Mike's musical career
My current band is The Lightning, but due to the way that time works, it's not at the end.
- The start
- Banned Wagon
- Caprice II
- Cuddly Spiders
- Ruffian on the Stairs
- Torn in Two
- Naked Touch
- Bleeding Hearts
- Call Me Dan
- The Symptoms
- New Corona Band
- Second Time Round
- The Lightning
- Different Glory
- Spiral Six
It all started back at school, when my younger brother David bought a classical guitar. I kept borrowing it and learning to play on it, and eventually bought my own electric guitar. I finished up playing rhythm guitar in a school-based big band headed by Dave Wright (sax and clarinet), playing Glen Miller music.
Then I went on to university, and four of us in our hall of residence formed a band. As I was probably the inferior guitarist, I went on to bass, initially on the bottom strings of the guitar and then on a Hayman 40/40. The band, Cymex, managed two gigs, and then I dropped out of university.
After that, I didn't do anything with any bands for some time. Eventually I moved to Tamworth and decided to become musically active again, so I pimped myself as a bass/rhythm/lead player and got recruited to a band called BHX as bassist. That was when I started specialising in bass.
Mick Goodby (vcl), Keith Edwards (gtr), Gary Bell (gtr), ? (drums), Mike Fleming (bass)
Keith wrote the heavier stuff, I wrote some ballads.
After a few months and a couple of gigs with them, I left and joined a club band called Night Music (though I did stand in for their new bassist when they got a gig supporting Scarab and their bassist was away).
Anne Wagstaff (vcl), Les Jones (gtr), Lynn Jones (key), Nick Jones (drums), Mike Fleming (bass)
This was a covers band - the music was of the disco and Motown sort of ilk, with shades of more powerful stuff like Blondie.
Mike Fleming (bass, vcl), Steve Shepherd (gtr), Adrian Goodman (drums)
Rachel Vince (vcl) (later addition)
My only lead singing role, this. Steve and I were brought together by guitarist and vocalist Laurence Day, who had to leave himself after a month or two (I can't remember the reason now but it wasn't any sort of band conflict, he was either moving away or couldn't manage to find the time any more). We then recruited Adrian, a very good and versatile drummer, and went on to play gigs around the Tamworth area.
This wasn't actually a band, it was a direct descendant of the Folk Circus which had come into being after one of the Tamworth Rock Festivals. Originally organised by the late Richard 'Bue' Bujack, now Norman Yates and I ran it. One of the regulars, who finally brought his guitar out of retirement and started playing with us, was a chap called Duke. His real name was George Mann, and none of us knew his musical history - he was actually the original vocalist for the Vikings, who later became Carl Wayne and the Vikings after Duke left to do his national service, and subsequently morphed into the Move.
After a while, I took to bringing a bass down, and started backing Duke (and others). Then another guitarist (Tim Latham) joined in too, and after recruiting a drummer, another band was formed. However, I didn't last till the first gig, as the drummer decided he didn't want to play with me (partly because of my other commitments, playing with a couple of other bands too).
Karen Nichols (vcl), Steve Harrop (gtr), Mike Fleming (bass), Dean Cox (drums)
After the demise of the first Caprice, I decided to try again and this time have someone else sing. Steve Harrop was a cracking blues guitarist (he taught it as well as playing it), Dean a large and powerful drummer, and Karen had a good voice and stage presence. Originally her twin sister Beverley was also going to be in, but she decided not to (later, the two of them worked as backing vocalists in a band including Graham Phelps, Beverley's husband).
Sharon 'Captain Piglet' (vcl), Norman Yates (gtr, vcl), Mike Fleming (bass), Dean Cox (drums)
Put together as a fun blues band with the occasional serious song.
Formed from Norman and my joint involvement in the Banned Wagon. Dean Cox had been Caprice II's drummer so I dragged him in. Subsequently Sharon joined on lead vocals.
We played one Tamworth Rock Festival (1986) - that was the memorable wet one, where we had to rapidly decamp with the gear, drumkit, PA, the lot, to the Rathole, a venue which was still very much in construction, and then persuade Dean to compromise one way or another (he'd just bought a nice new Pearl Export kit):
"Don't want to play anyone else's kit"
"OK, how about letting other people play yours?"
"Don't want anyone else to play my kit"
"So how about playing someone else's kit?"
Repeat ad infinitum…
He finally relented and everyone else used his kit.
Ruffian on the Stairs
Steve Blackwell (vcl), Heath Rhodes (gtr), Graeme E. Fisher (gtr), Joe (drums), Mike Fleming (bass)
Rather a different musical direction for me - Ruffian was more a soul band than a rock band. Joe was the lyricist and Heath and Greame (aka Grom) the musical composers. As one of our little projects, we went to Portmeirion to try and do some sort of video.
I'm still not quite sure what caused us to break up - we played the Tamworth rock festival in 1987 and the band was mentioned in the Tamworth Herald as "Mike Fleming's band", due to the fact that I was well-known in Tamworth and the rest of the band were from Lichfield, and that seemed to dent an ego or two. Then Grom got married, and I think that was the final point.
Torn in Two
Brian Page (vcl), Mike Dawson (gtr), Kevin ?(keys), Pete Broadhurst(?) (drums), Mike Fleming (bass)
After the demise of Ruffian, I looked around again and found a slot with a band formerly known as the Ant Hill Mob. Brian, the vocalist, was also the main songwriter. Kevin joined subsequently on keyboards. It was while I was with them that I bought the Warwick bass that I still use as my main bass, and played at the Mean Fiddler (managing to break the truss rod on the Warwick immediately before the gig so playing with a rather bowed neck…).
Wendy Jinks (vcl), Alan Hall (drums), Carl Siviter (gtr), Mike Fleming (bass)
A venture back into heavy rock for me. We played a few places, including an incredibly misplaced booking in some trendy pub in the Black Country (yes, there is at least one trendy pub in the Black Country) where they were expecting us to play current chart covers. We were'nt best please with the agent that booked us that, as we played one set and then had to leave with no money.
Gary Brown (vcl), Steve Brown (gtr), Martin Tracey (key), Dave Robins (drums), Mike Fleming (bass)
This was an originals band. Steve was the main writer, but both Martin and I contributed some songs. For some reason we played one gig in Lichfield on an indie bill, and got slated in the Lichfield Mercury for doing so (indie music at the time wasn't jangly guitars but inarticulate grunting by semi-evolved simians).
High point - playing live on national TV, at some ungodly hour in the morning, on Telethon 90. One of the other bands on was a prison band, and we heard later that two of the members had decided to make the next move in their musical careers and not return to gaol. I don't know whether artistic differences were cited.
Rob Adams (vcl), Steve Shepherd (gtr), Mike Fleming (bass), Kashmir Singh (drums)
Ex-Caprice guitarist Steve and I got back together and recruited vocalist Rob, and then went on the hunt for a drummer. We got down to three - George was only capable of playing one beat, in one time, rather like one of those Duracell drumming rabbits. I can't remember why the second one didn't make it, but the third was Kashmir, who was inexperienced but enthusiastic and obviously talented. We decided to go for original and I was once again songwriter, which I'd rather missed. Among our appearances was an entry in the Tamworth Battle of the Bands - we didn't win through our heat, but the quality of the bands that night was excellent and I suspect it was a hard job to judge it.
Eventually, though, Kash had to leave to move down to London (I have since found that he's moved to Australia). I found a job in Portsmouth just after that, and so the band folded up.
While I was in Portsmouth, I joined a band down there. I know we played in a Battle of the Bands down there, but I can't remember the name of the band or any of the members - I just remember that one of the tracks was called "The Mole" and it was a five piece, keyboards, guitar, bass, drums and vocals.
Steve Brown (gtr, vcl), Mike Fleming (bass, gtr, vcl) - original lineup
Paul Miller (viola), Tracy Smith (drums) - later recruits
Sometime in the early 90s, I got a call from Steve Brown, who I'd played with in Naked Touch. He was fed up of playing loud music and wanted to form an acoustic duo. So we got together and formed Bleeding Hearts. We played at various open mic nights on the folk and not-quite-so-folk circuit, supported both the Strawbs and Edgar Broughton at the Breedon Bar before its demise, and even got an interview on Radio WM. After we become regulars at the Slug and Lettuce and the Catapult Club, a viola player by the name of Paul Miller asked if he could play along with us. We gladly accepted, and later recruited Tracy Smith after getting him to get his drums out of the loft where they'd been for several years.
This was the original four-piece Bleeding Hearts, and we went on to play a variety of gigs, mainly round Birmingham but as far afield as Bath. However, Paul had other commitments with other bands and lots going on in his personal life, and had to leave, and then Tracy decided he was not best pleased with Steve constantly swearing on stage (but had possibly also been recruited by another band) and left, and when Steve asked me if he swore too much on stage and got a non-committal answer, the toys went out of the pram and he advertised in the rehearsal studio for a drummer and bass player who, he said, would have to understand that this was a band with one man in total control. I didn't bother applying for my own job as Steve was getting further and further from the acoustic side and back to the loud side that he'd said he was sick of (and that's where he is to this day, with the current Bleeding Hearts).
All of the songs here are written by me.
Call Me Dan
Kevin Haycox (gtr, vcl), Mike Fleming (bass)
It so happened that while on the folk circuit, Steve and I had encountered someone by the name of Kevin Haycox, and I started playing bass with him. We played regularly at the Roadhouse and at the WMC? Legion? on the Pershore Road nearby, and a few gigs at the White Lion in Stourbridge.
Andy Todd (gtr, vcl), Lawrence Tressler (gtr, vcl), Mike Fleming (bass, vcl), Mike Belson (drums)
Finally, in 2003, I joined another band. Andy and Lawrence had been working together for a while and wanted to complete the line-up - I joined, then there was a brief hiatus while trying to get a keyboard player sorted out (there was a new one every week), then we just went for a four-piece and recruited Mike, a drummer who'd previously played with Lawrence.
We had a mixed set of originals and covers, but although we were thoroughly rehearsed, we never gigged. Finally we did a set at the Tamworth music festival in 2004, and soon after that played for a 50th birthday party, but that was it. I wanted to be gigging again, so started looking for other bands in mid-2005 and eventually left in November 2005.
New Corona Band
Penni Gillis (melodeon), Clif Barfield (dulcimer, w/wind), Peter McCluskie (gtr), Mike Fleming (bass), Karen Fleming (caller)
I was casting around for another band and pimping myself in a music shop in Wolverhampton, and Penni saw my advert and asked if I would like to join a barn dance band. I was very hesitant about it - I'd never played that sort of music at all. But I allowed her to persuade me to come along and play at a gig they were doing at a pub called the Chindit (no dancing, just tunes), and I finished up joining. More details of the band are on the New Corona Band website. Kaz became our caller after I'd done a couple of gigs with them.
Denis McMahon (gtr, vcl), Bob Parker (drums), Mike Fleming (bass), Sue Parker (keys)
Looking back at my diary, I find that my first meeting with Denis and Bob was at the start of August 2005, then I auditioned with them on the 9th and played the try-out gig with the New Corona Band on the 10th. I didn't hear from Denis and Bob for some time and thought I'd been unsuccessful, but it turned out they did want me after all and I first gigged with them on Bonfire Night, 2005, at first as a 3.5 piece band (Sue played occasional keyboards), and later, after recruiting Martin, as a 4.5 piece. Martin later left and we continued as we had begun.
In mid-2009, I decided to leave so as to play more rock-orientated music, and joined Licksntrix (see below). I have depped a few times for them since then. Martin joined back up with the others to create New Street, and I did some deps with them too.
Second Time Round
Karen Fleming (vcl), Mike Fleming (vcl, gtr, bass)
You look for another band and then three come along all at once…
This is one of these stories that you hear of happening to other people and don't think could ever happen to you.
Back in 1977-78, I was going out with a girl called Karen Ivison. That was during my non-playing post-university period, and although I had a guitar knocking around, she never heard me play it. Her dad didn't approve of me and forced her to split up with me - the song that that inspired ("Love Lies Bleeding") has been performed by at least six bands plus me solo as of 2006.
Fast forwarding to 2004, for some reason I had a look for Karen on Friends Reunited, found her there, and got in touch. After a while, we got back together, and after another while, I heard her singing in the kitchen and realised she could sing. So I suggested that we try working as a duo. We tried a few John Denver songs, went to an open mic night at the Roadhouse, and Second Time Round was born early in 2005. So now we're performing the song that that break-up inspired, as well as "It doesn't matter", which is about getting back together again so many years later.
As a consequence of playing regularly at the Roadhouse, and the absence of a resident bass player, I started to play bass with the Roadhouse house band, and became a roaming bass tart with an eye for a chance. It's fun learning songs like "Comfortably Numb" live on stage - rehearsals are for wimps…
With my divorce, remarriage, and move back to Tamworth, and John Benbow's decision to stop doing the Roadhouse open mic nights, I haven't done much of that of late, though there has been the occasional openh mic reunion or party where the old house band or variants thereof have reformed.
Also as a consequence of playing at the Roadhouse, I met back up with Kevin Haycox (see Call Me Dan above and now do the occasional gig with him.
Carl Bittles (vcl, gtr), Kerry Wood (gtr, vcl), Gary Butcher (gtr, vcl), Steve Wood (drums), Mike Fleming (bass)
I decided after some years with Breakaway that I needed to get back to playing rock music, and happened to see an advert from Licksntrix, whose bassist was leaving. I had an audition that went well and was recruited, with the first gig about two weeks later.
I did a few gigs with them, and things seemed to be going well. Then out of the blue, I got a text from Gary the rhythm guitarist telling me that an old friend of the Wood brothers (lead guitarist and drummer in the band) had said he wanted to play in the band, and as a consequence they were sacking me. So that was that, a disappointing end to a good start.
Karen Fleming (vcl), Carl Davies (gtr), Dave Robins (drums), Mike Fleming (bass)
However, a guitarist I'd played with back in the days of Caprice, Steve Shepherd, had contacted me as the bassist with his band, The Lightning, had retired. I'd originally said I'd help out with any gigs he had in the pipeline until he found a replacement bassist, but then I became the replacement bassist.
Andy Evans was the vocalist when I joined the band. However, he disappeared after two or three gigs, and so we recruited Kaz, my wife and co-member of Second Time Round (see above), to replace him. She did her first gig as a rock lead singer the night before her 50th birthday, which shows you're never too old to rock'n'roll.
The original drummer was Terry Campbell, but he finally decided to give it a rest as he was finding it all a bit much. A colleague of mine, Rob Watckins, had happened to mention that he was looking at getting back into a band, and I knew that he used to play the same sort of music as we were doing, so we recruited him.
In 2011, we got two gigs in Munich, and we went down well enough that we were asked back for 2012, just after Oktoberfest, and again in 2013. Terry was drummer for our first trip and Rob for the two subsequent trips.
Steve left in 2014, as he wanted to spend more time doing freelance jewellery. We then recruited Carl who Rob and I knew from work. However, soon after that, Rob decided to leave too for a Redditch-based band (where he lives) doing twin-guitar rock. So it was that we recruited Gary Patching, who was with us from around October 2014 until the end of 2015, when he decided to leave us for his old band (I should say here that we hadn't poached him from them, he'd left them in a crisis of self-confidence and then I'd persuaded him to join us).
Among the drummers contacting us was Dave Robins, the drummer from Naked Touch who I'd last seen about 25 years before. We've now welcomed him into the fold.
Jason Freshwater (gtr, vcl), Colin Lampard (gtr), Ross Mitchell (drums), Mike Fleming (bass)
While I was looking around, I also auditioned for Different Glory, a duo who wanted to expand to a full band. After the audition, which went well, everything went quiet for a time and then Jason and Colin got back in touch, having recruited Ross on drums. We rehearsed for a few months and then played a number of gigs in Tamworth, then branched out to the Kasbah in Coventry.
However, Jason decided that he wanted to pursue a solo career, and this left the band with no material. It's certainly not outside the realms of possibility that the three remaining members will be writing further material and continuing, though it may not be as Different Glory.
Ryan Murphy (vcl), Colin Lampard (gtr), Martin Worrall (drums), Mike Fleming (bass)
Jason had a period of suffering with vocal nodules, so, rather than just put everything on hold, we recruited male and female vocalists Ryan Murphy and Nicky Callan and put together a covers band, Spiral Six. An initial gig at Tamworth's Casa Bar was well received. Subsequently, both Jason and Nicky left the band, which continued as a four piece after a successful debut at the Grapes in Stafford.
More recently, Ross has had to leave the band due to redundancy and getting a job in North Yorkshire, so we recruited Martin Worrall. However, in mid-2014, we put the band on hold ad we haven't revived it yet. We left it open-ended though.
Emma Davies (vcl), Denis McMahon (gtr, vcl), Bob Parker (drums), Mike Fleming (bass), ? (keys)
Years after leaving Breakaway, they got back in touch with me. They'd joined forces with a female vocalist and relations with their bassist had gone downhill, so I joined back up.
I was with them only temporarily as my work with other bands precluded being able to commit fully to them, but subsequently depped for them a few times. Emma has now gone back to solo and vocal group work and the former Breakaway is now New Street, with Martin back on vocals.