Jona Lewie Biography
Lewie joined his first group, The Johnston City Jazz Band, while still at school in 1963, and started earning money in the music industry in 1968 as a solo blues singer accompanied by his own blues & boogie piano playing. Also, showing signs as a singer songwriter, early recordings of his early compositions are sighted on the compilation album "I Asked For Water She Gave Me... Gasoline" On the Liberty/UA label in May 1969, just four months before accepting an invitation to join the already popular cult blues band Brett Marvin and the Thunderbolts. This acceptance would elevate Lewie's career, enabling him to play at bigger and better venues and afford more recording opportunities. Other early compositions in 1969 appear on an album "These Blues Is Meant To Be Barrel Housed" on the Yazoo/BlueGoose label in New York (still as a solo artist known as John Lewis). Jona stayed with the Bretts until 1973, their mainstream hit single being "Seaside Shuffle" another early Lewie composition. Despite its roots firmly embedded in cajun and 12 bar blues culture, the band, though not Keef Trouble, felt it was unashamedly commercial and quite at odds with the Thunderbolts usual style, and it was released under the one-off nom de disque Terry Dactyl and The Dinosaurs. The record did little on first release in 1971 but a year later on re-release reached number 2 in the UK Singles Chart.
However, Lewie looked likely to remain a part of a one-hit wonder group until he was signed up by Stiff Records in 1977. Following appearances on the Stiff package tours, he scored a solo hit with the humorous synthpop number, "You'll Always Find Me in the Kitchen at Parties" co written with fellow Thunderbolt Keef Trouble (1980) which made the British Top 20. Although his next single "Big Shot - Momentarily" was a hit in Germany, it did not chart in the UK, but by the end of the year he was back in the British charts with what became his biggest UK hit, "Stop the Cavalry". He also went on to reach No 2 on the Australian chart in 1981 with "Louise (We Get It Right)" and to have chart successes in many other territories, the most notable being South Africa, France, Belgium, Israel, Switzerland, Austria, South America and Sweden "Vous et Moi" charted in France.
Although now one of Britain's (and, incidentally, Germany's) most familiar Christmas singles, "Stop the Cavalry" was not originally intended as a Christmas song – it had got to number 1 in France in the summer. In England, however, it was released in late November after the record label spotted the line referring to the festival: "'I wish I was at home, for Christmas'". Not only this but the specific style of the brass instruments and bells in the chorus are very noticeable as a 'Christmas' style theme. Drummer Robert Carroll, who later became notable as a television announcer and for being the only reporter who did not flee the violence in the East Timor in September 1999, filing for CNN and BBC, played drums on "Laughing Tonight" the "B" side of the "Stop the Cavalry" single and recorded another twelve tracks with Jona Lewie. Most were for a BBC Maida Vale Studios session for record producer, Stuart Colman. Colman's weekly show was the the leading rock radio programme of its day. Also recording with Carroll at the BBC and on the album "On The Other Hand There's a Fist" were rhythm guitarist, Tim Branston, formerly with Ian Dury's rock band Kilburn and the High-Roads and lead and bass guitar player, Clive Chappell, of progressive rock band Caravan, brother of bassist Nigel Chappell who toured with T. Rex. Recording the same afternoon of the Jona Lewie Stuart Colman Show session in the adjacent BBC Maida Vale Studio were rock band Queen. Present that afternoon at the studios was Old Grey Whistle Test presenter "Whispering" Bob Harris.
The re-release of the John Lennon single "Imagine" which went to number one following his death on December 8 1980, prevented "Stop the Cavalry" from reaching the UK number one chart spot.
The tune and style of "Stop the Cavalry" was later parodied for a series of humorous TV adverts for John Smith's beer.
In December 2005, Lewie appeared in Channel 4's Bring Back...The Christmas Number One, along with David Essex and Slade (all of whom had big Christmas Number Ones.) They only fronted but did not play at the studio recording session of "I'm Going Home." It failed to secure a record deal despite being written by ex-Mud star Rob Davis who also appeared on the show and who co-wrote (with Cathy Dennis) the international million-selling "Can't Get You out of My Head" for Kylie Minogue.
Lewie's last public appearances, (apart from a few radio and T.V. broadcasts) took place in the 1990s with solo public performances on a short UK tour as special guest of The Blues Band, featuring Dave Kelly (musician), Tom McGuinness, and Paul Jones (singer), playing venues such as theatres, civic centres and auditoria, while occasionally playing one-off gigs such as that at The Hackney Empire, London. During 2009 he has been working on the last track of his third studio album. Although occasionally reclusive he is said to be quite fit for his age and keen to return to more live performances after this album's completion and release, planned for 2009.
The song and hit record "You'll Always Find Me in the Kitchen at Parties" came about originally when Lewie spotted some clever lyrics in a book by Thunderbolt band mate Keith Trussell (aka Keef Trouble.) Keith had taken the book to show Lewie on one of his visits in 1978, as Lewie had always found lyrics difficult. He had been signed to the successful independent label, Stiff Records, and needed good ideas for songs. Keith left the book behind for John that day - the rest is history. Lewie thumbed through it and his eyes fell upon what struck him as being a really good antithesis line "I don't do no washing up I always leave the stuff, piled up in the sink: but you will always find me in the kitchen at parties" and rang Keith to ask if he could add a few words of his own to the main lyric idea, already well developed, change the ending of the story for the song. In the process of writing his own melody on a multi-timbre polyphonic Polymoog in what was then his 8-track studio, Lewie ended up also playing and recording the backing track apart from some additional bass guitar from Norman Watt-Roy (of Ian Dury and the Blockheads ) and some additional hi-hat percussion from producer Bob Andrews. Contrary to popular folklore the female vocal in the chorus was not the voice of Kirsty MacColl but in fact the voices of the wives of Bob Andrews (producer) and Dave Robinson (the owner and honcho of Stiff Records itself). Kirsty's only involvement was when she appeared a few times on T.V. with Jona to mime/perform the vocal chorus. However, Karen O'Brien's biography 'Kirsty Macoll: The One and Only,' claims this as Kirsty's first vocal backing recording for Stiff Records.