a dear friend who will be deeply missed

A Remembrance by Alan Thomson

December 2006


Mowgli and the Donuts Band Poster
Scotland, circa 1977


left: Alan Thomson, guitar. right: Bruce Fraser, bass
Mowgli and the Donuts
Scotland, circa 1976

Bruce and I first met in 1973/4, almost certainly when up to no good in the DHT basement (DHT - the David Hume Tower, Edinburgh University) along with the King brothers, Normal, Davie MacKenzie and the rest of the crew....

I was a student then and we spent time together doing all the things that students did in those days - mostly not studying, smoking, coming to terms with our lives and more smoking. Coffee and a variety of smoking materials were our main nutritional sources.

Bruce had a lot of time for all sorts of people - some more difficult than others - I remember late one night/early one morning someone arriving at the door in a state of extreme existential angst. Even though we had come to the end of any coherent, useful brain activity Bruce was prepared to sit and listen (and listen, and listen...) until the chap had talked himself round to a more reasoned frame of mind - Bruce was interested and concerned to make sure that he had got a hold of himself again before he wandered off into the night.

In mid 1976 Bruce introduced me to the other members of 'Mowgli and the Donuts'. The Donuts became a 5 piece doing rather eclectic, 'power pop' based on a peculiar mix of clever British pop and west coast US rock. I had been brought up in Latin America with US bands like the Doors, Jefferson Airplane, Grateful Dead etc; Bruce introduced me to a much broader musical source, ranging from Caravan to 10CC via Sopwith Camel (who remembers Sopwith Camel then..!) and other 'interesting' bands.

Bruce and I, along with Wayne, made up the rhythm section - we put the power in the pop. (Wayne was a very dapper - in contrast to our more 'relaxed' sartorial style - Canadian drummer whose second name escapes me - yes I was there and I don't remember...).

Bruce and I, rather foolishly, took on the responsibility for keeping the van on the road. Along with all the time spent rehearsing it was here that our real bond was forged. Hours immersed in engine and/or gear-box oil, lying under the damned machine in the pouring wet, getting slowly crushed by large, heavy metal objects - while enduring regular tidal waves of freezing water being washed down the back of our necks as traffic rushed by inches away - oh joy! Over the next two years the Donuts went on to perform quite extensively - ranging from protest gigs at Torness (nuclear power station) to gigs at a number of Universities, we did a couple of supports for Simple Minds and travelled down to tour in East Anglia.

Bruce was very even-tempered, I never saw him loose it - although the time the van's gear-box seized in some tiny, half-horse village in the wilds of the Norfolk Broads did stretch us. This involved two nights trying to sleep in the van (hand-brakes and gear levers can get into the most uncomfortable places...) and a whole day in this tiny place trying to convince the residents that we were human, really. It was obvious that the locals had placed a sanitary cordon around this strange orange van and the two weirdoes that appeared to be living in it. We, of course, had virtually no cash - food, of course, lost out to Bruce's requirement for black coffee and our smoking needs (Bruce was on a Gitanes/Disque Bleu habit at that time I think?). It was just as well that we didn't have any money to buy anything as the local shop either didn't really have things to sell or wasn't prepared to sell us whatever they did have.
We had A & R people from a couple of labels come to listen to us and we went into a studio in London and recorded some of our sounds - I'm not sure what happened to those recordings - presumably Wilf kept them.

In mid 1978 the Immigration service caught up with Wayne and he was shipped back to Canada.

By this time the band was suffering from a lack of new material and deteriorating interpersonal relations; the prospect of going through another intensive period of rehearsal to get a new drummer up to speed (with the same old/tired material) was too much and the band split. 

Bruce, Colin, Tim and I went on to form the 'Spheres' - a punkish, hard-edged guitar band. None of us were particularly prolific songwriters and the lack of a dynamic front-person (or at least someone that could make a decent stab at singing...) meant that the band didn't go on for much more that a few gigs.

Bruce and I pretty well went our separate ways after that but we never lost the bond that we had developed during our time with the Donuts and whenever we met up it was as if no time had passed.

Bruce and I have met up again over the years - some time ago when we lived in Glasgow and a few years ago, when I was working for a US publishing company, we had a sales conference in San Francisco and I met up with Bruce and Angela there (on Bruce's birthday, as coincidence would have it). In the summer over the last couple of years, here in Duns (in the Scottish Borders), we have had Bruce and Angela visiting for a few, pleasurable days of recollection and red wine. So Bruce is now gone - over the years he has been a really good friend and regardless of our physical manifestations he will always be with me - it has been a pleasure and a privilege knowing him.

Alan Thomson 

 

 

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