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.

Afternoon in February

11 Mar 2012
Consorts, Manchester - illinois Poster

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 the words...)

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'.

Onwards and Sideways

05 Mar 2012
Illinois Demo Cover

...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 bag)

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.

the last breath of fine english guitar pop this summer!

29 Feb 2012
Supporting 'The Headbirths' at the Yorker Pub Poster

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 b-sides.

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.

220 Alfreton Road

23 Feb 2012
220 Alfreton Road (left hand white set back building behind tree)

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 actually landing')

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.

I hear drums, all the time...

20 Feb 2012
Sugar Rays plus illinois at the Hearty Goodfellow Poster

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 next.

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 something.

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[1] 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.


Having since spoken to John: his side of the story is he was press ganged into the drumming role; and only agreed to do it because it turned out that he, Matt and I were all at the same Wedding Present Gig at Trent Polytechnic in 1988, albeit independently, and therefore he felt that it was fated we should be in a band.

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