20
Jan

Photo: sitting on the gate from left to right are Michael Green, Tim Slater, Dave Wick, John Lindsell and the Dave Fletcher.

A couple of days ago Michael Green, The Nightjars guitarist, got in touch with me. I had written a blog piece about his band many months ago asking for some more information about it and somehow he stumbled upon it. How thrilling! And he has been so nice to tell me the whole story of the band with me, and of course, I want to share with you all. Also he scanned a promo photo of The Nightjars, plus an interview on a Cambridgeshire zine called “Scene and Heard” (part 1, part 2, part 3). Also he asked me to upload the B side “Hang Me Out Dry” which he said: “was only of my favourite things we did. I remember writing the original chugging (C F Am F I think….) riff, sat on my amp,playing it to the others and then Tim Slater improvising the slide guitar bit over the top straight off the top of his head, it was all pretty instant really which are usually the best ones.” And I can only agree, it’s fantastic tune!

And here is the whole story:

The Nightjars were formed from an amalgamation of twobands – The Giant Polar Bears and Red Over White. Original band members were Johnny Lindsell (vocals) Dave Wick (bass) Brendan Costello (guitar) and Dave “Fletch” Fletcher (drums). The name was Johnny’s idea – he is a bit of an ornithologist on the side and came across it in a bird book, thought the nocturnal animal / mesmerizing call bit was cool. Personally, I much preferred The Giant Polar Bears but wasn’t in the group then so didn’t have a say! The thinking at the time was it was too close to The Mighty Lemon Drops (well done on your referencing of influences in the article by the way – spot on)- turns out there’s another band now from Manchester callTheNightjars (part of me feels like contacting them to suggest calling themselves The Giant Polar Bears….much better name but there we are!) Brendan eventually emigrated to Australia to manage a mine somewhere and on-board came Tim Slater, who at the time worked in a guitar shop in Cambridge.

Somewhere around 1988 the band decided they wanted to fill the sound out by adding another guitarist. I lived in the same village as Johnny (Wistow, Cambs) and he’d heard I played guitar. The band at this point were in their mid to late 20’s, I was 15. So I get a knock on my door one day asking if I’d like to audition for the band – one of the most nerve-wracking decisions I’d had in my life! Half of me was “YEAH!”, the other half was “but I only know half a dozen chords and how to play a power chord…..” Anyway – I agreed and that afternoon had an audition in a pig barn (yep…) where the band practiced every Sunday afternoon. I passed the test, was thrown a bunch of tapes to learn the songs and told I’d be playing my first gig that Thursday Night in a snooker hall in Ramsey. Spent next 3 days furiously learning the songs and it went like clockwork – one of the best nights of my life, I was officially a rock star….!

Over the next 3 years we gigged extensively and made a handful of demos, culminating in putting Acid In Your Face to vinyl. We were by far and away the best followed band in the Cambridge area and supported the likes of Teenage Fanclub (to be eternal regret I broke my hand the night before and had to sit the gig out), Throwing Muses (remember being horrified that they got paid £1500 for the gig and had a rider that included white towels, whilewe did the whole thing for a case of Red Stripe)and many others. This was our forte – playing live – and we knew it, Johnny wasn’t the best vocalist of all time though he was an outstanding front man and we weren’t the best of musicians (bar Tim Slater) though we could certainly hold our own.Live we hadsome kind of X-Factor that seemed to draw the local youth to us more than any other band, I cant really explain it but it was like we were all part of the same club.Tim went on to be features editor for Guitarist magazine but I have no idea what he, or the others, are doing now – ironically it was by putting his name into google that I found you last night. I’ve also found another guy who I think replaced me in ‘92 and claims to have played on “Acid in your Face – NME Single of the week”. I’m very tempted to email him to say a) no you didnt and b) it was never NME Single of the Week! I see you have this in your article, I’m sure we didn’t but aforementioned band above have done, it may be that you are confusing the two? Would be very interested to know where you got info from though, would make my day if we had and I’d forgotten!From memory I think we may have made the John Peel show though…?

So – this was a big big part of my life from 15-18 but in ‘91 I finished school and passed exams to go to University in Manchester. At the time there was some interest from Rough Trade records, which turned my head a bit but in my heart of hearts I knew we’d never make it so left the band and went to University, where I met my now wife etc etc and the rest is history. I joined a band up there called Dream Baby Dream (now if you want to talk horrendous band names….) but it just wasn’t the same and have just plucked along on my own since, writing the odd thing here and there for my own amusement. Ironically, when I moved to Manchester – the other end of the country – I found the single in a record shop in the bargain bucket! Each week it went down 10p in price until the last time I saw it it was going for something like 5p and disappeared – whether someone bought it or it was chucked away who knows.

Out of interest, I nearly fell off my chair last night when I saw the single cover on your site, the cover is one of my mates (Paddy Hulson) holding Johnny’s baby daughter Poppy. Poppy must be 20/21 now – unbelievable.

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Listen
The Nightjars – Hold Me Out To Dry

5 Responses to “:: The Nightjars”

Hiya. Just read the blog etc etc. Unbelieveable that Cloudberry picked up on our potential some 20 years after!!!! Sorry Rough Trade, you missed out there. Great to hear Michael Green is still out there – Descendents, Thacker, big Rich…… Any other info you need just get in touch. I had loads of copies of Acid in Your Face but not sure where they are now! Also loads of demos. Would be great to hear from all old Nightjars members or fans out there.

September 23rd, 2010

I’m not sure how i stumbled on this, but those days of the Giant Polar Bears, goes a little further back, Jem Thornton, Bob Barrat, Geoff Jones, Jonny and Phil Thomas were the original members of the band, played a few gigs and seemed to drift off… mind you i think there was a girl lead singer for a bit too.. anyway – nice to see some of those old faces in the picture!!

Rob Jones
January 7th, 2011

Excellent song and interesting info! Always enjoy reading these interviews, Roque. Thanks to the band for the music and the info! Haven’t yet listened to the other song. Hope the demos make their way public someday.

Michael Horton
January 27th, 2011

I started the band with Johnny in 1988. I had been in Red Over White with the great Tim Brooks and left to go to college (like Mike, it was always the back-up plan). Both Dave Wick and Dave Fletcher had been with me in ROW principally becuase we lived on the same street, Station Road in Warboys. When I got back from college in 1988 I met Johnny down the Three(3) Horshoes in Wistow and we talked about getting a band together. A week later me & him were rehearsing at his house and laid out Suicide Kisses and Catherine. A few days later I called up Dave & Dave and they agreed to join us. Our early gigs were local with a few trips out to the wilds (Haverhill), but established a very loyal following. We were loud and Johnny was a great presence on stage. We cut the first demo at Molesworth and Tim George took some ace photos. Our image and sound was pretty tight. Until that point we were a four piece and our sound was very much 80’s indie, perhaps a little dark 60’s. By adding Mike’s thicker sound at the back, it allowed us a few more lead lines. The best memories I had was a gig at the Cromwell in Huntingdon when we literally had our backs to the wall. The old Tudor pub was full and I remember water dripping onto my fretboard at one point. I looked up and noted it was in fact condensed sweat dripping off the ceiling! The pace was going nuts! Another great gig was the Wistow Village hall. I felt proud to be part of those early days. And yes…mining payed a lot better. I’d still do it again….maybe not in Huntingdon though!

Brendan Costello
September 12th, 2011

I am Tim Slater from the Nightjars, thought I’d throw my two pennyworth in.

My part in the Nightjars story started in 1989/90 when I met John Lindsell in the guitar shop in Cambridge where I used to work. John & I clicked immediately and when he mentioned that his band were looking for a new guitarist I went along for an audition. When I turned up (late, my tardiness became something of a band in-joke) I had long curly hair and a Les Paul guitar & was wearing a leather biker jacket, I looked more like I should have been auditioning for Motorhead – not exactly the indie image that the others had in mind. However, we sounded good together & I was astounded at the passionate following that the band had, people were literally bused-in to see some of our gigs…I even had girls throwing their knickers thrown at me but on reflection they were probably taking the piss! Two highlights that stick in my mind were our storming performance at a heat of the Cambridge Rock competition, the band really rose to the occasion on the big stage and we took the place by storm. It was a brilliant night and John was on great form. Another great gig was when we played the Junction in Cambridge, when John walked on stage the crowd roared…for one night we were rock stars and it felt fucking brilliant! The band eventually disintegrated, which was a shame because I felt that we were still building to a peak but a couple of the guys weren’t into it anymore & that was that. I count myself very lucky to have been involved with such an amazing band and the great people who used to some and see us.

Tim Slater
December 2nd, 2013