CASE: The Best Live Band You've Never Heard Of

30 years after I bought Wheat From The Chaff it is finally getting some overdue recognition due to YouTube. If you're after an album to rattle the tonsils then here's why you should give CASE a whirl...
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The year was 1983. Weekdays consisted of spectacularly deseeding everyone’s expectations at the local comp, while the weekends gave way to parental conversations of one grunt or less. My days of playing good footy and bad golf were almost over due to a can’t-be-arsed attitude, while the perils of kebab houses and crap jobs lurked Peter Sutcliffe-like around the corner. At the age of 14, life was far from sweet.

Redemption, however, was provided on two fronts. Firstly the telly, where the likes of Auf Wiedersehen, Pet, Johnny Jarvis, One Summer, Tucker’s Luck and The Tube gave me something to focus upon during yet another piss poor performance in double maths. The second was music, where the likes of Blitz, Rose Tattoo and Gary Holton emanated from my sanctuary: a grubby little bedroom where the black walls were adorned with faded cuttings from Sounds music weekly.

Looking back, much of the telly from those days has clearly aged worse than Judy Finnigan. Similarly, the music I once thought was wondrous; now appears wonderfully woeful. But there are always exceptions to the rule.

How I came across the ‘exception’ is irrelevant; more by luck than judgement, I guess. The band were called ‘CASE’; their solitary release: ‘Wheat from the Chaff’. Time clouds the memory, but upon playing it for the first time within that black hole of a bedroom, I swear that the first words I uttered were: ‘what the fuck is this?’ I’d never heard anything like it. Ever. Three tracks and still a bit of shrapnel from a one quid note. Nice.

My days of playing good footy and bad golf were almost over due to a can’t-be-arsed attitude

Information on the band was scarce. Sounds spewed up the odd morsel, but by and large, it was a poor show. I didn’t even know anyone else who had heard of them. All I learnt was that they were from Croydon (not nice) and the singer was, apparently, a bit of a nutter (marvellous). However, there was one line I read time and again: ‘they (CASE) were holding back until the time was right’. Fair enough, I thought, I don’t mind waiting a wee while. Little did I know...

A couple of years later when I well and truly put the ‘ordinary’ into O-Level, CASE were no more. It was announced in Sounds (where else?) that the singer had ‘swapped the stage for domestic bliss’. ‘Tosser’, I sneered - probably while still in my bedroom.

And that seemed to be that. It was time for us all to move on, and me to move out. The black matt finish, cuttings and fanzines, punk albums and doc marten boots have long since been replaced by a parental preference for sensible beige, easy listening CD’s and comfortable shoes, dried flowers and air fresheners.

And then, 20 years on from the band’s final gig at the Fulham Greyhound, three smartarses from California got busy in a garage and came up with the idea of a video-sharing website. Cue subsequent uploading by persons unknown of ‘Wheat’ and the band’s glorious 1982 BBC session.

All I learnt was that they were from Croydon (not nice) and the singer was, apparently, a bit of a nutter (marvellous)

CASE were now being drip fed to the masses. Courtesy of forums, internet hearsay and the like, it was only a matter of time before that teenage obsession for info was rekindled.

They were banned from the Marquee for being a bit naughty. This ‘best live band in London’ had supported an eclectic mix, from the likes of Altered Images to Slade to Gary Glitter. The singer nearly drowned during a gig in Bromley. DJ’s Jensen, Long and Peel rated them. And they were ‘guilty as charged’ for a fly infestation at a Shirley Bassey gig.

Surprisingly, CASE were never signed to a record label, having released the seven-incher under their own initiative. Ahead of their time? It’s possible. What is conceivable is that with the right decisions, astute management and a little luck, the outcome could have been far, far different.

During the summer of 2011, and with more than 40,000 punters having listened to ‘Wheat’ on YouTube, I heard a whisper they were going to give it another bash. A case of ‘unfinished business?’ Strewth; you could have knocked me down with a feather boa.

The singer nearly drowned during a gig in Bromley

That was it then. A message was sent to the band via Facebook suggesting a piece about them for this site. Diaries were consulted, emails exchanged, pub locations scoured, and before too long, there I was, nearly 30 years later, face to face with three wise men. Funny old world, innit?

Date: July 4, 2012. 2pm. Location: The Black Pig, Tunbridge Wells. Present: Matthew Newman (singer), Rob Brook (guitar), Martin Parrott (drums), Neil Brooks (recorder, Acton Primary School, 1975-1976).  Absent: Simon (bass), Tom and Amy (sax).

Hearty introductions over, the cud was well and truly chewed, while drinks were quaffed under a sun that shone like a bastard. Many a tale is for publication elsewhere, but one in particular necessitates a mention.

I’m no musicologist, but I don’t ever recall a catheter being a contributing factor to a band reforming. And no, I’m not taking the piss – rather, singer Matthew did. Initially reluctant to climb back aboard the good ship CASE, he was refitting his dad’s catheter one day when a drop of the clear stuff landed in Matt’s mouth. That was it, enough was well and truly enough. It was time to give it another go.

One or two things to mention before you all traipse off and type ‘CASE’ and ‘wheat’ into YouTube’s search engine. A doffed cap and a considerable bow should go to ‘Ain’t Gonna Dance! 1980-1985’: an album encapsulating these glory boys delivering glorious things during their glory years. Secondly, a new EP, ‘Grow or Die’, has been released which proves class is permanent. And without doing a Natalie Wood and going too overboard, legendary gigs, a critically acclaimed album and adulation across the continents are all pencilled in for next year.

The trio were articulate, modest, patient and tremendously good company. I wish them all well. Having left them I was woken some hours later by a concerned middle-aged woman, having collapsed on a pavement outside the train station. That afternoon was one I won’t forget.

I guess the sun shone just a little too brightly that day.

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