Monday, October 30, 2006

'86 In '06

Yesterday I came home from an eventful and exhausting trip to London. It was quite busy, what with the weekend and all, so it's nice to be back here in the West End! I was there for two days and I think I managed to get lots of things done. I arrived in Belgravia at 7 am and almost the first street I came on to was were Lawrence lives. One of the fun things about walking around London was that all the names of streets and places makes you think of pop songs, like "A-Bomb In Wardour Street, "Wells Street", "Elephant & Castle" and so on. There's probably a song about each and every one of the tube stations! Aye, it was busy - apart from Crystal Palace that is. I quite liked it as I was walking around in the chilly morning sunlight. Then I went record shopping on Berwick Street in Soho and found some stuff by The Popguns, The Primitives and The Railway Children. Content and tired, I sat down in Starbucks to read for a few hours. I've never actually been to Starbucks before (not even sure we have them in Sweden) but they make you feel really displaced with the music they play. It kind of damaged me and as I went out again I had to tell myself "alright, you're not in 1940's Manhattan, you're in London stupid!". I was going to Kentish Town to meet up with Alice and Ian, so I stopped off in Camden to get some new boots because I'd just noticed mine were about to give in on me. We went to see The Bobby McGees in the evening, who were playing this weird folk/anti-folk/hardcore night in a bar called The Pleasure Unit. Everything else was crap, but the BMs were great as usual. They have a tendency to win the crowd over, I mean, how could you not be charmed?

On Saturday me and Ian went to Camden to do some more record shopping - I found the second Close Lobsters album quite cheap. After some hastily eaten food I went down to the ICA, as I was supposed to be there early for the interviews. It's really an impressive venue, housed in one of those monumental buildings on The Mall. I ended up arriving just as doors opened, so I found myself constantly on the move, meeting people, talking to the artists, watching the shows that started just half an hour after opening and that only had 15-minute breaks between them. And during the breaks they showed clips from Hungry Beat, which seems really promising - I hope it will be available on dvd next year. Anyway, I felt I couldn't talk to anyone as much as I wanted to and I don't even remember any of the songs Stephen and Katrina played. I met so many legendary and nice people and it was all for such a short time! Most of them I'll probably never see again, but I guess it's much better than not to have met them at all. Apart from Stephen Pastel and the artists playing, I met Ian and Alice's friend Andrew from the States who had been in a band with the guitarist from Black Tambourine (who later started Slumberland). And I finally met Alistair Fitchett who was kind enough to give me a copy of his book Young and Foolish. I'll read it soon as I have the time, and then I'll let anyone who wants to borrow it! I met Harvey Williams, formerly of Another Sunny Day, and Bob Stanley from Saint Etienne, who was responsible for arranging these nights at the ICA. I even bumped into Andres Lokko who lives in London now. What feels most unreal though, is that I met Johnny Johnson. I didn't think I was ever going to meet her! She still looks just as beautiful. As I was telling her how much I loved The Siddeleys and she said, like most people do, that it was such a long time ago it finally dawned on me how people who were around in 1986 must feel about this. I was just one year old at that time, so I don't have any concept of the music as part of the time to which belonged. Most the bands I've only discovered one or two years ago, so on an unconscious level it's all fairly recent to me. It seems to me that SO much has happened in just the last three years. How much then, will I remember of 2006 when I'm 40, if I'm even alive then? It's a staggering thought. Maybe artists can't really relate to what they did twenty years ago. But at the same time, things that I went through two years ago sometimes feel like just yesterday... I'll leave it there, because I have to tell you that I finally got meet Lawrence too! He was nothing like I had pictured him, and I don't mean that in either a negative or positive sense. He was just different, but he was friendly and didn't seem to mind talking to me. He said that he was planning a more extensive tour of the UK after the coming album, so I guess I will get to see him play after all. About the gigs then.

The Wolfhounds were on first, at 8 pm, and they did an amazing set. They haven't written any new music since they split up, which is good for one reason, namely that we got to hear all our favourites. Highlights that I recall were "Me", "Skyscrapers", "The Anti-Midas Touch", "Blown Away" and "Rule of Thumb". They certainly had more energy and feeling than many new indie bands have these days. I did get to interview Dave Callahan and Dave Oliver at the end of the evening but they really wanted to go home and I didn't want to keep them, so it might not be one of the best interviews I've done, plus I just recorded it on my mp3-player which didn't really give it a professional sound quality. But maybe that merely goes with the spirit of the evening. I don't know if Dave was just tired, but he seemed more than a bit cynical about music today, and life in general. But maybe that is what drives him. Hopefully, you'll get to hear it soon.

It was just a joy watching Phi Wilson play - he really seemed to enjoy it! He had Big John playing the trumpet and he played guitar through this tiny, cheap Peavey amp. He had the other instruments recorded as a backtrack on an mp3-player, complete with tinny drum machine and all. It was fascinating to hear "Sunday to Saturday" played in this fashion. Me and Ian sat listening to that song earlier, thinking "he's never going to play that". I thought it would just be him playing guitar and singing his solo songs. But he was tumbling around on stage like he was still twenty, missing notes here and there. I think it all conveyed rather well what music was really about for bands like The June Brides. It is perhaps best captured in one of the lines in "Better Days", which was one of his solo songs that he played. It's a line I've thought about before, but that night it really stood out for me: "A song of hope and rapture, I hoped to capture - these days it's worth it just to try." That neatly encapsulates the way I feel and have felt for quite some time now. And oh, he did a version of "Lee Remick" as well, in memory of Grant McLennan. Then he allegedly he got drunk and had to go home. As he said, The June Brides weren't twee - they were punk! So much for that interview.

Phil's performance was greatly contrasted by Roddy Frame's, which was not only twice as long but from another universe completely, professionally seen. His voice was still amazing and he's as brilliant a guitarist as ever. He had four acoustic guitars on the stage beside him, and I was just waiting for him to pick up the twelve-string! He started out with some of the not-so-old Aztec Camera material and I didn't recognise much if this, but it sounded better in these acoustic versions than what I remember the later albums doing. He then played some Orange Juice stuff and got sentimental about Postcard. There was clearly a sentimental air to the whole arrangement and most of the people there were probably in their thirties or forties. The climax of Roddy's gig was when he had worked his way up to the twelve-string and played "We Could Send Letters", "The Boy Wonders" and "Oblivious" from High Land, Hard Rain, which were aided by some audience participation. And I think he did three songs for the encore!

After I had done my one interview I went back to Ian's flat to get some sleep before catching the bus early next morning. Even though setting the clocks back gave me an extra hour, I barely made it to the coach station in time becuase of some maintenance work on the Victoria line. Thanks a lot to Alice and Ian who put me up! You can expect the favour returned when you come to Glasgow. If you live in London you must go their club Spiral Scratch Saturday next week. And next Tuesday they're arranging some c86 style gigs with Bobby McGees, post-Rosehips band Horowitz and indiepop supergroup The Cut-Outs! Good-night, if you've not already fallen asleep.

6 comments:

Dave Oliver said...

Hi Chris
I'm not, nor have I ever been Andy Bolton. He played bass on the first Wolfhounds album - I played on all the others.
You're right though, we were a bit knackered and ready for our cocoa and slippers by the end of the night, but that's not why Dave sounded cynical - he's always been like that.
Thanks for coming, by the way.
Dave Oliver

Chris said...

sorry! i forgot your name, and just looked at what was must have been the early line-up... will change it immediately!!

Anonymous said...

Wow those shows sound great. I miss the ICA. I saw the Pastels play there in 2003. Well, cheers from Portland, OR. - mike

ally said...

it's very strange reading about this from a young person. it really does seem an age ago to me, almost another life. i was madly keen on all that stuff, did a fanzine (trout fishing in leytonstone) and put out some records by the siddeleys and bob and the madly underrated reserve, and put gigs on and all sorts till i ran out of cash and was bludgeoned by the proper music biz.
i'm not sure i would've gone to the ica thing - too many old folks and memories, but maybe phil wilson wouldve been too hard to resist.
ta for the tweaking my memory.
al

The Rain Fell Down said...

hi ally, funny you'd turn up here! i've heard lots of great things about your fanzine, though i've never seen an actual copy. and i LOVE Sombrero. did you know a copy of the reserve 7" was just sold on ebay for about 100 quid? mad! well, if you pop by again it would be nice to get in touch. drop me a line at kristerbladh(at)linuxmail.org!

cheers

chris

ally said...

blimey - i've got piles of all the sombrero and shalala stuff somewhere, badges ,photos, fanzines, fliers and all sorts.
i'll have a dig around.