Formed in the environs of Liverpool Polytechnic (later the John Moore University) in England in 1986, the Vernons soon grew to incorporate almost every young man on campus capable of wielding an instrument. Tom Le Bas (drums), Jez Francis (bass) and Andy Harding (lead guitar) had formerly played with Charlie Don’t Surf, but after recruiting Simon Burchill (ex-Brits Over The Briny) on vocals they became the Vernons - a name taken from the local football pools syndicate. After several low-key exploratory gigs in Liverpool the group recorded their debut album for the noted local label Probe Records in 1988. Called Smithdown Road after the street that housed so many students in that period, it featured the group’s expanded line-up with Jon Fiber (keyboards), Andy Frizell (saxophone), Simon James (tenor saxophone), Martin Smith (trumpet, flügelhorn) and Jamie McArthy (fiddle). However, by now, songs such as ‘Angels’, which had been a live staple for years, were showing their age. Certainly the version of that song included on the album lacked the cutting edge of their live performances, where Harding’s guitar playing (often with a half-empty beer bottle) often stole the show. The album did include at least one memorable moment - ‘Sophie’s Present’. This was written specifically by Fiber at the last minute as he had forgotten to buy his girlfriend a birthday present. The group broke up shortly after the album’s release when Burchill left for Manchester. He now works for British Rail.
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