Restless used to rehearse in one of Ben's dads' cold and damp outhouses. The neighbours constantly complained, the roof leaked and it stank, but this is where all the ideas were born. Their first live show was in April 1980 at Springlands Social Hall in Sudbury Suffolk. Mark remembers being totally petrified to the extent that he couldn't bring himself to talk to the audience and made Ben do it! At the end of the show the bands' confidence was such that they thought they could do anything, so when their very next gig came up a few weeks later, they were ready to take on the world! Trouble was, they were supporting a band called (The Rockin') Shades at the embassy suite in Colchester and they completely blew the green and inexperienced Restless away! They soon learned that playing in front of your family was a little easier than doing it in front of a real rock 'n' roll crowd. They'd been seriously ego-bashed! (It was a lesson worth learning).

The first songs; Mark wrote a whole bunch of songs altogether after being inspired by Ben to forget commercial rock 'n' roll and forget, to an extent, covering rockabilly cos there were bands like the Blue Cat Trio out there already doing that kind of stuff better than anybody else. So in '79 Mark put pen to paper and his very first effort was a little tune called "Ghost Town", followed by "Long Winding River", "Hightime", "Blackat", and another little peach which was considered to be too modern at the time, but went on to be the most popular Restless track of all, "Ice Cold", (Most of these songs Restless still play today!). Also written at this time was the first Cooper/Harman collaboration, "Leaving This Town".

On sending in their first recordings from Octopus to Roy and Stu at Nervous, they were invited to play at the Royalty in Southgate supporting another up and coming young band, The Delta's (who also had their first release on Nervous). Roy Williams was resident DJ there with his own Wild Wax Show and it was here that Ben tied down the first deal. It was also here that the Boys first met Dave Phillips of legendary Blue Cat Trio (and later Hot Rod Gang) fame. The first record Restless released was on a Swedish label called Sunrock. In 1981 "Ghost Town", "Leaving This Town" and "Long Winding River" were all to appear fleetingly via a deal through Roy Williams of Nervous records on a 7" EP, 400 were pressed. They had all decided by now that this was to be the life for them and went about preparing the material for their first album entitled "Why Don'T You Just Rock!"

Once "Why Don'T You Just Rock!" was out, the boys were pretty much doing the regular rock 'n' roll circuit throughout England although many clubs wouldn't touch them because they were thought to be too aggressive in their approach to an old tried and tested formula. Thankfully a whole new scene, probably fronted by The Polecats and the new Bluecats called NEO-rockabilly had exploded on the continent, especially in Holland (where they did they first gig abroad for the now legendary Rockhouse festival in Eindoven). Belgium, France, and Sweden also had a growing 'NEO' scene so the Band inevitably headed there. It was a good time because fans across the water didn't care if Restless played their own style of rock 'n' roll, they just got into it anyway. One minute the boys could be playing Gene Vincent's "Pretty Pretty Baby", and the next they could be ripping into Bens' "It's a scam!" This was freedom not allowed in England 'till much later. Note perfect covers were still the order of the day and it would only be much later that Restless would be accepted and 'allowed' to bridge the gaps and play on all the fragmented scenes including Hemsby, the Big Rumble, blues, country and rock festivals all over the world. Big Gigs came in the mid eighties where they were regular headliners at the Klubfoot, supporting bands like The Damned, Spear Of Destiny, The Pogues, The Clash, Ramones and many more at bigger venues like Brixton Academy, Hammersmith Palais, Lyceum, Town And Country etc. It was a far cry from those early days of travelling for miles and miles, hour upon hour to some village hall out in the sticks only to be stared at in total disbelief for the duration of the set!

And the rest is history. Not quite! After establishing themselves as a force to be reckoned with, especially with the follow up to "Why Don'T You"... ("Do You Feel Restless"). Paul and Mark had a big bust up which culminated in Paul leaving the band. It would take years to heal the rift. An old friend of Ben and Marks called Jeff Bayly, who had been playing upright bass with a little band in Exeter joined in 1984 and they decided to look for a manager as the workload was already more than they could cope with. They approached a friend in London called Robin Scott who had good connections and after agreeing to take up the reins, probably did more good for the band than anybody else. There was never any money, (they were playing the Hope and Anchor twice a week for 5.00!) but what it did do was give them regular exposure in the City and a no. 4 hit with "Mr. Blues" on the independent chart. They found themselves regularly playing the 'in' clubs in London (Dingwalls, Rock-garden, Moonlight and Starlight rooms etc.) when they were booked for a gig downstairs at the Clarendon Hotel in Hammersmith. They played this for a few months until (thanks to themselves and another new band called the Guana Batz) it became unmanageable because of the huge numbers of people turning up. Something was happening, but it wasn't another authentic revival, this was new... and it was BIG.

So promoter John Curd decided to move the whole thing upstairs, into the bigger hall, which could accommodate a thousand people. It was an instant success with people from all walks of life coming from all over this country... it was called The Klubfoot. It was here that Pete Gage approached them and offered his services as management. With serious connections, a fundamental understanding of the music industry and a producer/engineer to boot, he was just too good to turn down. Problem is, the boys still had Robin acting for them and although they all agreed to have them both as management, in the long term it was never likely to work and Robin decided for the good of the band to surrender his position to Pete.

Because of the popularity of the Klubfoot, other venues all over the country stood up and took notice, and indeed, tried to replicate it. Although they never quite managed it, it opened up all kinds of doors for Restless and the other bands to travel from Plymouth to Aberdeen on a regular basis increasing the popularity of the whole scene... It was a VERY busy time. It was at this time that Ben, who'd been standing up behind his drums, decided that it would be a good idea to get in another man on guitar primarily so he could sit down and play, but also to take some of the pressure off of Mark as the song writing was becoming more and more demanding and he was finding it hard to jump around and play those intricate chord sequences!

Enter Mick Malone, who'd recently finished touring with Dave Phillips and was yet another mate from good old Sudbury Suffolk. He came in as Rhythm Guitarist but was found to be so good he was given the title of 'Second Guitarist'. It was a good time for the Band and they'd never work so intensely again. They released a record in 1986 called "After Midnight" after negotiating a good record deal with ABC It was a bit of a pop effort with brass sections, pianos, strings etc. And although the company had good intentions, the Boys felt as though they'd lost control of those early days they'd shared as THE definitive 3-peice Neo rockabilly outfit. They did however, manage to attain single and album of the week in SOUNDS national music paper and after an appearance on Saturday Live on Radio One, the record went on to sell very well with spin-off singles "Somebody Told Me" and "Just A Friend" denting the independents. They also released a live album recorded at the Klubfoot in '87 called "Live And Kicking" which truly captured the atmosphere of this now legendary venue.

As with all good things, something had to give. Because of the eventual decline in popularity of the music and the closing of the Klubfoot for clearance to build, Restless and the other bands suddenly found the market now resided almost totally abroad (Mainly Germany and France at this time).

Mick, by now, had had enough of the travel and hassle and he left in late '87. Back as a 3-peice again, they found the old form and hit the continent regularly with a vengeance, touring Germany, France, Switzerland and Scandinavia and playing to the wildest audiences! They released another Album called "Beat My Drum" which again went out to great reviews This was how it continued up until 1989 when, all of a sudden and out of the blue, Jeff left, citing he'd had enough. Mark and Ben were shell-shocked. He was considered to be so important to the line-up that the Guys decided it couldn't work without him and so it was time to cash the Chips in. Of course, letting go of all they'd built up over the years was never going to be easy and after an offer to play Japan came in, Mark and Ben decided to audition for a bass-man on the understanding that directly after the tour, they'd quit.

It wasn't difficult to find the best bassist around at the time. He was Steve Whitehouse, lead man with Frenzy, another band who had been enjoying great success off of the back of the Klubfoot. But could they get him? Restless had always prided themselves on having the best musicians around and if he'd have said no, then that would almost certainly have been the end. Thankfully, he said yes and after about five minutes of rehearsing (he already knew the songs!) they went to Japan and rocked it senseless! In fact, it was so good, they decided to keep it together and after releasing the album "Movin' On" they settled in to the old Rock 'n' Roll routine regularly touring all over Europe and Japan.

Unfortunately, it became apparent that there were problems developing within the band, especially between Ben and Pete. These threatened to blow out of all proportion and something had to give. Ben quit. The whole thing had obviously become too serious and all the fun they used to have now seemed a million miles away. Because of Steves' incredible enthusiasm for Restless, he managed to talk Mark into giving it one last go. The ONLY drummer Mark would work with other than Ben was a guy called Rob Tyler, a truly amazing musician he'd worked with way back in 1981 when they had a national chart hit with Dave Phillips and the Hot Rod Gangs' "Tainted Love". Rob jumped at the chance and they took up the slack yet again, releasing the album No. 7. Cue another bombshell!

It was 1991 and Pete decided enough was enough and because of other commitments, had to give up Restless. He'd put in many years and many long days and nights and the boys, for a while at least, found themselves in the wilderness. Pete always said that "If any band could realistically put Rock 'n' roll back in the charts it'll be Restless" well, it would now be without him. Anyway, you can't keep a good band down and they went on to release "Figure It Out" (back on Nervous) with this line-up and after touring extensively, found they had a major problem with Steve. It loosely transpires that Steve had finally put together a band that dreams are made of. Although he'd never officially closed down Frenzy, it didn't unduly worry Mark and Rob too much as Frenzy were doing very little in the way of live work and it wasn't clashing with the Restless schedule. That is until Steve matched Carl Parry (guitar) and Adam Seviour (drums) with himself to create a formidable Rock 3-piece which became an instant success. After much deliberation, they all decided that rather than force Steve to make a choice (which he wasn't really willing to) it would be best to let him go. Thankfully, they all remained friends through this. They'd lost the best... what now? It was 1994.

Mark and his brother had by this time, buried the hatchet and were almost as close as they used to be. Indeed, Paul had even come out to roadie for Restless on a number of occasions and Mark knew he was getting itchy feet! It made sense to ask him first (even though Mark had received over 10 calls from bass-men throughout the country literally hours after the word was out!), as this would surely reconcile their differences and put all the crap behind them. PLUS, he'd never given up playing anyway! Although he hadn't joined other bands, he never gave his instrument up and was as good as anybody on the scene, if not better. They picked up the tempo again and did many tours including Australia and recorded and released albums including "Three Of A Kind" and "The Lost Sessions" not to mention their hugely popular "Unplugged" album.

And then one day, they believed they had come to the end of what they could realistically offer. Their enthusiasm dried up. They started playing more and more covers and perhaps became a little to self-indulgent and complacent just seeming to go through the motions. They decided to quit and played their 'last' show (or what they thought would be their last show) in London, late 1998. And... Well, Mark always said he was never going to get out of music completely and so to keep his hand in decided to put together a little pub band with his brothers Paul and John (drums) called The Harmany Brothers. They're still doing this today, low key, as intended, just for "fun and drinks!"

And now, four years down the line... After much soul searching, Mark managed to rekindle his friendship with Ben Cooper and they decided to go back out on the road again in 2002. Maybe one last time (?) as the original line-up, which split in '84. Playing all the old numbers with a selection from their fantastic new album thrown in for good measure. The demand is still there and the hunger is back with a vengeance. Makes for a lethal cocktail.

Courtesy of Restless Central.

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