For details, prices and availability of Des Tong’s novel please click on the front cover image below.

 ‘Whatever It Takes Babe’, the first in a set of five novels by the bassist with the band Sad Cafe – The Pete Peterson Tapes – a saga of sex. drugs, rock’n’roll…and murder set in the worlds of music and the Birmingham club scene.

Photograph by Seven Star Photography

I always wanted to play the drums when I was a kid, but my Dad (who was a great pianist) had other ideas. One day when I was about 10 he came home with a battered old double bass he’d got from a friend and my career in music began.

In 1968 I bought my first bass guitar, a Fender Precision and joined my first proper band with established local musos called The Henderson Chambers Band. At the time I was working at the Midland Bank in Oldham whilst gigging 4 nights a week with the band, and pretty soon it became obvious that music was taking priority in my life. So I left to become a full time “Pro”.

Soul was really big and I toured the UK backing major soul singers from the States such as Inez & Charlie Foxx and Fontella Bass, regularly appearing at the legendary “Twisted Wheel” in Manchester. One of the acts we backed was a Liverpudlian vocal group called “The Chants” who in 1969 offered me a job as their musical director. My first gig was in Brussels working with a 15 piece orchestra at a club called “Chez Paul au Gaiety”. From there we went to Palma, Majorca for a season in “Titos” and then on to Germany where we toured American bases. 

When I left the Chants I worked with an American Jazzand Blues singer called Mona Richardson playing a season at Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club, and also performed at the London Palladium. Various bands later I found my services were becoming more and more in demand as a session player in studios around Manchester. (I played on MatchstalkMen by Brian & Michael which went to No.1). I can’t remember all of the artistes I worked with, but around this time I was regularly working with Paul Young, later to be lead singer with Sad Café.

One day in 1981, Youngie asked me to go round to his house to put a bass line on a song he was working on. He wanted me to record it later that night at Strawberry Studios in Stockport, and assuming it was for one of his projects I arrived only to find the other members of Sad Café there. I ended up playing on the album called Olé, and then the tour to promote it. It was exciting times. We became one of the best live rock bands around and during this time played at both Glastonbury and Reading Festivals as well as numerous tours of the UK and Europe.

A famous muso saying is “Too much month at the end of the money” and as a result I started getting involved in extra projects. I’d had an offer from the BBC to produce Radio 1 sessions, (my first production was Simply Red’s first radio session) as well as Radio 2 shows, Country Club and Big Band Night. I was now being asked to produce various commercialprojects and Nigel Martin-Smith (Take That’s eventual manager) approached me to work with one of his actscalled Damian. He wanted a dance version of the cult track “The Time Warp” from The Rocky Horror Show. I arranged and produced the track which went to No7 in the UK Charts and sold over 250,000 copies earning me a Silver Disc. 

In 1987 I met a singer called Cissy Stone and we wrote and recorded album together (more about that later) and formed a band playing clubs all over the country, one night supporting Joe Cocker at the NEC. Cissy is featured in a TV pilot performing one of our songs, for which I was musical director.

One of my most memorable gigs was playing at the NEC with Engelburt Humperdinck with a 32 pieceorchestra in front of 40,000 screaming women!! And yesthey did throw their knickers. Gross!!!!!

In 1997 I helped form AudioMotion, Europe’s leading Motion Capture, animation and audio studios. Weworked on many exciting projects including the motion picture Gladiator, music video Sweet Like Chocolateand animation projects with comedian Steve Coogan, John Culshaw, Lara Croft. I was part of the team whodeveloped a system to capture the facial movements of actors whilst recording their voice at the same time using reflective sensors on the face. This was the forerunner of systems now used in films such as Avatar and Planet of the Apes.

My next career move saw me involved in the creation of a local TV channel for Birmingham. I presented a show called ‘Life Stories’, using my many connections in the industry to invite the likes of Jasper Carrott, UB40’s Brian Travers and Robin Campbell, Paul Carrack, John Lodge from the Moody Blues, drummer Bev Bevan from The Move & ELO, and many more on the show. To date the series has over half a million views on my YouTube channel destongtv.

I wrote and produced a show called ‘Streets of Birmingham – Music’ which saw myself and Bev Bevan driving round Birmingham talking about the old clubs, pubs and musicians we’d worked with over our careers. The three episodes became the most watched show on local TV and to this day I’m still stopped in the street by viewers who tell me how much they enjoyed the show, and that they met their wife/husband in one of the clubswe mentioned. This spawned the idea of my first novel, ‘Whatever It Takes, Babe’.

After I left the TV channel I once again went back to my first love of playing music. I resurrected Sad Café and we are touring again. We are also in the process of writing and recording material for our first new album in 30 years.

And about the album with Cissy Stone. In 2019, 35 years after we recorded it, we signed to an American label who specialize in synchronisation with film and TV and in 2020 one of our songs, ‘Comin’ or Goin’ was featured in an American TV drama on the Showtime channel called ‘Work In Progress’. We have recently finished her new album, ‘Fulfilment of Dreams’ which will be released late 2023.

Photography by Jo Allen Photography