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RIP NICK TESCO

We are devastated to announce that Nick Tesco, founder member and original lead vocalist of the Camberley punk reggae legends The Members has died after a short illness at the age of 67 in London.  Although his health had not been good for a while (he had not performed regularly since 2008)  Nick was a fiery commentator on social media and a great writer, broadcaster and journalist. 

Born Nicholas Guy Lightowlers into a military (RAF) family in Belfast in  1955 his childhood was spent travelling around the world. The family eventually settled in Camberley, Surrey. Nick did a degree in politics at Liverpool University before returning to Camberley where after seeing The Stranglers he decided to form his own group The Members in 1976.

 

After playing the seminal Roxy Club in 1977 the original line up of The Members of Tesco (vocals),  Gary Baker (guitar), and Steve Morley (bass guitar), and Adrian Lillywhite (drums) was joined by songwriter and guitarist Jean Marie Carroll (aka JC Carroll). The  next to join was British Airways aircraft electrician bass player Chris Payne.

 

The band performed their first gigs at The Roxy Red Cow (London W6), The Windsor Castle (London W9) and The Nashville Rooms (London W14). 

Nick’s original 1977 Punk name was Nicky Ritz but he was rechristened Nick Tesco by JC who thought that Ritz was too classy and that Tesco (the name of the (UK’s cheapest supermarket at the time ) suited him better.

Nick was always a punk rock original who brought something completely new to the stage through his onstage persona (an amalgam of pint sized  dynamo Eric Burdon and cheeky chappy Ian Drury ) with his ingenious ad libs, speaking parts and energetic dancing.

The Members first released recording was “Fear on the Streets”, produced by Lillywhite’s brother Steve Lillywhite. This song was included on the first UK punk compilation Streets (1977). The song-writing collaboration between Tesco and Carroll moved The Members’ sound towards an incorporation of reggae, shown in the first single released for Stiff Records, “Solitary Confinement”, produced by Larry Wallis. Following these releases the band personnel became Tesco (vocals), Carroll (vocals and guitar), Nigel Bennett (guitar), Payne (bass) and Lillywhite (drums).

In 1978/79 The Members continued to play the London pub and club circuit becoming a feature in the music press and were championed by John Peel (for whom they recorded many sessions). They signed to Virgin Records in 1978, and recorded “The Sound of the Suburbs”, again produced by Steve Lillywhite. This became The Members’ biggest chart success and their best-known song in the UK. The follow-up single, “Offshore Banking Business”, a reggae tune written by Carroll based on his experiences working in offshore banking at a private bank, was also a mainstream chart hit for the band who were joined by  the trombone reggae legend Rico Rodriguez MBE for its recording.

The Members released two albums on Virgin records and toured extensively around Europe, the US, Australia and New Zealand before moving to Human League producer Martin Rushent’s Genetic Label to record their classic 1980s album Uprythmn Downbeat. The album featured the singles “Radio,” which made the Top 10 in parts of Australia, and “Working Girl,” the music video for which gave the band a massive US MTV hit.

 

The Members toured the United states extensively in the 80s on the back of the success of Working Girl before returning to the UK when Tesco left the band to become a solo artist and songwriter where he wrote songs for Roger Daltry amongst others. 

 

Nick appeared in ‘Leningrad Cowboys Go America’, a feature film written and directed by cult Finnish Director Aki Kaurismäki,  about a fictional Russian rock band touring the US. This fictional band then toured as an actual band, and recorded Nicky’s song “Thru the Wire”. Kaurismäki directed a video for “Thru the Wire”, featuring Nicky Tesco. 

 

The original line up of The Members reformed in 2008 to play two shows. One at the Inn on the Green in Ladbroke Grove and another for long term fan’s Phil Jupitus’ birthday party at the 100 club. Nick continued to appear occasionally with the re-incarnated  Members featuring  Carroll, Payne, Bennett and new drummers Nick Cash and Rat Scabies until his health and mobility prevented him.

 

As well as working as a music journalist for the magazine Music Week and Vive Le Rock, Nick was a commentator on new releases for BBC 6 Music’s “Roundtable”. He was also an actor appearing in movies including ‘Iron Horsemen’ and ‘I hired a Contract Killer’ (in which he co-starred with Joe Strummer) as well as  Kaurismäkis ‘Leningrad Cowboys’ sequel ‘Leningrad Cowboys Meet Moses’.

 

He is survived by his wife Francesca and children Lucy and Ned.

 

Nick you were an inspiration and we will miss you.

Here is a a Personal note From JC Carrolls facebook Page

 

Terrible  News ... We have lost Nick Tesco 

 

It’s difficult for me to take on board the fact that we have lost one of the most influential people I’ve ever met. Nick Tesco left the room on Friday after various battles with different illnesses. Nick had not been well for a long long time but he battled his disability and he never complained . I first met him on a train going to Camberley when I was working in the bank he was just down from Liverpool University he was charming and charismatic he had been everywhere he had done everything and he was going to do it all over again little did I know that he would change my life.

 

Maybe a year later I got a call from him saying would you like to join my band. Nick asked me to join the members not because I was a great guitarist. Because I wasn’t,  he asked me to join The Members because he had a feeling that I would be good and he heard that I had written some good songs.

 

Nick had the desire and the drive to become famous and he wanted to do something in PUNK ROCK at the time he was living in Camberley in Surrey and that was not a very PUNK ROCK place but he had assembled round him a great band with a really good guitarist and a fabulous drummer. I’m still not quite sure why he asked me but I think secretly it was because I looked a bit more punk than the others.

 

I remember one of my first rehearsals with Nick in Tooley street we bumped into Ian Drury in the pub and Ian Dury told us he  thought we had a great look , we were too embarrassed to tell him that we were wearing suits because we had straight jobs in the daytime Nick was selling insurance and I was working in a bank. Not very Punk Rock but the members are different from all the other PUNK ROCK groups because we were very suburban and Nick and I worked in office jobs but that gave us a unique take on PUNK ROCK. PUNK ROCK was not the Punk Rock of squats it was not the Punk Rock of the art school of PUNK ROCK was something special and it would become with the help of Adrian lillywhite Gary Baker Chris Payne Nigel Bennett a really special mix of reggae rap and Rock. And it had a very special story  that was different from all the other groups. Our story was the story of bedsits at the escape from the suburbs it wasn’t the nihilism of squat rock it wasn’t the artiness of Saint Martins it was the sound of the suburbs. 

 

Nick had a Charisma and drive that was something very very special, Women found him extremely charming and he was never without female admirers He really came alive on stage he was a completely different person a gobby pocket rocket with an arresting smile or a look of perpetual  astonishment. Nick wrote some very very good songs with Gary Baker but it was when we collaborated together on Solitary Confinement for another Nick Tesco popped up the Nick that did the talking bit vulnerable inadequate boy from Camberley. He captured everybody’s imagination in a small talking bit in the middle of this song! We recorded that song with Larry Wallis and spent most of the day arguing about how the record should be because Nick and I argued a lot and we argued a lot because we cared a lot. Larry Wallis would later joke that he did not produced The Members single but umpired it. Solitary confinement  is a great record not just because of solitary confinement but also because of nicks extraordinary performance on the B-side Chris Payne’s weird reggae song rat up a drain pipe. Nick Tesco turned this loping looping song  into a rap but not a American rap a mad psychotic Camberley rap.

 

Of course we had another big hit that everybody knows about one of the most important things about Nick was that he encouraged me to express myself and he was the perfect foil for songs that I wrote and brought to the band for example I phoned him up one day and I said I’d written a song about tax evasion most people would’ve just said that’s stupid we should never do that but he simply said know it’s brilliant we will do it and it will be the follow-up to sound of the Suburbs Because Nick did not just believe in being a popstar which was something that he really wanted to be …he also believed the rather unfashionable idea that we could use music to “stick it to the man” to bring down Babylon to be  revolutionaries. Some people believed that Punk was just a vehicle to get into the music business to get fame But Nick believed it was the soapbox that he could tell the world how are you felt about injustice. The further we progressed people just wanted us to write Pop songs but he wanted to write his great social commentaries and he did.  

 

The thing nobody tells you about the music business is that if you have success you suddenly get thrown in a bus and have to spend 24 hours a day with a small group of people for the next two or three years that is enough to put you off anybody. It becomes intense too intense and of course as irresponsible young men we thought we had to behave like rock stars and indulge ourselves we drink and all the other accoutrements of rockstardom! 

 

We spent a lot of time together banged up in a van a bit like being in prison locked up in a small cell five or six hours a day an allowed out for an hour to jump around a stage For an hour drink a case of beer and a bottle of Jack Daniel’s and then back in the van. That’s what living the rock and roll dream really is.

 

Nick Tesco was a facilitator prime mover somebody that did things ordinary people did not do we work together we made records together and we fought like cat and dog like brother fights brother. 

 

He’s remembered on video on the Internet with fantastic performances of working girl and Sound Of The Suburbs but one of his favourite records was the song recorded on the 1983 album Martin Rushent studio Streetly Hill it’s a song called “we the people” If you want to know about Nick Tesco go and listen to that song it’s an idealistic shout and tells a lot about him it references psychedelic music funk music and a bit of Temptations and it was lovingly Recorded by Dave Allen and the late Martin Rushent who sang beautiful backing vocals on it. Martin also sang the lovely high backing vocals on working girl.

 

After six years working together The Members went on hiatus and incredibly we still remained friends Despite all our bickering on the road. I watched him grow up and have a family and our families became intertwined he was like an uncle to my children. And we holidayed together in his beautiful retreat in France. 

 

Nick went on to make some great movies with a finish film director he wrote some songs for people like Roger Daltrey and was a  successful Music journalist and broadcaster for 6  music With his great friend Phil Jupitus it was brilliant when we brought the band back together again in 2008 to do some more shows ! When you have presence and chops like Nick it never goes away! Unfortunately his health did not let him do everything that he wanted to do . But he had achieved everything that he wanted in life he had a beautiful family who had made some great records and he  leaves behind him . A massive Nick Tesco sized hole in our lives.  

 

He was a film star rockstar a husband a dad a very funny man A great writer a bon vivant and he will always be the Sound Of The Suburbs!

 

 Happy trails Nick!

JC Carroll February 2022

The Members in 1978
l to r Carroll Lillywhite Tesco Payne and Bennett
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