THE EDITED PRESS RELEASE: “A Box Of Buffs, in keeping with its title, contains three brilliant albums by The Buff Medways, neatly contained in one box, complete with booklet! The albums are Steady The Buffs (2002), 1914 (2003), and Medway Wheelers (2005). Buffs leader Billy Childish kindly answered a few questions about the band for the Damaged Goods label:
The Buff Medways were formed quickly after Thee Headcoats split. What was it like working with a new rhythm section?
“We were in the studio recording the last Headcoats pieces then swapped rhythm section halfway through and the Buffs recorded their first 45. So, a very quick changeover, five minutes.”
What bands would you say were the biggest influence on the Buffs’ sound?
“The rhythm section really, Wolf and Johnny (Barker) liked The Who, so I tried to write to suit them. (They had played in The Daggermen, and I produced their first 45 along with Big Russ, so I’d been a fan of The Daggermen, who were fans of The Milkshakes. Johnny and Wolf are a good few years younger than me.)”
Graham Day was previously in The Prisoners; can you remember the first time you met him?
“I met Graham through Bruce — he brought him and Allan round to a Milkshakes rehearsal. They had been fans of The Pop Rivets when they were kids. Graham joined the Buffs on bass when Johnny left. Graham also played drums for Thee Mighty Caesars when Bruce left that group.”
Who had the idea of wearing military uniforms? Did you have a favourite one?
“That was also based on The Daggermen, via Jimi Hendrix (thou I did wear an old artillery jacket in Thee Headcoats at times). I quite like our summer kit (loosely Australian great war period). Though technically that was The Musicians of the British Empire. We changed the name when Graham couldn’t make it to Australia and Julie had to learn the bass overnight.”
Steady The Buffs and 1914 were originally released on Graham Coxon’s Transcopic label. How did that come about?
“Graham used to come to Thee Headcoats’ shows with the Huggy Bear mob, who were fans. Graham was dating one of them and asked if we’d do a 45 for his label. It got a bit officious with his then-label manager who wanted me to sign a contract to “protect” Cocky. I said, “Surely we were the ones who needed protecting.” A few years down the line Thee Headcoats had split — Cocky had a new label manager, Jamie, who didn’t need a contract, so we agreed to cut a 45 or two — then they wanted an LP as well.”
A lot of people will have fond memories of The Buffs playing at The Dirty Water Club in Tufnell Park. What are your main memories of those gigs?
“Loading the old ambulance, driving, unloading — the playing bit in the middle — then loading, driving, unloading and bed at three in the morning. I was chief packer/driver. (I don’t think Dick Scum — from Armitage Shanks — was driving us at that time), plus we had no roadies. Other bits — laughing a lot, flasks of tea, being fed hummus pita bread by Julie as I drove us home.”
A lot of people will be unaware of the Buffs sister band The Buffets. Can you tell us a little about Buffets and their Saucy Jack album?
“Julie, my wife, was the drummer in an all-girl Seattle group The Stuck Ups. I produced their first LP for them. Tiffany was their singer. Debbie was a singer in Thee Headcoatees but was originally a drummer. Julie learned a bit of bass and I’ve always like side projects, (let’s say “games,” which all this stuff is to me), and I realised that The Buffets was a funny name. Tiffany was coming to visit in the U.K., so we sent her and Debbie a tape of tracks to learn and booked the studio. She flew in, we recorded the LP, took a photo up the road, they played two shows with us, then Tiffany went back home at the end of the week.”
The song Medway Wheelers is a fan favourite. Can you remind us about the story behind the song?
“It’s all about my mother’s story of being in the local cycling club in the late ’40s/early ’50s. We made a neat Super 8 film with original photos of her. (That’s also her on the cover of the 45.) Re the hey lyrics — I’ve been told you can’t get to Torquay in two days, but they did, and with fixed-wheel bikes. The other funny thing is the song mentions the Hobbs bike was made to measure, (my mum liked to underline this), but it was actually made to measure for someone else as my grandfather brought it for her secondhand. And it was a gent’s racer. June passed over two years ago aged 93.”
The group split after The Last of The Buff Medways 7” on Damaged Goods, with you forming The Musicians of The British Empire soon after. How do you feel about the group looking back? Do you ever listen to the Buffs LPs?
“I listen to some tracks if I have to learn them (I don’t know any of my songs and can’t remember words or how to play them, even live). I like the group a lot.”
Were The Buff Medways the greatest group ever to be named after a breed of chicken?
“According to all accounts indeed they were.”