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INTRODUCTION
This website is dedicated to the memory of Kevin McFadden and his bandmates, who formed one of the best bands to emerge from the growing music scene in Bristol and captured the hearts of rock fans thoughout the country and abroad. Certainly their fan base was huge, and their gigs electric. There may be many bands who ‘should have’/‘could have’, made it in the world of rock music. Misdemeanor will be high up on that list, and they very nearly did. Kevin’s songwriting certainly should have earned him a reputation as a prolific writer.  The aim here is to preserve his musical legacy and keep his songwriting skills alive.

 

ABOUT MISDEMEANOR

Misdemeanor was formed in 1979 from the ashes of Vitus Dance, a band which captured the spirit of punk. The original line-up was Kevin McFadden, Bob Watson, Steve Capaldi and Kearin Wright. For a while they were under XTC's management team, Ian Reed and Dennis Detheridge. They were the first rock band to play at The Bristol Bridge Inn. Traditionally a 'Jazz' pub, the crowd walked out after the first few numbers! However they soon built up a following and played there three or four times a month for the next couple of years and the 'Bridge' became their spiritual home.

The band attracted a lot of local interest from BBC Radio DJ's Al Reed, Andy Westgate who gave them regular airplay (and later Johnnie Walker once the double A-sided single Come Inside and Clear Waters was released). This resulted in a meeting with Dennis Sheehan who was also present at a BBC radio show being interviewed alongside Kevin. A management deal was struck. Dennis Sheehan also managed Iggy Pop, and later became U2's tour manager. Through Dennis they were taken under the wing of Steve Todd from the Wasted Talent Agency who were promoting most of the biggest bands worldwide and offering Misdemeanour significant support slots, including the Boomtown Rats, Ian Dury, U2 and most importantly perhaps, as will become apparent in this story, R.E.M.

At the time, being managed by Dennis seemed like a great opportunity, but they later discovered that he had turned away Press and A & R interest as he was concentrating his efforts on U2. One of their biggest regrets is that the offer of a tour of the South Coast of America with R.E.M never materialised. Despite Michael Stipe and the band having made the offer personally, Dennis turned it down without talking to Kevin and the bandmates as he later tried to explain, 'because he didn't consider it of benefit'!

The band parted company with Dennis in 1986 and advertised for a manager in NME. The advert was answered by Mark Handy who arranged gigs in Paris and launched a supporters club with over 2000 members.

Later, the band expanded with the addition of Jezz Jackson on keyboards and Kevin would go on to write some amazing compositions with the new enlarged Misdemeanor, including the awesome 'Walls Of Shame', 'Indian Times' and would pursue his 'American Dream'. Take a listen here and on iTunes to music now available as downloads.

Original text from BristolArchiveRecords.com and edited & added to by Paul Cary. (2019)

 

KEVIN MCFADDEN - RIP

Kevin McFadden sadly passed away at his home in Bradley Stoke, near Bristol on July 1st 2018.

Kevin, founder member, and songwriter for Misdemeanor, one of the country's best bands in the early 1980s, moved from California back to Bristol in early 2018, and was planning to start a new life with old friends and create new music. Kevin’s enthusiasm for all things musical and his great story telling ability, no doubt developed from his Irish background, will be greatly missed. Most of the tales he told were from personal experience growing up in Northern Ireland, later in England and USA and are far too funny and/or contentious to be repeated here. He used his great insight and his unique take on things to develop songs which were meaningful and stayed in your memory and was writing new material right up until he passed away.  As a personal friend for 40 years, I will miss him greatly. pc

He is survived by his six children, Leanne, Jacqueline, Connor (1st marriage), Katherine, James and Helen.

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What was apparent from talking to Kevin whilst he was back in Bristol was that the best was yet to come…. Although Kevin admitted he left music behind for a number of years whilst in the USA, when the bug came visiting again, he soon picked up where he left off and various ‘happenings’, 'situations' he got himself into brought the writing bug back into play. The passing of years and greater life experience brought a new confidence to his writing.

Tracks such as Baby Cries, inspired by someone a member of his family knew, only got as far as a couple of lines down on paper and a few chords inspired from of all things by Silly Love Songs written by McCartney. Two tracks in particular did get recorded as demos on his newly acquired Boss Digital recording studio and portions were played at his funeral. They are Tornado Stories and Wounded Heart.  Wounded Heart is a strong demo and there are plans by his old band mates to take it back into the studio and polish off what he started.

Jack, Kevin's Dad, told me: " He sacrificed his music when he got to Sonoma, so that he could build, not one, but two businesses - he had a State building Licence and a State Electrical Licence.  His reputation grew and among his clientele was Robin Williams (Mrs Doubtfire) also James Gardener - he took me to his house outside San Francisco. "

Kevin thought Tornado Stories was his best work.
“ Dear Paul
I am writing to tell you this because I think you will get it. I really don’t do anything musical much. but I heard these words at an AA meeting a couple of years ago.  The alcoholic is like a tornado roaring through the lives of others. That stuck in my head. Last year when I was driving cross country I had this idea for a song called tornado stories. I played with it left it, played with it etc. wrote lyrics whenever they popped up. I never really went at it to get it finished which is not how I used to do it. I wrote the music on a piano and now my piano is in Florida and I don’t have one and I couldn’t do it on the guitar to how I liked it. So I tried to play the piano on the guitar so it is fingered really strange and no pick. Mostly 5ths and 3rds on the first 4 strings played around the first 10 frets. Now I think it’s the best thing I’ve written since Walls of Shame. I’m still messing with it and I’m a tech disaster so I don’t know how I could let you hear it but I’m going to ask another musician guy I know if he could help. I never gave myself a pat on the back for any of my stuff.  I always was trying to do the next one. So maybe it’s because it’s been so long or maybe I’m just old but I know this is good.
As a footnote I was at my addiction counsellors last week and he asked me to read this thing he had prepared for me. It was in the AA big book, page 83, last paragraph. The alcoholic is like a tornado roaring through the lives of others! “

" When I read how he tried to replicate the piano, on the guitar, my mind went back to our early days in Bristol.  He was majoring on music at Grammar School in Belfast and, when we came to Bristol, I made contact with a BT colleague who had music connections in the city.  Through him I got Kevin into the City of Bristol Youth Orchestra - he played the trumpet.  The conductor told me that he was the sweetest trumpet player that he had ever encountered.  But Kevin decided that it was not for him and left.  I had great hopes for his future with the Youth Orchestra, but he decided that his real interest lay with the bands he was about to found, rehearse and present. " Jack McFadden

 

Jack again: I was firmly of the view that Kevin was not alcoholic but his mother thought otherwise.  Monica was even more perceptive and created a boKevin in Arizonand between them so that she could help him.  Listening to him once, on alcoholism, at Fort Ross where we spent a day, I was so impressed by his knowledge, I suggested that he write a book; that was his strength - he was a wordsmith.

" He allowed himself the luxury of playing in an Irish Pub in Sonoma (he played under the name of Sean Finn) but his main concern was business and he achieved a lot.  Sadly the recession hit and everything went down the 'swanny'; regrettably - he sought solace in the bottle. "

 

BOB WATSON

Bob was in the band from day one, a constant, and his playing is really special, understated, but without doubt Misdemeanor's sound wouldn't be the same without his guitar sound and harmonies. Just listen to his guitar responses on Iron Hat for an example of how fine a player he is... Lovely stuff. His laid back stage presence complimented Kevin’s boisterousness and they looked really good together 'duelling' on guitars, Definitely up there with the best of two-guitar bands.   As Kearin says, “ He (Bob) was always a very unique player with a very competent style and sound, and I did enjoy our time playing together. Also enjoyed his solo recordings he gave me in the past.

KEARIN WRIGHT

The powerhouse behind band. Kearin's relationship with Kevin goes back a long way, early bands included The Desperados, Vitus Dance as well as Misdemeanor, and is a superb drummer. He is a self-declared drumming obsessive with everything drum related running through his veins. Kearin's drumming at the back of the stage complimented the action at the front, solid, enthusiastic and flamboyant. Kearin will never stop playing and is kicking those drums with the same energy and enthusiasm...

JEZZ JACKSON

In my opinion, Jezz's keyboards really helped build the 'Misdemeanor Sound' and his contribution completed what, I believe, Kevin had been searching for. His organ/Hammond sound in particular helped create an atmosphere which ‘told the story’. Jezz is also a fine saxophone player and is gigging regularly. Good musicians keep on getting it on......

STEVE CAPALDI

Steve was a rock solid bass player in the band.  He had passion and drive which would sometimes spill over into other areas (show me a rock band were that doesn't happen - pc) He always looked the part with good stage presence. Bob has said that, “Steve’s bass style was characterfull, adding melody as well as depth, and always tasteful. Whilst Kearin, Misdemeanor’s drummer says “he was a solid player who did try out little riffs which worked, his timing was good and did his bit with backing vocals. “

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MUSIC

WALLS OF SHAME is about his time growing up amongst the Irish troubles and a tribute to John F Kennedy, a man held in high esteem in Ireland.

The lyrics are powerful ...
" Watch watch the house of David fall
Coming to a close, it’s coming to a close
Then choice, choice becomes a luxury
Hope must never die, hope must never die
Because Christ is living on his own somewhere
Watching over of this, he’s watching over this “

...and has upset many of the faith, but they tell a story, as Kevin told one reporter. " I write about emotions, and things that have happened to myself or people I know. They are like a three or four minute film clip. "

Click logo to hear WALLS OF SHAME

 

 Click to view WALLS OF SHAME video

Click to view IRON HAT video

IRON HAT Kevin’s intensity and soul bearing goes into songs like Iron Hat which is a song about the infamous Australian outlaw, Ned Kelly.

Click logo to hear IRON HAT

DISGUSTING was recorded when Kevin and Kearin Wright were in Vitus Dance and aired by John Peel on 25th September 1979. Misdemeanor played this during their gigs and of course, it always went down a storm. A real crowd pleaser...

Kearin recalls " Disgusting was originally Vitus Dance, but it came with us when Kevin and I went on to form Misdemeanor.
The tune was nicked from the TV’s The Magic Roundabout intro music, but we played it a lot faster. It always went down well at gigs. When recording for John Peel at Maida Vale studios, we had rehearsed solid for several weeks every evening so we were well prepared. Recording the tracks was rapid and slick, all the tracks and solos down by lunch time.  We stopped and we all went to the famous BBC canteen only to find it was almost empty except for us and another band sat across the room. We looked at them! And they looked at us! And we both wondered “ who the hell is that?
When we got back to record the vocals we found out the “other” band was a London band called Madness !"

Click to view DISGUSTING video

Click logo to hear DISGUSTING 

 Click to view PRIVATE EYE video

Personally I've always loved this track because I think it shows Kevin's clever use of humour and sense of the ridiculous which comes through in the lyrics. Interesting that his use of an American accent and character was recorded years before he left for America and the sunny climes of California. (pc)
Released on Circus Record in 1981.

Click logo to hear PRIVATE EYE

PRIVATE EYE was recorded at The Facility Studios in Bristol on 10th April 1981 and was released on a sampler album 'The Circus Comes To Town' produced by Circus Records.

Bob Watson’s recollection is that it was him & Kevin and a couple of sessions guys set up by Circus Records..
" I recorded the solo and slipped a bit with the timing on part of it and so went for a second take which I was happy with. For some reason the engineer kept the wrong one. Also I think that Misdemeanor at the time did a much better version of the song. I think they kept the bass and drums set up and ready to go in the studio and the engineer knew what to expect from the in house session players. So convenience won over character.
The drums were not in the same league as Kearin's. Kearin is a far superior drummer, and the bass player only played part of Steve Capaldi’s bassline. Steve’s was more interesting. Misdemeanor’s version had more accents.
We also recorded a live set in Whitehall studio, and the engineer chose from that “Private Eye” as the track they wanted for the album, with the proviso that their resident bass and drummer were used on it. I think Kevin wanted me there for my car horn guitar bits and the solo. "
Kevin always held a strong grip on his material, and had a very clear idea in his head of the 'sound picture' he wanted for his compositions. "I still cannot understand why Kevin didn’t insist on them using Kearin and Steve, and I remember feeling very uncomfortable with it." Bob Watson

INDIAN TIMES
Whilst he was in the USA, Kevin and I emailed each other and his colourful stories always made good reading. “ This is a really old book that I have been able to hang on to. Dennis gave it to me. Congress said the Native American Indians were obsolete. Pretty much what Thatcher said about the miners and it gave me the inspiration to write ‘Indian times’. Here’s a fact:  When the Indians were beat they put them in this place called the Bosque Redondo. I went there, its desert, nothing grows, no wildlife. They surveyed the land and put the Indians on what they didn’t want. But you know what, America was exploding. A country was being made. They were making it up as they went along. Unstoppable progress, fortunes to be made and the west was a huge unknown. “
" Someone reminded me the last public appearance I did was in Tombstone, Arizona (gunfight at the O.K. Corral). I don’t think I told you about that.  It was in the bar where Wyatt Earp’s brother was gunned down triggering (geddit) the showdown. It’s now a gift shop run by this nice woman who I had a drink with and somehow I thought busking in tombstone would be an excellent idea so I did and enjoyed myself fully. "

Click logo to hear INDIAN TIMES

Thanks to Ian Storror for use of the photographs.

 

 
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GALLERY

Far left: Kevin, his brother Ray (drums) and Steve Capaldi rehearsing in a local warehouse.. Later the band would practice in the cellar below the Crown in St. Nicholas' Market.

 

Left: Kevin as a youngster practing with Kearin and Dave Bailey. I'm guessing they were all teenagers when this photo was taken.

Right: Kevin on one of his last days in California after a day cycling in the West Coast sunshine.

 

Far right: A photo of the early band from their promotional booklet. (sponsored by Arthur Guiness!)

 

 

Photo Credits: Paul Cary, Denise Cousineau, Martin Ritchings and Peter Taylor

Crashed Band Van arly band line up

Far left: A crashed van on the way to a Locarno gig. Never let the guitarist drive the van!

Left: A pre-Misdemeanor publicity shot with Steve Capaldi, Kearin Wright, Mark Byrne and Kevin (standing).

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WHAT PEOPLE SAID

" Kevin was a truly interesting character. I’m really grateful to have shared some specially unique times with him and the band during those heady 80’s years. Above all, Kevin was a brilliant Irish musician and lyrical songwriter. A true un-sung hero who nearly made it to the big time. He wrote strong, memorable songs which the whole crowd sang back at us. His memory still lives on, very much alive as ever, in those who knew him and were touched by his charm, wit, humanity, passion and pure talent. I often wake up with his songs in my head, as strong now as they ever were. Jezz Jackson

' ….more than a glimmer of rock ‘n’ roll’s spirit comes through in Misdemeanor’s guitar splash of sound. It’s too easy to compare them with the likes of U2/Big Country etc., but their music does lie in that colour field – shimmering hard edged guitar sweeps with the occasional Celtic flavouring topped with a big voice hinting strongly of a Springsteenesque passion. '
Elfyn Griffith - Press

" I can only echo Jezz's words. In the course of researching and developing this website, I've spoken to many past friends and colleagues and they all say the same. Kevin's songs stay in your subconscious and they find themselves singing one of the many Misdemeanor tracks. I was only really involved in the early days of the band, but even then in their formative years, gigs were amazing, audiences would sing back at the band, to smiles from all on stage. All remember Kevin and the band fondly. " Paul Cary

" Yesterday, I learned of the death of someone I greatly admired, a wonderfully talented man who, for a giddy period back in the 1980s, gave me the musically soundtrack of my life – Kevin McFadden. Not, I know, a name that many people have heard of. He was the leader of a Bristol based band called Misdemeanor. McFadden wrote the songs, sang the songs and played lead guitar. Misdemeanor had a unique sound. And they really rocked. Once I saw them play, I wanted to watch them play over and over again. Every club and venue in Bristol and surrounding areas, I went along. I not only knew the songs, I knew the words. Incredibly, for a local band, they became my favourite band. The charismatic spiky haired singer, pounding away on his electric guitar, leading this tight, powerful rocking band, playing some of the best music I had ever heard. " Rick Johansen - Electric Blue

" So sad to hear this evening of the passing of Kevin McFadden. Whilst we lost touch over the years I will always remember with great fondness the many great times and adventures that we had together. I took the photograph of Kevin that became the cover for the single Come Inside. It was taken on a beach in Galway whilst we were on a brief tour of Ireland. I remember how thrilled we were to get the single pressed using it to promote the band and selling it at our gigs. One time a few weeks later we randomly bumped into Rory Gallagher in a pub in London one lunchtime. He bought us both a pint and took the time to listen to our story of how we were trying to make it in the music business. He took a copy of our single and wished us well. We were so made up after meeting Rory. Such great times. RIP Kevin McFadden. " Jonathan Bailey - taken from a YouTube comment.

Kevin's take on this meeting:: " I met Rory in the Fulham Greyhound pub  (the pub has long since gone). He lived around the corner. The music agency we worked for, Wasted Talent, was directly opposite. It was like a who’s who of the music business that went in that pub because of the Agency. John Bailey and me were sitting at the bar and in mid-sentence John said “holy shit your Rory Gallagher”, and I turned round and it was! He liked to pick horses in the pub then go to the bookies. When we went back to the agency and told them who we had seen they thought we knew each other having this weird idea that everybody in Ireland knows everyone else. Ha."


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DENNIS


The story of Misdemeanor can't be told without mentioning Dennis Sheehan. He had an impressive musical history. He was sound engineer for
Stone The Crows in the 1970s, and in fact was hurt himself when Les Harvey (lead guitarist) was electrocuted. Later Dennis was sound and tour manager for Led Zeppelin. Through Dennis they were taken under the wing of Steve Todd from the Wasted Talent Agency who were promoting most of the biggest bands worldwide and offering Misdemeanor support slots.

The U2 connection was always a bit of a can of worms, causing a lot of unease due to the ‘near-miss’ that Misdemeanor had had via Dennis Sheehan, who as we have previously mentioned, was also U2’s tour manager. This included missing out on a tour supporting R.E.M. which he turned down without consulting the band! Dennis also passed Misdemeanor demo tapes on to U2, so Bono and the rest of the band had them to listen to. They even played Misdemeanor tapes at U2 gigs during the incidental music you hear before U2 went on stage! Seemed like a good idea at the time, but once Joshua Tree was released, Dennis lost interest in the band. Kevin, speaking years later was pragmatic. His thoughts were that Dennis's head was turned by the increasing success of U2, which took up most of his time. No doubt a familiar tale in rock music...

THE FUTUREClick to go to the top of the page

The aim of this website is to keep Kevin McFadden's music alive and to preserve his legacy. Kevin's family would like to encourage bands and other performers to play Kevin's songs and credit him. By doing so, they will help his musical legacy to live on.

 
WebWeaver: Paul Cary