How did this band ever come to be named The Coconut Scratch Orchestra? A reasonable question, and as it happens there is a story behind it…

It was during my time at high school when one day minding my own business I was approached by a keen member of the 6th Form Charity Committee. They were organising a concert in aid of Children in Need and wondered if I might have a group willing to participate. I initially hesitated since at the time I wasn’t playing in a band, but already I had in mind that it would be fun to do a cover version of Harry Nilsson’s one chord wonder “Coconut”.

I explained the situation and was informed that they were quite short on acts, and anything that I could do would be much appreciated. Having taken a shine to the charity committee member in question I agreed that it wouldn’t be too much trouble for me to get a ‘scratch group’ together. When she asked what to jot down as a band name I grandly announced… “The Coconut Scratch Orchestra”.

Of course what transpired was not at all what I had planned. Although it proved surprisingly easy to assemble a group consisting of bass, guitar, and myself on keyboards, the song Coconut required all of us to be able to sing… in the same key. And so this was how I came to be on stage one lunchtime wearing a ridiculous gaudy felt top-hat, dressing gown, and blue reflective sunglasses, “oooeeeoooing” the Doctor Who theme into a distorted microphone. A success, and a great deal of fun but sadly this incarnation of the band did not grace the stage again.

The next group to assume the mantle was assembled in my 6th form years. We were a trio playing various combinations of piano, bass, guitar, trumpet, vocals, and even on one occasion violin. The name was again a flippant suggestion which stuck and we played school concerts, fetes, and the wedding anniversary of one of our maths teachers before going our separate ways.

The members of the most recent incarnation are introduced on The Band page, and the posters and programme notes are all from their exploits. We came together at Southampton University, initially just five of us, and formed the group as part of our Music Degree course. Frustrated though by rules not allowing us a drummer who was not taking the same course module, we struck out on our own and played University society socials.

When I ended up as composer and musical director of the SUSU Theatre Group production of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, the C.S.O. were the natural choice for the band. It was hard work but fun and earned us much audience praise, with more than one person enthusing that “the play was good but the music was excellent!”

Since the May 2002 performance, involving some of the most outrageous dress to have graced the Turner Sims Concert Hall, the band have gone their separate ways. I have no plans at present to form a new group since my intention is to head towards London in the summer of 2003. By then who knows? The Coconut Scratch Orchestra may fly again…

Ben Willmott – 18/12/02


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