A Slightly Less Brief History of Gutter
Take Me Back - A Brief History of Gutter
Gutter is a rock band originally established in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) in 1973. The original line up was Mark Stewart on vocals and bass guitar, Tony Huggett on drums, Michael Rudolph on lead guitar, Rodney Holborn on rhythm guitar and Graham Fox on piano and keyboards.
They originally started out playing at friend’s parties in Bulawayo and re-worked the lyrics on a couple of Bee Gee’s songs to play as curtain-raisers to the first and second acts of a play called A Penny for a Song being performed at their school, Hamilton High School, in which Mark and Rodney were both performing.
Rodney Holborn left the band to go to university in early 1974 and Neville Ford joined them on guitar for a short while followed by Nigel Volk and Jeremy Nel. The band had by now started to spread its wings beyond parties and school plays and had started playing at teenage venues around Bulawayo headlining at local disco’s and playing at school dances.
National service intervened in early 1976 and the band hit a hiatus until Mark joined Rodney and Mike Rudolph at Rhodes University in Grahamstown to start playing together again. However, during the period between 1974 and 1976, Mark and Tony had started writing original songs together and had started building up a portfolio. Mark and Rodney started recording demo’s at Rhodes which led to their first record contract in 1977 in which they were due to record one of Mark and Tony’s songs Include Me Out.
As a result of a parting of the ways with the band’s management at that time, the opportunity to record fell through although Mark and Rodney kept recording and playing together at Rhodes, playing at a variety of shows and concerts under various names including Gutter and Steel Breeze playing mainly cover songs and acoustic and vocal harmony music.
During this time Mark was continuing to write original songs and compositions such as Mary Jane and Web of Delight were created in 1978.
In 1979 the band was introduced to Nic Pickard of Holy Black fame who was recording and producing in Salisbury (now Harare). Nic and Mike Westcott were working together by then and took an interest in the band and offered them the chance to record under their expert guidance and the band started providing Nic a variety of demo material from which to choose which songs should be recorded first.
In 1980 Mark moved to Cape Town to continue his studies at the University of Cape Town and joined Tony Huggett and Paul Howard who were both at university there. As a result, the band re-formed with Michael Rudolph on rhythm guitar and was joined by Nigel Dams on lead guitar, keyboards and vocals. The band played at various venues throughout Cape Town and in addition, started working on the material which Nic had indicated he wanted to record in preparation for their inaugural recording sessions.
In 1981 the band started recording with Nic Pickard, firstly on an 8 track system at Revell Studio’s in Durban and later in Johannesburg on a 24 track system and released a string of original hit singles from 1981 to 1983 in Zimbabwe all of which made the Top 10.
The songs released as an EP or as singles over this period were: Take Me Back, All in the Game, In the Middle of the Night, Coloured Clouds of Grey, Slipping Away Slowly, The Loner, It’s Your Life, Start Again, Nervous Tension and Man is Moving On.
Their singles were released on a variety of labels including CBS, Brave Records and Transistor in South Africa. It’s Your Life got into the Top 10 in South Africa on Capital Radio. In 1984 an album of the band’s hits was produced and was released as Cabbages & Kings.
The band went their separate ways at this point, starting careers and families but Mark and Tony continued to write music and record demo’s of songs and play together over the years. Mark moved to Singapore and then Australia and so distance was an issue but with the advent of new recording technology, and with Paul Howard’s technical capabilities and perseverance, Mark, Tony and Paul agreed to start recording some of what they considered to be a selection of exceptional songs from their back catalogue but which had never seen the light of day.
This resulted in Gutter’s latest album, Shoes and Ships and Sealing Wax which was be released on 10 July 2020, some 36 years after Cabbages and Kings which according to Wikipedia's ‘List of longest gaps between studio albums’ places Gutter in eighth place along with the likes of Chuck Berry and The Eagles. The recording has been done remotely making use of modern technology and the internet which has allowed them to collaborate freely despite living on different continents. The album is actually a double album with 11 original tracks on it. Given Cabbages and Kings was released on vinyl the band intends to release Shoes and Ships and Sealing Wax on vinyl and CD as well as through all the digital platforms.
The band intends to continue recording its back catalogue as well as writing new material and has plans to incorporate the music into a film or theatre production.
The band which has often said tongue in cheek that it had success without the hassles of fame and fortune may just be on the verge of turning that around.