Where did the name 'Company of Cowards' come from?

Not for the first time, when the tricky issue of choosing a band name arose, the Cowards were reduced to leafing through ‘ye olde film guide’ in search of inspiration. ‘Company of Cowards’ was a 1963 comedy-western starring Glenn Ford whose title seemed somehow apt for this mild mannered bunch. Things could have been worse…another briefly favoured suggestion was ‘Would You Like Salad On Your Doner?’

Although the Cowards never scaled the dizzy heights of indie stardom, you can rest assured that had they chosen the meat wallet related trading name, nothing good could ever have come of it.

When and where did they exist?

Company of Cowards formed in the summer of 1986 and split up in January 1990. Two members were based in Bounds Green in North London while the other two were luxuriating in the London Borough of Barking & Dagenham. Their spiritual home was a rusty Ford Transit, in a traffic jam on the North Circular Road somewhere between North and East London, guessing what Shadbolt’s 'Veneer Of The Week' might be.

Who was in the band?

Nicky Ager : Lead Vocals, Guitar worn very high up cupping right breast in its contours, wildly untutored Harmonica.
Ian Montague : Lead Guitar, lusty and tuneless bellowing spoiling carefully arranged harmonies.
Glenn Street : Bass Guitar, backing vocals delivered somewhat meekly.
Lisa Newsome : Drums, desultory occasional forays into the world of percussion.

For a few short months they were joined by keyboard player and Gilbert O’Sullivan aficionado Michael Bishop. Michael, however, quickly realised that this was not the appropriate outlet for his musical ambitions.

Did they release any records?

Just the one. A four track EP, ‘18 Again’, comprising: the title track, ‘Party Talk’, ‘What About Me’ and an acoustic version of set closer ‘From Thoughts To Flowing Ink’. It was self-financed and sold at gigs to drunken students who, through the haze of the next day’s hangover, may have regretted this particular impulse buy.

It found favour with Radio One’s Evening Show of the time, hosted by Janice Long, and also with Mary Costello of Radio London, both of whom kindly played it one more than one occasion.

Where did they play?

Any student union bar that their moribund Transit van would carry them (and back). Sometimes supporting the likes of (comparatively speaking) indie-gods Mighty Mighty, The Brilliant Corners and The Chesterfields, and sometimes headlining in their own right.

En route to their final gig at Ealing College in January 1990, the Cowards experienced the full glory of the late-1980’s indie circuit: The Paradise Bar in Reading, The Panic Station at Dingwalls in Camden Town, The Boardwalk in Manchester, Moles in Bath, The Princess Charlotte in Leicester and many, many others – all names to conjure with.

Claims to fame?

The Cowards, it must be said, were not often to be seen rubbing shoulders with the ‘beautiful people’ of the day. Their list of celebrity connections is short and, in some cases, fairly tenuous.

Phill Jupitas, in his previous guise of Porky The Poet, wrote in the NME that he found the Cowards ‘not unpleasant’. Steve Finan, the power behind All Saints and the son of comedian Tom O’Connor, was (alongside Guy Trezise) one half of the Cowards’ thrusting management team. Before achieving world domination, Chris Evans was heard to spin the Cowards’ ‘Waste Of A Skin’ on his GLR radio show. Andy Davies, long-suffering ‘sidekick’ of Jonathan Ross, was flatmate to keyboardist Michael Bishop during his brief stint with the Cowards.

Perhaps most impressively, as Cowards live favourite ‘Party Talk’ records, Ian did once see Beryl Reid on a bus. In truth, it was Ian that was on the bus - Beryl herself was stepping into a taxi on the Shaftesbury Avenue, in the heart of London’s glittering ‘theatreland’ - but we couldn’t get that to scan properly.  Belated apologies if the wrong impression was inadvertently given.

Did the Cowards live the archetypal rock’n’roll lifestyle?

Not even slightly. To be fair, the late-1980s indie scene, into which the Cowards were pigeonholed, always seemed to be populated by bookish, serious types not given to wild displays of hedonistic, orgiastic behaviour.

On arrival at a venue, rather than feverishly making arrangements to ‘score’ hallucinogenic drugs, the Cowards’ primary concern was to find a reasonably priced eaterie where they might partake of a nice fish supper, shish-kebab or perhaps even a home-cooked meat pie. Due to the weakness of Glenn and Ian’s bladders combined with pre-gig nerves, alcohol intake was kept to a minimum for fear of an onstage ‘accident’.

Groupies? Dear me, no. Although a girl did once try on Glenn’s glasses, perhaps in the hope that without them Glenn’s blurred vision might gloss over her shortcomings. Glenn was too polite to ask for his glasses back. There they stood, all conversational gambits having dried up, the girl still wearing Glenn’s bins, the yawning silence between them broken only by the sound of The Housemartins from the student disco.  From that day forward, Glenn kept his spectacles firmly in their case.

Why did they split up?

After a rather exciting period following the release of ‘18 Again’ in 1987 during which the Cowards acquired a deal with an agency (chief client Uriah Heep!), a dynamic young management team, some encouraging reviews in the music papers and a major record company funding studio time with emerging record producer Gavin Mackillop who had just produced the first single by The La’s. By 1989 the stream of A & R men who had been adorning the Cowards’ gigs, had dwindled to a trickle before drying up completely.  The management team were now favouring others with their dynamism and the agency stopped putting those much sought after Del Amitri support slots our way.

After one last push with a Bernie Clark (of Aztec Camera) produced demo, the Cowards found themselves back at square one but this time without the legs to start again from scratch. Indie had moved on and the pleasant post-Smiths warbling that the Cowards dealt in had been elbowed aside by that rough ‘Mad’chester malarkey.

Why a website now?

Perplexingly, all the Cowards’ recordings from the period 1987-1989 were released in June 2007 by Fire Station Records of Berlin, under the name ‘A Mouthful Of Tuesdays’. Also, their song ‘Summer Story’ is to be included on Sound Of Leamington Spa, Volume 6 compilation CD, due for release in July 2007.

We thought that any one who buys either of these CDs might feel strongly enough to want to know a bit more.

Will there be a reunion gig?

Possibly.  If we can all be in the same place at the same time for long enough to find out whether we can still play the Cowards songs to any degree of competence (and anyone will book us), there’s a fair chance