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Doctors Go Down In Style

Giovanni Dadomo (Sounds?), November 1978, pt 1

Dick 'Kid' Strange had a badge that says 'Jacking It All In', a song called 'Going Out In Style', and a farewell concert with The Doctors of Madness at London's Music Machine last Thursday.

And a sense of humour. The first time I met this large, loud, sensitive man he tried to throttle me; last Thursday afternoon he came at me at the kitchen of my filthy Kings Cross flat brandishing an axe. "It was your review of our second album that did it!" he shouted, raising the not-so-blunt instrument. Then we had a cup of tea.

Like all grand finales, the Doctors' last exit was a magical evening. The band had been rehearsing solidly for three weeks to that exact end, determined, like it says in the song, to go out in style.

"It's feeling right" said Strange before the gig. "It's feeling better than it has at any time in the last eighteen months. We should've broken up more regularly!"

It's no sudden death, this. Strange places the beginning of the end a few months back, some time after the release of the Docs' third album, the now ironically titled 'Sons of Survival'.

"When that record came out, I thought, "This one will at least turn the corner. This is the one that will stop the straight line we've been going in, selling ten thousand albums to, presumably, the same ten thousand people, playing the same gigs". It was getting repetitious. And I thought "This is the record that will change it one way or the other. Either it will change us because it'll elevate us in status and in the number of people that we're playing to, or it'll do exactly the same as the others, in which case I'll break the band up. Because I just can't do it as a job. I can only do it for excitement and for satisfaction. And the satisfaction was just gone after that record.

The decision to disband is, Strange emphasises, no reflection on fellow Doctors Colin (aka Stoner) and Pete: 'I think they were as good a band as I could possibly have hoped to have worked with on those songs.'

It was a choice of slogging on for another five years or calling it a day while they were all still friends, says Strange. They're still friends.

The Doctors were launched with much fanfare by Polydor in 1976. They received plenty of press and TV coverage, played prestige venues, and festivals and had a couple of supposed smarties as managers in Bryan Morrison and Justin DeVilleneuve. Morrison had made his mark a few years previously though management/publishing links with the likes of Pink Floyd and Tyrannosaurus Rex. DeVilleneuve gave the world Twiggy. Morrison remains Strange's publisher, but DeVilleneuve's been out of the picture for some time. At the time the Doctors were bright-eyed and inexperienced enough to think they had a ticket to the stars.

Now, says Strange, he can look back and see where they went wrong. Morrison had been away from the business for five years, DeVilleneuve, coming from fashion, had his finger on the wrong pulse. 'Suddenly we had an image that was a million miles away from what we thought of ourselves as being. And we never really recovered.'

The other mistake, claims Strange, was signing to Polydor.

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