30
Nov

Thanks so much to Nikki and Marty for the great interview! This was a dream interview as I absolutely LOVE the Splashdown EP! And on top of that, “The 18:10 To Yeovil Junction” is one of my favourite songs EVER. I’m terribly happy to publish this in the blog, hope you enjoy! You can always befriend the band on myspace too :)

++ Hi Nikki! Hi Marty! I’m so honoured to get the chance to interview you. Bubblegum Splash! symbolizes what indie pop was all about. One perfect 7″ and then the band splits. Do you agree with me on this?

Nikki: Hi Roque I am amazed and touched that after all this time and like you say, one 7”, that anyone (apart from friends and family) remembers Bubblegum Splash! Do I agree with you -yes and no!  Love the Pastels and they have released loads also BMX Bandits etc.

Marty: Yes and no plus the whole B.S thing was not premeditated.

++ So how did you all meet? How did the band start? Have any of you been involved in other bands before? Or maybe at the same time?

Nikki: Jim, Marty, Dave and Alan were all at school together and had written a fanzine so they were all friends. I was in the Star pub in Salisbury one night wearing a Jesus and Mary Chain t-shirt, Jim was impressed by the t-shirt so came up to me and asked if I wanted to be the singer in their band. As I was drunk I said yes. Had I been sober or wearing a different T-shirt……………..!?

No other bands before .Jim and Dave were in Jane From Occupied Europe after.

++ Why the name Bubblegum Splash?

Marty: Random names put together that didn’t mean anything. We didn’t want to be called “the” something or other……

++ You only released 7 songs in total, but did you have more songs? Maybe they are tapes or so?

Marty and Nikki: Yeah there were more on demo and some we did live that not sure were ever recorded. Honeycomb centre was a favourite and our 6 min wigout. We also did a few covers live Swell maps: H.S Art and The Undertones: True Confessions.

++ How did you end up releasing the split flexi (with The Darling Buds) on the So Naive fanzine?

Nikki: I can’t remember how that came about and Marty is laughing and has just informed me that it was because Mike Brunt who wrote the fanzine fancied me. HA! HA! First I’ve heard of it , not sure how true that is.

++ The name of the zine was taken from a Rosehips song… did you like them? What about this, The Darling Buds or The Primitives?

Nikki: Yeah we really liked the Rosehips did a gig with them in Stoke, stayed at Ants house after if I remember rightly,  slept on the dining room floor.

Primitives or Darling Buds? Hard one, cus of flexi and gigs with Darling Buds. Plus bad experience at a Primitives gig in London- vomiting in plastic bags all night as ill.

++ How did the contact from the Subway Organisation happen? How was the relationship with them?

Marty: Martin Whitehead phoned us up-after we had sent them a demo. Good people not really a business relationship.

++ When you got to know the Splashdown EP went to number 15 of the indie charts, what was your reaction?

Marty: I looked in the N.M.E and saw our name, first reaction was disbelief, then amazed and proud.

Nikki: I was amazed. Think I laughed and jumped around the kitchen where I was living at the time. (I didn’t know heard it about third hand after finishing work.)

++ Stephen Pastel once said: ““But on the minus there are groups like Bubblegum Splash! we played with them in Bristol, and they just summed up everything that was wrong in music just now. I mean they had one song that went la-la-la like Primal Scream and another with the bum-de-bum drumbeats a la Shop Assistants. It was just a joke.” What would you answer him?! Why do you think he said so?

Nikki: He has a point. I joined the band knowing I couldn’t really sing, it was good fun, never thought we would gig let alone release anything. I was very shy and nervous. In band practices I used to sing behind a curtain.

Marty: We were all nervous as buggery –not a joke.

++ What’s the story behind “The 18:10 to Yeovil Junction”? It’s such a beautiful song! And why did it was included twice on the Subway compilations?

Nikki: 18.10 is my favourite B.S track it is a lovely tune. Jim wrote it as he did all our songs.

Marty: It’s about “Love, longing and solitary train journeys”. It’s on two because it’s fab.

++ How do you remember the Bubblegum Splash recording sessions? Any anecdotes you could share? How was the creative process for you all?

Nikki: I remember recording sessions as being good fun, a laugh. I probably used to get over excited. Jim was the boss, wrote everything and had to help us all, so was probably stressful for him. We used to drink a hell of a lot of chocolate milk. Band practices were a hoot, we had to get our stuff to the rehearsal room (Britford Village Hall) in a wheelbarrow. Punk Rock!

Marty: I remember recording sessions as frustrating. Splashdown ep was recorded the day Andy Warhol died- led to our 15 mins of fame!

++ What about gigs? Any gigs you remember the most? What were your favourite?

Nikki: My favourite gig was the one with the Pastels, Tallulah Gosh and the Vaselines in Bristol (even though Stephen hated us). It was so exciting playing a gig with bands we loved and admired. Loads of our friends came from Salisbury to see us. FUN! FUN! FUN! Although I also have fond memories of the Tropic Club in Bristol too with the Darling Buds and Flatmates.

Worst one was the one in Stoke the sound was crap ,Alan the drummer stormed off stage through the drum kit then later on me and Alan had a fight, we didn’t like each other very much. I think it actually ended up being our last ever gig.

Marty: Alan crashed the car on the way back from Stoke.

++ Why and when did you call it a day?

Marty: Shortly after the Stoke gig- 13 months as a band 13 gigs and probably 13 songs!

++ Looking back, what was the best moment of being part of the band?

Nikki: I had a great time despite being very shy and nervous. I did quite often sing with my back towards the audience holding my lyrics as I was so scared, also had to have Jim nod me in as I would freeze. Travelling to and from gigs was a riot a great laugh. Obviously hearing us on John Peel was amazing.

Marty: Best moment for me was hearing us being played on John Peel on the car radio  on way back from band practice.

++ Do you follow any indiepop bands now? If so, which ones you like?

Marty: Not really although I still have a soft spot for Scottish bands. At the moment I like Frightened Rabbit and We Were Promised Jetpacks.

Nikki: I still like all the old stuff but I really like The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart.

++ Do you mind some random questions? :) I was wondering, what secret skills does Nikki Barr has? What’s your favourite dish? who was the coolest personality in those C86 days?

Nikki Barr has no skills secret or not, apart from I am known as the Queen of Burps/Belching in my house!!

Marty and Nikki: Favourite dish: Mussels

Marty: Coolest personality: Harvey from the Darling Buds and Debbie Flatmate.

Nikki: Aggi Pastel.

Nikki: ME.  HA! HA!HA!

++ Thanks again for the interview! Anything else you’d like to add?

Thanks hope this has been helpful xxxxx

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Listen
Bubblegum Splash – The 18:10 To Yeovil Junction

28
Nov

Have you ever had pop dreams?

I barely remember my dreams. I would have to jump out of bed after waking up, run, find a pen, find a sheet of paper, and write whatever I remember down, that if I don’t trip with my clumsy self. I wish it was easier. Easier as it is for anyone else. After a minute or so after I’m awake I can’t remember anything. I try and try to remember while having my glass of diet coke for breakfast and going through emails, but no luck. Not that I believe they have a meaning but they are always great stories to tell. On the bright side I never have nightmares, so I shouldn’t complain much, right?

Have you ever had pop dreams?

The Sparklers once wrote a song called Pop Dreams, which is the B-side of their Secret Snow 7″ on Fantastic Records. A beautiful song, a cross between The Softies and The Magnetic Fields. Sadly there’s not much information about this band, but as a good private eye that I am, I did some research today to find out:

- The band was formed by Risa Buburniak (keyboards, vocals), Brooke Rossi (vocals, farfisa organ), Ian (violin), and Jonathan (keyboards, beats). Oddly enough, on the record insert the band photo only shows three people, 2 girls, 1 boy. Who was left out? Ian or Jonathan?

- Risa and Rossi helped with vocals on the first eponymous album by Saturday Looks Good to Me. That’s in 2000.

- There was a song called “Paintings” included on the compilation CD that came together with the Japanese magazine Beikoku Ongaku.

- There are at least 2 more songs recorded: “Little Prince” and “Cyclical”. Both are demos and were once played at the University of Michigan radio.

Any more information about this fantastic band would be greatly appreciated! And I would die to listen to those demo songs or to Paintings! Please dream of me this time and give me a hand :)

Have you ever had pop dreams?

Close your eyes say goodnight
When you sleep… do you dream?
When you dream… do you think of me?

Be the Peter to my Wendy
Grab my hand we’ll fly away
Think good thoughts… it will be so easy

Take my hand, we’ll kiss this place goodbye
You said I won’t even follow
I’ll chase you through to the clouds
I said I won’t even follow

Close your eyes say goodnight
Do you dream in colors bright?
Do you dream in black and white?

Be the Truman to my Andy
Go on now, go to the city
Write a book, we’ll make a movie

Come on now, let’s go, we’ll glamourize
go go glamourize
(I will wait for you my love
Say you’ll say for me sweetheart)

Have you ever had pop dreams?

Why don’t we do this, tell me about a pop dream you’ve had? Maybe you once dreamed about having a huge banquet with the likes of Amelia or Dugly? Or maybe you dreamed about throwing Aggi from the bridge? Or giving back a Pastels’ badge to Cornelius? Don’t be shy! Should be fun!

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Listen
The Sparklers – Pop Dreams

23
Nov

Like a rat up a drainpipe a month has gone fast! It’s been a month already from my last day in Europe and the hangover is almost gone. Now it’s mostly memories that have been through the blow-drier and have stripped out the intensity of those days. Which I think is not a bad thing, now I’ll be able to write about them and treasure them forever. They were just too lively for the past month, that even thinking about them, comparing them to everyday life, was putting me down. But I made a decision in the meantime to keep me sane. I bought tickets to London. For February. You know why? Because of London Popfest! Of course! I know it’s still like 3 months away, but time flies. When you least expect it: it’s already February 25th and some fantastic band is playing in front of you! And hopefully you are singing along!

The bands haven’t been announced yet, though it seems there are like 3 Swedish bands and 1 American band playing. Plus the UK contingent, that will be the biggest one, but that’s pretty obvious. Only one band has been announced though: Shrag. But, I also secretly know a couple more; believe me, it will be worthy to go! So worthy that I won’t mind the headache of applying for a visa to get into the UK. Oh yes, here we go again, dealing with bureaucrats and the stupid border control of “first world countries”.

Something that I never understood was why first world countries don’t have to pay to get into another fellow country, being rich and well off, but third world countries do need to pay for some damn visa. Aren’t third world countries poor? Why get our money? In any case, makes more sense to get it from the well off? Right? Isn’t this a bit ridiculous? It doesn’t make sense at all! Where’s the common sense here?

But all of these procedures won’t beat me. I’m so looking forward to see familiar faces again. My dearest gossip girl Kajsa, Jennifer who colours me pop, Emmita raring, Remi and Delphine (hope you are playing), Matthew and his Big Pink Cake!, Christos the gossip boy, Ian the playboy, Pete-B from the mighty Horowitz (hint!, hint!), the terrible Anastasia, and master organizer of it all: Marianthi. And Joe too! We are making those lamb hamburgers right? With some Peroni?

Probably more people will travel from Europe all the way for the Popfest (please Nana, Kat, Luise, Sandra, Laura, get the Germans all over to the British isles!), and if that happens this list will get really short! On top of that, there’s all these people I’m dying to meet in UK! People I’ve emailed, or chatted, for years or months. People whose blogs I’ve read, people whose bands I loved. I can’t wait to grab some beers with you. Are these any indicators and proofs that pop keeps me alive?

I don’t know how ‘confirmed’ it is, but I’ve been asked to DJ there. I answered with a big huge YES! So hopefully I’ll play Second-Hand Furniture’s “There’s Nothing to Celebrate” or Airport Girl’s “The Foolishness That We Create”, or any other footstomper that makes me go nuts behind the decks while the crowd gets possessed!! And yes, I’ll throw in some classics for the sake of it too. I know some people are lazy to dance to not-so-popular stuff! Shame on them! Just dance!

And dance! That’s what I do today in my room while writing these lines. Best therapy ever. I feel better as I can look to something exciting in the near future. It’s been a while since I am on my own, away from the great friends I have an ocean apart. It’s been long enough since I saw them that now I finally enjoy myself with other friends here in Florida. But I still feel a bit lonely, it’s just not the same. And this fantastic Hepburns song, which I’ve been listening on repeat today, sums up what I feel right now. Yes, It’s been a while, a month seems like ages, but now I’m coming home. And home is Popfest. See you there.

The Hepburns – Devil Up a Drainpipe

It’s been a while since you left me on my own,
Long enough for new love to have grown.
Haven’t you seen? They tore the old house down,
You may need some assistance finding your way around.

A garland marks the spot where I checked out,
It was a memorable exit, of that there is no doubt.
Now I’m so sorry to be messing up your head
But it’s so lonely oh so lonely being dead.

I would have waited for you to come back
You were my devil up a drainpipe, my fiery jack
But times have changed and the bitter truth be told
I need somebody, yeah, somebody to hold

They tried to stop me but I broke through
All the angels in heaven could not keep me from you
It’s been a while since I left you on your own
It’s been a while but now I’m coming home

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Listen
The Hepburns – Devil Up a Drainpipe

19
Nov

During the past months I’ve been compiling the 3 volumes of The Sound of Starke Adolf. Of course, I still have to finish volume 2 and 3, but volume 1 is almost ready. These are the bands that introduced me to indiepop during those early days of soulseek. Do you remember those? The “picknick” room, or the “twisterella” room? It was early 2003 when we were inspired by the Funday Mornings with my roomates to start a band, when The Javelins were making the soundtrack of my life. And now, these seminal bands to the real Swedish underground, won’t be forgotten, at least, I won’t allow it. This compilation is a testament of a scene that flourished out of nothing, that never got the recognition that it deserved. 7″s, tapes, CD-Rs, everything done the DIY way, small labels popping up everywhere, fanzines, and maybe the pinnacle of it all, the Starke Adolf club, shaped the indiepop scene and inspired many. Me included. Cloudberry or Plastilina wouldn’t exist if I would have never been aware of what this beautiful bunch of kids were doing.

Expect the Vol.1 to be released by Plastilina Records by January 2010. Needless to say, it will be released on a lush digipack and full colour booklet. I share with you the tracklist, don’t tell me it’s not a killer! It includes many should-have-been-hits and also many unreleased songs!!

Tracklist:

  1. Action Biker – Sandy Edwards
  2. Florian – From Florian with Hope
  3. The Set Designers – Looking
  4. Strawberry Fair – Where’s Alex Taylor Now
  5. The Camera Casanovas! – You Looked Like a Portrait
  6. The Javelins – Pale Average Look
  7. Giraff På Engelska – Need to Be Cheated
  8. Girl Alliance – Best of Seasons
  9. Milkman – What it Once Was
  10. Dorotea – My Guilty Conscience
  11. Twig – The Return of the Sensitive Guys
  12. The Busy Band – The Sign Says Walk
  13. The Fermats – Ode to the Code
  14. The Danny Says – The Boy Formerly Known as Me vs. The Girl Formerly Known as You
  15. The Gentle Smiles – Mando Diao
  16. Eisenhower – Cuddly Teddy Bear
  17. Nixon – Hospital
  18. The Dear Diaries – I Can’t Be Happy Without You
  19. The Never Invited to Parties – Bicycle Ride

+ Liner notes by Blåpojken.

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Listen
The Javelins – Nosebleeders on the Track

15
Nov

Thanks so much to Andy Milton and Jon Fagg for the interview! Please be sure to get the new retrospective album “Hellish Mad Rush” from Firestation Records, I really recommend it! And also be friends with The Ogdens in their myspace!

++ There was an early incarnation of the Ogdens with Vince in singing duties. What happened to him? What was the name of the band? Was it easy to continue after?

Jon: Pretty soon, Vince decided that he didn’t want to sing in that band, so he concentrated on playing guitar and I played bass. We started looking around for a singer and were lucky enough to find John, who I thought was great the very first time I heard him sing. At this stage we didn’t have a name for the band.

Vince then got married. His wife was American and they went off to live in the States (where Vince is now something big in the financial world). The only time we ever played live with that line-up (which also featured Karen on trumpet) was at Vince’s leaving party. We played Leaving on a Jet Plane for him, among other things.

Because we knew that Vince was leaving and that I was going to take over guitar playing duties, we had already recruited Jay D as bassist. He was in the audience at that first gig.

It was never in doubt that we would continue.

Andy: No doubt at all. We moved to London to form a band, and so it was just a case of managing the transition from one line up to another. Saying that, it was an uncertain point, as only Jon knew JD. We needn’t have worried, having an experienced bass player tightened the whole thing and allowed us to explore what the Ogdens could be.

++ How did you all knew each other? Where had you met?

Jon: Andy, Vince and I were students in Coventry (Andy: near Leamington Spa) together. John was a friend of my girlfriend at the time. Karen was my cousin and Jay D worked with me.

Andy: Jon and I had played together in three bands before the Ogdens. Jon had heard me practising drums in my room one day and came to ask me to join the first band. He’d had his reservations after being told that all the people in the house were hippies. I wasn’t, so we played together then on and off for twenty years.

++ Where does the name The Ogdens come from? Why didn’t the name Fuck Puffin get chosen?

Jon: Jay D suggested the name. It comes from the name of a family in the British soap opera, Coronation Street. I seem to recall that we all liked the idea straight away.

We had considered the name The Fuck Puffins and liked it. However, we didn’t think we’d get played on the radio much with a name like that, or else they would shorten the name to The Puffins. The Fuck Puffins sounds great; The Puffins sounds rubbish, so we decided against it.

Andy: I don’t know how much difference it would have made had we chosen The Fuck Puffins. We faced a lot of stick over choosing “The Ogdens” but if you’ve ever had to choose a band name you’d know the relief when you finally find one that everybody is happy with. I suggested “Vegetable Terrorists” but it didn’t find any support, which in hindsight was probably a good thing.

++ You release three fantastic singles, all of them getting fantastic reviews on the press, but which one is your favourite among them all and why?

Jon: I’m glad you liked them! My favourite, as a song, is Rachel Put Your Arms About Me. The one I think sounds the best is She Made Everything Groovy and it was the most enjoyable to record too. I don’t like It’s A Beautiful Day at all and was not very keen on the idea of it being our first single, even at the time.

Andy: Groovy was the best for me as well. It was a great experience working with the producer Overend Watts from Mott the Hoople. We put everything into it, financially and physically, and I loved the song. Had we done a fourth single, for me it should have been I Want to Know Everything as I think that’s even better.

++ Why did you decide go the “self-release” way? Was it easy to set up the Casca label? Did you ever consider releasing anyone else other than The Ogdens?

Jon: If anyone had offered to release the singles for us we would have been delighted. They didn’t, so we did it ourselves. It did have the unintended consequence of giving us complete artistic control, though.

I don’t recall there being too much involved in setting up the label, but I might have that wrong.

We nearly bankrupted ourselves making She Made Everything Groovy. The idea of spending our money on releasing other people’s records would have been unimaginable at the time.

Andy: There isn’t too much involved in setting up a label apart from handling the registration with the bodies that collect the royalties and the packaging of records and posting them to radio stations. So there was some effort but it was just an extension of what you do as a small band to promote yourselves anyway. We did a postering campaign in parts of London, going out with a bucket of paste, posters and a brush late at night. We almost got caught sometimes and it could be freezing, with paste congealing up your right arm it was not what you could describe as fun. We usually ended the evening in the pub which made up for it.

++ Talking about others… who were your favourite bands back then? Would you see Ogdens members at different gigs in London enjoying their favourite bands? What were your favourite venues in town?

Jon: Some of my favourites would have been The House of Love, Ride (who we played with in Aldershot), My Bloody Valentine, The Corn Dollies (who we also played with). There were some bands who were friends of ours too: No Corridor (who are reforming to play at Andy’s 50th birthday party), The Baby Boys and The Onan Brothers.

John and I used to go out to a lot of gigs together; checking out venues, checking out bands, trying to meet all the right people. Some of my favourite venues would have been Dingwalls, Drummonds in Euston, The Bull and Gate. I liked The Jericho Tavern in Oxford too. The Town and Country Club was probably my favourite of the bigger venues.

Andy: One of our friends Andrew Cunningham used to run a club, God’s Little Joke, he’s an amazing songwriter and I loved some of the acoustic acts that used to play at the club. Many never made any records but it was the closest thing to a “scene” I’ve ever been involved with.

++ Right now you’ve just released a fantastic retrospective compilation called “Hellish Mad Rush” that everyone that loves guitar pop should definitely get it! How did this release came up to life? And what can someone that has never heard the Ogdens before expect?

Jon: I’ll leave Andy to tell the story of how the album came about, since it was largely down to him.

If you’ve never heard The Ogdens before: prepare for a Hellish Mad Rush!

In reality, of course, this is not the album we would have made had we ever been in a position to make one. These songs cover a period of four or more years. It’s really nice that the singles are available for people this way though. It will stop people selling them on eBay for ridiculous prices!

Andy: It’s very odd really, as although it might have happened anyway at some point because we were on Firestation Records’ hit list, the reason it’s happened now was because Jon was looking at MySpace and came across another band with the same name. I was outraged, I set up our own page and emailed them saying we had the name first. In the end they were very good about it and changed their name but within two weeks of our page going up Firestation had contacted us about appearing on The Sound of Leamington Spa No.8 and it just went from there. BTW we will be on The Sound of Leamington Spa No.8 with another version of Patricia.

++ How do you remember your last gig at The Plough? Were there any tears?

Jon: No tears. We didn’t know at the time that it would certainly be the last gig, although I think we were pretty sure. Our final gigs were some of the best we ever did, but John wanted to move on and it wouldn’t have been The Ogdens without him.

Andy: I remember we played really well and had a great time, packed the place out, and made a profit. The review was pretty good as well.

++ Is it too much to ask what’s the story behind the Rachel from “Rachel Put Your Arms About Me? It’s such a beautiful song… I have to ask this question!

Jon: The idea for the song came from an interview I read with Guy Chadwick, from The House Of Love. He said that he wanted to write a song simply called I Love You, which put the lyrical idea in my head. The idea for the coda was also taken from a House Of Love song (I forget which one just at the moment).

I used to share a flat with a guy called Robin. One day I answered the phone and it was a girl asking for him. I asked her name and she said, “It’s Rachel, Rachel Jones,” (maybe it wasn’t Jones, but you get the idea). That’s where Rachel Rachel came from.

It’s a song about male neediness and how us men look for women to be everything; sister, mother, lover. That and the reassurance and comfort that can come from being enfolded in someone’s arms. Oh yes, and the male ability to screw everything up by going off with someone else. I was really good at that in those days, I’m sorry to say. The ensuing torment gave me lots of ideas for songs, though. I’m much more contented these days, which is why I now play in an instrumental band: I have nothing left to say.

Andy: You seem to be doing alright tonight.

++ You also made a video for this song! Tell me a bit about it!

Jon: To be honest, I don’t think the video is all that great, although it was fun to do and I did get to smash up a guitar, which I’d wanted to do since I saw John Perry of The Only Ones do it at a gig at Bristol University in 1979. Some guys we met offered to make the video for nothing, as a favour. Of course, we agreed.

Andy: It was great to do and seeing the guys put it together in their spare time and given the facilities available I think it’s fine. It does show though how much work it takes to make a truly great video.

++ What about “The Prettiest Girl in Carmathenshire”? Was it Miss Carmathenshire? What’s the connection with that county in Wales if you were a London based band?

Jon: We were based in London, but Andy and I were from Bristol originally, Jay D was from Northern Ireland and John was from Wales. The Prettiest Girl in Carmarthenshire is a reference to a poem by Welsh poet Dylan Thomas, I believe.

++ I really think you penned so many magical songs, from “Yeah Yeah Yeah” to “She Made Everything Groovy”! how did you come up with all of these songs? with the melodies? with the lyrics? Why do you think you never made it bigger?

Jon: All four of us wrote songs. We’d work on them together and they were equally credited, but they always originated as one person’s idea. If you knew the four members of the band well enough, you’d be able to tell who wrote which songs. Where did they come from? The heart.

While some people in the music press were quite supportive of The Ogdens, others seemed to take against us. Maybe they didn’t like the name. I guess that It’s A Beautiful Day would have put some people off as well, since it creates the impression of a band really very different from the band we actually were.

It’s nice to finally be getting some of the recognition which we obviously felt we deserved at the time; even if we have had to wait twenty years for it!

Andy: Most of my songs came from walking down the street. Some came in one lump but others in bits and pieces. I had a beaten up old car which took us to gigs and became part of The Ogdens’ mythology. A girlfriend gave me a rose which I placed on the dashboard where it dried and was preserved. It was a nice contrast to the fierce look of the vehicle and on a journey to a gig someone came up with the line “There’s a dead rose on the dashboard” sung in a country style. From then on several of us had a go at incorporating it into a song. It eventually became part of Boeing Boeing Bomb! a comic song about terrorism.

++ After splitting up, you formed a band called Sunburst. I’ve never heard anything about it! Did you release anything? Was it in the same vein of The Ogdens? What’s the story behind it?

Jon: Not many people have heard about Sunburst, which is actually a bit of a shame, because we were a great band. After John decided to leave The Ogdens, we got in a mate of Jay D’s as a vocalist. Gatt was a really brilliant singer and we went off in a much rockier direction (although, to be honest, The Ogdens were headed in a similar direction towards the end). We never released anything, but there is a whole album’s worth of pretty decent demos. We also recorded a version of America’s A Horse With No Name with the intention of maybe releasing it as a single. Unfortunately, this never actually happened. You should hear it, though, it’s truly epic.

Andy: We were great but unlike The Ogdens I think we lacked the belief that we would conquer the world.

++ What are some other favourite hobbies of yours aside from playing music?

Jon: I like football. I support Bristol Rovers, which is pretty sad really.

Andy: Even though I support Bristol City (we come from opposite sides of the city) I don’t think it’s sad. Football is about having a connection with a team. I know people who support Chelsea or Manchester United and have never seen them live. They’ve only chosen them because the teams are successful and have shirts the right colour or they fancy a particular player. That’s sad. You’ll be with Rovers in better times Jon.

++ Anything else you’d like to say to Ogdens fans out there?

Jon: It’s been truly humbling to discover that, even after all these years, there are people who still really care about the Ogdens’ music. So thanks. I only wish we’d known about you all at the time.

Andy: I echo Jon’s words. Thanks for the support. It’s the audience that makes it happen.

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Listen
The Ogdens – Rachel Put Your Hands About Me

10
Nov

Thanks so much to Phil Suggars for another fantastic interview! Before being in CC Baxter Phil was in The Candie Maids and we already talked extensively about it many months ago. On the next Cloudberry fanzine CD compilation the song Camden Lockout will be included so don’t miss it! Oh! and here’s one and another pic from the band!

++ After The Candie Maids you became the Archangels and then CC Baxter. So tell me what happened in between the bands? Were there major lineup changes? Why the change of names?

I think Warren (bass) and I had the idea that we wanted to change names each time personnel changed or we took a different tack musically. The Candie Maids were Warren, Vicki (guitar, keyboards and b-vox) and myself (guitar and drums) and a drum machine. I don’t think we were every really happy with the name ‘cos it was achingly twee. Musically we started to get into sequencing things and when Dom (drums) and Hayley from the Doris Days got involved and we settled on the name Archangels which if anything was a bit too much the other way. A friend of mine said it made us sound like a hair-metal outfit.

++ Were does the name CC Baxter comes from?

After we’d played a few gigs in London our manager told us that there was a US band called Archangels who were threatening to sue us so we thought “fair enough it’s a crap name anyway” and changed ours to CC Baxter which comes from the character Jack Lemmon plays in Billy Wilder’s “The Apartment”.

++ Was it any different composing songs now compared to the Candie Maids? How did the CC Baxter songs shape up? Did you practice often?

With the Candie Maids we’d just play together till something sprouted out of the mess. The main difference with CCBaxter was that because we’d moved to a more sequenced/sampled sound (and back then we didn’t use a computer just a shed load of metal with flashing lights and buttons on it) the composition process was this:

  1. I’d get the rough basis for a song down in the equipment. Hayley would embellish stuff at this stage because she actually knew the difference between the black notes and the white ones. Often we’d have a rough bass and drum track on the song just for writing purposes.
  2. We’d drag all the kit down to our weekly rehearsal, wire it all together and stare at the flashing LEDs for a bit and then play around with the basic structure to see what we came up with. Usually, we’d switch the sampled drums and bass off so Warren and Dom could write something original and make things a bit more ‘live’.

++ So where did you practice? How was a usual CC Baxter practice? Was there lots of alcohol? Perhaps a couple of pizzas? For sure it was lots of fun, right?

Yes, it was loads of fun. We used to rehearse every Saturday at a place called Bloomsbury studios which I think is now called Mockin’ Bird. It was run by a guy called Terry Popple who used to drum for Van Morrison. Terry was nice fellow though he always jokingly referred to us as “The Fab Hunk” trio since we all young and a bit slight of frame. Generally speaking we didn’t get too drunk, but there was always a break for a beer and (veggie) burger halfway through. Being a drummer Dom always favoured a kebab.

++ On the 1993 demo you worked with Tim Freeman from Frazier Chorus! How did that go? How did you meet and what did he bring into the studio? Any anecdotes you can share?

I met Tim through Adrian Sherwood’s manager Bobby Marshall who used to manage an indie-dance outfit called Eusebio (who Warren played bass for). We sort of talked Bobby into managing us though in reality he wasn’t that enthusiastic and was just too nice to tell us f*ck off. In any case he suggested that Tim work with us. At the time Tim was writing material for a publishing deal and so he’d come over to our place and we’d swap material and then he’d help out with our arrangements. I’d seen him on TV performing “Cloud 8″ so when he came round I remember thinking “bloody hell! This bloke is a proper pop-star and he’s in our house drinking tea!”

++ Was this demo the only recordings by CC Baxter? Why didn’t such great songs get properly released?

Thanks, I’m glad you liked the songs. Yes, this was the only demo that we did as CC Baxter. As to why they didn’t get picked up, it’s hard to say. Live we were always a bit of shambles and working with hardware sequencers and samplers that weren’t reliable was sometimes a sphincter clenching experience.

A couple of labels told us we needed to go away and “practice more”, but I wonder how much of that was to do with the fact that we were quite “anti-rock”. In any case one thing that definitely didn’t help us was that we didn’t have strong management. When the demo came out we were doing it all ourselves which unless you know a few people I wouldn’t recommend.

++ One of the songs is called “Ry Cooder”? Was him a big influence on you? why did you dedicate a song to him?

He’s a brilliant musician and he wrote the soundtrack for Paris-Texas which is some of my favourite film music. The reason for the homage in the title is (don’t tell your lawyer) that there’s a sample of that soundtrack in the instrumental break and the outro as well as some of the dialogue from the film in the song.

++ Through my not so great research skills I found out about The Lockout: “… is a monthly music event held in Camden, which prides itself on showcasing the best new musical talent the UK music scene has to offer.” Is this what the song “Camden’s Lockout” is about? Did you participate or something?

Now that’s just weird. I had no idea there was anything called the Camden Lockout. I thought I’d just come up with the title after we’d been recording a demo at Falconer studios in London. Maybe I saw a poster for the event while we were up there and it seeped into my tiny brain.

++ And the other song I know by you is “Flake Girl a Go-Go” which I guess it’s about the Cadbury Flake Girl? Are you a big fan of chocolate? What are your favourite ones? And what about the flake girl, do you have a favourite? :p

You’re correct it is about the women in Cadbury’s Flake adverts. And yes I do like chocolate and Flake’s in particular ;). At the time we wrote this there were a whole series of Cadbury’s Flake advertisements that were sexualized in really over the top way and the song just uses them as a throwaway example of the silly media images of the perfect woman. (More importantly I just liked coming up with daft song titles to see if I could make our drummer, Dom, laugh).

++ The change from The Candie Maids to CC Baxter is almost one of 180 degrees! What were you listening at this time? Why did you went for a more synth driven band than a guitar band as before?

I think we were just excited by the sonic possibilities of early samplers. We actually never had a synthesizer as such, all the electronic side of things was sample based. I just loved the idea of lifting sounds off of records and then mangling them up to own them.

At the time we were listening to stuff like the Beloved, New Order, Wire, Wolfgang Press, Paul Haig, Weekend, Section 25, the Pale Fountains, quite a lot of early house stuff. Oh, and Kylie Minogue back when it wasn’t okay to like her. (I seem to remember writing a love note to her under her coat hook backstage when we played one of her haunts in London. Needless to say she never wrote back.)

++ Your final gig was in 1995, right? How was it? Any particular gigs you remember?

The final gig was ok, (flier attached) though I think at the time if we’d known it was our last we probably would have drunk a lot more and broken our manifesto by indulging in a few stage dives.

I do remember one horrible moment during a gig at Sussex University where the sequencer somehow became disconnected from the drum machine, but both continued playing merrily away while drifting hopelessly out of time with each other till everything ended in a completely horrible clattering mess. Luckily enough it was happy hour and so our audience were too drunk to care too much.

The flip side to that was one gig we played at the Brighton Dome where a pro engineer came in to mix us (we were pretty dense and unbalanced live). I remember we started the first song and I felt like Marty McFly at the beginning of Back to the Future. This shimmering wall of sound shook the whole venue. “Jesus!” I thought, “so that’s what we sound like on a good day.”

++ You went through the late 80s and the early 90s… music had changed a lot, especially for us pop fans. It wasn’t that common to see the bands we liked on the NME or getting many gigs. Did you notice this change? Do you think it was the natural course of things or were you pissed? Did it affect at all your bands you think?

A few of the A&R people we met seemed to be looking for the next Nirvana and I used to get frustrated with being told that we needed to put guitar solos over everything, but pop music by definition is a cultural process that’s driven by the tastes of its consumers. Things go in and out of favour all the time and that feeds renewal which seems about right to me.

On a personal note, I felt a bit outmatched when I heard Bjork’s first solo album. “Crap,” I thought, “there’s no way I could write anything as good as that.”

++ Waz moved to London and you weren’t happy with britpop so the band called it a day. It’s been a while now, are you still in touch with the band? What do the band members do nowadays?

Yes, we are all still in touch and all doing various things though we haven’t physically met up for a few years now (I was out of the country and Dom’s not in Brighton). I do think we will be having a get together soon though. If nothing else just so we can buy Dom a Donner Kebab for old time’s sake.

++ Anything else you’d like to add?

Nothing other than to thank you for your enthusiasm and for putting our track on your CD. We were laughing the other day, wishing you and your fanzine had been around when we’d recorded the demo back in 1993.

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Listen
CC Baxter – Ry Cooder

09
Nov

It’s time for me to get back to blogging even though most of my energies, at the moment, are being focused on a new Cloudberry fanzine. A printed one, of course. It will include interviews to The Mai 68s, The Andersen Tapes, Socialist Leisure Party among others, and of course a 5 song compilation 3″ CD. I hope I finish it by the end of the month. Anyways, this doesn’t mean I haven’t prepared any interviews for the blog since coming back from Europe. I have! So I hope some of those will appear on the blog sometime soon. I also want to write and document about my fantastic trip to Europe because it was filled with indiepop stories. As soon as my memories are less fresh and vivid, I’ll get into that. At the moment it is still a bit too intense to think about it! I know what I’m saying as last week I had to write an article about my time in Berlin for the Japanese magazine Cookie Scene. It was such a bittersweet feeling to type my memories in the computer, I wish I was still there. I feel like having a whirlpool in my heart. Lots of memories sinking in the spiral.

So no wonder I’ve been very curious about Whirlpool Heart as of late. I had to send some MP3s to Firestation Records headquarters for Uwe to check run how unknown these songs are. It’s like doing the Carbon 14 test. He is the specialist. What did we get from the results? Well, he didn’t have a clue about who this band was. As far as I know there were only 3 songs released, all of them on tape compilations. Two of them, “Walls Spin Around” and “Too Late”, appear on the  Turquoise Trees tape, while “Flights of Fancy” appears on the Seahorses tape. Both tapes came along the Red Roses for Me fanzine. Does that ring a bell? The three Whirlpool Heart songs are haunting, with heavy guitars, dreamy melodies, boy/girl vocals, dark atmospheres. I really enjoy them. I usually like more upbeat, happier, sunnier songs, but Whirlpool Heart bewitches me somehow. Then it’s an easy guess that they took the name from the great Wild Swans song. What a song that is! By the way, have you bought the new Wild Swans 7″? It’s really good!

It’s been now a little over a year since I started this page, and during this past calendar, I’ve gotten tons of emails and blog comments with KNOWLEDGE about this music we like so much. I really want to thank all of you, including all the bands that came and got in touch with me. I never expected the blog to be popular, I don’t think it is, but having people pop up decades after their bands split is really heartwarming. And that’s what makes me happy to continue.

One last thing, I have a little clue that might help. On the Turquoise Trees sleeve it says:

“Thanks to… Carol Samways, Andy Ford, Neal Carr, Johnny Septic, Jon E.Hardy, Stephen Maughan, Stewie Anderson”

If the names are in the same order as in the bands that appear on the tape, which looks like it, Carol Samways was part of Whirlpool Heart. Maybe she was in bands before? Maybe in bands after? No idea. But, would you like to help me solve this mystery? :)

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Listen
Whirlpool Heart – Walls Spin Around

02
Nov

After Tim Headman told me a bit more about the Watt Government not so long ago, Steve Nash, who played acoustic guitar and vocals, was very nice to give me an interview about their band! Thanks so much to both for getting in touch and sharing all these stories! Again, please check videos from their diverse projects here!

++ Hi again! Thanks so much for doing the interview! I was very curious about your band and you got in touch, out of the blue! :) How are all you doing today?

Right now it’s Halloween and I have just been out with my nine year old son been really busy with my job (I work freelance in health and social care) Curtis and his friend Owen, trick or treating. This is still a fairly low key thing in the UK, compared to how I think it is in the states. I have but I am excited about the new band I am getting together called ‘Arthur 2 Stroke, WM7 and Big Black Bomb’

++ I know some of you were already playing together in Arthur 2 Stroke and the Chart Commandos before joining the Watt Government. Care telling me a bit more about this band? What is the discography of this band? And how did you all meet in the first place

In 1978 in Newcastle it seemed like everybody was in a band. As a result spending the summer acting in a Walt Disney film shot in Alnwick Castle (Where they later did Robin Hood Prince of Thieves with Kevin Costner) I got to know a few people who had started a regular scene playing in a pub every week, promoting events, and gathering like-minded souls around a concept called Anti Pop. Arthur 2 Stroke was initially the main creative force behind this scene and he also fronted one of the bands that played every week, but never with the same musicians. I liked his humour and style of music and so I approached him and we started playing together regularly, two electric guitars and a drummer, and he christened me WM7. Over the next few months the band grew – I knew Tim from college and he joined on bass initially, but moved on to guitar. The Chart Commandos had evolved into a proper seven piece backing band for Arthur by 79/80, as a result of
recruiting different people in different ways as we went along. We were influenced by Geno Washington and the Ram Jam Band, Ian Dury and the Blockheads, Dexie’s Midnight Runners, Madness and a love for TV theme tunes and Northern Soul. By this time, I had moved on to trumpet…

A2S and the CCs sort of fizzled out in 1983. We had played hundreds of gigs and had an amazing following in the North East of England BUT we never managed to match our live success with any really decent recording, and eventually we all needed to move on.

++ What happened in the time between Arthur 2 Stroke and the Chart Commandos and the Watt Government?

As I remember it when the Chart Commandos split up, we all went our separate ways for a while. Tim continued writing and recording some songs, using us lot in the studio, Pat (keyboards) rejoined Archie Brown and the Young Bucks and released a great album called ‘Bring me the head of Jerry Garcia’; Davey, Ian and Grahame and Ross (Drums and Bass and Sax and trumpet) joined our ex roadie to form a new band whose very 80s name escapes me…and Stevie our percussionist I were recruited on trumpet to another new Newcastle band called ‘The Pressgang’

This was quite a diverse but ultimately doomed outfit, with a Jamaican drummer and a Malaysian keyboard player, a brilliant but mentally troubled guy on sax, and two black British female singers, one who was an ‘exotic dancer’ in the clubs around Tyneside, and the other was Debbie – who became my girlfriend and subsequently my wife. The Pressgang had self imploded after a few short months, a year tops, when one day I took a phone call for my flatmate Andy Pop, who had been the other half of the driving force behind Anti Pop (the business side)

Andy still promoted various gigs and events in Newcastle at that time (1983/84) and on the other end of the phone was an agent who needed a ‘jazz duo’ to support Alexi Sayle at his gig in Middlesbrough in a few night’s time. I suddenly got this idea that Tim and Debbie and I could put something together so I told the agent that I knew this band, and luckily Tim and Debbie were up for it! Tim had already thought of the name Watt Government, so we threw a bizarre mix of country and western and home-made topical reggae tunes together, and went down so well were offered three more dates. We played as a three piece for a while, then as the five piece you see on the The Tube video, and then finally poached back the rest of the Chart Commandos – the rest is history!

++ You also said to me that you were influenced by a lot of African music. Was it easy to have access to it? What about UK music, was there anything you enjoyed at the time?

Now we are moving into the early 80s, and the birth of Watt Government out of the ashes of the Chart Commandos in 83/84. Here and there in Newcastle and the rest of the UK people were picking up on ‘World Music’ especially (in my case) African musicians like King Sunny Ade, Fela Kuti, Hugh Masekela, The Bhundu Boys (although perhaps they came later!). As I remember it was not so hard to access, but I guess there was nowhere near the variety and choice that is available now.

In terms of other bands, I seem to remember that we had quite lot of time for all kinds of music – we were big fans of Gil Scott Heron and Curtis Mayfield who were overtly political in their lyrics, and in the UK at the
time people like Elvis Costello, Billy Bragg, The Style Council, The Clash, (and many more I can’t remember!) were all doing political/social commentary but we were into all sorts of other things, Stax, Tamla, Talking Heads, Grace Jones, early rap like Grandmaster Flash and Run DMC, lots of reggae, contemporary and old style Trojan…and good pop music, we were all always partial to good pop music

++ What do you think about being categorized as neo-aco?

Sounds good! One of the problems we had at the time was that we played lots of different styles live and this made us hard to categorise, so it’s interesting to finally be located in a genre – albeit on the basis of one
single!

++ From what you told me, your songs were quite political. But how involved were you in politics?

Tim and I were working in the ‘public sector’ health and education respectively, and all of us were very aware of the way Margaret Thatcher’s policies (she was the prime minister of quite a right wing government) were
adversely affecting the most vulnerable people in our society at that time. In the North East the miner’s strike was very significant, due to the importance of coal mining to the history and economy and culture of the area, and there was a lot of anger and hardship about the decimation of the coal industry by Thatcher’s government. We played a number of benefit gigs, and some people in the band knew activists and people who were undergoing real hardship, but at a personal level I have never really been much of a political activist. To me, Tim and Davey (the drummer) always seemed much better informed and aware. Tim tended to write most of the words and most of the time they were about the things in the news, and the way government decisions and actions affected ordinary people

++ How do you feel about Gordon Brown then?

Hey now Roque, far too many column inches have been spent on this subject already. I guess I see him as a nearly man, I don’t think he is particularly a bad prime minister, but having to follow Tony Blair, who was much more charismatic, and then being hit by the global recession, and domestic twaddle like expenses scandals, meant that he never really stood much of a chance. I also think these things go in cycles, and the same party that was welcomed into office by dancing in the streets 10 years ago has now become tired and ineffective and full of infighting. What depresses me most is that the whole game has shifted to the right in this country, the amount of people we lock up, the way we treat asylum seekers, the pressure on single mums and other ‘unemployed’ groups, negative images of young people, it’s all a very depressing if you let it get to you

++ What are your memories of recording the single? Any anecdotes you could share?

We seemed to record so many versions of it! In fact there were only two proper gos at it – the one with the Kane Gang, which I still have somewhere, and then the one we did ourselves when that got lost – Tim has told you about this already. The Kane Gang experience was very interesting to me because it was the one time we actually worked with producers. Mostly we just depended on the engineer and our own judgement. One thing I do remember is that one time we went into the studio (called Lynx, it’s just been demolished to make way for a ’student village’) and Hugh Masekela was in there finishing off recording a session for the Tube. I was in awe, and wanted to speak to him but came over all clumsy. The amazing thing was he
just said hello and set about moving his stuff so that we could sit down. He was so humble warm and friendly. But I still didn’t know what to say to the man!

++ Why didn’t Kitchenware want to release the single anymore? Ok, the master tapes were stolen, but that’s not a good reason at all, especially for such a nice single! How come Volume Records came to rescue you and release the 7″?

I guess it all comes down to money in the end – there was only so much money they were prepared to invest, and when that was spent, that was it. Also I don’t think they were really committed to the idea that we could be successful. I can’t remember how Volume got involved, but Tim can tell you more about that, he was always the mover and the shaker!

++ What happened to the song “Watt Government”? Why didn’t it get released as a single as you expected?

Technically it was never did get very far as a single. We all loved the song (and I still do, I do an acoustic version with some friends of mine currently, although we have yet to perform it publicly). As I recall, we got
some studio time booked up one time after Tim had left and gone to Vancouver, we timed this to coincide with when he was back in the UK on a visit. Maybe 87 or 88? It was never properly mixed or finished off, and the band had split by then so there was no real focus to do anything with it. These days it’s all a bit easier I think – I mean it doesn’t matter if you don’t have a band as such, but in those days the the band was the thing. The version that exists has a certain magic though, and I can send it to you sometime to see what you think if you like

++ You also appeared in a couple of TV shows doing live performances. How was that experience? Is it much different than playing live at a club? How did you get into the TV shows by the way? Today guitar pop bands don’t get invited that often to TV shows!

TV was always fascinating – everything gets focused on a few minutes performance, and it can be much more intense and difficult than playing a whole set for an hour or more, when you can work with the crowd and build up some excitement. It’s a bit like recording in that I think it requires its own set of skills and just because you can play in a band and write good songs doesn’t mean you can come over well on tv. I can’t comment on what it’s like for bands these days

++ How was the scene in Newcastle back then? Any good bands from the time that deserve to be remembered?

Crikey that’s a hard one. Like I said above, there were loads of bands, but to be honest I can’t remember too many of them now. Some friends of ours were in The Hostages, and they did ok for a while, got a deal and released a single ‘Pretend you’re American’ but it didn’t go far. Maybe Tim can remember some of the others….

++ What about gigs? Did you gig a lot? Any in particular that you remember fondly?

Gigs were always hard work – often we had to promote them ourselves and do all of the organising. Personally my favourite was our second gig at The Crucible in Sheffield. We were supporting Alexi Sayle who was at that time a stand up comedian, one of the then new breed of ‘alternative’ comics. At that point it was me and Tim on guitar and backing vocals and Debbie singing. We were in danger of becoming a musical comedy act perhaps but I quite liked it and we went down very well with the crowd that had come to see Alexi Sayle. We had worked out a whole little routine in no time at all and it felt edgy and fresh. That would be a personal favourite!

++ When and why did the Watt Government called it a day? Were you all involved with music after?

Now then, I think I am going to have to cite the usual ‘musical differences’ here. There was some personal relationship stuff in the band but mainly my take on it would be that Tim had worked very hard to try and make something happen with Working My Fingers and when that didn’t happen he wanted to withdraw and reflect for a while. Then he decided to move to Canada and I didn’t have anyone else to write songs with!

Tim went on to do a lot of music in Vancouver, which he can tell you about. Ian our bass player went to California to work with Sid Griffin and the Coal Porters. Stevie our percussionist has never stopped playing the working men’s clubs in the North East. For a few years I didn’t do much at all but now I am musician for a theatre company, I play in a community band of horns and steel pans that gigs in Newcastle, and I have just started to get a new band together with Arthur 2 Stroke which is huge fun

++ Why do you think the Watt Government didn’t get more popular? What was for you the highlight of the band?

Hard to say. I think success as a band is partly about luck but also partly about simply sticking with it, year after year, and we didn’t really have either of these things. Plus there was probably too many of us, and inevitably different people want different things. And then important things like children came along!

++ Are you still all in touch? What are the Watt Government members doing nowadays?

I still see Ian (bass) and Graham (sax) and Davey (drums) from time to time as we all still live in the area. Debbie is the mother of my children and so we are still very connected even though we split up amicably two years ago. Tim is in Vancouver but email and the occasional trip home mean that he never feels too far away really. Sort of fallen out of contact with Ross (Trumpet) and Stevie (percussion)

As far as I know we are all working but not so much involved with music these days. Just proper grown up jobs to pay the bills! I do play for Archie Brown and the Young Bucks (they are on You Tube), along with Ian and Grahame every Christmas, and Davey is the manager of the music venue at Newcastle University, but Tim has probably tried hardest to keep connected with the spirit of rock and roll…or should I say neo acoustic?

++ Thanks so much! anything you’d like to add?

No, I think I have gone on long enough, I just hope there is something here that is of interest to you. I am confident that Tim will have stuff to add, especially now I have prompted him!

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Listen
Watt Government – Working My Fingers to the Bone