The story of the Reaction starts during the months December 1978 to January 1979 when school friends Mark Barnett and Ralph Burden went to the USA for a holiday which would include time spent with Ralph's cousin Mike, a professional rock drummer. Already competent musicians, Mark and Ralph returned with a plan to start a new wave rock group with influences from both the new wave sound of the late '70's and the rock groups of the mid 1960's. Their plan had to wait another year as Ralph had already agreed to join the Nigel Haynes Blues Band as lead singer and keyboard player. Ralph spent 1979 gigging with the NHBB while also meeting up with Mark to start writing songs. In January 1980, Ralph was released from his NHBB commitments and the new band was formed with the working name Crying Shame. With a few self-penned songs already under their belts, Mark (guitar, bass and backing vocals) and Ralph (lead vocals, guitar, keyboards) drafted in drummer Paul Barnett and Richard Bradshaw, who played bass and sang backing vocals. Mark played a 12 string Rickenbacker guitar on most numbers echoing an early Byrds sound. Crying Shame started playing local gigs in schools, colleges, pubs, nightclubs and youth clubs. They built up a good following due to their powerful music, soul-searching lyrics and cool appearance. Just weeks after forming, Crying Shame came second in the Wessex Beat Contest and received some good reviews. However, the band were striving for better than second place in a music contest. Not content with their sound and unsure of the name, they took a few weeks out to rethink their sound and image. Richard switched to keyboards, Mark moved to bass, and the band changed their name to reflect a more pure soul/psychedelic retro sound and a sharper image. By the end of the summer 1980, the Reaction burst onto the music scene in Southern England to instant acceptance and a guaranteed audience from the growing number of mod revivalists. Gigs were often played alongside a Northern Soul DJ and the Reaction built up a strong following with many new fans literally overnight.
1981 looked to be a very promising year with a new manager who had played in a top prog rock band a decade earlier. Unfortunately, the manager was given a sizeable sentence for drugs offences and so the Reaction ended up managing themselves again! Nevertheless, 1981 was a great year with the popularity of the band growing steadily. Some good demo recordings were made and they entered 1982 as one of the most popular live acts in the area. Everywhere they played it was to a packed audience.
But 1982 was a year of very tough choices. By the summer and with the young band at their peak, they had to make the difficult decision of whether to go for a music career or to pursue more 'secure' professions. Without professional management or a contract with a major label, the guys decided to keep their music as something to enjoy, and to pursue other careers. The last gigs of 1982 were in September just before the start of the university year. There was a brief reunion in 1983 to fulfill a number of promised commitments, but sadly that was the last the world would see of this great little band who had so much promise.
All of the guys have continued with music in some form or another. Mark and Ralph both trained for the Christian Ministry and have kept a strong friendship. Mark is currently a youth worker and also teaches guitar. Ralph works as a professional musician/music teacher and is also a Christian minister. Richard continued to record and to play in bands alongside his career in the Health Service, and Paul played drums with a number of bands in the 80's and 90's alongside his work as a professional photographer.
The Reaction were unusual in their distinctive commitment to their Christian faith whilst continuing to sound and look like any other contemporary rock group. This made them accessible to a much wider audience. Following in the wake of the many negative bands and songs of the punk era, their positive message shines through powefully - leaving the legacy of an encouraging influence on the young generation of their time. Viva le Reaction! You will not be forgotten.
Mark Barnett, Paul Barnett, Ralph Burden and Richard Bradshaw at Gossips Nightclub, Bournemouth in 1982