I have found this plastic bag...

I have found this bag of audio cassette tapes containing recordings and stuff made twenty years ago or so, I am going through them and remembering...

You can start from the beginning if it makes it easier to read.

Travelling 2nd Class Through Hope

05 Jun 2012

I Have just watched the John Cooper Clarke documentary that was on the BBC4 last week, and one of the 'Talking Heads' was the poet and tv producer Henry Normal, whom I had got to know through performing poetry in Manchester.

It reminded me that there was a reading that I had done with Henry at a bookshop in Manchester, that was recorded, and at the time of having the 4-track machine in Palatine Road, I'd put the recording of his poem 'Travelling 2nd Class Through Hope' to music.

Hmm like some kind of second class Martin Hannett.

I am even trying to play the guitar through the delay a bit like Vini Reilly. Anyway I've just rediscovered it in the plastic bag and voila!

NB: Hope is a village in Derbyshire and you do travel through it from Manchester to Sheffield.

'Travelling 2nd Class Through Hope' the poem is available in Henry Normal's collection: Nude Modelling for the afterlife available here.

Like the Warm September Wind, babe

26 May 2012
I'm looking at the man in the mirror

I loved the Monkees, growing up, the show was a staple of the summer holiday morning tv schedules for kids in the late seventies early eighties - and then again as a student I really got into the music again; they seem to embody just the right blend of cool and silliness; and 'Head' is a great film and I was really sad when Davy Jones passed away recently because he was forever young, in my mind, and I guess he'll stay young forever in the reruns, but it's still sort of sad and marks the passing of time, the disappearance of youth.

His story and the audaciousness of the experiment to create a beatlesesque boy band just for the american TV market is breathtaking in it's conception and success -  I am in awe of the songwriting talent they managed to pull together to make it work.

If you look at the early Colgems Monkees albums, and this is fairly true of most sixties LP's I guess, they contain the 2 or 3 tracks released as singles which are the ones you know, and then a succession of hastily written awful filler tracks, but sometimes these vinyl filling fodder contains a really great song, and I became a bit obsessed with trying to find them. 

I discovered this Boyce Hart song track on the first Monkees LP, and I loved it's simplicity, although listening to the lyrics now, they are not quite as sweet as they may seem; basically Davy Jones just wants to shag around and not go steady the loveable heartbreaking rogue.

I'm not sure I relate to some of the similes used ie 'Like the Bluebirds flying by me' or 'Like the warm September wind, babe'

Anyway the simplicity of the chords meant it was one of the first songs I 'worked out' just from listening to it, so I used to play it on the guitar quite a bit, and out of respect to Davy Jones, I've waited for him to die before I've released this version to the world. Imagine him turning in his grave like the rotating head from The Head movie promo.

How to spell happy

06 May 2012
Cartoon me

So we stopped doing 'daub' we somehow had it in our heads that we only needed a violinist and a singer, when probably we just needed songs, only one person answered our ads and then they didn't show up for the rehearsal, and the pub manager stopped us from using the cellar. So I went solo, or at least I would try to write some songs before being in a band again.

I managed to borrow a 4-track recorder off of Paul who had just started work in the Square Albert pub, later I found out it was actually his dads, and I had it for a few months longer than the weekend I'd asked to borrow it for.

Flatmate Dave was starting to gig quite a bit as a Stand-Up across the country, and so I had time to myself, and could make noise. I really tried to learn how to play the guitar and experiment, and write songs; but with limited success. Think I wanted to try and create something that felt better than Illinois, to prove something to myself.

Although it was just me, I have written the band as 'How to spell Happy' on the tape, which was the title of a Headbirths song, so I was never really comfortable with the idea of trying to be a singer songwriter, and I probably wasn't earnest enough either.

The cartoon, is of me, it was drawn by a girlfriend of Dave H's; I don't have that big a nose, but I copied it onto a t-shirt, and people liked it alot, although they thought it was Billy Bragg.

Around this time, I put together a pamphlet of my poetry called 'This Coming Monday' and my sister's boyfriend at the time took some photos of me being twee for the cover in a closed down hospital somewhere in Liverpool. I found some of these in a wallet amongst the tapes and have added them to the gallery as they are hilarious.


15 Apr 2012
The Square Albert Pub

Ok bit of a pause in posts, to represent the time after illinois, finishing my degree.

After my degree then, I stayed in Manchester, moved into a damp flat with Dave on Palatine Road in 'leafy' West Didsbury ok alright Withington then.

I had a third class honors degree in Mathematics, so naturally I got a cleaning job in a city centre pub along with more hours behind the bar at The Square Albert in the evenings and odd lunchtimes. I had no great plan for life, I just didn't want to grow up and find myself in a proper job.

Now Scott was the assistant manager at the Square Albert, he'd played bass in a few bands, liked Nine Inch Nails, and importantly had keys to the pub out of hours. On quiet shifts we'd while away hours talking about music, tackling the Manchester Evening News Crossword and trying to recycle Lothenbrau slops to appease brewery reps.

Scott had a really strange relationship with a girl from the North East called Alison. She didn't trust him and I'm not sure if I ever knew why. Whether it was just extreme paranoia, or whether Scott had previous for waywardness, it puzzled me though because as far as I could tell he was just a really sound bloke. I suppose he drank cider, in halves, so maybe he was an alcoholic at heart, or the type to wee in the wardrobe when drunk, or maybe he snogged a girl once; either way he was permanently in the wrong; and their normal conversational setting was 'argumentative'.

Alison trusted me though because she had been working at the pub when I started and thought I was nice and sensible (and presumably didn't wee in wardrobes), so Scott was allowed out of her sight as long as I was present.

So 'Daub' kind of span out of these 'bail conditions' as a way to regularly spring Scott out of Alison's clutches on Saturday mornings, to practice in the vaulted cellar of the pub, have breakfast and a few beers then start work on the evening shift when the pub opened at six, (because in those days pubs didn't open all day every day, imagine that)

Mike, the extremely laid back/stoned weekend pot collector was in on it; and played drums, although he was a much better guitarist than me; but I had an amp and a Melos DE1 Analog Echo Delay chamber and he had his brothers drum kit.

We came up with the name Daub, because pretentiously we were painting with 'noise', and it was a play on 'dub' and 'The Orb'. It was less about the music though and more about the escape. We may have only recorded these 'sessions' in order to prove to Alison that's what we were doing.

I guess If illinois had been all about crafted 2 and a half minute pop songs, daub was about epic meandering repetitive 12 minute soundscapes and I'd like to apologise now for anyone who has listened in entirety to any of these recordings; which I am now posthumously naming as 'Sorry, I cannot reimburse you for the time you have taken to listen to this'

Tears at the Ritz

18 Mar 2012
Twentieth Century Mod Classics signature

I can't remember when exactly after that last gig; but Matt came up to Manchester to visit, and it must have been midweek because we went to the Ritz on Whitworth Street, (with the bouncy dancefloor); and we were upstairs, on the seats by the balcony because we were going to have a talk; and it ended.

It wasn't working out because I was in Manchester, and Matt and John were in Nottingham, and we couldn't rehearse, and we needed to rehearse because we were still all over the place. I remember offering to give up my degree and move to Nottingham; but Matt had found a new basist called Heather, who sounded really good in rehearsal so ohh...

... and I drifted out of the conversation and stopped listening, one eye on the dancefloor below, until the dancing yawned and subsided into arms outstretched like aeroplanes and the dambusters theme signalled the end of the evening.

It was an obvious thing to happen really; but because we were good friends, I expect it must have been hard for Matt to do; and he showed much grace in telling me to my face.

So illinois had a new line-up, Matt, Heather and Heather's boyfriend Andy[1] on drums; I think they played a few gigs in Nottingham. Matt sent me a copy of another demo they recorded at Sideways Sound Studio; (and so it is in the plastic bag); they recorded two new songs for this and Sunny Days in England. for the illinois completist you can hear them here:

My disingenuous memory had these tracks sounding much the same as our previous demo, and without any noticeable improvement in the rhythm department; but listening to them now; I'm guiltily shocked at how good these sound in comparison; particulary Matt's vocal on 'Pretty Blue Eyes' and the percussion (I think a style council sample Martin Cooper slowed down), is brilliant.

Sunny Days in England is played at it's proper speed, great! - Of course Matt should have ditched us much sooner!

What a nice, lovely man he was to let me play so badly in his band for so long.

Later the following year after illinois was no more, we played an acoustic night in Nottingham together where I sang 'Sundays' and we worked out a cover of a Field Mice song, and that felt very cathartic.

And at some point in this timeline; Will and Matt were in Manchester (for a Vini Reilly gig ?) and at a pub in Hulme; where we knew the resident band (The Knights); the three of us somehow ended up playing 'Rudi, A Message To You' by the Specials, 'Shoorah Shoorah', by Betty Wright and then 'When Summer Comes around'.

Matt, went on to write several proper published poetry books, that can be purchased here, and he still occaisionally plays with The Foaming Beauties


Heather's boyfriend Andy Maclure later went on to be the drummer in 'Sleeper' the british Britpop band who scored eight UK Top 40 hit singles.

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