2000?-xx-xx - Recoil - Historyhttp://recoil.co.uk/oldside/afiles/hist/area.htm
He continued to study the piano independently until his interest in Bach and Beethoven was being replaced by Bowie and Bolan, and his desire to play in the orchestra was tempered in favour of a yearning for less innocent pastimes. By 1975, at the age of 16 (following moderate 'O' level success), a return to St. Clement Danes to study for his 'A' Levels didn't appeal and after just one more term, he opted out, applied to every recording studio in London and eventually secured the position of Tape Op. (studio assistant) at DJM Studios in the West End.
Alan reflects "I was great at the more musical aspects of studio work such as tape editing, drop-ins etc, but useless when it came to the patch bay or routing the mic lines through to the tape sends."
As DJM housed it's own record label, Alan found himself engineering on in-house productions as well as working with outside artists and it wasn't long before his keyboard skills were being sought after for session work. Inevitably, this demand for his services and his desire for a more creative role would lead him away from his current position and he remained with DJM Studios for just one year before moving to Bristol to join one of their bands, The Dragons.
The Dragons released the single 'Misbehavin' through DJM Records but after a frustrating lack of success and, more importantly, money, the group folded when the record deal eventually ran its course.
Together with fellow Dragons bassist Jo Burt, Alan returned to London some 6 months later under his pseudonym 'Alan Normal' - a necessity in the anarchic days of punk - to join newly-formed group Dafne and the Tenderspots. Though originally playing the restaurant circuit, the band unscrupulously manipulated it's style from dinner lounge schlock to 'new wave', thus securing a deal with MAM Records.
"There are all sorts of influences at work in the music and lyrically they have the same cynical / satirical outlook on modern times as Joe Jackson or mid-period Kinks...'To Be A Star' featured an insistent keyboard riff from Zebra-crossing-jacketed Alan Normal - one of the nucleus of the band...Duffy is backed by an invisible drummer, a synthesizer twiddler, a smug guitarist and the bass player from Burlesque... "
Quoted from various sources
After releasing 'Disco Hell' in 1979 to a tepid response, the Tenderspots fell foul of a disinterested public and a lack of funds, leaving Alan to move on to his next group Real to Real. Signed to Red Shadow Records, they released several singles and an album entitled 'Tightrope Walker'.
REAL TO REAL: 'White Man Reggae' (Red Shadow)
"It's precisely what the title suggests and very effectively executed too. A band and record label to watch out for."
Sounds - March '80
REAL TO REAL: 'Mr and Mrs' (Red Shadow Records)
"This is tight, urgent, modern rock 'n' roll with lyrics that slam suburban sell-out. It comes from the LP 'Tightrope Walker' and while as a single it may not find a lot of success, it bodes well for the album and for the future of a very pro band."
Huddersfield Daily Examiner - March 14th '81
Despite moderate success, Real to Real eventually suffered a similar fate to Alan's previous bands and he moved on to pastures new, playing keyboards with established but somewhat staid CBS group The Hitmen (whose lead singer, Ben Watkins, later went on to form Juno Reactor, a one-time Mute act).
"In the search for a new disguise for dull and repetitive music, The Hitmen have hit on a look which brings together shabby, top hats, raggedy scarves and the demeanour of a jaunty starveling recently discharged from the debtor's prison.
Lead singer Ben Watkins devised what's known as his 'street urchin' look... Unfortunately there appears to have been a slight confusion over the new image, with the band's publicity proclaiming them 'nabobs of throb' and 'fakirs of funk' with a long tradition of 'dance macabre', jealousy and grave robbing which seems a strange mix of images."
THE HITMEN: 'Ouija' (CBS)
"Rubbish. I'm running out of patience with this sort of well-crafted, terribly professional pop. Pop? It's not worthy of the name. Only this job could ever induce me to listen to it. The winning thing about the Depeche Mode single (and their last, and Soft Cell's) is its simple enthusiasm, its complete lack of cynicism. The Hitmen are so calculating - even down to the clever, clever name - it's unbearable; the only remotely comforting thing about all this is that they haven't a dog's chance of ever getting a hit."
Quoted from unidentified source
Well, perhaps a minor hit with 'Bates Motel', but not enough for a band who were on the rocks, and so it wasn't long before Alan was again hunting for work. However, this all too familiar cycle was about to change......