Viva La Diva


(This account of the Viva La Diva story takes the form of "sleeve notes" for a compilation box set that John Hodgson compiled for vocalist Ian Luck entitled "The Luckybox". The track listing refers to this box.)

This band history is not meant to be the definitive version of the story. I will leave that to historians (well ok, to me, in twenty years time, when I get around to it!)
The Luckybox Box Set is not chronological, but this history is, so any songs mentioned will have where it can be found in parenthesis after the title.
The main instigator of Viva La Diva was Ian Luck. He came to prominence on the local music scene in the late 1970's as vocalist with Bleak Future, Nicky Beat & The Beatniks, and The Cassettes. They were all essentially the same band, and Ian, alongside guitarist Dimmer Blackwell, were the mainstays of all three bands.
Throughout the eighties and early nineties Ian spent a lot of time travelling, and living away from Teesside. He still kept in touch with the music business, but more in administration, promotion and publicity than in performing with bands.
In July 1993, in his capacity as salesman for a London based record distributor, he called on John Hodgson, an old friend he had known since the mid-seventies. John spent £76 he didn't have on a pile of Frank Zappa CD's his wife didn't want him to have.
John Hodgson was another veteran of the local music scene, starting with Purity in 1966, to Adamanta Chubb, Erection and Blitzkrieg Bop in the seventies, to Basczax, Makaton Chat and The Skydaddies in the eighties. John had even joined with Ian several times in the past with a casual part-time band called The Curtains.
While selling the CD's to John on the evening of Monday July 5th 1993, Ian mentioned he was getting a band together with a certain Graham Moses, to play gigs, performing cover versions.
John knew Graham Moses. He played bass guitar for the last line-up of Blitzkrieg Bop in 1979, but John had not seen or heard from him since, despite living only two miles away.
Two days later Ian rang John, asking if he would like to join the band. John was thrilled but tried to be cool. His last band, The Skydaddies, had been creatively successful, but eventually foundered because the main songwriter, Phil Close, refused to perform live. Here was a chance to perform live with a new band that planned to concentrate on other peoples material. No creative pressures to get in the way of the buzz of bashing out some of your personal favourites in front of a live audience.
A meeting was arranged and on July 10th, John, Ian and Graham met in The Red Lion Pub, Norton. Graham had also invited a drummer, Spider, who had been drumming for many years, and was with Graham in the seventies with a punk band called The Lice, and had remained friends ever since. There was a little lack of communication beforehand, as Graham and Spider had already lined up another keyboard player, Nick?, from Saltburn, who had  featured in a line up of local band Dangerbird.
Graham still seemed keen on John's participation, and was quite prepared to have two keyboard players, such was the informal nature of the band.
The main worry for John was lack of equipment. He was primarily a keyboard player, but had no keyboard or amplification to speak of. Graham not only had three keyboards, but also a crude home studio that was rapidly developing into something more ambitious.
So John's problem was solved, at least temporarily.
Another problem was the lack of a guitarist. John suggested that Dave Allen, who had worked with John in The Skydaddies, might be interested in joining. On the 11th July John contacted Dave and straight away showed an eagerness to be involved.
On Tuesday 13th July 1993, the band convened at Graham's house for a meeting. Dave could not get a baby-sitter, so he was not present.
The band (who had not come up with a name yet) sat around and talked, generally getting to know each other, and re-kindle old friendships. John played the demo tracks from his days with The Skydaddies. Ian brought a list of songs (cover versions) that he hoped the band might attempt. John also had a list. The songs were varied, but there was a heavy bias towards what can only be described as 'quality pop'. The Flamin' Groovies, Nick Lowe, Graham Parker and even Split Enz were mentioned.
No music was played on this first meeting, and a more serious practise was arranged for the following week. One thing noticeable was the age of the band. John was 37, and all the other members, with the exception of Dave, were in their thirties. All were married, and five of the six had children. This was not a band likely to be hurtling round the country in a transit van at a moments notice. Rehearsals would have to be arranged meticulously so as to not disturb the family life of its members.
On Thursday July 20th 1993, the band congregated at Graham's house for their first ever practise. The line up was Ian Luck - vocals, John Hodgson - keyboards, backing vocals, Dave Allen - guitar, Graham Moses - bass guitar, Nick ? - keyboards, Spider - drums.
John had always been very insistent on recording at every opportunity during his 27 year career, but sadly this first practise was not one of them. The band listened to a compilation tape of songs that Ian had brought, to choose which ones they were going to try first. Amongst the songs attempted were 'Evangeline' by Icicle Works, 'I Want You' by Split Enz, 'Shake Some Action' by The Flamin' Groovies, and '1985' by Wings.
Everyone was a little apprehensive, especially Dave, who had not met Graham, Nick and Spider before, but by the end of the night there was sufficient chemistry to declare the evening a success.
The name of the band was discussed briefly, and two names were short-listed, The Trip Teachers, and Cinematic Twist. No final decision was made though.
John was quite fond of calling them The Trip Teachers, and in his diary entry for Saturday July 24th, he headed the page: Trip Teachers - Practise. His entry continued: The other keyboard player didn't come, because of a sprained ankle. We worked on 'I Want You' by Split Enz [tape 1, side 2, track 9] and after three or four goes and a key change it sounded OK. Taped this evening. Lucky managed to blag two mike stands (one boom) for our use.
There was also further discussion on the name. This is featured in the Luckybox box set by the track 'What's In A Name (Chat)' [tape 3, side 1, track 3] Ian had a few more ideas, The Cover Notes, Disrythmia, Triptych etc. were amongst those suggested. Still no final decision was made.
The next practise, on July 27th, saw the band really stretch out and make progress. They attempted 'Evangeline', [tape 1, side 2, track 8] 'I Want You', 'Shake Some Action' [tape 1, side 2, track 11] and '1985', [tape 3, side 1, track 4] they also tried 'Heart Of The City' by Nick Lowe, [tape 1, side 2, track 10] and 'OK Hieronymous' by Graham Parker, [tape 1, side 2, track 12]
At this early stage it was apparent that the band were enjoying themselves immensely. There were no pressures, or egos to get in the way of simple musical enjoyment.
The night following the practise, John was sufficiently inspired to start writing again, after a period of inactivity. He taped 'New Song Idea' and 'Wait And See' [tape 4, side 1, track 1], at home. Both were rough sketches of the same idea, which were to prove useful at the next practise.
On August 4th 1993 the band were at Graham's house for another session. They attempted a song by Paul Collins called 'Walking Out On Love', [tape 1, side 2, track 4] an obscure pop classic, suggested by John.
Since the start of the first practise Ian had let it be known that he was writing lots of original lyrics, and if possible, would like the band to try and incorporate some of their own songs in the set. One of these was 'Cinematic Twist', which was attempted this night, along with 'Hung On The Line', a song which had some of the elements of 'Wait And See', the rough demo that John had recorded the previous week.
The whole band (except for Nick, who again didn't turn up) were pleased with this new development, and were surprised with the ease with which the band created these new songs.
Another two tracks were recorded, 'Regatta De Blank Frank' [tape 4, side 1, track 3], and 'The Twist Teacher' [tape 4, side 1, track 2] both jams based loosely on 'Cinematic Twist'.
Ian rang John the following night, and some concern was expressed about Nick not turning up for the practise, but it was hoped the full line-up would soon be together again.
John turned up at the next practise, on Monday 9th August 1993, with a cassette of the three previous ones complete with 'Trip Teachers' and 'First Lesson' painstakingly printed out with letraset on the case. He was disappointed to discover that the rest of the band did not like Trip Teachers, and were still trying to think of a name.
Nick was not there again, and it was explained he was working away for a few weeks. The band started straight away rehearsing original material. The plan to do cover versions had finally been dropped in favour of a self-penned set.
John brought his tape recorder again and was already onto his second tape. He always gave the tapes titles, and treat them like real albums. He always went home afterwards and listened to the nights work, making a list of the tracks and timing each song.
He christened the second tape 'Take Two', but later amended it to 'Seconds In', a parody of the Genesis LP 'Seconds Out'.
Tonight the band concentrated on two new songs, 'Murder The Moonlight', and 'That Oceanic Feeling'.
'Murder The Moonlight', with another lyric from Ian, was an atmospheric song with a rousing chorus, very reminiscent of Dire Straits. A version from this session appears on the Luckybox Box set, entitled 'Murder The Moonlight (Moody Intro)' [tape 4, side 1, track 4]. 'That Oceanic Feeling' [tape 1, side 1, track 9] with another Luck lyric, was more of a loose jam that developed into a moody dirge, rather like U2 from their 'Joshua Tree' period.
The band were very pleased with the nights work, and rewarded themselves with a trip across the road for a swift half. These liquid suppers would become a regular event, and it gave the band chance to discuss problems, and plan ahead.
This night we again discussed a new name, but nothing was decided.


The following day Ian went to France for a short break. By the time the next practise came around, on Monday August 16th 1993, Ian had returned, and, drawing inspiration from a graveyard in Paris, had come up with an acceptable name.
Apparently he noticed the message 'Viva La Diva' inscribed on the headstone of some famous opera singer. It means (I suppose) 'Three cheers for the singer', but we all thought that Viva La Diva was a lot snappier!
Nick was still missing, but it didn't stop the band attempting yet more new songs. Another Ian Luck lyric graced 'Eyes Of A Visionary', which was tried with two arrangements, one slow, one fast. [tape 1, side 1, track 10 (fast)], [tape 1, side 2, track 1 (slow)].
The second number was not quite as well developed and was in reality a half-hearted jam with Ian singing the title over and over again. John's contribution to 'I'm Letting It Get The Better Of Me' [tape 1, side 2, track 2] was a re-heated funky riff he had written sixteen years earlier while he was in Adamanta Chubb, taken from 'Sad Sadistic Sorrow'. This song was not pursued after tonight.
In addition three more 'jams' were tried, 'Newsflash From Jubilee Control' [tape 3, side 1, track 10], which was a few jokey quips from John backed by some Spanish guitar from Dave. 'Viva La Diva', [tape 3, side 1, track 11] the obligatory eponymous epic, initiated by a blistering bass riff from Graham, and featuring a memorable lyric:- 'Viva, viva la diva'. Finally 'La Diva Blues' [tape 3, side 1, track 12], a couple of minutes of 12-bar blues caught on tape.
So, another successful practise, but a problem after this night sowed the seeds for the bands eventual demise. Graham Moses, the bass player, unfortunately worked away for long stretches. He had to leave for three weeks, so the rest of the band kicked their heels in the meantime.
John, Dave and Ian did attempt to maintain the momentum by getting together at John's house for a song writing session on 1st September 1993. Spider also popped in for a while but did not get involved in the writing.
Fortunately John had the use of a four track recorder, so crude demos of the two songs written that night were preserved. They appear at the start of Viva La Diva's third 'album', 'Three Cans In the Fountain'. 'Stranger To My Own Creation' [tape 3, side 1, track 3], was a gentle ballad, with a good lyric from Ian, some sensitive acoustic guitar from Dave, topped of with some melodic keyboard frills from John. The second, 'Nothing Like Ever Before' [tape 3, side 1, track 1], was a less successful collaboration, which was never tried again.
The band finally held another full-blown practise on Tuesday 7th September at Graham's house, which John had christened Jubilee Studios. They worked again on two original songs, 'Murder The Moonlight' and 'Cinematic Twist'. Versions of these were added to 'Three Cans In The Fountain'. John noted in his diary that these new versions did not have the 'feel' of the previous attempts.
On the 9th of September Graham announced his intention to buy a 16-track mixing desk and other equipment that would turn his spare room into a fully blown studio. It was very exciting news for the band, as they could look forward to recording their compositions without having to worry about valuable studio time.
There was then another long gap, and a practise planned for October 10th was cancelled because everyone couldn't make it.
Finally on October 19th 1993, the band met at Jubilee Studios for a long awaited rehearsal. The band tried 'Murder The Moonlight' and 'Eyes Of A Visionary', and a couple of new songs. What these new songs were is a mystery as John did not record this practise. Nick had bought an accordion from Saltburn Auction Rooms, and he used it on one of the new songs. He was always popping into the Salerooms, and had picked up a couple of electronic keyboards for bargain prices.
The band felt that practising at Graham's was becoming a bit restrictive, especially as they couldn't play really loud. Even though the room was well soundproofed, it was in a semi-detached house, and the band could be heard in the street, not to mention the rest of the house.
So they  hired a scout hut in Saltburn, on 26th October, 1993 to see what they sounded like in a gig situation. Graham and Spider arrived early and took an age to set the PA up, as well as all the other gear. The other members turned up one by one and eventually they were ready to rock.
Spider thought it a sufficiently important occasion to video, as well as record the events. It was Viva La Diva's fourth 'album', and he called it 'Diva Hit The Hut'. They tried 'Cinematic Twist', 'Seeking Asylum', 'Baked Alaska', and 'Murder The Moonlight'. Amongst the other odd tracks was a six-minute jam called 'Smalltown Escape' [tape 1, side 2, track 5] which evoked Bruce Springsteen in its grand swagger of a rhythm, topped of with cliché ridden D and A minor chords.
The video shows a band still unsure of its identity, but continuing to progress and mature musically. The experiment of rehearsing in the scout hut was not repeated, not least because the acoustics were a crock of shit.
Graham went away soon after, and the rest of the band were left to kick their heels again. Dave and Ian went to John's house on Tuesday November 9th, essentially to write new material.
John noted in his diary that they tried a song of his called 'Accolade', which later mutated into 'Trapped In Amber'. They also attempted a new song of Dave's, which may have been 'I Don't Want You'. John also clearly remembers them writing another song, of which they had high hopes. Unfortunately the recording of the evening did not turn out, and the song was forgotten.
On 12th November John recorded a solo instrumental version of 'Trapped In Amber' [tape 3,side 2, track 11], for his solo album 'Mojo Filter'.
The band decided they would try and get some money together for a session in a professional recording studio. They arranged a meeting on Thursday November 25th 1993. John could not be there as he had already arranged to see Mick Todd, a lad from Redcar who used to play bass for Basczax, one of John's old bands, who was writing a history of the local music scene.
Graham had finally installed the 16 track recording studio in his house, and it looked very impressive. The equipment took up so much room that it was decided that the band would practise away from Graham's house. The night at the Saltburn Scout hut had proved a failure, so they booked three Tuesday night sessions at the soon-to-be-opened Teesbeat Studios, ran by former Blitzkrieg Bop guitarist Dimmer Blackwell. Dimmer had also been in several bands with Diva's vocalist Ian Luck, as has been previously mentioned.
Here is John's diary entry for Tuesday, November 30th, 1993:-
Teesbeat is officially opened tomorrow, but we booked a rehearsal for tonight - the first band to do so?
Dimmer gave us a tour of the place - he has taken over the old TFM Radio building in Dovecot Street. He has a 24 track studio, a 16 track studio, a couple of 8 track studios, 3 rehearsal rooms, a dance studio, offices, and a cafe/bar. Very impressive.
The room cost £15 so it wasn't bad value. We recorded most of tonight (completing 'Three Cans In The Fountain') on one mike. We polished 'Seeking Asylum' and I tried to introduce a couple that Lucky, Dave and me had been working on but Graham said we should do 'Eyes Of A Visionary' etc. before we started on them. I hope there's no friction in the future.
We are practising again on Sunday. Chris Graham was there, his band is still going, but the singer has quit. Marty Alderdyce is down London with Graeme Robinson working with Luke Goss. Dave Palfreeman is now on a world tour with The Cocteau Twins, after spending five years with Cabaret Voltaire...

The entry reveals some slight discord in the band, but generally there was very little argument, which was something the band members found a refreshing change.
The band squeezed another practise in on Sunday, December 5th at Teesbeat. They tried 'Trapped In Amber', 'Seeking Asylum', 'Cinematic Twist', 'Murder The Moonlight' and 'Baked Alaska'. This night was recorded and made up side one and the first two tracks on side two of their fifth 'album', entitled 'TFM Home Of The Hits'.
The rest of the 'album' was completed two days later with attempts at 'Seeking Asylum', 'Cinematic Twist', [tape 1, side 1, track 1] 'Murder The Moonlight', [tape 1, side 1, track 2] 'Trapped In Amber', [tape 1, side 1, track 3] 'I Don't Want You', and 'Hung On The Line'. [tape 1, side 1, track 4]
They also had time to tape a short jam called 'Little Pink One' [tape 1, side 2, track 6] and even a version of Slade's 'Merry Christmas Everybody'!
As planned, the group again convened at Teesbeat on Sunday, December 12th 1993, to write what was arguably their best song.
The subject of Ian's lyric was the suggestion that all major cities in the world had their own fingerprints, their own identity, or as he put it, their own soundtrack. As Ian was almost totally non-musical, the usual method for composing (unlike John's songs, which were usually brought in ready written) was for Ian to sing lines from the lyric, trying to express the melodies he had in his head. This worked very well, and brilliantly in this case.
'Every City Has Its Own Soundtrack' [tape 1, side 1, track 7] is a jazzy shuffle reminiscent of  Van Morrison.
The 12th of December practise was recorded as usual by John, filling an entire tape. John called their sixth 'album' 'The Christmas Album', it featured versions of 'Baked Alaska', [tape 1, side 1, track 5] 'Cinematic Twist', 'Trapped In Amber', 'Seeking Asylum' [tape 1, side 1, track 6] 'Murder The Moonlight', 'I Don't Want You', [tape 1, side 1, track 8] a new song from Nick? called 'Prince Of The Portobello Road', [tape 1, side 2, track 7] two jams, 'Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Moon' [tape 3, side 2, track 1]  and 'Full Tilt Acid Boogie'. [tape 3, side 1, track 13] They even found time to tape a version of 'The Batman Theme'. [tape 3, side 2, track 2]
This regular series of rehearsals meant that Viva La Diva were getting tighter as a musical unit, and were regularly coming up with worthwhile and increasingly sophisticated material. They began to think of playing live, and a debate was started within the band as to when this should happen. This was another rock on which the Diva ship was to founder.
The December 12th practise proved to be the last of 1993. John finished of the year by compiling a 'best of' from the six 'albums' recorded so far. Predictably titled 'The Story So Far', it became Viva La Diva's seventh 'album'. John delivered copies of it to various band members on December 24th. The track listing corresponds exactly with volume 1 of 'The Luckybox Box Set'.
Ian flew off to Italy to visit his wife's family. The rest of the band retreated to their cosy family environments, promising to meet again in the new year. John took time off over the Christmas break to record a solo instrumental version of 'Hung On The Line' [tape 3, side 2, track 12] for his solo album 'Mojo Filter'.


On Monday January 3rd, 1994, Ian rang John to let him know he was back from Italy. While away he had written some new lyrics. He had also spoken to a contact in Seattle, America, who had expressed an interest in promoting us there. Ian had also had a chat with Roger Lewis, who used to be a DJ at Radio Tees in the eighties, and was now head of the Classical division of EMI Records, after a stint as Program Controller of Radio One.
He had offered to give Ian advice on promotion, but nothing further was heard from him.
John spent the evening of Wednesday, January 5th working on vocal harmonies for several songs, including 'Cinematic Twist' [tape 3, side 2, track 6], 'Trapped In Amber' [tape 3, side 2, track 7], 'Hung On The Line' [tape 3, side 2, track 8], 'Baked Alaska' [tape 3, side 2, track 9] and 'Seeking Asylum' [tape 3, side 2, track 10]
On Tuesday, January 11th the band resumed their 'residency' at Teesbeat Rehearsal Studios. They in fact used a total of four rooms at Teesbeat, depending on which one was available. It proved a very productive night, with versions of 'Seeking Asylum',  'Every City Has Its Own Soundtrack' [tape 3, side 2, track 13], 'Cinematic Twist', 'Trapped In Amber', 'Hung On The Line', 'Baked Alaska', 'Murder The Moonlight', 'I Don't Want You', and a re-vamped 'Eyes Of A Visionary' [tape 3, side 2, track 3] with an added middle eight.
The rest of January was quiet for the band, but Graham continued to work on the studio, and Dave and Ian got together mid-January to work on new material. In the last week of the month Graham, Ian, Dave and Spider got together to start recording a 'studio' version of 'Seeking Asylum'. John also recorded a solo instrumental version of 'Every City Has Its Own Soundtrack' [tape 3, side 2, track 4] for his album 'Wot No Video?'.
The main reason for this was that they had decided to buy themselves onto a compilation CD that was being put together by Teesbeat Records, an offshoot of The Teesbeat Recording Studios. On a regular basis the label would recruit local bands, by offering them a track on an album, with a day in the studio, for a fixed fee. The band would then receive copies of the album, theoretically to recoup their expenses.
On Sunday February 6th Viva La Diva entered Teesbeat recording Studios for their first 'proper' recording session. After much debate they decided to attempt 'Seeking Asylum'. The song had developed in rehearsal, and a slow middle section had been added. This required a 'string' sound, which up till then had been obtained by utilising John's string setting on the keyboard. However, Graham's wife was a useful cello player, and she was drafted in to give the song some authentic strings.
The subject of the lyric was loosely based on the situation in the former Yugoslavia, and the band were keen on using sound effects at the start, and during the slow section, to create an atmosphere of foreboding.
The band encountered little problem recording the backing track, but once the overdubbing of instruments began, it was discovered that the opening section was at a slightly different speed to the rest of the song. After careful 'dropping in' (a method of playing on a small part of the song, without ruining the rest of the take) the overdubs were complete. There was drums, bass guitar, two lead guitars, a cello, two keyboards, and an accordion in the middle section.
Ian added a double tracked lead vocals, and John arranged a three part harmony which was sang twice by John, Spider and Graham's wife.
There was only time for a rough mix at the end, and it meant that they had to return later to complete the mix.
This caused a problem, because the arrangement with Teesbeat was for one free session, and any additional recording time had to be paid for.
On Thursday, February 10th 1994, Viva La Diva visited Teesbeat again to complete the recording of 'Seeking Asylum' [tape 3, side 2, track 15] Three versions of the final mix were transferred to DAT with minor variations in equalisation. Ian and Nick didn't attend the mix.
The Teesbeat compilation project cost the band about £360, and John in particular had trouble in finding the money. He had already had to rely on Ian to buy a keyboard (for £140) when the band first got together, and he felt he was being 'carried' by the rest of the band. On Sunday, February 13th he rang Dave and told him of his intention to leave the band, because he thought it was unfair to the rest of the band.
Dave managed to persuade him to stay, which in truth was what John wanted to hear.
The group held a meeting on Tuesday, February 15th. Graham was not happy with the mix of 'Seeking Asylum', in fact the whole band were showing varying degrees of dissatisfaction with the final version. Somewhere in the mix the engineer had managed to lose a second guitar part, which weakened the sound considerably.
There was not a lot they could do about it, and they certainly didn't want to waste anymore money on trying to put it right. Graham also pointed out that the sound was over-compressed.
They also made a list of songs to record, and were pleasantly surprised to discover they had eleven. Talk then switched to the possibility of releasing their own CD.
Ian had contacts in London, and the plan was to record the album at Jubilee, then get a label to release the finished master.
Recording began at the beginning of March 1994, with members of the band visiting Graham's to contribute to the tracks. The set up was such that they didn't have to go to the studio together, in fact it worked well, because there wasn't any waiting around for people.
Also around this time John began work on a four track machine, borrowed from ex-Skydaddy Phil Close, the results of which would eventually turn up on his solo tape 'Viva Who?', released the following year.
Ian popped in to see John on Thursday, March 17th. He had just met Joe Callis, who was planning to re-join the Human League. He was hopeful that he may be able to set up a recording session at the Human League's studio in Sheffield. Nothing came of it. Ian then went on to Graham's to record vocals onto the tracks done so far.
It was John's turn on Tuesday, March 22nd to put down some keyboards on 'Baked Alaska'.
On the 23rd March, Ian rang John, letting him know that they may have a deal with Caroline Records to press and distribute our CD, and also that ex-Records star Will Birch may produce it.
A meeting was arranged at Graham's on Tuesday 29th March. The main topic was the details of any recording contract, the design of the sleeve, and potential titles for the album.
Rough mixes of many of the Jubilee recordings during March were taped on Viva La Diva's eighth 'album', called 'Six Go Mad In The Studio'. They included 'Seeking Asylum' [tape 3, side 1, track 5], 'I Don't Want You (Instrumental)' [tape 3, side 1, track 6], 'Cinematic Twist' [tape 3, side 1, track 7], 'Baked Alaska (Instrumental Mix #2)' {tape 3, side 1, track 8], and 'Acting On Instinct (Human League Demo Mix)' [tape 3, side 1, track 9].
The band felt that the normal rehearsal rooms were a bit restrictive, not only in size, but in atmosphere too. To try and put this right the band booked themselves into the large recording room, complete with heavy soundproofing. The ambience and quality of sound was much better than the smaller rooms.
Saturday, April 2nd 1994 was to become an historic day in the Viva La Diva story. It was to be the last time that the full line-up were together playing music, although nobody knew that at the time.
It proved to be an epic night for recording. The sound was perfect, and even though it was only being taped by two stereo mikes, the balance of the instruments was just right.
Ian and John revived their old part-time band The Curtains at the start of the evening, while they were waiting for everyone else to turn up. They recorded versions of 'Music Of The Spheres' [tape 2, side 1, track 1], 'Film Of The Book (Curtains Mix)' [tape 2, side 1, track 2], 'Stranger To My Own Creation #2' [tape 2, side 1, track 9], and 'Meanwhile Back In Soho' [tape 2, side 1, track 10], on which John played some awful guitar.
Then, when the rest of the band turned up, they jammed with 'Gable Ratchet Who?' [tape 2, side 1, track 11], then tried a new song, 'Inertia' [tape 2, side 2, track 1]. Then they tried 'Music Of The Spheres (Umma Gumma Or What? Mix)' [tape 2, side 2, track 2], 'Film Of The Book' [tape 2, side 2, track 3], and 'Genie's Out The Bottle' [tape 2, side 2, track 4], a punk inspired rocker.
They added yet another track to the box set with 'Music Of The Spheres (Heavy Metal Glitter Band Mix)' [tape 2, side 2, track 5], on which they all swapped instruments with hilarious results!
The last track on the box set is 'The Tapes Just Run Out' [tape 3, side 2, track 16], which is a few seconds of doodling at the end of the session, which would not be of importance, except for the fact that it was the last time that all of the band were in the same room performing music.
The evening was Viva La Diva's ninth 'album', predictably entitled  'Music Of The Spheres'.
Another period of inactivity was broken on April 22nd when John and Nick went to Graham's to add keyboard parts to 'Murder The Moonlight'. John took a rough mix away with him and called the tape it started 'Sticks, Tricks And Dixie-Licks', which was the bands tenth and final album.
On April 26th, 1994, John, Dave, Spider and Nick all went to Graham's for a mixing session. John copied 'Seeking Asylum (Rough Demo Rough Mix)' [tape 2, side 1, track 3], 'Baked Alaska (Rough Demo Rough Mix)' [tape 2, side 1, track 4], and 'Murder The Moonlight (Rough Demo New Vocal Mix)' [tape 2, side 1, track 5].
Then they did three further mixes of 'Murder The Moonlight', calling them 'Murder The Moonlight (Rough Radical Prince Splaff Dubmix)' [tape 2, side 1, track 6], 'Murder The Moonlight (Rough Demo Dave Mix)', and 'Murder The Moonlight (Rough Demo Spidernick Mix)'.
'Prince Splaff' was a pen name of John's he used in the eighties when he contributed to several music magazines.
All the mixes showed the songs developing well, especially 'Baked Alaska', which now had some fine backing vocals courtesy of Graham's wife, and the 'Prince Splaff Dubmix', which John had stripped down to the bone, adding some dub reggae touches along the way.
Graham unfortunately had to go away again, and contact between members of the band were limited to the telephone. On Wednesday, May 18th, Ian rang John to arrange a practise for the following night, which didn't materialise. On Tuesday, May 24th there was supposed to be a song writing session at John's, but Dave and Ian didn't turn up. Ian rang John the following night to say he was in London the night before!
Ian was not happy with the way the band was progressing. Everyone was becoming frustrated at the regular interruptions, Ian more so than anyone. He said we should be more honest with each other. To this end he told John that his song 'Hung On The Line' sounded dated, but that he liked 'Out Of Thin Air'. (This latter song was originally written by John and Phil Close during his days with The Skydaddies, and was never seriously attempted or recorded by Viva La Diva, although it was discussed)
At last on Tuesday, May 31st 1994, Dave and Ian visited John and they recorded four track demo versions of two brand new songs, 'Anne Of A Thousand Days' [tape 2, side 1, track 7], and 'Another Crash Landing In Teenage Heaven' [tape 2, side 1, track 8].
Both were half finished ideas, but worthwhile, especially 'Another Crash Landing...'
Another natural break came on June 4th when John went away for a two week holiday to Cornwall. John returned on June 18th, but did not have any contact with the band until July 12th, when Ian rang to say he had had a positive response from Virgin's head buyer with regard to Viva La Diva. He repeated again his frustration with the long gaps in group activity.
They arranged a 'Curtains' recording session for later in the month. On the morning of  Saturday, July 23rd, 1994, John recorded a song 'Curtain Fanfare' [tape 3, side 2, track 5] intended as a 'theme tune' for a proposed Curtains album. On the afternoon Ian arrived with two honorary Curtains, Alan Peat, an old friend of Ian's, who had featured on bass guitar in several of Ian's early bands, and Andy Bonar, a neighbour of Ian's from his early days at his parents house in Thornaby. Andy had featured in the first Curtains line-up in 1978. The session produced three tracks, 'How Do You Catch A Girl' [tape 2, side 2, track 6] an old Sam The Sham & The Pharoes hit from the sixties, which had been a favourite of John's for many years. 'My Minds Eye' [tape 2, side 2, track 7], a hit in the sixties for the Small Faces, and an original jam 'If It Ain't Hurtin' It Ain't Curtain' [tape 2, side 2, track 8] which weighed in at 12 minutes long, with a moody psychedelic feel, and a breathy vocal from Ian.
They are included on the Luckybox Box set because they feature two members of Viva La Diva, and it helps fill up a side.
Ian rang John on July 27th, again expressing impatience at the situation. He was keen to play live, and felt that the Graham was not as eager as the rest of the band. He had also started to write a set of country influenced songs.
August 6th was the date for the annual Bedale Rock Festival. John had written to the organisers in April, expressing an interest in playing, but had received no reply. It was just as well because the band was not ready to play live.
The band were getting annoyed with Teesbeat Records, because the CD with 'Seeking Asylum' on was supposed to be released in May, and a showcase gig to co-incide with the release was being arranged at The Georgian Theatre, Stockton. Neither the gig or the CD seemed to be happening, and the band were getting worried that the £360 they had spent on the project was going to be wasted. They had submitted artwork for the sleeve and had heard nothing but excuses.
Finally, on September 6th, 1994, the CD was released. It was called 'Whispers And Screams', and featured only five tracks:- 'Criticise' by White Trash, 'Right Or Wrong' by The Broadcasters, 'Cold Day' by Pale Dog Violet, 'When Love Weald's That Knife' by Sarah McManus, and, last but definitely not least, 'Seeking Asylum' by Viva La Diva. The CD was barely 20 minutes long, and the quality of the songs were very poor, The Diva's contribution being by far the most original.
Each band were given about 50 CD's each, with different artwork for each band. Viva La Diva's artwork consisted of a grainy photograph of a female pair of lips, with 'Viva La Diva' in red script over the top.
As a result of the band not being together, there was no promotion or attempt to distribute the CD. As a result band members handed them out to relatives and friends.
Graham returned from his work away in early September, but there seemed to be no enthusiasm from anyone to do anything. The bands days seemed to be numbered.


On Tuesday, September 13th John had a phone call from Fran Michna, an old friend from the late seventies. He used to be in a band called The Barbarians, whose guitarist, Dave Johns, was terminally ill with cancer. Fran was trying to organise an evening of music to help raise money for Dave and his family.
Dave Johns was a well known and well respected member of the local band scene. Since the late seventies he had help open up venues, and promoted bands tirelessly. The idea was for all the bands from the late seventies and early eighties reunite and perform at Middlesbrough Town Hall.
John thought this was a splendid idea and immediately set the wheels in motion to re-form Blitzkrieg Bop for one more night. This proved harder than he thought, the original drummer lived in London, the original bass player (Mick Hylton) had not been seen for sixteen years, and the guitarist also lived out of the area.
John decided the best thing was to ask Dave, Graham, Nick and Spider to back him as Blitzkrieg Bop. Graham, at least, had been in the final line-up of the band in 1979.
Thursday, September 15th will go down as the day that Viva La Diva split up, although to be truthful they just melted away. Dave rang John to inform him that Ian was getting a new band together with Alan Peat and the drummer from local band The Shy Reptiles. Ian had asked if Dave and John would like to complete the line-up but they were not interested. They felt that Viva La Diva still had a future, if not as a live act, then certainly as a writing team. John and Ian spoke again on Wednesday, September 21st, discussing at length the demise of the band.
The Dave Johns Benefit Night was scheduled for Tuesday, November 1st, 1994, and Dave and John got together on October 25th to work on the set. The plan was to do just two numbers, 'Radio', and 'Let's Go', both crowd favourites from the late seventies.
The first Blitzkrieg Bop practise for 15 years took place on Friday, October 28th, but sadly Dave couldn't make it, so John, Graham, Spider and Nick ran through the two songs. Graham made it plain that he wasn't much interested in getting together as Viva La Diva again, and was planning on producing a friends band in his studio from then until Christmas.
There was a second and final practise on the 30th, this time Dave turned up. It became clear that a third number was required, so they decided to do a 'cover version'. They attempted 'The Passenger' (Iggy Pop), 'Pretty Vacant' (The Sex Pistols), 'Don't Be Cruel' and 'Heartbreak Hotel' (Elvis Presley), 'Louie Louie' (The Kingsmen), before settling on 'Heroes' by David Bowie, with a few bars of 'Pretty Vacant' stuck on the end.
The gig itself was a triumph. Dave Johns was sadly very ill, but had made the great effort to come and watch the bands perform in his honour. Ian Luck also performed, but not with the rest of the Divas, he played two numbers 'Gotta See Jane' (R. Dean Taylor), and an original, 'Psychedelisize Me', which had been floating around as a possible Diva number for a while.
Blitzkrieg Bop played well, and belted through their three numbers in ten minutes. As it turned out, they could have probably played a couple more, but they had none rehearsed. Other bands who played on that star studded night included No Way, Shoot The Lights Out, The Amazing Space Frogs, The Wildcats Of Kilkenny', The King Bees with Fran, Nicky Beat & The Beatniks, Consume, The Reformers & Spit The Pips. Over £2000 was raised for Dave, but tragically, Dave died four days later.
As a result of that night, the band were invited to play at another benefit, this time at The Waterfront in Stockton. It was in aid of a medical charity, and was organised by Chris Graham, a former colleague of John's from his Makaton Chat days.
As the gig was only seven days after the Town Hall, there was no time for the band to think about it, and a couple of hastily arranged rehearsals were all that stood between the band and their next gig.
The band were expected to play for longer than ten minutes this time, so a brainstorming session ensued in which numerous songs were considered and discarded. They naturally chose the three from the Town Hall gig, 'Let's Go', 'Radio', and 'Heroes/Pretty Vacant (medley)', to these they added 'Walking Out On Love', one of the early cover versions attempted by Viva La Diva, 'Perfect Day', the old Lou Reed chesnut, six months before Duran Duran dusted it off, and most interestingly of all, 'Seeking Asylum', [tape 3, side 2, track 14] a bona fide Diva song.
This was chosen mainly because the band knew it inside out. Ian was not consulted about this, and he could have objected on artistic grounds, but there was no problem subsequently.
The Waterfront is a medium size public house in Stockton, near to the River Tees. It is popular with young people, and regularly has live bands in the 'cellar'.
The headlining band, led by guitarist Chris Graham, called themselves Original Babe. Their lead singer is Arthur Scargill's nephew and was in a very early line-up of The Comsat Angels!
The room soon filled up, and Blitzkrieg Bop ripped through their six-song set with gusto. The audience were quite reserved, and the reception for 'Radio' and Let's Go' were cool. This put the band on the back foot, especially compared to the rapturous reception seven days earlier. Unfortunately 'Perfect Day' was a mess, but 'Seeking Asylum' was an improvement, mainly because of familiarity. Dave snapped a string during 'Walking Out On Love', and 'Heroes' was performed without Graham, when Dave switched to his guitar.
It was such a let down after the Town Hall that Dave said he would not perform again as Blitzkrieg Bop. He announced this after it became apparent that the band were possibly going to be invited to support The Damned at The Arena in Middlesbrough.
The whole gig was filmed, so the only performance of a genuine Diva song is preserved for posterity.
John had a visit from the Evening Gazette music reporter, Carmel, on Wednesday, December 7th, 1994. It was primarily for an article that she was writing about The Rock Garden, a punk venue in Middlesbrough at which John had DJ'd in the Seventies. Interest in the venue had increased because The Arena (as the club was now known) were putting on The Damned, as previously mentioned.
John took the opportunity to give Carmel a copy of 'Screams And Whispers', but did not review it for the Gazette as she had promised.
The concept of Viva La Diva seemed to be dead as 1994 came to a close, but John and Dave were still keeping in touch. On Tuesday, December 27th John and Dave got together and in 90 minutes had a 'funky' piece of music down on 4-track.
The following day John wrote a lyric 'Saved By The Bell', which he added to the backing track on the 29th. On the 31st, John wrote and recorded a new song 'Still Turning Blue', which used a melody John first used on the Diva song 'Another Crash Landing In Teenage Heaven'.


On Monday, January 8th, 1995, Ian called at John's to pick the keyboard up. As neither person was technically a member of Viva La Diva, there was no reason for John to keep the keyboard that Ian had bought for the bands use.
Ian said he was getting a new band together, featuring Alan Peat and Dave John's widow, Moira. Fran Michna rang John, telling him that the Town Hall gig was being considered for release on video. Part of this would probably include John's footage of the event.
Dave and John continued to keep in touch, and on Tuesday, January 24th, 1995, Dave added some guitar to a new solo effort from John, entitled 'Don't Turn Your Back'.
Ian decided to host an informal gig at his local, The Queens Head, Gainford, on Friday, April 28th, 1995. He invited John, and after Ian had performed a short set with his new band, John got up and sang backing vocals with Alan Savage, an old pal from his days in Basczax.
The following day John rang Graham, and he expressed an interest in carrying on in some form, as soon as he returned from a spell away. Graham's first priority was to completely remix all the Viva La Diva tracks in the can so far.
At the time of writing (13th June, 1995), the band, without Ian, have not reformed, but there is the intention to continue the good work, and to re-create the musical chemistry that made Viva La Diva a very good band, which never fulfilled its potential.