MUSIC MEMORIES: the life and times of The Way

LOCAL author Tony Beesley has been recording Rotherham's pop and rock history in his 'Our Generation' trilogy of books. This week he recalls the Mod heyday of his band, The Way.

1 Mexborough Park hilltop shot.

This photo was part of a long photo shoot we did mid 1985 with our drummer Ian Deakin's sister.

She did a fantastic job and produced a very varied collection of shots capturing us at our most united period where we felt and believed that we were really getting somewhere.

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It had been a long haul for me and bass player John Harrison from forming our vision of what we aimed to be (a contemporary Mod band) which involved many ups and downs. We had both come out of the Punk scene with a love of Mod-inclined music and clothes, but didn't really want to be classed as a revival band.

Our music was as influenced as the recent sounds of Punk, Post-Punk and the best of the modern bands of the time (the Smiths, Orange Juice, Paul Weller etc) as it was the classic Mod bands, though we did have a healthy vein of Rhythm and Blues soaring through much of what we wrote and performed and were massive Jam fans.

When we finally met Ian Deakin (drums)and then a year or so later Terry Sutton (Vocals/Guitar) it was as though the final pieces of the jigsaw had been placed firmly together.

From left Terry Sutton (vocals/guitar), John Harrison ( bass guitar/backing vocals), Tony Beesley (guitar/backing vocals) and Ian Deakin (drums).

Photo 2 Mexborough Park

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Another shot from the same session, this time attempting to copy a Who-style pose.

Around this time we were playing gigs around the local area.  Youth clubs (we used a room at the Rawmarsh Comp as our practise room. We shared with other local bands and were notorious for borrowing, claiming other band's equipment getting caught on more than one occasion using amps and guitars that were not ours, but we all got on) and also playing places like Rotherham's Clifton Hall to the local Mod crowd, a section of which took us into their musical hearts and the  Arts Centre, Mexborough Civic (where we famously insulted the audience for not getting excited enough, much to poor Mexborough dweller Terry's disdain who couldn't walk down the street afterwards for getting his parka spat on).

We also played the famous Rawmarsh Baths. The gig was followed by an outburst of trouble, the police arriving and the famous green cash tin episode from which, in the midst of the chaos, our takings were recycled into an uneven band income and no-one else got paid... security, DJ, P.A. hire etc. (Full story in the 'Our Generation' book)

Photo 3 an early appearance at Mexborough Civic Hall.

Me and John had been writing prolifically for a few years and some of the songs were vamped up for the new band line up.

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Songs such as It's Ok, You in One' 'Walk it Talk it and our only instrumental the Johnny Marr of the Smiths-influenced Catch that Dream.

Me and Terry quickly gelled and co-wrote some new songs which we started to add  to the set as well..

Days Like Tomorro' (now the name of my recently formed book publishing company) and'Sock it (a big hit with the Mods with it's Tamla beat and which was planned to be our first single) being our most popular.

We went into Music Ground studios in Doncaster to record our first demo in May 1985 and a few weeks later managed to get a copy of it passed over to Paul Weller at a Sheffield gig.

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We met Paul backstage and tried to make an impression on him by telling him we were planning on adding an organist to the band.

Soon afterwards we played our greatest gig and one of my fondest lifetime memories at the Scarborough Mod weekend. We went down a storm playing to a few hundred Mods from all over the country. Mods who were that night still talk about it. It was our finest hour, so to speak.

Photo 4 Lead singer Terry Sutton.

Terry was younger than John and me and Ian was in between. Terry and Ian were, and still are, amazing musicians.

Terry could play lots of other instruments... double bass, piano etc too. Me and John struggled to cover up our rudimentary Punk beginnings, though we tried.

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Our peak had passed as a band at Scarborough and for me things went rapidly downhill afterwards. Even though we had only experienced a short blast of playing live and actually being a complete band, musical differences were now rearing their head.

Christ, this sort of thing happens to famous bands after years of touring and creating masterpieces of albums. We were getting it out of the way first.

Sadly as a consequence me and John both left The Way later in the year... splitting the band in two literally... I was moving into more Soul and contemporary Mod sounds. I could never even come close to matching a tiny percentage of what I aimed to create musically, but was certainly not going to be held back by staying the same. I was, and still am, a massive Jam and Weller fan but was sick and tired of performing Jam songs and not stamping our own sound and identity into the band.

Things had to change and we split. Needless to say, after auditioning a seemingly endless array of talented musicians, singers and general wannabees and not even coming close to what I was hoping for, the dream was given a shot in the head the following year, when I put away my guitar and started my own fanzine 'Populist Blues'. John returned to The Way for a while... the band receiving rave reviews in the NME, Morning Star and almost getting signed to Go Discs record label, losing out to the Proclaimers in a closely run match.

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Photo 5. This is The Way mark II when John had returned to play bass.

They recorded a cracking new demo tape of Terry Sutton composed songs I won't Give in, War Hero, Underneath the Arches and one of my fave songs of The Way The Torch.

More gigs at Rotherham Assembly Rooms followed and Rotherham Advertiser features. Things were looking very good for the band. My fanzine ran an interview with them and a positive live review and front cover.

Photo 6. The Way mark II.

A brass section was added to the line up and a distinct Redskins influence arrived in Terry's new songs, along with a very angry socialist political edge.

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John Harrison was replaced by newcomer Jon White in late 86 on bass.

Photo 7. The Way Mark III.

Now with Jon White, original members Terry Sutton, Ian Deakin and the added talents of the brass section, the band's confidence was high.

More high quality songs were written and demo tapes recorded. The band performed outside the Leadmill on the back of a truck while the Housemartins played inside. I rejoined for a very brief period in 1987, but this didn't work out.

Soon afterwards Paul Weller's Respond label artists Tracie Young joined. TV appearances followed on Calendar and BBC North, one of which saw Tracie providing her distinct and soulful backing vocals.

Photo 8. The Way Mark IV.

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Now with Tracie Young and another new member Simon Cardie (ex Springheel'd Jack and the cover star of the book This is Our Generation Calling, minus the permanent brass section.

The band made new recordings, supported ex Clash singer and Punk icon Joe Strummer in Doncaster and all looked great.

The history of The Way becomes a little hazy from here and there was no solid reason for a split and certainly no cause for the band to have not made it into the big league: however times were changing and the stage for a angry young Northern militant band was a limited one during the late 80's. Madchester,

Acid House and the many associated scenes came around and The Way's time had passed,

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criminally so from a musical point of view. Terry Sutton continued in music and followed his Way career with a superb run of songs and bands..

The On, Electrascope and now the Special Guest Stars, rejoining Ian Deakin and Simon Cardie. Jon White went on to join ex Stone Rose guitarist John Squire's band the Seahorses, wrote and recorded with Groove Armada and is rumoured to have worked on remixes of Madona tracks.

Tracie Young is a recording artist once more and her debut album has recently been re-issued to critical acclaim. John Harrison sold his bass guitar in 1987 and has never performed since. I write books and remain as passionate about music as ever.


The Way in words . . .

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.”

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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: four young Mods wanting to- naively - change the world with our music and ideals."

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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!

For the full version of The Way story and much more on the local Mod and Punk scenes collect the 'Our Generation' trilogy available online from the official website at and all good book shops.

Do you remember The Way? Were you in a band? Use the "write a comment" button to post your views or click here to email.

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