~The story of Runner~
The London based group Runner grew out of the ashes of the bands Rare Bird and The Arrows, with the singers of the two bands (Steve Gould and Alan Merrill) joining forces in early 1978 to write some new songs and record a 4 song demo tape.
Steve Gould and Alan Merrill had been touring up and down the UK with the last remnants of The Arrows in 1977 (Gould's group Rare Bird had already disbanded), and were talking about forming a new band as Arrows disintegrated under the relentless onslaught of the punk music scene in the UK at that time. The two singers talked about forming a band to appeal to the American market, a territory which was still open to acts who could deliver a melodic musical punch. That seemed a better option than to bend to the trendy punk pop culture and grot-fashion that was pervasive in the late 70s UK. When The Arrows finally broke up, Gould and Merrill started to rehearse and write songs together with a view to form a new band.
The rhythm section they enlisted for the first Runner demo was Dave Dowle, Whitesnake's original drummer, and Mick Feat, bassist of Van Morrison's "Wavelength" era band. Interesting note, Mick Feat had played bass in the last Rare Bird lineup with Gould just before the act broke up. The two already had a very close musical rapport. Also, Feat had played in Chapman and Whitney's band Streetwalkers with drummer Dowle, so all the players were connected in some way previously.
The four musicians got together without rehearsal and did an impressive tape of new material in a small studio in London's Battersea, and were signed almost immediately to Island Records. Dowle left Whitesnake, and Feat left Morrison, throwing their lot in with Gould and Merrill. Runner the band was formed.
Over many months they recorded an album, with James Guthrie (Pink Floyd/"The Wall") producing, at The Manor studio in Oxfordshire. The album was released and immediately got massive airplay in the USA. Hailed in the press as a new supergroup, the band made an immediate impact, but for reasons only known to the individuals in the band, they would not agree to tour, in spite of the Billboard magazine top 100 chart success of their debut album.
Runner lasted only a little over a year, even though they made the charts. The band were dropped by their label, allegedly for refusing to tour and promote the album on the road. Runner quickly became only the memory of a band that could have been very big in the music world. Oddly enough, Runner never even played one single show live. The band members all went on to other high profile professional music projects after the demise of the group, and ironically they all toured extensively in subsequent musical situations following their involvment with Runner. Dowle with Maggie Bell's Nightflyer, Merrill with Rick Derringer, Gould and Feat with Alvin Lee.
Why Runner never toured is a mystery, and it's a shame that they didn't follow up the initial energy the band had going for it in the international music world with live shows.
The music on their debut LP is enduring, and the songs are all well crafted and strong. The high level of vocal harmony and musicianship on the Runner recording more than stands the test of time.
Updated April 4, 2013
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