Chris Peters and Neil Keeler first met at Cromer High School in 1984 where a keen interest in baggy trousers, eyeliner and Duran Duran drew them together. Jumping on the Band Aid band wagon, Neil penned a jolly Christmas ditty entitled 'Christmas Times Here Again' with the intention of performing the song at the end of term Christmas concert. Unfortunately he could not entice the likes of Bono or Simon Lebon to contribute to the project, but he did manage to get several high profile members of the school orchestra involved including Porky on glockenspiel and another student who’s name escapes me on triangle and various other instruments that didn't require any talent of note. Chris Peters was also brought into the group on bass, not so much for his slap bass prowess but his John Taylor style mullet complete with blonde fringe. To complete the line up he employed the vocal talents of Richard Worsop, head boy and favourite of the choir master not quite the voice of an angel, more reminiscent of a cross between Aled Jones and Mr Potato Head, Jimmy Summerville, on helium! To cut a long story short, the performance was a massive success, highlight of the end of term bash raising a grand total of £16.50 through entrance fees alone and so ending world poverty and halting famine in its tracks. The band were even invited to perform at the Christmas assembly by the then headmaster, this wasn't quite as successful, what with Neil having problems with his 'Yes' style bank of keyboards and a non show by the glockenspiel player due to the 1984 flu pandemic. All was not lost though, and the day was saved by a fantastic display of plumage and some seriously baggy trousers.
Having got the bug Chris and Neil would spend hours in the school music room jamming and writing songs and finally decided to put a band together, minus choir boy, glockenspiel and triangle players. The band became known as 'Terra Nova', and included another Cromer High School member, Richard 'Bod' Jelfs on drums. The band later changed its name to 'Never Say Die' and then to probably the most impressive band name ever, 'Nofix D'Bode'. The band enlisted Chris' Paston College buddy Jason Cork on vocals and legendary local guitar god Malcolm Birtwell (formally of Green Beach) on guitar. The band played many gigs in the North Norfolk area, including gigs at The Melbourne Hotel in Cromer and the Village Inn in West Runton. They also managed to become the resident band at Northrepps Country club throughout the summer of 1987, playing a selection of horrible cover versions by the likes of Simply Red and Curiosity Killed the Cat. This is where the band honed its drinking talents that would later so haunt them during The Charge era. The band also recorded a double A-sided single, Hey You/ Why Don't You Make It Right at Raven Recording Studios in the Autumn of 1987. This is where we were introduced to the legend that is Howard Turner. Also recording at the studio at the same time as Nofix D’Bode was Greg Parker, brother of Ray Parker Jr of Ghost Busters fame, he had lots of white powdery stuff? At this time the band were also heavily involved with the Cromerzone movement, lead by local impresario Alistair Murphy, this later resulted in the ‘Jewels In The Crown’ charity gigs put on throughout North Norfolk in aid of ‘Break’.
In early 88 Neil was tempted away from Nofix D'bode by diva temptress Linda Gotts to form The Real McCoy, a boy girl, synth duo reminiscent of the early 80's pop sensation, Yazoo. No Fixed underwear as Malcolm now named the band, plodded on for a few more months but finally decided to call it a day after the notorious Repham High School gig, where the band were mobbed by a vicious gang of school girls. At the time The Real McCoy were the most successful of the local acts and performed many gigs all over the country during 1988/89. In 1989 they also appeared on Sky Star Search, a talent show presented by Keith Chegwin. The show insisted on a totally live performance and as such Neil and Linda employed the talents of several local musicians, Nigel Digby on guitar, Chris Peters on bass, Alistair Murphy on keyboards, Dianna Hare and backing vocals and Darren Turner of North Walsham power punkers, Guns for Hire on drums. Unfortunately after travelling to the London Weekend Studios through the night in a minibus full of booze, the early morning recording session wasn’t as good as it could have been and the band lost out to a juggler. A video of this show is still in existence and well worth a viewing.
The Real McCoy also won a completion held by Anglia Television, the prize being a professionally filmed video. The video shoot was held at Hy’s Nightclub on Tombland and again local musicians were invited to mime to a backing track, to an invited crowd of friends and passers by. This occasion again turned into a drunken mess with several inebriated band members changing clothes between takes in order to screw up the continuity. This video is also still in existence, but for some reason many of the band shots ended up on the cutting room floor.
The Real Charge
Fast forward to April1989, Neil was sick of playing Cheesy pop with The Real McCoy and approached Chris, who was now playing bass with Canis Strange and Burning Ambitions, with an eye on writing and recording new material in his new studio. Chris was knocked out with the technology crammed into Neil’s bedroom, multitrack recorders, samplers and drum machines, and immediately jumped into the project feet first. The next few months saw some serious experimentation going down, heavily influenced by the likes of Eno, Berlin era Bowie, Bauhaus and Prince some of the songs recorded were 10 minute minimal soundscapes, others pompous 10 minute rock operas. Chris and Neil didn’t care, they were having fun and the music just kept a coming. With time the songs gradually became more structured and a slightly more pop element returned to their writing. Chris and Neil would spend hours and hours writing and recording, Neil taking on the role of programmer and keyboard maestro, Chris taking on bass and guitar duties, the vocals were normally performed by whoever wrote the lyrics.
It soon became apparent that some of the songs were well worth playing live and so the quest to put a perfectly un-democratic band together began. On the pretense of being the then nameless bands singer, Neil and Chris employed Real McCoy singer, Linda Gotts’ powers of persuasion to recruit the necessary players. Once the desired line up was in place, Linda was promptly sacked by the newly appointed drummer, Darren Turner, Along with Darren on drums, Nick Wakeman (Burning Ambitions) was appointed as lead vocalist, Gresham School sixth former Wayne Pope as guitarist and complete stranger Andy ‘Indie’ Smith as 2nd guitarist . Neil obviously took up the keyboard/backing vocals position and Chris had to decide whether to play bass or lead guitar, he opted for bass judging that it was an easier instrument to play when drunk. Nick picked the name The Charge after a New Model Army song (much to the dismay of the rest of the band who hated New Model Army , but couldn’t come up with anything better) and that was that, The Charge was born and rehearsals commenced.