Tower Struck Down

Nursing, managing a successful pub and driving delivery vans has  helped to pay the bills, but playing the bass guitar has always been Nick Bayes‘ passion. From youth clubs to Crewe pubs, international tours to Glastonbury and more – it’s been a proper rock ‘n’ roll ride. Years later, he’s still knocking out tunes with old mates…

a Nick Bayes' TSD tattoo 6x6 s“My mum and dad grew up in Crewe, but dad’s engineering work took him all over the world. In the late 60s they were living in the Lake District, but a few years after I was born we came back to Crewe and we settled on Gainsborough Road. My interest in music started soon after I went to Ruskin School, and yet it was my friends at Kings Grove who were starting to play in bands at the time. I played guitar but the bass fascinated me. That’s what got me really hooked, so I started a band called Organised Chaos with a mate called Martin Thomasson. We were about 14 at the time and we couldn’t get into the pubs, so our first gig was at the youth club on Browning Street. It was behind the Methodists Church and you went down some steps, almost into a basement. It was all teenagers like us, but it was a great first show, very boisterous as I remember. I played bass and worked a drum machine while Martin played guitar and sang. I always smile when I hear ZZ Top’s Sharp Dressed Man, because that was our opening track. There’s probably an embarrassing tape of it knocking around somewhere!”

Humble beginnings, but gigs would play a huge part in Nick’s life. “Martin and I stayed together for several years and we had another band called Boomerang when we left school. It was a bigger set-up, with Heather Shepherd on keyboards and Ian Hayward on drums, and a singer called Simon Gibbs who went on to play in Angels With Dirty Faces. I think they had a number one in Japan in the early 90s! We played all over the town, including the Crewe Carnival in 1985. We also did a few gigs at the Naval Association on Eaton Street. But we spilt up, as young bands often do, and I was in limbo for a while.”

Then came a bit of luck. Training to be a nurse and based at Leighton Hospital, it was the launch of a new music venue that grabbed Nick’s imagination. “A guy called Mike Darlington had just bought the Leisure Club on Edleston Road. He was part of a really big musical family, and because they all had connections in the industry the club’s music nights gained momentum quickly. I went along and jammed with some fantastic musicians, really talented people. So I started to learn and improve. The whole scene in Crewe stepped up a gear and bands were coming to the town from all over to play at the club. Other venues were putting live acts on, like Pinchers, the LMR and the Cheshire Cheese pub, but the Leisure Club really stood out. Around 1990 it was renamed and it became Micky D’s. That’s when I got involved with a band called Tower Struck Down. They were a well-established group with a punk/folk sound. They’d played all over the country during the 80s and Mark Callaghan, known as Cal, was the lead singer. He asked my mate, Neil, to audition for them but, for whatever reason, he said no. Still, he suggested that they gave me a shot at it. I was flattered and remember thinking they were out of my league. But I got the job!”

c Nick with Tower Struck Down

Involvement with a professional band meant giving up nursing, relentless practice and extensive touring – just what a young musician craved. “There’d been a hiatus before I joined and Cal was rebuilding the band. He was writing his own material and was heavily influenced by The Waterboys, a kind of Celtic sound. We spent some time rehearsing at the Darlington’s farmhouse where Cal was living at the time. A bloke from Sandbach, Simon Mellor, became the drummer and Brendan Darlington eventually took over as the guitarist. We took the new line-up around the country for a while, but to complete the Celtic look and sound Cal wanted to recruit someone who could play a traditional folk instrument. Martin “Bunny” Wright was the answer as he brought the fiddle and banjo to the line-up, and that really took us down the folksy road. That’s when we started to play the festivals and we did gigs the length and breadth of the country. We even travelled into Europe and had a regular following wherever we toured. They were great, wild times. We had the look of travellers and around that time a group of German hippies followed us from gig to gig, all over France. Martin quit while we were in France, and while we were out there Brendan’s brother joined the band. We had another fiddler from Macclesfield called Kate for a while but she left for family reasons. Thankfully, while touring in Northampton we met a girl called Clare Smith, who became known as Fluff, and she stayed throughout the rest of my time with the band. I suppose the high spots for me were supporting the late Kirsty MacColl and playing Glastonbury in 1993.”

c Nick Bayes on guitar at Whatfest 09

All good things come to an end and for Nick his family had to come first. “They were fantastic times, but when my son, Daniel, was born in 1993 it became very hard to fit everything in. I tried to carry on but the family was my priority. So I settled down and worked as a paramedic. I suppose I dipped out of the music scene for about five years, although I played the odd session here and there. I didn’t get involved again until I divorced in 1999. The first thing I did was go out and buy a new bass guitar. It was one of those impulse decisions, a new start. I hooked up with Simon Mellor again, plus a guy called Ged Mitchell and hit the pubs as a covers band. We eventually called ourselves Pantz! It was fun, made a few quid and fitted in around our jobs. I’d ended up running the Bear’s Paw at Warmingham with my partner, Sarah, so a couple of gigs now and then were perfect. But I always hankered to be fully involved again, it just had to be the right project.”

The pub stint came to an end in early 2008 and Nick and Sarah bought one of the newly converted flats in the former police training college off Nantwich Road. The day job involved driving a van, but an improving music scene kept his soul kicking. Then the Crewe Live 08 festival provided a great weekend of entertainment and also presented an opportunity. “Being able to wander from pub to pub, watching up-and-coming bands was superb. There was a great vibe around Nantwich Road, Mill Street and Edleston Road. I watched a band called Smart Girl & The Traxx and the lead singer was phenomenal. She had a stunning voice – and wrote her own songs. So I went to see her again at The Imperial the following day. Her name was Chloë Chadwick. A few months later she had split from her band and I bumped into her. We had a chat about the music industry and we just clicked. There was no intention to play bass with her, but that’s what happened. We called the band Chloë and focused on her vocals. Who knows where it might lead? In the background I’ve teamed up with old mates Neil, Steve and Lee to play 70s and 80s covers under the name Foulplay, a bit of fun, just mates playing songs we love. And that’s how I like it. It’s what I’ve always done.”

d Nick with Foulplay band


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