I’ve never been good with anniversaries - just ask the current Mrs. Medd. And here’s another one I should have flagged up earlier this month. March 17, 1979, was the day that guitarist, founder member of The Count Bishops, and all round good guy, Zenon de Fleur bowed out at the age of just 28.
A week earlier Zen (born Zen Hierowski) had been traveling home late after playing a gig at London’s Nashville when he crashed his car. Despite the severity of his accident he was taken off the critical list at Middlesex Hospital only to die of a heart attack days later, after experiencing breathing difficulties.
Zenon de Fleur was the force behind The Count Bishops (they would later drop the Count) whose impact outlived mid 70s pub rock and livened up the then emerging London punk scene. Putting together a band with two Aussies (Dave Tice on vocals and Paul Balbi, drums) an Irishman (Pat McMullen on bass) and an American lead guitarist, Johnny Guitar, they were driven by Zen’s relentless rhythm guitar. After a well received EP, Spaceball, the band recorded Train Train, their first single, with Zen taking the vocal.
As was de rigueur in ’77, all releases of note were on the thriving indie labels and The Count Bishops were no exception. Chiswick Records took care of their barnstorming first album, which opened with this clarion call: it took a while to sink in that it had been written ten years earlier by Ray Davies.
The Count Bishops: I Need You
A live album followed which all but captured the ‘being there’ factor and their third album Cross Cuts had just been recorded days before Zen’s untimely end. The Bishops struggled to carry on without him. They weren’t the only ones.