Eating Madeleine with Whyte August


italics are sometimes eggs


Whyte August grew out of Gandalf. The personnel didn't change, but somehow the philosophy did. Whyte August became a proper band, whereas Gandalf had been associated with messing about, imaginary personnel, and jamming. Changing the name to Whyte August represented the first tentative steps to being a proper band. So let's cast a nostalgic eye back over Gandalf's decidedly messy and uninspiring past to see how Whyte August almost became something, and then failed.

One heady evening, Steve Dewey and John Ries decided that they wanted to emulate their heroes and become rock stars. Steve wanted to be Jimmy Page, while John wanted to be Marc Bolan. This inspired Chris Tucker toward capehood and emulation of Rick Wakeman. All three were around fourteen years old. In a burst of enthusiasm, guitars and keyboards were bought from a mail-order catalogue. Thus, Gandalf was born.

However, in the first two weeks of owning his guitar Steve broke two guitar strings. Only able to keep up the payments on the guitar by the skin of his teeth, Steve reasoned that if he continued to break strings at that rate, he could never afford the repayments on the guitar. Not only that, but he realised he could never afford both guitar and amplifier. So, he sent the guitar back. John, meanwhile, struggled manfully to learn a few chords, and, more importantly, to write lyrics. In fact, it was partly John's ability to write a decent, if hippie-inspired, lyric that had motivated the formation of Gandalf 1.

Steve cast around for another musical role. And he found one: he decided to become a keyboardist. So he bought a Bontempi Hit Organ; about the same price as a cheap Telecaster copy, but with no strings to break, and no amplifier required. Interestingly, this was exactly the same keyboard as Chris had already purchased. Gandalf were on their way to becoming the Greenslade of West Wiltshire. The Bontempi was merely a reed organ - hardly a Hammond with Farfisa speakers - but it was a beginning. Luckily, the organ came with a teach-yourself book, so Steve's house was soon filled with one-fingered renditions of Silent Night. The acquisition of the second organ created, naturally, Gandalf 2.

This was, unbelievably, a great stride forward, as Gandalf now wrote their first song; Suicide in Space, undoubtedly inspired by David Bowie's A Space Oddity. Little can now be remembered of it, except that it featured Steve and John, and the chord of G rather a lot.

Despite the excitement of writing this song, and another (Junkie), Gandalf 2 did very little. Chris also learned to play Silent Night. John was still to be found scrawling lyrics and banging out chords on his old guitar. But Steve was somehow disillusioned by his inability to instantly play like Rick Wakeman. Instead of seeing, as the older Steve now does, Silent Night as a step somewhere, the younger Steve saw it as a step towards squaredom (man).

Gandalf 1
John Ries Lyrics/Guitar
Steve Dewey Guitar
Chris Tucker Keyboards
Gandalf 2
John Ries Lyrics/Guitar
Steve Dewey Keyboards
Chris Tucker Keyboards