Red Line

A black and white promotional picture of the band Red Line

Red Line started life in the late 70s on the outskirts of Liverpool, St. Helens to be precise, and were originally known as Petrol, consisting of Neil Ellison guitar and vocals, Les Glover on bass and vocals with Chris Roberts on drums. Neil was the main songwriter in the early days, and a damn fine one too, he was also a big influence and musical inspiration in my early songwriting days, along with Bowie, Bill Nelson and Dr Feelgood. Although St Helens wasn't exactly a thriving scene, with very few venues for original music, there were several local bands trying hard to create one. Red Line mark 1 lasted a couple of years and played anywhere and everywhere that would have them, eventually and with the help of local promoters Jak Jones and Dave C, they hit the city playing The Lincoln's Inn with A Flock Of Seagulls and the famous Liverpool Eric's club supporting Wreckless Eric.

We eventually parted company and Chris and Neil moved down to London and as the 80s blossomed, I moved to the centre of the known musical universe, Rock Ferry! I kept the name, suggested to me by a friend Liam, who stated that when his motorbike speedometer went onto the red line you were really moving and going places… what he didn't tell me was his motorbike was a plastic 50cc one that was permanently into the 'red line', just to keep up with slow moving traffic! Maybe this was a metaphor - were Red Line merely a plastic 50cc moped in a race full of Harley Davidsons? Who knew, and back then who cared, so with the bliss of ignorance and the energy of youth I moved across the River Mersey to join forces with Phil Burns, Chris Nagle, Leo Cubbins and Steve Burns.

Red Line mk 2 didn't gig a great deal but with the handful of songs that I brought with me, as well as a bunch the band had already started, we set to work rehearsing and recording demos and sending tapes to record companies and TV music shows like the Tube, who turned us down, and Granada TV, who didn't (the first of two appearances was recorded December 1981 and aired to an audience several million on a Friday teatime).

Album cover for the newly released 'Into the red, end of the line'

Red Line took themselves too seriously at times, unfortunately no-one else did, including Tony Wilson who, after catching one of their TV appearance, beckoned us to an audience with his highness only to leave us standing outside his office all afternoon! While he bathed in goats milk being fed grapes by a man in a toga… Probably.

A&M records courted us closely for a couple of years and arranged a gig supporting up and coming Manchester band The Chameleons but their enthusiasm turned to indifference and eventually, somewhere along the motorway of popular music our plastic motorbike stalled, in fact the final track Close Another Door recorded by Red Line Mk3 and featuring David Webster and Glen Hodgetts was written about these trying times.

Fast forward 40 years and I'm playing a series of 10th-anniversary gigs with Henry Priestman when an old friend and great supporter of the Liverpool music scene Chris Currie pressed something hard into my sweaty palm… Luckily it was a CD! “Give this a listen, Les.” The CD contained nearly an album's worth of songs that weren't that bad! If you can forgive the fact that they are mastered from 40 odd year-old crumbling tape cassettes (and somewhat iffy sixth form lyrics!), the playing is quite good and the melodies and hooks are fine. Leo and Steve created some genuinely exciting rhythms and beats, and Chris and Phil's interplay on keyboards and guitar is a joy to behold.

Eventually all our hard work turned to apathy and we disbanded. Red Line were never a cool band, never included on any Liverpool compilations and will never be whispered about in the echelons of the Liverpool music scene, but for a short time our plastic 50cc moped was in the race and sometimes, that's enough.