January – March
3 January – Margaret Thatcher becomes the longest-serving UK Prime Minister this century, having been in power for eight years and 244 days.
1988 began and I was working in Our Price Guildford as assistant manager. Danny and I had recently bought a green VW Beetle – the advert in the local paper had said that surely mythical phrase ‘ One lady owner, immaculate condition’. It was true! The Beetle was a 1500 engine with white seats. A thing of beauty. We loved it. In the mornings, I drove along the Hogs Back from Frimley Green to Guildford, got out and let Danny carry on to Our Price Farnham, where he worked.
5 January – Actor Rowan Atkinson launches the new Comic Relief charity appeal.
At this stage, our band, Bluetrain was the version that featured American guitarist, Mark Nemetz along with drummer Kevin Moorey. We had released a 12″ ‘Land of Gold’ on Dan Treacy’s Dreamworld Records the year before and our original guitarist, Rudy, had left to go busking around Europe.
Not long into 1988 we had our first buzz club – McCarthy. (Read a more in depth write up of that gig by clicking here)
I had been working in Our Price Aldershot when their splendid 12″ ‘The Well of Loneliness‘ was released. I loved it. When they went on tour to promote their debut album, ‘I Am A Wallet’ a few months later, I booked them to play the Buzz Club.
Tim Gane and Laetitia Sadier from McCarthy went on to form Stereolab.
Lloyd Cole and the Commotions has just released their wonderful ‘Mainstream’ album and I had tickets to see them in Barcelona. My brother Tom was living there so Danny and I flew out at the end of January to see them. Here they are, at about that time, filmed in Glasgow for ‘Going Live’ including a short interview with Trevor and Simon! (Read my full Lloyd Cole story here)
The gig was at Zeleste (Platería), Barcelona, Spain on 29th January. We’d seen Lloyd play a few times before, I was a big fan, but never abroad. It was very cool to be among the Spanish fans. Same hair and clothes, different language.
Here are a few photos from that trip, including the Barcelona vs Los Palmas football match we went to – with Gary Lineker playing for Barcelona. It was a 1:1 draw and the home fans weren’t happy. They started waving white hankies and booing. We’d walked down on the evening of the match and got tickets at the gate. We sat on concrete steps that also served as seats quite high up and I don’t remember any feelings of hostility, just a disappointed crowd. A guy went round selling beer, so I was very happy sitting there as the sun set over the city, drinking a little tin or two of Spanish beer. I confess, I wasn’t too bothered about the score.
Tom and Danny.
3 February – Nurses throughout the UK strike for higher pay and more funding for the National Health Service.
Our Price Guildford was a Gallup shop. This meant we had a machine under the till, where we had to physically type in the catalogue number of every record, cd and cassette we sold. Gallup then used the data from an array of different shops, up and down the country each Saturday to compile the National Charts. This made us all quite nerdy with our proud knowledge of these numbers, particularly the big sellers and chart records – we all knew these catalogue numbers off by heart. Gallup were strict about the info they got and if they suspected a shop was feeding in inflated sales or being silly, they would remove the machine. They phoned our shop one Saturday to say a member of staff had just put ‘A big mac with fries’ into the machine and if anything like this happened again, our machine would go. I never found out who it was, but none of us wanted to have our chart status removed, so it didn’t happen again.
It was meant to be a secret if you were a Gallup shop, but everyone actually knew. It meant reps from the various record labels would visit and push certain new releases. Along with leaving picture discs, limited editions and double pack 7″s for the shop, they would also give you white labels and sometimes tee shirts to keep. As assistant manager I got to deal with the reps if the manager was off. Our Price also had strict rules and any freebies had to be signed out by an area manager next time they called into your branch. I got a cool white label 12″ of ‘Alphabet Street’ by Prince from the Warners rep.
We didn’t get guest lists, so I was spending most of my earnings going to gigs.
I had loved Aztec Camera since their days on Postcard Records and had releases by them on various labels, including ‘Mattress of Wire’ (on Postcard). Everyone knew Roddy Frame was a genius and it was just a matter of time until he started to have hits. That happened properly in 1987 and ’88 when songs from the ‘Love’ album, released on Warners, started to make the charts.
Here’s a lovely interview with him from 1988.
Here’s the glorious ‘Somewhere In My Heart’. That guitar solo……what guitars were invented for!
We went to see Aztec Camera at the Town and Country Club in London on 3rd February.
I found these photos on line, taken that night, by Stir Crazy.
4 February – Nearly 7,000 ferry workers go on strike in Britain, paralysing the nation’s seaports.
5 February – The first BBC Red Nose Day raises £15,000,000 for charity.
On 5th February we were at the University of Surrey, in Guildford to see The Wild Swans and our old label mates The Mighty Lemon Drops. We loved the Lemon Drops – they had played the first ever Buzz Club and our bands Go! Service and Bluetrain had played with them a few times, including here, at the same venue the previous May. Their new album, ‘World Without End’, recorded at Rockfield, had just been released. ‘Inside Out’ was the first single from it. (Read Dave Newton’s Clothes We Were Wearing from this blog)
Along with spending my money on gigs and clothes I was also buying plenty of records. We were able to get a bit of a staff discount through working in a record shop. Again, the visiting area managers would have to sign out any records we wanted to buy. There would usually be quite a few in my pile by the time they came round! Among the haul for February I had this glorious 10″. I was pretty amazed they made it to Top of the Pops, but looking back it has HIT written all over it! Singer Tracy Tracy is fabulous.
Another band I had adored for years, along with Aztec Camera, were also about to have their first proper chart success. Everything But The Girl released their fourth album ‘Idlewild’ on Blanco Y Negro, Geoff Travis‘s label through Warners in February. Initial copies of the album didn’t contain the single they released not long afterwards and when it went to number 3 in the UK singles’ charts, the album was re issued to contain it. This gorgeous cover of ‘I Don’t Want To Talk About It’ was the first time EBTG crossed over – it would happen to them again, on a much grander scale in 1995, when a remix of their song ‘Missing’ went to number 2 in America and was top 10, pretty much everywhere.
We had a local band night in February at the Buzz Club. We used to do local band nights every now and again to try make a bit of money – they were popular without too much of an outlay. We always paid the bands, sometimes just petrol money, but we always ensured everyone got something.
Local heroes Jim Jiminee played in the bar. They had a song, ‘Do It On Thursday’ played a few times by Simon Bates on Radio 1 the previous year. You can see me to the side of the stage with a bottle of beer stuck to my lips!
16 February – Thousands of nurses and co-workers form picket lines outside British hospitals as they go on strike in protest against what they see as inadequate NHS funding.
I checked the music press each week to see when The Stone Roses would come back down south and it was a few months until I saw they were due to play in London again. They were to support The La’s back at Dingwalls on 29 February 1988.
Danny and I had both been banging on to our friends about The Stone Roses, so we took Danny’s mate Gary Wollen with us.
Another Panic Station night. ‘Way Out’, The La’s debut single had recently been released and I had it on 12″. I thought they were great.
This time, the venue was full. The Stone Roses were incredible again. I’ve read that Zomba and Rough Trade were in the crowd to see them. More than the music though, my memories of this night are the looking around at the amount of people – to see The La’s and The Stone Roses and realising The Roses were starting to get popular. I was already feeling part of something special. Feeling a bit cocky because we had already seen them and were fans. Starting to recognise the songs. Cheering and singing along when they played ‘Sally Cinnamon’. I had been sent the 12″ by Out Promotions in 1987 and on initial playing, didn’t really get it. It wasn’t until I had seen them play it live that I fell in love.
The fact that The La’s then also played is pretty awesome. What a night.
Back down to earth and back to The Buzz Club.
The Wolfhounds were on the NME C86 tape and a perfect band for the Buzz Club.
We did ok as I recall, the usual amount through the door for a band like this – just over 100. As would often be the way though, when the headline band were actually on stage, Danny and I would be upstairs in the office with Jem Barnes, the manager of the West End Centre, sorting though the finances. Door take, money for the bands, money back to us we had spent on posters and fliers, then split what was left between the venue and ourselves. On a night like this we would probably walk away with about £50.
The Raw Herbs (as per the flier) were unable to play, so we offered them a gig in June and my band, Bluetrain stepped up to play. Our American guitarist Mark had returned to California a few months before, as he had no visa. We recruited Richard Handyside, a local chap and brilliant guitarist, to replace him. (Richard and I play together in Kodiak Island these days). This gig served as Richard’s debut and we were great!.
After we played, I had to head up to Jem’s office to sort out the cash. I went downstairs not long after the sounds of guitars and cheers had finished and the crowd were shuffling out. Money in envelopes for the various bands, looking for the singers or band members to pay them. I saw Dave Callahan from The Wolfhounds and went up to him with my usual, ‘Great gig’. ‘What?!’ he replied, giving me a very odd look. ‘Didn’t you see the fight?’. This was a life lesson to me. Never congratulate a band on their gig if you didn’t actually see it…
Luckily for the purposes of indie history, our man Dave Driscoll (AKA Fruitier Than Thou) was on hand to not only record the gig but also to pass on to us what actually happened that night. (Read this more in-depth version of events, including Dave’s story here)
Here’s Dave’s recording – the flight starts at about 1:20.
Who said c86 bands were twee?
Bluetrain decided to go up onto the roof of my house (which was also the local nursery school, run by my Mum) we had used this location the year before with Mark, so it amused us to go up there again. (Thanks Tim Paton)
More gigs, soul legend and the subject of the Dexy‘s song, Geno Washington at the West End Centre in Aldershot on 8th March.
9 March – It is revealed that the average price of a house in Britain reached £60,000 at the end of last year, compared to £47,000 in December 1986.
Then back up to Dingwalls in Camden for A House, The Brilliant Corners, The Jeremiahs and The Chairs on the 21st. Up and down the M3 in our green Beetle!
A House were a fantastic band from Ireland.
The Brilliant Corners had played The Buzz Club a couple of times and had invited me to sing backing vocals on their single ‘Brian Rix’. I spent a morning with the band at Battery Studios, Willesden, north west London (where The Stones Roses recorded most of their first album). The video was shown on ‘The Tube’ and I was thrilled!
The Jeremiahs were a great local band, managed by Tim Paton who was also a photographer and who took loads of wonderful photos for me over the years. Not just at The Buzz Club, but also of various bands of mine, including the Bluetrain ones above. All in all, a cracking night.
We finished March off by travelling down to Brighton to see Everything But The Girl at the Dome on the 25th. My only real memory of this is the fact that Danny fell asleep and I was somewhat mortified!
29 March – Plans are unveiled for Europe’s tallest skyscraper to be built at Canary Wharf. The office complex will cost around £3bn to build, and is set to open in 1992.