John and Chris first met at Newman College of Education in Birmingham in 1971. Their first public performance (not yet as Malfunction) was December 1972 singing just two songs that we still perform to this day, albeit with different arrangements (not that the original arrangements were no good then – it’s just that now we can’t remember how we did them). Over the three or four years we played along with other fellow students in the thriving folk nights at Newman out of which came many other Birmingham based musicians and performers.
In March 1976, Chris and John were joined by bass player Dave Ashton, a fellow student from Newman and Malfunction was formed. Our first tentative step was a request to do a floor spot at the legendary folk club “The Bell and Pump”. Our request was granted by resident singer Terry McCann who also added – “If you are no good you won’t come back!”. With his good wishes ringing in our ears we did our spot – we can’t have been too bad as we eventually went on to be the regular residents at the club when normal hosts Mad Jocks and Englishmen were otherwise engaged and occasionally headlined gigs there until its sad demise in the early 1990s.
Dave left us in 1979 to pursue a different musical direction and we continued as a duo. Nothing much changed then for the next 40 odd years!
Perhaps the most successful part of our history was running the Princes Corner Folkish Club in the King’s Arms in Harborne. This weekly club ran for around 6 years from the mid 1980s and featured a guest every other week with singers’ nights in between. There’s more about the club elsewhere but we had some fantastic nights with some of the country’s top performers. Strangely enough, many of our regulars said they enjoyed the singers’ nights equally, if not more than the guest nights with artists from all over Birmingham dropping in to join our regular singers. We never knew from one night to the next who would pay us a call.
Since the closure of our Princes Corner Folk Club in the early 1990s we have played only a few gigs, most of which were with our good friends Alan and Glynn Briscow otherwise known as Dandy. Although we never actually retired (or split up!!), work commitments and the general running down of the folk club scene meant a 5 year break from performing. Thanks to our old friend Vicky at the Unicorn Folk Club we hit the stage again in June 2007 and, as it wasn’t a complete disaster, did a couple more gigs. We retreated back into obscurity in 2010 and there we stayed until recently!
We picked up the baton again in 2017 and have subsequently done a couple of gigs a year since although Covid put a halt to most activities over the last two years. Maybe the story isn’t finished yet!!
We were never a studio band but we did tape many of our live sets on a little Sony Pro Walkman and some of those recordings made it to a live cassette in 1989. You can also see some ancient videos of our Crescent shows either through the Videos link or through our You Tube site.
“Malfunction on the Pershore Folk Scene”
“Malfunction, the back-up group at the Pershore Folk Festival’s evening on Tuesday must have chosen their name to be provocative. They are two engaging young men who entertained in a direct vigorous style and with a natural good humour that was not allowed to interfere with the line of the song. They explored the folk scene from the wry nostalgia of “He played for England”, through Rural Wurzledom and Romantic Regret to a really exciting Railroad Blues – all strummed out with a variation of pace and mood, every word was remarkably clear and they were a pleasure to listen to. Perhaps their only malfunction was that they nearly stole the show from the guest stars.”
“Malfunction make successful return visit”
“Its nice to be back said Malfunction, former residents of The Country Girl Folk Club in Selly Oak, when they returned there on Wednesday evening as the main guests. Their delightful singing and guitar accompaniment was matched with a constant stream of jocular patter. The group’s mainly contemporary theme, including some material written by Chris Laverty was effectively supplemented by an all sorts mixture which satisfied other tastes. They proved to be very entertaining and extremely popular with their packed audience who gave them a rousing reception.”
The Rising Sun, Willington Derbyshire
“Malfunction are an experienced duo and an example of the professionalism so necessary on today’s folk scene. Chris and John were polished and entertaining and their material was performed with panache and style.”
A quote that shall remain anonymous!
“Dear John and Chris – Just a few lines to say a big thank you for coming to do the gig at our school last week. We had so much positive feedback and one or two people said they actually preferred you to ******** and ********! Sssh – Don’t tell them!.”
Bromsgrove Advertiser (Recently!)
25 Years Ago March 20, 1981 – “A CAPACITY crowd packed into the Hop Pole to hear local folk music group Fairfield Folk perform with popular local group Malfunction. Malfunction’s appearance was the latest in a long line of top groups to stop off at the Bromsgrove folk nights on their road to success. “