11 Mar 2012
We were all meant to phone and send the demo tape out to record
labels, venues etc, and make follow up calls and do all that hard
donkey work that actually does pay off and gets people to listen to
your music and brings you opportunities.
I didn't do that, I'm not sure if Matt or John did either, I
know Matt sent it via Anne-Marie to Robert Wratten of the Field
Mice, who I think said it was very post-post modern; all I managed
to do was get us a gig (in the bar I had a part-time job in - I
wasn't trying that hard!); in Consorts, downstairs at The Square
Albert in Manchester.
So this time John and Matt had to take the cheap Trent bus over
the peaks in the other direction.
I did the poster for the gig; and the question I've been asked
most about these rememberings, is where did you get the photo from
? Well my grandad was a teacher on the Isle of Wight, and amongst
his possessions was an envelope marked EMI Hitsville containing
photos of the EMI Record making factory in Middlesex, I guess he
either organised a school trip there or wrote asking for the photos
as teaching materials or something. We were saving them for use on
the first single cover.
I have a really warm memory of this gig, it may have been the
biggest crowd we played to, and people listened and I'm sure I
remember hearing applause after songs. We played for the first time
my new song I'd written (I say I'd written but someone, somewhere
with a big nose who knows will notice that I started off with 'Afternoon in February' a
poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, and then changed most of
John played some lovely soft Galaxie500-esque brushes; Matt did
the chiming Galaxie guitar sound and I had to write the first line
of each verse on a piece of paper to make sure I got them in the
right order. The recording above has me playing the guitar and
singing, maybe for a tape to send to John and Matt; and maybe with
not all the words fully changed; I remember being proud of the bass
line; but sadly this isn't recorded anywhere; so it is safe for me
to say this.
Mawkishly I'm glad in my life to have made friends with Matt and
John, and played these gigs; and shared these memories, I thought
the Consorts gig was our last; but I've just found a poster for
another on November 13th, again at The Yorker, this time supporting
Octoberine; and Confetti (who had released a single on Heaven
Records, Mark from Confetti was also in The Fat Tulips, Indie pop
is bitchin ? anyone ?? - Where's Clare grogan now ?)
Octoberine were selling hand painted t-shirts by their friend
Tracey, on each t-shirt Octoberine was spelt differently, I used to
wear this long sleeve white t-shirt with the mod target shaped like
a flower (I was a cutie mod), but for this gig I switched it to an
'Octambourine' t-shirt that didn't fit.
Don't remember anything about how we played at this gig, other
than I got a laugh introducing 'Afternoon in feburary' as 'Marc's
song' having previously also done so for 'Sundays'.
05 Mar 2012
...But instead for the sake of the kids we carried on, and it
was time for us to headline a gig. We played the Old Angel on the
26th of September, supported by a new band: Octoberine (Will, Glen
and Flora from The Headbirths), playing their first ever gig. I
bought a 2nd hand bass guitar for £80, and it sounded good in
rehearsals maybe this could work, maybe I was a bassist afterall, I
mean I owned a bass guitar, I could commute, the bus was cheap,
everything would work out fine.
The headliner at the Old Angel got a rider of three free pints
per band member. Undoubtedly Octoberine blew us off stage, then
everyone left after they'd finished their set, and we were drunk,
and terrible, and all over the place and I was angry that Matt and
John were drunk but I murdered 'Marc's song' so maybe I was too;
and this wasn't working out.
(John says that there is a recording of this gig in existence
somewhere - *shudders* - but it has not made it into my plastic
If we hadn't got Matt's Pizza money invested in the booking of
Sideways Sound recording studio the following weekend to record a
demo tape with the legendary Martin Cooper (He slept in the studio,
is that normal ? and a had a barcode pattern spray painted on his
camper van outside) then...
...but Matt had sent Martin a deposit, and a copy of The Jam's
Sound Affects album and told him he wanted the demo to have the
same sort of feel to it, listening to the tracks I'm not sure
Martin ever played it or cared for The Jam much.
It was weird being in a studio, albeit a topsy turvy one, we
recorded the tracks in one take, then used that as something to
listen to as we recorded each part individually. It took ages and
was really boring. Think my bass line after three takes was left as
'he's probably not going to do it any better than that' and John
and I went out into the village to get something to eat/drink,
whilst Matt laid down (that's a technical term) his vocals.
We walked round the village for an hour or so drinking panda
pops, and John said he liked one of the new songs I'd written that
sounded like Galaxie 500's Melt Away, and we both kind of confessed
we'd rather be playing that kind of music; and when we stepped back
into the studio; it felt disconcerting; like something had changed,
and I did my backing vocals and we left.
The songs we recorded were 'When Summer Comes
Around' and 'Way to feel (is up)' and they're too
slow aren't they ? - compare them to the longsight market versions,
which are full of energy and urgency (and bad bass playing); and
the songs are really upbeat, but on the demo, they just sound
strangely military and flat.
Matt drove us back in his parents car, and didn't say much, and
declined to put the demo on the tape deck. When he dropped John and
I off at 220 Alfreton Road, John said lets pretend to Glen that it
went really badly and that Matt has sacked us from the band. Which
we did, and was the sort of 'funny' joke which seemed funnier as we
played along, but less funny when Glen spoke to Matt the next day,
I imagine this fucked Matt off alot; and I am sorry.
29 Feb 2012
So a couple of weeks later we do it all again, this time
upstairs at The Yorker pub, and we are better, I think, although
Julian from The Headbirths says I am 'no basist' to Matt, and I
overhear. Oh well, I suppose he was right. I take comfort in
nailing 'marc's song', there are probably about thirty people and
we appear to be well received.
The full 'Mouth' line up couldn't make it from Manchester, just
John Bramwell (he now of 'I am kloot' fame), who I knew from
hanging out drinking tea in The Cornerhouse, we share the cheap
Trent Bus journey over the Peaks and he does his usual solo set,
most of which have since turned up on I am kloot
The Headbirths blow me away though, they play a great version of
'Postcards from Beachy Head', but Glen's not happy, on the walk
home, he confides that The Headbirths have become a band he no
longer wants to be in, oh and he says he didn't like our cover
version of Boy Disposal Unit either. Why would we do that ?
It feels pretty good to be in a band, even Matt seemed happy
afterwards and I think sometimes when you look back at stuff you've
done or been apart of it's natural to try to understand where
things went wrong or where they peaked. I think illinois could have
ended here, or at least for me. I'm not sure if Matt ever felt it
was going to work out and at the end of August he moved back to
Nottingham. He'd run out of money, living in Manchester and had
managed to get his old summertime job of delivering Pizza in
Nottingham. It was also time to give Paul's bass guitar back that
Matt had borrowed on my behalf, Paul was back from travelling and
was kind of wondering where it was.
So I was stranded musically, bassless, and with the final year
of a degree to do in Manchester, with hindsight this probably would
have been a natural point of closure. The summertime was over
before it begun...
... but we would have finished on a high.
23 Feb 2012
Matt and I got the cheap Trent bus from Manchester to Nottingham
(over the peaks via Bakewell) and walked with guitars and a mixture
of excitement across town and down to 220 Alfreton Road, where
John, Will and Glen lived.
I can probably remember that summer evening walk more clearly
than the subsequent gig, the smell of freshly cut grass on the
breeze mixed with traffic noise and optimism. The front door of 220
Alfreton road that led directly into the living room, the landlord
brown sofa I slept on, and the people that kept dropping round,
with biscuits, smiling, catching up laughing, and I soaked it all
up amongst waves of tiredness.
I was a regular visitor to 220 Alfreton road over the next
couple of years, with it's various permatations of occupants, and
nearly moved in once. I spent alot of time on the doorstep waiting
for someone to be in or someone to wake up and I soon learnt to
always bring a pint of milk with me for tea, and that the staircase
was missing it's 5th stair up.
Glen and Will were in The Headbirths and we had secretly learnt
one of their old songs to surprise them with; for the support slot:
'Boy Disposal Unit'. Matt wanted to give it a Motown reworking, but
I wasn't that cool at the time, and so if you listen to the bass
line, I am definately playing 'You can't hurry love' by Phil
Collins. (haven't heard the original version of 'Boy Disposal Unit'
? - you can
find it here from The Headbirths' 1989 demo 'How to fall without
So we rehearsed as a full band the night before and played our
first gig supporting 'Sugar Rays' at The Hearty Goodfellow, that I
now don't really remember much about, except Matt broke a string,
and I kind of stopped, which wasn't the thing to do. It was weird
to have drums to try and keep time to: although this was slightly
flawed as afterwards John admitted he was actually listening to the
bass for timing, and I was listening to the drums.
But we got through it, there were about 12 people in the pub,
more of a jury than an audience; clapping was sparse; but when I
went to the bar afterwards, a man who we didn't know said we were
quite good, and we became a proper band with a drummer who did gigs
and we were buzzing.
20 Feb 2012
I can reveal that Matt's friend Will was the drummer with The
Headbirths, they had gone to see Paul Weller together, and after
the gig penned the song 'Way to feel' . In addition to this I can
also reveal the gig on the 23rd turned out to be the last ever for
The Headbirths. Will was a really cool guy; just one of those
happy-go lucky souls that you can't help liking, always late, but
always smiling. So forwarned with these small pieces of information
dear reader, you may well be able to piece together what happened
Well what happened next is we doubled our efforts to recruit a
drummer, we put an ad in Piccadilly records in Manchester, and as
we were wandering around Longsight and the surrounding area if we
heard drums being played in a house, we'd knock on the door, and
when eventually the drumming occupant heard us knocking and came to
the door, we'd ask them if they wanted to be in a band or
One time this led to me rushing out of the house still holding a
cup of tea (rock and roll) because Matt had heard a drummer
somewhere along the daisy bank shortcut (the shortcut between
Greville street and Daisy Bank Road), and we followed the sound and
knocked on the door, only for it to be answered by a 'mum' who
wasn't going to let her twelve year old boy join our band.
So as July stumbled towards August, and Matt visited Nottingham
once more; illinois drummerless; the inevitable I have been putting
off telling you happened: yes Will's housemate John offered to stand in at the last
minute and drum with the band (John owned a
mandolin liked Billy Bragg and was at this stage to drumming what I
was to bass playing, ahh a kindred spirit) oh and Matt had
organised a 'warm up' gig on the 6th august supporting another
Nottingham band called 'Sugar Rays'; so we'd be absolutely ready
for when we supported 'the Headbirths'. Crikey.
This led to us recording another tape for the Nottingham based
John to learn the drums to the songs, and this session became known
as 'the daisy bank shortcut' session from which this version of
'Way To Feel' is taken.