January – March
I had been getting into Blue Note and Verve jazz from the ’50s and ’60s for a while, increasing my vinyl collection via my handy Our Price discount. The film ‘Round Midnight’ was released, staring Dexter Gordon and Danny and I took ourselves plus my brother Tom up to Soho to see it in January 1987. Filmed in Paris and New York and directed by Bertrand Tavernie.
I love Paris and that whole late night, drinking, artistic, music vibe. When I went to work the next day (in Aldershot) I decided to call a travel agents and book a few days there as a surprise for Danny. I used my Access card and got us on a coach from London plus a cheap hotel in the Pigalle area, leaving on 16th January.
We had the first Buzz Club of 1987 on January 10th. (All three indie bands take their names from jazz albums – ‘Brilliant Corners‘ Thelonious Monk, ‘Blue Train‘ John Coltrane and ‘Second Balcony Jump‘ Dexter Gordon)
January 10th 1987
Working in a record shop gave me a chance to listen to bands I had read about but never heard. The Brilliant Corners were one of them. Classic ’80s indie guitar music. They were from Bristol, I got their address and I wrote to Davey the lead singer. That was how I booked lots of the early gigs, by writing letters or somehow getting ‘phone numbers and calling people at home.
Danny worked in the Camberley Our Price, we both pushed their ‘What’s In A Word’ album pretty hard, including giving fliers for the gig to everyone who bought a copy. A great crowd turned up!
The band had a drink in the bar before they played. They were pretty confused that so many people had turned up and asked if everyone was really there to see them.
A packed bar and hall, with whisps of cigarette smoke in the air.
Above photos Guy Van Steene.
I recently got sent these two pictures by Pat Doherty who worked on the Buzz Club nights at the West End Centre. A lovely colour shot plus Kevin, the Bluetrain drummer, back stage (we supported The Brilliant Corners that night).
14 January Heavy snow falls across Britain leaving houses, towns, roads, railways and motor vehicles stranded and blocked.
16th January – The coach to Paris took longer than expected, but we arrived, excited and tired, about twelve uncomfortable hours after we left London.
I took a photo of the Mona Lisa – you can see my reflection. A voice came over the tannoy telling me off – I didn’t realise you weren’t allowed to! These days seeing the Mona Lisa is like queueing up to see a celebrity, ropes around the painting and a long wait, in 1987 just a few of us were happily looking at her. We went to an Andy Warhol exhibition too and a trip down the Seine. It was pretty cold in January! The hotel was in an old apartment building in the red light area.
Back in Aldershot and growing into my role, I had started to stock specific records. I made an ‘indie’ section and ordered records by The June Brides, Hurrah!, The Loft, The Television Personalities, The Room, Benny Profane, 10, 000 Maniacs, old New Order albums, Postcard and Creation 7″s. Bands like The Smiths, R.E.M., Lloyd Cole were stocked by head office as they were big sellers.
I started to get regular customers, indie kids, coming in to check out what we had in stock. Dressed in slightly too large suits from charity shops and Dr Martin shoes, quiffs and Argyle socks. I actually don’t remember there being too many girls buying indie records in those early days. I was wearing baggy Levi 501s bought second hand from Camden Market, with turn ups and stripy tee shirts, I too wore Dr Martin shoes and Argyle socks.
Sometimes customers would ask for records we didn’t have in stock yet or weren’t out yet. I’d order it in for them. ‘Have you got the new Mighty Mighty 12″?” was one customer’s weekly question. The release had got delayed but he came in each week to ask for it, just in case this was the day we would have it. So, I decided to ask them to play The Buzz Club. It helped that The Buzz Club was also in Aldershot. We started to build a local indie scene, with people coming from the neighbouring towns of Fleet and Farnborough.
I had one record by Mighty Mighty and they are one of the original bands featured on the N.M.E. C-86 tape.
For a live Mighty Mighty recording from this night click here.
The Stars of Heaven Surrey University, Guildford.
I loved this band, from Dublin. They had released the album, ‘Sacred Heart Hotel’ on Rough Trade in 1986 and I was delighted to see them play this local gig, in Guildford. They were promoting a compilation album of sessions and singles, also released on Rough Trade ‘Rain on the Sea’.
Someone was doing a terrific job booking the bands for Surrey University at this point, a few days later and we were back to see The Brilliant Corners on 8th February.
We were busy with The Buzz Club in 1987 – our third of the new year already –
14th February BMX Bandits
‘If I could be in any other band, it would be BMX Bandits’
A memory from Buzz Club regular, Chris Moffett, ‘Ah – one of the most enjoyable gigs I’ve ever been to! I’m afraid I missed the support acts though as I was too busy drinking and chatting in the bar right up until it was announced the Bandits were on stage.
I dragged along 5 of my friends (we were all at Farnborough tech at the time) who had never heard of most of the bands I was into and the Bandits were no exception. Everyone said they enjoyed the gig though and the 2 girls in the group even joined me near the front for a boogie!
What stood out was Duglas. He was on great form that night – very very funny!
I remember them doing a really funny (and very good) song called Flipper twice, and their last encore was the Record Breakers theme tune ‘Dedication’! Brilliant ending.’
Support came from our pals, New Tennessee Waltz
For live recordings and more from that night click here
Dan Treacy had ‘phoned me in early February to say 1,000 Violins had been due to play a gig in France, they could no longer make, could we step in? ‘Yes’ I said.
22nd February 1987
The gig was organised by JD Beauvallet who was later editor of the French music magazine ‘Les Inrockuptibles’ (and who promoted It’s Jo and Danny in Paris in 2000 at the festival organised by that magazine). The gig was in the town of Tours, where Danny and I had camped for the night on our way to the South of France the previous year.
The ferry journey over wasn’t too bad for February. I get very sea sick and my Mum had bought me an umbrella in case I needed to sit on deck for the crossing!
It was a wonderful gig and brilliant trip.
Bluetrain live at The Forum in Tours.
Back to Guildford to see Love and Money at the students’ union, another great gig at Surrey University. They were putting on free gigs in the students’ union on Sunday nights. Trouble was, you were meant to be a student to get in. When we arrived, we were refused entry. Luckily, James Grant and the rest of Love and Money were just heading out, I stopped them and explained what was happening, so they turned to the guy on the door and said ‘these guys are on the guest list’ and we were in. James Grant had previously been Friends Again, a band I had loved and seen many times. Love and Money were a bit heavier, signed to Mercury and tipped for big things. There was a Scottish scene of this soulful guitar music, a few of them signed to Phonogram labels, like Mercury. Hipsway and then Wet Wet Wet would soon be heading for the charts.
When I said someone was doing a great job booking the bands for Surrey University at this time – I mean it. Back again the next night to see The Weather Prophets!
6 March British Channel ferry MS Herald of Free Enterprise capsizes while leaving the harbour of Zeebrugge, Belgium, killing 193 on board.
We thought we’d try a different venue for a Buzz Club and so on 8th March, hired Camberley Football Club. The Brilliant Corners seemed like a great choice, so we booked them again. It was once again packed!
It was a brilliant night. First on was Rodney Allen, a young man, also from the Bristol area. I loved his ‘Happy Sad’ album, released on the Subway Organisation (SUBORG 2 in fact). He was too young to drive, so his Mum and Dad gave him a lift. I remember them sitting happily in the bar watching all the bands. Rodney later joined The Chesterfields for a while and then, The Blue Aeroplanes with whom he toured Europe supporting R.E.M.. Rodney played the Buzz Club a couple of times.
Next on was New Tennessee Waltz.
After N.T.W. was Bluetrain.
Here’s a live recording, by Dave ‘Fruitier Than Thou’ Driscoll from that night. This is ‘Parade’ from our ‘Land of Gold’ 12″, on Dan Treacy’s Dreamworld label, very shortly to be released.
The photo is us sitting under the bridge by the canal in Frimley Green in Surrey, the village I grew up in.
Danny and Kevin live at Camberley Football Club.
And so to the headline band, The Brilliant Corners. Photos once again are by Tim Paton, who we were so lucky to have capture many great nights for us.
After our set, Davey from The Brilliant Corners asked me if I’d sing backing vocals on their new single, ’Brian Rix’. I knew the song already as it’s on their ‘Growing Up Absurd’ album, they were re-recording it to help raise money for Mencap. I was cuffed to bits to be asked.
For more photos and live recordings of this night click here.
A few days later, I met the band at Battery Studios in London and sang for them (where The Stone Roses would later record their debut album). It actually took me a few takes, I must have been a bit nervous! The video was later shown on ‘The Tube’ and I was thrilled to bits!
A Certain Ratio Town and Country Club London
At last ‘Land of Gold’ was released!
It got played on the radio in France –
We were lucky enough to make a video, Dan Treacy knew a film student, Daniel Weinstein, who wanted to film a band. We filmed it in the London Docklands at the end of March. The area was being knocked down all around us, to make way for the skyscrapers and Canary Wharf.
Phil King who at the time was in C-86 band, The Servants (and has since been in Felt, The Jesus and Mary Chain and Lush) recently sent me these magnificent photos taken at the video shoot by Sandy Fleming.
Here’s Phil sitting with Rudy’s Rickenbacker guitar while director Daniel Weinstein and the camera man organising a shot.
Dan Treacy, sitting with The Servants. I thought that band looked so cool, all in their black polo necks -even when just hanging out together!
Above – This is what that area looks like now!
Here’s the end result, ’Land of Gold’ was released on Dreamworld Records in March 1987.
The single gathered some reviews and bits of press.
A poster designed by Nick Pyne