April – June
April 2nd – Our chance to play The Clarendon! I was very pleased with this one, although did look longingly up from the pavement to the first floor, where I’d seen so many brilliant bands recently. The basement venue was a nice size though, about 100 capacity and very vibey.
I love this part of London. Our residency at the Kings Head in Fulham 1984 was my introduction to the capital as a performer. Hammersmith is also the first taste of London after driving up the M3 from Surrey. Things would quieten down a bit in the van as we all enjoyed taking it in, before the jokes and laughter exploded again. Usually we’d pass near by on our way to Camden, so playing here was also a bit of a treat as we got home quicker. Wonderful venues too, visited as a fan on many occasions – the Palais (one of my favourites), the Odeon (didn’t like as much – you weren’t allowed to stand up), the lovely Riverside and of course, the glorious, ramshackle Clarendon.
Such simple, handwritten fliers. Dan Treacy and his girlfriend, Emily, were starting to put nights on in various parts of London now. I love that on our gig with his band, the T.V.Personalities, there’s a flurry of beatnic psychedelia with the addition of films and poets.
It was obvious something was going on, gigs we were playing together were getting reviewed and some of the bands we had played live with, or had seen a few times, were starting to get big.
Actually, this was the very moment that the ‘N.M.E.’ was putting the finishing touches to their now iconic and highly influential ‘C86’ cassette. The tape that spawned a genre. To this day internationally recognised as a certain type of guitar music. The defined starting point for young bands who were listening to the Velvet Underground, The Byrds, Love, The MC5, Buffalo Springfield and Dusty Springfield. Bands who played various forms of scratchy solid body electric guitars or jangly semi acoustics. The next generation after Orange Juice and Postcard Records. Bands like The Mighty Lemon Drops, The June Brides, Primal Scream, The Bodines. Bands from London, Wolverhampton, Glasgow and Manchester. Bands we were playing gigs with. Bands we had seen live with only 30 people in the room, were now playing London venues (that weren’t pubs) to much larger audiences.
We weren’t though. We were on the periphery, very close to the centre, sometimes touching it, but not really being a part of it. Our crowds didn’t get bigger. Our music press reviews were always good, but few and far between. Not enough to build up a momentum. No interviews.
We decided action was needed, so we changed our name to Bluetrain.
We rehearsed with this new band name and considered ourselves to be very different from Go! Service. Along with The Byrds and The Velvet Underground, I was buying Blue Note and Verve (the label, not the band) albums from work and getting in to 50’s and 60’s jazz. ‘Blue Train’ is an album by John Coltrane. With the name change, we hoped we were announcing a new, more Pale Fountains / Everything But The Girl version of ourselves.
I loved Colin MacInnes‘s London triolgy. Depicting London youth and black immigrant culture in the 1950s, including underground jazz clubs in Soho. One of them, ‘Absolute Beginners‘ had just been made into a film (starring Patsy Kensit with David Bowie, singing the title track).
17 April – Journalist John McCarthy is kidnapped in Beirut, where three other hostages are found dead. The Revolutionary Cells (RZ) claims responsibility as revenge for the recent American bombing of Libya.
20 April – Oxford United F.C., who joined the Football League only in 1962 and are in the First Division for the first time, win the Football League Cup with a 3–0 win over Queens Park Rangers at Wembley.
May 3rd The Buzz Club ‘Absolute Beginners’ local band night (nothing to do with jazz but we thought we’d be topical)
Danny and I had booked ourselves a couple of weeks in Northern Spain, to visit my brother Tom, who worked there teaching English. We were due to leave the day after our first ever local band night at The Buzz Club.
Screaming Hearts, Inspector Tuppence, Paul and Gary’s band – New Tennessee Waltz and Zaz Turned Blue. An evening of logistics. Set lengths, shared gear, change over times, stage times and dividing up money. It was a great night, really full and I was in an excellent mood.
We flew to Madrid the next day, changing the bit of cash we had made the night before into pesatas at the airport. From Madrid, we took a train up to Leon, where Tom was living.
We stayed at Tom’s third floor apartment in the centre of this beautiful old city.
There was a record shop right opposite the tall heavy set, brown wooden door of Tom’s building and we went in there a few times. We bought some great 7″s released on the artist’s Spanish or European label, including ‘Shack Up’ by A Certain Ratio on Factory Benelux plus ‘Rattlesnakes’ Lloyd Cole and Tom Waits ‘Down Town Train’.
5 May – Liverpool win the Football League First Division title for a record 16th time after winning 1–0 at Chelsea. Kenny Dalglish, in his first season as the club’s player-manager, scores the goal which gives Liverpool the title.
10 May – The first all-Merseyside FA Cup final ends in a 3–1 win for Liverpool over Everton, who become only the third team this century to win the double, having already secured the Football League First Division title
James Brown 17 May Rockodrome de la Casa de Campo, Madrid.
On the way home we stayed the night with my cousin Anne, in Madrid. Our timing was incredible, because James Brown played a free open-air gig that night. It was amazing, dancing to James Brown in the warm Spanish air. He played ‘Living In America’ twice, encoring with it before a finale of fireworks. Afterwards, we walked through Madrid, calling in on a couple of bars on the way back to Anne’s flat. We flew home the next morning.
When we got back, the ‘NME’ had started to advertise their ‘C86‘ tape – you had to send off for it and pay via mail order, which I did immediately. (In 2016 Cherry Red Records issued a 4 cd box set of the original C86 with added bands from that era – including Go! Service)
I spoke to Dave Newton of The Mighty Lemon Drops recently, we were trying to work out exactly when the original C86 was released.
‘I found this. If I recall Roy Carr from the NME had the idea for C86 in progress when he gave us a little $$ to record something in March 86 & this was mixed on April 1st. C86 was released in May 86 so wow quick turnaround’
When I saw that their track was recorded in a 16 track studio, I commented on how much I used to love 16 tracks, they had such a great energy.
Dave replied, ‘Agreed ! Switch Music (where this was recorded) was a great 4 track in the early 80’s & had not long upgraded to 16 track when we did this. We recorded it in a few hours & mixed it in another couple of hours, sounded great, although we were a bit miffed when bands like Primal Scream & The Bodines submitted relatively expensive / produced tracks to C86 whereas we gave ’em a track we’d knocked up in a few hours, oh well!’
This still sounds so raw and exciting….
I worked in London at Ultimate Records in the ’90s, and I was lucky enough to work with Adrian Thrills, one of the N.M.E. journalists who put the C86 tape together. Adrian very kindly answered a few questions for me about how it all came together.
‘Yes, I think the bands were all given a budget of about £200 to record a track. Roy was brilliant at fixing things and we wouldn’t expect anyone to contribute for free. The bands would then own the recordings. The selection process went to the wire, as these things do. I think we started off with about 12-15 acts and then kept expanding it, eventually ending up with 22. The independent scene was fast-moving, so new bands would emerge by the week as we were putting it all together. Neil was very on the case in coming up with additional names. Fuzzbox were one of the last to be added. I was keen to have The Housemartins on there too, but for some reason that never happened. It was exciting as the quarter-inch master tapes started to roll in, every one a winner! Roy and I put the final track listing together over a curry in his house in North London. We tried a few different running orders before settling on the final sequence. I always wanted to open with Primal Scream. Velocity Girl was just a great pop song. From there, I wanted to pick up the tempo with each track but keep the initial focus on the more melodic bands, such as The Mighty Lemon Drops, Soup Dragons, The Bodines and Mighty Mighty. From there, it becomes more of a roller-coaster, with chiming guitar bands alternating with more angular, ‘noisy’ acts like The Mackenzies and Big Flame. We wanted to end with a bang rather than a whimper, and the Wedding Present’s This Boy Can Wait provided the perfect closer.’
The June Brides were invited to go on the original C86 tape – but turned it down for fear of being pigeon holed. They first played The Buzz Club the previous December, not long after we had supported them at Dan‘s Room at the Top club in Chalk Farm, north London. This fledgling indie scene was gathering momentum, with The June Brides somewhere at the centre, and we happily booked them again.
They had a new drummer and the back drop behind the stage fell on his head mid -set. Sorry mate! He carried on but did look a little miffed (understandably so really).
Luckily, this is one of the gigs that Phillip ‘Hutch’ Hutchinson was at. We made contact again after many years in August 2018 and he searched for, found and sent me, loads of photos and recordings from the Buzz Clubs he had been at.
First of all, his signed flier – it’s different to the one I already had. I used to put four versions on one sheet of A4 paper and then get it photocopied and cut, so there were always four designs for each gig!
Here are Phillip‘s photos of The June Brides, the Buzz Club May 1986.
At this time, Guildford University put cool, free gigs on a Sunday night in the students’ union. I got chatting to a guy who went there one night when Go! Service were playing. He handed me a demo by his friends, The Desert Wolves, from Manchester. They were perfect for The June Brides support.
This is such a wonderful document of those times; clothes, guitars, haircuts, the song itself and….Triumph Herald alert!
The next night Danny and I headed up to the Electric Ballroom on Camden High Street to see The Woodentops and The Mighty Lemon Drops.
It was less than a month since the last ever Go! Service gig. We made our Bluetrain debut supporting another C86 band who would later have hits, The Soup Dragons on 31st May. Another of Dan Treacy‘s gigs – this time in Brixton and with ‘filmslides and lightshow’ included.
A band who weren’t C86 but who I had been keenly following, The Housemartins, released, what would be their first big hit, ‘Happy Hour‘ in May. It would be number three in the UK charts a few weeks later. Paul Heaton and I continued to write to each other and he told me that he had bought his first ever pair of jeans for the video!
The Jazz Butcher / The Desert Wolves – Guildford University
Another great night in Guildford – the Desert Wolves either made the journey back down from Manchester or stayed around and played a few gigs, anyway, it was great to see them again.
The Jazz Butcher
10th June The Housemartins / Robyn Hitchcock The Town and Country Club, Kentish Town.
14th June The Buzz Club A Certain Ratio
When Kevin joined the band, he brought with him a slightly cooler taste in clothes and music. I was into New Order and Factory Records but Kevin first made me aware of A Certain Ratio.
Danny and I decided to book them for The Buzz Club. I phoned their manager, Mick Paterson and sorted out a date. (Mick by the way popped up briefly again into our lives when he managed Spiritualized – the only band I booked to play both The Buzz Club and The Green Man.)
We got the fliers and posters done and started telling everyone A.C.R. were coming to Aldershot.
I used to make my own contracts, printed on my Dad’s Amstrad word processor and about three sentences long. Basically saying the band agreed to play at our venue, the date and fee.
A Certain Ratio hadn’t sent theirs back yet, and we started to worry. I ‘phoned Mick a couple of times and he said all was fine. We were still nervous though.
Seeing that A.C.R. were playing at Ronnie Scott‘s in Soho, we went up early to try and catch them while they were sound checking. We printed off another copy of the ‘contract’ and headed up to London.
When we arrived at Ronnie Scots at about 4pm I asked if we could see Mick the band’s manager and we were let it. Mick was surprised to see us, and happily signed the piece of paper. We watched the band sound check and Mick asked us if we’d like to go on the guest list for the gig.
Another Hero regular was Dave Harvey (The Hero was the pub in Bagshot we all drank in). Dave used to run the Get Downs at The Agincourt in Camberley. Funk and soul from the ’60s and ’70s..
It just so happens that there was a Get Down that night in Camberley. We knew everyone would be there and so, rather than stay and get on the guest list for A.C.R., we were so excited that we’d met them and seen them sound check, we declined the offer of the gig and headed back to Camberley to tell everyone about our adventure! Haha!
So, on June 14th 1986, A Certain Ratio came to Aldershot.
Luckily Dave Driscoll was in with his trusty Walkman and so was able to record the night, here’s the set opener ‘Flight’.
Photographer Tim Paton was also there and took this great shot. (Read more about the gig here, including more photos from the night, unearthed recently by Phillip Hutchinson)
21st June Primal Scream Guildford University
26th June 1,000 Violins / Bluetrain The Mean Fiddler
29 June The World Cup ends in Mexico with Argentina as winners and West Germany runners-up, but England’s Gary Lineker wins the Golden Boot, having finished as the competition’s leading scorer with six goals. Lineker, who has been at Everton for the last year and is the First Division’s top scorer, is reported to be on the verge of a transfer to FC Barcelona of Spain