Below is a brief history of QJB and No Prima Donnas. QJB is a songwriter, an artist/performer and musician (bass, guitar, virtual instrument programming), arranger and producer for his own demos. Most active in his solo work currently he is leader of the Bowie covers band The Genius of David Bowie as well as one half of art-rock duo The Real King(s) of Spain with Doc Satori. He lives mostly in Valencia, Spain at the moment with regular visits to Bristol where he lived previously for over 20 years.
In 2019 with the latest RKoS material in the ‘can’ so to speak Doc started on some solo projects and Q started to look at music marketing and also revitalising his solo writing. He went on his first ever writing retreat in April and started working on solo demos. Then once lockdown started he joined a virtual songwriting group and spent the next 18 months writing and recording. By February 2022 he had about 100 songs and 20 demos. He selected six and took them to producers Jen Athan and MJ Reynolds, got the help and support of musician friends, Jonni Slater, Sharon Lazibyrd and Gerry Barnett plus one or two session players. The masters are back from LOUD! The next chapter of the story is being written.
Q – The Early Years
Q first formed a band at the tender age of 9. Then playing violin and piano he formed an unlikely collection of songs and school chums into a band with no name that performed twice at school assembly. As former school pal Martin Holder reminisces, “really? No I can’t remember them at all …’ Their set contained the sort of diverse material that still
haunts informs the current choice of songs whenever Q plays live. Back then it was Black Night through Neil Young (Only Love Can Break Your Heart) to Grandad. These days it’s from Green Day through Neil Young still (Like a Hurricane) to Britney and The Laughing Gnome. Secondary school bought a different set of friends and covers and Q started to write his own songs. Early gems like Sunset Tide, Alabama Bound and Wild Women Love have thankfully been lost in the anals (should that be annals? OK maybe right the first time) of time but some songs that still persist today date from this time (Nightstalkers and No Heroes). After leaving school and collaborating with school pal Chris ‘Toffee’ Effendowicz, keyboard player Phil Collins, and singer Siobhan Smith in an outfit called Phase One. They played some handful of gigs featuring mostly co-written pieces between Phil and Q, some of which (Judy Goes Home, Joe Blind, The Prince The Girl and Me) survive till today.
In the mid and late 80’s Q (then known as John McJohn) had his most successful period in spikey pop purveyors ‘Even In Holland’ (the name taken from a phrase in a Marks and Spencer gardening book). Q was largely writing alone but did also collaborate with Phil Maunder and Justine Walker, the other stalwarts of the band and We’re So Happy and Dangerous Love were co-written / arranged with them. The trio with various drummers, including initially Toffee from Phase One, played in and around London notably at the Rock Garden (Covent Garden), the now demolished but much missed Clarendon Hotel in Hammersmith and even a brief residency at the Moonlight Club in West Hampstead. Q also had a brief period in East London art-punk outfit Happy Xmas Nicola who bizarrely had their single played once by Simon Bates and performed at the legendary Marquee (supporting Nik Turner ex-Hawkwind) and at the Greyhound Fulham (supporting a man called Simon dressed only in clingfilm).
A desire to move out of London, the call of family life and a new home in Bristol bought a timely end to Even In Holland who had reached a plateau and run out of wind and started a break from performing and writing that would last till the turn of a new century. Then under the encouragement of Michael Adrian and a hankering to play again Q once again started writing and performing with new material stronger than ever. In 2011 he started collaborating with Doc Satori on a new art rock project called The Real King(s) of Spain inspired by the likes of Byrne / Eno, Bowie, Nick Cave and many share political views. The project has included 2 albums with new material currently being released. The band had a live incarnation which operated for several years particularly around Bristol but also in Wales and across England at various points.
Q also played bass for local artist Elliot Hall and is still a member of World Music collective Shiny Blue Demons who perform the songs of local artist, songwriter and poet, Tim Burroughs. He is still collaborating on sample and spoken word project The Real King(s) of Spain with fellow singer / songwriter Doc Satori.
NPD A Brief History
No Prima Donnas initially referred to the full band incarnation and featured respected local musicians in addition to Michael Adrian such as Jim Shirley (More Mileage), Stuart Chalmers (Angel Up Front, Drivin’ South and also with QJB in The Real King(s) of Spain ). Initially it was a project for a work’s Christmas do inspired by the MD saying that the sales force could be a bunch of prima donnas. Mike wrote a song called ‘(We Ain’t Gonna Have) No Prima Donnas’ and the name stuck taken forward by QJB, notably with his friend Ant McBride in later times and for an album of covers and originals featuring Mike, Stuart, Jonathan Gadsby, Yas Lloyd and produced by Kev Lloyd. Called ‘Chaos and Dysfunction (A Friends and Family Affair) it was constructed for a gig at the wedding of Q’s brother and moulded later into an album.