Thanks so much to Seamus Allison for the interview! Me and Dean Martin was a fab jangly band from Nottingham from the late 80s who released two 7″s, both of them highly recommendable! So if by any chance you haven’t heard about them before now it’s time for you to discover them!
++ Hi Seamus! Thanks so much for this interview! How are you? Are you still based in Nottingham?
Still based in Nottingham and all is well.
++ Tell me a bit about the scene there in the 80s. When did you start going out to check bands? What were the venues you’d used to go to? And what were the first bands that made an impression on you?
There were some great bands in Nottingham in the late 80s and a number of venues that really supported the local indie scene. Venues included Jacey’s, The Old Angel, Russell’s, The Hippo, The Garage (sister club to the Hacienda in Manchester) both universities and a whole range of pubs. There was a great choice of indie bands to watch; Twelve Angry Men, Slaughter House 5, Hurt, Hepburn, The Legendary Dolphins, The Ash Felt Ribbons, Idi Eisenstein, Dr Egg, Huge Big Massive, Po!, The Waiting List plus there was a very active thrash metal scene thanks to Ear Ache Records and bands such as Lawnmower Deth.
++ Was Me and Dean Martin your first band?
It was our first gigging band. We’d had a number of line-ups in what were really bedroom bands and the core of these went on to form Me and Dean Martin.
++ How did the band start? How did you all know each other?
Marek and I shared a post-student house and realised we both had a love of the music of Bruce Springsteen and the Smiths. Marek had an acoustic guitar and a saxophone and I had an electric guitar so we started playing together and then writing some stuff. I came across Graham when I’d seen his drum kit in a rehearsal studio. We knew he was right for us as soon as we met him because he was wearing a cardigan (plus he is an excellent drummer). Nige answered an ad we’d placed in various venues; we knew he was right immediately because he had sideburns (plus he is a very melodic bass player). Prior to Nige a friend, Ken, played bass until such time as we could find a replacement but thankfully stayed longer than he’d planned and added a considerable amount to the band before moving to Australia.
++ Where does the name come from? I guess you were big Dean Martin fans?
We were regularly rehearing and writing and planned to record some demos. One night, following rehearsals, we were sitting in the pub and decided we needed a name. The Matt Helm movies had been playing on TV during the week and so we thought a name with Dean Martin in it would be spot on. We discussed this at some length over drinks and next day all we could remember of the debate was the phrase Me and Dean Martin so we took that as an omen. It helped that Marek and I were big fans of the Rat Pack.
++ Your first single came out in 1989, it was the Surfing Days EP. I guess it’s an obvious question, especially as there’s no ocean in Nottingham, was surfing something you were into at the time?
The song has nothing to do with surfing. We used the idea of surfing and summer nights and words like cool and out of sight as an association with Americana; the storyteller contrasts the ideal of the American dream, as presented in the popular media, with his real existence of life in a dull seaside town in Yorkshire. So the Scarborough love affair was not to be but the narrator could at least escape his reality by dreaming of Elvis. The song is an affectionate critique of the Americanisation of British youth culture.
++ On this 7″ I really love the B side, “Sweet Starts and Bitter Ends”. I think it should be an indiepop classic! If it’s not too much to ask, what’s the story behind this song?
This song fits in between “7 Compton Street” and “I Hope it Rains on Your Wedding Day”. It’s about a relationship that starts well but ends in bitterness. It’s got some lovely lines penned by Marek such as “flowers that I buy for you, they just had to die for you” and “it’s just myself on buses home.” Poetry.
++ This 7″ and the next one were released in the No Label. Who were they? And how did you end up releasing with them?
No Label was an indie label based in Nottingham. I’d helped one of the founders build a garage and we’d often spend more time in his little studio than on site. When he founded the label with one of his friends they seemed the natural people to approach to help us with our project.
++ This first 7″ also received a lot of plays on BBC Radio One and got the attention of the press. Was there any interest of other labels at the time? Perhaps big labels?
We were played by John Peel, John Walters and Simon Mayo (on the breakfast show – we tricked him into playing it, buts that’s another story!). John Peel segued Surfing Days with a Dean Martin song – pop perfection. EG Records picked up on the first single and came to see us play a few times in Nottingham and London. We met with them one night; they had their expense accounts and the wine flowed, for them, but we just drank tea and ate Bourbon biscuits, it wasn’t very rock and roll! As often happens, the person who was interested in us left the company to concentrate on managing bands and the interest waned. There was talk of a £10,000 advance to record enough tracks for an album but it never happened. The only other contact with big labels was when CBS banned us from using an image of Dean Martin – we used it anyway.
++ I read on the Leamington Spa liner notes that your second single was supposed to be “Hope and Optimism” but decided instead to release “Life and Death Issues in Three Minutes”. Why was that?
We recorded some rough demos to help us decide which songs to take into the studio for our next release. We couldn’t get Hope and Optimism right on that occasion so didn’t finish recording it. We sent the demo tracks minus Hope and Optimism to a few producers. Peter Hook offered to produce us and said he much preferred Life and Death Issues in Three Minutes so we figured that was a good one to go for. Here’s a 4 track demo of Hope and Optimism: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2g7aO6XbQOU
++ And speaking of “Hope and Optimism”, it also says that it was recorded for a network TV show. Is there footage of that TV appearance?
Thanks to Nige Nimoy the footage appears on YouTube. You can find it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CwCBpkoCWqU
++ Back to “Life and Death Issues in Three Minutes”, why did you turn down Peter Hook for the production duties?
It would have been great to have worked with Peter but he wanted too much money and we were broke. We’d hoped the much talked about advance from EG Records would help but unfortunately that wasn’t to be so we produced it ourselves along with Joe King who had worked with Diesel Park West – I think he did a good job.
++ On the single, the last song is “7 Compton Street”. I checked on Google Maps, and I found that it’s in Sherwood. Why is this address important to you?
It’s in Carlisle in Cumbria and just seemed a great title for an indie song – it’s got a rhythm to it.
++ And another song on this 7″ is “This is Why I Hate the Sixties”. I don’t own the 7″ sadly, so I haven’t heard it, but is there any truth in the title of the song?
The sixties have seen some fantastic pop music and it is the decade in which we were born. The title refers to our critique of the naïve optimism of the hippy movement. They believed that with a few flowery shirts, drugs, free love and long hair they could affect radical long-term social change. It’s another affectionate critique. Again thanks to Nige, here it is: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P12719qJKXc
++ On the Leamington Spa you contributed the song “Me and My Paisley Shirt”. This was supposed to be the third single. What happened? Why didn’t it come out?
We were really pleased with the recording which took place in the same session as Sixties, To Be Touched, If You Could See Me Now and Life and Death and was another Joe King engineered track. It was a live favourite. However, the response to Life and Death wasn’t what we’d hoped and we had the EG Records disappointment so it was decided to end the band. Here are the other tracks from the session which you may not be familiar with:
To Be Touched: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4-uljykLi-A
If You Could See Me Now: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ouiNGlY12to
++ And speaking of paisley shirts. What was the style of Me and Dean Martin?
It’s true there were a few Paisley shirts but we weren’t really interested in style and fashion, apart from Marek’s hair and Nige’s sideburns.
++ I also read that you had produced around 100 songs. How many were recorded? Is there a lot of unreleased material?
We’d recorded perhaps up to 30, of various sound qualities. At almost every gig we’d introduce a new song or two. The real shame is some of the stuff we never got round to recording. Here are two examples from a rough live recording that turned up last year: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3VDDTLf_9k4
I can vaguely remember someone placing a portable cassette player at the side of the stage but for the recording to turn up 25 year later really is something. The first two tracks are I Hope it Rains on Your Wedding Day and Why Must I Always be the One to Say I’m Sorry When I’m Not Always the One Who’s in the Wrong? Catchy titles! Oh the tuning and timing, ouch!
++ You also gigged a lot during those four years of Me and Dean Martin. What were the best gigs? And the not so good ones?
We did gig a lot. Towards the end we did a fantastic gig at the University of Nottingham’s end of year ball. We collected hundreds of balloons from around the venue and put them all on stage so that we were playing in a sea of balloons up to our chests. My memory is of Marek slowing sinking into the balloons during Paisley Shirt and trying not to laugh. There was a not-so-good one in a venue in London. It turned out that we were supporting a glam metal band whose supporters were all ever-so-slightly right-wing. So there we were, a group of mop-topped fresh-faced indie popsters from the provinces. The crowd was quite hostile at first so we turned the amps up to eleven and gave it our all – we got a great reception in the end.
++ And then when and why did the band split?
The reception to the second single wasn’t what we’d hoped for and the EG link up didn’t happen so we got a bit down and decided we’d had a good innings.
++ What did you do after? I know you were involved in The Marteens as well (the two songs I know are just fabulous!), but perhaps that would make another interview for the blog!
We couldn’t stay away for long and reformed as the Marteens with two female singers Babs and Lola (not their real names) under the pretence that we were a brother and sister outfit. We wrote and recorded a dozen or so new songs and played a few Me and Dean Martin songs live. However, it fizzled out. I then got a call from the Deddingtons to help out live, we changed the name to Tuesdays Child, then Graham from Me and Dean Martin joined as drummer and the Days came about.
++ Are you all still in touch? What are you up to these days? Still making music?
We are still in touch. Graham is a cognitive behavioural therapist and an expert in brain injury rehabilitation, Marek is an internationally renowned university professor, Nige is busy uploading what exists of our back catalogue to YouTube and I work in academia. Marek is into obscure folk music at the minute and I strum my guitar in the dining room when no one is listening.
++ What about other hobbies that you like to do?
Other than Marek and his folk music I’m not sure what the others get up to. A few years ago I took up duathlon (triathlon without the swimming) and have now represented Ireland internationally in my age group a few times. Being with my family is what floats my boat.
++ I’ve been to Nottingham a couple of times, mostly touristy stuff. Me and a lot of friends pass by almost every year on our way to Alfreton for the Indietracks festival. I wonder if you could give some tips on what to see, where to eat, and where to drink in your town?
Nottingham is a great little city, far better than its press coverage would suggest. You’ve got to visit the Trip to Jerusalem pub, catch a band at Rock City (the best live venue in the country), have a curry in the Noor Jahan and visit the caves.
++ Thanks again, let’s start wrapping the interview. Looking back in time, what would you say was the best moment, the highlight, of Me and Dean Martin?
Our first single being played by John Peel – what a moment that was.
++ Anything else you’d like to add?
It’s really nice to think that some people out there still like the music and take time to share it and write about it. There was some lovely music made during that time and the indie scene was vibrant; it’s heartening and reassuring to think there are people prepared to make an effort to save that music for future generation. Thanks.