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The Shirehorses

Marc Riley and Mark Radcliffe sitting in a doorway

If you believe the popular press, the BBC and even Marc Riley and Mark Radcliffe themselves, The Shirehorses have been around in one form of other since the sixties, and have been very unlucky, having had all their top quality tunes ripped off and redone by other bands (robbin' gets....)

Of course it's all a lie - the Shirehorses were always nothing more than a band which created parody records, abliet good ones. But they were a legend, and even opened Glastonbury.

How It Began

The idea was originally tried out on Radio 5 show Hit The North, where the duo had done a number of spoof songs on the show. When they moved to Radio 1, the idea was continued and caught the imagination of the nation.

The spoofs were invariably performed 'badly' (it actually takes a lot of talent to play something that sounds so bad) and had spoof lyrics in place of the original.

What really set the band apart from most similar bands was that the Shirehorses would always claim that they were ripped off - that Babybird stole You're Gorgeous from Baby Bloke's You're Gormless and so on.

The songs soon became a regular feature, but really shot to prominence when the pair moved to the Breakfast Show.

Graveyard delights as the Horse Brothers and Dick Cave And The Bad Cheese were joined by Gazeebo, Pantson and The Chemical Toilet Brothers.

Live and Unleashed!

What was pretty much a radio in-joke went one further in 1997 when The Shirehorses were asked to open Glastonbury - which meant forming a proper band.

Mark's drumming and Lard's guitair work was joined by Chunky' Rhys Hughes (then producer of the Breakfast Show) on bass and 'Chester's Dark Prince Of the Mandolin' (aka Christopher Lee, Radio One sound engineer) on bass, mandolins, pewter tankards and anything else the aspiring musicians could lay their hands on.

The band were due on at 10am on the NME stage. Worried that there would be no one there, the band should have been more worried about the worsening weather - and famously the stage started sinking into the mud. Indeed the stage was out of action whilst attempts to prop it up with hay and shale were made by festival organisers.

One of those bands who had been prevented from going on had even lent the Shirehorses their drum kit, so that the roadies could swap the bands over quicker. They never made it on stage that weekend.

Glasto 1997 was followed by the Shirehorses 'We Came, We Saw, We Cantered' tour in September 1997. The Boddington's brewery sent down their shire horses and dray to see them off as the band went on the road to a plethora of student unions, in a London bus, which also was the venue for the breakfast show the morning after the gigs - even in London, the show came from the bus, abliet a bus parked outside the Radio 1 studios.

Pop Music, Let's Go!

With the Shirehorses already in a world they should never have been in. a bright spark at East West records decided more could be done and set about releasing a CD of the songs. The Worst Album in the World... Ever... Ever! shot into the album charts at number 22, just above Daniel O'Donnell's Christmas Album.

Naturally the music press weren't impressed. Vox gave it a rating of 1 out of 10 and Q gave it one star. Only Melody Maker played along with the game, calling it

a beautiful, intelligent and vibrant collection of songs

Melody Maker, 8 November 1997

And you can't say fairer than that.

This is the end... my only friend, the end

The duo's move to afternoons ad the departure of Chunky for the Simon Mayo show (and then latter the Evening Session and Chris Moyles) saw the band slowly wind up. Their final shows were stadium gigs, supporting Blur.

And so it ended. Sort of.

The Comeback Kid

Bitten by the bug (or the chance to get some more cash) a reduced Shirehorses band returned on the road for another series of gigs and it was inevitably followed by that difficult second album.

14 May 2001 saw Oh Kid, Eh bit the streets, on Columbia records, which came after a major promotional tour consisting of a dizzying four dates in London, Manchester and two nights in Glasgow. They even sold T-shirts!

It even beat 'The Worst Album...' up the charts, beating the previous best by getting to 18.

With that The Shirehorses were laid to bed for the last time. Well until they get together again.

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