Writer: Paul Dews
Photographer: Steve Riding (Yorkshire Evening Post)
If 2005 turned out to be a year to remember for Leeds-based crowd pullers the Bridewell Taxis, then 2006 could well be the year that propels the band into the national spotlight. Less than 12 months ago, the Bridewells name was little more than a reminder of times gone by when Leeds was a city buzzing with musical talent attempting to keep the pace with our Mancunian cousins across the Pennines.
But, in the space of a few short weeks last year, the Bridewell Taxis emerged as one of the musical success stories from the city and the re-invigorated five-piece are suddenly ready to take on all-comers.
A chance conversation in a London hotel room last March after a Happy Mondays gig re-lit the Bridewell Taxis fire and by the end of 2005, the band had played three sell-out gigs on home soil, recorded their first demo for 14 years, and made an appearance at Elland Road as guests of Leeds United. Long-time pal and former roadie Mick Tobin was responsible for sewing the seeds for a potential one-off re-union gig and, to use the title of one of their own songs, things have been Moving Fast for the band.
"Wed watched the Mondays in London and Mick said afterwards that we should get the band back together again," explains vocalist Mick Roberts.
"Me and Sean (founder member) had talked about it before, but there was always one reason or another why we never took it any further."
This time around, Mick was up for the idea and Sean took the decision to set up a website to see if the interest was out there. Within days of its launch, the website was inundated with well-wishers asking if the band had any plans to re-form and play again. Drummer Glenn Scullion had always been wary of re-forming, but when approached, he too was more than willing to borrow a kit, dust off his sticks, and have a laugh for old times sake. Glenn was already jamming with twins James (bass) and Jules Metcalfe (guitar/vocals), and the duo became obvious choices to join a new-look band with three of the original members.
"Mick Tobin asked us if we wanted to join a band and we were like who?" recalls Jules. "We couldnt believe it when he said he wanted to get the Bridewells back together and wanted us to join.
"We saw the band a lot first time around and were big fans. We knew the lads and we knew the songs so we thought theres nothing to lose, well give it a go."
And so it was that this group of lads gathered in a Garforth rehearsal room in the early days of Spring. It had been 14 years since the Bridewells last played together, but it took just two minutes to recreate that missing vibe.
"When we walked into the room the lads started playing Honesty and it just blew your mind," smiles James.
"There was an immediate chemistry between everyone and it had such a good feeling about it."
Vocalist Mick was soon in on the vibe and with no formal plan, other than the possibility of a re-union gig at the back end of the year, the new-look Bridewells set about re-working their old material.
"The plan was for us to play a one-off gig," explains Glenn.
"None of us had thought about anything longer-term, we were just going to play the once, we hadnt even looked beyond that."
But the internet is a powerful tool and the website set up by Sean was proving a major source of motivation.
"People were e-mailing asking when you gonna play again," says Sean.
"There was loads of interest - I couldnt believe it, because when youve been away so long, you dont know what to expect.
"We were just playing a few tunes, so we booked Josephs Well and put the word out..."
The word, as it turned out, didnt need putting out.
Friday October 7 was the date set for the re-union and within 48 hours of the tickets hitting the shops, the gig was a sell-out. Tickets were exchanging hands for over £100 on e-bay and interest was sky high. The Yorkshire Evening Post was quick to pick up on the bands decision to re-form and the subsequent publicity eclipsed most of what was afforded to the Bridewells last time around. Yet nerves still abounded. The Bridewells played a low-key rehearsal at the Primrose in Meanwood three weeks before the Josephs Well when a small group of pals were given the privilege of witnessing their first live performance since 1991. But that was nothing compared to the hysteria which surrounded the Well.
"Josephs Well was the best gig weve ever played," insists Sean. The rest of the band nod in agreement.
"A lot of work had gone into it and we wanted to have a good night, but it was just unbelievable.
"The place was absolutely packed, there were loads outside who couldnt get in, and the atmosphere was amazing.
"Whatever happens now, that was a night well always remember."
Even the presence of police vans outside the entrance failed to dampen the spirits for a crowd who were there simply for a trip down memory lane. Over 350 crammed into the sweaty venue to see the Taxis strut their stuff and the whole event was captured on camera for a DVD release. The band rolled out old favourite after old favourite - vocalist Mick was mesmerised as one fan mouthed every word to every song - and the lads were buzzing.
"It wasnt until afterwards that we sat down and looked at what wed done," says Glenn.
"And then you ask where do we go from here?. Wed only planned it as a one-off, but wed got people ringing, texting and e-mailing asking when we were gonna do it again."
Happy to oblige and, privately boosted by the confidence of playing in front of a sell-out crowd, the Bridewells announced there would be a second date three weeks before Christmas. And maybe more.
Pudseys Bien Venue nightclub seemed a bizarre choice for a second gig, the venue resembling a small town hall rather than your usual fare, but tickets again went in a matter of days and the wheels were well and truly moving. Indeed, even before the Pudsey gig, the band lined up Leeds Universitys Mine Bar for a Christmas party in order to satisfy a demand that was far outweighing the tickets available.
"We talked about everything after the Well gig," explains Glenn.
"We didnt want to be one of those bands that goes around the Christmas cabaret circuit doing what they did 15 years ago.
"If we were gonna do it again, we all agreed wed have to work at it. Theres no point in doing it if youre not gonna try and do it properly."
By Pudsey, the band had a carefully nurtured set that included two new tunes. The catchy Change The Way I Feel was already proving popular with the fans and the Bridewells were moving in their chosen direction.
Suddenly they were men in demand. A glossy Leeds-based magazine featured the band, Leeds United were on the telephone offering an on-pitch appearance at their game against Cardiff City, and local radio stations were clamouring for interviews and sneak previews of their demo CD. Then came the Mine Bar and, while the sound wasnt as powerful as their two previous gigs, the Christmas Party was arguably the most significant of the three shows.
The Mine Bar attracted the curious crowd from the Leeds music scene, eager to see what the buzz was all about. A stand-offish group watched from the back of the room as the band took the stage and, without realising it, the Bridewells were facing their own acid test. Two songs in and the throngs had moved onto the dance floor and the place was rocking.
"The Uni was a real mixed crowd," smiles Mick Tobin, the driving force behind the band.
"There were a few old faces and a few whod not been able to get tickets for the other gigs, but 70 per cent of the people there had never seen the band before, and they got well into it.
"People will talk about the Well as a one-off or the Pudsey show, but the Uni stood out because of the way the crowd reacted.
"It was the first time the band had really had to perform to an audience who didnt know all about them and to see them get into it like they did made it all worth it."
If making it all worthwhile was the exercise, then the mission for 2006 is to take things a step further. A hardy few still lament the absence of a brass section, but its easily forgotten that when the Bridewells called it a day first time around, the trombone was already no longer part of their sound.
With Juless powerful guitar riffs effortlessly taking the place of the brass in the new-look band, the back-catalogue has a new feel. Honesty and Give In are just two of the songs to benefit from a makeover while Spirit, Whole Damn Nation and the classic Hold On still retain that familiar feel yet sound fresher today.
And fuelled by that confidence and the belief in the work they are doing, the band headed back into the rehearsal room last month to develop their new material in readiness for a March tour.
"Weve got a lot of ideas and were working on a lot of things," says vocalist Mick.
"Just because weve been away, I never stopped writing songs. Its what keeps me going. Ive an album inside me Id love to write.
"As a group of people weve clicked again. Theres a chemistry there. That is the big thing.
"And were enjoying what were doing. Thats important as well."
The feedback has also given the band added encouragement. Scepticism was unsurprisingly high among long-time fans, but support has been high. Advance sales for next months tour suggest the demand is there and people are willing them to do well this time around.
The current wave of optimism seems higher than last time when the original Bridewell Taxis spent almost two years seemingly on the verge of being signed to a label.
After nurturing a healthy local following and playing repeated sell-out gigs at the Warehouse, the Uni and Leeds Town Hall, the Bridewells of old were tipped for big things. But, within weeks of that Town Hall show, the band fell apart.
Glenn, Sean and Mick are all reluctant to talk about the past but, for all their reticence, they accept its that past that has given them the platform to move on.
"We had some good times," recalls Sean. "But in the end we had to make a decision. There was interest from record companies in Smile and we said if we didnt get a deal by the end of 1991 then we would pack it in."
Glenn continues: "We were made a lot of false promises and told this would happen or that would happen and it never did. So we called it a day."
"We were going through a bad time," adds Mick. "We all wanted different things, we kept sacking each other, and in the end things just didnt work out."
But time waits for no man and almost 14 years after a farewell gig at the Warehouse - the bands spiritual home - the band signed off 2005 at Leeds Uni in front of an appreciative crowd.
Quite what 2006 holds remains to be seen, but its hard not to share the bands cautious optimism, that they could be embarking on a more successful journey this time around. They may be a little older, but they are considerably wiser.
"Were gonna see how it goes," adds Glenn. "Weve got a good team around us and were all in it together.
"Whatever happens, happens, but well enjoy it along the way and if we give people something back for their support then its all been worth it."
You can catch the Bridewell Taxis in York, Fibbers (Mar 18), Doncaster, Camelots (Mar 25), and Leeds Uni Stylus Bar (Mar 31). More dates are set to be added.
FOR more information about the Bridewell Taxis check out