Unsigned, Peeled, Bequivered – A Small Story Of A Local Band – Part 1.

This is the the story of the last real band I was in.  I say ‘real’ band because since then I’ve played here and there with bands who play covers at weddings, bar mitzvahs, birthdays and what have you but I don’t consider those to be real bands.  Real bands write their own songs and, most pertinently, (should) have a mentality wholly dissimilar to those of covers bands.

Covers bands, as I’ve said before, need to have to some awareness of their audience and their place in the grand scheme of events at which they play, which is to say that they ought to know their place, jump through hoops, and get girls dancing.

Original bands though?  Well, that’s an entirely different story.  In fact, it’s more or less the opposite story, except for getting girls dancing which should always be the number one priority for any band.

This story really begins with the current Mrs Middlerabbit deciding that she’d had quite enough of Middlerabbit’s nonsense and deciding to accept a job offer in leafy Surrey despite Middlerabbit’s protestations.  Although a bit of backstory comes first…

When we were first going out I was in a band called Motorcade with the drummer.  Motorcade were a relatively big deal in the small pool of musical incest that was Hull and had been for a couple of years.   They were Rich’s band.  Rich was a slight but intense young man whose flat off Spring Bank slightly resembled an Arabian tent with patterned, dyed cloth hanging from all the walls except above the fireplace which was occupied by a photograph of Jason Pierce (formerly Jason Spaceman out of Spacemen 3) walking down a city street in a spaceman costume replete with misted up helmet with his leggy and glamorously dishevelled, beautiful girlfriend and bandmate in Spiritualized Kate Radley next to him, her arm through his, guiding him, like a blind lunatic along a city street.  She later dumped him for Richard Ashcroft out of (The) Verve but remained in his band for a while.  I bet those were interesting rehearsals.

Jason Spaceman and Kate Radley in an early Spiritualised promotional picture.  Not too long after this, she dumped Jason to go out with big nosed, over-earnest balladeer “Mad” Richard out of Verve, later to become “The” Verve because American jazz record label Verve thought people might get confused.  In this picture, Jason looked like he was in some distress to me due to his steamed up helmet.

The drummer had been in Motorcade for around six months and I’d been to see them a couple of times.  They were a lot heavier than the sort of band I generally went to see and a lot of this was due to their guitar player, Al.  Al was a geordie who’s into Hardcore. This is ‘Hardcore’ before the term was co-opted by DJs who played banging house tunes of course.  It meant that the band played extremely loud and with increasingly loud distorted guitars pummelling the crowd into delirious submission.  Personally, I thought they had something that I couldn’t really put my finger on.  Whatever it was, it wasn’t tunes, but I didn’t get the impression that was what they were going for.

The drummer introduced me to Rich before a gig at the Adelphi and we bonded over The Jesus & Mary Chain, My Bloody Valentine and, especially, Spacemen 3.

Diversion – Spacemen 3

The first proper gig I ever went to, well, the first gig I ever went to that wasn’t more like a pantomime than a gig (first actual gig: Gary Glitter, Bridlington Spa, 1977) was Spacemen 3 at the Hull Adelphi.

Absolutely none of my mates at that time had any interest in independent music.  Webbo, Nobber, et al were townies, as Chavs used to be called.  I wasn’t all that interested in the music I’d heard in the pubs and clubs I’d been to with them and, through The Smiths, discovered that there was a different scene altogether running parallel with townie music and, stoked by a fire ignited in my belly by The Smiths, I wanted to find more and discovered NME and Melody Maker, who also advertised gigs by these alternative bands they covered in their smudgy newsprint that immediately came off onto your fingers.

I found that Spacemen 3 were playing The Adelphi – where I’d never been – one night and, knowing nothing of the protocol, caught the bus by myself to Princes Avenue and walked the couple of miles to the terraced house that was The Adelphi.  This would have been about teatime, still daylight.  Walking down the street, I could hear what turned out to be howling feedback and guitars being tormented.  Castigating myself, I put a spring in my step because I was evidently late and missing it.

Naturally, I was about five hours early and, actually, in plenty of time to catch the soundcheck, which I stumbled in upon through the side doors, immediately noting that, apart from the Spacemen, a couple of scruffs rummaging around on stage with them and a soundman at what I soon learned was the mixing desk, I was the only one there.  It was very dark, except for multicoloured bubbles psychedelically oozing all over the band and the back wall. Pete Kember, known in the press as Sonic Boom, had sunglasses on.

Hey man,” he called to me, “You’re not supposed to be here.”

Startled, but mildly thrilled to be referred to as ‘man’ and have Pete Kember – I mean Sonic Boom – notice me, I just looked around blankly.  Will Caruthers (Bassman – like Bassman 3, geddit?) smiled at me and said something along the lines of, “He’s just a kid, man, he’s cool.” to Pete Kember, who tilted his head as if he remembered how cool he was and let out a howl of noise from his guitar that looked like it came from space.

At that point, a man I’d not previously noticed shouted at me and I saw somebody who looked like he lived in a tree – massive beard, and nobody had beards then – sitting in front of some sort of projector with a glass bowl on some sort of dish and a load of washing up liquid bottles on the table next to his projector.  He was the one making the multicoloured bubbles projection, evidently.

Spacemen 3: Psychedelic.

I pointed at myself and mouthed “Me?” which made him laugh and he beckoned me over.  I walked over, as cooly as I could manage, which wasn’t all that cool, frankly, and he shouted in my ear, “Do you wanna know how I do this?” His breath was hot and wet and scary.

I looked at the stage, where Pete Kember was admonishing Will Caruthers about something and nodded.  The bloke took a tube of what looked like some sort of unguent, sprayed it onto his hands which, on closer inspection, had surgical gloves covering them and began to rub them together and I thought, “Shit, I’m going to get bummed at my first gig.

But I didn’t.  He was dead nice and he showed me how oil wheels work: how he controlled the temperature and mixed up all his oils and used a clear glass bowl to get them to move around.  It was dead simple and clever.  Then he offered me a go on his cigarette.

I said, “Oh, you’re alright, I don’t smoke.

He gave me a funny look and held out what I didn’t realise was a doobie.  I took a brief drag on it and spent the next ten minutes coughing my guts up.

Yeah, it’s a bit harsh, man.  Go on, you’ll get used to it.” and he handed it to me and then immediately produced another from his pocket which he lit.  I attempted to not smoke any of it, or at least limit myself to impersonating someone smoking and swiftly became very, very high indeed.

By the time the gig was due to start, I’d been sick a couple of times and couldn’t really see properly.

The Adelphi was fucking hot, Spacemen 3 were fucking loud and the psychedelic light show was, to my now disabled and disoriented brain, a bit fucking much to be honest.  But it was a start and, on the whole, even though I’d thrown up in the toilet, I didn’t feel that I was going to get my head kicked in at any point, which I certainly did feel on the occasions I’d been round town with Webbo and Nobber, so I was in, really.  That was it for me.  I dug ‘The Spacemen” as the other kids who’d gone to them referred to the band.  They were exciting.  I was going to go to The Adelphi and be one of those alternative kids that I hadn’t really heard of because there hadn’t been any at my school.  Not that I knew of anyway.  I went to a big school, there were twelve classes of thirty enrolled every year. As the cold night air hit me, I threw up again, and then walked the five miles home with thoughts of being an indie kid occasionally fighting their way through incipient stages of tinnitus that was otherwise occupying my head.

End of Diversion.

If I gave Rich the impression that I was some sort of incorrigible noisenik, I suppose it was because it’s nice to find common ground with other people and not spend too much time focusing on your differences.  I wasn’t lying to Rich, I was into all of those bands.  I was also into Bubblegum pop, Hip Hop, most strains of less sonically terrifying indie music: The Stone Roses, Happy Mondays, and – primarily – The Beatles, but I kept quiet about them so that we’d have something to talk about and he was interesting.  I liked him, he was a nice kid. Twitchy and intense, but alright with it.

Apart from Rich, Al and The Drummer, the bass player was a girl.  A funny looking girl, but pretty attractive with it.  I didn’t talk to her because she looked a bit scary.

Fast forward a few more months and The Drummer asked me if I fancied joining Motorcade because Al had chucked it in.

Now, Motorcade weren’t my idea of a musical match made in Heaven, but I’d only been in bands that had arsed about up to that point.  It’s a pain in the arse, being in a band and it’s a pain in the arse even getting to the point where you’re in a functioning band, by which I mean a band where you’ve got a drummer, a bass player and a singer, never mind having decent equipment and some form of transport for your gear.   Rich had already done the hard work, he had a full band – except for a lead guitar player – and I thought I’d give it a go.

First rehearsal, I knew I’d be under a bit of scrutiny – like an audition, really – so I’d borrowed a couple of demos from The Drummer and done my best to try to learn a couple of songs, which wasn’t easy because 1.  I wasn’t very good at picking up on chord changes by ear at that point and, 2. The songs were played on very distorted guitars, so it wasn’t easy anyway.  Third, to be honest, there was something peculiar going on in their songs, so I worked out some tuneful bits and pieces to play over the top and practised doing that.

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Suspended second chord: play this, move it up and down the neck and you’ve got the Motorcade discography.  Get a bass player to play Ding-ding-a-ding-ger-ding-ger-ding-ding all the way through everything and you’re there.

I soon realised what it was that was peculiar going on: Rich only knew one chord.  Well, one chord shape which was, well, to get mildly technical for a second, a suspended second chord.  What that means is that when you hear a suspended second chord, your ear’s waiting for it to resolve into either a minor or a major.  It’s not either of them as it is.  It’s not the grooviest example in the world, but “Don’t Dream It’s Over” by Crowded House has a suspended second chord in the verses – Doo – be – do – doo, doo, doo.  That’s all a suspended second chord.  It works in that song, I suppose, because the suspension emphasises how “it’s” not over.  All of Motorcade’s songs had that chord all the way through it.  It wasn’t a total drone because he did move it up and down the neck of the guitar, but it was always the suspended second.  It added to the tension, I suppose.  And, to be fair to Rich, what it also meant was that Motorcade had a sound, which is important for bands.  I didn’t think about it then, I suppose because then, as now, I like it when bands don’t really stick to a formula.  Rich hadn’t intentionally found a formula and stuck to it, I should think, although I never asked him about it.  I assumed he just thought that those were chords that worked for him – and fair dos.

The drummer was great at that point, prior to him deciding to get drum lessons and beat himself up about every beat he played.

The bass player, whose name was Sue, also played a bit strangely.  All the way through every song, she played, basically, the exact same bassline and that bassline was frantic.  It went, Ding-ding-a-ding-ger-ding-ger-ding-ding.  Fast, all the way through.  No pauses, no breakdowns.  I thought it was a bit weird but later I realised that she knew how to play that bassline and probably was a bit scared of trying something different in case it sounded crap.  I mean, her bassline was alright, but it might have been nice to have had a variation or two on it.  Still, I was the new kid, so I kept my mouth shut. Anyway, Sue was important.  She might not have been a virtuoso, but she slotted into the sound of Motorcade with her bassline, and she presented a quiet but slightly threatening female image onstage.  It wouldn’t have worked with some muso bloke.

We went through a few of Rich’s songs and I played what I’d worked out over the top of them and Rich thought it was great.  He was also quite excited by my fuzzbox, which was a 1970s Colorsound Tone Bender, an apparently trendy fuzzbox among the indie guitar kids.  I’d bought it in Pool’s Corner – a tat shop on Newland Avenue because it looked groovy and it was cheap.

Colorsound Tone Bender – owning that probably got me in Motorcade as much as anything I played to be honest.

The rehearsal room was the biggest shithole I’d ever set foot in up to that point in my life, which was saying something.  There were large holes in the floor, the lights didn’t work and, it turned out, the electricity was being harvested from a lamppost outside.  We practised their set, I worked out things to play and made some suggestions, which mainly consisted of resolving Rich’s suspended second chord for choruses and middle eights.  I tried to get Sue to play her bassline slightly differently by missing out the odd note here and there and to actually stop playing at all from time to time, which she was dubious about, but once she tried it, she was bordering on awestruck.  Probably because she’d not realised that she could radically expand her repertoire by playing not more, but fewer notes and less often.  She was suspicious of me to begin with but, by the time of our first gig, she looked like she’d begun to warm to me somewhat, even though I was the only one of them who didn’t have a leather jacket and my sixties suede jacket was a bit more Byrds than she’d have preferred.

The night of my first ever gig then.  Unlike most kids, whose first gig is at the bottom of the bill at – admittedly – some shithole exactly like the Adelphi in front of three people who talk all the way through their set, mine was headlining a sold out sweatbox of lunatics.

My mates from Spiders had come along to see Middlerabbit’s first gig.  I must have looked nervous because Welly’s advice to me was, “Try not to burst into tears.”  It was good advice.

Rich must have also noticed my worried expression as, ten minutes before we were due onstage, he asked me if I’d go backstage and tune all the guitars, which I was happy to do.    Even when he asked me to do it, I knew what he was doing.  It wasn’t a power play, he was giving me something to do to occupy my mind so I wouldn’t end up a gibbering heap of nerves.  Good thinking, I thought.

Backstage, Sue was sat smoking on a plastic chair, looking not quite as nervous as I was, but still fairly nervous.  I told her Rich had asked me to tune the guitars and would it be alright if I tuned her bass.  She seemed grateful and stood up.  She had on a white crocheted dress and had done her makeup.  Generally, she didn’t really seem like the sort of girl who’d doll herself up much, but she had and she looked lovely.  Dead sweet, which wasn’t a description I’d have expected to have levelled at her.  As I sat down and started tuning her bass up, she asked me if she looked alright.  I told her she was beautiful and she seemed to be pretty pleased with that.  She was funny looking but good looking with it.  A bit like a dark haired Amanda Seyfried.

Are you nervous Middlerabbit?” she asked me.

Yeah,” I said, hardly looking up so I wouldn’t start crying or something.

I am too,” she said, much more softly than she’d ever previously.

You?” I said, surprised, “I didn’t have you down as somebody who’d get nervous about anything.

She laughed at that, put her fag out and lit another one and then looked up at me.

Do you know what my fantasy is, Middlerabbit?

I shook my head, expecting her to tell me that it was that EMI or some record company were going to be in the crowd and sign us up for a million pounds or something.

Getting fucked up the arse while I’m throwing up in a toilet,” she said, looking at me with a strange look on her face.  I looked at her, wondering if I should ask her, “What?  Now?” But I didn’t.  Just not bursting into tears was more than enough for me at that point. But she was attractive in a slightly unhinged way, and I really liked her.

Hull Adelphi toilet: makes the one in Transporting look salubrious.

At that point Rich walked in.  Sue and Rich used to go out with each other but they didn’t any more.  I didn’t know if he’d heard her and I started worrying about things other than making a tit of myself onstage at the Adelphi in front of a few hundred people.

He gave us a pep talk and he was really good at it.  He was the boss and he was alright, even if he did only know one chord.

Standing onstage, plugging in and squinting through the lights at the rowdy mass of indie kids, some of whom were shouting encouragement, I took a breath of hot, damp air and turned to face Rich, who was winding himself up.

Someone shouted,”Where’s Al?

Rich smiled, pointed at me and spoke into the microphone, “We’re Motorcade,” and we were off.  It was a blur.  We probably only played for about half an hour but it felt like about forty seconds.  We went down a bomb.  I was astonished, I was half expecting to be dragged off and tarred and feathered by the time we reached the first chorus of the first song.

When we came offstage I was drenched in sweat, as were we all.  In the backroom we received a constant flow of visitors who shook our hands, hugged us, gave us drinks, fags and doobies.  A kids said to me, “You’re the anti-Al.  you’re fucking amazing, man.” and I tried not to blush too much.

We rehearsed every Friday afternoon in their shithole.  Rich and I started writing songs together and putting them in the set which Sue wasn’t all that thrilled by because, fundamentally, I was particularly keen on introducing elements that she wasn’t really into.  Elements like melody, harmony and bass lines that didn’t all go Ding-ding-a-ding-ger-ding-ger-ding-ding all the way through everything.  Musically, Sue and I weren’t a match made in heaven.  To be quite honest, we weren’t really a great match in a lot of ways although there was something between us.  A touch of frisson or something.

In addition to practising with Motorcade every Friday afternoon, The Drummer and I had another band on the quiet that we used to practise with on Friday nights.  After we’d finished at the shithole, we’d load our gear into a car, drive home and eat our tea in front of The Simpsons, have a cup of tea and drive to a different rehearsal room – this one had a functioning floor and lights – and play with Gordy, a bass player who could play more than one bassline, so that was novel.  Singers came and went, none of them up to much.  The Friday night band played songs I was writing and larked about with Beatles, Rolling Stones, The Stairs, The La’s, The Velvet Underground and whatever else we could churn out.  The night rehearsals were a lot more fun than the afternoon ones.

I played more gigs with Motorcade, generally beginning with a warm up routine with Sue telling me strange things before that I didn’t really know what to do with but, after a while, the best bit was that warm up.  It added a certain tension, and I liked talking to Sue.  We got decent crowds, especially in Hull and I was pleased about getting some songs I’d part written played live, even though Sue glared at me as we played them and she stumbled over the non Ding-ding-a-ding-ger-ding-ger-ding-ding bass parts.

After maybe six months though, I’d had enough of it and told Rich I was quitting.  He was a bit disappointed, but alright with it and we all stayed friends.  After a couple of weeks, the drummer told me they were going into The Warren in town to record a demo and Rich had asked if I’d play on it.  I’d never been in a studio of any description and it was nice to have been asked, so I agreed.

It turned out that Al was the recording engineer and I’d met him a couple of times and we’d got along, even though I was the anti Al, apparently.  All the meant was that I was more of a melodic player than he was.  Or less noisy and aggressive, I suppose.  Take your pick.

It was sort of going alright, although Sue generally looked pretty pissed off, even if she wasn’t.  I expect it was some sort of defensive thing.  Self preservation, you know.

I put my part down, Rich did his singing and we were sent off while Rich and Al faffed about mixing it.  I don’t have a copy, but I remember being quite disappointed with it.  It all sounded pretty flat.  A bit lifeless.  Still, it wasn’t my problem because I’d left.

The drummer worked with a kid called Dave who wanted to come and have a go at singing with us so we had him round The Drummer’s flat singing along to Under My Thumb and he did a reasonable job of it.  Dave was a nice kid who was into the same sort of things that The Drummer and I were, although he didn’t look like he was.  He looked like a townie, but in a good looking way, even if he was a bit more muscly than I considered acceptable for singer for the sort of music we played.  We got him to come to our Friday night practice and Gordy wasn’t impressed.  Gordy’s great, you know?  He was an exciting bass player who didn’t just stick to root notes and we gelled nicely.  What he wasn’t, was all that reliable.  He often didn’t turn up because something improbable cropped up, but he was full of good intentions.

In the end, he wasn’t happy with Dave and packed it in, meaning we then had to find another bass player.  If you’ve ever been in any bands, you’ll appreciate that, basically, guitar players are ten a penny.  Drummers and bass players are like rocking horse shit.  Singers?  Lots of people want to be singers, but not many people are any good at it.  We had no joy finding a bass player and decided that it would be easier if I switched to bass and we just found another guitar player who could play the parts I’d written for myself.

Enter Darren.  The Drummer had played with Darren in a previous band.  Darren was a lovely kid and he also had quite a lot of expensive gear.  He had Rickenbacker guitars – plural, yes – including a 12 string, which Roger McGuinn from The Byrds played, so that was quite exciting.  Darren was mild mannered and happy to play what I told him.  We stared rehearsing for a gig that Dave had arranged for us.  Not a normal gig at The Adelphi, but some sort of fund raiser for a cancer charity that was being held out in the sticks somewhere.  We weren’t getting paid but we were getting driven around, so it sounded like a pleasant day out.  We met with the chap who was promoting it and, it turned out, wasn’t just a music festival thing, it was more like a village fete with some bands playing but that was alright.  The chap didn’t sound like he knew what he was doing to me, but I figured that was his problem.  He kept repeating, “Everybody’s going to have a great time,” more in hope than anything it sounded to me.

We booked ourselves in at The Adelphi to have a warm up, see how it all sounded in front of people.  Sue worked at the Adelphi and she’d started being a bit standoffish with me since the demo.  They’d decided to not get another guitar player in after I left and just have Rich playing, as he always had.

Anyway, at The Adelphi gig, Darren went to pieces and, evidently not having somebody like Welly to provide him with worthwhile advice, broke down in tears onstage.  I didn’t know how to react to that so I ignored it.  Sue seemed quite pleased though.

After the gig, Darren apologised and said he’d rather play bass if that was alright.  It suited me.  I quite like playing the bass, but I couldn’t say I was a bass player.  Mind you, neither could Darren but I suppose the spotlight’s on you a bit less when you’re on the bass.

On the day of the village fete that was in the middle of nowhere, it was evidently all going to shit in terms of the organisation but the chap kept repeating his “Everybody’s going to have a great time,” mantra and I kept my mouth shut.

We played and Darren more or less fell to pieces again.  I caught him looking at the bass guitar we’d borrowed like it was some sort of disease in wooden form.  It mattered a bit less with him on the bass, but it wasn’t ideal.  It had also become apparent that Dave’s singing was sort of alright in the living room, singing to a record but live onstage, having to be fairly loud, he couldn’t do it.

So we knocked that on the head too.  I kept writing songs but decided it would be easier to join somebody else’s band and sort of take over from within, as I’d sort of done with Motorcade.

The drummer, Rich and Sue were continuing as Motorcade and I still went to see them at The Adelphi.  The Drummer’s flat was next door to The Adelphi and he’d be in there every night of the week, so he got to know the Adelphi, alternative crowd and, by association, I did too although I was much more on the periphery.

Around that time, I met the current Mrs Middlerabbit and, though I kept up playing the guitar and writing, I made far less effort to find a band.

A couple of month into our relationship, The Drummer invited me to go with them to a gig Rich had set up at The Garage in that London where they were going to have a record company person come and watch them.  It was a free trip to London and the future Mrs Middlerabbit was, on my asking, allowed to join us in their van for the trip.  Rich asked if he could borrow one of my guitars as a spare and bring it along.

Dali’s Lobster Telephone (Aphrodisiac Telephone): Dali, when he was asked about it said, “I do not understand why, when I ask for a grilled lobster in a restaurant, I am never served a cooked telephone.”  He also said that he didn’t take drugs because he was drugs.  Alright then…

Rich knew a roadie – Andy –  who worked for Super Furry Animals and it was his van we went in.  He had some astonishing weed and by the time we arrived in London, much the worse for wear and somewhat more psychedelicised than normal, they went to soundcheck and Mrs Middlerabbit and I went for a wander around The Big Smoke.  We ended up in the Tate gallery – there was no Tate modern then – where we laughed our tits off at Dali’s Lobster Telephone and then got lost inside the building for three hours, off our tits.  Once we’d managed to find an exit,I was determined to find “somewhere green” to sit in, in the afternoon sunshine.  I was utterly convinced that we should find the poshest part of central London where they would inevitably be grassed areas for the poshoes to recline in.  We had no joy.

On the night, Motorcade played their usual set which I have no next to no recollection of due to the Super Furries’ roadie plying us with even more preposterous weed.  The record company woman turned up and told Rich that they were good but “missing something”.  The drummer told me Rich had wanted to get me up onstage for the last couple of songs but Sue had nixed it.  Fair enough.  I don’t think I’d have been much help as I was pretty incapacitated by then.  Anyway, Sue was right – Motorcade was a tight little band and I’d shown zero loyalty to their cause, so fair dos.

A couple of months after that, the future Mrs Middlerabbit and I broke up because she got a job in Surrey and we’d not been getting on very well.  I thought we’d probably work it out, given time, but she had other plans.

Rather than mope at home at being returned to Dumpsville, population me, yet again, I decided to make a concerted effort to get back into being in a band properly and I had a think about what it was that I wanted.

What I wanted was a singer who could actually sing to an extent, bass player who capable of three things: first, the ability to turn up on any agreed time and place, second, the ability to play different basslines for different songs, third, not break down weeping when we were playing onstage.  The drummer wasn’t a problem because I knew The Drummer and he was fine.

I used to buy my guitar strings and bits and pieces from a shop on Beverley Road in Hull called Antone’s and they, like most music shops, had a noticeboard advertising guitar players who were into Heavy Metal looking for bass players and drummers into the same.  One day, I noticed a card asking for musicians to join a bass player to form an original band, influenced by The Who, The Beatles, The Kinks.  Unusual.  I mean a bass player looking for a band?  Not a normal state of affairs.    The advert said “Bass player – ex Medicine“.

I rang the number, spoke to the kid – Graham – who asked me to drop a tape in to him at Kwik Save in town.  I’d taped a few rehearsals of The Drummer, Gordy and me and so I called in and gave him one of those.  I also recognised him.

Graham had been around at Spiders when I first used to go.  I recognised him because he had – in about 1989 – a Clint Boon haircut.  I admired him for it because he must have gotten all manner of abuse for it.

Inspiral Carpets, 1989.  From left: Clint Boon with ludicrous bowl cut, slap headed Bungle, lisping Tom Hingley and the guitar player, Graham.  Ginger drummer not pictured.  Inpsiral Carpets were always a bit of a third division Manchester band although Tom Hingley’s autobiography is one of my favourite music books.  Or, at least, has one of my all time favourite lines in it.  He’s relating an anecdote about watching second division Manchester band The Charlatans and finding a girl with a badly sprained ankle.  He wrote, and I quote, “There was a St John Ambulance person attending to her as she screamed out.  As I walked past, her face lit up in recognition and she temporarily forgot about her ankle as I lent down to give her a kiss.  I was at the height of my fame and its power worked like clinical heroin on her pain, like some kind of Indie Jesus.”  You don’t find that kind of lunch everyday, do you?  Nice one Tom, I mean Heroin Supplying Indie Jesus.

Graham used to talk to me in Spiders because he recognised me from gigs his old band used to play.  His old band was called Mind Garden (after The Byrds’ jazz odyssey number on Younger Than Yesterday) and they were the closest thing Hull had to a Madchester/Baggy band.  They had a great song called Leb and they also used to cover Commercial Rain by the Inspirals.  Anyway, he used to come over to me upstairs at Spiders and conspiratorially tell me that Mind Garden were going to be supporting Primal Scream on tour next month or something.  Nothing he ever said ever happened but I admired his excitement all the same.

After Mind Garden had fizzled out, Graham had formed a covers band that was pretty big in Hull: God’s Medicine, later just Medicine.  Medicine got in The Hull Daily Mail periodically, even though they were a covers band.  That didn’t go down very well among  The Drummer’s mates at the cutting edge of the alternative scene who congregated in the back room of The Adelphi because they felt that there was a lack of creativity in being a covers band – not unreasonably.

The thing was – is, probably – that if you’re playing original material, it’s hard to get gigs full stop and even when you do get them, it’s hard to get people to come and see you play.  As local bands, you tend to play the same few places and, once everyone’s heard your set, there’re only so many times that the same people are prepared to come and watch the same songs being played by the same people.  Also, you tend not to get paid.  Medicine, like a lot of bands had formed because you can play more places if you play covers sets, more people go and watch covers bands than local bands and you also get paid.  A lot.  Not millions, but a surprising amount of money gets waved at you for playing an hour of sixties Golden Oldies in a pub.  You’d be surprised.  Well, I was.  Medicine had, in the parlance of the Adelphi crowd, sold out.

A year or so into Medicine’s reign of the pubs and scooter festivals of North Eastern England, they had an article appear in The Hull Daily Mail stating that they were now prepared to unleash their set of incredible original material and were going to be playing at The Hull Adelphi.

The alternative crowd were vocally unimpressed by this development, although I thought they’d probably had a good idea.  Medicine got big crowds in Hull for their covers sets and if only a proportion of those people who’d regularly go and see them would turn up at The Adelphi, they’d be doing better than 95% of the local bands who bitched about each other when they played there.

Medicine’s first gig was, much to the consternation of the alternative tastemakers, a sell out.  In both ways, yes.  Their next gig was as poorly attended as most other local bands’ at the Adelphi though and they soon packed in any attempt at original material in the face of such indifference.

Medicine, whatever they did have, had zero credibility with the Hull indie/alternative crowd.  The were seen as interlopers, breadheads, man.

So, Graham was ex-Medicine which he might have thought gave him an element of credibility, but it almost certainly had the opposite effect on most of the alternative musicians in Hull.  Not me though.  What I realised was that, in being in a covers band who’d played a lot of gigs in front of a lot of people, Graham would probably be competent at the very least, even if he wasn’t especially creative.  Competence was high on my want list for a bass player, so I was hopeful.

A few days later, Graham rang me up and we arranged an afternoon at a rehearsal room.  I told him I knew a drummer and he was especially pleased about that because he’d recently fallen out with the drummer he normally played with.  There was no singer yet, so we decided to try to find one in about a week.  A girl I knew called Carla’s boyfriend was after being a singer so I invited him along to the Sunday afternoon rehearsal we’d sorted out.

Carla’s boyfriend turned up but claimed to be so hungover that he couldn’t sing, so that was it for him.  Graham said he knew a kid who’d been talking about singing so he’d ask him next time.  The Drummer, Graham and I played a few Kinks, Who and Beatles songs and I showed him a couple of songs I was writing that he seemed quite impressed by.

We met the prospective singer – Dawson – in a pub on Beverley Road and talked about favourite bands and singers, writing songs, guitars, stuff like that.  Dawson had been the lead guitar player in a band that had never gotten out of the practice room – like so many bands – and that sounded promising to me, too.

First rehearsal, Dawson opened his mouth to sing and we looked at each other because he was great.  He had a lovely voice with a bit of power behind it, like a young Rod Stewart at times, although he had a mildly alarming tendency to slip into sounding like the singer out of The Bluetones in his softer moments.

Dawson had written a few songs so I went round to his flat with my acoustic so that we could play each other what we had and see if we could work together.  We liked each others’ stuff and soon slipped into writing sessions.

Graham had a girlfriend – Kelly – with whom he lived, but none of the rest of us was involved with anyone at all so that’s what we did – we wrote and played together a lot.

In the early days of a band, what you need is a definite date to be working towards, otherwise you just meander aimlessly.  Dawson had heard about a festival at Hull University that would have a lot of people attending.  You had to have a demo though and we didn’t.  We had a set of maybe twenty minutes’ worth of original songs after a couple of months.

What we also had was a drummer who had started music college and getting formal lessons from a drum teacher called Luddy, whom The Drummer idolised.  I mean it, he was in awe of him.  As Luddy gave him homework and pointers on his technique, The Drummer sort of improved in one way, but also deteriorated in another.  Whereas he’d previously loved playing the drums, now they just seemed to piss him off.  He couldn’t do anything right.  Not as far as he was concerned.  I thought he was great.  He had a good feel, he kept decent time but none of that was goo enough for The Drummer and, as tends to happen, his misery and dissatisfaction brought everyone down.

By this point, I was sharing his flat with him and he wasn’t happy about much else either.  The eventually-to-be-Mrs-Middlerabbit had been enticed back to Hull and I’d found us a flat so I was going to be moving out anyway, which was going to be a relief.

Practices involved me picking up Dawson and Graham from Dawson’s flat on Pearson Park on Sunday mornings.  The house that Dawson’s flat was part of also had a tenant who was the drummer of Graham’s former band, Medicine – Moggy.

Moggy had spent the last four months in India with his girlfriend and had returned with some dreadful tropical disease that had reduced his weight to around eight stone.  One night out in the pub with Graham, The Drummer and Dawson, Moggy joined us.  At one point, Graham whispered to me that Moggy had heard tapes of our band rehearsing and had told Graham that he wanted in.  Graham looked concerned as he waited for my reaction.

Yeah?  Don’t put him off,” I replied.

I think Graham was expecting me to have some kind of loyalty towards The Drummer because we lived together and had come as a pair when we first got together but I’d had it up to here with him – with his misery about his drumming, with his (now ex) girlfriend, the Silent Witch, with him going berserk at three o’ clock in the morning because his new girlfriend wasn’t a total pushover like The Silent Witch had been.  I was only too happy move on.

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