The Starving Gypo's were a Britpop / Alternative rock covers band from Hounslow, Greater London, England.
The band consisted of:
The band reached their peak in mid 1997, before breaking up. Comebacks in 1998 and 2003 failed to lead to anything bigger, but there is still hope that the band will one day return to the stage.
James Thompson (Jim), Vincent Makin (Vinny) and Brendan Nevin (Bren) met at school in Hounslow and along with friend Melvin Davis discussed the possibility of forming a band while on holiday in Benidorm
in 1996. 'Starving Gypo' had been a popular cuss used by Melvin, and hence the name The Starving Gypo's
was decided upon. Rough jamming sessions were scheduled for their return, and most of these took place at Melvin's address in Heston
due to Melvin breaking his leg in a motorbike accident.
Melvin's whining vocals and Brigitte Nielsen style bleach-blonde flat top were not deemed to be appropriate for the direction that the band wanted to take, and Melvin was unceremoniously dumped in late 1996, and replaced by school friend Nick Goold. At this point Jim took over the lead vocals, Bren assumed rhythm guitar duties, Vinny bought a bass guitar, and Nick was asked to perform lead guitar.
A more appropriate location was required for practise purposes and sessions moved to the back room of a local club in Heston
where Bren was working at the time. Transport to the venue was organised by school friend Paul "Toss" Cross who drove a TARDIS
-like Metro which could fit all Bren and Nick's equipment and still have room for passengers. Sessions took place on a Monday night and during this time the band covered bands such as Oasis
, The Cranberries
, The Who
, Manic Street Preachers
. Nevin and Makin played a particularly moving version of the Bush
track Glycerine. Thompson also presented many of his own songs during this period, including the seminal "Off My Tree".
Sessions continued throughout late 1996 and early 1997 with the band perfecting and honing their set list. The band experimented with Paul "Mouse" Melville on drums, but decided that Jim's keyboard was more reliable. Guest vocalists (male and female) were trialed to add variety and diversity to the bands music. In early 1997 the band felt ready to lay down some tracks onto tape. Studio sessions were priced, but a chance conversation at college led to the local studio facilities being booked for the now legendary Smarx session.
The band assembled in the recording studio on a Thursday evening in February 1997 to record their first tape. Band Publicist Paul Brennan (who was later sacked for reselling flowers from graveyards around the local pubs) and producer Gavin Murphy organised the session with kind permission from the legendary Reilly (rumoured to be the original songwriter of Survivor's hit "Eye Of The Tiger"). Due to technical problems, Nick's guitar pedal board, who's sound defined the early bands material, was unable to be hooked up to the recording equipment and so the raw sound of the Smarx
session was born.
The recording began with session staple "Pinball Wizard" by The Who. Nevin's jangling guitar (an original 1962 Fender Telecaster kindly supplied by groupie Ciara) was perfectly complemented by Goold's Townsend-esque thrashing of the distortion chords, and Makin's timely bass. Passionate vocals by Thompson evoked images of the deaf, the dumb, and the blind in the mind of the listeners, and the raw energy of the track was expertly caught by the sound engineers.
Oasis's "Wonderwall" continued the session and was followed by "Live Forever". Without the pedal board, Nick's solo was not as effective, but was intricately performed. R.E.M.'s "Shiny Happy People" was also recorded, but did not make the final tape. The Thompson penned "Off My Tree" unfortunately was not caught on tape during this session, and to this day has never been recorded.
Momentum and split
The Chariot in Hounslow was at the time a Mecca for artists, troubadours, and wasters and this became a spiritual home to the Gypo's. Entourage at this time included Stuart "Moose" Amos and serial shaggers Richard Carpenter, Mark Tully, and Mark "Sharky" England. Groupies were shared, fought over and discarded, but the band's performances became stronger and stronger. Following public playing of the Smarx
tape, the band's reputation was growing, and the public outcry for a live performance was gaining momentum. A public concert was needed.
Sessions in Heston increased in frequency and a set list was decided on for the first public performance. On Saturday 21st February 1997, The Starving Gypo's took the stage at the Heston Club for the first time to rehearse their material. Guest vocalist Lucinda joined the band for a haunting version of The Cranberries "Zombie" and the performance was well received by the privileged few who were in attendance. Particular crowd pleasers were U2's "Where The Street's Have No Name" and Babybird's "You're Gorgeous".
But tensions within the band had reached a critical point. Rumours of groupie swapping, questions about the bass players musical ability, heavy drinking and rumours of drug taking led to the original line-ups ultimate demise. The split was cemented when Nick moved to Warwick and formed rival band Amber, who recorded the album "What You Make It" in 1999.
The remaining members of the band briefly relocated to Benidorm, but an argument between Bren and a member of the entourage over the positioning of a chair drew a line under the creative element of the band, and the members drifted apart.
The anticipation of Pink Floyd
reforming for Live 8
was nothing compared to the atmosphere in Heston on the 4th August 1998 when Jim, Vinny and Bren reconvened in Jim's Meadow Way recording studio in Heston to jam for nostalgia's sake. Sharky was recruited to add dimension to the band, and Bren took over lead guitar duties from the departed Goold. Recordings from this session were released on the 1998 Meadow Way
EP. Highlights included a Polyphonic Spree
-esque version of U2
's "Where the Streets Have No Name
" and a 15 minute version of "Pride
". Alas, the session was a false dawn, and the Gypo's were destined to drift apart once more.
Jim and Bren experimented with a new electro-rock sound in late 2000
and released the single Lullaby
on Touching Cloth Records, but not under the Gypo name. The Gypo's (minus Goold) reconvened in Ireland in 2001 to celebrate Nevin's marriage. Rumours of a possible performance at the reception abounded, but didn't materialise. To mark the event, "The Best Of The Starving Gypo's" was released on CD and given exclusively to the hardcore fanbase. The Gypo's final public performance was in Nottingham's Monastery
club in March 2003
where the band entertained revellers with a rendition of Coldplay
Where are they now?
- James Thompson
James could recently be seen in BBC TV's production of the London Marathon, and is currently working for Her Majesty's Government.
- Brendan Nevin
Brendan was one half of folk duo "Brall" who have since split up. Currently residing in Ireland.
- Vincent Makin
Vincent packed in music altogether and can be regularly found playing squash in Richmond.
- Nick Goold
Nick was last known to be studying Physics in Warwick.
- Mark England
Mark joined the London Fire Brigade and is currently on Pink Watch, and is an accomplished rock climber.
- Everybody's gotta come down sometime
- Everybody's gotta come down with me
- I'm off my tree
- Green Day
- Manic Street Preachers
- Mark Handley - Oasis
- Paul Weller
- The Beatles
- The Cranberries
- The Irish Rovers - The Rolling Stones
- The Who