DESIGN: A PERSONAL HISTORY

 

by Barry Johnston (Barry Alexander)

 

1977 - 2015

 

After leaving Design, Tony Smith went to live in France. In his own words: ‘Tony finally learnt to sing (in the Paris metro and eating spots), then became a weaver in the South of France. In 1985, when his pancreas surrendered, he was saved by the bell by a surgical team in Toulouse. He then got married to Elisabeth from Bordeaux and had two daughters, Julia and Judith, became an international consultant to the French powers-that-be, and in 2010 ended up back in music creation and recording in the glorious heart of the French countryside. A new batch of songs is expected in 2012.’

 

Design Vocal Group

Sadly, Geoff Ramseyer died six months after leaving the group. He was only 25 years old.

 

Gabrielle changed her name to Gabrielle Shootingstar and went to live in New Zealand, where she released a solo single and appeared on numerous television shows. After moving to Australia, she met her second husband Steve, and they created the children’s show ‘Pirate Pete and Charlie the Cockatoo’, with Gabrielle as Cut-Throat Kate. They had five children and performed together as a family band ‘The Shootingstars’ for nearly twenty years. Gabrielle is now married to Damon and they live in Queensland.

 

Within a week of leaving the group, John had a part in the West End production of Jesus Christ Superstar. In 1982 he went to India on a spiritual search and met his future wife Kathy in Bombay. He served for six years with the SYDA Foundation, an international educational and philanthropic organisation, in India, UK and USA, before moving permanently to the USA in 1990. Since then he has worked in the lighting retail and design industry and he and his wife Kathy have two very musical children, Elizabeth and Nate.

 

Kathy Manuell also joined the West End cast of Jesus Christ Superstar. Later she went on to write and record ambient psychedelic music as the Internet Café Orchestra with her partner Dave Goodman, the former producer of the Sex Pistols. After emigrating to Malta, they ran their own record label and studio until Dave’s untimely death from a heart attack in 2005. Since then Kathy has continued to work as a musician and producer and plays with her band Mandala Malta.


Jeff (real name Geoff) Matthews resumed his career as a chartered quantity surveyor and worked on building projects including IBM’s UK headquarters and the Imperial War Museum. He carried on playing the guitar in bands and in church until 2005 and he still plays in his home studio and is discovering pre-war music. Jeff married Sue in 1985 and they have two grown-up children. She introduced him to Cornwall and they spend their summers there, walking and surfing.

 

I wrote songs for a number of artists, and released a solo single in Australia, before becoming the personal manager of The New Seekers after they reformed. In 1981 I moved to Los Angeles and presented the breakfast show on KLOA-AM. After returning to England I was a presenter on various BBC radio stations, where I met my wife Fiona, and we also have two children, Olivia and Sam. Since 1994 I have written and edited several books and produced more than 100 audiobooks for my company, Barn Productions.

 

We had all forgotten about Design and moved on in our lives, until I contacted everyone in the summer of 2010 and suggested that we should reissue all our recordings. Then in 2011 RPM Records released the first four Design albums on two double CDs and that summer, Gabrielle, Kathy and I had a reunion with Tony for the first time in more than forty years at Tony’s house in France.


Design Reunion

 

Before returning to Australia, Gabrielle visited London where she met up with Jeff, who had been unable to join us for the reunion.

 

Matt and Gabrielle

 

The following year, RPM released a third CD of singles and unreleased tracks by Design called One Sunny Day. Finally, in September 2014, after nearly three decades since we last saw each other, John and I were also reunited when he visited me in England from his home in the USA.

 

Barry and John

 

Design were together as a group for almost eight years. In that time we recorded more than 150 radio shows and appeared on more than fifty television shows. We also released five albums and thirteen singles. Looking back now, we are proud of what we achieved, and we hope you enjoy listening to our music as much as we enjoyed making it.

 

 

Barry Johnston, April 2015