Nick Bache was a founding member, guitarist and song-writer with Kevin Archer's post-Dexys project, The Blue Ox Babes. Thirty-five years after the break-up of the original incarnation of that influential band, he shares his fascinating account of those early days exclusively with dexys.org... 


Kev and I grew up on the same council estate in Cradley Heath. I was friends with both Kevin and his brother Jason who was the same age as me, Kevin being two years older. We both loved music and playing the guitar. We went to see Marc Bolan together at Birmingham Town Hall in our early teens, easy to understand how Kev was influenced by Marc Bolan, he was an incredible performer.

Around 1977 Kev asked me to join his punk band, (later to be called The Negatives) with Pete Williams on bass who I knew well from being at the same school. We hired a room to rehearse in above the Shoulder of Mutton pub in Blackheath where one evening, after answering an advertisement in the Birmingham Evening Mail for "Manager seeking new bands", Kevin Rowland and his brother turned up to watch us play. I recall that nerves got the better of us and it didn't go well and after ensuing arguments I left. The rest for Kev and Pete is well documented history.

In 1981 after Margaret Thatcher's government had laid waste to much of industry in the West Midlands, I found myself on the dole, walking down to Cradley Heath DSS to sign on, sometimes with Kev's dad. It was at this time I started bumping in to Kev, who had now left Dexys and told me something of his new group he was forming. He came to my house and I played him tapes of the music I had been doing, not much more than experimenting with a reel to reel tape recorder, guitar and bass. He asked if I would like to come and see them rehearse at The Crescent Theatre in Birmingham.

We caught the bus together and entered the green room at the theatre where I met Everton Dyer on bass and John [Jay] (who had been a drummer in a very early Dexys previously). With Kev on guitar, they played their only song, still unfinished, entitled 'We Are But Together'

Kev asked if I would like to play guitar instead of him, of course I did! After one false start we played it through and I was in the group.

There followed a short period of rehearsing the one song when suddenly Everton and John announced that they were leaving the group to strike out on their own. This left just Kev and me to get it started again, at this time Yasmin was still working at the hairdressers.

Several weeks later I went down to London with Kev to EMI Music Publishing offices, where it turned out that Everton and John had also recently been with their demo tape. We were played their poorly finished version of 'We Are But Together' - I mention this only to note that not for the first time did Kev's music get ripped off! We never played or mentioned this song ever again.
Later that day we met up with Kevin Rowland and spent a long time drinking tea in a cafe on the Tottenham Court Road. We ended that night wandering around Soho into the early hours, finally bedding down at a friend of Rowland's house. To this day I have no idea where in London that was.


The next few months saw us sampling and absorbing a diverse range of music and styles.Yasmin had given up her job and Kev came up with the first three songs which we worked on together. It was a time of intense activity, pursuing ideas and meeting up in various places and quite often stopping off at the ‘The Pickwick’ - a quintessentially English tea room in Birmingham city centre, sadly long since bulldozed and built over. We saw a lot of groups including Dexys doing a double bill with Teardrop Explodes in Nottingham, The Bureau and The Upset at the Cedar Club in Hockley, ABC at the Holy City Zoo, Blue Rondo A La Turk and Sade at The Tin Can Club and of course James Brown at The Odeon New Street.

I can’t remember exactly how, but we began meeting with an old friend of mine from junior school - Corin Winfield. His brother had a stash of Cajun records that we listened to. Corin was due to go to university later that year and had been helping a friend out playing bass in his band. Corin suggested we should go and see them playing at a pub in Moseley, he was sure that the drummer would be of particular interest to us.
We watched them play and were so impressed with Ian Pettitt that at the end of their set we went over and signed him up. Corin also agreed to help out on bass for as long as he could. At last things were starting to shape up. Ian knew a barber in Bearwood who would let us use a room above his shop to rehearse at weekends. The first three songs were tightened up but it was clear we needed a piano to hone the exact sound we were looking for. Although Kev had been reluctant to use anyone he had played with before, he relented and gave Andy Leek a call. Andy had got his own group going at the time, we went to see him play live and he agreed to to ’loan’ himself to us for a while.
We just about managed to squeeze his electric piano into the small rehearsal room and he listened to us play through ‘Somethings Wrong’. After a quick chat about the style of playing Kev was looking for he joined in. Wow!! One thing for sure, Andy was a brilliant musician.
Kev was keen to get into the studio to record a demo, the sound was almost there, just one thing missing - violin!
You already know how the story goes at this point, but it is true, Kev and I just walked into the Birmingham School Of Music looking for people carrying violin cases…
Helen Bevington came to the barber shop one Sunday afternoon and it changed her life forever - though she didn’t know it yet. She easily picked up all the parts Kev wanted her to play and off to the studio we went. I have read that this demo session became legendary and it certainly was an unforgettable three days. For me, the highlight was the violin solo that plays out at the end of ‘What Does Anybody Ever Think About’ - I still get goose bumps when I listen to it. Helen was alone in the studio while we were all in the control room. Kev just told her to play whatever she felt, she did it in one take!
After the final mix, Phil Savage made two or three cassette tapes of all three songs, I had one and Kev took the others. On the CD ["Apples & Oranges" released in 2009], the track listed as ‘Thought As Much’ 1981 demo, is a stripped down version. The original has some beautiful piano and harmonica from Andy, subtly different from ‘The Babes MKII’ version.
Not long after we finished the demo we lost Corin who went off to university. But with the sound and style of the group now concreted into place we set about auditioning for a new bass player. After auditioning, Kev and Yasmin picked Carl (sorry, can’t remember his surname) more for his natural gypsy ‘wild black curly hair’ look than his ability to play the bass. It’s one thing being in a group and looking the part, but if you can’t play the notes in the part then it renders the whole thing pointless. Carl had timing problems and playing the 'right note' problems. He was a nice lad but eventually Kev had to take him to one side and say adieu!
By the time Carl was dismissed we were already working on new songs and preparing to go back in to the studio for a second demo tape. Helen was still with us at this point. I remember Kev telling me he had played the first demo tape to Kevin Rowland because I was keen to hear what he thought - obviously respecting his opinion enormously. Also that he had given Helen's telephone number to Rowland. Whilst Helen had given us a commitment to do our next demo, she was not on the payroll, so to speak, in other words a free agent. It occurs to me now that she could have easily been working for both Dexys and us at the same time, and kept it quiet!


I had come up with the idea for 'Apples & Oranges' one morning lying in bed, the intro part played on fiddle; I reached for my guitar and picked out the notes. I'm not sure if there is such a thing as a recognised method of composing, but for me the tune seemed to have just one way to go. I played it over and over to commit it to memory in order to play it to Kev.

My second composition was as a result of being put under pressure from Kev, neither of us were prolific, but the incidence is memorable to me. I had got the melody in my head but had not properly worked out the chords on the guitar. With Kev and Yasmin listening, I tried to play the idea to them but fluffed it. Kev told me to put the guitar down and just sing it; both of them warmed to it immediately and thus 'Four Golden Tongues Talk' was born. I don't know why I've never been acknowledged for this but, hey - c'est la vie!
It is important to stress here that both song ideas were 'bare bones' ideas, simple melodies and arrangements, no lyrics. Kev had an ability to take this on, embellishing and polishing it into the finished item. As a side note, Kev was slow in writing lyrics. When we did the showcase at the Arts Lab our opening number had no lyrics and Kev just sang "baa daa da baa daa da" all the way through.
With no bass, Kev had to fall back on old friends and called Pete Williams who, like Andy, wanted to do his own thing but agreed to help out temporarily. Pete and I spent time going through the bass lines and were up and running in no time at all. Having Pete also gave Ian a tremendous boost, finally being in a rhythm section that had, well.....rhythm!
Back into Outlaw Studios for the second time - complete with Helen, all went very well and we were pleased with the result. We knew that Kevin Rowland had asked Helen to try some songs with Dexys and she disappeared as soon as we finished in the studio. A few weeks later we had to go back to Outlaw to pick up the tapes or something. Phil Savage told us that he'd just had Dexys in doing a demo with Helen and played us "Come On Eileen". You can imagine how we felt on hearing this.
After the intro to ‘Eileen’ - the lead into the verse begins with a piano slide - dragging your thumb from high notes to low notes quickly…. ’strangely' you will hear exactly the same thing after the intro on ’Somethings Wrong’ on our first demo tape that Kev gave Kevin!
Now for poor Andy doing this over and over nearly wore his thumb down to the bone, but the Dexys version sounds louder, sharper, more percussive somehow - prompting Andy to ask Phil Savage how had they achieved this sound?…. to which Phil replied “It’s easy…. just use a drumstick instead of your thumb!" After a sharp intake of breath Andy was muttering half to himself and half to the rest of us “Why the F**K didn’t you tell US about this nifty trick then!’ For some reason this incident has stayed with me for all these years.
We continued rehearsing old and new songs in preparation for performing a showcase concert for Stiff Records - minus violin! With just a week to go before the gig Kev had to hire a session violinist (can't remember her name) who commuted up from London.
Before we knew it the audience were there, Stiff Records were there and we performed our hearts out. I'd never felt so good in my entire life as I did that night when it was over. Guaranteed top five hit was talked about by Stiff, and yet it all somehow started to feel a little like the shine was being dulled, like the fire was going out!
I went down to Kev and Yasmin's flat in Old Hill a few days later. Kev had rejected the offer. I asked Kev "what do we do now?" he replied "I dunno, I guess that's it - it's all over."
As Yasmin said - that was the last fizzle!
In any case Andy had gone, Pete was off to do These Tender Virtues, Helen was basking in fame with Dexys. After all that hard work for the last eighteen months or so I felt utterly disillusioned and a little sick.
For me, I never tried to be in a group again, I never stopped playing the guitar - but only for my own amusement. However I have always treasured my memories of The Blue Ox Babes and always will.

In essence I think that my story describes a very ordinary journey of a group of young people trying and almost succeeding to create a very extraordinary and original sound - at a time that was just right to accept it. Forever I will hold the thought that either  'What Does Anybody Ever Think About' or 'Apples & Oranges' could have been among the biggest selling records of the eighties - but for a simple twist of fate.