Dave Gregory Guitar Supremo – Health warning: this blog does not go into huge detail on Dave’s involvement with XTC. With thanks to Chris Eley for research and writing assistance. And to Graham Carter for the images.
It would have been fab to have some up-to-date photos of Dave Gregory on this post. There’s lots of super ones on the internet but I’m always wary of copyright. So if anyone has one in their personal collection that they’d be happy for me to use that would be wonderful.
David Charles Gregory entered this world on 21 September 1952 at the Cheriton Nursing Home on Westlecot Rd in Swindon. His dad worked in the railway works. He grew up in Purton and attended Commonweal School from 1964 to 1969.
NB: if you’re interested in Ken White’s work I just happen to have written a book about him. Info here: https://swindonian.me/my-swindon-publications/a-ken-white-retrospective/
Dave’s musical beginnings
Dave started learning the piano at the age of nine and started out on an acoustic guitar in 1966. He bought his first guitar at Christmas of that year. In time-honoured style he used money earned from his paper round from Kempster’s Music Shop on Commercial Rd. He played his first gig at Purton Youth Club in March 1967. First though he’d suffered the ignominy of his piano teacher sacking him for not practising. Even so – he went on to become Dave Gregory Guitar Supremo.
A set back and a home of his own
While at school Dave played in youth clubs and church halls around Swindon. This experience he described as ‘learning by the seat of our pants.’ . Summer 1969, found him diagnosed with diabetes, and he left school and started work in a factory in Malmesbury. The band split in 1970.
Over the next few years, Dave played in several bands (including country and western) ending up in Alehouse who made their debut at the Brunel Rooms in 1974. They had some interest from EMI but that fizzled out. Made redundant in 1976, he spent a year with a progressive rock band from the Forest of Dean, Gogmagog. This didn’t work out and he returned to Purton broke, taking a job with a mail order delivery company. Dave bought his first house, 16 Stanier St, in January 1979.
The road to XTC
Dave had met Andy Partridge for the first time at the Penhill Youth Club in 1968. It was a call from Andy around the same time as he was moving house, that saw Dave audition for XTC and get the gig. In March, he quit his job and, at the age of twenty-six, realised his dream of becoming a professional musician.
He was a member of the group between the single ‘Life Begins at the Hop’ (1979) and early sessions for the album Apple Venus Volume 1 (1999). There are millions of words written about XTC, Swindon’s greatest band, and their struggles but there isn’t time to go into that here. Many words exist about Dave’s departure.
I asked Swindon musician Steve Cox (aka Mr Love and Justice) what he thought Dave Gregory had brought to the band. He said: ‘His most telling contributions were his twelve-string Rickenbacker playing on English Settlement – one of their best albums. And then his string arrangements on the Skylarking album.
He did a lot to help XTC develop and change from their earlier new wave keyboard led sound in the Barry Andrews days into one of the great and original English bands. One where more records followed where, although they had their very own sound and style, classic Beatles/Beach Boys influences became more evident.’
Life after XTC
Dave was a member of Swindon-based Tin Spirits from 2008 until they decided to call it a day in autumn 2018. Their debut album Wired to Earth received much critical acclaim. He has also worked with a range of other musicians. A diverse list that includes Peter Gabriel, Lulu, Mark Owen, Porcupine Tree and Steve Hogarth’s H-band.
On the Big Big Train
Progressive rock band, Big Big Train asked Dave to join them in August 2009. He appeared on their album The Underfall Yard. Dave performed as a full member of the band from 2012’s English Electric Part 1 until early 2020 when he decided to step down. Well for international performances at least. Said Dave in a piece on the BBT website: ‘I’m proud of the role I’ve payed within Big Big Train and have enjoyed the last decade with the band immensely. I look forward to remaining associated with Big Big Train in the future
A straw poll of The Passengers (BBT fans) came up with a range of songs on which Dave’s work received much love. These included Curator of Butterflies and The Permanent Way . And also ‘the descending otherworldly groany murk at the very end of Theodora in Green and Gold.
For other articles about #SonsAndDaughtersOfSwindon go here: https://swindonian.me/category/sons-daughters-of-swindon/