In 1996 an album was recorded and released in the UK by a band called Craig McLachlan and The Culprits. Yep, that was my band and that album was the only full studio album we ever recorded. We knocked up a few other tracks along the way, but in terms of albums, that was it. It was a smokin’ little band and we enjoyed playing together immensely! It was a good good time. The band, a three piece, was made up of yours truly on guitar and vocals, the brilliant and much loved Mark Smith on bass and backing vocals and the smacking, thwacking, cracking Dan Farrant on drums. But the origins of The Culprits and indeed the album that eventually managed a UK only release, go back a ways…back to a meeting that nearly didn’t happen.

1989 and 1990 had been a pretty extraordinary time for me and my Aussie band Check 1-2. After years of playing pubs and clubs as ‘The Y-Fronts’ (yeah, I know…but there’s a story behind that name that I’ll share another time!) a major label deal was inked and an album recorded. I mean it was unbelievable for us!  Three kids who’d been playing together since early High School, to suddenly be in a ‘proper’ recording studio with an Aussie music legend and former pop/rock star producing OUR album…it really was a dream come true.

Anyhow, things only got crazier as songs from that album, singles, charted all over the place. “You guys have shot into the top 50 in Spain…. Hey, you’ve hit number 29 in Germany…. Boys you’re top 10 in India…. Chaps, you’ve got 2 singles at the moment in the UK top 30….” It was wild. And honestly, that whole experience is its own book, or at least a whole bunch of chapters in a book to perhaps be written down the track. But getting back to The Culprits…

In late 1990, during a brief visit to London, my music publisher at the time suggested I meet with a guy named Mark Smith. I was due to fly back to Australia in a few days and was thoroughly exhausted from an insanely intense schedule, so I initially declined the suggested meeting, saying we could perhaps do it next time I was in town. My publisher persisted, painting a most impressive picture of this Smith fella, claiming he was this that and the other, so in the end, basically to shut him up, I agreed to a meeting. And I’m so glad I did! Mark Smith ultimately became one of the best friends I could ever hope to have. We met at his flat over a couple of cups of Tetley tea on a Wednesday and on the Thursday, yes the very next day, demoed 4 songs, 3 of which appeared on my ‘Hands Free’ solo album and the fourth appeared as a bonus track somewhere. To say we hit it off would be an understatement. Friend, mentor, collaborator, partner, thank God I popped over for a cuppa!

Over the next couple of years we kept in touch and in 1992 caught up briefly while I was in the UK for a week promoting another song in the charts. Then in 1993 I moved to London. And so our musical journey together really took shape.

Believe it or not, over the years Mark had built a small studio in his small flat and I made an investment in it, purchasing, what was at the time, a fairly flash recording console. And so throughout the second half of 1993 we started recording material that I’d been writing since arriving in London. I was performing on the West End stage during ’93 and ‘94 so our sessions were fairly spread out. By ’95 we had a bunch of stuff recorded and we concentrated on mixing what we thought were possibly the most accessible songs. Of course us being us, we completely ignored the musical trends and fashions of the time figuring we’d get by on good ol’ hummable tunes! We were ultimately really pleased with our little home made project…. now what?

Well, Britpop was THE thing and we weren’t that. So, to cut an already long story short, we eventually re-recorded the project in early 1996, recruiting Dan and forming The Culprits. We shelved some songs replacing them with newer compositions, but for me, for us, there was always something special about the original project, the original London demos.

Heartbreakingly, my dear friend is no longer with us, but he will always be with me. In 2009, seated on the couch in what was ‘our studio’ at his London flat, bass & gig bag at the ready-he was playing at a jazz club that night-he figured one more cuppa was in order before jumping in the car with his gear to do battle with the London traffic. It would be his last cuppa in this world. Clearly God & the universe needed his extraordinary talents & kind heart elsewhere, because Mark passed peacefully on that couch, leaving those of us who loved him devastated, but richer in every conceivable way for having known him. From George Michael to Malcolm McLaren, from crooners to rockers, you name it Mark really could do it all.  

Seriously, you guys would’ve loved him! Clever and constantly surprisingly funny!

The songs that make up The London Demos were played and recorded with a lot of love, laughs and tea. I hope you enjoy!

For Smithy!

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