How could I have a section about 'heroes' without 'calling all' my own? When I switched on kids Saturday morning TV in 1986 I did not expect to be impressed by the music. In fact, it was usually DuranDuran or some other pop band that would be studio guests....but that day was different. Here was a band playing something that confused me a bit; I was enjoying it!
The first track I heard was 'All In Red' and it had a real guitar playing a proper riff - a keyboard player who was more Rick Wakeman than the usual silly 'pappy-synth' pop-plonker I was used to seeing in 1986. And the drummer had long, red hair!
When the band returned for a 2nd song I listened even harder. Then, on Monday, I went and bought the album!
My friend Alvin and I had always discussed favourite bands since our college days so when I met up with him a few weeks later for a week's engagement at Butlins (Skegness) I told him about this great new band I'd found. "It Bites!" he replied. I should have known he'd get there as well!
In my humble opinion, It Bite's 2nd studio album 'Once Around the World' is one of the best prog-rock albums ever. 'Kiss Like Judas', 'Midnight', 'Yellow Christian' and the 20-odd minute long kaleidoscope that is the title track are magnificent pieces of work to hold their own with everything from 'Close to the Edge' through 'Supper's Ready' and everything since. I searched out the 12" singles with some unreleased gems on the B-sides (anyone 'Staring at the Whitewash' today? Apparently its about some very bad old-folks home in Cumbria - though it was years before I had a clue!!!)
I only saw It Bites live once, in Portsmouth Guildhall on a late tour, by which time their 'popular appeal' and (always surprising) chart success had dissipated. If I recall correctly there were only a few dozen of us there in the 2000-seater auditorium. Very sad but the band played great all the same!
So they split and went their separate ways, Frank onto a US-based future and respectable solo success, John and Bob forming Navajo Kiss - more of a Heavy Metal outfit as I recall though I have no recordings.
It was good to see their names pop up once in a while - most notable for me as part of John Wetton's backing band on the 'Chasing the Dragon' tour and live CD. Bassist Dick Nolan I didn't hear of at all, I'm afraid.
A couple of years ago all 4 original members got back on stage together at a solo Francis Dunnery gig at the Union Chapel. They performed an acoustic version of 'Hunting the Whale' with John Beck on accordion. After that rumours began to circulate about a possible reunion. The It Bites.com page was launched and a new live CD and DVD were issued - including a full version of 'Once Around the World' which was a joy to hear!
The band members were meeting and writing with a view to a full reunion. Only problem was that Frank was so far away and so busy. In addition to his copious music-making (he still performs several tours a year plus 'house-concerts' in your own front room!) he is studying for a degree in Psychology etc. Sadly, he had to pull out of the reunion and we all thought that was it...
...Not so! In the last couple of years many of us old It Bites fans had become hooked on a new band called 'Kino'. Kino is/was Bob and John from It Bites plus a bassist from Marillion and a singer/guitarist called John Mitchell, who also played with Arena, The Urbane (with Bob Dalton) and Frost*.
I suppose it makes sense now that John, Bob and Dick asked John Mitchell to take Francis' place in the band. After all, Pete Trewavas still has Marillion and original Kino drummer Chris Maitland is always busy with sessions and London theatre shows. Replace Pete with Dick and Kino becomes It Bites MkII. They didn't even need to change the whole repertoire as 'Plastic Dreamer' and 'Kiss Like Judas' had become firm favourites in Kino's live shows.
It Bites made a triumphant return to the stage in December 2006 with a highly successful short UK tour. The last night of the tour in Manchester was an incredible experience - I've never heard an audience sing so loud! And there were three new songs in the line-up to boot! John Mitchell had a heck of a job to do to convince long-time IB fans that he was up to replacing Francis - but what a tremendous job he did! He tells a story in the gigs about attending an It Bites gig when he was 15. I can picture him sitting at home for hours on end, guitar round his neck painstakingly trying to work out what Frank was playing and perfecting it himself. It's every rock fan's dream to join your favourite band - but I've rarely heard of it ever happening! It did to john Mitchell! Lucky guy!
Long may It Bites continue to thrill, excite and entertain us!
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