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Band History

Dupe is in effect the new name for Official Secrets and has come about through a small line-up change which changed the musical direction of the band slightly and, we thought, warranted a new name.

Official Secrets were formed originally in 1983 by Rob Childs, Brian Smith and Dave Griffiths. Rob and Brian had met at school and had played together in Raw Deal, a hard rock band who made a name for themselves around South East London in the early 1980s. Rob was lead vocalist and guitarist while Brian was the bass player. Deciding to form a new band, Brian had switched back to guitar and the pair of them placed an advertisement in Sounds, the now defunct music paper, seeking Bass, keyboards & drums for modern R&B/Rock Band.

Dave, the keyboard player joined in response to this advertisement and the three of them began auditioning bass players. This was remarkably unsuccessful but in the interim, the band wrote a large number of songs, some good, some awful! Peter Cross was a friend of Dave's and they had been entertaining themselves whenever Pete was home from University, recording songs on a four-track reel-to-reel tape machine. Peter was a multi-instrumentalist but in previous bands had been bass-player and lead vocalist. This had not escaped Dave's attention, but Peter was looking to do a MSc and there was a possibility that he would study this at Southampton, which would put him rather out of reach of a band based in Orpington.

As luck would have it, Peter decided to study for his MSc in London, at which point Dave asked him to audition for the band. Rob and Brian had heard the tapes of Pete playing and singing and were impressed before even seeing Pete. Needless to say, Pete was asked to join on the spot, and the now quartet went in search of a drummer, a task which proved more awkward than finding a bass-player.

The band rehearsed over the next year with a number of unsuitable and in some cases, untalented drummers when Rob and Brian made contact with Paul Smith who had been the drummer with Renegade, a slightly more progressive hard rock band who had been on the circuit with Raw Deal a few years previously. Paul's audition was a formality as his rock background fitted in perfectly. Official Secrets completed this line-up in the summer of 1985, a line-up which was to remain unchanged until late-2003.

The first ever gig by Official Secrets was on 11th November 1985 at the Half Moon pub in Herne Hill. Billed as The Choirboys, due to the fact that the name Official Secrets had only been decided on a week previously, the band performed a set of original material with a handful of covers. Rob handled a majority of the vocal duties but Pete provided a vocal on Back in the USSR, the first in a long line of Beatles songs the band would perform over the next 20 years.

This first gig was made all the more memorable by the band’s friend, Dave Wilson, who amused himself leaning against the bar at the back of the hall and yelling “F*ck off” after every song. He has moved to Norwich since then, which is fair, we think.

Over the next few years Official Secrets gigged around London, playing such venues as The Rock Garden, Fulham Greyhound, Dingwalls, The Cartoon Club and the wonderful Woolwich Tramshed.  As the end of the 1980s approached, it seemed that the slightly half-hearted dream of becoming rock ‘n’ roll stars was looking less and less likely.  Steadily more cover versions began to creep into the sets and this coincided with the Band’s one and only residency at The Princess Louise pub in High Holborn, London, which involved playing every third Saturday for a few years.

Having sprung from the New Wave of British Heavy Metal movement in the early eighties, Rob and Brian had decided to depart from that sound entirely, using predominantly clean guitar sounds. However as the cover versions began popping up in the set, it became clear that a more rocky sound might suit the band’s music better. It was a remarkable transformation and has served the band well ever since.

It was during this time that the Band decided to branch away from the more obvious mainstream cover-versions and attempt more ambitious songs.  Being children of the seventies, the first song in this vein to be attempted was ELO’s Mr Blue Sky, which the band pulled off remarkably well and it rapidly became an audience favourite.  This in turn encouraged the band to pursue this policy more actively and soon the Queen back catalogue was being plundered with songs such as Bohemian Rhapsody, Killer Queen, Somebody to Love and We Are The Champions featuring in the sets.

Pete’s voice naturally lent itself to Beatles songs and soon he was taking an equal share of the vocal work with Rob, the band taking pride in building up three and four part harmony vocals. The ratio of original songs to cover versions was rapidly changing and eventually the only original song left in the set was a number called Fever Pitch, composed by Dave, and borrowing heavily from the cult underground rock band, Zodiac Mindwarp and the Love Reaction.

Private booking became more regular and the band found themselves booked for weddings, PTA balls, birthday parties, you name it. The desire to remain a bit leftfield as far as choices of cover versions continued as the band began rifling through the wonderful Glam Rock era of the early seventies.  Nearly the whole of Gary Glitter’s output has appeared in the Official Secrets set at one time or another, and Mud’s Tiger Feet was a regular encore.  Slade, T-Rex and The Sweet were also given the Official Secrets makeover.

The line-up remained unchanged, despite the occasional upset, until 2003 when founder-member Rob Childs, decided that he could no longer be in the band as he had moved to Dorset.  The band had to decide whether it was possible to continue operating as a four-piece, bearing in mind that a large chunk of the set would now be difficult, if not impossible to reproduce. Fortunately, Peter was a superb vocalist, albeit with a different vocal range to Rob, so the band still retained a workable line-up without recruiting anyone else. Rob’s departure also left the band with a single guitarist.

It was agreed unanimously that the band would continue and that a radical shake-up would be necessary. Songs which were vocally impossible for Pete or instrumentally impossible for the band were dropped and new songs rehearsed.  The Band were delighted to find that the odd song from the back catalogue actually sounded better with the smaller line-up. Reluctant to abandon the policy of attempting difficult songs, the band tackled The End, the large complicated medley at the end of the Beatles superb Abbey Road album, and discovered that the old magic was still there.

In order to make a break and out of respect to Rob, the name Official Secrets was dropped and the name Dupe adopted. This was also influence by the fact that a couple of years ago, some drunken members of the audience misheard the name and left the gig convinced they had just enjoyed an evening with The Vicious Squirrels!