White China Heading East
|Posted by CaL on 10 January, 2013 at 11:20|
Dunfermline Press 10.01.13
By Gary Fitzpatrick Photo by Callum Kay © 2013
The intriguing story of ‘80s Dunfermline band White China,who are bigger in the Philippines than in Scotland, is about to take another twist when they visit their far flung fans in the Far East.
The group were teenage sensations in the early ‘80s securing recording deals for the UK and the States.
However, their dreams were snatched away when their debut album was never released and they ended up going their separate ways.
It was decades later that they discovered their singles were regularly played on radio in Philippines and the band had a keen following on the other side of the world.
They are planning to visit the country later this year to play gigs and take up TV invitations.
The band, which got back together a year ago to support Big Country at the Alhambra, will be playing a gig in Kinross later this month.
Keyboard player Jeff Bernstein said, “Big Country were celebrating their 30th Anniversary last year and we had originally supported them in 1983 on the ‘Steeltown’ tour.”
“They asked us if we would reform to mark the occasion and support them again at the Alhambra. We decided to go for it.”
“We had seen so many ‘80s bands reform and there was a calling from the Philippines for it because it turned out we were popular out there.”
“They had been playing our second single ‘Smiles and Jokes’out there since the mid ‘80s which was quite bizarre. We thought why don’t we have a nice mid-life crisis and have some fun so that’s what we’ve done.”
“After the gig at the Alhambra we didn’t know if we wanted to continue but because we were enjoying it so much we’ve decided to keep on going until it’s not fun anymore.”
“We had all gone off and done our own things playing in different bands. It was great to get back together in the original band we’d started when we were just 15 years old.”
“It was brilliant when we were on stage at the Alhambra. We were laughing afterwards saying we all felt like we were 17 again.”
Jeff and drummer Kenny Graham were playing with Bruce and Jamie Watson in The Elektrik Cirkus at a gig in Newcastle when they found out White China were big in the Philippines.
He recalled, “We knew nothing about it. We knew Filipinos are completely into ‘80s music and vinyl. It’s the only stuff they’re interested in playing.”
“I went outside the stage door to get some fresh air and saw this girl standing with a radio banner from the Philippines and I recognised the logo.”
“We spoke to her and she couldn’t believe it. They had been trying to hunt us down and find out what had happened to us.”
“It’s really bizarreand I don’t think we’ve got our heads around it. For 28 years they’ve been playing those first two singles ‘Real World’ and ‘Smiles and Jokes’ and they still get played a lot to this day. It’s really weird and for us it’s a bit of fun.”
“We didn’t know how we’d go down after such a long time but after the response we got at the Alhambra we thought let’s enjoy it. We’re having a good laugh together, enjoying rehearsals.”
The original band members were at school at Queen Anne,Dunfermline High and St Columba’s when they got together in the early ‘80s playing local venues such as Maggies, The Chimes and supporting the Theatre of Hate at the Glen Pavilion.
This lead to support slots with Big Country and they were soon attracting widespread interest from major record labels.
Jeff said, “We were all into music, all big fans of the Skids back then and it was the in thing at the time to be in bands.”
“Dunfermline was generating a lot of music and there was a huge buzz created. There were so many young guys forming brilliant bands. You could go into any pub in Dunfermline at the time and there was a band playing,a brilliant time.”
“We got a lot of recognition from the tours. I think our first gig supporting Big Country was in ‘Night Moves’ in Sauchiehall Street,Glasgow in 1981. This was all before they broke and became the huge success that they were.”
“We signed to Island Records and Stiff Publishing about1982. I think the youngest member of the band was just 13 at the time.”
“As it turned out, we got messed about a little bit. I was about 17 when we signed the contract. We went off and recorded an album which was never released.”
From being on the label that had also signed up U2, Roxy Music and Bob Marley with a glittering future apparently ahead of them, White China’s dreams were dashed and they split up. How did they cope?
“It passed,” said Jeff, “We just got on with our lives. We got different day jobs and went our separate ways but we always kept in touch.”
The band are now busy trying to figure out the chords to those old songs from their hey-day.
“We’re deep in rehearsals doing stuff we haven’t played in 30 years. It’s a case of listening to tapes and getting the structure of these songs back together again, trying to remember them.”
Does it take them back to their youth? “Yes until you look around the room. These were guys that had the 1980s ‘Flock of Seagulls’ hairstyles,”laughed Jeff.
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