There’s so many things I’d love to write about. Of course a review of NYC Popfest is due. There was the Jazz Butcher show in NYC last weekend too. The many records I’ve got. The train tickets I’ve purchased. The lovely tiny fanzine called Lightningbug that I received today. But I have to focus on one thing today. Today is the official release date of The Secret History album and to celebrate it a video for the opening track, “Johnny Panic (Forget Everything)”, has been unveiled.
You can watch the video here: http://vimeo.com/67216349
As expected, and as it has to be, the video is beautifully shot in New York. Starring our good friend Kip from The Pains, with nods to The Secret History’s previous incarnation, My Favorite, the video was quite a surprise to me as I watched for the first time today after being premiered at SUP magazine. I’ve been giddy about this all day. Watching it time after time. Like a fanboy.
Those who didn’t get to see the band play at Popfest or Glasslands will get another chance this Friday when they play at the bowling alley The Gutter. They go on at 10pm. You shouldn’t miss it. I won’t. And then I’ll be seeing them again in London when the mighty Comet Gain and Cloudberry-pals Pale Spectres will open for them. If that wasn’t enough I’ll be watching them perform at Indietracks too. Will they get the main stage? I really hope so. I can’t picture them anywhere else.
The album has been getting great reviews and I’ve been posting it to all corners of the world. Surprisingly I will say that many orders come from Sweden. I wonder if it has to do with the epic My Favorite performances back in the day at Hultsfred festival. For those who prefer buying the record from mailorders I can assure you that most of the usual indiepop carriers should have the record now, if not, it should be arriving any moment now.
So that’s that. I’m typing this small Cloudberry update wearing proudly a white t-shirt with the new Secret History logo on it. And actually a co-worker asked me today, how many different Secret History t-shirts do you have? The answer: 3.
It’s been a good day. When I peeled carefully the white tape from the yellow envelope and found a Fucksmiths badge and a Shittens badge, I couldn’t stop grinning. I was on the subway on the way to work listening to The Rileys future Cloudberry compilation (yes, this just arrived too! so more news on this soon). Details like this make my day. I’m not alone.
What else? Oh, Philippe Katerine is playing NYC next month. Also Watoo Watoo. I’ll go to the second. I think the French have decided it’s a good idea to celebrate Bastille day in New York. I would have loved to go see Katerine, but $50 seems a bit too much for a ticket. Especially if he is going to play his latest records and probably ignoring his 90s output which is by far the best. Watoo Watoo in the other hand will be playing on the 14th at the Cake Shop.
I’ve been going way too often to the Cake Shop. Though I haven’t seen the bar tender who knows to serve me Amstel Light when I arrive. A running joke. Maybe she quit. I was there last Friday too. Having a great time watching the Gold-Bears. Why is Jeremy not considered one of the best pop craftsmen around? No one makes crash pop like this anymore. Since the demise of The Faintest Ideas there are no other band on Earth to play pop with guitars as fast as the Gold-Bears.
Anyhow, enough of ramblings. Let’s move to what you came here for, the obscure band of the week. Of course.
Do you know The Passengers? Seems like a very common band name. It probably is. But I only know this one band who came from London and released one 7″. Released on True Records (catalog PASS 001 – obviously it’s a private release) in 1988, this has become a bit of an elusive record for me. Will I find it one day? I really hope so!
I love the cover art, that photo of the kids making faces from inside a car. Or is it a school bus? The whole packaging is neatly done in black and white. Very 80s.
There’s one song on the A side, “Hell to Heaven” and two on the B side, “The Frances Farmer Song” and “The World Outside”. You ask who is Frances Farmer, well…
Frances Elena Farmer was an American actress of stage and screen. She is perhaps better known for sensationalized accounts of her life, and especially her involuntary commitment to a mental hospital (wiki-it!)
I assume they were from London as there’s an address on the back sleeve next to the word Information.
The record was produced by Steve Stewart and The Passengers. It was also engineered by Stewart. It was recorded at The Lodge in May 1988. The Design for the artwork was done by Sandra Jensen Heytmajer and the cover photograph is credited to Nigel Shafran. The band photograph on the back sleeve comes thanks to Melanie Ayee.
The band was conformed by Robert Randall (on lead vocals and acoustic guitar), David Noel Wright (on guitar and vocals), Steven George (on bass and vocals) and Rob Havis (on drums). The first two songs are penned by Randall solely but the “World Outside” is credited to all four guys.
As you are familiar with Google you might understand that it was almost impossible to search for anything The Passengers and end up having any worthy results. It’s a shame. But perhaps anyone reading this can help me. Do you know if they released any more records? Did they play gigs often? What happened to them after? Did they have more amazing songs? Where are their records? Do anyone have a spare copy? Whereabouts in London were they based? What are they doing now?
It’d be great to know a bit more about them. For now, I will recommend you enjoying “The Frances Farmer Song”. What a tune.
edit (same day, but at night): So it totally slipped from me but there’s a track of The Passengers on volume 3 of The Sound of Leamington Spa! I can’t believe I missed this. Thanks Uwe for pointing this out. So I grabbed the CD and checked the booklet and there’s some more information about the band. The song included by the way is “Sometimes” which was produced by Andy Rourke in 1988 and written by Robert Randall. The bio goes like this:
Steven George had left the band. We advertised for an Andy Rourke (Smiths) like Bass Player in Melody Maker. When Andy himself responded I fell out of bed. He came down to London, liked the band and offered to produce us. He also offered to stand in on bass for the recordings. He didn’t need to. When Steve heard about Andy, he came back. We survived about another year after “Sometimes” was recorded. Our biggest success was in Germany and Spain. Mainly because an earlier song “Hell to Heaven” got a few plays on MTV in Europe. There was no MTV in England, so when we played there our audiences were scant. In Berlin, however, we were treated like U2… met at the airport with Video Cameras, and given hashish on our arrival. I remember one sweaty occasion when 1500 people came to see us at a club called BlockShock. Marcus Clements was amazing that night. He was a brilliant guitarist. People used to watch him mesmerized. He never used pedals… just plugged his guitar and played. He was the most soulful guitarist I have ever worked with, quite possibly ever seen. Robert Havis was our drummer. Last I heard of him he was recording some band in Chicago. He always kept it simple, and kept the band solid. He loved Johnny Cash! I don’t know where he is these days. Steve went on to join Swervedriver. I think he now lives in South London. Marcus went back to Bristol, the land of his beloved Only Ones, to have kids. After the Passengers split up I packed my talents up, and joined a band in New York City… the remnants of which formed into Nada Surf after I left.
When the Passengers split up I magnanimously turned to Robert Havis and said “That was the best band I’ll ever be in”. Robert wasn’t so magnanimous, “You’re right about that”, he said. Many years on, after listening to all the music I’ve ever recorded I have to admit that he could possibly have been right.