A couple of weeks now since NYC Popfest’s last night. What do I remember from the festival? I’ve seen a couple of reviews online that people have been posting on facebook, on different websites that conspicuously have an “.fm” ending on their domain. I’m surprised and shocked by the reviewers lack of understanding what indiepop is. Their comparisons to bands that DON’T sound at all like that. It’s revolting. Is the new press, the music writers, just any next door neighbor? Don’t they have any access to the internet? Googling C86 or indiepop is by far not harder than writing a lot of nonsense. I could say, but if these write-ups make the bands happy, well, who cares. If sometimes I complain for the lack of indiepop blogs and articles on the web, perhaps this proves against my point. Perhaps it’s not a good idea afterall that anyone can come and say that The Bats sounds like Phish. That’s blasphemy.

Because The Bats were IMMENSE. Because I’ve waited for this show for a long time. I’ve always wanted to see them live, and even though they didn’t play my most loved song of theirs, “Claudine”, they went through many songs of their classic repertoire that it made that night at the Bell House magic. All my dislike for this terrible venue, dissipated for the 45 minutes they played. No encores. It was a show that was according to a brilliant career. I can’t thank enough to Maz for bringing them to NYC. It made my night after the show to go backstage, meet with Paul and Kaye, and meet Robert and Malcom for the first time. Sitting with them on the sofa and talking about… stuff. I remember getting back to the front room and by that time the dance party was halfway through. How much time was I just hanging out? Most of my friends had left. I feel most of my friends must feel old because they keep leaving early. Or perhaps they don’t like to dance? In any case, the Bell House front room was never a comfortable space for dancing.

Who can forget The Hobbes Fanclub appearance that same night. Bringing one of those moments you can’t forget. A moment not suitable for the twee masses. When their set was announced to be shorter than expected, that they couldn’t play their whole set due to some sound issues (or whatever reason, it doesn’t matter really), the reaction, first of the drummer, and then of Leon, the vocalist, was to be applauded. Words that I can’t type in this ‘catholic’ blog were shouted. Words with all their right to be said. You can’t do that to a band. Even worst if they are only playing one show in the US after flying all the way from Bradford. That’s not a short trip. I don’t know how many transfers they must have made. But some decency from some venues would be appreciated.

Speaking of which, did I ever write anything about the time everyone was kicked out from The Bell House? It was at a dance party. A Robyn dance party. Seems some guy was quite drunk (no wonder) and got into a fight. He got pissed and so he broke one of the window glasses on the facade of the venue. Big deal. Make him pay. Take his credit card. But no, they kicked everyone out. They ruined everything that night with their very cerebral and logical decisions.

Anyhow,  Popfest. Best Popfest ever? Hands down.

I’m having this sort of vignettes of the whole weekend. Like the best moments kind of. I’ll keep on writing about it next week too with the ones I forget to mention today.

On Thursday a fab moment was to see Zipper doing a rendition of their already classic “Madrid Popfest” song. The minute and a half punky-pop pill was re-christened to “New York Popfest” and aside from an early hiccup it sounded fantastic.

Meeting on Friday Mike from Manic Pop was great. Bought a bunch of his records. The question after Popfest was, where did he go? He has disappeared. Some people might think he got very disappointed with indiepop, how snobbish people were at the festival. But the fact is different. There’s Jeremy’s blog to find out a bit more. From my point of view this is a delicate situation. I feel bad about his health, and I hope he gets good soon (though I do know of at least another label owner that goes through the same now and then, and he is still kicking it alright). At the same time I really hope his obligations with customers and bands are fulfilled. I could sound harsh, but I don’t think this was the way to do it. I believe in goodwill of people, I think with an explanation to everyone involved with his label, everyone would have understand if he was feeling in no position to continue. I found his resort of just disappearing a bit irresponsible, childish. Also, the indiepop-list has disappeared thanks to this same situation and probably, from the lack of effort of the indiepopsters, it will be for good. That is a shame. I hope this gets sorted out. For the good of everyone. Though I can see much more discussion about this topic coming up, though I doubt it will be public. As I said, it’s a touchy issue.

I met Liz from The School! Wasn’t that great! I couldn’t go to their second show in the city on the 12th. I had to get my mother from the airport that day. I so wish to have seen them again as they were brilliant the first time around. And Liz made me the happiest person by wearing the Quirky Girl Crafters Cloudberry badge. Huge and fluffy badge!

I djed a bunch of songs that Thursday at the Cake Shop. My CDs are old now. I need to make some new ones if I plan to DJ in London in some weeks for the Secret History/Comet Gain/Pale Spectres show. The thing was that my CDs kept on skipping and jumping. To the point that the sound guy from the venue told me to change the song when I was playing The Never Invited to Parties’ “Bicycle Song”. Good thing, no one noticed. It’s good to DJ for a bunch of drunks. Only one song I played caught the attention of anyone. I would later meet Annie, but at that point I didn’t know her, but she asked which song was blasting from the speakers. It was Your Place or Mine’s “Another Lover of a Demo Pop Group”.

The Monochrome Set only had XL sized t-shirts. Perhaps they were making a point. Oversized America. But I needed a large size one for me. Their show was truly great though. Perhaps better than that time at London Popfest were I wasn’t really paying that much attention.

Oddly enough I didn’t pick up many releases from the merch tables of bands playing the festival. Most of the stuff I bought was from bands not playing the festival as some labels brought some of their stock for sale. My favourite thing I got was the NYC 2013 black t-shirt though. Cool logo and nice colors.

Last year Maz talked to the crowd at Popfest. At the Knitting Factory night on Friday. I didn’t see it this time but Maz says he did. Did anyone got this? I was in the front bar as the beer is 2 dollars cheaper there ($2 against $4 at the bar where bands play).

I was very happy to meet many new friends, most of them from the US, but from many different cities. Not that many from NYC. Best of times was taking photos with some of them at the photo booth on Saturday. Though I wonder if that will compare to the photo booth of the Lego store Andreas and me found.

But seeing old friends was GREAT too. Seeing Ali and having some Peruvian food with him, and our new friend Autumn, was one of my highlights. Among Cusqueña beers and cebiches we had one of the best afternoons of the whole weekend.


And is there any bigger fan of the Closer Lobsters than Madrid’s Jorge? Since they reformed I believe he hasn’t missed any of their shows. That’s called dedication!


Alright! My mind was working hard there. I’m not that young anymore to remember everything with details. I’m sure I’ll remember more great moments of the weekend for my next week post. Of course, there’s stuff I can’t write about, as this is not a gossip blog!, but the one that is writable, I’ll do. So now let’s move to my favourite topic of all times. The obscure indiepop bands.

19/10/90 – Alton College, Alton. Along the Herb Garden and Who Moved the Ground? the Chalk Garden plays a gig.

Alton College is a sixth form college located in Alton, Hampshire, England. As well as being a sixth form, the college provides an adult education service to the local population as well as catering for students with disabilities from nearby Treloar College. It was built in 1978 and was one of the first institutions in the UK to be a purpose-built sixth form college.

A famous musician actually studied there: Alison Goldfrapp.

The name of the band probably came from:

The Chalk Garden is a play by Enid Bagnold that premiered on Broadway in 1955. The play tells the story of Mrs. St Maugham and her granddaughter Laurel, a disturbed child under the care of Miss Madrigal, a governess. The setting of the play was inspired by Bagnold’s own garden at North End House in Rottingdean, near Brighton, Sussex, the former home of Sir Edward Burne-Jones. The work has since been revived numerous times internationally, including a film adaptation in 1964.

What else do we know about this mysterious band? As far as I know there were no releases. At least there’s nothing listed on the web. There is one compilation appearance though, on a 4 track 7″ released in 1989 along the House of Dolls magazine. This sleeveles slab of vinyl included four bands, each contributing one song. On the A side we had New Model Army and Every New Dead Ghost. On the B side we get The Sandmen and Chalk Garden. I don’t know two of the bands, but it seems like quite an eclectic mix. The catalog number was H.O.D. 007.

The song included by Chalk Garden is “Drunk Among the Trees”. A song of pure jangle that was produced by Dick Hawkins. I’ve been able to listen to it by tracking it on Myspace under the account of Cunas Music and Publishing. I’m not 100% sure if this link would work, but if you want to have a listen try it. Pretty good isn’t it?

The other song I’ve had the luck to listen was Flags. This song is from 1990. And you can tell that. The sound has changed a bit. It has more of a Madchester feel at this point. This song actually has a promo video and that’s how I came about this band. It’s a fun song, and still very poppy! There’s a comment on the Youtube page saying that there are many demos and bootlegs from the band. I hope to listen to these someday!

Then also on Youtube there’s a live performance at The Greyhound from 1990. It’s funny to see in the legend “Rare un-watchable live footage from 1990’s fifth favourite Lewisham band”. This one just got published a week or so ago. The song in the video is called “Running Through the Mills” and it’s quite good!! Jangly! So in 1990 they were doing still the jangle! Question here is, which are the fourth other favourite Lewisham bands?

But that’s all I could find online about this pretty obscure band. If anyone out there know anything else about them? About if they had any releases? If there are any more songs to listen? Whatever happened to them? If they played many gigs? If they became at some point Lewisham’s favourites? Please use that comment section here. Would love to hear more about them!


Chalk Garden – Flags



Thanks so much to Robert Polson for the interview. A long time ago I wrote about them and Robert was kind enough to get in touch and send me a bunch of their early demos which were AMAZING (which you can listen to in their new SoundCloud page). These days Robert continues making music under Wat Mag but he was up for reminiscing the late 80s when he was in This Scarlet Train, the best band I’ve ever heard to come from Falkirk. The ever so mysterious band, one that I always wondered about on my book, the one that I would learn their Myspace back in the day was a fake one, not set up by the end, at last unveils some of their secrets. Here are also two (1, 2) photos Robert shared with me from the band. Hope you enjoy!

++ Hi Robert! Thanks so much for getting in touch. It’s really awesome that you are still making music under Water Magnesium! When did you start this project? And would you say are there any similarities between This Scarlet Train and this new project of yours?

Water Magnesium (Wat Mag) was formed about 3 or 4 years after This Scarlet Train. This Scarlet Train lasted about 2 years, during which I had effectively my life on hold,so there was a lot of ‘real life’ stuff to catch up on and I didn’t want to get involved in any kind of band scenario. Wat Mag was/is a sort of lo-fi,experimental recording project consisting of Jim Corbett and myself, using cheap keyboards,children’s toys,drum machines as well as guitars/ bass and effects recorded into a 4 track cassette machine. We don’t operate as a band, just come together on occasions, do stuff, then drift back to our separate lives. I made a very definite decision to avoid any connection with This Scarlet Train. I was very much tired of that sound, in fact aside from the most recent recordings, I rarely even played guitar on the Wat Mag stuff. The first track we recorded (Softly Ageing Eyes) was done off the cuff using a half broken Bontempi organ, a cheap Casio, some effects and a box of matches. it kind of set us up for taking different approaches to music making. There is an archive of WatMag stuff here- https://soundcloud.com/watmag

++ And in between these two projects of yours, were you involved with music?

Because Wat Mag works on a loose, sporadic basis it meant that I could get involved in other things. I used to enjoy just jamming with people,playing mainly bass. It was nice to play with different people and types of music rather than stuff I wrote or co wrote.
The last serious project I was involved in was The Tollbooth Sound Orchestra,, a collection of people with different musical backgrounds creating a kind of avant garde,free improv orchestra. We played gigs in Scotland and Ireland. Couple of pieces here if anyone is interested-https://soundcloud.com/noiseochestra.

I was also involved in putting together some sound installations,around this time, mainly doing analog electronics with both these projects.
I was becoming increasingly tired and bored of the whole music thing and after they finished I more or less put an end to making music.It felt right to have a total change.

++ You were also telling me that there’s a demo tape with far superior recordings of the tracks on the vinyl record. So I can’t stop wondering why didn’t you release those? And also, are there many more songs of yours on tapes that didn’t get the chance to be released?

Well, I could only say the earlier were superior, once they had been re-recorded. The earlier versions of Picture Frame/Still Rain were recorded as a 2 piece with a drum machine. After the drummer joined,the sound was so much dynamic and powerful, also since he was contributing to the album recording costs, it seemed re-recording them with the new line up was the right thing to do.,. As for other recordings? Well aside from the stuff I sent you, there isn’t really any surviving that I’m aware of and these would only consist of practice tapes.

++ Overall, which would you say was your favourite This Scarlet Train song? Why?

Probably Picture Frame. We did come up with loads of material really quickly, when we started,a lot of it was semi instrumental, with rather complex interplay between the guitar and bass. Picture Frame was quite simple, but still captured what we were trying to do. I came up with the riff one morning, still half asleep, We worked on the break bit together, and Stuarts vocal melody was quite catchy and kinda brought a more obvious pop element to our sound.
Also I remember walking into the control booth when we were recording the demo and first hearing it after the producer/engineer had worked his magic toys on it and being almost dumbstruck at how good it sounded. It first made me aware of how the studio could be used as a creative tool, this led me to buying a 4 track when the band split-I just wanted to make kinda homemade lo-fi records. Having a 4 track also allowed Water Magnesium to work in the way it did.

++ Tell me how did This Scarlet Train started as a band? How was the recruiting process? How did you know each other and what were you doing at the time?

I knew Stuart for some time, we both liked similar music and had been trying to get a band together on and off for ages. These attempts weren’t much more than some weak sounding jams. After a while we basically gave up and drifted apart. Then one day he phoned me out of the blue,he’d bought a bass and sounded pretty excited…Did I want to come for a jam? I can remember walking to his home,carrying my Rickenbacker, not particularly enthused with the idea, trying to figure out excuses,so I could leave early.
Stuart had been turned onto the Cocteau Twins/Joy Division/New Order by a friend and was feeling inspired . He’d traded his guitar in for a tasty looking old Rickenbacker 4001 bass. I was a bit bemused,I was listening to a lot of 60’s stuff at the time, having moved away from post punk,which was the first music I was into -‘Metal Box’ era PIL/Banshees/Birthday Party/Killing Joke etc. But I trusted him enough to give it a shot…. and it just worked from the off, Like a Year Zero moment, We abandoned our previous ideas, any conventional ways of playing the instruments and started coming up with lots of material very quickly. A drum machine was bought shortly after.This was about July/August 1986.
By December we’d played 3 gigs and recorded the Picture Frame/Still Rain demo using the drum machine, we put the demo for sale in the local record shop and a ‘Drummer Wanted’ ad in the local press referring to it. We had our first rehearsal/audition,as a 3 piece, just before Christmas of that year and started reworking the set in early January.

++ And were you involved with bands before? Where does the name of the band came from?

Stuart had played in several bands before, he was by large the most experienced and better player between us. I had briefly passed thru one them, playing bass in a dodgy punk band he was in.We didn’t really get on with another, for quite a while.
Initially the band was called ‘Shadowplay’- we’d been offered our first gig and had to come up with a name in an afternoon,so that the posters could be printed. Neither of us liked it,but stuck with it for the following gigs,not wanting to lose momentum. We used becoming a 3 piece as an excuse to change name. The name is totally meaningless, we just threw ideas about,riffed on words,associations etc and that’s what came out at the end.
I think if you use ‘Echo and the Bunnymen’ as a yardstick of silly names, then you can get away with just about anything, it you have enough front!
Funniest thing about it another local band, who we used to rehearse and gig with, immediately changed their name to ‘That Purple Bus’ in reference to us.

Oh, local papers announcement, when we split; ‘This Scarlet Train Have Crashed!!’

++ How did you end up signing to Night shift Records? What was the deal? How many copies were pressed?

Night shift were a local label,run by Brain Guthrie who managed Lowlife. To be honest, I’d never heard of either, till we spoke. We knew the Two Helens,who had released their album on Sharko 2 records, a subsidiary company, however I didn’t make any connection. I honestly don’t know how they heard us, it’s possible Brian was at our first gig, he did hear our first demo somehow and got in touch.We weren’t signed up in terms of having a written contract, I don’t think many bands of that level were. This had its advantages and disadvantages

The Cartel were an independent distribution company set up to give small labels a chance to compete with the majors in getting records in the shops. Fast Forward was the Scottish branch of it, based in Edinburgh.
The common deal for bands was this; The Cartel /FF would get their bills in every quarter. The band would pay for the recording expenses. The cost of manufacturing the record and sleeve were put on The Cartels ‘tab’. Once released, the band would have a 3 month period to try to sell as many records as possible, in an attempt to settle the bills when they arrived. If they succeeded-fine the process could start again. If they didn’t, then the band were in debt. I think there may have been a 1000 copies printed, but can’t remember for sure.
The whole system was open to abuse from all sides and the Cartel eventually went bankrupt. .

++ How do you remember the recording sessions at Planet Studios in Edinburgh? Any fun anecdotes you could share?

Well if anyone wants to hear Fimbria, click here

The original Picture Frame/Still Rain demos were done in Glasgow at Centre City Sounds studio. It was pretty small, inexpensive,but well enough equipped. the producer/engineer really liked our music and went the extra yard to get it sounding good. We were really pleased with it.
When the chance came to record an album,we had already settled on returning there. However the label insisted that we use Planet Studios in Edinburgh and hire (label mates) Lowlife producer Keith Mitchel work on it with us. Planet studios was bigger,better equipped and more expensive,which meant less time to complete it, We were assured that it would sound better and be more productive with him producing
It wasn’t, I remember the whole experience as being rushed, claustrophobic, unsatisfying and pretty boring. Lowlifes drummer invited himself to the studios. I am a firm believer that the interaction of personalities and the environment has a profound effect on creativity. The band worked fine together, but this didn’t.
Each night after recording Stuart and I would discuss the sessions,neither of us happy, trying to sort out problems and how to get our points across to the producer. Midway through the sessions we decided that we would be better using the tracks on the original demo, which we owned the master tape of. It would save time and they sounded a lot better than the re-recorded versions. We were told bluntly that it wasn’t going happen, it was technically impossible and then basically mocked a bit for even suggesting it. We were so taken aback,by his attitude that we didn’t pursue it…. But I could feel my eyes narrowing…
I kept on finding excuses to leave the studio, finding it claustrophobic and frustrating. Ended up looking in record shops, charity places, just wandering about, anything to avoid being in there. I’d get back in, have a look and listen, then just wanted to leave again.
I kept on thinking/hoping that maybe everything would come good at the mixing stage, but the final listening session had a pretty muted response.
When I did receive the finished record, I played it once, thought ‘Meh’ , filed it and don’t think I’ve made it all the way through it since. I didn’t actually own a copy for years. Wasn’t until my dad passed away and I was helping my mum move that I stumbled upon a batch.
I honestly think that if we had forced the issue, went to our preferred studio/producer and shut off everyone not connected with the process, we would have made a far superior, better produced, full length album. Regardless of what happened after that, at least we would have ended up with something that we were happy with.
So to answer your question; No I don’t have much in the way of amusing anecdotes, I’m afraid!

++ I’m wondering a bit about Falkirk. How was the scene back then? Where would you usually hang out? Were there any other good bands in town that you enjoyed?

My favourite band at that time was fronted by Jim Corbett, who I later went on to form Wat Mag with. They had a seemingly constant changes of lineup and name changes, including Inferiority Complex,Complex, the Invisible Sheep, That Purple Bus and others I’ve forgotten. We practiced and gigged with them a few times. It’s a pity nothing of theirs was ever recorded.
The Two Helens were quite big in the area, played Nuggets/garage rock, originals and a few covers,… Action women, Going All The Way, Silver Machine among others…. We also gigged with them in Falkirk and Edinburgh..They had released an album the year previous to us, which didn’t really capture the band at its best. There was also a 7″ single and then they split.Their singer/guitarist went on form a rockabilly band, who, IIRC supported us at least once.
I don’t remember there really being a scene as such. There was a bar that put on mid week gigs and a few other places for bands to play. There wasn’t any kind of focal point. I’m quite a boring person who prefers spending quiet time with friends than noisy, drunken nights out. There is a (out of date and rather tenuous,but detailed) website, documenting the Falkirk Music scene here, which will tell you more than I know or remember

++ What about gigs? Did you play live often? Any favourite gigs?

We were never a great live band. The material didn’t really translate to the stage that well. The early gigs using the drum machine were particularly awkward. Once we had a real drummer and I got a fuzz pedal the whole sound became more powerful and dynamic. Still not brilliant. Stuart was pretty much tied to the spot, doing the bass and vocals. He only started the singing out of necessity and even quite far on in the bands life, we were still on the lookout for a proper vocalist/front man. I never felt comfortable on stage, very much against my nature to be there and most gigs I was in a state of suspended terror. I think we did about 3 gigs using the drum machine and about 10-12 as a full band. Mainly in Falkirk and Edinburgh…Some were better than others, but nothing particularly stands out as a favourite

++ During those late 80s there were many great bands, guitar pop bands. Did you feel part of any sort of scene? Were you fans of any bands during that period?

I think we were kind of out of step with everybody. My musical tastes are pretty wide ranging and more often than not, I don’t play much attention to contemporary stuff
but some records/bands I dug during that period include- Throwing Muses debut, Pixies- Come on Pilgrim/ Surfer Rosa,… AR Kane,… Always liked the “Brix” era Fall records, esp “This Nation’s Saving Grace”,… Drag Racing E.P. by Big Stick,… Sonic Youth…,Salem 66…Birthday-the Sugar-cubes,.. Spacemen 3,..Big Black,…M.B.V, …Living All Over/ Bug- Dinosaur Jr…, Hook N Pull Gang,…UT …Blood Uncles…early Happy Mondays….I daresay there’s of loads others that I can’t recall at the mo…,

++ Was there any interest by other labels? Why didn’t you release more records?

We posted the first demo away to a few labels, but it was only a token effort. We were just so busy concentrating on getting ourselves together to even think about that side of things. The album was pretty much ignored, when it was released and I, for one, had no intention to moving to London, which at the time was pretty requisite’ I didn’t really think of Night Shift as a proper record company as such, it was one guy-Brian Guthrie- was acted almost as an agent between the band and the Cartel. I have a feeling that there were many other labels
who were pretty much the same.It is easy to appear to be bigger than you really are’
We were getting pushed into releasing a follow up record ;a 7 inch single,We went as far as recording 2 songs as a double B side (Here). However the band was ending it’s natural life span and there was no point in being further indebted to the label . The Two Helen’s had released a follow up 7* and had split quite soon afterwards, leaving it un-promoted. I don’t know if or how they resolved the financial debts with Night Shift but I was glad we split up before we were in a similar situation.

++ What about the music press, or the fanzines, how was your relationship with them?

Oh, there was a local fanzine n the go at the time, gave us a couple of fair lives reviews. Melody Maker (ling defunct UK national music paper) reviewed Fimbria and gave us a small bottom of the page feature/interview. Both were by Ian Gittins and probably done as a favour to Night Shift. I Think he was a fan of label mates Lowlife. Considering we had barely been going for a year when we made the record, it was pretty well going.

++ When and why did you split? What did you guys do after? Are you all still in touch?

Well, the album didn’t sell enough in the quarterly period to pay for its manufacture, so we were in debt to the Cartel via Night shift. We knew this was the chance we took before agreeing to doing it. What we weren’t prepared for, was to be so disappointed with the end result. There was a growing suspicion, that the reason we were pushed into using Night Shifts preferred studio/producer setup, was more for their benefit rather than the bands. Never the less, we had regular meetings with Guthrie, literally handing over bundles of pound notes to him. My memory starts to get a bit hazy after this,….We basically gigged quite a bit on the following months. After an unfortunate incident at a Edinburgh gig, we parted company with Stephen the drummer. We couldn’t get a new one. An old friend of ours offered to stand in, but he was unreliable. More often than not,we’d book and pay for a rehearsal hall only for him not to turn up. We started to stall and never really recovered. Night Shift were urging us to record a follow up 7″ single. I assume we were initially agreeable as we went to a cheap studio and recorded a couple of drummer- less tracks, that we worked on, at the drummer- less rehearsals. These were intended as a double B side. The fact I remember nothing about recording these, says a lot. If we had went ahead with the single, we would have had to raise the recording money and it would have put us more in debt. I don’t recall much zest for the idea.

Anyway to cut a long story short; The whole thing dragged for months on end. Nothing that was good or enjoyable about the band existed any more. Our lives were basically put on hold because of it, I still was staying with my folks and just couldn’t afford to leave, Our money was going on paying for a record we didn’t like and more would be going to pay for another we had little enthusiasm for. We needed a break from each other, it just wasn’t fun. We also just grew away the style and sound of the music we made.
I’m not good at ending things or breaking up, I tend just to let bad situations get worse as they drag on or try to come up with some pathetic ‘magic’ fix to sort them…probably down to insecurity or basic cowardliness.
Luckily Stuart is made of sterner stuff and pulled the plug on it. Think about Sept ’88.
After the band split,I felt a bit lost, like there was something missing. then I realised that the ‘hole’ was actually all the bands problems, which I had been wasting my energy on, trying to resolve..and they no longer existed..Such a feeling of relief! Fairly quickly, I left home,was in a relationship and was working. Sometimes after a bad situation ends,it’s good to have a nice,stable routine to help you recover. I sold my band equipment and was quite happy strumming Neil Young songs and stuff on an acoustic and occasionally recording a friend country blues renditions on my 4 track.Had I not later hooked up with Jim for Wat Mag, I might not have returned to making music at all.
Stuart wet to form and join various bands. We were drifting apart in This Scarlet Train and after splitting, lost complete contact for a couple of years. Eventually we did hook up socially for a while .Neither of us mentioned the band, maybe a bit embarrassed to have spent so much effort,into something that had no relevance any more.

++ Looking back in time what would you say was the highlight of the band?

The first six months were pretty amazing. the whole thing just seem to come together out of the blue. We were experimenting with different ways how the guitar and bass work together, loads of material came in short time. The first gig was 2nd billing at a local festival.Our third was packed with people and we made enough money to book a studio. We were very pleased with the recording and the demo indirectly led to us recruiting a drummer and a chance to record the Album. It all probably gave us a false sense of security that everything we did would turn out good.

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

My first love was art, drawing mainly, which I had started before I even went to school. I had a crisis of confidence later on at high school, which stopped me trying to pursue it as some sort of career. Think as the band took over more and more of my time , I kinda drifted away from it and eventually gave up. After the sound installations I was involved in I just ended any more music making activities and drifted back into art.. Spent a couple of years doing art classes at local College, getting my ‘chops’ back. Then i set up a home studio, decided to paint.I take it at a quite leisurely pace, more interested in technique, than expressing myself or some idea. I feel much more at home doing this compared with music and wish I had went back to it a lot sooner .
I made a series of sorta short films/video art (sic) as an experiment in combining the art with ( mainly improvised) experimental music. I uploaded them recently on You tube. Anyone interested click HERE

++ Something that many people always ask themselves is how come Scotland produces so many great bands. Do you have any clue why this is?

No idea, I think maybe that there’s lots of small things combined in a certain way,that will never really be unravelled…..Possibly the weather plays a role. For the most part it’s cold and wet, people are indoors and if you’re bored and have a creative bent, then somethings gonna come out. Think the weather has some effect on the nations psychology as well….. There’s always been a rich tradition of folk music as well and ,although as a genre it’s pretty marginalised,, maybe the need to make music somehow runs through our DNA…. There was also a big maritime history, so a lot of outside ideas being assimilated, whether it’ was American rock’n’roll records in the 50’s or immigrants and travellers bringing in new ideas that are absorbed,…. Maybe it’s partly down to the need of expressing our individuality.
However a lot of these things could also apply to Ireland and indeed there are a lot of similarities and shared bloodlines between the two nations, however they haven’t produced the same amount of bands (or indeed inventions) as the Scots. So….as I said; I don’t really know.

++ One last question, because I actually like Scotland very much and always had a great time there, I’m wondering what’s your favourite Scottish dish (is there any Falkirk speciality?) and favourite Scottish beer? I should try next time I’m there of course.

I’m afraid I’m not too interested in food and drink myself. There were long traditions of both brewing and Whiskey distilling in Falkirk, both long gone. I heard talk of opening some sort of micro-distillery/ brewers in the old RoseBank distillery, but it’s been in discussion for a few years now’
I guess Scotland has a reputation for deep frying everything from confectionery to pizzas. there may or may not be in an element of truth in it. You’re more than likely to come across Indian,Chinese, Italian,French restaurants as much as anything more home grown.

++ Well, thanks again, anything else you’d like to add?

Just thanks for the interest and be sure pass thanks to the NYC DJs who’ve been playing it. When something gets released into the public domain, it takes a life of its own and it’s creator(s), have no say on where it goes, who hears it or how they’ll perceive or respond to it. I had pretty much forgotten about the record a long time ago. Every few years I’d give it a google, see where its journeyed to.
Nowadays it’s easy to click a (virtual) button and have a (virtual)piece of music delivered to the (increasingly virtual) memory of a handheld gadget-. not necessarily a bad thing- However a vinyl record is a relatively awkward, fragile object to move about,;It needs care and the fact that, decades later, the record has ended up in the clubs of NYC is quite a far out journey


This Scarlet Train – Picture Frame


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.
Robert Randall
December 2002


The Passengers – The Frances Farmer Song


Almost two weeks without updates! Have I lost many readers? I hope not. As you know two weekends ago we had NYC Popfest though it feels it was yesterday. Especially as the gigs haven’t stopped since then. Even this week we have the Chickfactor 21 festival that I thought I was going in first place but now after the announcement that The Pastels are not coming I might just go to a night or two. In any case I won’t be missing the return of Atlanta’s Gold-Bears in NYC this Friday at Cake Shop and then on Saturday at Spike Hill along the always classic Jazz Butcher.

So that. Pretty busy. Also having hosted four great friends during these weeks. First Alex and Christina who did all the touristy things NYC offers. And then Andreas and Carl, the Alpaca Sports guys, who came, played, and conquered. And filmed a video for their next single.

This past week we also had the release party for the new Cloudberry release, the Secret History album. It was a great night were many friends showed up and supported my favourite NYC band at the moment. For those who suffer of nostalgia the band played two songs from their previous incarnation, My Favorite. Two of their best songs of their past repertoire, “Absolute Beginners Again” and “The Informers”. It was a blast. I’m very happy with the result of the album!

Sure, NYC Popfest deserves a true review, date by date, and I think I might be able to do that in the following weeks. There are so many stories I want to share and also so many fantastic bands I saw. I met old friends, made new friends, among them a very critical ‘enemy ‘. Of course this has made me very happy.  I don’t have any doubts that this has been the best NYC Popfest edition.

By now all friends that were here for Popfest have left. It’s again all the same NYC folks who I will see. I like the international flavour that people bring from abroad. They bring a different sort of energy. They come in festival mood. Whereas I’m working the first couple of days of the festival. Then grab a fast bite and run to catch the subway to the venues. There it was beer after beer. Cheering. Buying lots at the merch table. Ah! Reminiscing about these past days only makes me want to speed up the days and hope it’s Indietracks already.

A couple of things before I move onto the obscure band of the week. And I know. I owe you two obscure bands for the past two weeks, don’t worry, there will be some interviews coming up to cover for that. The first thing, is a big thanks to Maz for organizing such an epic festival and booking a fabulous lineup. I know there were trouble at some point with the organization, namely Public Assembly, but everything worked out smoothly in the end and there was never a boring moment. And secondly, why did The Knitting Factory had PBRs at the back room (where the bands played) for $4 and on the front room for $2? A lot of people didn’t notice and were ripped off. Not cool.

Other great things that have happened during these weeks are the Peru victory against Ecuador last Friday (which I missed the live broadcast due to having a dinner date in K-town), the birthday gift Alpaca Sports gave me (a framed original poster of the first Starke Adolf club night in Goteborg) and finally buying an AC unit for home. So yes, now people can visit me in summer. Now, if only Peru can beat Colombia tomorrow Tuesday, we will be terribly close to the next world cup. A world cup I plan to go as me and my friend Daniel are already thinking of arriving there on the 13th or the 14th of June to enjoy at least some games during the first week of the competition!

But let’s move to what everyone is interested in, the Sugar Glyders!


Of course everyone is familiar with the Sugargliders from Australia. A classic band that recorded for Sarah. But years before their time there was a UK band called Sugar Glyders who released the one and only 7″ on Lost Moment Records (LM012). Two songs, “Revenge” and “Free Your Heart”. Released in 1984. A black and white illustration. The name of the band in red. It looks like a detective opening the door of a dark room. Who were the mysterious people behind this release?

I first heard about their existence through Uwe. He told me they sounded like The Tempest. The band was to be included in the next Leamington Spa release. How did he find about them? That’s the question. After some time I finally procured a copy through Musicstack. Not too cheap but not too pricey. Something around 20 bucks. And it’s worth it for the B side. “Free Your Heart” is such a beautiful song!

I did listen to the songs before buying it. And that was thanks to Bruce from the blog My Life’s a Jigsaw who kindly emailed me the MP3s he ripped from his own vinyl copy. After listening to them I bought it.

The band was based in Hemel Hampstead. A place I’m not familiar with at all.

Hemel Hempstead is a town in Hertfordshire in the East of England, 24 miles (38.6 km) to the north west of London and part of the Greater London Urban Area. The population at the 2001 Census was 81,143 (but now estimated at around 89,000 by Hertfordshire County Council).
Developed after World War II as a new town, it has existed as a settlement since the 8th century and was granted its town charter by King Henry VIII in 1539. It is part of the district (and borough since 1984) of Dacorum and the Hemel Hempstead constituency.The settlement was called by the name Henamsted or Hean-Hempsted, i.e. High Hempstead, in Anglo-Saxon times and in William the Conqueror’s time by the name of Hemel-Amstede.[1] The name is referred to in the Domesday Book as “Hamelamesede”, but in later centuries it became Hamelhamsted. In Old English, “-stead” or “-stede” simply meant a place, such as the site of a building or pasture, as in clearing in the woods, and this suffix is used in the names of other English places such as Hamstead[disambiguation needed] and Berkhamsted.
The town is now known to residents as “Hemel” however before The Second World War locals called it “Hempstead”.
The town has given its name to the town of Hempstead, New York. Immigrants from Hemel Hempstead migrated to the area which is now Hempstead, New York, including the surrounding areas such as Roosevelt, in the late 17th century.

The band was a trio and they were:
Martin Brown on vocals and keyboard, Paul Thomson on bass and vocals, and Keith Chapman on drums.

From the same blog I learned that Martin and Keith used to be in a live band called Spoils before being in Sugar Glyders.

The only other Sugar Glyders appearance as a band was on the compilation LP “Colours of the Bastard Art!”. This was released on the same label, Lost Moment (LMLP005). The song they included was Jericho. I haven’t listened to this song yet sadly. The only other band I know included in this compilation is Jesus Couldn’t Drum (who would later become The Chrysanthemums).

From the back cover of the record we know that “Revenge” was solely written by Martin Brown and “Free Your Heart” was a joint work by Thomson and Brown. The record was engineered by Bob Morledge at Bob’s Studio in Watford. The cover was done by Bingchap (Uncle Bert).

There’s no much information about the Sugar Glyders online. However Martin Brown has a website. Seems he is still going strong with music and recording new material.

Did they only recorded these 3 songs? Why didn’t they record more records? Whatever happened to the Sugar Glyders after splitting up? Did anyone out there see them playing any gigs? What do you remember about them?


Sugar Glyders – Free Your Heart