16th June 2022
In Memory of James Pitman Avery
James Pitman Avery
21 October 1947 – 25 May 2022
Bassist / Songwriter / Arranger
Co-founder of the band THIRD WORLD WAR
Steve Albini (Nirvana producer): “Third World War Two … is without question the greatest album of all time”
Iggy Pop (signed to David Bowie’s management company Mainman): “The original idea was to get me a backup band from England, and Bowie was recommending Third World War”
Marc Almond about Jim Avery’s song ‘Stardom Road’: “Wow! What an amazing song! The lyrics were just fantastic.” (Marc covered it on his album titled ‘Stardom Road’)
Whilst most readers of this piece may never have heard of Third World War, above is just a hint of the influence Jim Avery and Terry Stamp AKA Third World War had on tastemakers through the decades.
Born in the middle of the twentieth century into a proudly working-class section of West London Jim’s love of music started at school with a love of Rock ‘n’ Roll and Rhythm and Blues, listening to the likes of Jimmy Reed & Slim Harper. Jim was drawn to British rockers like Johnny Kidd and the Pirates and like many other teenagers cobbled enough bread to buy a cheap guitar.
Mastering his rudimentary instrument naturally led to performing with various local West London bands, regardless of their style. Though imbued with a rock’n’roll heart Jim was drawn to any music he felt exuded authenticity, which included Irish Showbands, with whom a weekend’s engagement resulted in more renumeration than his dad earned in a week. With added benefits.
In 1966 whilst working in an Ealing music shop theatrical rock singer Arthur ‘Fire’ Brown walked in requesting Jim to demonstrate a bass guitar. Suitably impressed he urged Jim to attend the auditions Brown’s label Track records were holding for their new signing Jimi Hendrix, but the young Jim didn’t feel good enough.
By the summer of ’67 Jim’s modesty dissipated somewhat, and he accepted an invitation to join the group The Attack, managed at the time by the notorious Don Arden and signed to Decca Records, though he didn’t stop keeping his hand in with more lucrative bands he gigged with.
In 1969 The Who’s Pete Townshend helped his friend John ‘Speedy’ Keen by producing his song ‘Something In The Air’. When it topped the charts Speedy in turn asked his friend Jim Avery to join his group Thunderclap Newman, giving Jim a taste of the ‘Top of the Pops’ lifestyle as he toured the country unable to hear himself over the incessant screaming of the Pop audience. Any chance of the group developing musically under these circumstances seemed delusional and Jim, more interested in music than moolah, left the band, although Keen’s record label – Track – would remain a constant of sorts in Jim’s life throughout the 1970s.
John Fenton, a charismatic Chelsea set music business wheeler dealer at the time associated with a music publisher, invited Jim to meet a kindred songwriter he was working with – Terry Stamp – to collaborate on song writing. With a quick introduction and an instant no nonsense camaraderie they knocked off their first song ‘Holy Roller’ as Jim’s compositional instincts were heightened by his appreciation of Terry’s outpouring of poignant, sharp somewhat cathartic lyrics.
Fenton ever alert for the next swindle, took note of the working-class street songs now spewing from Avery/Stamp, and proposed helping them get a band together as a vehicle to promote their songs whilst he formulated a political platform to announce the arrival of a truly counter cultural band. And so Third World War was born.
In 1970 whilst the lingering scent of pachouli oil still irritated their nostrils, Third World War were all set to deliver a stark in your face wake up call to the proletariat in the form of a musical sledgehammer.
Over two years they wrote and released two explosive albums, recorded quickly and deliberately roughly mixed to heighten ire and nullify comfort: ‘Third World War’ and ‘Third World War Two’. With songs such as ‘I’d Rather Cut Cane for Castro’, ‘Preaching Violence’ & ‘Ascension Day’, their imagery more in tune with street punks than art revolutionaries with the inevitable consequence of finding it impenetrable to cut through the glam rock/pop zeitgeist.
Their hard uncompromising sound, a musical Molotov cocktail of Jim’s rhythmic pulse topped with Terry’s grating ‘chopper’ guitar tested listeners, though they did offer one sweetener of sorts. Jim’s song ‘Stardom Road’ was a classical tale of the well-worn road map that chewed up and spat out would be rock stars delivered in two parts: Part One the neo-classical intro morphing into the grinding repetitive thrash of Part Two. It found empathy with many performers and remains their most covered song.
But their intent to agitate rather than accommodate had parallels with the American band the MC5, and coupled with Fenton’s PR antics, proved to be a few years ahead of their time. Malcolm McLaren took note of the West London agent provocateurs whose support came strictly from the underground. Third World War were championed by the likes of ‘Oz’ magazine, whilst suffering derision from the likes of the Melody Maker. Their abrasive hi octane presence soon ran out of fuel. And funds.
Unceremoniously Third World War wound down in 1973 just as – unbeknownst to them at the time – David Bowie (then at the peak of his Ziggy Stardust fame) was plotting to whip them into backing his latest signing Iggy Pop. Iggy, however, persuaded Bowie to let him bring over his American bandmates the Stooges.
When Adam Faith offered Jim a gig backing his new protégé Leo Sayer Jim took him up, but soon felt the disillusionment of where he aimed to be and where he was, self-administering the well-worn numbing agent alcohol. Late nights at the Speakeasy Club in London’s West End at the centre of the lifestyle excesses Jim worked at Track records as ‘artist liaison’ for want of a job title, working with Dutch band Golden Earring who scored a UK hit with their single ‘Radar Love’.
Ironically when punk burst through in 1977 Track records embraced the scene signing The Heartbreakers fresh from their sojourn as part of the Sex Pistol’s ‘Anarchy In The UK’ tour, and courting the nascent Siouxsie and The Banshees. Jim worked with the band, organising their earliest demo sessions. Tracks’ Kit Lambert got behind Jim’s new ‘punk’ outfit Razar, producing a single, but Jim by now was recycling his earlier Third World War material with younger cohorts, and a lack of conviction. The message not so much in the music as in the bottle.
Jim lived the life as the cliché goes but aware he needed to make a change Jim’s working-class grit saw him through years of rehabilitation even finding a rainbow during the process as one of his nurse’s became his rest of life soulmate.
Once free from his drug of choice, as he put it, Jim returned to composing and recoding music for films.
Jim stayed on the wagon and his cheeky wit and warm charm remained resilient. Recently he had been working on an anthology package collecting all the Third World War recordings when he was diagnosed with liver cancer. He was offered the option to be part of a trial of a pioneering treatment for the illness which he gratefully partook in. But the side effects of the medication intensified over the months to the point where the benefit of continuing treatment was doused by the chipping away of his dignity. Jim was if nothing else a sartorial dignified gentleman.
On the 24th May Jim was taken to hospital where his soulmate Helen Black stayed by his side to the end.
The Third World War anthology he had been working on with his friend Alistair Murphy will be completed and released in early 2023.
With thanks to Alistair Murphy
For more Third World War information visit https://stardomroad.com/
Hear Third World War:
Albums: ‘Third World War’: https://lnk.to/TWW-TWW
‘Third World War II’: https://lnk.to/TWW-TWW2
Single: ‘A Little Bit of Urban Rock’: https://lnk.to/TWW-ALBOUR
The THIRD WORLD WAR (1971 – 1973) Anthology will be released on Fly Records early 2023.
|Jim Avery with Third World War master tape, Sept 2006|