Thursday 30 March 2023

Join The Professionals

The Morris company (originally named WRM Motors) was formed by William Morris in 1912 who expanded his bicycle manufacturing to cars and set up home in Cowley, Oxford.  It's first production model was the Morris Oxford Bullnose (so called due to the rounded front grille).
A larger model, sporting more luxuries (such as proper doors) was introduced and titled the Morris Cowley after the factory it was made in.
After World War I, Morris expanded it's interests buying up subsidiaries in engine manufacturer, body parts, military vehicles, and other marque names.
After World War II, Morris looked to replaced it's Eight and Ten vehicles with a new, relatively low cost vehicle.  Morris designer Alec Issigonis set about the task, and in 1952 the Morris Minor was launched.
The Cowley production line busied itself to meet demand for the new vehicle, and also rolled out the larger (similarly shaped) Morris Oxford and Morris Cowley (again, and up-rated variant of the base Oxford)

In 1952, Morris merged with close rival Austin - based in Longbridge, Birmingham - to form the British Motor Corporation (BMC).  There may also have been some political intervention in this merger as Leonard Lord (Head of Austin) and Lord Nuffield (Head of Morris) weren't exactly close friends.
Austin may have been seen as the dominant partner, but it was Morris who had the best selling car (the Minor) and the most productive factory (Cowley).
Two major shifts occurred in 1959.  Italian styling house Pininfarina overhauled the Austin/Morris range and the identical (but subtly different in interior) Austin Cambridge and Morris Oxford (but no Morris Cowley upgrade) came of the production line.
Why Austin Cambridge?  Morris Oxford you can understand - it's the hometown.  But Austin had no links with Cambridge.  Maybe the Austin Birmingham just didn't have the right ring to it.
Also in 1959, the Cowley plant was tooled up for the production of the Morris Mini Minor (at the same time, Longbridge manufactured the Austin Se7en.
The Mini name won out, and production continued in parralel with Longbridge until 1969 when Cowley was re-tooled again for the Austin/Morris 1100, followed by the Morris Marina (and later Ital) and the Austin Princess.
After British Leylands industrial failings of the late 70s, and it's reputation for low build quality was harming sales, a deal was done with Honda to co-design and co-build cars.  Cowley was chosen as the venue for the first fruits of this partnership - the Triumph Acclaim - and continued with production of the Rover 200, 400 and 800 series.  Also on the production line were the Austin Maestro and Montego - envisaged as the saviour of the Austin-Rover Group, but again harmed by build quality and reputation.
By 1988, the Rover Group was sold to British Aerospace, who in turn (in 1994) sold out to BMW.
By 2000, BMW retained the Mini name (and the Cowely Plant) and sold off the remainder of the Rover Group.  The Cowley Plant was redeveloped and re-named Plant Oxford, and now produces solely the Mini (in it's many variants).

In 1977, ITV launched a new Police-based drama - The Professionals.  Set in the Police Department CI5 - a unit that sat somewhere between the Metropolitan Police and MI5, and invariably busied itself with terrorists threats, kidnapping, and driving Ford Capris very fast around the Docklands area.
It was led by Commander Crowley, and it's 2 chief protagonists were Bodie and Doyle.
The forenames of the characters were rarely - if ever - spoken (even though they are listed on wikipedia), I like to believe that the first name of Cowley was Morris.

Also in 1977, the Sex Pistols effectively peaked having a Number 2 single (some argue it was Number 1) with "God Save The Queen", and a Number 1 album in the shape of 'Never Mind The Bollocks' - which despite all the hype, hoo-hah, and general blowing of smoke, still ranks as one of te greatest rock albums ever released.
By January 1978, the band effectively fell apart on stage in San Fransico.  John Lydon returned to England (with the assistance of Warner Bros records, as Malcolm McLaren basically cut him off) and began assembling Public Image Limited, Sid Vicious continued his descent into heroin addiction and cartoon punk buffonery, and Steve Jones and Paul Cook flew to  Rio de Janeiro to record with Ronnie Biggs.
Returning to England, Cook and Jones busied themselves with recording and re-recording tracks for the film The Great Rock n Roll Swindle - session bassist Andy Allan was brought in to assist.
By 1979, John Lydon's court case against McLaren and The Sex Pistols begun in the High Court - upon hearing how McLaren had funneled the bands money into the film project without approval, Cook and Jones switched to Lydon's side of the fence, winning back control over their legacy.
Cook and Jones, no longer able to operate under the Sex Pistols name they once again turned to Andy Allan to form The Professionals, and Virgin Records retained the contracts.
Granted it wasn't a big jump from the Sex Pistols latter template (could it be anything else, it was the same people continuing to do what they knew best), 2 singles were released and although only scraped the charts, there seemed to be enough interest to continue (plus Virgin wanted a return on it's investment).  However plans for a full album were nixed when it transpired that Andy Allan was not under contract to Virgin and filed a lawsuit claiming unpaid royalties.  Allan was replaced in the band by Paul Myers (bass) and Ray McVeigh (guitar), and the foursome set about re-recording all the tracks to prevent any further royalty payments due.
With the legal disputes ongoing, it was 6 months before another single was released from the re-recording sessions for the album.  Again, low sales saw a downturn in The Professionals mood, and with Jones and Myers deepening heroin addiction and new producer Nigel Gray losing interest in the album project, the resultant album 'I Didn't See It Coming' was maybe not in-line with early expectations and promise.  In retrospect it is a very good album - a bit formulaic perhaps, and some of the songs maybe needing a bit of extra work.
The Professionals de-camped to America for a 6 week tour in support of an album that neither they nor thew audience were particularly impressed with.  Part way through the Tour, the band (minus Steve Jones) were involved in a car crash which placed them in hospital before returning to Britain and disbanded.
The Professionals reformed in 2015 for a one-off show (without Steve Jones, now permanently resident in America), and again in 2016 for a benefit show for Steve New of The Rich Kids.
The following year, Paul Cook and Tom Spencer reformed The Professionals and 2 further albums have seen the light of day since then.

Join The Professionals

The Magnificent

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