14
Mar

Thanks so much to Trevor Elliott for the interview! Whirl was a fantastic band from Brighton that released two 12″ EPs in the 1980s, on Playroom Discs and September Records. They also had a split flexi with Crocodile Ride (who I wrote about not so long ago). I found the Heaven Forbid EP some years ago while record hunting in London and I fell in love with their sound! So very lucky that Trevor could tell me the story behind the band now!

++ Thanks a lot for being up for the interview! How are you? 

Hi Roque, Thanks for asking us. We are all very well thank you.

++ Still based in Brighton? Are you all still making music today?

Alan lives in Saltdean on the outskirts and Caz who lives in Brighton. Rob lives in Worthing, just along the coast, and I’m in Earlswood, Surrey, mostly for work purposes. Karen lives in London.

I think Rob is the only one still playing regularly.

++ I know that aside from Whirl you had been in some other bands like Eusebio or Blow Up, but would love to know if there are more bands that you had been involved with?

I was in an early formation of what became Peter and the Test Tube Babies whilst still at school, then a few bands with school friends, during my college days I played in a band called Fear of Water before forming Whirl and then joined Blow Up as they were short of a bass player. After Whirl I played guitar in some other bands that never really did anything.

Alan Stirner was also in Blow up, and Sharkboy (after Whirl), and played on The Wolfhounds’ Blown Away LP.

Rob Colley was in The Ten Million Quintens (named after Quinten “Norman” Cook. Aka Fat Boy Slim), 14 Iced Bears, Arthur, and until recently The Murmurtrons.

Caz Adams, played in Eusebio, a great band that rose from the ashes of The Milk Sisters, but unfortunately were never signed.

Karen O’Keefe, played in Bill Prince’s The Wishing Stones and Basingstoke’s finest, The Rain.

++ What are your first music memories? What sort of music was played at home when growing up? What was your first instrument?

I grew up listening to my Mum and Dad’s record collection, they were old Mods so The Hollies, The Who, The Beatles, Wilson Picket, and lots of Motown and Northern Soul.

++ What inspired to make music? What would you say were your favourite bands at the time?

I first started playing Bass because I was given one.

In the 70’s I loved The Clash and The Jam. The early 80’s it was more Orange Juice and anything else on Postcard Records, Echo and the Bunnymen and Wah.

++ I read that at the beginning there were many changes within the band, that couple of people were kicked and others left. Who were these people? Were they in other bands? how many formations were there?

I’m not sure where you read that but yes that was the case. Alan and myself were always the core of the band we referred to ourselves as the Whirl Organisation, inspired by Edwards and Rogers, The Chic Organisation. Lol

In the early 80’s we started out as a five piece, with a singer called Matthew Glendinning, (son of Victoria Glendinning CBE biographer, critic, broadcaster and novelist). Who fancied himself as a bit of a Morrissey. I was on rhythm guitar, autoharp and backing vocals.

Over the years there were many members including Mark Waterman who went on to music production. He produced many artist like Five Thirty, Elastica, Depeche Mode remixes, Swervedriver and Venus in Furs.

We also used to joke that we’d had more drummers than Spinal Tap, until Rob joined us. At one point in time we had Chris Window (The Milk Sisters and Blow Up) on drums. So Alan, Chris and myself would go from rehearsing with Whirl on day to rehearsing with Blow up the next.

We also had Dominic Minques, from the 14 Iced Bears and Blow Up on Bass for a while.

++ And how did the classic band formation come to be? What year was it?

Alan and I met Caz, in 86 I think, via her partner Mark Burletson (Eusebio and The Milk Sisters) she auditioned and was perfect, and I had known Rob since I was 19 and when the Quintens split up Rob Joined us also, he had been our stand in drummer up until then along with Chris Window.

++ What’s the story behind the name Whirl?

I think Alan came up with it, we wanted just a one word name that reflected the music.

++ How was Brighton then? Were there like-minded bands that you liked? Did you feel part of a scene? What were the places, the venues or clubs where you used to hang out?

Brighton was fantastic back then and always has been. We had the Mods in the 60’s, a great punk scene in the 70’s and then the Mod revival, Indie and psychedelic scene in the 80’s. Brighton is so cosmopolitan with two Universities and an Art College, there’s always been all sorts of scenes, and also famous for it’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender population. I consider myself to be very lucky to have grown up there. In the 70’s we all used to go to the Gay clubs, as they were the only one’s open, but then as Punk took off there were many more “venues” like the Crypt, (which was an old Crypt) The Alhambra, The Inn place, The Richmond and then later, The Electric Grape, Zap Club, The Big Twang and The Sunshine Playroom.

There were loads of likeminded folks and bands around so the competition was strong.

++ I’ve heard 9 songs from, I believe, from a demo tape and makes you wonder why songs like “You Are My Friend” or “In a Dream” were never properly released. But I don’t know much about this demo. When and where was it recorded and are there more unreleased songs like these?

A later recording of “In a Dream” was released on the Heaven Forbid EP, but I think that those were very early recordings circa 1985/86 from a rehearsal room in Hove that was run by Mark Waterman and Annie from Elastica used to hang out there.

++ I found out that two other songs, “Lost” and “Tell All Your Friends” appeared on a tape titled  “Goodnight Miffy” that was included with the Especially Yellow fanzine. Again, online it is so hard to find information about this fanzine or this tape. How did you end up contributing to this fanzine? And where do these songs come from? From a special recording session or another demo tape?

Again “Lost” and “Tell All Your Friends” were early demos released on the Especially Yellow cassette. The tape and the fanzine was the work of fellow Brightonian, music fan and Indie journalist legend Johnny Dee, before he went on to have songs written about him (“Ask Johnny Dee”- The Chesterfields) and work for the New Musical Express and the BBC.

++ In 1987 you released your first EP, the “Heaven Forbid EP” on Playroom Discs. They were also based in Brighton, I guess you were friends before signing with them? And how was your relationship with them?

Playroom Discs was run by Sean Sullivan and Gordon Kaye who used to run The Sunshine Playroom club on a Wednesday night in a pub opposite the pier in Brighton. We all became and remained very good friends with them to this day. Sean went on to form Arthur with Rob Colley and Gordon is still making a living from DJing all over the country.

++ This is a fantastic EP, I’m happy to own a copy, what do you remember from the recording sessions at Bloomsbury Studios?

Thank you, I’m pleased you like it and very surprised that you’d even heard of us let alone have a copy of the record.

I remember having a bad cold and having to do few takes on the vocals, but apart from that and a couple of guitar overdubs it was basically a live recording. It was really the only way to capture the energy of our live show. I also remember that it was engineered by a guy called Terry Popple who at the time was Van Morrisons drummer and in more recent times Graham Bonnett he also worked with the 14 Iced Bears and the Popguns.

++ The photos on the jacket of the EP, where were they taken?

They were actually taken by an art/photography student that lived in our Victorian house and were taken in Alan’s front room in the same house that I lived in. The sleeve pictures didn’t come out as well as the actual photographs that were taken which was disappointing.

++ A year later you released another 12″, the “Clear” EP, but this time with another label, September, a label that had released favourite bands of mine like McCarthy or The Wolfhounds, but I know so very little about this label. Who were they and how did you end up working with them?

September was run by Paul Sutton, who was involved with The Pink Label (https://www.twee.net/labels/pink.html). We had supported both The Wolfhounds and McCarthy many times in London and in Brighton and even though we weren’t as political as the other bands Paul was interested in putting out a record of us. We all got on on very well and Rob and I are still in touch with Dave and Andy from the Wolfhounds, their new album is fantastic by the way.

++ How different was recording this EP compared to the first one?

Caz had left the band a few months before so we had a new bass player Karen O’Keefe; a friend of Alan’s sister, who played in The Wishing Stones and The Rain, who had once interviewed Sonic Youth on TV, so slightly different dynamics but mostly still live. There were a few more guitar overdubs as Alan had just been introduced to a Rockman peddle by the engineer, who kept likening our sound to Split by the Groundhogs

++ Also I’m quite curious about the Japanese characters on the A side label, what do they say?

I really have no idea I’m afraid, I hope it’s nothing offensive.

++ One of the songs of the EP, “Your Heart’s As Big As The Whole Outdoors”, appeared on yet another tape compilation, the “Everlasting: A Tape Compilation” in 1988 on the Everlasting label. A very cool tape with lots of fab bands like The Orchids or TV Personalities.

Both Rob and I had no idea that this recording existed until I saw it on the Discogs website a few years ago. I’m assuming it’s a demo version from Bloomsbury Studios, I’ve not heard the tape.

++ Your last last release ended up being a split flexi shared with Crocodile Ride in 1989. About the label “The Sound of Spasm” I know next to nothing. Who were they? And did you know Crocodile Ride before releasing the flexi? Did you ever play gigs with them perhaps?

The Sound of Spasm was from a fanzine called Spasm run by a lady called Tish , who I bumped into for the first time since it came out, at a Wolfhounds gig just before Christmas last year. It was great to catch up. I don’t think I knew any of the Crocodile Ride members and I can’t remember playing gigs with them.

++ Last appearance as far as I know, you can correct me, was on a CD compilation titled “Staring at the Sun 2” with the song “You Almost Killed Me” in 1993. This was many years after the band had split, is that, right? How did this happen?

I didn’t know anything about this until I saw this question so I You Tubed it. It’s certainly not us but you can be forgiven for thinking it was us as it’s certainly got a similar sound. I quite like it actually. From what I can gather they’re from your side of the pond.

++ So yeah, when and why did the band split?

1989 I think, there was a few issues between Alan and myself and after a few difficult gigs and rehearsals, Karen called me to say that she couldn’t carry on in the band, and I decided it was time to move on also, after all it had been nearly 10 years playing with Alan in more than just one band, and our friendship was struggling and the fun was rapidly disappearing.

++ What did you all do after? And what are you doing today?

Alan went on to play in Sharkboy and I believe he works in a Bicycle shop now. Rob still plays in bands and works as a Plumber, Caz played in Eusebio, had two lovely boys who now have their own bands and now works as a sign language interpreter, Karen was working for Local government, and is now a planning consultant. I am a Horticulturalist and build Gardens for the Chelsea Flower Show.

++ How come you didn’t get to release more records, perhaps an album?

There is an acoustic demo for an album somewhere I’ve got a recording of about 4 songs for it, but we split before it was complete.

++ Was there any interest from big labels at any point?

Not really, we had a sniff from London Records and Pinnacle and then Tambourine records were interested for a while following several support gigs with The Dentists but then September stepped in.

++ What about gigs? Did you play many? Are there any in particular that you remember with fondness? Were there any that weren’t good at all? Any anecdotes you could share?

We played loads and loads of gigs supporting people like Edwin Collins, Julian Cope, Primal Scream, The Weather Prophets, and That Petrol Emotion. One night we turned up to headline a gig in Camden and were told that the support band were called Stone Roses, however they didn’t turn up and then the next week they were all over the music press, the rest as they say is history. On a similar note we had Lush as one of our support bands once and a couple of weeks later they were signed by 4AD.

++ Did you get much attention from the music papers? Or radio?

We had a few very flattering live reviews’ and magazine features’ although the second single wasn’t as liked as much as the first by the press. Steve Lamacq and Janice Long played us a few times on the BBC radio evening shows. We actually topped the chart of our local BBC station Radio Sussex.

++ And what would you say, looking back in time, would be the highlight for Whirl?

The highlight for me was supporting Edwin and Julian, two of my all-time hero’s and they were such nice people, and I was a bit star struck. Also we appeared on a local TV programme called “The Pier” which was a local (South East region) gig guide programme.

++ Today, aside from music, what other hobbies do you enjoy?

I’m involved in a local conservation group for Earlswood Common and do small gardening jobs for friends, and I also enjoy cooking.

++ And how is Brighton now? Has it changed much compared to the days of Whirl? Are there any bands that you like there?

Brighton has changed loads there are now more venues to play in
There’s a great young band called the Grasshoppers that I saw support Grant Heart a couple of years ago. Also a friends sons band The Ferns are ones to watch out for.

++ If there’s anyone visiting your town, what would you say one shouldn’t miss?

Record shops and niche stores in the North Lanes, there’s also some fantastic architecture including Brighton Pavillion built as a seaside pleasure palace for King George IV. And football (Soccer) fans should go to the Amex Community Stadium to watch Brighton and Hove F.C. If we keep playing like we have been this season we should be in the Premiership League next season

++ Thanks so much for answering all the questions in this extensive interview! Anything else you’d like to add?

Cherry Red records are releasing a follow up to the C86 cassette, called C88 and “Clear” will be featuring on that, I think that will be out later this year.

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Listen
Whirl – Heaven Forbid

02
Mar

Thanks so much to Stephen Lawson for the interview! I wrote about Blue Nose B before in the blog and he was kind enough to get in touch and tell me the whole story behind his band! I really loved their song “My Diary” after I discovered the band through the connection with Waving at Trains. And I was wondering how come Blue Nose B wasn’t more known! Happily here Stephen gives a better perspective of the band and the period.

++ Hi Stephen! Thanks a lot for being up for this interview. First things first, is it Bluenose B or Blue Nose B?

It’s Blue Nose B. It’s different on many of our records mainly because we were very drunk for most of our early years.

++ You were telling me that Blue Nose B is mainly you, but what would you say was the classic lineup for the band? How did you know each other? And when did the band start?

The classic line up was David Billows (vocals), John Briody (guitar), Michael Lawson (drums) and myself. David Billows is my cousin, Michael my older brother and John was one of my best friends from school.

++ You named the band after being fans of Everton FC, is that right? Do you go to the games? What would be your best Everton FC memory by the way?

People think we were named after Everton fans but we were actually named after the lines of men waiting to collect their unemployment benefit. They stood in the cold with their bluenoses. They were very political times. We were all Liverpool FC fans and the best game was the 1981 Liverpool v Real Madrid champions league final at Parc Des Princes in Paris. We won the game 1 0.

++ You were formed in Liverpool. Those early 80s in Liverpool must have been exciting, lots of great bands. Did you like that period in time? What were your favourite bands and why?

They were the best times. They were so exciting. We used to drink with Echo and the Bunnymen, Teardrop Explodes, The Mighty Wah and China Crisis. It was the most vibrant of times. My favourite band was Echo and the Bunnymen. They were perfect. Ian McCulloch was brilliantly moody and Will Sergeant on guitar was stunning.

++ Though I read that you come exactly from Aintree, is that right? How is that town?

David Billows came from Aintree, Michael, John and myself came from Seaforth. A seaside town on the edge of Liverpool. Lots of poverty, lots of laughter, lots of music. “In Liverpool we sing”. Singing and laughing were are antidotes to poverty. Wish I could go back.

++ And how would you say Liverpool influenced your music? How was the city back then? What were your favourite places, your favourite venues to go check out music?

In Liverpool every youngster wanted to be either a footballer or in a band. There were hundreds of bands. We would all lend each other’s equipment. One night a guy called John “spud” Murphy came and lent my bass amp because his Dad had pawned his. There were at least 20 great venues. My favourites were the Firehouse, Pickwicks and the Bier Keller. The quality of music was excellent. Unfortunately so many great bands such as Politburo and Hey Marsha never received the success they should have.

++ On Discogs your first release is a demo released in 1984. The demo included 6 songs: “The Loneliest Dogs”, “Physically Satisfied”, “Escape”, “The Dream”, “Summer Girl”, “When I Love”. Was this your first ever recordings? How were these tapes sold?

Summer Girl and When I Love were our first two demos. Ultra pop songs. Summer Girl is a jangly sweet song about being young, happy and alive in a beautiful city in the summertime. Summer Girl was voted “song of the year” by Billy Mann the editor of the sound magazine.

++ None of these songs were to appear in your proper vinyl releases. Why is that?

They never went out on vinyl because Probe (our record company) didn’t have the money. Things were tight.

++ Your first release was a 12″ single with the songs “Forever Passing Trains”, “Burning Up” and “Maybe”. This record came out on Blues Records. Was it your own label? Or who ran Blues Records?

Blues Records was our own label because probe had no money. We had to do something to get our music heard and so we lent as much as we could to achieve it. That single was played a lot on BBC Radio 1.

++ You even produced this record. Did you have any experience producing records already? How was that experience?

We didn’t have any experience producing but we knew how to play and have a laugh, so we went in full of humour and hope and came out with a pretty good recording.

++ How did the creative process work for the band? Did you get much input from the rest of musicians in Blue Nose B?

I’d write the songs At home in Seaforth. I’d play them to my brother Michael. He’d either say yes or no and then we would start working on them. As he was the drummer and I was the bass player we would get the back end right before we’d play the song to David and John. We practiced in Michaels bedroom. All the neighbours would come out into their gardens and dance.

++ I assume that the art on this record is a drawing of Blue Nose B? Who made it?

David Billows did the art work. He was a budding Michael Angelo without the skill.

++ You also appeared on some compilations like “Modesty Kills” and “Desperation”. Both these compilations were released by the Audio Visual Records label. Who were they and how did you end up there?

The song Fine Rain was played by Michael, David and myself. Paul Gill (waving at trains) and John Murphy (toy taboo, lotus eaters and Thomas Lang) also played on the track.  It was picked up by audio visual records and we went on to record a significant amount of material for that label. We had an album with Audio Visual on cassette but they sold out and I don’t have a copy.

++ I also found out on your Bandcamp that you had set up a 9 song retrospective titled “The Sinking of Liverpool: A Retrospective 1983-1989”. Was this ever released physically? I couldn’t find any information on the label Modern Polymath either.

The sinking of Liverpool was developed by Michael Lawson, it is a collection of our best recordings from our post punk period. It was never physically released however we are in discussion to put it out on vinyl as it has received a lot of interest. Modern Polymath is a new record company who wishes to release much of our old and new material. We are currently re recording Summer Girl for May this year.

++ On your Soundcloud there’s even many more songs, some much newer, not from the 80s. So first, I want to ask if there are still more unreleased 80s songs waiting to be heard? And second, from what time do the other batch of newer songs come from?

All the songs that have been put on there were written in the 80s and 90s. I have a back catalogue of over 100 songs. You will see two vinyl 12 inches and an album before the end of the year.

++ Was there any interest from other labels for your music? Maybe a big label?

In 1984 a label (Ryker Records) offered us £40,000 for when I love and Summer Girl. We turned them down. Probably a bad decision. Sony also made and offer, once again we made another bad decision.

++ So you still use the name Blue Nose B for your music. Did the band ever split? Was there a hiatus at all?

We split on many occasions and reformed with new musicians. We have worked with Henry Priestman (the christians), Pete Wylie (The Mighty Wah), Ian McNabb (The Icicle Works), Dave Hughes (Dalek I love you) and John “spud” Murphy (The Lotus Eaters). John wrote the music to the film a “Letter to Brezhnev’ and is a big Hollywood music producer now. Our album was produced by the genius Ken Nelson who has won 3 mercury prizes. 2 with Cold Play.

 

++ Blue Nose B were featured in many magazines, Sounds, NME, Melody Maker, you name it. Did you get many favourable reviews? Was it easy to get their attention?

We had loads of attention. We regularly played in front of a thousand people in Dingwalls in Camden Lock London. We were right on the edge of making it. We also toured with the Mighty Wah which was great fun.

++ What about radio? Did you get much coverage and plays?

We were played regularly by John Peel, Janice Long and Pete Powell on Radio one. Also local radio played us a lot.

++ I read that some of the members had been in a band called Indadais. How did this band sound? Any similarities to Blue Nose B?

Indadais consisted of Micheal Lawson, John Briody and David Billows. The musical leanings were derived from the 1916 Dada movement. Too Artistic for me. I was a pure pop man.

++ And of course, after so many band changes, how do you think that affected the band? Do you see it as a positive or a negative thing?

I don’t know if the band changes affected anything. All I know is I have enjoyed every minute of playing live. It is an honour to see people dancing to your music and I hope this year to be in a position to play live again. Maybe in New York with a bit of luck.

++ Aside from music, and football, what other hobbies do you have?

My hobby is my work. I’m a mental health nurse with my own business. I help people come out of long term hospital provision to community living. A bigger buzz than playing live.

++ So far what would you say has been the biggest highlight for the band?

Playing in front of a 1000 people in Liverpool, on top form with a great reaction. I cannot put into words how good it feels to become so involved with the music that you exceed the limits of your talent. Superb.

++ Thanks so much for the interview! One last question, hope you don’t mind. Hope I go to Liverpool one day, never been there, but was wondering what would you recommend checking out? And if there’s any traditional food or drinks that I shouldn’t miss?

Come to Liverpool, drink Lager, eat Scouse, laugh, sing and dance. Liverpool people are the most generous and welcoming people in the world. You can stay with me and I’ll buy your drinks. You’ll have the time of life.

++ Anything else you’d like to add?

Thanks for the interview and I hope you can review the new 12 inch single. Summer Girl and Marianne (beneath the sheet).

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Listen
Bluenose B – My Diary

21
Feb

Thanks so much to Frida for the interview! I wrote some time ago about Inside Riot on the blog and was lucky to get in touch with Frida after that. I had been a fan for a long time, not only a fan of Inside Riot but also a fan of her other bands like Rough Bunnies or The Flame. So it was quite an honour to be in touch with Frida! Luckily she was happy to answer all my questions and here I’m crossing fingers she’ll like to do an interview about Rough Bunnies and The Flame sometime soon!

++ Hi Frida, thanks so much for getting in touch and being up for this interview. I’ve been a fan for long of your bands so this means a lot! Definitely the band that I know less about is Inside Riot, your first band, so let’s talk about that. When and where did the band start?

Hi there Roque. Inside riot has existed in different versions as long as we have been able to play instruments good enough. Anna and I played music together as children. We used to play guitar, and violin in the basement of my parents’ house. Anders (Anna’s brother) And Anna used to play with Anders friends Mattias and Martin and when I was Old enough I joined them.

++ Originally was it you and Anna only? When did Anders, Mattias and Martin join the band and how did you know them?

No, or yes. Originally, as we grew up together, we also naturally played together. But only in our basement. I was the last one to join the band which we later named inside riot.

++ So before Inside Riot you weren’t in any bands, right? But what are your first musical memories? What instruments do you play and what do you think inspired you to make music?

No, not any bands with actual names. My brothers and I also played music in our basement though. We can all play just a little bit Of everything but none of us is an expert in any instrument. We wrote songs because we wanted to impress guys we liked. Then it became more like writing a diary, together.

++ And had the other members being in other bands before or after Inside Riot?

Martin, the drummer, he was in a really good grunge band before he joined.

++ Who came up with the name of the band, Inside Riot, and what’s the story behind it?

The name is from one of the first songs I wrote. We needed a band name and the song was crap but the title was ok, so we used it for the band instead.

++ It’s said that Inside Riot used to record in Berlin and that you were in Malmö. Whereabouts are you these days? And what are your favourite things about these two cities?

We all decided to live in the same apartment in Berlin for half a year in 2002, to be able to play gigs and record. We are back in Sweden now, inhabiting the cities. Most of us live in Malmö.

++ And what do you remember about the recording sessions in Berlin? How was the creative process for Inside Riot?

Anna and I wrote songs and presented them to the band. It was always the same process. No drumming on the yellow metallic stuff, no funky guitar rhythms but otherwise the band was (almost) free to do anything.

++ Your releases came out on CDR mostly and during those early 2000s there were many bands releasing CDRs. How helpful was this format to spread your music and why do you think no one is releasing CDRs anymore being a cheap format for fans and labels?

We released CDRs due to its availability and that downloading mp3-songs was pretty slow at that time. Not that many people have CD players anymore. Now its easier to put all the songs into a homepage for free downloading, which is just as good.

++ There’s little information about your first releases, “The First Record (Eskimo)” and “Hi, What’s Your Name?” on the web. Was wondering if you could give me some background info about them? Like what year they were released? What songs were on it? If they were put out by any label?

I don’t remember exactly when those albums were recorded. Alan McGee promised to release an album on Poptones, but then they had an economical crisis and we never really sent the recordings to any other label.

++ I’m mostly familiar with the later releases, the posthumous releases, on Bedroom Records, like “1999-2002” and “Berlin Recordings + Mini EP” and they are brilliant. But I’m wondering, aside from all these releases, are there still any unreleased Inside Riot songs?

No, we released all of the good songs and also the crappy songs we rehearsed. There are of course songs that we did not rehearse and some of these songs were released by rough bunnies and some of the songs are forgotten.

++ And what made you release the compilation “1999-2002” a couple of years after the band had already split?

We met Jonas from bedroom records when we were playing as rough bunnies and we told him to also release the inside riot songs. He was very flexible when it came to our wishes.

++ I have so many favourite songs by Inside Riot, but maybe “World of Love” is my fave. If you don’t mind, what’s the story behind this song?

That song is about my first love, Guldtackan, and also about the first heartbreak.

++ And what would be your favourite song and why?

My personal favourite is ‘more lost than alive’ on berlin recordings, only because of the dreamy parts in the song.

++ How did it work releasing with Bedroom Records?

It worked fine, but in the end it would have been better to release everything by ourselves. They couldn’t produce as many cd-rs as we needed.

++ There is this mystery about five songs that are listed on the CDR “RB for Beginners”. It is said five songs that are listed don’t appear on the CDR, “How Did He Know I Had a Dick?”, “Riding in Cars”, “ESK-83”, “Human Industry”, “Teenage Obsession” and “I Say Goodbye”, what happened?

Haha, I drew the CD-r cover before I checked how many songs that actually fitted on the CD-r. I just left them out when I realised that I had to remove some songs.

++ Inside Riot (and Rough Bunnies) were covered by The Fine Arts Showcase. What do you think of these versions?

I think they are perfect Gustaf-versions. He had heard all the songs with only song and acoustic guitar as we used to live together, so the arrangements are his ideas of the correct sound.

++ Why were no other releases by Inside Riot at the time? Was there any interest by any labels?

We talked to both Fred and Calvin after playing gigs at the same clubs. They could release old stuff but we wanted to release new songs, so rough bunnies released a new record on Ypsilanti with Fred.

++ You told me that you mostly played in basements and only occasionally in clubs, I assume in Germany and Sweden? What are the gigs you remember the most and why? Any anecdotes you could share?

My favourite is when we played for maybe 150 13year olds and EVERYBODY left the room to do other activities. That was in Malmö.

++ Did you get any attention from press, radio, fanzines or blogs at the time?

Yes, pretty much. The reviewers and people playing in other bands used to love us but we never had a fan base of real people.

++ And when and why did the band split? What did the Inside Riot members do after?

Anna and I wanted to do our own thing. We were much too bossy for the others to cope with. They got serious and started to study. Anna learned belly dancing and we started rough bunnies and the flame.

++ Looking back, for you, what was the biggest highlight of being in Inside Riot?

It is so nice to play music together once a week. The song writing is the best part, tightly followed by the time in the rehearsal cave.

++ I know there’s much more to talk, like you were in bands like Rough Bunnies or The Flame and would love to do interviews about them too if you like, but let’s start wrapping this interview. Was wondering if you are still making music today?

No, but my kiddo is. She has super interesting lyrics.

++ What other hobbies do you have?

We like to hike in the forrest and walk long distances.

++ And what about Malmö, I was there many years ago and I had a good time. What are your favourite places to hang out? What are the sights not to miss and what are some traditional dishes one has to try?

There is a good place to eat Somalian food at Persborg. And the falafel in Malmö is good. And for activities…it’s nice to fly kites by the beach in the summer. And you should always explore Malmö by bike.

++ Thanks a lot Frida, it has been a pleasure. Anything else you’d like to add?

Not really, you had a ton of questions,haha! Thank you Roque.

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Listen
Inside Riot – World of Love

31
Jan

Thanks so much to Andy McVeigh for the interview! I wrote just a few weeks ago about Esmerelda’s Kite on the blog, trying to find out more information about the Leeds band that released two split flexis in the 80s and Andy, the drummer, was very kind to get in touch! Here he answers a bunch of my questions and finally I get to know a bit more about this obscure jangly band!

++ Hi Andy! Thanks so much for the interview. There’s so little info about Esmerelda’s Kite on the web so it is great that we are in touch. I guess my first question has to be who were Esmerelda’s Kite? Who were the members? What instruments did each of you play? And how did you all meet?

For all of us I think, Esmerelda’s Kite was our first band. The name comes from the novel ‘The Wasp Factory’ by Iain Banks. A great book, the main character kills his cousin Esmerelda by tricking her into holding an enormous kite. She floats off, never to be seen again…

The band was Simon , me, Mark spowage on guitar and initially, John Doidge on bass . Vikki King became bass player later on.

I met Mark age 11 at High school. John lived opposite me. Simon lived nearby . I cant remember how we all got together though!

I still see John regularly, he’s a good friend. Vikki eventually went off teaching abroad. I haven’t seen Mark for years. I’m pretty sure Mark and Vikki and John haven’t played music since. Simon released a couple of singles on Sarah – Gentle Despite.

 

++ Your two only proper releases were on split flexis. Was wondering if you ever shared a gig with or were friends with the bands you shared them, The Williams and The Groove Farm?

We were gutted John Peel played The Williams instead of us cause, frankly, they were terrible. The ‘Vampire Girl’ flexi- I cant remember how that came about. We didn’t know The Williams or Groove Farm. We did get fan letters from abroad, even Asia, from the flexis! God knows how!

++ Your first flexi came out on the Sunshine label which was run by The Williams. On it you included “Roundabout” but there seems to be a 2nd song that is not listed on the sleeve. I’ve seen it titled “A Whirl” on the web, was that the real name of it? And why was it not listed?

The ‘Roundabout’ flexi came out with extra track ‘In A Whirl.’ It was on there by mistake but was a much better song really. It was recorded with Richard Formby at Hall Place Studio. It was his idea to put the fuzzbox sound on it and it transformed it. He always had great ideas.I recorded with him a few times in the years to come with other bands. He was a member of Spectrum with Sonic Boom from Spacemen 3 later on.

 

++ Something that surprises me is that at least on Discogs I couldn’t find any compilation appearances. During the 80s most guitar pop bands appeared on many different tape compilations. Did you at all?

We never got asked to be on a compilation I don’t think.

++ Were there more songs recorded other than the ones in the flexi? Did you release any demo tapes and sold them at gigs maybe?

We did demos and sold them in Jumbo Records in Leeds. I made the cassette covers at work as I worked in an ad agency and there was a graphic design dept. with all the stuff I needed. I also did posters for gigs and me and Mark would flypost them in Leeds centre late at night with wallpaper paste! We must have had about 20 odd songs. Ive got most of them on on recorded or live tapes somewhere. My favourite song was ‘Cheesecake.’!  And another was ‘Sweep the Leaves from the Floor of My Heart.’ Looking back, we were a bit twee ( I find a lot of the Sarah stuff awful now to be honest) but we had bloody good little songs for our age I think. Would have been interesting if we’d recorded them properly.

++ Was there any interest from other labels to release your songs?

We didn’t get any major interest I don’t think. I remember getting letters from Sarah and 53rd &3rd Records quite liking us though. I think we got a bit of a local following and we played all over Yorkshire and Lancashire but never London.

++ What about gigs? Did you play many? What were your favourite gigs and why? Any anecdotes you could share?

We rehearsed a few times a week in Simon’s basement. We wrote a new tune every week it seemed! We were only about 17 and it was probably the best time of my life really. We supported a lot of known bands like My Bloody Valentine, Spacemen 3, etc. Ive forgotten lots of gigs but it was exciting as we loved and bought records by those bands then got to play with them. We played with CUD a lot and even joined them on stage once for ‘CUD’s Kite- doing ‘You Sexy Thing’! They’d done their cover of that Hot Chocolate song for a Peel session and it kind of took off for them. I played drums and Mark was on guitar one time we played with them, and we did ‘YSThing’ for an encore I think!

I remember doing a gig with CUD at York Cellars and it was the first time people moshed/danced to us- so exciting!! We were all looking at each other and grinning! the MBV gig was great at The Duchess pub in Leeds. We were massive fans and to sit backstage with your heroes at 17 was great. It was just before their first Creation single came out I think. We played at the Leeds Uni a few times, once at the Riley Smith Hall with a massive stage. That felt weird to us!

++ Did you feel part of a scene?

There was a real scene in Leeds at the time. Us and The Pale Saints would do lots of gigs together and hang out. It was very DIY but people would turn up wherever you played. Pale Saints got signed to 4AD Records and ended up famous on the national indie scene!

++ When and why did you split? What did you all do afterwards? Were you involved in bands?

I played in a band called Dirty Vinyls for a few years. We had record company interest and Alan McGee (Oasis) was giving us lots of good gigs in London but nothing came of it and we split in about 2008 maybe. It cost us too much money but now I play Britpop/indie covers and get paid! It’s ok, I need to play , cant give it up, but I’ll never beat the excitement of those Kites days! John is now an airline pilot but still says they were his most exciting times!

++ Aside from music, what other hobbies do you have?

All my hobbies are really music based- going to gigs, festivals etc. I love football and watch Leeds United with my son, who is 13.He’s now drumming and is starting his first band! Must be genetic, I haven’t really mentioned music to him much, it must have seeped in.

The film Sing Street on Netflix nearly had me in tears- reminded me of the Kites days!

++ I’ve never been to Leeds, but I wonder if I was to go as a tourist what sights would you suggest visiting? Or maybe some traditional foods or drinks?

Leeds sights- er, not much! Leeds United stadium? Yorkshire Dales not far away. Food- fish and chips, Yorkshire pudding!

++ Thanks again Andy, anything else you’d like to add?

When I heard Simon died I went to visit his mum and sister. I hadn’t seen him in years, though I know he’d had problems. He was still living with his mum as far as I knew. I wanted to tell her that he was a massive part of my best memories and Id always love him for that. Id tried to see him when I heard he was ill but he said he didn’t want to see anyone. His mum took us into the basement where we rehearsed with the Kites and it seemed so much smaller than I remembered! Was amazing to see it though. I wish we’d talked before he died. He was only 48 I think, some type of cancer. He was a troubled soul , I always felt.

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Listen
Esmerelda’s Kite – Roundabout

28
Jan

Thanks so much to Peter Yarrow for this interview! I know This Mighty Fire just because a compilation they appeared in the 80s, “Great Sheffield” on the Homar label. For a long time I was looking for information about this jangly band, until one day I stumbled with their Facebook page (which you should be a fan of, of course). I wrote them. Some time passed and then Peter sent me some tracks, they sounded fantastic. I was so happy to have discovered their music. Then he was up for an online interview, tell the story of this obscure but fantastic band. Hope you like them!

++ Hi Peter! Thanks so much for being up for this interview! There’s so little about This Mighty Fire on the web that it’s going to be great to tell the story of the band! So let’s start from the beginning, how and when did you all meet?

We met at school in our final year – it was 1987 and, as I remember, The Smiths had recently split and New Order had a big hit with True Faith.  We would have just been coming up to our 16th birthdays.  Crikey we were so young!  It all started by Moony (at the time, a friend of a friend) saying to me “you like Joy Division, come and play this”.  At which point I was handed a bass guitar.  Moony had only been playing guitar since the Xmas before and had written a song on Boxing Day 1986 with my mate David, who had just got a Casio SK1 keyboard.  It was a really cheap little thing but one of the first that had a sampler.  The song was called “Arthur Fowler is Mental”, inspired by the nervous breakdown of a character from the BBC soap, Eastenders. You wouldn’t get away with that these days.

++ Through what sort of music did you bond? What were the influences of the band?

I think it’s fair to say the main influences on the band at that time were, Joy Division, New Order, The Smiths, The Jam, The Who and Billy Bragg.  When Pete joined, he had a very different taste … U2, Simple Minds, Jean Michel Jarre.  Drummers are always a bit different though aren’t they?

++ Was This Mighty Fire your first band? Had you been involved in any other bands before it?

Yes, other than Moony’s collaboration on “Arthur Fowler …”

++ And what would you say is your first music memory? And what was your first instrument?

Playing the recorder at the age of 6 years old.  Not very cool!  I remember my mum was pregnant with my younger sister and missed our first performance at the school Christmas concert, so we had to play again.  Lol.

++ Who came up with the name This Mighty Fire and what’s the meaning behind it?

I really can’t remember.  We were originally called “Infant Mortality” which I remember a teacher giving me a hard time about.  Then we became The Immortal.  Eventually we became This Mighty Fire, but who knows how that came about,

++ You were based in Sheffield, a place that has produced so many great bands! How was Sheffield back then? What were your favourite places to hang out? The venues, the clubs? And were there any like-minded bands that you liked?

Sheffield had been known mainly for electronic music in the ‘80s, such as Human League, Cabaret Voltaire, ABC and Heaven 17. While I liked this sort of music, it wasn’t a big influence for us.  At that time in the ‘80s there were some decent venues for local bands … Take Two, The Limit and The Leadmill.  If you played The Leadmill you thought you’d made it.  Our main haunt was Take Two, and we were able to use it for rehearsals for a period of time.  The band we got on best with was called The Glass Hammers, but on the whole we didn’t mix with many others.  Treebound Story was probably the best known at that time.  You may know Richard Hawley … he was the guitarist in Treebound Story.  I really liked them but the others weren’t keen.  Blammo! were also getting a lot of reviews (later to become Speedy).  We started hanging around with them and when we split Moony joined them.  Speedy are one of my favourite bands ever!  Pulp made a come back in the late ‘80s before they became massive – Moony and I liked them too.

++ The only song I know you released was “Ready and Waiting” that appeared on the “Great Sheffield” compilation in 1989. I’ve been looking for this CD for so long! Seems it is very rare. So I don’t know much about the other bands on it, or the label. So was wondering if you could give me a bit of a background about this compilation of Sheffield bands? How did you ended up on it? Who were there Homar label? Which bands on it did you liked?

OK, so Homar UK was formed by Marek Pryjomko (co-owner of Take Two) and Howard Willey (who worked for the Human League).  Through our Take Two connection we were asked to provide a song and to play the launch gig at The Octagon venue, which is part of Sheffield University.  If I’m completely honest, I didn’t like many of the other songs on there, but we met a few of the bands.  Debut were good guys, as were The Pineapple Crew – they were probably my favourite tracks.  A lot of the bands on the CD weren’t particularly well known in Sheffield – or at least not to me.  The Mourning After were quite interesting, not my thing but they were quite popular.

++ And what about this song, “Ready and Waiting”, what is the story behind it?

Well, most of our songs are ridden with teenage angst, so were mainly about girls.  Moony wrote the lyrics, I think, and were about some girl.  It was one of the songs that our friends / fans liked most.

++ Was there any other songs on compilations?

No unfortunately not, a shame really.

++ Why were there no other releases? Was there any interest from labels at the time?

We started sending demos to record labels in about 1989, and got some interest from Warners.  They were going to come to see one of our gigs but we split before it happened.  Oh what could have been!

++ But you did put together demo tapes, right? I think the songs I have, “Dream”, “Go Down” and “Lost and Found” come from a tape. Was there more than one This Mighty Fire demo tape? What other recordings did you make?

We did a few demos.  Our first was in 1987 and the songs were, er, “basic” but quite funny … “Memories of Summer”, “Suicide By The Sea”, and “Murderous Day”.   Our next demo was in November 1988 and was the session at which “Ready & Waiting” was recorded.  We recorded about 8 songs in one day.  We made huge progress as musicians and in our song-writing in that one year.  In 1989 we moved into a new rehearsal room which was part of a studio and started to record a bit more.  The songs you mentioned were recorded during that period and we had a few more too.  “I Know” was pretty good, and the studio owner remixed it, resulting in the indie show on Radio Sheffield naming it one of the songs of the year!

++ From the other songs I’ve listened, I think my favourite is “Dream”, it is just pure guitar pop bliss! And that catchy la-la-las. Was wondering if you could tell me the story behind it?

Teenage angst again!  I think I might have written those lyrics … I seem to recall they were about a girl I liked, but other than that I can’t remember any more.  Mark Mercer, who recorded it for us, added the backwards guitar which was very “on trend” for the time.  It’s great song and was one that the record companies liked.

++ And which of your songs would be your favourite and why?

Just as we were leaving school, Moony got a new guitar and a phaser pedal.  He wrote this brilliant song called “Why?”, it’s still one of my favourites and brings back the memories of June 1988 when we had finished our exams and were starting a new part of our lives.  We also had one called “Rain” which I loved, with a really jangly guitar.  “Dream” and “Lost Not Found” are also favourites for me.  I really like the lyrics for “Lost Not Found”, I think they were mine and are about feeling confused … “I’m happy and angry, I’m saved and I’m drowned, I’m lost not found”.  God knows what I was thinking about … oh probably girls!

++ How did you enjoy the recording sessions? Where were these songs recorded? And how did the creative process work for you?

Recording was a bit of a novelty at first, but I can’t say I really enjoyed it.  Lots of sitting around listening to the same thing over and over.  Moony got really into recording and eventually became a sound engineer.  We tended to record most of what we wrote, some recordings unfortunately were lost.  In terms of songwriting, we all played a part.  Pete learned to play guitar and wrote a few songs, Moony wrote a lot of lyrics and music.  I mainly wrote lyrics, but I remember once having this tune in my head which resulted in a song called “Can You Take It?”.  We always shared songwriting credits and felt that, regardless of who came up idea, we all played a part in the overall development of the songs.

++ What about gigs? Did you play many then? What were some of your favourites? And was there a least favourite one?

We played quite a lot locally, mainly at Take Two or The Hallamshire, which was a pub in town and a great venue.  We also played a few out of town … Nottingham, Derby, Hull, Bolton, Oldham, Leeds, Barnsley, Manchester.  It was difficult though because we were rarely paid very much and it would cost us more to hire a van and pay for fuel than we would be paid.  My favourite was when we played The Leadmill.  It was our one and only time, and we supported Havana 3am.  Paul Simonon from The Clash was in them and that weekend “Should I Stay Or Should I Go?” got to number one on the back of a Levi’s ad.  The venue was packed and we went down well.  We sold our red t-shirts at that gig and wore them on stage.  We had some real stinkers of gigs though, I remember the one in Bolton was particularly poor.

++ I see you had some t-shirts made. Who came up with the logo of the band? And what other merch did you use to sell?

I think we ripped off Benetton for that logo, but we’d had a logo before that which our manager had created by a local design company.  It was based on some sort of hazardous materials graphic.  We mainly sold demo tapes but one of our friends wrote a fanzine for us once and we gave that away at gigs.  It was quite funny and positioned me as a “Rock God”.  How far from the truth.

++ I also notice there was some lineup changes through the year. Why did they happen?

Oh crikey, I forgot about that.  When we were at school Wayne and Russell (brothers) were our guitarists. They didn’t really have the same musical tastes as us, and had some opinions that we didn’t really want to be associated with.  Anyway, that was a long time ago!  There was no real fall out, they were just told one day that they were no longer required.  Moony’s brother, Chris, played percussion with us for a while too.  He later joined The Bendy Monsters.

++ I read your interests, aside from music, include football and beer. Good choices! What team do you support and what are your favourite beers?

Both Moony and I support Sheffield United … fair to say we’ve had a lot of ups and downs, mainly downs!  Pete supports Sheffield Wednesday, who are doing a bit better … unfortunately!  I really like craft beers, Brewdog is one of my favourite companies but my friend works for Stewart Brewing in Edinburgh and makes excellent beer.  I’ve told him he’s like a rock star of the craft beer world.

++ Was wondering too about if you got support from the press at all? Or the radio?

BBC Radio Sheffield had an indie show on Sunday called “Prick Up Your Ears”.  The host really liked our stuff and played us a few times.  We were once asked in for an interview, but they couldn’t use it because we were answering the questions before we were even asked.  In hindsight, we were quite cocky and full of ourselves!  Before the gig at The Leadmill I was interviewed by The Sheffield Telegraph.  I think the quote of the interview was “it’s not a case of if we make it but when”. Martin Lilleker, the journalist, seemed to agree!  I also remember when we played our first gig at Take Two, we were about 16 years old at the time, and the small article in The Sheffield Star was titled “Nappy Hour”!

++ There was a big explosion of guitar pop bands in the mid late 80s in the UK, but did you feel part of a scene?

We weren’t particularly good at joining in with other bands, especially local ones.  From memory, I think we were overly competitive and probably could have got further by collaborating more with others.  I never felt we were part of a scene, although technically we were part of the Sheffield Scene of the late eighties.

++ And what happened with the band, when and why did you call it a day?

We split in 1990. It was a genuine case of musical differences.  Moony was playing bass for Blammo! on and off, I was getting into House music and Pete was more into rock music.  There was no falling out, we just drifted apart.  It’s a shame because I think we could have got a deal, in fact I remember having to write to the A&R person from Warners who had been planning to come and see us, and we also had to pull out from a series of shows at The Leadmill, at which we were due to support The Dylans.

++ What did you all do after? Did you continue making music?

Moony has definitely been the most involved in music, firstly with Blammo!, then they morphed into Speedy, and got a record deal.  Speedy had a few singles, the biggest being “Boy Wonder” and did quite a bit of TV.  He does a lot of work with kids these days, helping them to make music. I think Pete continued, but as a guitarist rather than a drummer – I don’t think he’s doing anything now.  I did some of my own electronic music for a couple of years, then did a bit of work with a band that some friends had.  Even that was over 20 years ago!  My last foray was when I used Garageband on my iPad.

++ And today, aside from music, what other hobbies do you have?

It very much is music, I’m a big record collector and I’m into vinyl.  I play a bit of tennis too, well, when the weather’s good.  I’ve built a good career and head up learning and development in a UK FTSE company, so that keeps me busy and is an outlet for my creative side.

++ What about Sheffield today? Are you still there? Has it changed much?

I moved to Edinburgh 10 years ago, and go back to Sheffield about twice a year.  It has changed in some ways, but not in others.  I’ll always be proud of where I’m from.

++ Looking back in time, what would you say are the biggest highlight of This Mighty Fire?

I’m now in my mid-forties and there’s something both sad and cool about saying, “oh yeah, I was in a band”.  It really is about creating memories, I’ll never forget what we did … I even still listen to the demos in the car

++ Let’s wrap it here, it has been a pleasure, anything you’d like to add?

Being asked to do this was a big surprise … I’m very proud of what we did so it’s an honour to be asked to talk about it after all these years.  Thanks for asking.

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Listen
This Mighty Fire – Dream

03
Jan

Thanks so much to Arthur Magee for the great interview! It’s been a while since I tried to interview this band that I first got to know thanks to the Leamington Spa series many many years ago. Then I was able to hear their one and only EP on Ugly Man and I was just like… wow! It was always a mystery for me why they are not much more known, more of a household name for guitar pop fans. Luckily now Arthur answers many of my questions and hopefully you’ll be discovering a new fantastic band or you’ll get to know a thing or two about this fab Manchester band.

++ Hi Arthur! Thanks a lot for being up for the interview once again. It was a long time since we were in touch, during the Myspace days, and now I have a new opportunity to ask you many questions! Of course I have to start this interview asking you about that perfect song of yours, “Pessimistic Man”, if you could tell me the story behind it?

It’s Stuart’s song. I’ll ask him. Stuart says:

Pessimistic man is the usual tale of a miserable Yorkshire lad trying to decide on what’s the worst thing happening in his life. Written in the time of the poll tax, campaign for nuclear disarmament, strikes and the everyday toil of trying to get a job and a mortgage, the ray of light is that all this is inconsequential and it is missing a loved one that is praying on the young lad’s mind.

++ There was a video for this song too. Where did you get the budget to make it? What do you remember the time making it, any anecdotes? And why was it black and white?

Budget!!! Are you joking. I blagged it from a friend of ours who ran a video company and the amount spent on it was NOTHING! It was filmed in Whitworth Park in Manchester on a bitterly cold Sunday in November. We got a lot of our friends down and just acted out scenes. Stuart or his brother Duncan made the props, the large bomb and the big heart. The furniture came from the flat Paul and I share in Hulme. I remember the Manchester Martyrs Parade passing down Oxford Road as we filmed. The video was in colour with some shots in black and white for the effect!

++ Let’s rewind a bit, was Fallover 24 your first band or had you been involved in other bands?

No Fallover 24 was my first and last band. Outside of Fallover 24, I’ve known excellent musicians, technically brilliant but they’ve never been able to match what I felt with Paul and Stuart. There was something magical there, I can’t explain it but there was.

++ And before that, what was your first instrument, what sort of music was heard at home when you were little?

Guitar. My mother loved Elvis, Roy Orbison and shows like West Side Story. I’d an Uncle Pat who played guitar and piano and he used to encourage us to write songs when we were kids. I can remember three of us sat on top of an upright piano as he played. He showed us that there was magic in the mundane, an incredible gift to give. When I was really young I heard and loved the Beatles and I watched the Monkees on TV. Actually how Fallover 24 lived was a bit like the Monkees except we didn’t have a beach house in Malibu, we’d a cockroach infested flat in Hulme, Manchester. As I got older I listened to more punk and ska bands as well as Motown, glam rock etc. I will always love the Undertones. Mostly, I love good songs and good songwriters whatever the genre or era. I’m a sucker for a good melody. Stuart was into David Bowie, Jonathan Richmond and Talking Heads whilst Paul liked Madness and bands like them. We’d a big range on influences in the group.

++ When starting Fallover 24 what sort of bands were you listening to? Did you follow any bands in Manchester at the time?

You know I really can’t remember too well. We used to go and see a lot of bands though. I became good friends with the Skol Bandeleros, who were a cowpunk band and the best live band on the scene by a country (excuse the pun) mile! The Man from Delmonte were good too. I saw the Stone Roses a few times and they were just about ok.

++ How was Manchester then? What were the places where you used to hang out? What were your favourite venues or clubs?

We lived in Hulme which was a horrendous 1960s housing project in inner city Manchester. The accommodation was so bad, they’d given up on it and rented it out to students. Bear in mind that Manchester has 50,000 students coming each year and they bring an energy. I’d studied in London for 3 years and I met more people in Manchester in 3 weeks than I did the whole time I was in London. People in Manchester tend to take you as they find you. It has a proud radical heritage and that still exists to this day, a sort of ‘Fuck You’ attitude but with a kind and open heart. There was real poverty in the city but also an incredible vibrancy. It felt like anything was possible and everyone seemed to be in a band. We had a regular gig at the Red Admiral in Hulme which was full of people selling nicked goods but it was run by a lovely Irish couple and they paid us. At the time, the place to go for bands was the International who’d a guy booking for them called Roger Eagles who really got some great bands there.

++ How did Fallover 24 start? How did you meet the rest of the members?

I met Stuart whilst he and I were trying to chat up the same girl. We ended up chatting each other up! Paul we met at a gig. Vic came from an advert in Melody Maker, drummers are always hard to get.

++ And where does the name Fallover 24 come from?

You each drink 24 cans of lager and what happens? You …(wait for it..) Fallover!!!

++ I read that the strength of the band was that you had 3 songwriters. How did that work for you? Like, how was the creative process when someone came up with a new song?

Mostly it was very, very good as we spurred each other on. Sometimes someone would have the whole song virtually written like Stuart did with Pessimistic Man and we’d add to it, Other times, we’d finish a song together. There was always a pressure to get your song heard which is probably why we never did the same set twice.

++ Your first gig was at The Red Admiral in Hulme. What do you remember from that day? How long did you play, who did you support, and what songs were on the setlist?

It was a Tuesday at the start of December. We’d actually supported a band at the Gallery but Stuart was ill so it was just Paul and myself and we played after about 2 rehearsals. I saw a picture recently and you can see I’m shouting the chords to him. At the Red Admiral, we used Harry from Gone to Earth as a drummer and Stuart was back so that was our first proper gig. I was so nervous, I was nearly sick but the idea was to face the fear, get going and make a start. Sometimes people in a group will wait until they’re ready but you’re never ready. Better to get up and do it and if you make mistakes, so what? I think we played for 40 minutes in front of our friends and after that we were up and running.

++ It’s said that you never played the same setlist twice, that must have been hard! What other gigs do you remember fondly and why? Is there any gig that you played that you would prefer forgetting, that wasn’t very good?

We didn’t play the same setlist twice. We used to rehearse constantly and we were all writing tunes. It kept it interesting for us but looking back, there were an awful lot of really good songs that people never heard. In retrospect we should have been a little more disciplined in our approach. Playing live we were a real mixed bag. I remember a gig in Belfast at a student club when we were really brilliant. That said, I can remember a few others when we were shocking. A big issue was acoustics playing in large spaces with the sound bouncing everywhere.

++ You recorded your first demo in 1986. What songs were in it? The same as in the EP later released on Ugly Man Records?

That was recorded at Out of the Blue in Manchester. The songs were:

The Greystone
Cloth Stained Blue
Shipyards
Questions

None of these were on the EP but Cloth Stained Blue was featured on The Sound of Leamington Spa compilation.

++ At that time you were supposed to record a single with Martin Hannett, is that right? What happened?

Martin heard the 4 track of Pessimistic Man and loved it so we went to Strawberry Studios to record it. He just wasn’t at it and it never worked out.

++ Then, in 1989, you would release the “Pessimistic Man” EP on Ugly Man Records. How did you end up in this label and how was your relationship with them?

I knew Guy whose label it was and we were getting fed up with Martin who’d miss recording sessions etc. We wanted to keep the momentum going so we went and recorded it ourselves.

++ Had there been interest from other labels? Maybe some majors?

The single and video secured interest from several Majors but to be honest we weren’t ready.

++ What do you remember from the recording sessions for the single? you recorded it yourselves, right?

Yes after we’d tried to record it with Martin Hannett. It was a studio in Old Trafford in Manchester and the only clear recollection I have is Paul pressing a large red button on the desk and nearly wiping all the recordings. It was like something from a cartoon, “Umm this button says, ‘Do Not Press’ but what could go wrong?” so he pressed it!

++ It must have been a highlight when you beat on the local charts the likes of The Stone Roses or The Happy Mondays. What position did you reach? And how did this impact the band?

It wasn’t a highlight, we were just trying to push the record and we did all that on our own with no support. I was glad that we were mentioned but no more than that.

++ How come this didn’t translate nationally?

We’d no support, no money for pluggers or advertising. The record was on the Ugly Man label but we’d paid for it ourselves. Essentially we were a corner shop competing against large corporations and we couldn’t do it. There was also a lot of inverted snobbery in the Indie scene, we weren’t ‘indie’ enough. I’ll explain what I mean. We were told that our video was going to be featured on Snub TV which was a national programme in the UK. We cobbled the last of our money together and sent it down to London by courier. We came home one day to a message from the show’s producer telling us that they weren’t going to play us as we weren’t indie enough! We were living in a cockroach and mouse infested flat in Hulme at the time. Not indie enough? A mouse drowned in our chip pan! It was a blow and not the only one. It felt like a punch in the stomach!

++ There’s only 4 songs on the EP, but I wonder if you recorded more songs at all? Perhaps there were more demo tapes?

There were. We recorded versions of songs on Stuart’s Tascam Porta Studio but we didn’t have the money to go into professional studios. In fact we only did this twice. Our first demo and the recordings for the EP.

++ What was the idea behind the artwork of the EP, that sad clown is the pessimistic man?

It was a great idea from Carl who did the graphics. Just inverting the normal perception of a cheery clown. Mind you clowns are scary now aren’t they? At one stage I wanted to change it to the Smiley icon beloved of the rave crowd but we didn’t have the time or money.

++ What happened in the spring of 1989, why did you split? And what did you all do after musically?

Looking back, I know I was suicidal and I think I was having a nervous breakdown. We’d set up a recording studio and to be honest it wasn’t really something I wanted to do. A lot of things came to a head and I wasn’t in a good place and I mean that literally, Paul had to talk me down from a ledge. I know I must have been hard to deal with as I was on a real downer at the time. We remained mates though. When you’ve driven 200 miles with only enough money for 2 cups of coffee between 4 people, it bonds you. It took me 2 to 3 years before I could look at a guitar and I started to play solo. I never wanted to be in another group. It would have been hard to replicate what we had. Sometimes we were abysmal but other times we were truly magical.

++ How was the press and radio? Did you get much attention from them?

A bit but like I said, the promotion budget was zilch. I thought, if you put out a great record, people will play it. I was naive, it doesn’t work like that. I think we sent it to the NME 8 times before we got a review. Melody Maker gave us a live review and John Peel played it. I’m not sure if local radio in Manchester even played it. We also got the video on late night MTV when it started in Europe. All this we did ourselves, ringing people up, hassling them etc. It’s what you need to do but it’s draining.

++ And what about the so called C86 scene, did you ever feel part of it? Did you get much attention from indiepop fanzines perhaps?

No, we didn’t feel part of it or at last I didn’t. People start bands for lots of reasons but it’s never to be part of a scene. That’s a terrible reason to start a band. Be yourself, do the music you love otherwise you’ll never do anything. We were friends with some bands in Manchester though and we met some wonderful, amazing people.

++ What about today, are you all still in touch? Making music perhaps?

I’ve always kept in touch with Paul and Stuart. They’re more than friends to me, more like brothers. We are a caring but dysfunctional family. Sadly, I’ve lost touch with Vic the drummer. I did speak with him a few years back but I’m not sure he wants to be found. We listened to some of our old 4 track demos and recordings we made of rehearsals and realised that actually we’ve written some really brilliant songs that have not been recorded properly never mind heard. We get together when we’ve the time and we’ve put 4 of our old songs down. How do they sound? Really great. We’re looking to get more recorded.

++ These days, what other hobbies do you enjoy having?

I run a walking tour in Belfast which is where I’m from. I love football but I’ve a family so outside of them and my guitar I don’t have a lot of free time. I try and listen to as much new music as I can usually in the car.

++ Are you still in Manchester? Has it changed much since those days in the 80s? Are there any good band still in town?

No I don’t live in Manchester anymore, I’m from Belfast and I live there now but I do go over. In fact I’m going in January to meet up with Paul and Stuart from Fallover 24 and rehearse some of our old songs. I’d like to get 4 more recorded soon. Stuart still lives in Manchester whilst Paul lives in Warwick in England’s West Midlands so you can see the logistics of getting us together are difficult. Manchester has changed incredibly in the last 15 years. It’s totally transformed and reminds me of New York. It will always produce bands but what makes Manchester special is the approach to music. Most places people go to hear what they know or have heard before. In Manchester they go to hear something new, something different which is incredibly liberating.

++ I guess we should start wrapping it, I think I might come up with even more questions if we don’t stop, but I would like to know what was the biggest highlight for you of being part of Fallover 24?

Meeting Martin Hannett was good, not because he was a so called legend but because he and I used to get on well and would go for a beer in Chorlton. Hearing the record unexpectedly on John Peel was lovely too but the real highlight was meeting wonderful people like Paul and Stuart who I was in Fallover 24 with, Mandy, Sue and Anthony from the Skol Bandeleros, Dave Thom and Harry from Little Douglas/Gone to Earth and many others like Tony Dooley or Sheridan McLoughlin, Herman and John Nancolis from a project called the Site. It was the worst of times but it was also the best of times too, to paraphrase Dickens.

++ Thanks again for the interview, anything else you’d like to add?

I always describe us as an unpopular pop group so we’re setting up a web site:

www.unpopularpopgroup.com

We’re recording our old songs as we never had the money first time around and people will be able to access them from the web site when we get it up and going. I think they sound fabulous, pure pop, two guitars, bass and drums with great tunes attached. We’re doing this for the love of it and because it’s still good fun and also because it’s always annoyed me that the songs never reached the light of day. Looking back, I’d say to anyone that if you want to do something, do it. To most people Fallover 24 never existed, we didn’t create a splash, more a pebble into the sea but that pebble still created small ripples and those ripples have come back to us from all over the world. People have contacted me from New York, Canada and Japan which I think is incredible. I’d like to think we did something positive which this world needs. So if you’ve got something you want to do, do it, life is short but make sure it’s positive. It might not work out how you wanted but at least you’ll have no regrets and when you’re a middle aged old fart like me you’ll have something to look back on. To paraphrase Helen Keller, “Life is an adventure or it is nothing”.

Oh and we’re available for weddings, bar mitzvahs etc…!

Love, light and peace

Fallover 24

You can contact us at: Fallover24@gmail.com

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Listen
Fallover 24 – Pessimistic Man

01
Dec

Thanks so much to John Harkins for this interview! I didn’t know Things in General until stumbling upon their Bandcamp some months ago when I was searching for The English McCoy with whom they shared members. I loved the songs they had uploaded and was so sad to know that I had missed the limited CD they had released. Luckily was able to get in touch with John and ask him a bunch of questions.

++ Hi John! Thanks a lot for being up for this interview! How are you? Are you still based in Preston? Has it changed a lot since the days of Things in General?

Kev and I are both still in Preston. It has changed massively since the ’80’s. For a start the old Polytechnic is now a fairly large university and there are tens of thousands of students from all over the place, in fact the town has developed quite a bit, much the same as other provisional English towns. Preston is about 35 miles from Manchester and Liverpool, so it is massively overshadowed by its noisy neighbours.

++Tell me a bit about how it was back then in the mid 80s, were there any other like minded bands? Where would you usually hang out? What were your favourite venues to go check out bands?

For unsigned bands back in the ’80’s there wasn’t very much of an organised music scene, it was very rare to play in a venue with a house PA. There was no internet and no computers so there had to be a real DIY ethos to gigging. Begging and borrowing gear, promoting our own shows, making the posters, tickets and trying to drum up interest. The bands on the music scene were mainly based around groups of friends, our friends were in bands like The English McCoy & Dreamland. A lot of the time the same group of people would be in a few different bands together. Karl and Damian from Dreamland were in Fear The Fear and ProNoise, Miles, Darren and Paul from the English McCoy all played with Things in General at one time or another. Pete Cobb, a founding member of TiG, was in the English McCoy in their early days too. There were other bands in town that I liked but didn’t really know too well, Dandelion Adventure, Big Red Bus & Cornershop.

Our circle of indie/alternative bands used to hang out in a pub called The Exchange until it got “done up” then we moved to The Adelphi. There were some music pubs, most notably The Lamb, Joplins/Kings Arms and Maguires

There was the occasional “big gig” on at Preston Guild Hall, I saw The Smiths there in ’87.

Touring bands would play at Clouds, The Warehouse (aka Raiders), The Paradise Club and The Venue. The Stone Roses, The Jesus and Mary Chain, The Pogues and countless indie bands passed through these venues over the years.

To be honest, Things in General were more at home in a café than a pub or a music venue. There can be a lot of big egos in and around bands, Things in General much prefered a quieter life spending a long afternoon nursing a mug of tea in Bruccianis Café.

++ I read many of you were in different bands like James, Cornershop and the English McCoy, wondering if there’s any other bands missing in that list? And who were in which bands?

The English McCoy were good friends, Miles Salisbury played drums and Pete Cobb played keys in the early days of Things in General, after the McCoy split up Paul and Darren played keys and drums with TiG. We did some gigs together and I roadied for English McCoy in ’87 & ’88 around the time they were signed and put their single out. Happy times. Miles has just started playing again, in fact I’m doing a gig with him this weekend!

Mick Armistead did most of our recording at the Musicians Co-op in Lancaster. Mick joined James in 1988, around the time of James’ Gold Mother album. He toured with them for a year or so before leaving and recommending Mark Hunter as his replacement. I don’t think Mick was too comfortable with the level of attention that James were getting. He’s still engineering, producing and playing, I saw his band Montana Wildhack a while ago. Good guy, we used to drive him nuts.

Saffs (Anthony Saffery) was one of the Bruccianis cafe regulars, he was a lovely guy and sat in for a few gigs on guitar after Kath left the band around 1987. A few years later Saffs joined Cornershop, they had a No.1 single with Brimful of Asha. I was so pleased for his success, it helped him carve out a career in the industry.

++ Was Things in General your first band? How did the band come together? How did you all know each other?

The band formed out of the post punk era. Kev had been in a punk band called Urban Renewal in the early ‘80’s and knew Miles (drums), also of The English McCoy & Blank Students, Kath (flute and guitar) & Pete Cobb (keys). Andy and I were at school together, he was introduced to Kev and Kath at a party as a guitar player, they asked him to play bass and that was how the first line up came about.

A few people came and went, mainly drummers. Kath left Preston leading to a more guitar oriented sound, I joined on guitar in 1988.

For me personally before TiG I was messing about with my own stuff under the pseudonym Johnny Ligament, I’ve been working on my debut solo album for over 30 years….. 😉

++ Who came up with the name and what’s the story behind it?

No one can remember. Kev told me it just sort of sounded good.

++ At that time, who would you say were your influences?

It may sound a bit pretentious but Kev, in particular, didn’t really have musical influences. The songs came out the way the came out and that was that. I was more into guitar indie, Andy was in to The Cure and played huge bass solos with flanger, Kath would have a nice melody on the flute. We never really tried to be like anything, in that way the band were remarkably unambitious, it was what it was and if people liked it… great.

++ On Bandcamp we can listen to 15 songs that were part of a retrospective CD released in 2012 titled “The Generals”. Was wondering what sparked the idea to put together by yourselves this release?  And are there more songs recorded by the band that weren’t included in this CD?

Kev and I got chatting about 4 years ago. Initially it was just about getting the tracks that we recorded digitised for ourselves. Some people were interested so we put the best 15 on a CD and made a t-shirt.

There are another 10 to 15 tracks that aren’t on The Best of TiG CD, I may put them online at some point as The Rest of TiG.

++ All, but one, songs were recorded at the Blueprint Studio Lancaster and produced Mick Armistead. I guess you really liked working there. How was that experience? Any anecdotes you remember?

Blueprint studio is part of Lancaster Musicians Co-op. The Co-op is a fantastic resource for local musicians, it’s been there for 30+ years and hundreds of bands must have passed through there at one time or another. I was there a few years ago rehearsing with some friends and some of the faces from the ‘80’s were still knocking around like Dave (The Lovely Eggs), Ian (Montana Wildhack, Premier Kissoff) and Mick.

Mick was an ex-boyfriend of Kaths which is how we got to know him. He was infinitely patient with us and he seemed to know what we were looking for.

++ If you were to pick one song from the band, your favourite song, which one would that be and why?

I’m going to be cheeky and take two, one from my time in the band and one from before I joined.

My favourite from my time in the band is Raintown, it really sums up Kev’s songwriting and what it was like living in a northern town in the 1980’s.

Before I joined I really like Morning Air, the slower stuff with flute was so original.

++ How did the creative process work for the band?

The songs were Kev’s with a bit of tweaking by the band. Kev is a fairly self contained songwriter. I think in that we only tried to write a song collaboratively once and it never got into the set…..

++ Let’s talk about gigs. Did you play many? Which cities? Which bands do you remember supporting or that supported you?

We played a lot in Preston and Lancaster, Bodega Wine Bar, Yorkshire House, Kings Arms. Bigger gigs in Preston were at The Warehouse and The Venue. In Manchester we played the Boardwalk and Band on the Wall.

++ What would you were your best gigs and why? Was there any that was actually a bad gig?

I remember a really good gigs at The Venue (Preston Polytechnic) and the Boardwalk (Manchester). On the flip side we had a nightmare once at The Yorkshire House (Lancaster) because we turned up on the wrong day, and I think Kev once booked us at The Warehouse (Preston) as “Kevin Cross and the Wagon Trailers” there was much confusion when we turned up on the night.

++ The band lasted until 1990. Why did the band stop playing? Why did you split?

Some of our friends had done well out of music and as individuals some of us had our heads turned by that. We all knew that Things in General lacked the ambition as a band to make a big impression so we decided to part company. Darren and Andy started a band called Junk Mothers, Kev started Wholesome with Miles & Geoff from the early days of TiG. I got involved in a couple of bands that didn’t take off….

++ What did you guys do after? Are you all still in touch? Was there ever talks for a reunion?

We did a gig in ‘94 at the Adelphi in Preston, it was fun but it was always going to be a one off. I see Kev and Miles a lot.

++ And what about today? Are you still making music?

Kev and I started a Crossbill in 2012, it is a bit like Things in General but acoustic. Andy, Darren and Kath have moved away so I don’t see much of them. Kev and I have done some gigs with Pete Cobb’s band and Miles (solo) recently.

++ Aside from music, what other hobbies do you enjoy doing?

Most of the guys I’m in touch with still play music. Darren Baldwin is a fantastic photographer.

++ Let’s wrap it here, thanks a lot for the interview, anything else you’d like to add?

Thanks for taking an interest!

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Listen
Things in General – Raintown

28
Jul

Time ago I wrote a piece about the band Tropical Fish Invasion on the blog. I really liked the few songs I have heard, and always wondered if their flexi that I own was missing a sleeve. There were many questions and this band remained very mysterious to me. Happily Cat got in touch and was very kind to answer all my questions about his band in the late 80s, early 90s. Here is the interview, hope you enjoy it!

++ Thanks so much Cat for getting in touch and being up for the interview! I know so little from the band, so let’s start! I had the idea the band hailed from Derby, but you are based now in Nottingham, right? Where was the band from?

The band was mainly based out of Derby but we did all move to Nottingham in 1991

++ When did the band start? Who were the members and how did you all know each other?

The original band (The Pink Sugar Cube Boogies) formed in 1985/1986. The driving force behind it was Matty Pearson – a larger than life character who once went to a ladies hairdressers in Heanor and asked for a ‘monk cut’ – which was literally having a bald patch shaved into the top of his head to look like a Benedictine Monk because he thought it would be a good look for a party we were attending that night. I was mightily impressed by this rather committed fashion gesture and soon became his disciple!

We were all students at South East Derbyshire College and met in the canteen, we started hanging out and playing music together. the original line up was Matty P, Paul Kleesmaa, Gary Kempley, Allan MacDonald and myself. The college ran a music course which at the time seemed rather boring to us, lots of jazz, rock and more traditional stuff. At the Christmas concert we were given a slot and dressed in 60’s beatnik paraphernalia, smoking jackets and cravats we played a couple of songs (quite badly I may add). This sorry affair led to the music course leader saying we were worse than the ‘Sexy Guns’. We assumed he was actually referring to the Sex Pistols!

++ Have you been involved in bands before?

This was my first official band but I’d always been drawn to performing from a young age. At the age of 5 my teacher used to make me stand up in front of the class and sing to everyone. I used to love it and never felt shy or embarrassed. I also sang in a couple of choirs at school but The Pink Sugar Cube Boogies opened up a new world to me and writing songs with my best friends was the best thing in the world.

++ Where does the band name come from? It’s such a good name!

After leaving college we decided to get serious with band and renamed it Mr Cinzano and Tropical Fish Invasion and moved to Nottingham (we eventually dropped the Mr Cinzano – I can’t remember why). The name was inspired by our love of Tropical fish, the beautiful colours and what they represented, freedom to move in beautiful waters in some of the finest locations of the world.  I guess it brought a bit of glamour and relief to intercity living at the peak of Thatcher’s reign over the UK. We eventually moved to Derby where we developed a really good following.

++ And I have to ask, even if it’s a bit silly, did any of you had pet fish?

I used to have a goldfish which I won at Heanor fair! It died and we flushed it down the toilet.

++ What sort of music were you listening at the time? Who would you say were influences for the Tropical Fish Invasion?

Our influences were wide: 60’s psychedelia, Frank Sinatra (Witchcraft) Dean Martin, James Brown, Sliced Tomatoes by Terry, Divine, Led Zeppelin, The Beatles, Rolling Stones, Beach Boys, Hendrix, early B52s, Stan Getz, Astrud Gilberto, Nick Drake, Ella Fitzgerald

++ Were there any like-minded bands in your area that you were into?

There were some great bands that we were fortunate to play with, these include The Moonflowers (supported twice) and The Frauds (from Leicester)

++ There’s this flexi with the song “La Di Da”. Was it self-released? Did it have a proper picture sleeve?

Yes the flexi was self-released on our own ‘Octypurple’ label. We had 1000 singles pressed and I probably have a few hundred left in my garage somewhere. We never created a proper picture sleeve as we didn’t have enough money. I think I may have funded the whole thing myself!

++ I love this song, so I wonder if you could tell me the story behind it?

The song has a simple message about positivity and how to remain positive when things take a turn for the worse – just take a look around (take stock of everything and find the positives) . It’s also about love and friendship – you might have material wealth or nice things but what’s the point if you don’t have any friends or loved ones to hang out with.

++ The catalog number was OCTY 6-5000. Does that have any meaning?

The 6-5000 part comes from a song of ours called Aquamarinaland – this was our own sub-aquatic/tropical fish reworking of Glen Miller’s 1940 classic Pennsylvania 6-500. In 2001 Aquamarinaland made another but very different appearance on a collaboration with Nottingham outfit Schmoov! on their Album ‘While You Wait’. On this very chilled out track I sing of the regret of losing a loved one in a very tongue in cheek style

++ The other song I know from you is also great, “Ring a Ding”, that was on the “Seahorses” tape compilation. Do you remember how you ended in there?

Ring-a -ding is one of my favourites and was a homage to Frank Sinatra. I can’t remember how exactly we got onto that compilation but at the time there were many talented and dedicated people travelling to gigs, writing reviews and creating fanzines and putting compilations together.  We would have met at a gig, had a few drinks and passed on a tape to them.

++ You were telling me that you recorded many more songs. Do you remember how many demo tapes you released?

We probably recorded 4 demo cassettes and the flexi-single on Octypurple records. We also had a few videos but these have been lost unfortunately – or over recorded by our bass player who was the last person to have the video!

++ And from all your repertoire, which one was your favourite song?

My favourite changes all the time, at the moment it’s Ring-a-Ding.

++ What about gigs? Did you play live a lot? Any favourite or not too favourite gigs that you remember?

We used to play a lot – at least once a week at our peak. As an established band in Derby we got lots of support slots at the Dial, The Lord Nelson, The Old Bell and the famous Rock City in Nottingham. We played with Crazy Head (which wasn’t a well suited gig in terms of the music we played, and some of their fans looked bewildered at best and ready to kill us at worst!) We also supported 1000 Yard Stare, The Moonflowers, Five Thirty, Spacemen 3, and a few more that I’ve totally forgotten!!
My favourite gig was in the Dial back in December 1990 (I think!). The place was absolutely packed and everyone was in the zone so there was lots of dancing, sweating and the atmosphere was electric. I have some really fond memories of that night and it felt like we had ‘made it’.

 

++ During the late 80s, early 90s, there were a lot of guitar pop bands in the UK. Was wondering if you ever felt part of a scene there?

There was definitely the feeling of being part of a scene and we used to have people travelling from afar to see us and often crashing with us. This helped us build a network of fans and get to know other bands and travel up to Manchester or down to London to see them.

++ What about press? Did you get coverage? Radio? What about fanzines?

We got loads of coverage in the local press, Derby Evening Telegraph and the Nottingham Evening Post. We also appeared on local TV as part of a World Aids Day event and some local radio too. Our main exposure was through fanzines. I can’t remember all of them but I do have copies of:
Share The Modern World With Me
A Nice Piece of Parkin
Sperm Wail
Red Roses for Me

++ And then when and why did the band split? What did you guys do after?

I guess we split due to the usual and predictable differences there can happen within a band – getting on each others nerves, girlfriend trouble, changes in personal goals. From my point of view we had gone far enough and I felt a bit disillusioned – we’d been let down too many times by A&R people saying thay would come to our gigs that never did, even after all the trouble we’d gone to in terms of getting a bus load of people to come and see us in London etc. The house party scene was also taking off and it most of us got heavily involved in that so it seemed a good idea to have a break. I do wonder what might have happened if we had persevered a bit longer.

++ Are you all still in touch? Are you still making music today?

Not properly just through Facebook and through mutual friends. Amazing really because at the time we thought we would be friends for ever but people grow up and have our own families and there just isn’t enough time.
Yes I am still involved in music today.  After the band split I took a short break and started playing at parties and venues in Nottingham as a DJ. On the day of a gig, my headphones weren’t working so I went to the flat next door to borrow some from a good friend. He was rehearsing with a band for a jazz gig and the song they were playing was Witchcraft. I knew the words, I grew up with this song (and it felt a bit like fate I suppose). I sang along, it sounded great and ever since then I’ve been singing Jazz (mainly Rat Pack stuff) and Latin and have played at weddings, private parties, local bars, restaurants, film launches, festivals – we even played at Glastonbury Festival twice as part of Lost Vagueness collective. I would say gig wise I’ve played in more venues and locations than when with the Tropical Fish (including a friend’s wedding in New York).
My kids are also musical and I encourage them to play and sing. I song to them overnight and we often have ‘jam sessions’ which are a great way for the kids to express themselves and have fun. My daughter (now 7 years old) was selected to represent the UK in Monaco, France to play a composition she wrote when she was only 6! As you can imagine I am extremely proud of her achievements and that the musical tradition will continue through my kids.

++ Looking back, what would you say are your happiest memories, the highlight of being in the Tropical Fish Invasion?

My happiness memories of a time when only music mattered – whether it was writing songs, rehearsing, performing – the whole creative process. Having this process validated through positive audience reactions and getting approached by young ladies was also a very positive outcome!

++  Let’s wrap it here, but before we go, why don’t you tell us about Nottingham a bit. If one was to visit, what are the sights or the places one shouldn’t miss?

Notingham is a great city. It’s the home of Robin Hood, Paul Smith clothes and Raleigh bikes. There’s plenty to do here like drink in the oldest Inn in England, visit the Castle, come and see me sing at the Pelican Club!

++ Thanks again so much Cat! Anything else you’d like to add?

No –  I think that’s covered it all. Good to talk with you Roque and thanks for keeping the memory of the Tropical Fish alive!

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Listen
Tropical Fish Invasion – La Di Da

27
May

Thanks so much to Patrik Jäder for the interview! The Mary-Go-Round hailed from Luleå, in the north of Sweden. They released just one 7″ on A West Side Fabrication in 1990 and appeared in a handful of compilations. For me they are one of the best bands ever to come from Sweden just on the strength of the few songs that were released. I love them! The perfect mix of jangly guitars and girl/boy vocals. I was very happy to finally get in touch with one of the members of the band and here are his answers to many of the questions I’ve always wondered about!

++ Hi Patrik! Thanks so much for getting back to me and for being up for this interview. The Mary-Go-Round 7″ is one of my most precious records in my collection.  Love it! I think it’s one of the best ever to come out from Sweden, if not the world of indiepop! It’s really an honour. So let’s talk about music! When was the last time you picked up your bass?

I picked up my bass today. I’m working at a school and we have a band here with the teachers. We’re playing music for and with kids (6-10 years old).

++ And what are your first music memories? Were you always into playing bass? How was growing up in Luleå?

My first music memories are at home with my parents. My dad listened to a lot of jazz music and used to play saxophone at home. My first vinyl record was “Love Gun” by Kiss. I was playing guitar at first, but changed to bass when me and some friends started a band called Pornografi (after the album Pornography with The Cure).

Growing up in Luleå was fun and there were a lot of friends who started bands. I joined my first band when I was thirteen, it was a punk band.

++ Was Mary-Go-Round your first band or you had already been playing with other bands before?

Mary-Go-Round wasn’t my first band, I played in Joon Erektion, Pornografi and Action Comics before I joined MGR.

++ Who were Mary-Go-Round and how did you all meet?

MGR was formed in Luleå by a couple of friends who loved pop music. I wasn’t with them from the start, I joined later when the bass player traveled to Thailand. They needed a bass player and I took the job.

++ Tell me a bit more about Luleå, like did any good bands go play there? Or were there any other good bands in town? What were the places you’d usually hang out at? Or the venues were you went and check bands out? Has it changed a lot?

When we played with MGR there weren’t any bands who played the music we liked or played in Luleå. The music scene was kind of boring at that time. But that’s changed a lot. Now we have a big “Culture House” where at lot of big bands/artists  play (Billy Bragg, Lloyd Cole, Soundtrack of Our Lives). There’s also a great punk scene in town where a lot of bands are playing.

++ Where does the name of the band come from?

The name MGR came from Merry-Go-Round. But that name was picked, so they changed it to Mary-Go-Round when they started the band.

++ Was it always the first option to make music in English? Who were your influences at the time?

They were singing in English when I joined the band and we never spoke about changing it. We were influenced by The Smiths, The Go-Betweens, Prefab Sprout, Beach Boys, Beatles, Field Mice, The Chills, June Brides, Close Lobsters, Robyn Hitchcock. There was a scene in England called “Anorak Pop” which we liked.

++ You were telling me that you recorded two demos before the EP. Do you remember anything about them? Like what songs were in them? What year were they released? How many copies were made?

The two demos we did were recorded on a four track recorder at our rehearsal place in Luleå. I don’t remember all the songs on them, but there were “Caught you Crying” and “Our She Been”. I don’t remember when we recorded them. We didn’t make a lot of copies and we sent them to some record companies to get a record deal.

++ Your EP was recorded at Basic Music, how was the experience working there with Johan Nilsson?

Johan Nilsson was a great guy and we recorded the EP at his house in Skellefteå. He had a studio in the house and we spent two days there.

++ I guess for me the biggest mystery of the Mary-Go-Round EP is the cover. I always wondered who is the woman on the motorcycle, is she someone you knew?

The woman on the cover is my mother. We wanted a cover which showed how we sounded, so that picture was great to have for the cover. But my mother was embarrassed.

++ Three songs were included in the EP, “Fill My Head”, “Fish Bowl” and “Noble Art”. Any chance that you could tell me the story behind each of the songs, in a line or two?

I don’t really remember the story behind the songs on the record, but Nils Johansson (the guitar player) wrote them. Noble Art was kind of tricky to get well in the studio.

++ The EP was released by A West Side Fabrication in 1990. How did you end up signing with them for this release? And how was your experience with them?

We met Jocke Wallström in Luleå when we played there with two bands from Skellefteå. Jocke liked us and wanted to put out a record with us on A West Side Fabrication. Jocke was great and we could record what we wanted.

++ And how come there was no other release by the Mary-Go-Round afterwards?

We split because there were other things in life that were more important (education, work, moving to another town).

++ There were some appearances in compilations though, I guess the most well known one is your contribution of the song “Into the Morgue” to the tape “Grimsby Fishmarket 4 – Norrköping 0”. Do you remember how did you end up in it?

Nils was listening to a lot of great pop bands and got to know Markus who had a fanzine called The Grimsby Fishmarket. He wanted a song for the tape and it was “Into the Morgue”.

++ On Discogs, there are a couple of songs listed that I’ve never heard that appeared on compilations. There was “Mary-Go-Round” that appeared on “A Major Statement” LP compilation in 1988 and “A Simple Sensation” that appeared on the tape “Second Half” in 1994. One is perhaps from your very early days and the other one from the very last days, is that right?

I wasn’t in the band when “A Major Statement” was recorded. I joined later. And I don’t remember the song A Simple Sensation.

++ I noticed that you liked collaborating with fanzines. How was the fanzine culture back in the late 80s, early 90s in Sweden? Were you into that?

The fanzine culture was kind of small, but there was Sound Affects and Base One. We had our demos reviewed in both.

++ And how was the attention of the media towards your band? Was there any interest from press or radio at all?

The media attention was very small. I think we did two interviews – one for a local radio station and one for the fanzine Sound Affects.

++ What about gigs? Did you play many? 

I don’t remember exactly how many gigs we did, but there could have been about twenty.

++ If you were to think of the biggest highlight for the Mary-Go-Round, what would that be?

The biggest highlight was when we got a record deal.

++ And then when and why did you split? What did you guys do after?

I quit playing when we split and didn’t play bass for about ten years. But I started playing again in 2000 with Mattias Alkberg (the singer from The Bear Quartet). We started as a trio, but then Nils joined us. We recorded an album called Tunaskolan in 2004. I have contact with Nils, but not with the others. I’m not playing in a band now except the teacher band.

++ These days, are you still in touch? Have there ever been talks about a reunion at all?

We haven’t talked about a reunion. I’m pretty sure that we won’t do that.

++ Aside from music, what other hobbies or activities do you enjoy doing?

I’m much into sports. A great fan of football/soccer.

++ I always like asking these sort of questions, I’ve been to Sweden and love your country, but never been up north to Luleå, was wondering if you were to give some tips for the tourist in me? What are the sights you can’t miss?

If you come to Luleå, you must visit Kyrkbyn (The Church Village).

++ And what is the traditional food and drink from your city? And what’s your football team?

The traditional food here are a thing called Palt. My favourite football team are Tottenham Hotspurs. I’m a big fan of them.

++ Thanks a lot for the interview, it’s been an honour as I said, anything else you’d like to add?

Hope you enjoy the answers. It’s great to hear that you like what we did!

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Listen
Mary-Go-Round – Fish Bowl

29
Apr

I wrote some months ago about The Man Upstairs on the blog. I love this band and I was terribly happy when Nigel got in touch with me! Immediately I asked if I could interview him and learn more about the band as there isn’t that much written about them online. He agreed and here we are! Looking forward definitely to that retrospective album that The Man Upstairs are working on!

++ Hello Nigel! Thanks a lot for getting in touch and for the interview! It’s so cool that The Man Upstairs have a website with so many goodies, especially all those songs available for listening. Thanks so much for that! Since when has it been up and who maintains it?

It is a fabulous site but I have no idea who put it together or who maintains it. It must be a secret!!! I would love to be involved.

++ There are so many questions about The Man Upstairs, but first I want to ask you about a 7″ single that Discogs lists as yours with the songs “Summa” and “Gospel According to Mark”. This record doesn’t appear on your website. What is this about?

This 7 inch single appeared on the now defunct Clockhouse Records in 1982 and was recorded at Keele, Staffordshire. Side one featured a Cure inspired track written by Rodney Blake: he named the song after his girlfriend ‘Summa’. It was Rod who originally formed the band with bass player Graham Sharp. Side two is a song written by myself and Rod about a local guy, Mark, who was obsessed with fashion and posing!! We screen printed the covers ourselves and sold out in a few weeks. This led to a deal with Birmingham based company Graduate Records who also signed UB40 and The Chameleons. Although we recorded several tracks for Graduate the company folded before any were released.

++ So let’s start from the beginning. What are your first musical memories from when you were a kid? Who or what influenced you to be a musician?

My first musical memories are from school in Kent when I used to make up lyrics and tunes about my mates. My parents listened to Frank Sinatra, Johnny Cash and had a Dansette record player. I remember my Dad coming home with a Kinks record and my mum hating it: I loved it!! The first single I bought was Rocking Robin by Michael Jackson and first album was Fog on the Tyne by Lindisfarne…work that one out!! I always wanted to be a singer-songwriter and finally got the opportunity at university when I met Rod and Graham. It was Punk and New Wave that inspired us most. I remember hearing The Sex Pistols and was blown away and when I heard Joe Jackson’s Sunday Papers and his brilliant lyrics I finally knew that songs didn’t have to be about love etc…you could really say something and get it off your chest. Song writing is the best therapy!!

++ And who was first Terry and Gerry or The Man Upstairs? Just trying to get the chronology right. And had you been involved in any other bands at the time already?

The Man Upstairs was first but the bands overlapped for a few years. My first band was a punk outfit called Private Public formed in 1977. We came last in a Stoke on Trent band competition, but got 10 out of 10 for star quality!! The other groups were all prog’ rock or AOR.

++ How did The Man Upstairs start as a band? Who were the members and how did you all know each other?

I was playing a gig with Private Public at Keele University and Rod and Graham were there. They were looking for a singer for their new band The Man Upstairs and I jumped at the chance. We were all students and had the same taste in music. We loved the Cure, XTC etc and wanted to do something different from the bands around the Midlands at that time. Rupert Knowlden was recruited on drums and the line-up was complete. We had a keyboard player for the first concert but he didn’t fit in. We played all over the country and moved to Birmingham in 1983. When Graduate Records folded Rod and Graham left the band: myself and Rupert took a new direction with the help of co-lead singer Carolyn Bennett, Tim Simpson on bass and Alan Smyth on guitar (Smitty later produced The Arctic Monkeys). We stripped the sound down, added a jazz tinge and sweeter harmonies. Once again it was a change inspired by dissatisfaction with the bands around at the time and our collective musical interest.

++ Why the name The Man Upstairs? Where does it come from?

Graham Sharp came up with the name. It is a nickname for God!! He even wore a dog collar on stage as a punk metaphor!!

++ You were based in Birmingham. How was your town then? Were there any like-minded bands? What were the good venues were you used to hang out?

It was a fantastic place in the 80’s and still is now. There were some fabulous bands such as The Mighty Lemon Drops, Mighty Mighty, Ruby Turner and the venues were vibrant and packed. The best ones were Peacocks, The Click Club, Holy City Zoo, Barbarellas. There was a great music paper Brumbeat which fuelled the new music of the time and promoters like Dave Travis (later Oasis’s Midlands promoter) who were essential to the scene. The radio stations were brave enough to give airplay to local and underground bands…wish that was true now!! We all hung out in the pubs in Moseley, Gas Street and mainly at the Click Club. I met my wife there when she was being chatted up by Edwyn Collins (previously from Orange Juice)!! I am very lucky to have been in Brum at that time.

++ In 1985 you released the “Sad In My Heart” 7″ on Sideline Records. Who were they and how did you ended up in this label?

Sideline Records were part of the Cartel, along with Cherry Red, Rough Trade, Intape and a bunch of other brilliant indie labels. They also had a connection with Red Rose Records in Paris and someone from there saw us at Rock City in London and that’s how the deal came about.

++ I think the B side, “Country Boy”, is such an amazing song. I was wondering if you could tell me the story behind this song? And also what do you remember about the recording session for this single?

At the risk of sounding pretentious it’s a song that explores and challenges the expected roles of men and women in relationships: hence the lines ‘She wears a tie’ and ‘With his hands in the sink’. As with all the music I write and like I try to see things from a different angle. I also love washing machines which feature a lot in this song. The ‘Country Boy’ reference is based on a guy I knew who had just moved to Brum from a small village and the culture clash he experienced. It’s also a reference to Country Music which at the time was very unfashionable but we loved it!! It’s the only song I’ve ever come across with the word Swarfega in it: used in garages..thought by some as the domain of men: but not us.

I seem to remember the recording session was at Smitty’s studio in Sheffield. It didn’t take long to put down and we were all excited that it turned out so well. We went for a curry afterwards and I got food poisoning!!

++ Just afterwards you released the “Consumer EP” and the “Consumer Song” 7″. Why was this song, “Consumer Song”, released in two different formats and versions, and even with two different sleeves?

? It was Sideline’s idea to exploit two different markets: UK and Europe. I am very proud of both and Carolyn does a fab job singing. Somewhere there is a version of me singing Consumer Song too.

++ For this record there has been some changes in the lineup. What happened?

What happened was Terry and Gerry! I had co-founded the band with Terry Lilley, at first as a bit of fun but it took off in a small way and we were soon doing John Peel sessions, appearing on TV shows and playing all over the UK, Europe and America. I could not commit as much time to The Man Upstairs as I wanted to so I reluctantly left the band. It was a bit upsetting for everyone but the band continued and developed. Carolyn and Rupert re-jigged the band: Mick Vousden replaced Smitty and Chris Jones came in on bass. I think it was a fab line-up.

++ I like the artwork for all of your releases, I was wondering how much of control did you have over that?

Total control. That is the beauty of indie labels. The cover for Consumer Song 7’ was s skit on the T.V advert at the time where a hunky guy shrinks his jeans in the bath: in keeping with the blind consumerism theme of the song.

++ On the website there are songs dating back to 1982, 1983. A bunch of these demos never got around to be released. But I was wondering, as it was the fashion of those times, were these released in demo tapes perhaps and sold at gigs?

We never thought of selling demos at gigs: I don’t know why. There were some bootlegs knocking about but as with all bands like ours we didn’t think commercially: we just wanted to play our music and have fun. In the last years we did sell the vinyl.

++ Also there is an unreleased album from 1988. It included 13 songs. What happened to it? Why was it never released?

It was a compilation of everything we had recorded and will be released next year. I am in the process of putting the wheels in motion.

++ Was there any major label interest in the band?

All the majors came to see us at some point and we did meet with several suits in big offices but it never happened. I think we were a risk, too indie and to be honest didn’t care that much for corporate music. We were, and are, an indie band. The money would have been nice though!!

++ From this huge amount of songs you recorded, which were your favourite songs and why?

‘Sad in My Heart’ and ‘Country Boy’ are great because they cemented the new direction of the band after Graham and Rod left. My total fav though is ‘Don’t Be Afraid of the Dentist’ because it was made into a short film which featured the band, myself and a potato!! I’m proud of all of the records and the musicians on them. ‘I Bet They’re Missing Me Downstairs’ is another favourite because it’s about my old flat and feeling lonely.

++ And just out of curiosity, are there even more recordings other than all the ones on the website?

Yes. They will be on the new CD.

++ I read that you were an opening band for The Smiths. I’m sure many would be very curious about that experience. Any anecdotes you could share?

We toured with the Smiths in 1984 or 85: I can’t remember. They were so good to us and so helpful. It was a fabulous experience, from Johnny Marr coming up to me and Rupert to tell us a bunch of girls wanted our autographs, to Morrissey appearing on BBC Radio One and reviewing our single with the words ‘I know these people , we have toured together and they are great.’ Their audience at times wasn’t the most appreciative but it was an unforgettable experience.

++ What about gigging in general? Did you like it better than going to the studio? What were your favourite gigs with The Man Upstairs and why?

I prefer live shows to studio sessions but the two go hand in hand. There were loads of memorable gigs with TMU but Durham springs to mind. We played at 4.00am at an all-night Festival and our rider was a crate of champagne. We got to the venue at 3.00pm so you can imagine what state we were in by the time we went on. Rupert went to the toilet halfway through a song!! We were so different to many bands at the time in that all the gigs were well received. The MAC Arts Centre in Brum was another great night: not boasting but the audience wouldn’t let us leave the stage!!

++ Is there any gig you played that was so bad that you think is better to never remember?

No not really, but I’ve probably seared it from my memory. In the early days with Graham and Rodney we played with a couple of bands from Liverpool and ended up fighting with them in the dressing room. Not pleasant but we won.

++ David Travis commented on my blog post saying he was the band manager, taking photos and shooting the videos. How was that experience with him? And which videos are these he talks about? And where are those videos? Certainly not on Youtube!

Dave Travis is a fabulous photographer and promoter. He worked for Graduate Records at the time and shot a video for ‘I Only Work Here’. It will hopefully appear on YouTube when the new CD comes out. Dave has just done a new session with Terry and Gerry and we are still mates. He was more than just our manager, he was like a member of the band. He has an exhibition in Birmingham at the moment called ‘The History of Alternative Music’ at The Parkside Gallery, Birmingham City University which features pics from the 1970 onwards of indie bands and venues.

++ What about the press and radio play? Did you feel there was good support for the band?

The companies we worked with did a good job and employed pluggers and press people but I think we could have got more coverage. It’s never too late though? We got a lot of coverage in Japan but never went which is a real shame.

++ Were you involved at all with the fanzine culture that was very important in the UK during the mid eighties?

To a certain extent, but what’s frustrating is that I have no copies anymore. Fanzines, in a pre-internet era, were the underground way people got to know new bands, and without them there would have been no new movement in music. Sites like yours are doing the same job for a new generation…Wonderful.

++ When and why did The Man Upstairs split? What did you all do afterwards?

After my departure in 1986 the band continued but the guys drifted apart and wanted to do other things. It seemed at the time to have run its course, as had the vibrant venue scene and bands in Birmingham. Raves and Dance Music were the new fad and a lot of the old venues closed or hired D.J’s instead of bands. Carolyn went to live in France, Rupert now promotes bands in the Midlands, Tim Simpson still plays bass, Alan Smyth produces bands and writes fabulous songs, Graham Sharp is a top lawyer and still plays bass, Rodney Blake is teaching as well as playing trumpet and guitar, Mick Vousden is still playing and Chris Jones is involved in The Arts.

++ Are you all still in touch? What are you doing these days? Still making music?

I saw Rupert when my band supported Status Quo in Wolverhampton last year and I’m still in touch with all the guys although we haven’t met up for ages. I have fond memories of The Man Upstairs and would love a reunion.
In the early 1990’s I worked in Nashville as a professional songwriter and back in the UK collaborated with Alison Moyet, co-writing on an album project. I also penned numerous TV themes, three musicals, two film scores and wrote and presented for BBC Radio 2. My band at the time, ‘Gerry Colvin’s Inexperience’, was a fusion of Soul, R and B and Folk-Country and we became a firm favourite on the College circuit.

In 1993 I formed the folk-pop band ‘The Atlantics’: we toured extensively including a slot at Glastonbury Festival, where I was also M.C, and appeared on BBC’s ‘Pebble Mill at One’. My other major project at this time was film music as vocalist with ‘The National Screen Orchestra’; I also performed as a comedy double act with Hollywood superstar Mackenzie Crook.

In 1995 I co-founded the five piece folk band Colvinquarmby. We released six critically acclaimed albums and were voted best band at the prestigious Fairport Convention Cropredy Festival in 2009. In 2010 we won the Hancock Award for ‘Best Live Folk Act’. In May 2013 I was invited by New York producer and Robert Plant song collaborator Dave Barratt to record ‘Revolution’ for the ‘Beatles complete on ukulele’ album and website.

In 2014 I released a self-penned solo album ‘Jazz Tales of Country Folk’ and have just put out my new CD ‘Six of One half a Dozen of the Other’ which features ten brand new original songs.

In 2015 I became President of The Knitted Character Folk Festival, an annual celebration of alternative Folk Music and Knitting in Warwickshire. UK. This year’s event takes place on June 4th. www.knittedcharacterfolkfestival.co.uk it’s a mad event where the audience listens to great music and knits!!!

In 2015 I reformed ‘Terry and Gerry’ and was invited to support Status Quo on a nationwide tour. Terry and Gerry also appeared at Glastonbury this year following the release of their new EP ‘Dear John’.

As well as my new album I am working on a book ‘The Rabbits of Zakynthos’ due out later this year and a Man Upstairs compilation CD.

++ Then aside from music, what other hobbies do you have Nigel?

I love going to gigs, discussing The Prisoner, and drinking!!

++ Looking back, what would you say was the biggest highlight for The Man Upstairs?

Playing some great concerts, getting a record deal, touring with The Smiths and still being remembered by a select few all these years later. I’m hoping there will be new highlights in the future too!!

++ Let’s wrap it here, though first I usually like asking this question. Are you still based in Birmingham, if so, and if you don’t mind, I was wondering if you could suggest the sights, places, bars or restaurants that one shouldn’t miss if you were to visit your town?

I now live in Stratford upon Avon which is not far from Brum. If you visit Birmingham don’t miss the Canal Basin in Gas Street (The first street ever to be gas lit), Moseley Village for bohemian bars and shops, The Ikon Gallery in Broad Street and for music The Hare and Hounds or The Kitchen Garden Café, both in Kings Heath. Hope you visit soon and catch a gig.
www.gerrycolvin.com

++ Thanks again so much! Anything else you’d like to add?

You are an absolute STAR. Keep up the great work.

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Listen
Man Upstairs – Country Boy