Tony Cummings tells the remarkable story of '80s rock band THREE POINT TURN who've released their debut CD years after disbanding
Back in the '70s and '80s the cost of recording a decent-sounding album was such that only a small elite of artists ever got the opportunity to visit the recording studio. For the majority of bands and soloists hard gigging was the sole means of expressing their musical gift and though such grassroots performers lived in hope that one concert a "man with a big cigar" would wander into their dressing room and offer them a recording contract in reality there was scant chance of that happening, particularly if you were a band of Christians playing edgy, evangelistic rock music. So it is hardly surprising that despite more than 10 years of tireless gigging the London-based band who started off as Three Point Turn and later became The Great Escape before disbanding in 1994 left behind the merest handful of recordings. This has recently been, in part at least, rectified with the release of the independent album 'Glad To Be Alive'.
The album was produced by Three Point Turn/The Great Escape's lead singer Paul Naylor who took the time to talk me through the convoluted but fascinating history of one of the best grassroots band of the era. I began by asking what motivated Paul to re-visit Three Point Turn's glory days and pull band members out of retirement to record an album. "The power of computing and digital recording software allowing professional quality recordings to be made on a home computer meant it might just be possible to make the album we'd never had the chance to make, even after all this time. I wasn't interested in trying to get the band back together and start performing live again after such a long absence. But the idea of realising such a long held ambition and getting the guys back together to record an album was very appealing."
It wasn't hard to persuade former band members to get involved. though it was an extremely lengthy process. Said Paul, "My approach to them was very laid back. The good thing about that approach was that people were under no pressure, but the downside was that it took just over two years to get it all done. The first people I approached were Bradley Mason (drums/percussion) and Bill Sherrington (guitar and vocals). Bill and Bradley both live locally and were the two former band members that I had kept most in touch with - indeed Brad and I were at the same church in Surbiton. In addition to Bradley being a great drummer he has had a lot of experience with recording projects. Bill Sherrington - in addition to his musical talents - is a member of the same church as John Merriman who owns and runs Crown Lane recording studio in Morden. Once I had those three guys on board I knew that the project was a goer and I then started to contact other former band members."
The recording sessions were drawn out. Paul had recorded the original guide tracks with guitar and vocals in 2005. Gradually in the coming months other instruments were added with Bradley Mason's drums recorded at Crown Studios, Martin Neil adding percussion at his studio in Northumberland, Russell Stokes cutting keyboard parts at his home studio in Kingston and Paul recording the majority of his input at his home in Kingston where Andy Baker's guitar parts were also added. But there were problems to overcome too. Firstly, bass player Rob Hanstock lost his job and then had to contend with the flooding of his home in Pangbourne. Commented Paul, "Apparently his daughter thought it was great fun wading around the street in her wellies and she was disappointed when the flood water receded! I had to admit that being available to play bass on the album had to be considered a low priority in Rob's family's life at that point."
Then the other one-time Three Point Turn bass player Dave Moore also, it appeared at the time, literally fell out of the recording process. Remembered Paul, "I got a shocking phone call from Dave's wife - 'Please pray... Dave has been taken to hospital.' He had fallen through a roof and plummeted 10 metres onto a stone floor and had broken his neck and shattered his left wrist. He could very easily have died! Thankfully, Dave later made a full recovery despite have broken his C2 vertebrae which can apparently result in paralysis from the neck down (as experienced by the actor Christopher Reeve following a riding accident)."
Paul was able to enlist bass supremo Phil Barker, best known for his work with Iona to record bass tracks. Said Paul, "In the course of one afternoon Phil recorded bass for six songs that I had been unsuccessfully trying to play and record for several weeks." Then a few months later Dave Moore found himself once again involved in the project. "As we were getting to the final stages of mixing I contacted Dave Moore to discover that he had recovered sufficiently to have a go at playing on a few songs. He came in to Crown Lane a few weeks later and recorded parts for four songs and sang some backing vocals, although in the course of a three to four hour session his wrist was visibly swollen as he was still undergoing physiotherapy to regain freedom of movement. The fact that he could play at all was amazing really as he had been advised after the surgery that he would never be able to play guitar again. What a trooper - I was so glad he managed it in the end!"
The resulting album with its mixture of musicians is surprisingly cohesive and truly showcases the punchy '80s rock that had once made them crowd pleasers all over the UK. Formed in East Sheen in 1981 the original line up of Three Point Turn consisted of Paul Naylor (lead vocals, guitar), Paul Ryan (bass) and Dave Meseg (drums). Remembered Paul, "At our first gig we didn't even have a name for our band so a helpful young lady suggested the name Three Point Turn which was gratefully received (coincidentally we were supporting a band called Collision). Those early days were exciting; responses could be sweet or sometimes sour. On Paul Ryan's birthday the organisers of a gig in Harlington generously presented him with a cake mid-set along with a resounding rendition of 'Happy Birthday'. Another time in the vast chapel inside H.M. Prison Wormwood Scrubs Dave Meseg innocently attempted to break the ice with a joke: 'Enjoying your stay?' he quipped from the stage. With hindsight it was not a joke that the 500 or so inmates were likely to see the funny side of. There was a groan followed by a rumble of muttering from the rows of prisoners and the Warders suddenly started looking uneasy."
Three Point Turn's first line up change happened when Paul Ryan left in 1982. A chance meeting between Dave Meseg, while stood in a queue at the Greenbelt Festival, and Dave Moore (former bass player with Liberation Suite and later to be half of the fondly remembered Wesley Brothers) resulted in Moore joining Three Point Turn along with his friend and former band mate Bill Sherrington.
Now a four-piece, and with three part harmonies as well as driving guitar rhythms now part of the band's sound, the band recorded a demo which gained them entrance to 1983's Greenbelt Festival's Rockatunity contest for up and coming acts. The prize of the competition was a mainstage Greenbelt appearance and a single to be released by Word Records. Three Point Turn duly won Rockatunity. The single was produced at Pace Recording Studios in Milton Keynes with one time Clapton bassman and wise old head Dave Markee producing. Meseg wasn't available so Pace's owner and recording engineer Nigel Pegrum depped on drums. The punchy "Just Can't Live"/"Bad Loser" single was the result. Buzz magazine ran a feature on the recording sessions which I remember well (I wrote it!) but with Word having no ability to promote or market a single, it didn't clock up too many sales. What the Rockatunity win DID do though was get Three Point Turn on TV. Anglia Television featured them in a series of religious programmes called Reflections. The band also got a phone call from Simon Hammond, associate producer of the groundbreaking Rock Gospel Show, asking them on to the show. The line up changed again with Dave Meseg leaving to join the band Royal Rendezvous (the band fronted by David Lyle Morris who briefly threatened to break into the mainstream). Martin Neil (Iona, Kevin Prosch, Martyn Joseph) took over behind the kit. In 1986 the band decided on a name change and became The Great Escape. Remembered Paul, "Around the time of the name change Dave Moore introduced the band to Russell Stokes whose excellent keyboard and arranging skills became a key component of the band's next demo and live sound. The line up expanded still further with percussionist Bradley Mason (Noel Richards, Red Touch) who increasingly took over the drumming role as Martin Neil's other work took him away on tour for increasing periods. Eventually Dave Moore's time with the band came to an end when he left to work with long standing friend and songwriter Graham Ord (in the Wesley Brothers). That paved the way for Paul Naylor's friend Rob Hanstock to take over on bass. It was that line up in 1991 with Neil on drums and Mason on percussion that played an unforgettable set at a songwriters showcase at The Orange Club in West London hosted by Laura Pallas."
Paul remembered the gig vividly. "We did three songs, 'Love Makes The World Go Round', 'If I Don't Have Love' (original rocking version) and 'Danger'. I recall sitting at one of the tables and realising that a guy at the next table was the legendary jazz/fusion guitarist John McLaughlin - 'enough to make we guitarists a tad self conscious,' I thought.
"When booking us Laura had suggested I use the house band just because it simplified the logistics but I was adamant that we were a 'band' - not a soloist plus backing band - and held out for us playing it together. She was fine about it, although I suppose she would have been entitled to say if they're good enough for Chaka... (although I remember Chaka actually giving some of the house band a hard time in rehearsal!) She was quite small with BIG hair that seemed to almost fill the stage. I also remember noticing during the sound check that Chaka's voice was so powerful that she would hold the microphone down at around waist level when hitting the loud notes as she hardly needed her voice amplified to fill the venue. She is a very impressive lady!"
Continued Paul, "At one point a guy from one of the other featured bands came up to me and said that he thought our song 'Danger' was '(expletive) brilliant.' I remember being chuffed that somebody 'got it' and liked it enough to bother to tell me. Bill Sherrington has reminded me recently that during the set by the then little known Tori Amos she introduced a song - I can't remember the title, but it may have been that typically direct song about her experience of being raped - and then proceeded to sit cross legged on the stage floor and sing unaccompanied. You could hear a pin drop. I remember watching as Tori sang the rest of her set at the piano and thinking that I was witnessing a unique and powerful performer who was likely to find a much wider audience."
In 1993 the demands of families and day jobs had finally taken their toll and it seemed that the story of Three Point Turn/The Great Escape was at an end. But then came the unexpected 'Glad To Be Alive' initiative. Now that Paul Naylor has at last got the best Three Point Turn songs out to the CD buying public, has the better-late-than-never project achieved what it set out to do? "Yes, I think so," affirmed Paul. "Making the album has been great fun and has rekindled my love and enthusiasm for writing and recording. There is unlikely to be anything more under the Three Point Turn banner but I am already recording a new album for release later this year or early next. The working title is 'Nothing Left To Lose'. You have been warned!"The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.