The Kondos (or Kondo Brothers, or Brothers Kondo. We had several names when we first started) were my first comedy band but they went through many permutations before becoming ‘The Condos’ and appearing on Radio4. The first incarnation featured many band members from the Websters, who after having fallen out swiftly having failed to land a record deal despite manager Ric Lee’s best efforts, soon fell back in again to embrace a new project. In fact we formed specifically to play at the new comedy clubs springing up all over England at the time, fuelled by what was labelled ‘alternative comedy’. Unfortunately ‘alternative comedy’ was very stand up orientated and we (or should I say ‘I’, as I was doing the gig finding) found it difficult to get gigs. ‘You a band? Nar we don’t do bands’ was the usual response. Or there was only one microphone and a feeble sound system. So I decided to run a comedy evening myself with us as the headliners! Thus was born weekly comedy nights on a friday at the Gunter Arms on the corner of Finborough Road and the Fulham Road.
‘An evening of Gunterama’
This ‘Evening of Gunterma’ ‘wear a wig and get there early’ was a hotbed of burgeoning stand up talent. I still have many of the bills! Eddie Izzard, David Baddiel, Bob Mills, Arthur Smith, Sean Hughes, Brenda Gillhooly, Jan Ravens all graced the peculiarly L shaped room above the pub (Arthur Smith even complained about its shape!). And then we came on after them. It worked a treat! The members of the band were Roger Jackson on accordion as Lutz Von Kondo, Julian Treasure as Bongo Knodo on drums, Adam Roake as Londo Kondo on bass, Dick Simpson as Rhondo Kondo on guitar, Martin Winning on sax was helmut Von Kondo and me as Donnie Kondo on vocals. The conceit was that we were a snake handling team of US religious cult nuts who believed not in God but in something called Pounceyism, run by R Ken Pouncey, (the pictures of whom were actually of Peter Dickson who was the DJ on Nightcap and now a top voice over who does the voice on the X factor) who had us mesmerized by his philosophy and had written a ‘Book of Pouncey, which we quoted from! Some of the songs were relevant to this thesis eg ‘Ken Ken Ken Ken Ken’ and ‘You’re gonna burn’ but it was mostly an opportunity to sing ridiculous lyrics to simple tunes that I’d written as usual on my geetar. We re-introduced a couple of Websters songs, notably the ‘Hot Coals Dance’ and ‘Jane Austen Reggae’ (all of Jane Austen’s books in the lyrics) but I managed to get the inspiration to do a whole bunch of numbers including the celebrated ‘She Tasted Good’, ‘Snog Me’, the ultra energy of ‘Hearse’, the ludicrousness of ‘Baby baby’ which was deliberately stupid about going out with a girl purely so she could do the household chores, and the weirdly canine ‘Bark like a Dog’ in which I told the story of becoming a dog. The existence of the group meant we were beautifully ready to try to do ‘New Faces’ which I saw advertised in the back of the Stage newspaper. We made a demo, sent it in, auditioned and got through to a heat at the Birmingham Hippodrome. We performed ‘She tasted Good.’ Here it is hosted by Marti Caine. We won our heat by 24,000 votes:
Here are parts of a video of a night at the Gunter shot by Rod Banner:
We got to the final obviously but were somewhat hamstrung by being told that we mustn’t do anything salacious or over the top as if we did so we’d be blacked out on air because the previous heat had been recorded and therefore wasn’t live whereas this was going out as it was being performed. On reflection perhaps we should have sworn or done something ‘outrageous’ as it would have attracted so much notoriety we’d have probably sold out every venue we went to after that. But we were too well brought up and toed the line. The night before we’d tried out the innocuous ‘Bark like a dog’ in a comedy club where the well known compere had been very rude about our doing ‘New Faces’ (which was mainstream of course) and it didn’t go down very well (despite subsequently being a hit whenever we did it live) so we changed to the even more anodyne nature of ‘Snog Me’ which although we did well didn’t have the same impact as it was just about a bloke getting kissed.
‘Strangled at Birth’
Panellist Nina Myschow, renowned for her forked tongue suggested we should have been ‘strangled at birth’. We came third. I put a huge ad in the Stage newspaper hoping for agents or some gigs on the back of the TV appearance and a couple were forthcoming but we were too expensive for one promoter and for the other the usual Websters problem of band members being unavailable and going on golfing weekends or extended breaks with loved ones reared its head. We did one final hurrah on the late Harry Thompson’s Radio show on Radio2 ‘Nightcap’, of ‘Snog’, ‘Hot Coals’ and ‘It’s a Kondo’ -I was appearing in sketches on the show at the time- and the band crumbled.
I wasn’t keen to let it go though as still had legs for me and I was writing what I thought was even funnier material so I fished about for more members and decided to do Edinburgh. This was a sort of Kondos mark 2 and featured Billy Paul, Johnny Piper, Debbie Paul, Wango Wiggins and Richard Lee who’d been playing with the Bouncing Czechs. By then I’d written ‘Love Hurts’, ‘Confectionery’ and ‘Sold My Baby’ and we were chosen to be on the BBC at the festival and did well in the Perrier award.
Harry Thompson meanwhile wouldn’t let it die and we made a comedy pilot called ‘The Kondo Komedy Krusade’. It didn’t get commissioned! I like it though! Here it is!
Whilst doing more editions of ‘Nightcap’ as an actor, I encountered Jon Magnusson who had taken over as producer from Harry Thompson and as well as revealing that he lived round the corner and was a very fine pianist, Jon proved willing to be involved in Kondos Mark 2. We recruited Theresa Revell and Robert Rawles and set to work! Mark Sendell replaced Rob after a bit. Here are some more pics:
Here are the Kondos live at the Canal Cafe:
Here are the Kondos on Swingshift with Jonathan Coleman:
When Jon found he had too many commitments I replaced him with the marvellous Tim Woolf. Theresa carried on (combining singing with us with booth singing at musicals in the West End) and Debbie Paul replaced the terrific Mark Sendell who was involved in acting projects. But I now gave into the pressure to make it Condo with a C!
Continued on CONDOS!