AUTOBIOGRAPHY - THE BIRTH OF THE ENID
THE BIRTH OF THE ENID
It was in warm the afterglow of George Lyward’s life, when Finchden itself was fast fading into the shadows – when the sense of loss that we all felt and the impending demise of the community was fast approaching, that The Enid was born.
When the news of Georges Lyward’s death came in 1973, I had just completed my album for Charisma, The Fall of Hyperion. Very quickly, I began to concern myself with Finchden’s fate. Naively, I imagined that the problems facing John Lyward, GAL’s son and heir, would be purely financial and concerned myself with trying to raise money to put the place on a sound footing. Of course, this was not the case.
During the long death throws, I began to spend more and more time at Finchden and soon realised that money would not solve the problem of Finchden’s continuation. John Lyward was determined to close the community and that was that.
At the time and for years to come, I blamed John Lyward for what I regarded as a weak and selfish decision. I completely failed to see, at the time, how silly my attitude was. Thankfully I have made my peace with John Lyward and acknowledged the wrong I did him in my heart and the pejorative comments I have made over the years.
In the autumn of 1973, Finchden was in the throes of closing up for good leaving many of the boys with nowhere to go.
It had always been the custom to mark the various changing of the seasons at Finchden with an event involving the whole community. A Summer Dance – The Christmas Party and most importantly, the annual play.
Every year a play would "happen". It quite often took nine months to get everything ready – a script had to be chosen or written - the stage had to be built in the hall – a set had to be designed and built – costumes had to be made - a cast had to be chosen – lines had to be memorised and rehearsals had to take place.
Sometimes it was Shakespeare – sometimes a thriller – sometimes a musical. Occasionally, someone would write something specially and a marvellous home-grown effort would come into being and live like a pagan king for a year before dying on the altar of memory, never again to be resurrected as itself but living on in the hearts and memories of those who were there. And the swansong of Finchden was just such a thing - Finchden’s final theatrical production, "The Quest for the Holy Grail".
My contribution was that I was there. I was in a position to lend certain pieces of musical equipment but I played no part in the creative effort. The two composers of the Grail Music were Francis Lickerish and Stephen Stewart and that is how I got to know these two young men well.
The whole thing seemed to come out of nothing. It emerged organically from within our midst in the most exquisite way – there was no single author and no single director. Instead the production grew like the tree of life from a seed sown long ago. The subject matter was highly emotionally charged and spiritually deafening.
Altogether, there were five performances over five nights. They were given in front of the Finchden community, plus parents, friends of Finchden, and invited guests.On the eve of the final performance, the atmosphere in the house was tingling with potential. Like a summer storm, it had been building all day. As the, by now, familiar opening music began, played by Francis Lickerish, Steve Stewart and David Williams, this atmosphere increased by an order of magnitude. What had started out as a piece of homemade entertainment transformed itself into a medieval ritual of salvation.
As Finchden drew it last breath – as Naciens greeted the Grail – the heavens broke and waves of hysterical emotion swept us up in maelstrom of numinous abandon. Some thought they actually saw the grail appear on stage, others wept – some went wild – some withdrew into themselves.
For me, it was an unforgettable, life changing experience.
In the wake of the final performance, people began to get scared – a tentative date in June 1974 had been marked as the official closing date. Shortly after that, I formed a plan to build a band around The Grail Music, and the people who had composed it. As it turned out, neither Francis, Steve or David Williams had made any definite plans for the future, none had a place to go and it was an easy transition.
On June 1st, 1974, the four of us moved to a rented semi-detached house in the Kent village of Cranbrook. We were not yet calling ourselves, The Enid – in fact it would be sometime before we finally took the plunge over a name.
These early days were mainly taken up with making demo recordings of the grail music more or less, as it existed at that time alternating with Bridge games to six in the morning. I also composed two new works of my own - The Lovers and Ondine.
Although I had some money coming in from my existing recording contract with Charisma records, things didn’t really get underway until the late summer. That was when, my rich cousin, Angus Boucher, came in with an offer of management, some substantial cash for equipment and a proper home for us to live in. Effectively we had a manager in waiting. This turned out to be a dangerous double edged sword, and its significance will emerge later in the telling.
Being in the band in those days was always going to be a compromise for me. Also, I was still young, idealistic and more than a little naïve. Although I was a little older than the Steve Stewart and Francis Lickerish, the direction of the band and the creative themes which informed it had to be those around which we could all coalesce.
Like me, Francis was extremely
opinionated and stubborn. It soon became clear that unless we could find some kind of common ground, we would not be able to work together. Although I had received a formal education at The Royal College of Music, whereas the then members of the band were all self-taught, this proved to be almost irrelevant. What made this essentially a non-issue was that they were without exception, highly intelligent creative people and collectively more than a match for me.
It was within this highly charged atmosphere that the future Enid took root. Therefore the common ground, I mention above, was by consensus restricted to mysticism, fantasy, mythology, allegory, The Renaissance and nineteenth-century romanticism. And though Francis and I held antithetical views with regard to how we, as human culture, were supposed to interpret all this stuff: so long as we kept our counsel, we were able to cope with each other. The downside of this for me was that politics, psychology, social issues, religion, science, intellectual rigour and philosophy concerning the real world were no-go areas.
I had realised at the outset that the band stood little chance of making it big unless we were able to find and absorb a potent frontman with a distinctive and romantic voice. I knew just the man – he had visited Finchden a couple of times in the late sixties as my guest. He was someone I had met indirectly through The Royal College of Music. His name was Peter Roberts and he was trying to make his way as an actor.
I had talked him into joining the band in late November 1974 and he had paid us all a brief visit just before Christmas. The plan was for him to finish the Christmas panto role he had in Brighton and join us all in Maidstone where we now all lived, in the New Year.
On New Year’s Day, Peter committed suicide. To this day, I don’t really know why, but this disaster put everything on hold, as far as I was concerned. I couldn’t see us finding anyone else to replace him - nor could I see how we could do without him.
The rest of the band didn’t really take in the significance of Peter’s death – none of them knew him well – to them he was a future potential which wasn’t, after all, going to happen. I decided to press on as we were. In fact, we did not yet have the full or right complement of musicians – in particular, we needed a drummer. We advertised for one and got Dave Storey.
David Williams, on the other hand, had next to no ability as a bass player and I knew, having met his family that he would probably drift away sooner or later. He was eased out in circumstances that I am not proud of, particularly as my motives were tainted. I will always be able to justify why David had to go, because there were genuinely good reasons and it was the right decision. It was obvious that he was never going to be right for the band on musical or personality grounds – but – I had other reasons for wanting him out – reasons I don’t really want to go into, shameful as they were, to protect the feelings of others. Let it be said that my conduct was pretty reprehensible.
As David Williams left, my friend, Glen Tollet arrived. I had met him in the summer of 1972 in Devon, where he was on holiday with his parents. He was an amazing musician, a multi-instrumentalist and very clever with chords – he had perfect pitch and very good looks and dare I say it very well endowed. Now we were ready.
THE FOUNDER MEMBERS
Strictly speaking, the founder members of The Enid were John Francis Lickerish - Peter Roberts - Stephen Stewart - David Storey - David Williams and me; six in all. The new member, Glen Tollet replaced David Williams.
HOW WE CAME BY THE NAME – THE ENID
I have told so many lies and half-truths about this over the years that I hardly know the truth of it myself anymore. I think this is about as near as we are going to get to it.
The name came long before the band was even the merest twinkle in the eye of the future: During the late sixties the phrase “The Enid” arose from a very tall story I told to my closest Finchden friend, Nick Morse concerning an “Enid” I had met in Oldham.
Somehow, “Enid” or “The Enid” dependant on context became a brief but potent byword within the Finchden community. Its meaning was non-specific – a Joker in the pack - a “lost for words” word. Like Humpty Dumpty said: 'When I use a word, it means just what I choose it to mean - neither more nor less.'
“The Enid” was a Humpty Dumpty word that was either used as a substitute noun or to exemplify any adjective or verb which needed spicing up. - A silly piece of fraternal amusement. Now, our nascent band had reached a stage where it still had no name and the situation demanded a decision.
When the band’s manager (cousin Angus) reminded us that he was paying the bills and told us all he would impose a name he had thought of and liked. When we asked him what it was, he proudly enunciated his truly appalling idea: “Thanksgiving”!! - We puked – toyed with “The Famous Five” and wholeheartedly embraced “The Enid” as the winner. Now you finally know the truth. Well - not quite!
There was no Enid in Oldham - Enid was actually the name of a great aunt and not a girlfriend at all. Ever seen the film Strangers On A Train? - Like Alfred Hitchcock, I got a great deal of amusement out of these rather silly middle-class middle-aged women, with fake “connections” to the aristocracy, and nothing better to do than spend their whole time talking about money, their racehorses and arranging their social lives.
Such was my auntie Enid – Queen of Sittingbourne. My mother’s family were full of that stuff. Mostly crooks who profited out of the misery of others during WW2 whilst passing themselves off as financers, tycoons and landed gentry. As is often the way with a family who have made the transition from the gutter to Rolls Royce in a single generation, they tended to be posher than posh. It is where Cousin Angus Boucher's money came from. He certainly didn’t earn it. The family made it and I spent it! Poor Angus; he was weak, a bit of a dunce but a fundamentally very decent guy indeed. His feelings for his family were not that different from mine.
On the other hand, his father, Eric Boucher was true to form and a bully. My mother told me that Eric once worked out how much an hour it cost to keep poor Angus at Harrow and used it as a stick to beat him with. I am not sure whether taking his money makes me a hypocrite or an avenging angel as he eventually lost the lot.
To be continued
Copyright Robert John Godfrey