Former bandmates in tribute to ‘plastic fish’ drummer from Lewes

The Piranhas ... with Richard Adland, aka Dick Slexia, second from the left
The Piranhas ... with Richard Adland, aka Dick Slexia, second from the left

The drummer of a punk band which found fame in the 1980s died last week at the age of 55.

Richard Adland, from Lewes, otherwise known by his stage name of Dick Slexia, had been battling cancer.

He came to international attention playing with Brighton-based band The Piranhas, formed in 1977.

Frontman ‘Boring’ Bob Grover paid tribute. He said on the website “He was a trouper.

“He was a fine musician. We turned up at a venue one day in Brighton and Dick was waiting to do an audition with a different band and we basically just stole him from the other group.

“He was 16 at the time and we were all in our early twenties.

“We all went through the hard times together for three years. We then became more popular.”

They emerged from the local punk scene when the influential DJ John Peel started playing their single ‘I Don’t Want My Body’ on his BBC Radio 1 programme.

The Piranhas achieved their biggest success with their cover version of the South African kwela song ‘Tom Hark’, written by Rupert Bopape which had been an instrumental hit in the 1950s for Elias and His Zig Zag Jive Flutes but in the punk group’s version had lyrics – ‘written in an hour on an envelope’ by Mr Grover.

It was a Top 10 hit in the UK in 1980 and was the first song to feature on BBC Television’s Top of the Pops, when it returned after being blacked out for nine weeks by industrial action.

It was Mr Adland who stole the show. During the obviously mimed performance the drummer, stripped to the waist, played using a pair of plastic fish as drumsticks.

Much later the tune also became a staple chant amongst British football fans and it is also popular at limited-overs cricket matches.

Two years later The Piranhas’ version of Lou Busch’s ‘Zambesi’ – produced by Pete Collins – was a Top 20 hit in the UK Singles Chart.

John Helmer, another former bandmate, posted on social media: “Goodbye Dick Slexia, a great drummer with a real love of Jamaican music that was an important influence on The Piranhas’ sound. He was also the loudest drummer I ever worked with.

“The audience would be impressed before the gig even started, because he had this habit of coming out on stage with a hammer and nailing down his drum-kit to the floor. It tended to creep away otherwise – because he hit the drums so hard. A sad day.”

Mr Adland, a former pupil at Priory School, Lewes, later worked locally as a painter and decorator.