‘We looked at each other thinking – this lad’s good’

Complex, the Blackpool band from the 1970s. Left-right: Tony Shakespeare, Steve Coe, Brian Lee, Lance Fogg.
Complex, the Blackpool band from the 1970s. Left-right: Tony Shakespeare, Steve Coe, Brian Lee, Lance Fogg.
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Steve Coe might not be the same household name as other Blackpool musicians-made-good like Robert Smith, Roy Harper, Chris Lowe and Maddy Prior – but maybe he should be.

Coe, who has died suddenly at the age of 62, began a lifelong and successful career in music when aged 15 he went to see a local rock band called Complex.

Complex in Mama Jenks, left to right - Lance Fogg, Tony Shakespeare, Steve Coe and Brian Lee

Complex in Mama Jenks, left to right - Lance Fogg, Tony Shakespeare, Steve Coe and Brian Lee

“We’d been playing at the YMCA in St Annes and this really shy teenager approached us, told us he wrote songs and asked if he could play a few to us,” recalled Lance Fogg, bass player in Complex.

“We got together at a house on St Annes Road East and he got behind an upright piano and played us a few songs. We were looking at each other thinking ‘this lad’s good’. In those days it was unusual to find a composer so we asked him to join.

“He was delighted. We clubbed together and got him a Vox Continental (an organ) and an amp and he started gigging with us. Within six months his songs were going down better than the cover versions we played.

“He was really innovative and it was his music that inspired us to go ahead and make our own albums, which have gone on over the years to become collectors’ items.”

Steve left the band and Blackpool in late 1972 for London, qualifying as a teacher but becoming drawn again to the music industry.

He established a reputation as a composer, arranger and producer, and recorded some great music.

A concept album Exiled, which featured guest vocalists including Colin Blunstone and Francis Rossi, was his first major success and gave Steve a big break – commissioned by Gerry Anderson to write some film score music for one of his productions.

One of Steve’s greatest successes was the group Monsoon in 1982, which featured the vocals of Sheila Chandra. The band had chart hits (helping to kick-start the World Music genre in 1982 with the hit song Ever So Lonely) and sold well in Europe and Australia. After Monsoon he co-wrote and produced all of Sheila’s subsequent 16 solo albums, four on Peter Gabriel’s Real World label.

Steve had major success in 1987 was his song Shattered Glass, sung by Laura Brannigan and produced by Stock, Aitken and Waterman.

It became a global hit and remains one of the all-time disco anthems.

He returned to his native St Annes a couple of years ago where he taught music in local colleagues, and met up again with his old mates in Complex. Indeed he was instrumental in the band releasing a 40th Anniversary CD of the group’s compositions from the 70s.

“It was great getting to know him again after all those years,” added Lance, who was in Complex until the band broke up in 1978.

“We had a couple of meetings at my house over the last year or so to discuss Complex and what we might do in the future, and Steve was convinced some of our songs could be used in film tracks or adverts.

“He was writing songs and working on music right until his death and it is an awful shock that he’s gone.”

There is thanksgiving service in celebration of Steve’s life on Monday at 2.30pm at St Paul’s Church on Lake Road North, Fairhaven.

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