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Tribute to Andy Dunkley


We learned of the sad passing of Andy Dunkley at the end of April 2011, a very important and influential DJ who DJ’ed through the early years of Friars. Here are three tributes from those who knew him:

Kris Needs

When this gawky, wide-eyed 14-year-old stepped into an empty New Friarage Hall as the very first night of Friars was getting under way in June, 1969 the strains of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s ‘Bad Moon Rising’ was filling the hall with its contagious lilt and portend of both apocalypse and joy. This was a new one on me; before that night I had only heard records on my record player and radio in the hands of John Peel.

I took in the Gollies already beaming liquid wheels of colour on the walls and ceiling, while the red lights of Mandrake Paddle Steamer’s amps flashed red and ready. To the left of the stage was a large rectangular box on a table, supporting two turntables, both topped with rotating black plastic records. Bobbing and jogging around next to them with a huge grin frequently lighting up his glasses was a long haired figure sporting Kensington Market hoop-neck t-shirt and suede fringes, obviously totally into the music he was playing. He followed Creedence with other sounds I knew from Peel like Van Der Graaf, but also others I didn’t, like jazz guitarist Larry Coryell.

By the end of the night I had plucked up enough courage to venture over to the decks and ask the name of something playing. The DJ smiled and bellowed some title which was inaudible above the din, still emanating the same good vibes and, for me in those Phase one, coming to embody to club as its constant, high-profile element. This was Andy Dunkley and from then on I wanted to do what he did.

The tireless trio of John Peel, Jeff Dexter and Andy Dunkley were London’s scene-stoking DJ giants, who held gigs together at clubs, the Roundhouse and any place which presenting the volcanic music erupting between the mid 60s-early 70s [although Andy had given up a career in accountancy to roadie for the Spencer Davis Group earlier in the decade]. He championed and hit it with the newly-formed Mott The Hoople, DJing with them at early gigs [immortalised on a live album recorded at Croydon in 1971]. It was at the Roundhouse in early 1969 where Robin Pike was impressed enough by Andy’s DJing to ask if he would like to play at the new club he was involved in called Friars. Andy was also warmup sonic scientist and countdown man for Hawkwind’s legendary Space Ritual tour, and much more.

By the time punk exploded I’d started DJing myself, albeit at local pubs, but when I’d go to London gigs like the Roundhouse, there would be Andy, now spreading his musical knowledge to punk audiences, still smiling and talking to anyone who approached him. Sometime in the early 80s I heard he’d moved to New York. When I first went there then, I found him spinning at venues such as Irving Plaza. All my friends in groups said what a nice guy he was. When I moved to New York in 1986, I saw more of him, especially as his day job was at the Rockpool record pool on Leonard Street, whose magazine I wrote for. By now he was like a genial, fatherly fountain of knowledge, still expounding and laughing, while ferociously keen on checking out new music. He even got accepted in the fearsome industrial music circles of the late 80s, I think moving to Chicago at one point to work for the Wax Trax label. That was the last time I saw him, although I knew he had come back to London, spinning at clubs and a permanent fixture at Stranglers gigs. Their drummer Jet Black, describes him as, ‘the best of the best.’

Sadly, Andy died of heart failure on Saturday. A particularly sad loss in this unbelievably relentless time of shock deaths. 40 years after that night at the New Friarage Hall, I got to do what Andy Dunkley was doing when Friars Phase Four started at the Civic, and still am nearly two years later.. Huge shoes to fill but I’m dedicating my DJ set at May 28’s not-to-be-missed Hawkwind night to him, with a major thanks for turning me on to so much great music, the joys of DJing in a club and for being so approachable to an awkward teenage music freak. The first record may have to be ‘Bad Moon Rising’.

Friars founding father Adrian Roach

I've got many Andy Dunkley stories but the one I love says a lot about the man he was, his influence and Aylesbury connections.

Andy was very close in the early days to all of us who were involved with Friars.  He had access to music we had never come across and was a great influence.  He would also bring 5 or 6 promo albums he'd been given to air, usually before release, and at the end of the night distribute them between us.  One such album was called Joy Of A Toy by Kevin Ayers which I was particularly taken by and therefore presented with.  For some reason that night I was walking back along the towpath of the canal with Lol Coxhill.  I'd been hanging around with Lol for ages by then and used to carry his empty clarinet case into Ronnie Scotts when he played with the (English) Steve Miller Band to gain entry as part of the road crew.  Lol quizzed me about the record and I told him Andy had been plugging it and how refreshing it was.  We ended up at Lol's house and played it.  Lol had never heard of Kevin Ayers but by the time the follow-up album came out he was in the band!  With a young bass player called Mike Oldfield!

Friars founding father Robin Pike

I first came across Andy Dunkley at The Roundhouse on a Sunday afternoon.  Around 1968/9 I used to go to The Roundhouse more or less every Sunday afternoon.  At this time it was an 'alternative' scene, very hippy and very exciting.  It was basically an alldayer with a wide range of music.............think MC5 and Nick Drake.  Besides the live music Andy Dunkley played an esoteric range of records through an amazing sound system.  Partly because of the inherently wonderful acoustics of the venue with its circular structure, you heard records with a completely different dimension of sound.  The separation of instruments on each track was amazing.  Couple this with Andy's access to pre-releases and his range of musical knowledge and we had an unforgettable musical experience.  My vision of Friars from the outset was that of an alternative, hippy club outside the domain of pop music.  So I spoke to Andy and explained that we were launching a club in Aylesbury on Monday nights and asked if he was interested.  When he said that he was I gave him David's number and proceeded to tell David that I thought that Andy would be ideal for Friars.  Fortunately, David agreed. 

Andy was an unmistakable figure in the club, with his long hair, his shoulder bag of records and his clapped out van.  My particular memories are of the music he played, particularly the long tracks that you would never have heard on the radio.  'Down by the River' by Neil Young and 'Going down the road feeling bad' by The Grateful Dead are two that spring to mind.  The booking of King Crimson in 1969 was also down to Andy as he was sharing a Flat with Bob Fripp at the time and put a word in.  Although I was not there that night, it drew the biggest crowd of Phase 1.  Quite simply Crimson were huge at the time and I reckon we sold so many copies of their Island album that most of Aylesbury had one.  

Bye Andy and thank you.


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