Updated May 2015Doug Alcock drums, vocals
Although not directly from the Birmingham area, this Evesham-based group known as Cats Eyes had their 'second home' in the West Midlands during the 1960s where they performed and recorded frequently. The group had an amazing dozen singles issued between 1968 and 1972, also under the name 'Spode'. Founding member Doug Alcock who played drums in the band, has sent their story that can now be read here exclusively on the BrumBeat web site as follows:
The line-up listed above formed as 'The Suite' in March, 1967 when two local groups 'The In-sect' and 'Group 66' merged. Dave Busby played with 'Terry Webb and The Spiders' from Stratford on Avon - the same band that had a young John Bonham (Led Zeppelin) on drums (see The Senators).
Roy Banks was from an Evesham group called 'The Sapphires' who had Jim Capaldi (later of The Hellions and Traffic) on vocals. Roy also played with 'The Wavelengths' who had Luther Grosvenor (Mott The Hoople) on lead guitar. I (Doug Alcock) won an award for 'Outstanding Drummer' presented by Midland Beat newspaper at the Birmingham Silver Blades Contest in 1966.
The Suite were signed by the Derek Bruce Agency, an agency that still exists today, and managed by Clive Wells. In December 1967, we did an audition with Cliff Brittle at Domino Recording Studios in Albrighton, Staffordshire and this eventually led to a record deal with Deram. In May 1968 we became 'Cats Eyes'.
Our manager was Cliff Brittle from Stoke on Trent who also managed Pat Wayne and The Beachcombers at some time during the middle 1960s. All our recordings were done at Domino Recording Studios in Albrighton which is just outside of Wolverhampton. Andy McLachlan was the engineer on these sessions.
Some of the regular venues Cats Eyes played at were The Bulls Head and The Swan Hotel, Yardley; The Chalet at Rednal; Connaught Hotel, Wolverhampton; Adelphi Ballroom, West Bromwich; The Station Inn, Selly Oak; The Crown, Station Street; Tally Ho Club, Edgbaston; Birmingham University; Aston University; Top Rank Ballroom, Dale End; The Cedar Club; The Hollybush, Quinton; Ship & Rainbow, Wolverhampton; Hopwood Caravan Park Club, and just about all the clubs in Redditch and Coventry.
Additionally, Cats Eyes played throughout the U.K. appearing at such clubs as the Wakefield Theatre Club, Stockport's Poco A Poco and the Embassy and Broadway in Manchester. We were a regular feature on BBC Radio One, making over 300 appearances and also featured on ATV's popular 'Golden Shot' game show.
We were playing at the Top Spot Ballroom in Ross on Wye with Pink Floyd in their early years. They had just had 'Arnold Layne' and 'See Emily Play' in the charts. Because their act consisted of psychedelic images on the back wall and music that was very progressive at the time, they did not go down well with the pop oriented audience at all. After many complaints, Mr Frear the manager, decided to pay them off and not play their second spot. We had to go back on and play extra time to make up for it. I bet that didn't happen very often!
Cats Eyes debut single 'Smile Girl For Me' b/w 'In A Fantasy World' released in May 1968, was the first of three for the Deram label. Roger Banning and Fil Filby, penned the A-side and the B-side was a Filby composition. As was common at the time, his name was misspelled on the label. Dave Busby and Roy Banks also wrote a few of the group's B-sides. Both sides of their October 1968 release, 'I Thank You Marianne/Turn Around' were composed by Fil Filby.
Most of our BBC recordings were done in Birmingham, first at Walker Hall in Carpenter Road and then at Pebble Mill when it opened. I think we were the first group to record there. Mike Ford was the producer and Bob Hopton was the engineer. We recorded at the ATV studios for a feature on 'The Golden Shot'.
We had a close call one time travelling in our group van bombing up the M6 at 70 miles per hour in the outside lane, when the stub axle broke on the off-side front wheel. We were in the back playing cards when Ken (our roadie) shouted out we've got a problem. Ken was a true hero as he managed to tightly grip the steering wheel and maneuver the van across three lanes of traffic before coming to a stop on the hard shoulder near Hilton Park service station. The front wheel was wedged up under the housing at a 45 degree angle. We were very lucky it wasn't the end of us all. But like true troupers we managed to get a replacement hire van from Godfrey Davis and get to the booking at Whitehaven just in time to do the show. In fact we never missed a booking in all our years of performing.
We used to play at many live BBC Radio 1 Club shows around the country. On one occasion we were playing at Birmingham Top Rank Ballroom and Dave Lee Travis was the DJ. He used to like to play some rock 'n' roll on guitar with us when we were doing the sound check. On this occasion he was leaping around the stage and jumped up in the air with his legs apart and split his trousers all around the crotch! He hadn't got a spare pair so had to borrow some from Fil who was about the same size.
On another occasion of the live 'Radio 1 Club' at the Civic Centre in Stourport on Severn when Noel Edmunds was DJ, the BBC's PA system packed up in the hall just before we went live. This meant the audience in the Civic Centre could not hear what was being broadcast. Panic ensued until Cats Eyes came to the rescue and we hastily assembled our PA system and amplifier so they were able to use it to get through the show. We received a nice letter from Mike Ford (Producer) thanking us for saving the day.
The third Cats Eyes single, 'Where Is She Now' b/w 'Tom Drum', from April 1969, was reminiscent of U.S. group 'The Turtles'. On May 17 1969, we were on BBC 2's short lived 'Colour Me Pop' TV show. Other TV appearances included 'Lift Off With Ayshea' and Granada TV's Discotheque. In late 1969 we signed with MCA who released our fourth single 'The Loser/Circus' in January 1970.
The A-side of our next single outing, 'Come Away Melinda' in April 1970, was used as the soundtrack in a short film shown at a film festival. That summer we went over to Germany and played at Hamburg's Top Ten Club for six weeks. Our next single, 'The Wizard/Hey (Open Your Eyes)' issued in October 1970, had a different sound than previous releases although it still capitalized on the group's vocal abilities.
By 1971 we were making records using different names, although still performing as Cats Eyes for the live shows. One name was 'Spode' and we had re-signed with Decca. The first single under this name was 'Singalong Song/Cincinatti Woman' that was released in March of that year.
Roger Banning left the group in April of 1971. In May, they released a single, 'Breakaway Man/Brotherhood' as 'Toby Jug', before releasing two more Spode singles, 'Funny Kind Of Feeling/Catch It While You Can' and 'Angelina/Happy This Way'.
In February 1972, Fil Filby left the group and was replaced by Keith Ratford. Our final single release, 'Always/Mean Woman Mambo' had the A-side credited as 'Barlaston Down Featuring Barry Joe Palmer'. The line-up finally disbanded in August 1972.
In 1986 Filby, Busby, Banks and Alcock re-united as Cats Eyes and remained active until retiring in 2012 after years of performing locally to enthusiastic audiences. A video recording shows the band playing at Evesham Working Mens Club in December 1988. The line-up for this performance was; Fil Filby lead vocals/rhythm guitar, Dave Busby lead guitar/vocals, Roy Banks bass guitar/vocals, and Doug Alcock drums /vocals. You can view the video on YouTube: http://youtu.be/_fDstGo4K5w. Sadly, Fil Filby passed away from cancer in May 2014.
Copyright © Doug Alcock 2015