The Way - The Rise and fall of a Mod band
From left to right: John Harrison (bass guitar/backing vocals), Ian Deakin (Drums), Tony Beesley (Guitar/songwriter/backing vocals), Terry Sutton (Vocals/Guitar/Songwriter)
The Way were a Rotherham and Mexborough area Mod band of the mid 80's and came together from the Mod band 'Reaction' (also known as the rather naff sounding 80's Reaction for a short while) and adding Mexborough Mod musician Terry Sutton to the ranks in Feb 1985.Their story began not long after the demise of the original Punk Rock era.
Tony Beesley … “I had been playing guitar for some time now, well in a fashion anyway. I knew some basic chords and could make a row that’s for sure. I had formed a couple of Punk groups that were to be honest atrocious. I knew I had to keep soldiering on though and no matter what I wasn’t going to have any lessons. I wanted to develop my own style with my own influences.
I had known John Harrison from the Punk days and then his involvement in the Mod Revival. He was also a mate of local Punk Bryan Bell who I also knew. We would meet up at a local pub about mid 1982 and have a few beers and chat about getting a group together. Myself and John, quickly came to realise that we had much the same ideas and aims, so we formed a group. There was only the two of us to begin with. I showed John some bass lines I had written and he picked up really fast. We then started to write our own songs as well as doing covers of The Who, Kinks and Tamla Motown standards. We were called Control at first, with us both having a crack at singing. We then got a rehearsal room up at Rawmarsh comp and it all sort of snowballed from there.
We would write scores of songs in preperation for when we would get a proper full line up together. Some of the songs I recall were 'Just for a chance', Reasons', 'It's ok!' and 'Just the same as before'.
After over a year of learning to play and rehearsing, we got Mexborough Mod and drummer Ian Deakin in and changed our name to 'Reaction', playing gigs at Rawmarsh youth club and continuing to write our own stuff. We tried a couple of singers but no-one could fit in with our musical vision so we remained a three piece. Although we were not that profficient with our instruments...apart from Ian on drums who was quickly learning his craft, we had some great times and the laughs were never ending. We were young, daft and keen to make our mark on the world."
Tony Beesley... "One of the best things about those times was buying all the Mod clothes and wearing em either at Mod nights, down the pub, or at rehearsals. I was buying lots of button down shirts, sta-prest trousers, bowling shoes, Fred Perry polo shirts, varying styles of cravats and the classic Mod black suit.. John was always a fantastic dresser; really smart and had been a Mod for some time. I was kind of influenced by his taste in clothes too. Ian looked great. He had this kind of really cool American college boy look for a while - which is very Mod - and as he settled in with us, was getting more and more into the Mod look... developing his own unique style. Musically, whereas I was very much into the sixties Mod groups and heavily influenced by Soula nd R&B, Ian was more fond of the contemporary Mod inclined bands such as The Prisoners and The Gents etc. John was a massive Jam fan and soaked up the many Mod sounds that were listening to."
Ian Deakin: Drums Tony Beesley: Vocals/Guitar/Songwriter
'Reaction' continued writing songs and played the odd gig at Rawmarsh youth club to a mixture of teenybop pop fans, friends and local Mods. Songs written during this period were 'Never too late', 'You in one' and 'Shout Shout'. Vocalists were tried out but no one fit the bill.
Tony Beesley ... "My biggest influences at that time, apart from Weller, was The Small Faces, The Who, Kinks, Stax, Tamla Motown and sixties Mod groups such as The Creation. But, the Punk erea was still firmly entrenched within my conciousness and the influence of The Clash was never far away. Out of the contemporary groups around at that time (83-84) I liked Orange Juice, the Smiths, Tracie Young, Billy Bragg and the Style Council."
John Harrison: Bass guitar/Vocals
In February 1985 'Reaction' were joined by Mexborough Mod and seasoned musician Terry Sutton on Vocals and guitar. Terry and Tony quickly developed a good songwriting partnership and between them came up with originals 'Days like Tomorrow',' Walk it Talk it', instrumental 'Catch that Dream' and the single that never was - Mod favourite and Tamla inspired 'Sock it!' After a warm up gig at (yet again the Rawmarsh youth club) the group re-christened themselves 'The Way' and set about playing a series of local gigs at venues such as Mexborough Civic Hall, Conisborough Station Hotel and Rotherham Clifton Hall etc. Their set consisted of originals as well as covers of Jam, The Who, Kinks, Curtis Mayfield and the proverbial Mod classic 'Louie Louie'.
A Demo tape was recorded in Doncaster and the
group managed to hand it over to Paul Weller with the hope of getting some recognition from one of their Mod heroes. The Way continued to gig and rehearse that Spring and Summer, also gaining some local press coverage and a mostly warm reception from the local Mod crowd. Things were looking good for the group and it seemed that their star was shining bright for a few months in 1985.
Steve Emmerson (Chesterfield Mod)...“I liked The Way. They were a good band and perfect to start any Mod event. They were raw but talented; very powerful with a Jam style but you could also hear where their other influences were coming from. They always went down really well with all the Mods that I knew and saw at the Rotherham do’s."
Two early Way photo shoots for a local Mod fanzine 'Target' the 2nd photo appearing with Sound engineer Neil, fanzine editor Richard Clarke and local Mod organiser Paul Critchlow.
Tickets and a set list
In June 1985 a chance to play at the Scarborough Mod weekend came along and the band set off in Terry's Dad's transit van; the group and Tony's girlfriend packed into the back of the van with their amps, guitars and clothes. Following a bumpy journey, the band arrived in Scarborough to the sight of Mods all over the town. It seemed that 'The Way had arrived home!
John Harrison … “That Scarborough gig was the high point for me. It was unbelievable. What an experience and so much better than the Rotherham Live Aid event that we did.”
Ian Deakin … “I do remember that gig and yes it was one of the best. I really enjoyed it. John showed his appreciation by wrecking something to do with the conservative club down Huntris row. He could get quite violent at times especially after too much to drink and where politics were concerned. He would go off on rants every now and again. But he was a great kid really and I always liked him: Funny bloke as well.”
Tony Beesley ... "It was a fantastic gig, we went down extremely well, much to our great surprise. Before long we had the Mods really on our side and it was a superb buzz. I don't care what anyone says, for me it was one of the best times of my whole life. It was everything I had been building up towards and it now seemed that all the hard work we had all put into the group was finally paying off."
Above: Scarborough and the day after the event
Above: Rotherham Mod 15 year old Darren Marsden (with girlfriend). Darren was an enthusiastic fan of The Way. Sadly he passed away the following year.
Following the weekender, The Way rehearsed a new set and played some more local gigs. Unfortunatley, the highs of Scarborough were a far cry away when the group played another gig at Mexborough's Civic Hall. Spurred on by Tony followed by John (who gave the audience a mouthful of abuse for being unreceptive and disinterested), the band put down their instruments and walked off stage. Not one of The Way's greatest moments. The strain was begining to tell and musical differences would soon be looming around the corner.
John and Tony backstage at Rawmarsh Baths Hall Summer 1985
One of the next gigs was one at Rawmarsh Baths Hall, where things turned out just as eventful!
John Harrison … “It was mayhem that night; one of the bouncers had it in for one of the lads who was with us and they were going to fight but as the bloke pulled his fist back he whacked Tony’s then girlfriend and knocked her out. It all kicked off from there and ended up spreading outside and the cops turning up.”
Tony … “During all the trouble I saw John grab hold of the takings, which were in a green cash box we had. I didn’t realise what happened until the next day when I had flashbacks of what I saw. It was quite funny really.”
John Harrison… “I shared the money out for the four of us. It was a case of some for Tony, a quid for Terry; ten bob for Ian and oh a few quid in the back pocket for me. It was total mayhem so it was like ‘cash from chaos’ so to speak.”
Tony… “No one got paid, the DJ, the bouncers, the sound engineer the roadies; they all ended up donating their services for free - unwittingly of course.”
Rotherham held its own Live Aid event in August 1985 with many local bands playing from early on until later in the night. The Way turned in an average performance around early evening. Following their set, the group members went their own ways...some going home, some stopping for the rest of the event. Soon, the split would be very real for the classic Mod line up version of The Way.
More local press in August appeared as well as a semi-profeesional photo shoot. Towards the summers end, both Tony and Terry began writing new material...but not togetherOne of Tony's new songs was a departure from the classic 'way' sound of r&b uptempo movers such as 'Walk it Talk it' and 'Sock it!'...'Love becomes Politics' was performed for the very first, and only time during the Rotherham Arts Centre gig in September. This was to be the very last public performance given by the 1985 Mod line up.
Tony Beesley ... "I was starting to feel the need to move away from the power pop Mod style...all guitars and energy and being more increasingly influenced by Black music as well as Dexy's Midnight Runners..who had just released their seminal 80's album 'Don't stand me down'. No one I knew at the time had any respect for that record, but I became intoxicated with it, and wanted to add a Brass section to our line-up. I am not entirely sure what Terry wanted in hindsight, but me and John were keen to start moving in a new direction. Ian was really close to Terry...so after some more rehearsals, the game was up and the group split in two... me and John went our own way whilst Ian and Terry went theirs. It was an hard decision to make and a shame to end it all, but there was no way of avoiding it..it just had to happen."
The Way went their seperate ways late 1985...John remaining loyal to fellow founder member Tony. Unfortunately after trying out varous musicians, including jazz drummers, funk influenced bass
players, wide eyed aspiring female soul singers and numerous others, the follow up musical venture to The Way fell through for Tony - who gave up on playing alltogether (apart from a very brief return to The Way in 1987) and started his own fanzine. Meanwile John succombed to the lure of playingBass guitar once more with Terry and Ian...appearing on their next Demo tape in 1986 which included the tracks 'I won't give in', 'War Hero' and one of Terry Sutton's finest songs 'The Torch' a mid tempo blue-eyed soul belter. The intereviews, gigs and accolades returned once more for this new revitalised 'Tony free' The Way...now influenced as much by The Redskins and The Clash as any remaining Mod tendencies. They were even interviewed and given front page cover for Populist Blues - Tony's new D.I.Y local music fanzine late in 86.
John Harrison was prompted to leave the bass playing duties to make way for Jon White who remained with the group some years down the line before eventually hitting the big time writing and performing with Groove Armada, Stone Roses guitarist John Squire's 'Sea Horses' and becoming an highly respected session musician. From 1986 a Brass section was added to the sound of The Way giving the hard edged Soul tinged vocal sneering angst a driving stax sound.
Reviews in the NME, local TV appearances and further new songs recorded were all part of The Way's 86-87 period. Tracie Young (of the 'House that Jack built' single fame) joined the ranks for a while and things looked to be on the up again.
Various line ups appeared throughout the remaining years of The Way's career...but the big break never came. The musical climate changed and as Dance music and shoe gazing Indie Rock became the in-thing for a vast proportion of the nations youth, there seemed no real place for a damned good Rock n' Soul band with a Political mandate from the North of England.
Terry continued his ever-changing musical trip with numerous groups, line ups and styles, producing an exceptional set of songs with an early 90's venture called 'The On'. Songs such as 'Here and then she's gone' and 'Flowers up the Drive' really should have been recognised for the classic Pop that they were.
Terry and Ian...now play together as the Special Guest stars. Tony and John never went back to playing ever again. The Mod influence never left Tony and he remains to this day a Mod with a Punk rock attitude.
John Harrison ... “When I look back on my Mod days… obviously the best times were when I was playing with The Way. I sometimes think nowadays – though – that if we had have carried on me and Tony would probably not have been around now. I know I certainly wouldn’t have been alive. The temptations would have been too much and who knows what we would have got into and how we would have ended up. Yes, it all happened for a reason really and the ending was quicker than I would have imagined but good or bad it was all worth it.”
Terry Sutton ... " One of the things I remember was how much of a slog it was, taking my guitar and case on the bus, getting there and having to lug everything up those damn stairs. Hard times."
Tony Beesley ... "There were some laughs back then and some great moments when everything seemed to be happening just right. For a very brief period of early to mid 85 it was almost perfect. But, being young and having differing views on how things should be, there was not much room for diplomacy. The disagreements and sometimes heated arguments eventually became too much and stupidly we let go of something potentially very special. In hindsight, there are many things that I would change, but maybe that would not have been right. We were what we were: 4 young Mods wanting to- naively -change the world with our music and ideals."
The Way are now quite fondly remembered by many 40 something ex - Mods. Their career, if you could call it that, was fairly brief and ultimately they have now become just another foot note in local music history. They may never have hit the big time or even released any actual official recordings (though many tracks and whole gigs exist to this day)... nevertheless, for a short period of time...The Way were of the moment, playing their songs to the Mods of the day and hoping to make their mark on the world. They did achieve that in a small way... it was their best shot and it was great while it lasted!
Photos, tickets, press clippings all taken from Tony Beesley's collection...though recognition is due to both Ian Deakins sister Jan who took the black and white photo session and to Ian and Terry for the use of the original negatives all those years ago.
Some above quotes are extracts taken from the Book 'Our Generation: The Punk and Mod children of Sheffield, Rotherham and Doncaster 1976 - 1985 available to purchase from this site - see our home page.