I 2002 I was living in the Barbican Centre-Shakespeare Tower on the 33rd floor..a spanish tapas bar was on the ground floor and it was only a matter of time before I would stumble in there. Below is the story of the owner of the bar and his musical episode. Ironic in the fact the band are called Concrete God and the Barbican being an incredible brutalist concrete maze.
Anthony and I became very good friends..so much happened in such a short time..I lost my flat..he slowly lost his business and at one point I lived in his bar for several months when it was no longer trading. The very first night I met Damo Suzuki we went to Anthony’s bar after Damo performed - drinking all night and sleeping on the bar furniture. Eventually Anthony moved back to San Sebastian after time in Bolivia and a last tango in Paris with Maude. It was in San Sebastian that we archived what was left of his band.
This will be a chapter in my book on music ‘Bathing Whiskey’ the written text is still unfinished.
It all starts with a reason. They all sound similar when they tell the beginning. Mine isn’t much different, why should it be? You hear a record, it moves you in a way that nothing else does, or ever will. Then you hear another and you’re addicted.
You’re young when this happens, still at school. We were listening to Bowie and Roxy. Swill was trying to hum along to Antonius Carlos Jobim, we blanked that, too jazzzz. We played Floyd and Zep as well, (boys tunes), while ignoring all Soul, (girls tunes), an error it took us years to put right. We were young, we were stupid. Mostly Bow, Roxy …and Ig. Nobody had even fucking heard of the Velvet Underground yet.
The change comes. The one that makes you think that you can do this. You think that you can make others feel how you have felt (presumption is the worst sin.)
I heard Phil Manzanera play two notes in the middle of Amazona on Stranded and I heard him turn the whole song about those two notes, and I felt my heart fracture. Just two notes. I thought, I can do that. No brains, only straw.
Then I heard God Save the Queen and Grip. Then I heard John Peel play some nightmare called 30 seconds over Tokio and something even worse called Frankie Teardrop and then White man in Hammersmith Palais. I can see myself, alone in my room, open mouthed, staring at the radio, stunned, to this day. I had absolutely no fucking idea what they were doing, any of them.
It got worse. I saw some video on the, very staid, Whistle Test of some yank band doing something called Jocko Homo. That threw me so far I nearly went off the edge.
I knew then that I had no idea what was going on.
Further still, I’m in some basement punk club, could have been Pips, watching two girls swaying , facing , pointing with outstretched arms at each other, then turning and pointing at the crowd, at me, to The Man Who Dies Everyday.
Then this record comes on. It stopped me. It took me 3 months of going round small, northern record shops trying to explain what this record sounded like. I had no title, no artist and it certainly didn’t have a tune. I’d only heard it once. It took me 3 months to find someone who knew what I was on about. It was Warm Leatherette.
When I got it home I played it on repeat…all day. My girl (sweet soul girl) couldn’t understand. She said she thought it was the most disturbing thing she had heard in her life. That was the point, so did I. I think she knew then she would leave me. She was probably right to do so.
This is where I’m almost jealous of the bands who knew each other at school. Right time, right place, right people, it’s just luck I suppose. From 1980 to 1990 that I tried to run ConGod, there was really only ever me. All the band members were just people I was trying to push, I wrote the songs, organised the recordings, pushing them, trying to motivate. They were just along for the ride, I was on my own. It’s just the luck of the draw. Everyone I knew was still listening to Fleetwood Mac. I was lost.
Ali Knight had gone to Manchester Uni. She came back at Christmas screaming at me about this band called Joy Division. This is at some party in someone’s house, whose folks were away, to the backdrone of Rumours, cut with The Best of the Stylistics, if any girls could get to the record player. She was probably as alone as I was.
I went to London to college, shit, it just HAD to be different.
Whenever you read anything about those years, everyone says that the punk revolution changed everything and it was a breath of fresh air blowing away the rancid cobwebs of ……….bollocks.
There must have been 5000 students at my university, fuck knows, it seemed like that.
They weren’t listening to Wire, they were all listening to Dire…Straights. They’d never heard of Wire. I couldn’t fucking believe it. There were just a handful of us, five fishes and seven loaves against 5000. All these cunts will tell you nowadays how much they loved the Clash…..bollocks.
I went to the Virgin Megastore, might have been Christmas, the entrance was just one long corridor. On the right, just one record, displayed three high, all the way to the end, Metal Box, in these beautiful silver film canisters. On the left, facing it, was a similar length of, Pink Floyd – The Wall.
Metal Box, a work of art in itself, deleted in no time. Floyd sold zillions.
What were all these fuckers buying? Floyd.
When they tell you how they loved punk and it was a great time to be young, spit in their faces.
It was a great time. It drove me wild. I almost wish it hadn’t happened, I’d have had a secure middle management job in ICI or Microsoft by now. It wasn’t gonna work out that way though.
Now I live in a lonely, crazy alternate reality. Whenever people mention reality, I always ask them which one they are referring to. I have to think there must be multiple, multiple possible outcomes… it could be string theory. Anyway, I’m stuck, all these years later, in this frightening, weird society where U2 are the biggest band in the world. It’s like William Tenn’s Null-P. “Average- average as hell!”
Fuck me, they were never the Bunnymen.
So, this is the story of how I ran ConGod. We never got mentioned, much less reviewed, in the NME. We never got played on the radio, not even J. Peel. We sank without trace, of no import. It’s a tough life though, innit?
So, what you’re supposed to do is this, get your like minded mates, everyone buys an instrument, you form a band, you start playing.
I’d already seen some punk poster that gave me a road map. It had a picture of three chords, it said, “Here’s a chord, here’s another, here’s a third…now, start a band.”
Seemed good enough for me. Then you went round playing a load of dives to apathy or derision, until you either built up a following, got noticed, got a record deal. Fuck.
Didn’t seem much of a plan, There were a few factors against me as well, the biggest being, no one I knew was even thinking about forming a band, and also, the records I was buying and listening to, were gradually alienating them all.
On top of this, I was still thinking about how I could be so astounded by some track made in Ohio, broadcast on the other side of the world. I really wanted to record, I wasn’t too bothered about playing to some un-convinced audience.
Then TEAC brought out this cassette based 4-Track Multitracker. It wasn’t cheap, maybe 500squids, can’t remember, but I got half of my student grant, and bought one.
I suppose this was the real beginning of getting all the money you had, and putting it into a very dubious lost cause. Then again, other people collect stamps.
I’ll say this before I start. The correct, nay only, motivation for running a rock band can be summed up thus: money, fame/adoration, sex, drugs. Do it well and you can have everyone kissing your arse, and actually being grateful for the privilege. You can essentially treat people exactly how you want, and get away with it.
If we have to edit the list it comes down to just money. Everything else is just dressing, the money is the only real motivation.
DO NOT listen to anyone like me telling you that you want to make others feel the way you have felt hearing the music of others. It is complete bullshit. It certainly doesn’t work, and in the final analysis is as pretentious as fuck.
If I’d have known this at the start I would have tried to go for it. I don’t know if it would have worked any better, but, as I tell you the story, you will see that it could hardly have turned out any worse.
ConGod 1 1980-1984
Multitrack is good. I can play a guitar, and if you can play a guitar, bass is piss easy. Only bass players will tell you any different, but they’re the first ones to know how replaceable they are. I’m gonna have to sing, I’ve not got perfect pitch, but then neither has Marc Smith, it’s not about that anyway.
What you do need though is someone to bounce off, someone to do it with.
Now I’m living with a mate from school, he’s actually in a band, but it’s a club band, they play standards, his favourite group is The Shadows. He actually plays Apache, and Wonderful Land….. and The Rise and Fall of Legs Diamond. I’m talking about Throbbing Gristle, he’s not really with me.
His stage name is Carlton James. There’s no way I’m letting him play Shadows guitar, so he becomes the first ConGod bass player. I haven’t got the ConGod name yet, but, it’s all the same shit. He’s also got a nifty little Boss analogue drum box, so we’re off.
All these years later, Carlton, in retrospect, was probably the best ConGod bass player of the lot. We weren’t to know that then though.
We make the first tape, its three tracks. “Guilt begins in dreams” is on it. By the time we had it done, it was 1982.
I go back to London, I’m still at college. I’m living in Southall.
Down the road from me near Heathrow, lives Tim Transe. He’s the only person I know anywhere near, well, any kind of scene. I kinda knew his girlfriend and so he’s give me a lift back from a few Iggy concerts. He’s a mega Bowie/Iggy fan, so we get on really well. He’s got a massive bootleg collection, and a load of VHS vids. TV interviews, concert footage that I’ve never even heard of, never mind seen.
He’s also the drummer with Repetition, he’s mates with Budgie (Banshee’s drummer) and a fuck load more people who you really wanna meet. Last year we were gonna go to Brussels, to see them play the Plan K, until I realised it was during my exams. My mates went, they told me it was fantastic. I was so pleased for them. I did get to see them at ULU on some ultra cool roster, supporting, maybe the Associates, so long ago now, can’t remember.
Repetition have got a single out and a deal with Les Disques du Crepescule. Fuck, it’s more achingly hip than being on Factory.
I played Tim the three track ConGod tape, couple of weeks later, one Sunday afternoon, he invites me down to some warehouse in Heathrow where he works,. I’ll pick you up he says, bring your guitar and an AC 30. Sheet…have guitar, will travel.
There’s a couple of guys I’ve not met before, Bass and Keyboards. They’re not from Repetition. Tim’s a very quiet kinda guy, and I haven’t heard him talk about the band for a while, makes you wonder how it’s going for them. The only guitarist here today though, is me. That’s good, very good.
Tim’s kit is already set up, he steps behind it, the other guys are playing with their levels. We’re lost in the corner of this massive warehouse, so I can crank the AC 30 up without drowning them, which is good because they’re really difficult to play quietly, they sound shit. Not today though, the little sweetheart sounds like the Fires of Hell, brilliant. I get the tone set, and while the others are talking about some piece they started last time, I strum through the opening four chords of The Passenger. They all stop and look round.
One of the two new guys says, “I’ve never met anyone who could play that before.”
It’s only four chords; I look at him to see if he’s taking the piss. He’s not.
Guitar is a funny thing. You tone it to what you play, but sometimes you play to the tone. I played the chords without thinking, just to the tone. So, it really did sound straight off the record. Didn’t mean it, just happened. It’s only a few years since I heard Wallace play the opening chords of Jeepster, I thought he was a genius.
In those years you didn’t have to be that good to impress, let’s face it, we weren’t playing Weather Report.
Anyway, if this was an audition, I’ve already passed.
Repetition seemed to dissolve. We played another few times after that, but nothing really came of it. I had a few AC 30’s now, I actually left one in some rehearsal space we had up on Goodge Street. I can’t remember even now why I never went back to pick it up.
I record another four tracks with Carlton, “Four and Four”, “Swan”, etc.
I had no idea how to move them, sell them. I’m still playing on and off with sub-Repetition
I know a drummer from college for ConGod. His name is Martin. When I met him he only listened to dub and The Doors. Perfect. He also knows Chris Parry who runs Fiction Records, The Cure imprint.
I’m living in Peckham now, on the Old Kent Road. It’s the 15th floor of a tower, I squatted it with my own two hands. Martin’s coming round with his kit for a try-out.
We’ve been organising this for weeks, he never turns up.
This isn’t going very well.
There still a couple of elements missing though, just to make it go a lot, lot worse.
It’s 1983 now, and I’ve managed to pick up a French girlfriend, lives in Paris, and a London girlfriend for when she’s not here. They both know about each other, but this will inevitably lead to bad complications.
One thing missing. Drugs.
I never smoked a draw, never even smoked fags. So, let’s not fuck about wasting time, go straight to the top. You know there’s only one drug anyway.
So, 1984 went by in a bit of a haze. I remember the Bunnymen releasing Killing Moon. That’s about it.
Fantastic, now I’ve got two addictions to deal with.
1985. There’s only one way to stop this, I get new bass player D. Exo and move to Spain.
ConGod 2 1985 – 1987
D. Exo is a mate of mine. He’s a hardcore punk, looks the part, knows the music and he’s great to get on with. On top of that he doesn’t take drugs. He’s from Leeds. He’s on the dole just struggling by. I go up to see him, see if he wants to come to Spain and be a bass player. It doesn’t pay anything, but I’ll carry him while we see where it goes, I’ve got myself a good job. He says great, let’s go.
We’re sat in the Faversham drinking Youngers No. 3. I’m talking to Geoff, he’s a scouser but lives in Leeds. He’s a really nice guy, he’s clever. Him and his girl have got a band. He’s had the same problems as me, no fucking idea how to make this work. I’m whining to him about how I can’t make ConGod go.
“Look Ant” he says,” you’re gonna have to do what I’ve done, put your money where your mouth is and bring out your own single”
I know Jeff’s financed his own record and they’re putting out a 7” on their own label, it’s being released in a couple of weeks. His band is called The Age of Chance.
I go back to London, pack up the Peckham squat and move into my girls. She has a squat on the Barrier, on Coldharbour Lane in Brixton. This is so I can finalise everything, put what I’ve got into my car, and drive to Spain. I’ve got a job running a club, I rent a big old run-down flat in the centre of town and settle in. The French girl is with me now, we’re watching the news one lunchtime and they’re burning the block in front of the Barrier. Brixton burning again. Must have got out just in time. It’s summer 1985. D. Exo turns up in his car a couple of weeks later. ConGod are off again.
All the money I make running this club is going to be sunk into this band. D. Exo hasn’t got a job so we put an advert in the paper for English classes. It was a moment to be treasured forever watching his students turn up to be faced with some mohawk punk from Leeds as their teacher. He was actually quite good at it, they all loved him after the initial shock.
I found out that the owners of one of the coolest bars in town were also running a band, so, with a bit of drunken negotiation, I moved ConGod equipment into our new (shared) rehearsal space, in the basement of the number one trendy bar in the centre of town.
Alright, we’re off writing the first single, except a few other problems have reared their ugly heads. Don’t worry, we’ll deal with them.
The first is that, after having eliminated the smack problem, Spain in the 80’s is happily running at night on cocaine. There wasn’t much avoiding it, and it was not only socially acceptable, but actually still a very elitist thing to do. And I was running a club. So, swap one drug for the other. Really clever. Apart from that, the, night-time is the right time, dolly-mixture count led to serious overloading on the tart roster, leading to a lot of very time consuming shuffling.
So, it was amazing that we got anything done at all. Yet, against all odds, we went to London twice to record the first two singles, Floor and Toytown Star. We had KK, a manager, now, in London. He organised the studios, and got the things mastered, cut and pressed, as well as sorting out a distribution deal with Pinnacle, set for early 1987 release. At least that was something to look forward to at last.
Now, when Exo came over he’d brought with him the Age of Chance single. It was wank, absolute rubbish. They’d got it played on Peel apparently, but John, apart from playing the very best records of the day, was also know for spinning some absolute dross. You can’t get them all right I suppose. Example: I remember him playing to death, Dead Pop Stars by Altered Images, some Scottish girl trying to sound like Siouxsie. Siouxsie=brilliant, innovator. Scottish girl=crap. I think she became an actress, made a film, but then ended up as a TV presenter. ‘Nuff said.
Summer of 86, someone sends us the NME, it comes with a cassette, C86. The Age of Chance are on it, we give it a listen. It’s just as bad as the first single. We listen to the rest of it; it’s all jingly-jangly pap, valueless. Shit, even The Wedding Present are on it! They’re from Leeds, Exo’s x-girl shares a flat with Gedge, the singer/writer/mastermind. It’s the most dour toss you’ve ever heard. NME are championing this as the new, fresh, blah, blah, blah……
I have this very dark foreboding that we’ve lost before we’ve even started. Of course, I’m right in the end, The Wedding Present become one of the biggest ever indie bands. Heaven spare us.
1987, the singles come out, no one plays them, no one reviews them. We’ve really no idea how to do this. At least we get our first gig.
On the 26th of April was the 50th anniversary of the bombing of Guernica, they’re having a big festival. I know the guy who’s putting the bands on, his name is Palomo, he comes to see me.
“Can I book ConGod to play?” He’s heard the singles.
“Hell, yes”, I tell him. We work out the details and shake on it. I know Palomo quite well so I’m not worried. This inexperience of youth. I phone London, KK is flying over with his girl, my girl is flying over and I tell Waj to come.
Waj is a friend of mine, a sculptor, he did the artwork for the singles. He’s not a musician, but then neither was Exo. I had to buy a bass, a 68 Fender Precision, 290 quid, so he’s have something to play. Waj will look good standing behind the drumbox. All he needs to do is push a few buttons, it’s not rocket science. He said, no problem, he’s delighted, well into it. I’ve seen Exo, hardcore punk or not, getting steadily more and more nervous as the date approaches. I had the foresight to tell him we were playing some little dingy club, whereas we’re on the main market-hall stage, capacity, 3 500. There doesn’t seem much point letting him wind himself up even more. He’ll find out when we get there.
The team flies in from London, and the day of the gig we drive off with a couple of cars loaded with the gear. When we get to the market-hall there are so many people on the streets, it takes us half an hour just to get round to the back entrance. I say to them, “wait here, I’ll go and find Palomo,” and off I go. No one else speaks Spanish anyway.
I find him inside, he’s just got there himself, but there’s about 1000 already in.
“What’s going on?” I ask him, “What about the sound check? Where do we leave the gear?” He’s looking a bit bewildered.
“There were so many people outside, they started letting them in an hour ago, they’ve cancelled the sound check and the first band are gonna go on now. I just booked the bands, someone from the town hall is supposed to have organised all this….”
I can see that there’s an area by the stage with some music gear, but it’s cordoned off with just a couple of flimsy metal barriers that are already getting pushed apart by the surging crowd. We’re only on in a good couple of hours; I think we’re next to last.
I look over to the main, well, only entrance. There’s only a couple of the same movable metal barriers there and just two old guys collecting tickets as the punters stream though. They’re looking flustered already and I can see there’s a massive swelling crowd just outside.
“Let’s just go and get the gear”, I say to him and we’re about to walk off when this student type walks up. He’s got a clipboard and this Che Guevara very over-serious look about him. He asks Palomo who I am, Palomo tells him. He glances down at his clipboard. “Ah, the Engish band”, he says, “yeah, they’re not playing”
“Excuse me,” Palomo tells him, “I’m the person who has booked all the bands, and it is ME who says who’s playing, and who’s not”
Che gives him a little sneer, “Yes, and thank you for your very hard work, but we are taking over the running of the days events…”
“We ?who is we?” Palomo cuts in. The guy stops talking, he doesn’t answer.
Then, as if reading from an invisible cue card, the little shit starts again,
“This is the anniversary of a historic day for the Basque people…”
I cut in, “Listen, it wasn’t the English who bombed this place anyway, but I’ve got two cars of people flown in from London sat outside, contracted by the event organiser, this man here….”
Palomo’s started to shout something and I can hear the clipboard jerk saying something about it having been decided that only local bands could celebrate this historic Basque… but I suddenly realise exactly what is going on.
This little cunt is from HB the left wing Basque fascist party and I can already see more approaching through the crowd towards what is turning into an argument. Che is a little fanatic on some half arsed sociology degree somewhere, but the guys I can see coming are farm hands, just down from the mountain, eyes slightly crossed, the product of generations of gene-pool deficiency, and they’re big fuckers. I can count 10 of them now stood a little way off, staring at us. These people are stupid and dangerous. They’ve been sold the same shit as the Hitler Youth, our blood is better than everyone else’s and we must protect the fatherland. I really want to punch Che in the side of the head, but there’s no way I can handle ten of them. What are we gonna do anyway? Fight our way in and onto the stage?
It doesn’t matter anyway because at that moment I see the poor codgers with their ticket control barrier swept out of the way as the crowd crashes in en-masse. Some of the farm oiks look around, probably wondering what to do. I’m guessing they’re supposed to be the new security, but it’s well too late now because, in a matter of minutes, the whole place has filled with far too many people than this hall can safely hold, and they’re all in a very boisterous mood. I tell Che he can go and fuck his mother (maybe he already does) but it leaves me unsatisfied, and I grab Palomo by the arm and pull him towards the blocked main door. Before we get there, I hear the first band start up, someone must have told them to get on stage, quickly, and I look back. The area by the stage seems to have disappeared beneath the roaring crowd and as the singer nervously steps up to the mic. stand, I see a beer bottle, a green one, probably Heineken, sail out of the crowd and bounce off the microphone he’s reaching out for. Whoever threw it had good aim. Maybe not playing is a blessing in disguise.
ConGod 1st gig…………….CANCELLED
Palomo has a big house on the edge of the town with, more importantly, a massive ground floor garage, so we left the gear safe in the cars and went upstairs for the industrial sized lines of coke he was slicing out. He kept apologising, but it wasn’t his fault. We didn’t get paid. I’ll try and remember to ask for half upfront next time.
The summer flashes by, we’ve been in Spain for two years now. We’re gonna have to move back to London if we want this to ever get started. Exo goes first while I pack in my job and organise moving everything else. KK has got some contact at Mute, and says they’re very interested. He’s also got us some free studio time for a third single and a gig supporting the Swans either at the Town and Country or that other one up north London, same kinda place, can’t remember its name. Anyway, Mute want to see us there and Swans are one of my favourite bands. I can’t get back in time so the gig goes to some unknown Icelandic band, The Sugarcubes. They never got anywhere, of course. Things seem to be looking up though. I get back to London and we’re recording the 3rd. Exo’s supposed to be coming down from Leeds.
The night before we start I get a call from a friend in Spain, Exo has just turned up at their house. “What?! Put him on……What are you doing there? We’re recording tomorrow. Get back here now”
He gives me some bullshit about his life, the future, the past, just unintelligible rubbish really. I know dammed well he’s chasing some skirt. Unfortunately I’d talked to said skirt after Exo went back to Leeds, and she made it very clear that theirs was no more than a summer fling, and summer was long gone. So, another bass player lost. He kept the 68 Precision. He must have thought he deserved it. That’s friends for you. I never saw him again.
Winter 87-88 saw me in the studio, some big basement next to the Hackney Empire, alone. Well, it’s only bass, I can play it myself, so I did. KK managed to borrow a Steinberger bass, for me. They cost a fortune, as soon as you touch it you know why.
I had Duffy with me who engineered Toytown Star, to run the desk. He was good.
We had it finished by February. The studio owner was a young guy. He’s listening in on us mixing it, “You want to take this down to Shoom,” he said, “it’s like the stuff they’re playing.” Maybe we should have done.
I told my mother we’d finished the 3rd single. “Ooh, what’s it called?” she enthused.
“It’s called ‘A Life Powered by Drugs’ mum.” I could almost feel her wince.
“Don’t worry,” I said, “it’s not like it can sell any less than the first two.”
Now we’ve got a third record that we don’t know how to promote or get played. I’ve still got Waj to stand behind the electronics and I rope in another mate, Russ, as bass player number three. He’s not got a bass either. I buy a white 78 Musicman, 480 notes. I’m still not learning very fast. We start rehearsing in some railway arch in Brixton.
Then we get a gig.
This Hungarian girl I know turns up at my front door one afternoon. She does promotion, er, stuff…I think.
“How much would ConGod charge for playing in Berlin?” she opens with.
“I, er, don’t know. Let me phone the manager”
I phone KK. “Fuck knows,” he says,” ask her for 600 quid, plus all accommodation, food, beer. Get half the money upfront, not like last time.”
Three days later she comes back with a 1 page contract and six brand new 50 quid notes. ConGod 3, 1st gig Berlin then. It was at the University. I think it was called the Industrial Noise Festival. It’s a two day, weekend thing, with three English bands playing, and three German bands.
The Friday morning, early, this guy who I’ve been talking to at the Uni. phones and says the whole thing is cancelled. I tell him we’re flying at midday as arranged and to make sure someone’s there to pick us up.
ConGod in Berlin………………………………CANCELLED.
After last years Guernica fiasco, I’ve taken the precaution of getting D, one of my mates to come, he did six years in a an RAF commando unit. Jungle trained.
There’s no way I can write these songs, record them, go out and play them and then be expected to strong arm the payment. I need some help. You can’t do everything.
We get picked up at the airport and taken to this flat in Kreutzberg. This is before the Berlin wall came down and the city is still an island in the middle of East Germany, reached only by air or by a narrow land corridor. The flat we’re taken to in some old apartment building is massive. The room I’m given is bigger than the whole of my one bedroom flat in Brixton. There’s a double bed, lost in the corner, felt like you could have a quick 5-a-side in there. We ate dinner in the kitchen, they put tables together and there were 22 people eating some massive pizzas. The other two English bands were there, I know one of them, they’re mates but the others are just wankers. I’m talking to the bass player in the wanker band over dinner. He’s a jackboot cum military jacket kinda guy. “Are you going on the demo tomorrow?” he says.
There’s some kinda right-on demo in the morning, CND or save the whale, who cares.
“Nah,” I said, “never been to Berlin before, we’re gonna go out, round the best bars we can find, get absolutely pissed and tomorrow, were gonna do the same again. We’ve not come all this way to go on some bullshit demo”
He mumbles something I’m not really listening to. “Listen baby,“ I say to him,“you go on your bullshit demo, but leave me to do what I want”
The bass playing SWP Hitler-ite actually stands up. This isn’t a very good idea because me and D have already sunk a litre of Stoly that we’d picked up in the duty-free, when we’d changed planes in Frankfurt. We both stand up. Jackboot Hitler falters, but the singer sat three places along, who has been quoting the communist party manifesto all night, starts to say something until I give him a look. He shuts up. These left wing fascist “if you don’t agree with us you are the enemy” cunts. It’s difficult to get away from them.
“Thanks for dinner,” I say to the Germans at the end of the table, “come on let’s go and get a drink.” I say to D.
We’re on our way out when their drummer comes up to us.
“er, could I like, er, come out with you, cos I don’t wanna go on the demo either…?”
His name’s Owen, he’s a great guy, few years later I see he’s drumming for the Stereo MC’s on the U2 support.
First bar we go to is all aluminium. I can see Blixa Bargeld stood at the end of the bar.
We’re in the right place then, we have a wild night.
Next morning we’re sat at the big kitchen table gazing into our coffee while they’re off to their demo. The gig might be cancelled but we’re off this afternoon to the university office for the other 50% of the fee, which the contract clearly states is payable if the gig is cancelled in a 24 hours prior period. The other two bands come with us, but when we’re in the office, the two student organizers start giving us a sad, sorry tale as to how there weren’t enough funds in the end so that’s why they cancelled and how sorry they were. The other bands are taking this, I’m not, I look at D, we have both seen a safe in the middle of the wall behind the desk where the two students are sitting. D gets up, walks round the desk and pulls one of them to his feet, he pushes him against the wall and with one hand round his neck, actually lifts him up it. It looks really impressive, and no one utters a sound. D turns to the other one and says, “YOU, go and find someone to open that safe, you’ve got half an hour, your friend is staying here.”
Half an hour later some, obviously senior, student official is nervously counting out piles of German Marks and pushing receipts in front of us to sign. Everyone got paid, we probably should have charged them a collection fee, the bastards never even said thank you. We left them and headed off for a drink.
That summer we played the Rock Garden on a bill with other unknowns and The Canterbury Arms in Brixton. The Canterbury had a big back function room with a stage. I’d told our sound guy to hire a rig twice as loud as he thought the place would normally use. Strangely enough it was packed. For lighting we just had an oil wheel projected on us, but, as we slowly emptied the room, I had the pleasure of seeing a couple walking out through the door to the well lit main bar, with their hands over their ears. We were loud.
That summer was the end of it really though. The band seemed to lose interest, shit, I lost interest. We made a few more demos in an eight track studio in North London, but we had as much idea with what to do with them as we’d had before, which was no idea.
What had gone wrong? Who knows? There’s got to be a million good bands out there who never get anywhere and you’ve never heard of them. Just like us.
Record companies? The whole economics of the system is set up so they can get one Madonna selling 10m, rather than 10 bands, each with recording and promotional costs, all selling 1m. that’s why they keep bombarding you with the same shit. If they could reduce it down to having one artist making music for the entire world and no one else, I’m sure they’d be happy. It’s not really anything to do with how good you are, it’s just an exercise in marketing.
You end up kind of drained, worn out. Drained of energy, enthusiasm and any creative force you might have imagined yourself to have.
All the way along you have to face the possibility that you’re not gonna get anywhere, you just never really believe it’s true.
I knew the odds were against us, but there was no way I wasn’t going to play them. I just didn’t want a job in a bank. That would have killed me sooner.
I suppose it’s all predicted in the words of Star, on the second single, but written long before.
We are forgotten stars
We are finished stars
We are lost stars
We are old symbols of lost hope
Our actions have made our glorious dreams…grey.
Anthony has given me the title of ‘curator’ of the band and it’s archives. I have the original 1/2“ and 1/4” tapes and it is my intention to re-release his music at some point in the near future.