21
Jul

Thanks so much to Russ Hunt and Nick Raybould for this brilliant interview! The Libertines were a Birmingham band in the mid/late 80s and released just one record, the “Smith is a Liar 12” and actually you can still get copies of it through Russ’ record store White Rabbit Records. I wrote a blog post about them some months ago trying to find out any information about this obscure band and I was lucky that both Russ and Nick got in touch! Even better they are also still in touch with each other and answered my questions together. Aside from the record they recorded more songs, some which I’ve heard, and I must tell you, it was really a shame they didn’t get to put out another record! Hope you enjoy the interview!

++ Hi Russ and Nick! Thanks a lot for being up for this interview. I hear Russ now runs a record store in Shrewsbury, care telling me a bit more about that? How long have you had the store? What’s the name? And what sort of music do you carry?

Nick: I’ll leave Russ to answer this one – but will add that I am an occasional patron, having bagged a few goodies on CD and vinyl. He’s also carrying the last release I did with my band Glowpeople.

Russ: The shop is called White Rabbit Records (http://whiterabbitrecords.co.uk) and is in the Market Hall in Shrewsbury. We stock mainly 2nd hand/used records and some CD’s with a very few new items, mainly by people I know and who want an outlet for their stuff. To be honest I stock anything that sells…you learn very quickly you’re running a business not building a record collection.

I’ve had the shop just over 18 months now. I was made redundant from a job I’d been in for 17 years and honestly couldn’t see myself going back into the regular world of work, the very thought of being interviewed by some hot shot graduate straight offof the HR course made me feel ill. I’ve spent years of my life in record shops all over the world and when the opportunity came up to buy this one (the owner was retiring) my wonderful wife Deb said “well if you don’t do it now, you never will”.

++ And what about you Nick? What are you up to these days?

Nick: I’m a graphic designer, in real life. In fact, that’s what I was doing back in my Libertines days. Sometimes I’d get in at 3am, from a long distance gig in say Newcastle – only to have to be in work for 9am, at the design studio!! Boy, I really don’t think i could do that kinda thing these days!!

++ When was the last time you picked up your instruments? Do you have any music projects at the moment?

Russ: I still play, very infrequently, in fact I’ve just put my guitar down as I’m trying to figure out some new songs for a gig myself and Sally, a good friend who sings with me, have coming up. We’re an acoustic duo doing other people’s songs for fun, all sorts of stuff from Chuck Berry thru Depeche Mode to The Decemberists.

Nick: Well, as mentioned in my previous answer, I am drumming once again. But, shortly after The Libertines disbanded I moved down to London and gave the drumming a bit of a rest. This haitus in fact lasted FOURTEEN years! It was on moving out to the more rural area of Shropshire that I began drumming once again. Various local bands came and went, until I formed Glowpeople. we were together for something like six years. We soon found ourselves playing the small festival scene in the UK, in which time we also released three albums on CD and, following our final appearance at Kozfest, last Summer released the live recording as a final sign off.

Since then I have been gigging and recording with a variety of UK psychedelic bands. Nothing like the larger capacity venues The Libertines played whilst touring with The Wonder Stuff, but hope springs eternal, eh? Glowpeople were usually somewhere down the bill, but we played with Gong, Jesus Jones, Hawkwind, Big Country, The Crazy World Of Arthur Brown, Here & Now and a bunch of newer bands like Mugstar and Vibravoid.

I’m now playing with bands on the same kinda circuit again. Some of it is recording only – I’ve played with up and coming space rockers vert:x, with whom we appeared on lovely bright splattery orange vinyl for Dronerock Records. I’m also recording improvised music with the old keys player of Glowpeople and a variety of guest collaborators. I even had a jam in NYC with a fellow head, back in the Autumn! There’s talk of a session I recently did with Peyote Guru being released. I’m just not sure who’s actually putting that out, as I type!

My main current band are called Black Light Secret and this Summer we’re playing festivals like Surplus Fest and Green Gathering – and will be doing indoor gigs in Nottingham and Glastonbury among others.

++ Let’s go back in time then, what would you say are your earliest music memories? Like what sort of music did you listen at home while growing up? When and what was your first instrument?

Russ: Earliest musical memories would have been hearing The Move on the radio and then watching stuff on Top Of the Pops (a weekly UK TV pop show) and being captivated by the likes of Slade, T.Rex and eventually Wizzard among whose members was my Uncle Bill (he was the piano player and had been in the The Move during its final days and the early days of ELO).

My parents were big fans of Jazz and Swing music so in the house we heard everything from Charlie Parker, Miles Davis and John Coltrane to the big bands of Duke Ellington and Count Basie plus the great singers like Sinatra and Streisand. They, of course, were fans of The Beatles and Dylan and Dad would venture into things such as Steve Wonder and Bob Marley.

I was obsessed with Slade until hearing “God Save The Queen” by the Sex Pistols at which point, much the same as for many others at that time, everything changed. After that it was Punk Rock…the whole Punk Rock and nothing but Punk Rock. My Dad being a musician (he played drums in bands that toured US Army bases in Europe during the 50’s and 60’s) and seeing my brother and I inspired/obsessed by Punk our parents bought me a guitar and a small amplifier at the same Xmas as they bought my brother Miles a snare drum. We would then happily wait until our parents went out before bashing thru raucous versions of TRB’s “Up Against The Wall” and Angelic Upstarts “Police Oppression”…I’m sure the neighbours loved us !

Nick: Well, I was the eldest member of The Libertines, so I’d seen bands like T.REX and Led Zeppelin! My tastes were continually moving, though. And still are! I think when I auditioned for Russ & Co. I was into Magazine, REM, The Damned, PIL, Motorhead, The Cure and such like.

++ Were you involved in any bands before The Libertines? I know Russ was in Pop Da Freak. How were these bands? Any similarities to The Libertines’ sound?

Russ: Following those TRB/Upstarts beginnings we worked our way through loose groupings with mates who had other instruments, memberships constantly changing until we fell into my first band which was called A Moment. Me and Miles found a guy who played bass and saxophone and made our first attempts at writing songs.

The first “real” band I was in was Pop Da Freak. We formed around 1983 and we dressed in leather and frills, wore make up and had vertical haircuts (well most of us did). We made a racket inspired by Joy Division, Magazine, Iggy Pop and the Velvet Underground (or so we thought) and you can hear an example of it here https://soundcloud.com/russh29/pop-da-freak-play-life-for …that’s a song I’m still very proud of having written

Nick: Most of my earliest bands were sort of hard rock things. I then had a flirtation with a Birmingham sub Duran Duran outfit called Camille (1982). There was some decent press in Midlands press and initially some minor record company interest. However, we were a bunch of narcissistic pretty boys who fell out! I wanted to get something together that didn’t slavishly follow trends though – and before long found myself in a kinda alternative postpunk outfit called Anonymous Bosch in 1985.

++ And when and how did The Libertines start as a band? How was the recruiting process? How did you all know each other?

Russ: The initial idea for The Libertines would have been born following the demise of Pop Da Freak around 1986. Details are a little hazy but as I recall I advertised for a guitarist to put something together inspired by Punk and The Clash/Pistols/Jam holy trinity. I hooked up with Mark Bellamy and we started working on some songs. Mark was a HUUUUUUGE Clash fan and also introduced me to the Screaming Blue Messiahs. I in turn would have introduced Mark to early Pop Will Eat Itself and things like The Mighty Lemon Drops and the Wild Flowers so that’s where our heads were at. I’m pretty sure the first song we wrote together was “Train Train”.

I’m guessing we advertised for a drummer and bass player when we had a few songs together and Nick and Paul Clifford were who we found ? (Help me out here Nick)

Nick: I lived in Redditch, a market town in Worcestershire, some twenty miles south of Birmingham, at the time. I was in Birmingham shopping one Saturday afternoon in 1987, where I saw an advert on a noticeboard in Oasis, the big Birmingham alternative fashion market. I was then invited along to audition at the High Society rehearsal studios. And… got the gig!

++ You were based in Birmingham, right? How was it back then? What were the bands in town that you liked? What were your usual hangouts? What were the best venues to check out bands?

Russ: Birmingham and The Midland’s live music scene was thriving in the early 80’s. Venues all over town, The Barrel Organ, The Railway Inn, Peacock’s, The C.O.D Club, The Click Club at Burberries, JB’s in Dudley…lots of places for bands to play.

The bands that I liked back then would be The Great Outdoors, From Eden (members of who went on to The Wonder Stuff and Pop Will Eat Itself), the Mighty Lemon Drops, The Wild Flowers, Korova Milk Bar, April In The Garden…lots of diverse stuff going on.

Nick: There used to be a good alternative club night at The Powerhouse. It was a midweek thing, so I didn’t go very often – but it was full of groovy muzos, all trying to out-pose each other! That venue put on some great bands, too.  Smaller venues about town like The Barrel Organ pub, and Peacocks bar – which was in a city centre hotel (!) and Snobs nightclub were all popular for bands like Russ’s Pop Da Freak and my own Anonymous Bosch.

++ Who would you say influenced your sound?

Nick: We all came to the band with our own set of favourite bands and musicians, but I think, as a band The Wonder Stuff were right up there. As were The Mission, That Petrol Emotion, Balaam & The Angel, Pop Will Eat Itself, The Screaming Blue Messiahs and The Replacements.

Russ: from my point of view undoubtedly The Jam and The Clash would be the main points of influence. But I’d also absorbed all that Glam Rock stuff from the 70’s and I hope there was a Punk Rock edge to it. I’d also been very into the 1979/80 Mod Revival in the UK so wanted to capture some of the energy of bands like Secret Affair and The Chords, great and very underrated bands.

Comtemporary stuff we were listening to and absorbing would have been the Screaming Blue Messiahs, The Rainmakers, Mighty Lemon Drops, That Petrol Emotion, the Icicle Works, REM, early Waterboys (first 3 albums), The Smithereens, Balaam & The Angel…it was a very fertile time for new music.

++ What’s the story behind the name of the band? And what do you feel about the other The Libertines, the ones that became mainstream and all more than a decade ago?

Russ: I recall it was Paul the bass player who came up with the name, that’s about as much as I remember.

As for the other lot…when they first broke I had a lot of people saying you should sue them but obviously we didn’t. I wish I had now as it may have gone toward shutting the annoying twat and his terrible band up ! (never been one to sit on the fence me)

Nick: I think Paul Clifford put the name forward. We all thought it was perfect!

The Carl Barat & Pete Doherty outfit are… hmmm… a bit of an Emperor’s new clothes thing, IMO. I dearly wanted to like them – and loose, lofi music is cool, but these guys are too affected and a bit fake.

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

Nick: Russ and Mark were the main song writers, though I do remember Paul coming along with a few grooves, too. ’Smith Is  A Liar’, as I remember it ,was mostly his.

Russ: Most of the time it was myself and Mark coming up with ideas. We would work on them together at home and usually present the band with pretty much an arranged song which we’d then hone in a rehearsal room.

Paul would contribute too, “Smith Is A Liar” being his big one (BTW Smith was Martyn “Mr” Smith, erstwhile Libertines roadie cos he had a van, which we’ll get to later, and friend of Paul’s. Mr Smith went on to perform the same kind of van driving services for Ned’s Atomic Dustbin and ended up working on the crew with me for The Wonder Stuff and later on Sparklehorse. It’s Mr Smith’s beaming smile on the cover of the record).

We were never really “jammers”.

++ Who were Loose Fish Records? Was it your own label?

Russ: It was us and was, I think, Nick’s idea for a label name.

Nick: One of the many interpretations of the word Libertine is “a loose fish”. We collectively stumped up the cash to get the record made. So sort of named the label after ourselves.

++ You released one record, the “Smith is a Liar” 12″ in 1987. You included 3 songs on it, “Smith is a Liar”, “Christina” and “The Big 1-2”. If you don’t mind, care telling me the story behind these songs?

Russ: “Smith Is A Liar” was inspired by our “roadie” Mr Smith who refused to admit he was in love with a girl but rather was “in like”; “Christina” was one of Mark’s songs and is effectively about his 1st wife who we all knew as Tina; “The Big 1-2” was possibly influenced by The Wonder Stuff’s “No For the 13th Time” I think we liked that drum pattern and wrote a song around it, no idea what the lyric is about; there was a 4th song on the 12” “Boring” which if you listen to the lyric is pretty self explanatory.

Nick: ’Smith Is A Liar’ came out in 1989, didn’t it? Our roadie, a good mate of Paul the bass player denied being in love with some girl he clearly had the hots for by saying he wasn’t in love with her, but “in like” – hence Paul turned up with the title and lyrics for that one – and took Smithy by surprise when he first heard it sung to a capacity audience at London Astoria!

++ You shared with me many more songs, many worth of a single. I wonder then why didn’t you get to release more records? I read that the song “Wolf!” was supposed to be the 2nd single.

Russ: We recorded ‘Wolf’ during the session where we did ’The Big 1 – 2’. It was debated whether we should perhaps include ‘Wolf’ on the Smith EP, but we agreed it would be best to hold something back, for a follow up.

++ You shared with me many more songs, many worth of a single. I wonder then why didn’t you get to release more records? I read that the song “Wolf!” was supposed to be the 2nd single.

Russ: “Wolf!” was due to be on the 12” but we held it back to use as a 2nd release…and then the bloody singer up and left the band to go off on tour with some band signed to a major label, bloody inconsiderate prima donna !!!

++ Where do those other 9 songs come from? Are they from the same recording session for the 12″?

Russ: We did 2 or 3 other sessions and the other songs come from those sessions. I probably have the dates somewhere but they would all have been through 1987/88.

Nick: We did… I think, three recording sessions. The first was just a few weeks after I’d joined. We recorded four songs; ’Train Train’, ‘Catherine Wheel’, ‘Guess Who’s Coming To Tea’ and ‘How Are You?’ That would’ve been late Summer 1987. And, if memory serves the week after the first gig. The next session saw us record ‘Safe As Houses’, ‘Lightening Tree’, ‘Boring’ and Some Kinda Happy. These were all songs from our live set. Nothing was written as we recorded, as we could barely afford to be there, let alone be able to relax and try totally new stuff out. That said, when Miles was with us he got us experimenting with additional guitar parts, backing vocals and overdubbing bits of percussion.

i recently found the reel to reel masters of a couple of sessions in a box in our roofspace!!

++ And what do you remember about the recording session at The Workshop studio for the record? Any anecdotes you could share?

Nick: I seem to remember a replica revolver loaded with a single blank being passed around for a game of Redditch roulette! It didn’t really go down well.

Russ: I have a terrible memory for details like that. The Workshop was quite small, underground (?) or at least it felt like it. Dave Morris the owner (who sadly passed away recently) had a blue Rickenbacker 330 12-string under the sofa in the control room which I was very covetous of, it may have made an appearance on “Smith…”

++ Who made the art for the 12″ by the way?

Russ: Over to Nick…

Nick: That was me. The face is a shot I took of Smithy, our driver and hapless roadie. The title song is based on his phrase.

++ On my previous post about you I was wondering about the runoff etchings, “The Triman Cometh” on the A side, while on the B side it says “If You Can’d Do it Just Triman”. What does Triman means?

Russ: I was struggling to remember this when a friend posted something on Facebook over the weekend that triggered the memory…Mr Smith was our “roadie” because he had access to a van. The van was owned by his employers, Triman Services Ltd, who were in the business of “Design and installation of Mechanical Service systems (Gas, Oil, Water etc.) and F.O.C and F.M approved fire protection systems”. I think Mr Smith’s dad owned the company and the run out messages were our little tribute to Triman Services for use of the van….or something like that…

Nick: Smithy used to borrow a Transit van from a firm his father worked for. the company who specialised in fire assessments of buildings were called Triman and had their logo on the van! That’s it! Just a silly private joke, I’m afraid. Folks soon knew who the Wonder Stuff’s support band would be that night, when they clocked his van parked at the back of the venue!

++ You gigged all over supporting The Wonder Stuff. How was that relationship with them? And what were your favourite moments on those tours and why?

Russ: Whisper it quietly but Wonder Stuff main man Miles Hunt is my younger brother, so the relationship with them was pretty good. They looked after us, as they did all their support acts, and we got to play some big shows thanx to them.

I don’t have many favourite moments as I was so busy on those shows. I was working on the Wonder Stuff’s backline crew so spending all day getting their show ready, then, when I would usually have a few hours of downtime I was into a Libertines set up and soundcheck, doing the gig and then going straight back into Wonder Stuff mode for their show.

Nick: They were all a lovely, generous bunch of guys. Straight up. Their manager Les was a good laugh, too. We travelled separately, turning up after they’d already sound checked, most of the time. Russ, of course was part of their crew for the later gigs, so we often didn’t even see hime tie it was time for us to get our gear onstage.

++ You also played gigs with Jesus Jones in London. What other bands do you remember playing with? And which were your favourite cities to play?

Russ: The Jones’ and us shared the bill a few times on Wonder Stuff shows. I’m still in touch with them all these days and they have just finished a UK tour. I hope I’ll bump into them at the Shiiiine On Festival in November this year. Good bunch of chaps they are.

Other bands we played with included The Parachute Men from Leeds and I remember being utterly blown away when we opened for Mega City 4, they were phenomenal and I’m still friends with their bass player Gerry Bryant.

Favourite cities to play were always up North, Newcastle, Leeds, Sheffield, Glasgow. There’s no pretention up there, people just want a good night out and boy do they know how to do that. They also give a lot back to the band and if you’ve ever been up there in front of a “cool” London audience you appreciate that.

Nick: Jesus Jones were a very exciting indie band who, like Pop Will Eat Itself, brought in emerging technology in the form of live samplers. Sampling wasn’t new at that time but had chiefly been used in the studio only, owing to the value of equipment. We only encountered them when we were both on the support bill for The Wonder Stuff’s Newcastle gig on the ‘Disco King’ tour. I have since shared a bill with them and Russ, in his capacity of guitar tech for the Stuffies, has worked on many a show with them.

++ I read that you preferred going by the name Russ Williams instead of Russ Hunt. Why did you make that decision? And why Williams?

Nick: That’s a question for Russ, really. I think it was to try and deflect Miles Hunt associations, if we got any press. Which we didn’t.

Russ: I was quite a prominent member of The Wonder Stuff’s crew at the time and knew many of the journalists that were active at the time. I chose to use WIlliams on the record so as not to be accused of riding on Miles’ coattails….looking back on it, probably a really stupid idea ! We really should have milked that one for all it was worth (see question below).

And why Williams ? It’s my middle name, Russell WIlliam Hunt…

++ Did you get much attention from the press? Or radio?

Russ: Mainly local Birmingham radio and press. I had no idea John Peel had played our record until Nick mentioned it recently !

Nick: I understand BBC Radio legend John Peel played us twice! There were also indie rock programmes on local BBC stations and Birmingham’s own BRMB commercial station. Very little press for us, sadly. I think our name was mentioned occasionally, when NME or Sounds were reviewing a gig we’d supported at.

++ At that time in the 80s there was an explosion of guitar pop bands. Did you feel part of a scene? Do you mind being defined as a C86 band?

Russ: I think we felt more a part of the Midlands scene, that group of bands like TWS, PWEI, Ned’s Atomic Dustbin and that spread and encompassed others from around the country like Jesus Jones and Mega City 4.

I think the C86 thing was more of a music press created label that made it easy to hang bands on a certain hook. I certainly never though of us as a C86 band.

Nick: I don’t think we felt a part of anything, really. We all had day jobs or in Paul’s case a university course to head home for. The post-gig parties passed me by, at any rate. A lot of opportunities were being squandered.

++ When and why did the band split?

Nick: Again, this is a Russ question. But we’d paid our money and had submitted master tapes and artwork for that 12 inch, when he phoned Mark Bellamy from a call box on some tour with Wolfsbane. He just become a father and was struggling to knit all the elements of his life together. So, the three remaining Libertines, Paul Clifford, mark Bellamy and myself tried to salvage something, just to try and promote this pile of records we found ourselves stuck with. But it wasn’t to be. Paul had to commit to his degree course, so he disappeared soon after. He never did finish that degree of course – as The Wonder Stuff recruited him shortly after.

Russ: I ran off to join the circus…I mean work full time for the Wonder Stuff…although the circus wouldn’t be a bad analogy ! Deb and I had had our son James and I needed regular money to support a family. The Stuffies were offering me a lot of that and I had to commit or miss out.

++ Looking back in time, what would you say was the biggest highlight for The Libertines?

Russ: releasing the record. It’s the one thing I’d always wanted to do, release a record that I was a part of and I did it.

Nick: I was playing in front of big appreciative audiences. that was a very good feeling. I’ve largely blocked out the humping of drums up three flights of stairs to my flat at 3am. My favourite gig was possibly Keele University, in Staffordshire in 1988. Brunel University on the same tour was also a blast – But going onstage at legendary Marquee Club… well, that takes some beating.

++ And if you were to pick a song of yours as your favourite, which one will it be and why?

Nick: There was a lovely downtempo song called ’Some Kinda Happy’. For me, it showed Russ’s voice up for the wonderful range he had. We played it at the Marquee, on Charring Cross Road and the stage was bathed in an eerie blue light… and everything was just perfect.

Russ: Nick will likely slap his forehead and shout “D’OH!” in frustration…but “Wolf!”…it rocks, it rolls, it swings and to this day I’m immensely proud of it.

++ Are you still part of the backline of The Wonder Stuff? How do you enjoy that?

Nick: Russ?

For years after I used to get guest passes to see them at Reading festival or the big London venues, so would catch up with the old times. But that was a previous life.

Russ: I am, in fact we just did 3 shows this past weekend. I do enjoy it but as I get older it gets tougher.

They are a bloody great live band so it’s a pleasure to be around them seeing them do their thing. As an addendum to why the Libertines split I’ve seen at first hand, being around the Wonder Stuff, what it takes to achieve the levels of success they have. It takes a focus and a drive and a sheer bloody minded force of will that I just don’t have, Miles must have inherited that trait in full. I’m not sure I could have done it.

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

Russ: most people would say owning a record shop is a glorified hobby and doesn’t count as a job 😉 I also have 2 dogs (Whippets) who keep me pretty busy the rest of the time. And I do like a pint or several of real ale, fortunately the dogs like visiting the pub too 😉

Nick: I paint. Abstract canvases, mainly – but also more representational life drawing. It’s all online, if you know where to look. Oh blow it, here’s a link: Abstracts: https://www.flickr.com/photos/kidcalamity/albums/72157625756609731

Life Drawing: https://www.flickr.com/photos/kidcalamity/albums/72157625734263647

++ Nick, are you still in Birmingham or did you also move? Do you go back often Russ? Has Birmingham changed much since those days?

Nick: I never actually lived in Birmingham. I was in Redditch, a town some twenty miles south. I’ve since lived in Wolverhampton and London, before moving back up to the Midlands.

The Birmingham of the late 80s has all but disappeared. I was standing on the canal bridge we posed for photos on, a few months ago. In those days is was surrounded by deserted and dilapidated warehouses. These days it’s in the heart of Brindley Place, a thriving area of bistro bars, restaurants, the huge Barclaycard Arena, the Symphony Hall and Ikon Gallery. A revived and buzzing area!

My wife and I moved out to Shropshire, near the Welsh border in about 1995, after a long spell in north London. We were both employed by a design agency out here and have since set up our own

Russ: Nick’s out here in Shropshire. My wife and I moved to Telford in Shropshire 12 years ago expressly to get out of Birmingham. It’s 12 miles from Shrewsbury, a “new town” from the 1960’s but 5 minutes drive and you’re in the beautiful Shropshire countryside. I go back to Birmingham as little as possible, very occasionally to see my mother-in-law who still lives there. I was in the city in December with the Wonder Stuff and it’s changed so much it doesn’t feel like my hometown any more. I think I’m done with the big city, my ambitions are focussed on the Shropshire Hills and maybe, eventually the coast.

++ Tell me a bit about Shrewsbury then, never been there, what are the traditional things to see, eat or do?

Nick: Shrewsbury is very nice. It’s relatively unspoilt my modern development and even has cobbled pavements in the more quaint town centre! A couple of really on the ball promoters are currently trying to establish a little alternative scene, attracting psych bands to play a new theatre venue. But, as ever rubbish tribute bands seem to attract the larger audiences so get the gigs over the more creative bands.

Russ is out in Telford a more modern ‘new town’. I rarely venture over that way, except to rehearse and record with my own projects.

Strangely, we’ve not actually been tempted to arrange a reunion. Hmmm…

Russ: Shrewsbury is a beautiful old Medieval market town contained in a loop in the River Severn in Shropshire for which it is the county town. It has a castle, remains of Medieval town walls, fabulous independent retailers, a lively live music scene and a great theatre.

Shropshire is a large county in the west of England that butts up against the Welsh border, a mainly rural county with some of the most beautiful scenery you’ll encounter. But SHHHHHHHH, you can come visit but we don’t want the whole place overrun with tourists :-0

There’s an old saying back in Birmingham that “relocating to Shropshire is the end of all ambition” and I would guess Nick would agree with me when I say I have no real want to leave the ‘shire just yet 😉

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Listen
The Libertines – Wolf!

17
Jul

New week and now my 2nd week at my new job. I keep readjusting, and it is clear I need to learn some new things. To start, I need to learn how to do D3. I’ve never really got into it, I kept creating visuals and interactives without it, but now I see I must learn it. Need to be on the same page with my peers. When I started at my previous job I had to learn some Underscore just when I started and a charting library called Amcharts. I think I was really scared then, my background was never of a programmer, it was of a designer. But I manage to learn enough to get away with it and had a fine time, even winning some awards. Now I feel I’m at a similar crossroads, today confronting a new library and having to deal with that uncomfortable thing that is the Terminal. I hope I manage, I hope I like it. It is going to be interesting the next few months. To start I’ve bought some books, see if I can be disciplined enough again, at 33, to learn new things and not just be comfortable and lazy.

The good thing is that I’m working at my own pace while the department is being built. I’m the first hire. That gives me some time to work on my own stuff, meaning Cloudberry mostly. I’m writing these lines on a Sunday night while I wait for the footie highlights show, but I’m pretty sure much of this post will be written tomorrow, on Monday. This weekend was mostly about house chores, but I put together a new offer on the Cloudberry website that might interesting for many of you. As part of the 10th anniversary I’ve been trying to get some more affordable prices for you all. I do lose a bit of money on it, but I want to find a good home for these records and at the same time make some space at my place (which will start looking like a hoarder’s apartment!) for the new releases. This time around it is a Sweden only pack. That means there are 5 records by 5 bands from Sweden available to you all just for a month, until August 15th. This pack’s price is $25 for US orders and $50 for international orders. Both prices include shipping and handling. The pack includes the Fibi Frap CD, Hari and Aino, Bonne Idée, A Smile and a Ribbon and Youngfuck 7″s. Hope you take advantage of it!

What is new in the indiepop world now? Not sure if I’ve done well my homework this week but I did write down some cool stuff.

Let’s start by what most people are aware now, what most people raved about. That is that Alvvays have released the video for the brilliant “Undertow“, the song that is the first single of their “Antisocialites” album out on September 8th. I’ve already recommended this song when it was just an audio-only video on Youtube. Now there’s a video and it is very cool too. When I think of Alvvays I have to go back many years, when RJ from Lost Tapes came to New York telling me he had a crush, that there was this amazing band he had just seen. There was no online presence of them online. There was just some live video on Youtube. That was it. Months after the band was signing with a sort of big indie label and becoming darlings of the hipster-crowd. They were destined to this probably. I still haven’t seen them live, and I will try to fix that later this year, if their NYC shows don’t sell out.

Another band I’ve recommended on the blog is Houston’s Astragal. I checked them out after they appeared on the CD16 album that Impermeable Records put out. Now I noticed on their Bandcamp that they have 3 songs on a split tape on Miss Champagne Records. The band they share the split is also from Houston and are called Donna Heyward. I listened to them but it wasn’t my stuff. I’ll stick to Astragal’s side, and even though I’m not into tapes I (and you) can stream their 3 songs on Bandcamp. “Brightfellow”, “Miles” and “Crescent” are pretty dreampoppish jangly pieces. I especially like the last song the best, “Crescent”.

Ali, Chris and Brian from Richmond, Virginia, are Big Baby. I notice on their Facebook page that I already have friends following them. Well, I only just discovered them on Bandcamp. They sound classic, like they would fit in the Pop American Style compilation, no problem. They have a new tape coming out soon (oh dear, what’s with this tape fad? bring back CDRs! It is a pain for me to play tapes!), I suppose self-released. At the moment you can stream on Bandcamp all the songs that will be included in this EP titled “Sour Patch” which are 5: “Not That”, “Lemons”, Everybody”, “Rubber Tree” and “Often”. Again for some reason, I like their last song, “Often”, the best.

Months ago, or was it longer than that?, I was championing the return of Galaxy Train Records from Japan. Their latest offering is a 3 song tape (okay, I’m going to go out to protest on the streets!) by Japanese band Smokebees. The “Sunstroke EP” is a sweet lo-fi bedroom recording. The songs are “Begin Again”, “Lights of Home” (this one being my favourite) and a cover of Gavin Bryars’ (I don’t know who he is) “Jesus Blood Has Never Failed Me Yet”. You can stream it at the label’s Bandcamp.

One record that kind of slipped from my was the pretty pretty 5-song EP CD by Cattle on Jigsaw Records. I’m only listening to it now on the Seattle’s label Bandcamp and I’m kind of annoyed with myself for not having heard it before. Cattle is a Tokyo band who released their first EP also with Jigsaw some years ago. That means, I need to catch up, TWICE. On this new offering there’s even a cover of Ride’s “Twisterella”. What else could you ask? You get here honey sweet vocals, poppy melodies and electric guitars. This EP is titled “Slow Sailor” and even has a very cute illustration of a sailor on the artwork. “Sherbet”, “Dear Heart” (my favourite one), “Twisterella”, “Within Your Reach” and “Slow Sailor” are the tracks on this very good second release.

There’s even more new music on Bandcamp worth mentioning. Remember a long time ago I wrote and then interviewed a C86 sounding short-lived band from New Zealand called The Perfect Garden? Now they’ve set up a Bandcamp though at the moment there are only previews, short snippets, of their songs. In any case this is not to be missed by any indiepop lover, especially when the full songs are available as these are quality songs, and you’ll be wondering why the hell they were never properly released.

A few days ago I got a message from Phil Wilson. No, not the June Brides’ Phil Wilson, but Phil from The Raft, a band from Neston in the UK. So I duly checked his Bandcamp where his latest EP is available for streaming. Titled “Coming Up For Air“, the EP has four guitar-driven songs, “Glad I Don’t Know”, “Coming Up for Air”, “Anarchy on Our Guitars” and “Regrets”. It is a dreamy EP, with lovely guitar work, especially on the first song, “Glad I Don’t Know”, which is my favourite. Surprised I never heard about The Raft, they seem to have releases dating all the way back to 2003. I think I will have to explore their digital discography then.

And lastly, come on, this week has had a lot of recommendations, is Peru’s Almirante Ackbar who are releasing their first album on Faro Discos. You can order the CD album (which I already did) and stream it on their Bandcamp. Titled “Sonidos Ultrasónicos y Audibles Para Callar al Perro del Vecino”, which roughly translates as ultrasonic and audible sounds to shut up your neighbor’s dog, has 13 fun songs. A few weeks back I recommended their new videos for the songs “Alquimia Espiritual” and “Fiebre de la Amplitud”. Now they release an album. It seems the Lima guys are working hard, and that can only be a good thing. The album is thoroughly enjoyable!

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Remember last week? I was writing about The Friendly Fires, a Crawley band, and mentioned that I should actually dedicate a post to another Crawley band: Bobby Scarlet. I though why not do it this week? Why wait? I already owned their 7″ and was missing their 12″, so I also ordered it today. Let’s see what there’s to find about them on the web.

As it is becoming usual my first stop is Discogs. There I find just one line on the bio field: “1980s indie rock band from Crawley, West Sussex, England. The core of the band became Spitfire.” It also lists one member, Chris Window.

I actually discovered this band through the 1991 compilation “La-Di-Da… So Far…”  (La-Di-Da 018). On it the band appeared contributing the song “White Pearl” and I was immediately hooked!

I then decided to check out their back catalogue. I think I didn’t buy their 12″ because of expensive postage prices but I did get their first release, their “Mosquito” 7″.

This record was released on the same label, Deadbug Records, I was talking about last week when I wrote about The Friendly Fires. I feel, I’m guessing too, that there was a healthy scene in Crawley, were all the bands helped each other and even shared members. “Mosquito”, with “Peach” on the B side, came out in 1986 and got the Deadbug 003 catalog number. On the cover we see a black and white photo of a kid, probably at the beach, might it be one of the band members? On the back cover there’s a smaller photo of some sand castles. First thing I start wondering is why the name Bobby Scarlet? Was there a real Bobby Scarlet? On the back I notice that the band thanks Brian and The F.Fs. Pretty sure that The F.Fs are The Friendly Fires. Brian? Could it be Brian Hope, the vocalist and keyboardist of The Friendly Fires? The last bit of information comes from the labels. Two last names appear, Pritcher and Smith.

Their next and last release was to be out in 1988. It was the “White Pearl” 12″ on La-Di-Da Records out of Brighton. This is a label I’ve mentioned so many times as they released a bunch of fantastic records. I’ve been in touch with Grant Lyons who ran it, but sadly never got to get his interview answers. In any case many times he has been helpful giving me some information about many bands on the blog. This 12″ had 4 songs, on the A side there was “White Pearl” and “Mosquito” (a new version?) while on the B side there was “Jessica Jayne” and “I’ve Been Insulted By More Texans Than Anyone Else In The World”. This was actually the second release on La-Di-Da getting the catalog number La-Di-Da 002.

As I said I just ordered this record. It says it comes with a photo insert. Sadly I can’t find online any scan or photo of the back cover. Don’t know what sort of information is available there. As soon as I receive my copy I will update this post unless the band gets in touch with me before that. Yes, I’m hoping that.

Bobby Scarlet appeared at least on two other compilations. In 1988 they appeared on the legendary “Hoopla” tape contributing the song “260p”. This is a brilliant compilation that if you haven’t checked out try finding it as you will be on a treat. Interesting enough, the band wasn’t to appear on the Hoopla reissue on Accident Records, I suppose because the masters for this song were lost.

The next year, in 1989, they contributed the song “Steppenwolf” to another classic compilation, “Something’s Burning in Paradise Again”. This compilation was celebrated by the Something’s Burning in Paradise fanzine as the “greatest compilation tape you’re EVER likely to hear”. On the fanzine there was information about each of the bands, and in the case of Bobby Scarlet it says that by that time they had already changed names to Spitfire. There is only one name mentioned, Joseph. Now we need to find his last name.

Last week I linked to the Crawley Observer as there were mentions of The Friendly Fires when they were going to play a reunion to raise money for St. Catherine’s Hospice in 2012. Bobby Scarlet (and Spitfire) also played this gig. On the article there’s more mentions to Spitfire than Bobby Scarlet but as they are both related bands I think it could be interesting to you all:

This was soon followed by another Deadbug double-A side 7-inch release, Mosquito/Peach, by new to the scene, ‘60’s influenced five-piece Bobby Scarlet in early ‘87. Subsequently, both bands released a 12-inch single – The Friendly Fires’ I Said To Him and Bobby Scarlet’s White Pearl. Friendly Fires and Bobby Scarlet found themselves supporting many established independent bands of the day at venues around the south east, but, unfortunately by 1988 both groups had spilt. The Eighties story ends with garage rockers Spitfire, formed from the ashes of Bobby Scarlet in late 1989. Spitfire, all ex-Thomas Bennett pupils, soon found themselves signed to a London-based independent record company. Within six months they had acquired an NME single of the week. A national tour with a fresh from Top of the Pops Blur and John Peel sessions followed. 1992 saw a Reading Festival appearance and a number one independent single with the EP Wild Sunshine, Spitfire can also count Pulp and The Verve amongst an illustrious line-up of bands that supported them. Spitfire called it a day in early 1994 after releasing two albums and seven Eps

I found a website now where I could see the band members in Spitfire. Here I see that it was formed by Jeff Pritcher, his brother Nick, Steve White, Scott Kenny and Matt Wise. Okay, so the Pritcher on the Mosquito labels must have been Jeff or Nick. But that’s not all, luckily there are more mentions about Bobby Scarlet on here:
…Bobby Scarlet, which featured Jeff and Nick, as well as Steve Walker and Darren on guitars, and Chris Window(s) formerly of Creation hopefuls Blow uUp on drums. Bobby Scarlet released 2 singles, first Peaches / Mosquito on the Crawley label Deadbug run by another Crawley band, Friendly Fires and a 4 track 12” released on the Brighton label La-Di-Da Jeff, Nick and Steve Walker were definitely around for the first 2 singles, and Scott Kenny was definitely on the second.

So we got the band members now! Even that Chris Window used to be in Blow Up.

Next and last stop then will be the Bobby Scarlet Youtube account that I explored last week for The Friendly Fires rare tracks.

The first rare recording I find is “Kiss Me” at the 1987 Turn Me Up Christmas Party. At this gig the band played with The Grooveyard and The Wedding Present at The Pavilion in Brighton.

Then there’s the 1988 demos “Feverish” and “Strawhead” where the band sounds a bit rougher. And lastly a “260p” demo from 1988 if you can’t find a Hoopla copy (or Mp3s).

The last thing I could find was a flyer for a gig that was happening on March 3rd 1988 at the LCF Auditorium. Wonder where that is/was?

And that’s about all I could find for Bobby Scarlet. There’s definitely much more about Spitfire, but I wanted to concentrate on Bobby Scarlet, as it was a proper indiepop band during the best years of indiepop. I wonder if they recorded any more songs, if they left many unreleased tracks. Whereabouts did they gig? Anyone out there remembers them?

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Listen
Bobby Scarlet – White Pearl

12
Jul

I have been out of the loop for the past few days. I haven’t had the time to find out new music, and even less time to listen to the records that I’ve bought and keep piling by my computer. Now I go to work earlier, around 3 hours earlier. The mornings are not to my disposal anymore and so I need to readapt, reorganize myself. And I think that takes time. I need to find time a comfortable time to play music at time, I can’t do it too early or too late. I could try to play CDs while I work, that’s an idea. Sadly the computers at work don’t have a CD drive. I may need to bring a USB one and install Last.fm, as I like keeping track of what I’ve listened. Many new things, routines that are no more and routines that will be created in the next few months.

I guess the only piece of news that caught my attention was the announcement the Chickfactor fanzine made on their website and social networks. Chickfactor is celebrating their 25th anniversary with events in Portland (sometime in late October), in New York (sometime in early November) and in London (the only one confirmed, for the 11th and the 12th of November at The Lexington).

The party starts early, there’s an all-ages shindig at 12:30 pm on Saturday 11th at The Lexington. This seems to be co-organized with the always classy Hangover Lounge. There are two bands playing this smaller event: Wait What and The Numberz. On the website it says more young bands will be added and also some special guests. On the WeGotTickets website, where you can buy tickets for the event another band is listed, Ivy & Friends.  I couldn’t find a Bandcamp or Soundcloud for either The Numberz or Ivy & Friends. I remember that The Numberz played Indietracks some years ago when both of the members were 10 years each! So young! For Wait What I couldn’t find any of those music sites but there is a video for their song “Tune Me Up” on Youtube. On that same account they have more lo-fi videos. It is nice acoustic pop and they are really young as well!

Later that day, doors opening at 7:30, there are 4 bands to play the same venue. There’s The Pastels, Lois, Kicking Giant and Kites at Night. I’m not familiar with the last two, so I did a little investigation. So Kicking Giant are Tae Won Yu & Rachel Carns from New York. I’ve never seen them before. I don’t think I was ever aware of this band in NY. Maybe they don’t play live much? This Chickfactor show will be their first in the UK and this year they will get a reissue LP for their early work. This LP is coming out on Drawing Room Records and it is titled “Ballad of Kicking Giant, Halo: NYC/Olympia 1989-1993”. So I check their Bandcamp and I notice they used to be on K Records. The first song that plays is “Alien I.D.” and I’m not a fan because it is noisy and shouty, so I decide to play the next song, and it is in the same vein. OK, perhaps this band is not for me.

Kites at Night are Rose Melberg and Jon Manning. For this show Jen Sbragia (the other half of The Softies) will join them on bass. Rose and Jon had been involved with another band called Imaginary Pants. I actually have their 2013 self-titled 7″ that has a cool bear illustration on the cover. It is a very good record I think. On this same Bandcamp account they have the Kites at Night sole release to date, a cassette with 5 songs. The first edition sold out, nowadays the band is selling a second edition clear red cassette tape with hand stamped labels. This EP was actually released in 2014! Where was I then? Why is it now the first time I hear these beautiful songs. Shame it is only available on tape, I’m not a fan as you know.  But this Lost Sound Tapes release sounds fantastic to my ears.

The next day, November 12th, with the same schedule, doors at 7:30 and show at 8:00pm, 4 more bands will play The Lexington: The Softies, Stevie Jackson, The Would-Be-Goods and The Catenary Wires. Here there are no surprises, I’m familiar with all the acts. In this case I must say I’m jealous of all of you attending and seeing The Would-Be-Goods. They are among my favourite bands. To this day I’ve only seen them once, at the previous Chickfactor show in London. Yeah, I’m not going to be able to attend this. I’ve already asked for vacations for Thanksgiving week, at the end of November, so I can go to Portugal. So no indiepop festivals for me this year. Hopefully the next? I wonder if Chickfactor had announced earlier these shows I could have attended. I plan everything way in advance!

Both nights at The Lexington will feature MC Gaylord Fields (from WFMU). I remember him at the New York shows some years ago introducing the bands with fun anecdotes. I liked that. There will be Hangover Lounge DJs on the first floor of the venue. I wonder though if there will be any afterparties? Any dancing? That’d be nice. At least on Saturday. Hope something like that is announced. The ticket prices seem reasonable, 18 pounds for each night or 32 pounds for the two nights.

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Crawley is a town and borough in West Sussex, England. It is 28 miles (45 km) south of Charing Cross (London), 18 miles (29 km) north of Brighton and Hove, and 32 miles (51 km) north-east of the county town of Chichester. Crawley covers an area of 17.36 square miles (44.96 km2) and had a population of 106,597 at the time of the 2011 Census. Gatwick Airport, nowadays one of Britain’s busiest international airports, opened on the edge of the town in the 1940s, encouraging commercial and industrial growth.

An all-time favourite 7″ of mine is the “Arkansas” 7″ by The Friendly Fires that was released in 1986. I pulled it out the other day and got me thinking, why weren’t they more famous? Their songs are fantastic. How come a band with the same name became mainstream, famous and all? Were they aware of the “real Friendly Fires? Were they aware that their music wasn’t as good as the Crawley band from the 80s? Probably not. But then I didn’t know much about The Friendly Fires. So it was time to do some research.

Discogs immediately answers a few of my questions. There’s a small bio there that reads:
1980s indie band from Crawley, West Sussex, England. They ran their own label Deadbug Records releasing their own material as well as other local bands including Bobby Scarlet. The band consisted of Kieron Huston (guitar), Brian Hope (keyboards and vocal) and Paul Sloots (bass).

Indeed the two releases The Friendly Fires put together came out on Deabug Records. The first one, which is “Arkansas” for me, but a self-titled 7″ for Discogs, was catalogued as Deadbug Records 002. Discogs doesn’t list the 001 of the label’s catalog. I wonder what it is? The 7″ was recorded in August of 1986 and included three songs. “Arkansas” was the sole one on the A side while the B side had “Everything” and “Looks like Rain”.

Their second release was a 12″. This was Deadbug 005. A curious cat black and white photograph was on the cover. 5 songs came on this record, on the A said there’s “I Said to Him” and “Tide Temper” while on the B side there was “Happier Than Thou”, “All Too Soon” and “Come Alive”.

No other releases nor compilation appearances are listed on Discogs.

My next stop is an article on the Crawley Observer. On it they talk a lot about Robert Smith and The Cure but there are mentions to The Friendly Fires. But my first question comes immediately, is David Hope from the band Ever related to Brian Hope from The Friendly Fires? I feel it might be the same person? Well, on the Crawley article it says: “In 1986, Charles Cold changed their name to The Friendly Fires and released their first three-track 7-inch single, Arkansas, on singer Brian Hope’s Deadbug label. “

But then it is confusing, on another paragraph when they talk about Ever it says: “Ever, led by ex-Thomas Bennett kids David Hope, Peter Whittick and Colin Ray, were for a while THE band to make it, closely followed by The Milk Sisters, Charles Cold, All The Daughters and Swing the Heartache.”

So was there a David and a Brian Hope then?

Okay then, let’s follow the clues we have so far, before The Friendly Fires there was Charles Cold. It seems Charles Cold only put together demos, no proper releases.

Then another Friendly Fires mention on the article: “Friendly Fires and Bobby Scarlet found themselves supporting many established independent bands of the day at venues around the south east, but, unfortunately by 1988 both groups had spilt.” 

It is worth mentioning that this article was written in 2012 and it was for a good cause. Many of the 80s bands that were around in Crawley then were going to make an appearance and there was going to be even an 80s Jiveball disco. The bands that were going to play were Spitfire, All the Daughters, The Milk Sisters, Bobby Scarlet, Orange and of course The Friendly Fires. I wonder how that gig go. It must have been great to attend their reunion.

But there is another good resource for The Friendly Fires, one I have been using a lot every time I wanted to hear their fab songs, and that is Youtube. On the BobbyScarlet account (I know, probably this band also deserves a post on the blog) there is a plethora of songs by Crawley bands, probably all related to The Friendly Fires.

Aside from the recordings from the released records by The Friendly Fires, there are Charles Cold versions, meaning earlier versions, of the songs the band was to release. For example there is a very early “Arkansas” demo tape, dating from 1985. There are also demos of “Looks Like Rain Again“, “All Too Soon“, “Everything” and “I Said To Him” from 1986. But the BIGGEST discovery is another Friendly Fires release, another song. The Friendly Fires released a flexi with just the one song, “Neville“, in 1986. It was Deadbug Records 004. Sadly I couldn’t find any more information about it. But I know I want it, it sounds classic!

I keep investigating but I can’t find much more about The Friendly Fires. Most of the times I get information on the XXL band. I notice that Ed from Shelflife recommended them when he used to write his blog. I do find that Paul Sloots, their bassist, now plays in a band called Strange Tales. But that’s about it. I wonder what Brian Hope and Kieron Huston are up to now.

A bunch of questions remain unanswered. Definitely the flexi release is on top of my list. Was it released properly? Maybe it came along a fanzine? What about unreleased songs? What happened to the members after The Friendly Fires. I notice a lot of indiepop fans love their songs, but there is very little presence of the band on the web. I wonder if any of you remember them? Maybe they played a gig in your town?

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Listen
The Friendly Fires – Arkansas

 

11
Jul

Some months ago I wrote about Black and White Lovers on the blog looking for more information about them. Luckily Kevin Brady, their bassist, got in touch with me and later put me in touch with Martin Tivnan, their guitarist and vocalist. Martin was kind enough to shed some light about Black and White Lovers and that way answer many of the questions I had. He put together a thorough overview of the band, and I’m happy to share it with you all.

NAME

The name should read ‘ Black and White Lovers.’ An early incarnation of the band had a song with this title. The song was a thinly veiled account of how some of the band members and close friends related to each other and projected themselves. The characters in the story the song relates were given names like Harry and Stanley – a la Lou Reed – but it was obvious who they were based on. Someone suggested it as a name for the band and it stuck.

ORIGINS

The first band we got together was The Enigma in summer 1979. This was myself on vocals and guitar, Martin O’Brien on drums and Kev Brady on bass. We were later joined by Lee Wilkinson on guitar. Regarding recruitment it was quite straightforward. I was at school with Martin and Kev and Lee had been at school together and as was the way at the time (see ‘Sniffin Glue’ ‘Here’s 3 chords go and form a band’) we just got on with it. Our biggest influences were The Fall and , particularly, Joy Division. Me and Martin had got to know Joy Division a little before they really broke as we would go to watch them rehearse on Sundays in Manchester and we went to all their gigs in N West England. Indeed, Peter Hook gave me my first guitar strap.

Although I wasn’t a fan of a lot of Punk music, the DIY ethic gave us a gateway into becoming a band. Early on, we joined The Manchester Musician’s Collective and this was vital in getting things going. The MMC existed to support local bands. It was democratic, even socialistic in outlook and had members from a range of musical and cultural areas – hippies / punks / pub rock / blues /funk. The MMC had a regular gig at The Band On The Wall in Manchester and organised occasional other gigs throughout the North West. In it’s early days the MMC had included bands like Joy Division , The Fall and A Certain Ratio. Whilst in the collective we got to know and shared gigs with God’s Gift – who I played bass with for a short while – If Only (Brendan Chesterton’s band) and The Hoax – when as you say Martin once borrowed Mike Joyce’s kit. Via the collective, we played our first gig (at the Band On The Wall alongside Crispy Ambulance and The Liggers) got a support slot with The Fall at Manchester Polytechnic in January 1980 and had a track on a compilation album of MMC bands ‘Unzipping the Abstract.’

The Enigma ran out of steam around 1981. A little while later, myself, Kev and Brendan started rehearsing and exploring different styles of music, until we settled into BAWL around 1983.

BLACK AND WHITE LOVERS

BAWL was myself, Kev , Brendan and Lee, joined by Chris Hyland on drums (later Craig) and Martin Briars on keyboards. We were pretty clear on the sound we were aiming for – something that would be suitable as the soundtrack of a 1960s French Film – in Black and White ie a light romantic vibe with a cinematic feel influenced particularly by John Barry and the European pop / cabaret feel of Charles Aznavour. There was less of a feeling in BAWL of being part of a scene as what we were doing was, we felt, very specific. Although BAWL played most of the available gigs in Manchester at the time (eg The International, The Gallery, Corbieres, Manhattan Sound) we struggled to get any real traction. Although there was, to a small degree, an amatuerish/ shambolic dimension to the C86 bands, things had moved on from the punk values of the late 1970s, and bands were expected to have a more professional approach. We struggled a little with this. As working class lads we were sceptical of careerism and not certain of whether being in a band should be recreational – something you did with your friends for fun – or something you should take seriously and commit yourself to, hence the unfinished videos and lost demos. A journalist named Bob Dickinson interviewed us for City Life, a Manchester magazine and reviewed one of our gigs in NME which did generate some interest and meetings with record companies (A & M I think ?) but we didn’t really pursue this and it never went any further. We released ‘Best Years Of Our Lives’ as a single ourselves and although it got some reasonable feedback, the reaction / sales weren’t positive enough to encourage further releases.

SINGLE

Why Charles Aznavour ? The answer’s simple : I was and remain a fan. In fact myself and Kev went to see the 90 year old Aznavour at The Royal Albert Hall in London in November last year. If you listen to his song ‘Yesterday when I was young’ you will hear the romantic, yearning vibe that Best Years of Our Lives tries to capture and emulate. Boulevard of Broken Dreams aims for a similarly romantic, philosophical reflection on life.

ANECDOTES

I have listed below a few of the things that stick in my mind from my time in these bands and hopefully give you an idea of what it was like and what we were like.

Jan 1980 : The Enigma supporting The Fall. I watched The Fall sound check ‘Rowche Rumble’ with my brother. I was very proud at aged 16 to be part of this and the sound check itself remains one of the greatest things I’ve ever seen.

Spring 1984 : We were playing a gig at Cloud 9, a club in Manchester.  Ian Brown and Reni from The Stone Roses (relative unknowns at the time) barged into the dressing room and accused us of  using their gear at Spirit Studios (where we both rehearsed) – we hadn’t done this. Somehow a full scale fight was averted – probably because we’d heard that Reni was a karate black belt. Later at the gig itself, Ian McCulloch of Echo and The Bunnymen turned up, sat at the back, watched the show and left without introducing himself.

1985 : Bob Dickinson’s review of one of our gig’s in NME  suggested that I was ‘reminiscent of the young Orson Welles.’ I got plenty of abuse from the other band members about this.

1985 : Following the interview in City Life Magazine which described us as Manchester’s best cabaret band or something similar, we were offered a Friday night gig at a restaurant in Manchester. We were to play 3 x 20 minute sets for 35 pounds. After this first gig, the Restaurant Owner/Manager was delighted with us and offered us a regular gig every Friday, which we accepted, figuring the money would help us with equipment and the regular gig might be good for our profile.

The following Friday, we showed up and told the Restaurant Manager that we would be playing 2 x 30 minute sets which he grudgingly accepted. in the hour or so between sets, we went to a bar across the road and proceeded to get hammered. We returned on unsteady legs and turned the amps up to full blast for the 2nd set – we even let Kev sing Boulevard of Broken Dreams while I played bass – still one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen. That was our last gig at the restaurant.

AND FINALLY

I enjoyed my time in these bands and it is really flattering and suprising that people are still interested in what we did all those years ago. A Manchester label ‘Vinyl revival’ has recently released 2 compilation albums (Greater Manchester Punk 1977 – 81 and Greater Manchester Punk 2 1978-82 : Now We are Heroes) and there are Enigma tracks on both albums. On the back of these releases I met up with Martin O’Brien again and we are currently working on some new songs I’ve written with a singer and guitarist he has  worked with before and we should have a demo recorded in the next couple of months. I will send you the demo when it’s completed.

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Listen
Black & White Lovers – Best Years of Our Lives

07
Jul

Today is my last day at work. On Monday I start a new job at 30 Rock, Rockefeller Center. I’m a bit anxious, but I think the change will do me good. I wonder if it will affect in any way the label. I suppose not. The blog? Maybe. But I hope not. Let’s see how it works out. That’s why I prepared 3 blog posts for this week as I don’t know when will I have the time to research and write about bands. So you have a lot to read now. And definitely if it is not during the week, I’ll make my best to publish on the weekend.

Now onto more indiepop news that you can’t miss!

“Home Electronics” is the name of the singles compilation by the fantastic, legendary, They Go Boom!! As I see this release I can’t help myself thinking why I didn’t think of putting this myself! I would have loved that. What matters in the end is that this is finally released. And that’s something to celebrate! The album pulls together all five They Go Boom!! singles & EPs onto a CD. The liner notes have been written by Stephen Davies. Right now you can pre-order the album and wait until August 11th when it will be officially released. This one is NOT to be missed. Brilliant news!

The BMX Bandits keep promoting their new album “BMX Bandits Forever”. Because of that they have now released a new promo video for the song “It’s In Her Eyes (With Dr Cosmo’s Tape Lab)“. I still have to get the album, I’m a bit behind with a bunch of new releases, it seems this summer is very productive for many labels. Listening to this song, classic classic BMX Bandits sound, I feel I shouldn’t wait much longer in ordering that CD digipak from Elefant.

Another Elefant band that I’m a big fan is La Bien Querida. But this time around I’m having a similar feeling I got with the latest Club 8 song. I’m listening (and watching) the video for “7 Días Juntos“, the chosen single to promote her new album “Dinamita” out on June 27th and I’m a bit cold. I understand bands want to experiment and evolve and all that (though in this case it seems like a shot for mainstream acceptance to be honest), but, come on, try not to lose your indiepop sensibilities. I need to listen to the rest of the album to give a better opinion, but I’m not 100% sold with this song.

One of the best news in the last couple of weeks was the announcement that Cloudberry favourites Los Lagos de Hinault are releasing a new album. “Escenas de Caza” has already been released by the Fikasound label and what a treat it is. The 3rd album by the Madrid band has 12 songs. The clever lyrics of Carlos Ynduráin are present again, the boy-girl vocals too. The melodies combine perfectly for a singing along all the way through. You can actually stream the whole album on the band’s Bandcamp and I’ve been doing so for the last couple of weeks. I will probably make a better review of this piece of art after I get a physical copy on my hands. You can buy the album from the Fikasound Bandcamp. On top of it all, it was released on both CD and vinyl format and has a beautiful art. What else can you ask for?

My friend Vernon from Singapore recommended me a Russian band the other day. These are his own words: “I know almost nothing about Verbludes, an indiepop band from Russia. There is hardly any online info about them in English although they have just set up a Facebook page. I like what I have heard so far – shades of Heavenly, Loveninjas and Throw That Beat In The Garbage Can.” The song he recommended had a video. It is titled “Depts” and I’m loving it! Who the hell are these Verbludes? I don’t understand a thing, but the music is thrilling, exciting. Upbeat, with boy/girl vocals. I wonder if there are physical releases? I need to find a way to get their music. It is quite a discovery!! No one is making this sort of music anywhere else at the moment, a big suprise to see this sort of sounds coming from Russia! Oh! I did find a Bandcamp too.

The new darlings in Australia seem to be School Damage. They have just released a self-titled LP with Chapter Music and it is packed with 13 shambling songs. The band was originally a bedroom project for Carolyn Hawkins and Jake Robertson until they were joined by Jeff Raty and Dani Damage in Geelong/Melbourne. The label compares the band to The Vaselines and the Young Marble Giants and I can see that. This is a very exciting debut indeed, if you like your lo-fi pop shambolic, with a great dose of amateurism, you’ll love School Damage.

And that’s a wrap. More indiepop next week. Keep your eyes peeled.

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My introduction to The Chairs was through the compilation The Sound of Leamington Spa Vol. 3 released by Firestation Records in 2003. They had contributed the song “Brave Little Soldier” and I was curious about them. Years later I managed to get one of their 7″s, “Honey I Need a Girl of a Different Stripe”, probably through eBay. Now I wonder why I didn’t track their other 3 7″s. It is hard with so many fantastic bands out there, but I should try to now. To make it up, it is time to find out whatever happened to The Chairs. I start then with the record that introduced them to me, the Leamington Spa 3rd volume. There, on the booklet, The Chairs got 2 pages! Usually every band got 1 page. The Chairs got 2. And so there was a lot of information about them:

The Chairs began for me after The Gene Tryp fizzled out in 1986. The Gene Tryp, meant to be the missing link between the JAMC and The Byrds, was a feedback drenched fuzztone psych-pop racket, which grew out of an Essex Mod band called The Accidents. The Accidents were formed in 1978, and released an independent single in 79, Blood Spattered With Guitars on their own label, Hookline and Sinker. I think John Peel played it on his Radio One show. An album, recorded the following summer, Kiss Me On the Apocalypse, remained unreleased until 1995, at which time test pressings were changing hands for £100. The single is a Modpop classic, and is available on several Mod compilations as well as being added to the album CD. After several attempts to get signed, and touring with The Icicle Works and Husker Du among others, Paul Sullivan, Trevor Richardson and Kevin Lagan became tired of winklepickers and feedback, and decided to break away from the group. Manager Jim Wallace stayed with the trio and they became The Chairs, adding organist Dave Read, and releasing four self-financed singles and touring their assess off all over the UK, until The Stone Roses released Fool’s Gold, and student discos were never the same again. The Chairs were intended as a reaction to the sort of rockist posturing that had become the norm by the mid-eighties. As a writer, I was particularly taken by Elvis Costello’s no frills Blood and Chocolate album, and began to write songs for The Chairs in that vein. From now on there would be no solos, no rock star attitude, an no nonsense. The band had a manifesto; the name came from Lennon Remembers, Jann Wenners warts-and-all interview with John Lennon, where he rubbished the rockstar myth, and sang the praises of early rock ‘n’ roll purity. The quote was something about how rock ‘n’ roll should be like a chair, a functional thing, unadorned, simple, practical and honest. Say what you mean and put a backbeat to it. (Well thats how I thought it was, until I remembered seeing an advert in a magazine for a product called The Domesday Chair, a revolting piece of furniture marketed as a souvenir of the Norman Conquest. THe band was actually called The Domesday Chairs for a day or two, before I came to my senses and shortened it.) The template was definitely Costello’s Attractions, with a soupcon of Revolver period Beatles and a large helping of The Smiths, although our individual tastes were, to say the least, varied. There is a tape in existence of our first ever gig, on a foggy night in Southend, at a place called the Blue Boar. Don’t look for it, it might still be there. The band was being handled by Jim Wallace, a man known for his fondness for the banjo and his legendary hollow laugh. Like most managers, Jim took a lot of stick from his ‘boys’, but I personally came to rely on him enormously; without his encouragement and dogged pursuit of the prize there would be nothing to write about here. Not enough can be said about his right hand man David Hubbard, known to the band as Cakey. He drove us the length and breadth of the country, carried our gear, tuned our guitars, for no money and no discernible kudos. A prince among men.
We released four singles, financed by the band, all on our own Pink Halo label:
Likes of You / Something’s Happening
Size 10 Girlfriend / Cut-N-Dried
Honey I Need a Girl of a Different Stripe / Can’t Say I’m Sorry / Cut-N-Dried (12″ only)
Crestfallen / Sometimes It Takes a Hammer
We planned a 12″ of Crestfallen as well, which would have included a song called Days (not the Ray Davies tune) but ran out of money. (Days turned out to be the opening song on The Liberty Takers album The Heyday of Tony Stone, although you only get eight bars of it. That really is another story.) We struggled on into 1990, but once Dave Hubbard had left, like the ravens leaving the Tower of London, the heart went out of it, we had to get jobs, and all indie singles started to sound like someone rattling a collection box. We supported The Charlatans the first time they came to London, and a yawning gap appeared between us and the audience we were trying to attract. No amount of wahwah pedaling and funky drumming could tempt us onto the bandwagon, and we slipped away silently into the night. The following weeks NME featured The Charlatan’s singer Tim Burgess wearing Dave Reads suede jacket, stolen from right under our noses that night.
There was never, ever, a dance element to our music.
Paul Sullivan, West Sussex, March 2002

I read this years ago. What a good refresher. I think the next step then is to explore their discography. So time to check Discogs. The first 7″ was indeed “The Likes Of You”, with “Something’s Happening” on the B side. This was the first release by Pink Halo (catalog PHO1) and it came out in 1988. The producer was G. Chambers who has a long resumé, even working with the likes of Robbie Williams. The artwork for the picture sleeve is uncredited. It is a black and white illustration, a drawing, of some guy’s eyes and nose. Pink Halo Records was based in Offord Road in London, very close to the Highbury & Islington tube station. From this day you could already see the design of the labels that would become very characteristic of the next Pink Halo/The Chairs releases.

Their second release was the song I’m sharing with you today, “Size 10 Girlfriend”. The B side was “Cut-N-Dried”. This one sadly didn’t come with a picture sleeve. I wonder why. Maybe no money? It could be, as you see in a single year they were to release 3 records on their own. The record came out again on Pink Halo (catalog PHO2) and both songs are credited to Sullivan. The producer this time around was Howard Turner. Turner has more of an indie cred, he worked with 14 Iced Bears and The Nivens for example.

Their next release was the one I own. Released in 1988 by Pink Halo (catalog PHO3), this one too came on a picture sleeve. Now a striped shirt photo was the artwork. It made sense, the A side was “Honey I Need a Girl of a Different Stripe”. The B side was “I Can’t Say I’m Sorry”. Both songs credited to Paul Sullivan. The producer was once again Howard Turner. The songs were recorded at Resort Studios in Norwich. There was also a 12″ version of this record that included a third song “Cut and Dried (Short Back-N-Sides Mix)”.

Lastly, in 1990, Pink Halo was to release “Crestfallen” with “Sometimes It Take a Hammer” on the B side. The catalog this time was PHO4. Sadly this record didn’t come with a picture sleeve. So not much information to find out about it. The only thing we know is that both songs are again credited to Sullivan and the producer was Lance Phillips.

Happily I don’t seem to be the only one that had the idea to write about The Chairs. Leigh Haggerty of the blog “Leigh’s Mad World of Guitars” and also guitarist for bands like Ruts D.C., T.V. Smith, The Price, The Upper Cut and Big Al Reed, wrote a piece about them in 2010. There are a bunch of cool details that are worth sharing:
– The band played at least once at the Fulham Greyhound in 1988
– They were trying hard to get a record contract
– Paul Sullivan was also involved in the band The Crowd Scene
– There are many unreleased songs like “Boys From Slumberland” and “All I Need to Know”, this last one inspired by Albert Goodman’s book “The Lives of Young Lennon”

There are also links to an old Myspace of The Liberty Takers, Paul Sullivan’s band after The Chairs. Surprisingly I could stream the songs “English Skin”, “High Dive” and “My Waterloo”. I found out in Youtube that The Liberty Takers played in April a 20 year reunion gig at The Alley Cat Club in Denmark Street. There are a bunch of recordings at Graham Mansfield Youtube account.

I also learned that Sullivan was also in a band called The New Amusements. I found an interview with him on the blog Crayola Lectern dating from 2005. He actually talks about The Chairs on it:

You started as a drummer in The Accidents; how long did that last and what made you decide on the guitar and forming/fronting The Chairs?
I was writing songs from the word go, and I only took up the drums so I could get into the band. It was 1977 and it seemed unthinkable to be a ‘punk’ and not be in a band. The guitar and singing thing was going on at the same time, but it took me a few years to pluck up the courage to stand up there and face the music.

Drums are great though, don’t get me wrong. The Chairs were an interesting development in that we had a very definite ethos which informed everything we did, from haircuts to chord changes. We were political in that we disapproved of a great number of things for example guitar solos, dry ice, breast beating, men wearing make up etc.

Is it true that you played gigs with Hüsker Dü and The Charlatans? Good memories?
Hüsker Dü were really nice to us. I was in a band called Gene Tryp at the time and it was their first UK gig, at the old Marquee in Wardour Street. Greg Norton was particularly supportive and we got invited to a couple of their other shows. And Christ were they LOUD. The Charlatans gig happened in 1989, again their debut gig in London at the Powerhaus where they bussed in thirty or forty fans from Northwich. They were on different medication to us, and communication was stilted. However, the whole show was joyful and exciting. Their late organist, Rob, was a nice guy. Tim Burgess was off his nut and stole our keyboard player’s suede coat and had the cheek to wear it on the cover of the NME the following week.

The folklore surrounding The Chairs throws up a number of unlikely stories: did you race Stiff Little Fingers up the M1 once?
We overtook Jake Burns and SLF on the M6 while we were en route to Manchester and they were going to Liverpool. Jake Burns had been working as a producer for Radio One and we had been trying to get our latest single played to no avail. We wound down the window (at 80mph) and passed Jake a polite note that said “Why haven’t you played our single you Irish cunt?” He replied with a note that read “Because I don’t work for the BBC any more you English wankers”. Still to prove there were no hard feelings, he gave us a bottle of beer (still doing 80) which he had thoughtfully shaken vigorously before handing it over.

So when did you go the USA? What happened?
I went to Boston in 1990 for a holiday after The Chairs split, and met a huge number of lovely people, most of whom were in bands like Big Dipper, Gigolo Aunts, Christmas and The Lemonheads. The whole experience was invigorating for me, and I got to do a live show at The Middle East and a radio interview at WMBR. Everyone was so nice I went back the next year and the year after that.


What was it like playing in London in the eighties? Was there a scene as such which you fitted into or did you avoid all that?
Indie has now become a recognised musical genre, like nu metal and trip hop, but the eighties was a tricky time for bands that didn’t have a box to put their music into. We were an independent band in that we produced and financed our music outside of the music business, and it was an uphill struggle. We didn’t feel part of a scene so much as outsiders. We rarely made friends with other bands. It was too competitive, too many bands competing for too few gigs. We would have liked nothing better than to have been signed by a major label, but the truth was they just didn’t want us. We kind of peaked around the time of the Madchester thing, and we were determined not to jump on the bandwagon like The Soup Dragons for example. So it was a moral victory if not a financial one.


How come The Chairs split?
Too many arses not enough stuffing.

My next stop is a blog post on the Terence Ruffle blog, dating from 2009. My intention here is getting a bit of background of The Gene Tryp, the band Sullivan had been involved prior to The Chairs. There are also recordings by this punk band on Youtube. The account “little wing” has recordings of the songs “Set My Ship on Fire“, “ETA“, “I Still Feel Fine” and more. He even has recordings by the band Sullivan was involved even before The Gene Tryp, The Accidents. You can check for example “Looking Forward to The Accidents” or “Peking“.

I continue my investigation. Seems there’s a lot of stuff related to The Chairs. It is not common for me to find all these details. I now even find a press review by Sarah Champion and Steve Lamacq. On it we see that Elvis Costello praised the band describing them as “real rather than fake excitement”.

My last stop is a Facebook page set up by The Chairs. It seems it was set up for a reunion gig that never happened. There are some details there worth mentioning:
– The band’s last gig was in 1989.
– They did a Radio One session for Simon Mayo (anyone has these recordings????)

That’s more or less what I could gather about The Chairs. Much more than what I usually find about other bands but still many questions seem unanswered. Starting by the Simon Mayo session, their hopes of signing with a label, why they didn’t release an album, if they left any unreleased recordings, and so on. Maybe some of you Londoners remember them? Now I need to catch up and get the singles I’m missing.

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Listen
The Chairs – Size 10 Girlfriend

05
Jul

As promised on Monday’s post here is the 2nd part of indiepop news for this week. There might be a 3rd part if I have the time on Friday. Monday I will probably be very busy on my first day at my new job so I don’t know when exactly next week’s post will appear on the blog, but please keep checking for updates. As soon as I’m more used to my new routine I’ll see if I can continue posting on Mondays but if not I’ll find a different day that is more convenient for me.

I wrote about Battery Point months ago. I raved about them. Their first songs on Bandcamp were wonderful. Well, just a few days ago they uploaded 3 more songs on their Bandcamp. The songs “Wish”, “Clear” and “Wonder” make the “Star EP“. So far it seems it is only available digitally. I wonder if they have any intention in releasing their songs in physical formats. According to my friend Cris, these songs sound like My Favorite. I still don’t see it completely (I do I see it on “Clear”), but that they are good, they are good! The band is formed by Jessica Severns on vocals, Sergio Esparza on vocals and bass, Ray Hamilton on guitar and Alex Meza on drums. They are based in Chula Vista, California. I hope to hear more songs from them, and hopefully a proper release in the near future.

The legendary band Aberdeen announce a new release on their Bandcamp. For just $10 you can get a CD copy of “What Do I Wish For Now: Singles Collection 1994-2004“. Over 60 minutes of music that was originally released on Sarah, Sunday, Tremolo Arm Users Club and LTM. It is not exactly a re-release of the record of the same name that LTM released years ago. I notice that this new CD doesn’t have 2 songs, “Marine Parade” and “She Never Understood”. I wonder if that is the only difference and why were these songs not included. Of course the LTM release is long sold out, so for those who missed it the first time around, this is a good opportunity to catch up.

La Última Isla is a noisy pop group from Santiago, Chile. They have just released their second digital EP titled “Mil Planetas”. It reminds me a lot of the noisy and poppy bands from the Spanish scene of the early 00s. The cool thing about this band too is that it shares members with our beloved My Light Shines For You that have a release in the works with us, with Cloudberry. There isn’t much information other than that. I hope these songs get released at least on a CDR. They sound great, and I’m having such a good time listening to them.

Now we cross the Pacific, all the way to Melbourne, Australia, to discover the 2-track CD-single by The Golden Rail. What do you need to know about them? Well that the band members had been involved in many classic bands like The Palisades, The Rainyard, The Summer Suns, DM3 and lately in The Jangle Band. You can’t have more pedigree than that. And thus is it not surprise that the two songs, “Oh My!” and “The Silent Birds”, are classic sounding jangle pop songs. This is the 1st single from the soon to be released album “Electric Trails From Nowhere”. I look forward to that.

I continue in Australia, but I head north, to Brisbane. One of my favourite bands from the past few years, Major Leagues, have released their debut album. “Good Love” is available in both vinyl and CD formats and includes 12 songs. To promote it they made a video for the song “It Was Always You”  which looks and sounds great. Right now I’ve only heard two songs from the album, the one of the video and “Good Love”. They are the only two you can stream from their Bandcamp. I have just ordered the CD album as we speak (thought about the vinyl, but a bit too pricey and CDs are still more convenient for me to store) so I hope I love the rest of the songs. To be honest, I have really loved all of their previous releases, so I have no doubts I will love this. The fact that I could only hear two songs took me back to the days when blogs were actually important, when labels would send full albums MP3s or websites to stream so they could get a review. I wonder if this is still a trend. Sometimes when I was running my previous blog, Mira el Péndulo, I would get free copies to review. That was nice. How times change, no? Or maybe this blog is just terribly unpopular!

The last indiepop news for this week has to do with another beloved band of mine, Club 8. On the Labrador Records Soundcloud page a new Club 8 song was uploaded, “Lost“. Now, for the past few releases Club 8 has been experimenting with different music styles, different influences. And even I saw criticism, I loved those albums, I thought the experimentation was going in the right direction. This time though I feel actually like the song, a bit lost. I don’t know if I like it or dislike it. It is leaving me a bit cold. Of course Kristina’s voice make me swoon, and I love that. The music, well, I’m not sure if I’m loving it. What are your thoughts? I definitely want to listen to the whole album (or EP, or whatever they are preparing) to give a better opinion!

And again I’m left with another handful of indiepop news written on blue post-it notes that I didn’t cover this time around. They will have to wait for the next post. Hopefully before the week ends!

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Gloucester is a city and district in southwest England, the county city of Gloucestershire. Gloucester lies close to the Welsh border, on the River Severn, between the Cotswolds to the east and the Forest of Dean to the southwest.Gloucester was founded in AD 97 by the Romans under Emperor Nerva as Colonia Glevum Nervensis, and was granted its first charter in 1155 by King Henry II. Economically, the city is dominated by the service industries, and has a strong financial and business sector, and historically was prominent in the aerospace industry.

Apple Mosaic’s “Honey If” is one of my favourite singles all-time. For some reason I never had the curiosity to dig into their history perhaps because I never got around getting the rest of their discography (only the other day I ordered another 7″ by them). Not that they are rare records, I mean, you can definitely find them on some web stores. So I really don’t know why I haven’t done some detective work but I’ll make amends today, let’s see what we can find related to this Gloucester band from the 80s.

Let’s start with the discography. The first Apple Mosaic release was actually the “Honey If” single I mentioned before. It came out in July 1987 on the MDM label (catalog MDM 10). I’m not familiar with this label, it is not an indiepop label, but I see that Pete Wylie from Wah! released some singles with this label. I have the 7″ version. There was also a 12″ version. On the 7″ the songs were “Honey If” on the A side and “Mary Hell” on the B side. The 12″ included an extended mix of “Honey If” on the A side and “Mary Hell” and “Me Myself I” on the B side.

On the credits we see that “Honey If” was written by Carrington-Wendo and Dench and produced by Ian Ritchie. “Mary Hell” was written by Dench and produced by the band and Steve Hall.

That same year, 1987, the band released another single. “Velvet Avenue”, both on 7″ and 12″, was released on MDM Records (catalog MDM 23) and came with “Velvet Avenue” on the A side and “One More Step to Go” on the B side. The 12″ added one more song on the B side, “Never See His Face”. The A side was produced by Ian Ritchie while the songs on the B side were produced by Steve Hall. Both songs are credited to the writing partnership of Carrington-Windo and Dench.

The next year, 1988, saw the light of their last single. “Under the Spell” came out only as a 7″ but this time on another label, Off the Track Records. Not familiar with this label either, but I see they released The Smiths’ Peel Sessions for example. The songs on the record were “Under the Spell” and “Halfway There”. The interesting thing about this record is that it was licensed to DRO in Spain.

This same label released in 1988 their only album. Titled “Hole” (catalog OTT 370103), the record included 12 songs: “Hole”, “I’ll Be Me”, “Pictures, People & Zoos”, “Don’t Weep At Your Window”, “One Of These Days”, “Under the Spell”, “Hour of Thought”, “Count Me Out”, “The Prisoner’s Free”, “Race”, “Halfway There”, “She Knows Where To Go”. The record was released on CD and LP and also was licensed to Spain, to the label DRO. Did they get much recognition and fans in Spain? Hopefully my Spanish friends can answer that question.

On the credits for the album we learn the names of the band members:
Tim Harvey on bass
Shane Young on drums
Ian Dench on guitar
Laurence Carrington-Windo on vocals

The album was produced by Clive Martin. And actually Clive has a website were he reminisces about this release. He says: I loved making this record. One of my first with a totally live setup outside Trident, in a barn in Gloucestershire.I love the energy on this record. Should have been a big hit in the UK as well as France. Unfortunately the band didn’t last long, but Ian Dench, the guitarist didn’t have to wait long to have his first number one, with his next band EMF.

I see, the EMF. Epsom Mad Funkers. “Unbelievable“, the big hit. I didn’t make the connection. How interesting. From indiepop to the big leagues. I think the first mention about the involvement of Apple Mosaic members in other bands that I find is from the blog “Pop Bothering Me” by Richard Osborne. On it he says: On a personal level, most of the people I know who have succeeded in the music business have been signed and dropped by record labels, and they have been members of several different bands. In fact, it was only through failing at their first attempts that they gained the necessary experience and acumen to negotiate the commodification process. I performed in bands in Gloucestershire in the late 1980s. One of the most popular local groups was Apple Mosaic, who were signed and quickly dropped by Virgin Records. Their guitarist, Ian Dench, went on to form EMF, who recorded for Parlophone and had a number one hit in the US with ‘Unbelievable’. The singer of Apple Mosaic, Laurence Carrington-Windo, was also re-signed. His band Bedazzled released a number of singles on Columbia Records. In his case, however, he came no closer to being a one-in-ten. If at second you don’t succeed . . . 

Bedazzled. Never heard about them. I immediately notice they were on a big label, on Columbia. They released 4 singles and one album. They named the band after the Peter Cook/Dudley Moore film. Laurence Carrington-Windo was the lead vocals. On a big label but no success. I found actually a blog post about Bedazzled on the blog The Rise and Fall of Flingel Bunt. Not much on Apple Mosaic but a good entry point to the music of Bedazzled. On the other hand Ian Dench achieved success almost immediately with EMF.

When it comes to success stories, then there’s a lot of information on the web. Yeah, you can find a lot about EMF. Sometimes there are mentions of Apple Mosaic in these pages. But of course, not many details. I do find some interesting facts about Ian Dench. Before Apple Mosaic he had been in a punk band called Curse. He had learned guitar thanks to his father, he taught him how to play classical guitar. I do read time and time again that Apple Mosaic were signed to Virgin. May it be that MDM Records belonged to Virgin? In any case you can read a bit more about Ian on the EMF website too.

I found yet another post that mentions Apple Mosaic. Of course the post is about EMF, but on it there are some words by Dench about his previous band: As a teenager, EMF guitarist Ian Dench, “much to my dad’s horror,” he once said, started a punk band called Die Young, Stay Pretty. “After a few more groups, I got more into playing the guitar and began to realise the technical possibilities of the instrument and started listening to The Doors, Cream and Led Zeppelin. Then I formed a psychedelic dance band, Apple Mosaic. We played dance bass lines and put guitar on top. That lasted for seven years, from the time I was 17 until I was 25. We recorded two albums, but never sold any.” It was time to move on. The blog belongs to a Jon Kutner, entertainer, DJ and author.

Of course the discography of Ian Alec Harvey Dench is long, very long. After being in EMF he was involved with the band Whistler with whom he released two albums. On top of that he has being nominated to the Golden Globe or the Grammy Awards. Working with big names like Beyoncé and Shakira. It seems so strange, talking about a jingle jangly band and then with that sort of mainstream music. But quoting Primal Scream, “It Happens”.

The last place I decide to go dig for Apple Mosaic information is Youtube. I knew I was going to find many things here. I’ve been aware of there being videos and songs by the band on this website. I played them now and then. I’ll start by recommending the promo video for “Under the Spell“.

The mystery starts with an account that has a lot of rare early recordings by the band. The owner of the account is Bill Blair who seems to have been part of the band in the early days. The first recordings he have are from a live gig at Oxtalls College Campus in Gloucester on May 28th of 1983!! Luckily he has added a good amount of information on the description area for the video. We know that at this time the band was formed by the previously mentioned Laurence Carrington-Windo, Ian Dench and Shane Young, but now there was Mickey Dixon on bass and Jim Price on keyboards. It also says that this gig was what it started it all. The songs played at this gig were “Met a Minute”, “Halfway There”, “One More Step To Go”, “Mary Hell”, “No Time”, “Purple Haze” and “Don’t Weep At Your Window”.

The next recording Bill Blair has also dates from 1983. By then Bill had replaced Jim as the band’s keyboardist. This demo is titled “The Clock House demo” and was recorded live at the Clock House Studios in Keele on August 28th of 1983. The songs recorded were “Halfway There”, “One More Step to Go”, “Mary Hell”, “Hour of Thought”, “Met a Minute”, “She Knows Where to Go”, “The Funeral” and “Never Sail Again”.

What a trove of treasures this account is! The next recording is a live recording of the song “Don’t Weep At Your Window” from a gig at Birmingham Polythecnic on November 29th of 1983.

It seems things go chronologically on his account, so that’s a good thing for me. A live recording of a gig at the Cambridge Suite in Gloucester from December 19th of 1983 has the songs “The Funeral”, “On Every Street”, “Drum Solo”, “The Prisoner is Free”, “No Time”, “Never Sail Again” and “Hour of Thought”.

It is clear that at this time the band was experimenting. They were very much 60s influenced. No surprise that the next recordings Bill offers have even a psychedelic free-for-all! Two songs are available, “Hour of Thought” and “Lost in the Fog”, from their gig at The Granary in Bristol (March 8th 1984).

The band recorded their next demo in 1984. The “Millstream demo” shows the band getting poppier. Three songs were recorded, “Mary Hell”, “One More Step to Go” and “Hour of Thought”. They were recorded at Millstream Studios in Cheltenham on March 4th 1984. Mick Dolan was the engineer.

In 1985 the band recorded the “Quayside demo“. I’m really enjoying this trip through the band’s evolution. The songs recorded for this tape were “Get Out of My Dream”, “Lost in the Fog”, “Mary Hell”, “Don’t Weep At Your Window”, “Do or Die”, “Hour of Thought”, “Halfway There” and “The Funeral”. There is also a Bill Blair remastered version of this demo available on Youtube.

There is another live gig on Youtube on another account, one from a live show at Gloucester Park. This time there is no track listing. What is interesting are some comments by a MrMarco. He knew the band, he was signed to the same publisher and says that there is a lost Virgin/MDM album that never got released !!!!!! What!?!?! What happened with it? Where are these songs?

And this is when this indiepop archaeology job hits a wall. Still I found a lot of information and was left with even a bigger mystery, the unreleased 2nd album by Apple Mosaic. There’s also the change of lineup, when and why did it happen? If they recorded even more songs? How come they signed to Virgin? How come they didn’t become successful? “Honey If” could have been big on the radio if you ask me. I wonder. I’m sure many of you remember them? Any other details or information about the band would be greatly appreciated!

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Listen
Apple Mosaic – Honey If

03
Jul

Tomorrow is 4th of July and I plan having a good lazy day because this is my last week at my present workplace. I will start a new job starting Monday and I feel a mix of excitement and anxiousness. That’s normal, isn’t it? I’ve been at my current job for 5 and a half years now. A change was needed. What I’m not sure though is how it will affect the blog. I wonder if I’ll have the spare time to write a post once a week. I hope so. If not, I will need to try to find some time, even if it is during the weekends. I feel it is still important to write and document the music we all love.

Speaking of music we all love, and if you haven’t paid attention to the Cloudberry Facebook page, then you must know that we announced our next 7″, our 42nd! This time is a 4 song EP by Santiago, Chile, band My Light Shines For You. At this particular moment you can listen to one of the songs, the opening one, “Detective“, on our Soundcloud. You can also pre-order the record which will be released late September/early October this year. We will have an exact date as soon as the pressing plant starts pressing the 7” vinyl. The record also includes three other songs, “Letterzone”, “That Kind of Boy” and “Crystallized”. This is their second release ever after their 2015 “Días de Lluvia” EP. The artwork for the record was created by Valencia, Spain, illustrator Hector Trunnec. So yeah, keep an eye on this exciting release that recalls classic upbeat bands like The Haywains, Tullycraft, Strawberry Story and more.

And of course here I continue looking for exciting bands for our next 7″s (I can say there’s a new Swedish band working on one) and also bands deserving retrospective albums (also in the talks with a couple of bands). So things are still going forward at Cloudberry, and it is all thanks to your support.

Speaking of our retrospectives, it has come to our attention some rare live footage from our friends The Suncharms who graced one of our Cake Kitchen releases. On their Youtube channel you can find videos of them playing at The Palais in Sheffield on the 18th of July of 1991. You can check “Sparkle“, “Verge of Tears“, “She Feels“, “Sort it Out“, “Tranquil Day“, “Reflections“, “Spaceship” and “Wash Away“. They all sound great, and you can feel a special energy in the crowd. How much I would have loved to be there!

Now onto some indiepop news around the world, yes?

The Death of Pop just announced a new CD album release on Barcelona’s Discos de Kirlian label. You can actually stream the 11 songs from the album titled “Fed Up” on the label’s Bandcamp. This record includes all previously released digital singles this year. There are only 150 copies of the record, so it is very possible I won’t get a copy myself which is a shame. I’m not entirely familiar with this London band, but I can see they have a few shows coming up within the UK. It makes me long that country, but then, there’s no place where I could check out all the up and coming indiepop bands at the same time as I used to when Indietracks reigned supreme.

The Sweetest Touch is a recommendation from a dear reader and supporter of the label. The band hails from Depok in Indonesia and have 3 songs streaming on the Bandcamp of the great Dismantled Records from Jakarta. These songs will be released soon as a CDR but as I write these lines you can stream “Runaway”,  “Too Many Dust, Too Many Haze” and “Last Wishes”. The band is a duo formed by Razif Haragi and Muhammad Zul Atsari. The sound is beautiful, very much influenced by Sarah Records.

Other news I’ve been meaning to mention, even though now it feels a bit late, is that the fantastic Annika label from Barcelona, Spain, is back. To those who have no clue, well Annika released a bunch of fab records the past decade including releases of The Pines, Milkyway, Pipas, Mirafiori and Serpentina. Now that the label is back they are doing deluxe re-releases of two of their most beloved bands, Mirafiori and Serpentina. Now both of the bands get the vinyl treatment and it makes sense. Mirafiori’s “La Casa del Coleccionista” includes the songs from the original CD EP released in 2002 by Annika and also songs from demos recorded in 2000 and a couple of compilation tracks. All in all there are 10 songs, and because this is a special occasion the label and Cloudberry friend Toni Poni has put together a beautiful video for the song “Cinco Minutos“. And what about Serpentina? Yes there’s a new video as well, this time for the song “Llámame“. I really like this video by the way, so classy. The thing about the re-release of Serpentina’s classic album “Blancamañana” is that this time it is not just one CD, it is a double LP! This means that there are actually 18 new songs here and plus the 14 from the original release, there are a whopping 32 songs! I have ordered both of this records and I can’t wait for them to arrive. The two original releases have been favourite of mine for a long time, so I can’t wait to hear all those unreleased songs that I hope have the same quality as the rest! You can order these records and more from Annika’s website.

I’ve mentioned before “England is Mine”, the Morrissey biopic. There was not much to see, but it was an interesting thing that it was being filmed. Now finally a trailer has appeared. You can actually watch it now on Youtube. The film was directed by Mark Gill and stars Jack Lowden as Morrissey and has Jessica Brown Findlay as Linder Sterling from Ludus.

This post already got long! And I still have a bunch of news and music for you to hear. But let’s wrap it here. But let’s do a deal, I promise another blog this week!

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Barrow-in-Furness is a town and borough in Cumbria, North West England. Historically part of Lancashire, it was incorporated as a municipal borough in 1867 and merged with adjacent districts in 1974 to form the Borough of Barrow-in-Furness. At the tip of the Furness peninsula, close to the Lake District, it is bordered by Morecambe Bay, the Duddon Estuary and the Irish Sea. In 2011, Barrow’s population was 57,000, the second largest urban area in Cumbria after Carlisle. Natives of Barrow, as well as the local dialect, are known as Barrovian.

My introduction to Barrow-in-Furness band Red Hour came through the superb Wilde Club Records compilation “I Might Walk Home Alone” (catalog WILDE 10). Some of you might remember I bought this compilation because I was curious about the band Storm House that also appeared on the compilation. On top of that 2 bands related to Cloudberry, Shine! and The Suncharms also appear on it. Yes, I’m telling you that if you see it, grab this 1992 CD compilation. It is worth getting. On it, Red Hour appears with the song “Treat” and as I didn’t know much about them I decided that it was time to investigate.

It seems true that indiepop bands in the early nineties are definitely more obscure than the 80s one. You’d think it should be the other way around, as the 80s are older and all, but no, it must be that the heyday, the year 0, was 1986 for many. Red Hour came around in the early 90s and perhaps that’s why I had never heard about them before, why my friends don’t mention them, or I don’t see much on the web about them. They put out two records according to Discogs, but I would love to know if they made more recordings or if they were involved in other bands. Time to dig the world wide web.

Their first release was a 7″ on Cogent Records (catalog RHCOG5). This label had mostly released records by The Tier Garden and also a 7″ by Perfect Circle but for sure it is not a label one associates to indiepop or that many are nostalgic about. In any case, the two songs they included in the 7″ were recorded and mixed at Out of the Blue Studios in Manchester on the 2nd and 13th of August 1990. That same year the 7″ was released and the song titles were “Five Questions” on the A side and “Films About Me” on the B side.

We find some credits here and we find that the band was formed by:
Dave Canavan on vocals
Roger Lindsay on guitars
Chris Hughes on bass
Geoff Cooke on drums
Roger Bibby on guitars and keyboards

The engineer for this record was Adam Lesser.

I like to imagine that this release caught the attention of Barry Newman from the superb Wilde Club Records. A year before the compilation I mentioned earlier was released, in 1991, Red Hour put out a brilliant 12″. It had four songs, “Spin Out” and “Five Questions” on the A side and “Open Eyes” and “Treat” on the B side. I wonder if “Five Questions” is a re-recording of their previous single or it is the same version. I only own this 12″, the 7″ is still on my wantlist.

This record was also recorded at Out of The Blue Studios, this time on the 19th and the 20th of April 1991. It does say that “Five Questions” was recorded and mixed on 4th and 13th of August 1990. It must be the same version then, right?

My next stop in this search for any information on Red Hour takes me to a blog titled The Smell of the Greasepaint and the Sound of the Peel. It is a blog seems to cover a lot of music John Peel played between the years 1991 and 2004. Here I learn that Red Hour had actually recorded a Peel Session on the 8th of March of 1992. The songs they recorded for the session were “All I Need“, “William Jailor“, “Free Fall” and “Almost There“.

Other than that not much information on the blog, though it is a lovely read about what the author remembers about these songs and what he thinks of them. I like these sort of personal music blogs. I haven’t written a piece like that for ages. Seems I’ve been keeping this format of an obscure band investigation and some indiepop news or criticism combo for years now. I once reviewed some albums and reviewed gigs. And I wonder how will the blog evolve in the coming months and weeks as I will be starting a new job and I’m not 100% sure how I will organize my time.

The good thing is that thanks to that blog post, as two Youtube songs were embedded, I could find Richard Attwood’s Youtube. Not sure who he is (I’m guessing he was behind Cogent Records as he has songs by Tier Garden, Red Hour and Perfect Circle on his channel) but he has a trove of Red Hour recordings here!

The first song I find is titled “Isolated” and it predates both of their physical releases. This song was taken from a tape recorded on the 21st of October of 1989 at Out of the Blue. From that same session there’s another song, “Moving Away” that I’m also loving.

The next two songs available,”Days By the Docks (live)” and “Jesus is the Answer (live)”, are live recordings from a gig at The Hospital Club in Barrow on the 13th of May of 1989.

Then another obscure track, “Long Days”, taken from a 5 track demo recorded February 11th of 1989. I wonder what other songs were in this demo.

Then I check out the songs from the Wilde Club Records who Richard has also uploaded. I wonder if he was the one behind Cogent Records why didn’t he upload “Films About Me”. I would like to listen to that song. In any case I go through the comments looking for any other tidbits about the band.

Sadly what I found is not good news. Someone commented that Dave Canavan died 5 years ago.

And that is when I feel I hit a wall. Not much more about Red Hour. Luckily I did a quick search on my blog and found a mention to Red Hour. On an interview with The Peach Thieves when I ask them about the town they were based and if there were any good bands that they got on well they said:
We were and I still am based in Cumbria – a beautiful part of the UK – we’re just outside the Lake District so lots of mountains and lakes but Barrow where we played most is a tough working class town – the bands we got on with were Red Hour and Masai Buckeroo the only other ‘indie’ bands around Red Hour were kind of like the Wedding Present/Television and Masai Buckeroo wanted to be Butthole Surfers – we played our very first gig on the same night in 86 in fact – Best venue by far was The Labour Club – sadly not there anymore but a great left wing bar with an upstairs concert hall – spent many happy hours in there.

Do you remember them? Have you heard any of their other demo recordings? Or live recordings? Were the band members involved in other bands? Maybe some of you saw them playing? Well, if you remember anything about them I would love to know.

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Listen
Red Hour – Five Questions