Monday, July 31, 2006

some thoughts on a movement or a lack thereof

i was asked for my thoughts on the term C86, it's links to the tweepop of today and whether or not i thought there was a specific C86 scene.
after writing it all down i thought it might make an interesting addition to this here blog.
it also serves as a continuation of my first entry.
it's more or less directly edited from my emailed answers so it may read a bit oddly in places.
anyway, here goes.

various artists | nme C86

i've been thinking about it and i don't remember there really being a word or phrase used to collect bands together.
it was all just indie - when that word meant records released on independent record labels and not how the word started to be used in the early 90s.
the 80's indie charts would include ANYTHING released on an indie label - which meant that some dance record (like early stock aitken and waterman stuff) would often be top of the chart for weeks on end as they were selling enough to be top of the national charts too.
but right next to them in the chart would be laibach, the smiths, talulah gosh.
to me that seems logical and healthy.

i mean, i was buying razorcuts and talulah gosh AND swans and laibach and the fall AND the pet shop boys and scritti politti.
a real mix of sounds.
just whatever i heard that i liked.

swans | cop

there was never anything about only listening to jangly guitars etc.
this is proved in the kind of concerts that were being put on - you would have for example the shrubs playing alongside rodney allen, and my band (who were quite noisy - a bit like the membranes or sonic youth) would play with the rosehips and the williams.

at the time the name C86 was purely the title of the NME cassette and LP (and the week of concerts in london) - and i think listening to all the bands on there you can hear what i'm talking about...a witness alongside the shop assistants, mackenzies and mighty mighty.

it is only in retrospect that people started to use the C86 name for a certain thing - that's where i have a problem with it because the sound now associated with the name has little bearing on the actual record.

sea urchins | pristine christine

i think it came about through sarah records and similar labels and the jangly pop they were releasing - these labels were obviously inspired by a lot of the bands, though actually to me they seem more inspired by slightly earlier bands - june brides, jasmine minks, orange juice (all of whom are really early 80's bands coming out of post punk rather than mid eighties bands coming out of post post punk).

the other thing that didn't help how the term C86 gets used was the BMX bandits releasing an album called C86 and the BMX bandits are a twee band for sure.

talulah gosh | beatnik boy

it's been mentioned that everett true used the term cute - he's used it a few times but it was for specific bands rather than a scene as far as i recall - like talulah gosh who were undeniably cute, dressed as school girls from 50's kids books (which, when you think about it is really quite subversive - grown women dressing as children!)

john peel used the term shambling to describe bogshed but that term quickly got taken over by the NME, sounds and melody maker to describe bands that really did sound like they were shambling - like the pastels for instance.
i personally don't recall anyone ever saying to me that they were into shambling bands. though of course i did get told by people that they lvoed the pastels.

pastels | million tears

it's why i get a little annoyed sometimes when reviewers of my band today say things like "sarandon have made the odd choice of going to the angular part of C86" because in truth we're far more like a C86 band than many of the tweepop bands that use the C86 tag to try and sell records - something that my band have never done (which is perhaps why we don't sell many records!!) - i always admit that i am inspired by those bands because that's obvious but i'm not going for a specific sound.
in actual fact i think we're a lot more like the bands of the early 90s like dog faced hermans, dawson and the keatons.
anyway, off the top of my head i can only think of 3 or 4 bands on the C86 record that are in any way twee: shop assistants (though their song on C86 was a very odd choice. they didn't write many slow and quite songs. they wanted to be the ramones), servants (who sounded like they had a syd barrett fixation at the time - check their song against barrett's "octopus") and primal scream...

anyhow, i hope that's interesting enough for you.
i'm really pleased that there are people championing what was going on in the 80s as it's very special to me - but then if i was a huge metal or electro fan in the 80s i would say the same thing if that was being championed wouldn't i?

pink records

various artists | it sells or it smells

i don't think enough is ever said about what a wonderful label pink records was.
i've just done a cursory google and other than tweenet and indiepages no one really mentions them.
and yet....

at the time i don't remember thinking, "ooh! there's a new release on pink - i'd better buy that", but i do seem to have an awful lot of records on pink.
in fact some of my favourite records and some of my favourite bands.

june brides | every conversation

i know i've already talked about the june brides - i won't go into them again, just wanted to remind everyone that pink was the label that unleashed them into the world.

wolfhounds | cut the cake

the wolfhounds!
surely everyone in the world adores the wolfhounds.
"cut the cake" is an astonishing record.
i mean, the guitars are so fierce, so grating, the voice is so angry and frustrated - whata record to make as a debut release.

wolfhounds | unseen ripples from a pebble

"unseen ripples" is one of the records i distinctly remember bunking sixth form for.
i had actually asked my mum to pick it up for me.
she used to go home during her lunch break from work and, though i knew the record should be waiting for me when i got home from college i just had to check.
i was so excited.
mum was there when i opened the front door.
bless my mum - she's always understood - she didn't ask me why i wasn't in classes, she just handed over the record, told me to make sure i ate something and went back to work.
i spent that afternoon listening to the album over and over, reading all the lyrics and staring at the cover thinking how cool it was that it was printed back to front.

that petrol emotion | keen

my first that petrol emotion record was "manic pop thrill" on demon records.
i don't remember why i'd bought it but i tried hard to like it. half of it i thought was amazing (like "fleshprint" and "lettuce"), the rest didn't really move me.
i'd not heard "keen" until the video of it was on the "gimme shelter" video that you could buy through the melody maker.
i loved "keen" and hunted down a copy of the 7".
it's still my favourite TPE song and one of my all time favourite singles.

mccarthy | red sleeping beauty

so, mccarthy then.
another band that's remained a favourite. one of the bands that really had an effect on the way i thought politically and musically.
no one could make guitars chime quite like mccarthy did on "red sleeping beauty" and no one seemed to fit so much into such short songs.

mccarthy | frans hals

"frans hals" was another killer pink release.
beautiful cover (though my copy's a little bit grubby nowadays) and such clever words.
a tune you could sing with a message included - made a change to have a band use melody to put across their message instead of either ranting and raving or sounding like a folky.

various artists | beauty

if you don't own a copy of the pink compilation, "beauty", then i suggest you go directly to eBay and have a look for one.
it's always selling pretty cheaply but should worth a fortune.
as a snapshot of why pink was a wonderful label and what was happening away from the spotlight of the NME and their ilk, you can't do much better than buy this album.

jamie wednesday released a couple of 12"s with pink. i didn't like them too much (apart from "we three kings of orient aren't") but due to them transforming into the ever terrible but ridiculously well-liked carter USM these are the only pink records that appear to fetch large amounts of money.
so my advice - ignore jamie wednesday but invest in pink.
one of the great forgotten labels of the post punk indie scene.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

mudhoney | birmingham | 1989

i wasn't a big subpop fan really. in fact i only really liked tad.
but i REALLY liked tad (there's a story about them too...but it can wait for now).
they appealed to the heavy metal side of me that, though deeply buried, had never really left me.

membranes | to slay the rock pig

but the membranes were supporting at edwards no. 8 in birmingham and john robb had asked me along.
it wasn't a memorable gig musically.
but something happened that evening that still makes me laugh when i think about it.

edwards no. 8 had a really nice backstage area - it was in fact a seperate bar that i presume was opened during certain nights, but was solely for the use of the bands on gig nights.

dog faced hermans had just released "every day timebomb" on john's label vinyl drip and i was sat at a table with the membranes discussing just how f*cking astonishing a record it was.
(and it was).

dog faced hermans | every day timebomb

mudhoney were sitting at the next table with their entourage.
a brummy journalist came in, had a quick look around, and made a beeline for the membranes.
he introduced himself and we all said hello and then he started interviewing john.
now, for those of you that don't know (though i'm sure a lot of you do as he's all over the TV nowadays) john has a particularly broad lancashire accent.
the journalist's opening question was, "so are you enjoying the UK?".
"erm, yeah - it's alright", john replied, and the interview continued.
it went on for a good 15 minutes as i remember.
and from that first question it was obvious that the journo thought the membranes were mudhoney regardless of the fact that at the next table a bunch of longhairs sat drinking beer and talking in loud american accents.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

packed lunch to school

i and my friends at school used to wander into town at lunchtime.
we'd make a beeline for the record shop, hang around a bit, eat chips on the way back to school and generally mess about.
every day chips.
you see i was given a couple of pounds each day for lunch and chips were about 50p, which meant that by the end of the week i had enough money to buy a record.
but then record prices went up a bit and it meant i needed that extra bit of cash.
so if there was a record i felt was particularly important for me to have i'd go without lunch for the week and i could afford to buy what i felt i NEEDED.
friends had paper rounds and the like to earn some money but i was, to be frank, lazy.
i thought i was on to a winner.

but i can be dim.
something that i can could never say about my old man.

i really really REALLY needed "psychocandy" (well, you would wouldn't you?).
when it came out i went down to the record shop during my lunch break and bought it.
but i was hungry.
i knew dad was out (he worked funny hours so you couldn't always be sure) and so i ran home and made a sandwich.
realising i was going to be late back to school i grabbed my bag and left the house.

dad got home, saw a dirty plate and glass in the kitchen and immediately knew what was going on.
the first thing he did?
he phoned the record shop.
yes i'd been in there at lunchtime.
he didn't shout at me or anything.
he simply insisted that from now on i would take a packed lunch to school.

it all comes back to XTC

xtc | black sea

i remember really liking "sgt. rock" when XTC mimed to it on top of the pops.
it would be played at our school discos but no one would dance to it.
girls didn't seem to like it too much, but it's a song with a great chorus for young boys to shout along to.

that's my earliest memory of XTC.
i would've been about 10 going on 11.

xtc | english settlement

a couple of years later "senses working over time" came out and i loved it.
in fact i bought the 7".

and that was that until the summer of 1986 - it was 10 years after punk and the BBC aired a documentary which cobbled together bits of live footage and old grey whistle test appearances.
the program included buzzcocks, iggy, magazine, joy division, the usual pistols and clash stuff and some footage of XTC performing "neon shuffle" live in a rehearsal room (or so it appeared).
i had recorded the program, though i no longer have it, and of all the bands that appeared it was XTC that i kept rewinding to watch again.
and in my head a link was made - "sgt. rock", "senses working overtime", "neon shuffle" (and before you get all pedantic on me i know that's not chronologically correct, but that's the order it worked for me).

that summer of 86 i was between school and sixth form college and i worked most days helping to renovate my girlfriend's house. ripping out ceilings, mixing concrete, i even bricked up a door - my first and only bit of bricklaying (and it's still standing).
i was being paid reasonably for my efforts and decided i would buy all of XTC's albums.
i started with "waxworks", the singles collection. at the time you could still get copies of it shrinkwrapped with "beeswax", the b-sides album, free.

xtc | waxworks - some singles 1977 - 1982

i adored side 2 of "waxworks" for 7 days and then i bought "white music" and, following that, week after week i bought another couple of XTC albums.

then "skylarking" came out towards the end of the summer and i was completely thrown by it.
it sounded really really grown up.
like an adult's record.
and it put me off XTC - i just stopped listening to them.
i'd invested all that time and money and like a typical teenager moved on to something else.

xtc | skylarking

now of course i adore XTC and i LOVE "skylarking", though i can see why a 16 year old boy might not have enjoyed it too much.
it's definately a grown up record.

but my favourite XTC album is "black sea" and thinking about that now i feel it's fitting that it should be as it contains that first ever glimpse i had of the band - "sgt. rock".

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

we return once more to the mctells (kind of)

as has become painfully obvious over the short life of this blog that the mctells were huge to me in my teenage years.

here’s another reason why.

shortly after playing my birthday stuart mctell – he was the bass player by night and a gravedigger in hertford by day (as far as i know he still is) – sent me a cassette of some of his favourite songs.

i still have it – though i no longer have the cover he made.
here it is:
a lot of racket

boy oh boy there were some gems on there.
i learned about so much over that 90 minutes than i think i’ve ever learned.
there was stuff on there that i knew – television personalities, wire, swell maps, specials.
there was stuff that i’d heard of but never listened to – pere ubu, mighty caesars.
and there was stuff that i’d never heard of before – patrik fitzgerald, sexton ming, astronauts, cult figures (who, it turned out, were swell maps in disguise).

over the weeks that followed receiving the tape i went out and bought a ridiculous amount of records.

pere ubu | the modern dance

like pere ubu’s “the modern dance” which quickly became one of my favourite albums.
and it still is.
odd really when, many years later, I ended up as assistant manager to them and david thomas for a while.

i never did find a copy of the cult figures’ “zip Nolan” single though – I know it’s floating around the internet but I’m loathed to pay £25 for it.

patrik fitzgerald | the paranoid ward

but of all the things on that cassette I think the one song that really got me jumping around the room was “irrelevant battles” by patrik fitzgerald.
it took me over 10 years to eventually find a copy of the 12” that it was on – released by small wonder in the late 70’s it also includes the hauntingly beautiful “cruellest crime”.
brings a lump to my throat every time.

my bloody valentine | birmingham | 1988

a monsterous f*cking cacophony.
that's what it was.
playing stuff from isn't anything AND playing "you made me realise".

i don't remember the other bands on the bill (though i have a vague recollection that primal scream were playing).

i never bought any MBV records.
i didn't think much of them.
my girlfriend adored them and had everything - that rubbish german release included.
but i admit that for the 30 or so minutes that they were onstage they blew me away.

it wasn't just the volume.
it was belinda's seeming fragility staring out across the audience and kevin shields' mighty fender jaguar (was it a jaguar?) made an unholy screaming mess.

there didn't seem to be any security that night and so i wandered backstage afterwards and i had a chat with kevin shields.
he seemed like a nice bloke though i remember little of the conversation except for (and this is why i vaguely remember primal scream playing) telling me, as bobby gillespie sauntered past, "ignore bobby. he's pretending to be a smackhead".

primal scream | birmingham | 1987...or when i decided not to like primal scream anymore

call me a purist.
call me silly.
call me anything you like.
just don't call me a primal scream fan.

primal scream | all fall down

it started out so well.
"all fall down" was a GREAT single.
"crystal crescent" was a great single spoiled by RUBBISH production.

primal scream | crystal crescent

but man oh man, by the time i saw them live they'd released "sonic flower groove" and had decided they were going to be the new rolling stones or somesuch*.

bobby had the hair, he had the big spotty shirt, but he had such a wimpy voice.
it was a great voice for the psyche-like jangle of early primals, but he sounded like a tone deaf child by the time they played birmingham.

i was really disappointed.
bobby g could've been one of my greatest heroes but he blew it.

mind you, the gig wasn't all bad.
first on were sea urchins (it might have been their first gig. it was certainly one of the first).
they set up on the dancefloor of the venue and did 3 songs.
they were REALLY untogether.
i loved 'em.

next on, and the 'proper' support band i guess were the jasmine minks.
now then, the jasmine minks really did know how to rock.
and roll.
they seemed like grownups, old men even.
i suppose i was only 17, but that wouldn't have made them much more than 25.
they were the highlight of the night though.

funny the stuff remember isn't it - like the purple vomit at the door of the venue.
dunno why but that always stuck.

*i know that "sonic flower groove" isn't a stonesy album AND i know that the following album, "primal scream" is, but trust me they already had the gibson les pauls and the silly posturing.

sinatra's - a club in birmingham

for a few months during '87 and '88 sinatra's, located opposite snow hill station and just off the aston expressway was my favourite club in the world.

i seemed to be there weekly - in fact i think i was.

it was tiny.
entering from the street you appeared to be stepping into a seedy, drug-riddled, pool cue wielding drinkers den.
and i guess you probably were.
the club itself was up a flight of stairs on the first floor.
a tiny bar and room for about 50 or 60 people.
the sound was always really good.
there wasn't a stage - just an area cleared at one end of the room.

occassionally lawrence used to loiter around at the back of the room. no one ever seemed to speak to him, just acknowledged his presence and let him get on with being lawrence.

i can't tell you if the bar was any good as i was drinking nothing stronger than pepsi in those days.

bands i saw there?
um...some of my favourites were:

sea urchins
buy off the bar (my band was support for this one)
st. christopher

i've just thought, it's the place where greg razorcut singed this for me:
razorcuts | big pink cake

happy days.

*i can't find any links to the venue so if you have any more info about what went on there i'd love to know.

age of chance | keele | 1986

age of chance | bible of the beats

i thought age of chance were marvellous?
didn't you?
oh well.

age of chance | kiss

just after the release of their prince cover version they played a small tour that visited keele university.
i had a friend there and so i went along.

i don't know what the university's like now, but back then it had a lovely campus - all tree lined lawns and a posh refectory.

hang on, this is meant to be a blog about being an indie kid in the 80's not universities unlimited.

the person i stayed with had just bought the smith's "the world won't listen" and that afternoon she played it endlessly.
and i really do mean endlessly.
you know, i liked that record, but i didn't want to hear it over and over and over.
i smiled and made polite conversation - after all she was letting me sleep on her floor.

age of chance.
they'd just started modelling their cycling gear look (and let me make it clear right here and now that it was never a look that i tried out). they did look FANTASTIC on stage though!
as i mentioned earlier "kiss" had just come out and it spoiled the entire gig.
both for me and, judging by the mounting annoyance on their faces, the band.

they opened the set with it. huge cheers from the audience.
then they played (if memory serves) "the morning after the 60's".
no cheers this time just multiple calls for them to play "kiss" again.
the band tried to ignore the requests and played "bible of the beats".
one person in the hall clapped - that was me - i couldn't be heard over the shouts for "kiss".
so they played "kiss" again.
after one or two more songs the pressure from the audience was ridiculous and they played "kiss" a-bloody-gain.
and again.
i really felt for them - they made an amazing noise - HUGE bass rumble, glass & barbed wire guitars and steven elvidge's nasal half sung/half rapped vocal.

in the end they cut their losses and left the stage earlier than they should have.

i just hope they got paid well.

Monday, July 24, 2006


various artists | what feet

in an earlier post i mentioned bi-joopiter and said i would be returning to the subject.
i just received an email that made me want to write about it immediately.

but now i'm not sure quite how to start.

umm...how about at the beginning - how i got involved with buying bi-joopiter cassettes.
it was 1986 and the first time i heard mctells they were played by john peel.
i bought the 7" - it was a 4 track EP on the frank label and it looked like this:

mctells | jesse man rae

inside was a beautifully hand screened flyer for a mctells cassette released by bi-joopiter, so i sent my couple of quid and a note and a few days later it arrived.
before i even put it into the cassette deck i knew i was going to love it.
the packaging was super - a pink cassette mounted onto a 7" sized screen printed card in a plastic bag.
it turned out that paul mctell was one half of the bi-joopiter label, whilst mark mctell (aka flunder - ex television personalities) ran the frank label.

pretty soon i was buying a fair amount of stuff from the label and had built a decent friendship with paul and gillian.
around this time i'd also fallen madly for the first beat happening LP and bi-joopiter stocked K releases - i got hold of the first beat happening cassette, a couple of their 7"s and a lovely cassette by the cannanes:

cannanes | happy swing

suddenly there was a whole new world opening up to me.

there was great music out there being made and released that didn't care about distributors, record shops and the like.
this was about a network of people just getting on with it.

the mctells were my favourite (something which i have to admit is blatantly obvious if you listen to the sarandon records. try playing "prove it" right after the mctells' "push". oops).

the first time i saw them they played aston university - it was a peculiar evening - they were on quite early and after them the frank chickens did a set, though it appeared that there were 2 completely different promoters putting each band on. i couldn't hang around after the mctells for frank chickens. i had to go out and then pay to get back in.
so i never saw frank chickens (though i wish i had).

anyhow, back to bi-joopiter.

as i mentioned a few posts ago the mctells played my birthday party.
i'd not long had my band together and paul and gillian were immensely supportive.
always seeming to have time to listen to the recordings we'd made, always encouraging.
they took copies of our cassettes to sell and they asked us to appear on a compilation cassette they were releasing called "what feet" - i still have it and i still love it more than any other compilation we were involved in.

around the time that i lost contact with the bi-joopiters i started my own cassette label.
i had been talking to my friend and mentor stan (of pumf cassettes) about it and he had told me i should just do it.
i thought about bi-joopiter and how it worked, it's aesthetics and it's ideology and knew that if i was going to do it myself then bi-joopiter would be the standard by which i judged what i did.

and you know, bi-joopiter was a label that taught me lessons about how and why to do things that still hold true to the way i operate today in all aspects of my life.
and for that i am eternally grateful.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

lloyd cole & the commotions | birmingham | 1987

i had wanted to go and see lloyd cole and the commotions when "easy pieces" came out but i had to wait two years, and by that point they were playing places like the NEC.
this meant that the easiest way to see them was to buy a ticket that included a coach trip and the last time i'd done that it was to go to manchester to see frankie goes too hollywood (who, by the way, were massively disappointing).

i bought my ticket and arrived at the bus station at the appropriate time.
the concert was OK - a bit bland, workman-like, note-perfect, excitement free.

but the concert itself isn't really the reason for this story.
it was the coach trip that i remember.
specifically for this:

the coach arrived on time.
there were about 20 people waiting at telford to go to the show.
the bus made it's way to shifnal to pick up a dozen more.
from shifnal the next stop was to be birmingham coach station and from there we were to go directly to the NEC.

except we got on the motorway (the M54 for those of you who might be interested) but instead of travelling directly to birmingham the driver took us off the motorway and dived down country roads, through a couple of obscure villages and then, shouting through the carriage, "won't be long", the driver pulled the coach over at a farmhouse, got out and disappeared through the front gate and into the side door of the building.

we all looked at each other in bewilderment.
if this had happened today no-one would even have made eye contact as we'd all be immersed in our iPods and PSP's, but back then as we waited talk started of what on earth was happening.

the driver left us on the side of this lonely country lane for nearly 20 minutes before climbing back onto the coach and, without a single word of explanation, drove a strangulated route back onto the motorway and continued our journey.

to this day i have absolutely no idea what was going on (though i could probably take an educated guess).

Friday, July 21, 2006

the smiths - it feels like a long story

you know how when you were at school there was always someone cooler than you were?
and whatever you did they always managed to trump you.

there was a guy i was at school with, a friend of mine in fact, who always seemed to have all the good records.
for a short time at least.
he'd come into school with microdisney's first album, the fall's "cruiser's creek", talking heads records, that kinda thing.

one day he came in with the smith's "hand in glove" single.
we listened to it in the music room and it sounded strange and exciting.
i bought it that same week and played it over and over.
then "this charming man" came out and so i bought that too.
when the debut album came out i had pre-ordered it from the local record shop.

smiths | hand in glove

the smiths became a massive thing.
not neccessarily my favourite band - though certainly for a time they were - they just seemed to always be there.
a constant companion.
perhaps it was because there seemed to be a new 7" out by them about every 8 or 9 weeks.

i saw them at wolverhampton civic hall on their ill-faited "queen is dead" tour and they were thrilling.

shortly afterwards they announced a split.
this resulted in a glut more singles and of course the final album, "strangeways, here we come".

i admit i cried when they split up.
yes - i cried.
i cried because this band that had been a daily and important part of my life had gone, but also the tears were shed because i HATED "girlfriend in a coma" and i LOATHED "strangeways, here we come" (i still do) and i felt let down that they had gone out on such a low.

wedding present | birmingham | 1987

it felt like i lived at burberry's in birmingham for a few months.
there was just someone playing every week that i wanted to see - primal scream, jasmine minks, my bloody valentine....a looong list.

i went to see the wedding present.
they were supported by the close lobsters.
the place was packed to the rafters but everyone was at the bar while the close lobsters played.
they missed a treat - close lobsters were a fantastic live band. a lot more edge than their records - big trebly, cutting guitar sound and lots of attitude.

during the change-over people started heading towards the stage.
now, the stage at burberry's was all of 18" high - i had stood right next to it during the close lobsters set and wasn't going to move for the wedding present fans.

looking back, wedding present fans at that point in time were a strange lot (certainly aroudn the midlands). they were your obvious smiths/john peel/indie fans BUT they always seemed a bit harder, a bit more like rugby players - lots of beer, big muscles, shouting.

as the band came on everyone in the place pushed forward.
my knees were in trouble of being broken against the stage and so i stepped onto it and sat down.
a bouncer pushed over to me and tried to get me to move, but grapper intervened and told him i should stay where i was.
perhaps he thought i looked too weedy to survive in the crowd.
so i spent my first ever wedding present gig sat at the feet of david gedge looking at the churning mass of polo-shirted hard boys jumping about with fists and pint glasses raised above their heads.

after they'd finished i was led by grapper off the stage with the band.
back stage i got them to sign this for me:
wedding present | once more

they were a lovely bunch of chaps.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

the day i didn't see the chesterfields (or mighty mighty for that matter) | dudley | 1987

chesterf!elds | kettle

"kettle" had just been released.
i'd bought it but i wasn't a big fan.
one afternoon a friend came over for beans on toast.
the reason i know this fact is that at that point beans on toast was THE ONLY THING HE ATE.
he was of a slightly orange hue from it too.
he'd brought the NME with him and in the concert listings it said mighty mighty and the chesterfields were playing that night at dudley JB's.
like the exciting young men that we were we decided there and then to go.
he finished his beans (i didn't have any - to this day they make me ill) and we wandered down to the station.
dudley, though only 15 miles or so from telford, is not the easiest place in the world to get to.
trains all go via somewhere else and neither of us could drive.
so we got a bus.
it took a disgustingly long time.
when we finally arrived we spent a good half hour wandering round looking for the venue.
no-one we asked seemed to know where it was.
eventually we found it.

or so we thought.

it seemed odd that there was no-one on the door.
on getting inside it seemed even stranger that the floorspace was littered with tables and the tables were littered with old men drinking heavily.

it wasn't immediately obvious that this wasn't the right venue.
but it was immediately obvious that neither the chesterfields nor mighty mighty were playing there that evening.

i can still feel the hard stares on the back of my neck when i think about leaving that place that night.

we caught the next bus home and i made beans.

14 iced bears | shrewsbury | 1988

14 iced bears | inside

i mentioned in an earlier post that i'd be returning to the 14 iced bears.
so, here we are.

i'd kept in touch with robert since we met at the beat happening show and, through thunderball records, i ended up printing the bears t-shirts (it was my job - i was a screenprinter) along with the "drugs not jobs" t-shirts which were made for kilgore trout but made famous by some bloke out of spacemen 3 wearing one in some glossy mag a few years later.

anyhow, we put the bears on at the english bridge centre in shrewsbury with my band supporting.
by this point the 14 iced bears had stopped writing 2 minute scratchy pop songs and were quickly turning into psychedelic monsters.
i suppose the first sign of this was the united states of america cover ("coming down") on the "mother sleep" EP (mind you the title track was pretty psyche-y too).

the venue was full of indiepoppers.
to be honest you could've put on anything under the banner of an indie gig and people would have shown up from miles around.
not a whole lot happened in shropshire.

the 14 iced bears began quietly, ebbed and flowed and then got loud.
then got louder.
and louder.
and they blew out two very large windows alongside the stage.
glass pushed out into the street.
a mess.
those stood along the sides of the hall moved inward.
some left.

the indiepoppers didn't know what had hit them.

there was trouble with the venue manager after the show.
fortunately, though i had booked the bears, i'd done it through a promoter who put on a bunch of things around town.
so, like the coward that i pride myself in being, i left him to it.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

pastels | birmingham | 1988

pastels | up for a bit with the pastels

towards the end of 88 and through 89 i went through a stage of getting into gigs for nothing.
the first one i remember was the pastels at burberry's in birmingham.

i and a couple of friends had arrived early.
i was wearing my best duffle coat, jeans and desert boots and sported a scruffy basin haircut.
i could hear the pastels soundchecking inside.
i banged on the doors.

eventually a doorman opened the door, peered out at us and asked, "yeah? what d'you want?"
i asked if he could tell stephen pastel that mark flunder was at the door (mark was a mutual friend - he was in the mctells and he'd filmed the pastels movie, "a bit of the other").
the doorman duly disappeared off into the venue and a few minutes later returned to let us in.

we wandered down towards the stage and as we came into view stephen shouted, "that's not f*cking mark flunder!!"
"no", replied aggi, "it's not - but he looks more like you than you do".

that broke the ice and after saying our hello's we found a corner of the venue to sit down and wait for the evening's entertainment to start.

as it turned out this was to be the night that i met another future friend.
the pastels support for the gig was dandelion adventure - they were yet to release their debut LP , "puppy shrine" - and we watched them soundcheck.
i thought they were great and so, after they were done, i went over to the guitar player and introduced myself.
"did we sound OK form out there?", the guitar player asked.
"i thought you sounded great - really liek the membranes!", i responded.
the guitar player gave me a hard stare and then in a raised voice said, "don't you know who i am? don't you recognise me? i'm stan! i was in the membranes!".

i apologised profusely, bought him a lemonade, and he forgave me (he's a very forgiving chap).

there was, i'm sure, a third band on the bill that night but i can't for the life of me remember who it was..
if you know, please tell.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

my eighteenth birthday

"what would you like to do for your eighteenth birthday?", my mum asked me.
"i'd like to waste a LOT of your money hiring a venue and having bands play with nothing left to show for it other than 3 months worth of crisps".

that wasn't my reply, but it may as well have been.

for my eighteenth birthday i hired out a local church hall, arranged for st. christopher and the mctells to come up and play, made posters and flyers, bought several boxes full of crisps, enough beverages to fill a small boating lake, rehearsed my band and got all over excited.

13 people came and let me leave you without any doubt - 13 people make a church hall look HUGE and EMPTY.

a friend of mine brought his mobile disco - unfortunately he wasn't from the same world as me and had brought lots of simply red/simple minds/level 42 records.
i ran home and grabbed a handful of compilation albums and had him put those on instead.

does all this make my birthday party a disaster?

not at all.
it began what became a bit of an event - bands turning up at my parents' house to have dinner cooked for them before playing gigs (we cooked for 14 iced bears and pale saints amongst others).

st. christopher were great in their ever-so-slightly pretentious way and the mctells were utterly fantastic.
my mum quickly developed a crush on stuart mctell and danced alone in the middle of the hall to their whole set.

of the 13 people that did turn up were 2 girls from nearby shrewsbury who had heard about the gig but had to see it to believe it.

at the end of the night, while handing over expenses to the bands i was dreading them saying, "never EVER contact us again".
but both bands invited us to play with them in the future - as we did several times.

it did however take over 10 years before i felt like having a party again.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

june brides - now i can be in a band

june brides | there are eight million stories

the on-going mythologising of UK punk has pushed so many lies into the realm of truth that i rarely believe anything i read about it anymore.
but the one claim that punk makes that i can completely understand is how it encouraged people to form bands and start making music of their own.

the band that did that for me was the june brides.
again it was a peel session that hooked me.
late 1985, four songs, beautiful tunes played on scratchy guitars.
and that voice.
i think it was, more than anything else, that voice.
it's a punk voice for sure - cracked, occassionally unsure of itself, full of fun and emotion.

you know i like so many thousands of other boys my age, adored the smiths (more of them later).
but the june brides came from a completely different place.
the smiths wrote lovely and very clever pop, but they were so obviously musicians with a capital M.
and they were being pushed so hard into every corner of the pop media.
for me the june brides created music equally as lovely, equally as amusing, equally as important.
and they had a sound that made me think for the first time that 1, i want to do this and 2, i really COULD do this.

after hearing their session i bought their album, "there are 8 million stories".
it's battered and scratchy now, but more often than not, when i listen to the june brides i listen to that record.
the recent compilation on cherry red is wonderful but my old old vinyl has so many important things locked in it's crunchy grooves that that's how i have to hear the june brides.

so much more than a favourite band.
within weeks of the june brides coming into my life i had started a band.
it was a rubbish band.
i mean really bad.
but it was a band.
and it was my band.

here's a thing.
i'm sure i mentioned this in my other blog after recording the last sarandon record - but it's fitting to repeat it here.

throughout the 80's and well into the 90's (and occassionally in the 00's) my favourite daydream would be bumping into phil wilson and starting a band with him.
i make no apologies for this silly little bit of childish wishing.
when i met phil i had already decided that the latest sarandon record would be called "the june bride".
in a moment of bravado i asked him if he'd sing on the record and he said yes.
i was excited.
but i hadn't realised just how much it would affect me.
i could barely contain myself - hearing phil singing a song i'd written and chatting with him is the first time i think i've ever been truly starstruck.
the rest of that day and for a good few days afterwards i was bursting into tears like a great big girl. completely overcome with what had happened.
when i got copies of the record and put it on i burst into tears again.

i can deal with it now.
it's under control.
i can shoot the breeze with mr wilson in a calm collected way.
phil - i'm sorry for being so embarrassing.

bIG fLAME - another pivotal moment

bIG fLAME | cubist pop manifesto

this was the first bIG fLAME record i bought.
i had recently heard them in session on the john peel show. it was a session that included a cover version of 'wake me up before you go-go". that's what got me first i think. that use of a huge pop hit - not quite mangling it, but certainly f*cking with it's innards.

soon afterwards i got hold of this:
bIG fLAME | two kan guru

and at that moment bIG fLAME became my favourite band in the world.
and they still are.
they are a yardstick by which i measure a lot of things - mainly my own music.

you see, to me bIG fLAME are a pop band. they made two minute slices of sheer unadulterated joy.
each song just xPLODES!
and whether you like it or not young pop-picker, bIG fLAME songs are full of tUNES.
mELODIES underpin the lyrics - and they're great lyrics.
it's just that bIG fLAME did all this at about 300 miles per hour, threw in some odd time signatures, and used a guitar sound thinner - no, not thinner - LEANER, than you imagined possible.
but it is POP!

i never saw them live, though i know someone who did - and, though he's a very dear friend, i hate him for it.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

membranes | wolverhampton | 1988

membranes | crack house

wolverhampton polytechnic had a small subterranean student bar.
you could get about 50 people in there.
we'd heard that cud and the membranes were playing and so hopped in our old morris minor (god this blog gets more indie schmindie with each post!) and trundled along.

cud didn't show and so the membranes treated the 20 or so people there to a very long set.
i know a lot of people who claim not to like the membranes.
live they ROCKED.
some of the records are a bit drab but i still have a fondness for every one of them.

over the course of the 80's and early 90's i saw the membranes a LOT.
but this gig stands out for one reason.
it was the first time i had any contact with a brummie called daren.

we were leaving the poly and in front of us was a young chap wearing a denim jacket.
the back of this jacket was hand painted with the cover of a bogshed record.

i had to say hello.

we spoke briefly and went our seperate ways.
i mention daren here as he will probably turn up in several of these posts.
i might as well get the rest of the story out of the way now.

after meeting the boy in the bogshed jacket i thought nothing about it.
a few weeks later i went to a concert in manchester and there he was.
we said hello.
just about every gig after that featured a brief exchange of hello's.
he seemed to be everywhere i went.

the last time i saw him was in the early 90's when i bumped into him at a blues explosion show and he informed me he was in a new band called pram.

i didn't see him again until last year when his nephew contacted me about my band, mentioned his uncle had joined the nightingales as their new drummer, and gave me his email address.
and there he was - brummie daren with the bogshed jacket.

now we're firm friends.
our conversations mainly concerning ridiculous gigs we both attended, how much more beer we can drink and how it seems like we've known each other forever.

(apologies for the sappy ending, but it's a nice story).

regrets? i've had a few - or why i never saw bogshed

bogshed are one of my favourite bands ever.
i never saw bogshed live.

here's why:

bogshed | step on it bogshed

it was autumn 1986 and i was in love with "step on it", bogshed's debut album.
i'd recently started 6th form, supposedly doing A levels in english and art.
what i did mainly was bunk off and go sit in the local record shop - especially on a monday and a wednesday.
that was when the deliveries came.
i would buy the cartel's catalogue and go through it with a pen marking off the records i really NEEDED to own.

sorry, i digress.

bogshed then.

so, i was at 6th form.
the few friends i had liked the smiths and the bunnymen, one or two of them were gothy-types.
but it seemed that no-one else liked bogshed (or stump for that matter).

but there was a girl in my english class.
a girl i thought was beautiful.
we would have a laugh together if we bumped into each other in corridors and i quickly developed a crush.

then one afternoon she came and found me in the canteen.

"would you like to come and see bogshed with me tonight?", she asked.
i couldn't believe my ears.
this girl liked bogshed.
she was asking me out THAT NIGHT to see them!
"yes", i replied in a rather shaky voice, clutching my satchel (yes, i had a satchel and yes, there was the usual indie kid nonsense in it. like a copy of "now we are six").

it was arranged that we would meet back at the college later.
as i arrived i noticed she was waiting in a car with a BOYFRIEND.
(she'd not mentioned THAT to me).
i made some excuses and went back home.

beat happening | london | 1988

here's where this blog stops being linear and starts being random rememberances.

beat happening | look around

early 1988 i found out beat happening were visiting the uk.
i got excited.
well you would, right?

paul & gillian bi-joopiter invited me down to stay with them in finsbury park so's we could go see beat happening at the fulham greyhound.
it was a wonderful weekend for an indie-kid such as i.
we spent the afternoon in paul's flat listening to his old swell maps singles and scritti's "songs to remember" before heading over to the venue.

the bill that night was supposed to be beat happening, the vaselines and the boy hairdresser, but boy hairdresser didn't show.
this pleased me no end.
firstly because i wasn't a big fan - their 12" on 53rd & 3rd ("golden showers") didn't do a lot for me.
secondly, and more importantly, it meant duglas from bmx bandits - who happened to be around - did an impromptu set singing along to a cassette of queen greatest hits while wearing pyjamas.

i bumped into bob stanley (latterly to be known for his band saint ettienne) who i knew through his fanzine caff (i still have a caff valentine card from him and pete somewhere), and we had our first and only conversation face to face.

the vaselines were great actually. pretty dirty rock'n'rolly live. and frances looked lovely.

but beat happening were something else.
raw, fun, funny, energising - calvin was the sexiest man in the world for the 40 minutes they were on stage.
it was the first time i'd seen a band swap instruments, not worry about guitars being properly tuned, go out of time without a care in the world and that was a crucial moment for me in terms of how i would change the way i made music with my band(s).

on the way home on the tube we bumped into everett true and then robert secula - leader of the 14 iced bears. i'd met him once before at a show in birmingham and we agreed we should play together soon - more of that in a later post.

paul & gillian bi-joopiter were incredibly important to me. paul was in the mctells and gillian ran the bi-joopiter cassette/record label, and between them they pushed me towards the things i did. from cassette labels to bands to the music i bought.

there'll be more about them later too.

Monday, July 10, 2006

1984. church halls and white noise

jesus and marychain | upside down

i played and played and played this record.
inside the wraparound cover (my first ever wraparound cover i think) there was a ticket to buy a J&MC t-shirt.
i bought it.
it was rubbish.

i was invited to a birthday party at a local church hall.
i took this record.
i asked the DJ to put it on.
absolutely everyone left the hall for the 2 minutes that this record played.
then they came back in and got on with their lives.

i felt fulfilled.

how did it begin? do you care?

i arrived in england in 1978. planet telford.
i had no idea of what to expect.
i was 8 years old.

junior school seemed huge though seperated into just 3 sets of people:

girls who liked the nolans

however unwise it may have been i plumped for the rockers and duly found the delights of status quo and ac/dc.
(actually, that's not so surprising - during a brief soujourn to england in 1973 for my brother to be born my mum had bought me "sladest" which i dug so much i'd put on her platform boots and dance about to).
the problem was this. though i was trying hard to be an 8 year old rocker, by 9 i really liked a lot of the stuff the, ahem, mods were listening to.

then, at the age of 10, a couple moved in next door.
they were in their early 20s.
i got on really well with them - they had motorbikes. they even HAD A TRIKE!
i used to go next door to hang out and they introduced me to marc bolan, rezillos and adam & the ants.
that year i was bought "dirk wears white sox" for christmas (if i remember rightly).
i didn't realise at the time but it was the beginning of a lot of changes.
i barely listened to the record at the time - it just made me feel good to have this record in my possession - but when adam & the ants relaunched as pop superstars i was converted.
school discos would never be the same again.
a 4th group had arrived....wait for it....the ant people.
(and i STILL loved my metal records).

the next big thing?

saturday morning children's TV circa 1982.
in the ad-break there was an advert for a new single.
it was called "the greatness and perfection" and was by someone called julian cope.
that afternoon, in town with my mum, we went into the local record shop (a place that i would return to so often over the coming years that it was the one place my family knew they could find me) - the record was due out on the following monday and we put an order in for it.

that single meant the world to me.
it was ever so pop but copey still wore a leather jacket.
i know he wasn't the first, but remember i was 12.

to begin with

OK, so this is blog may well be dull to some, most, or all of you.
ho hum.

before i start whittering on about various records, incidents, whatever i want to say something about the whole 'C86' thing.

so here goes...

now i like quite a lot of twee & jangly guitar music BUT aligning those bands to what was happening on the C86 cassette and the concerts at the ICA is all a bit wrong.

there were only 3 or 4 twee or jangly bands on the C86 compilation - shop assistants, pastels and primal scream spring immediately to mind.
the majority of the compilation was taken up by angular, jerky bands like the mackenzies, bIG fLAME, bogshed, shrubs, stump, age of chance.
that's what made the C86 compilation special to me and i think it's about time someone mentioned it.

so there.

furthermore, whoever has put it about on this here internet thing that these bands were part of the (ridiculously named) "shambling" movement (ha!) needs to do a bit more research.
the bands mentioned above weren't a part fo the shambling thing. the bands that were are the same few bands on C86 that spawned what's now described as tweepop - pastels, shop assistants, etc.

so there again.

rant over.
next up the first useless anecdote of an 80's teenage indiekid.