April – June
Levitation’s, the ‘Coppella e.p.’ featuring ‘Nadine‘ was released in April 1991 and the music press were all over it. I was organising live reviews along with interviews and single reviews and video plays. Melody Maker were already talking about a front cover.
A brilliant live review in ‘Melody Maker’ from Steve Sutherland, plus, we got the holy grail – Single of the Week
As press officer for Ultimate Records, I went up to the weekly music press every Wednesday. Both the N.M.E. and Melody Maker were in King’s Reach Towers, Stamford Street, SE1. I’d get the tube from Camden to Waterloo and walk up from there. They were on the 25th and 26th floors. It was important to remember which was which, sometimes it was a bit disorientating when the lift doors opened.
All the journalists would be there on a Wednesday for their editorial meeting and to decide who would review the singles. I had to start phoning both papers late morning from the office and find out who the reviewer was. It usually took a few ‘try later’ s before getting the name, addressing the package correctly and heading over to the tube to get to Waterloo.
These were the days when the ‘N.M.E.’ was selling 120,000 copies a week. ‘Melody Maker’ was about half that, but still a very healthy 60,000 papers a week.
You had to know a journalist who would let you up when you arrived at the large shiny ground floor reception desk at I.P.C. Magazines. I had to say who I’d like to see. The receptionist would then call them and if they said ‘yes’; up you’d go. Iestyn George on the N.M.E. news desk was always very kind letting me up. Once in, I had to be sure to see as many journalists as possible on both floors. Handing out whatever I was promoting at the time, cd albums, white label 12″, pre release cd singles, 7″ coloured vinyl singles, tickets for gigs.
If I did have a single I wanted to get reviewed, I’d try and find the named journalist to put the record directly in their hands and chat to them about the band – hoping they’d put it in their ‘review pile’. If the reviewer wasn’t there, I’d leave it on the pile in the review room. I’d then hope the paper would A. review it and B., even better, give it a great review – a Single Of The Week for example.
The music press came out a day earlier than the rest of the country in Camden. I would walk down to news stand at the tube station for about midday on a Tuesday and see if the papers were in yet. If I was lucky, they had just arrived and I could grab both the N.M.E. and Melody Maker and head back to the office. Sometimes though, I had to wait a while for the delivery. Hanging around the tube station for 20 minutes or so. I’d see other Camden P.R.s – Polly from Food Records, people from John Best‘s office. If I was expecting a review or feature of any kind I’d open the paper up right there by the news stand, and leaf through the pages to see if it’s in and if it’s good. Then run back to the office, where the ritual of everyone having a proper read would take place. Drinking tea and commenting on various articles or reviews. Seeing other label’s adverts. Looking at the Indie Charts. Seeing who is Single Of The Week – that was pretty much the first thing you’d check for actually. The size of the reviews mattered too. Half a page with a photo? Half a page with no photo?
I learnt how to do the job as I went along. Andy taught me all about going up to King’s Reach Towers and how to see who was reviewing the singles. He was a writer himself for ‘Sounds‘, magazine so knew the drill from both sides. As well as running Ultimate Records with Maurice Bacon, Andy managed a few great bands and had a brilliant ear for A&R. I was delighted to be taught. I had read the N.M.E. religiously since a teenager and was chuffed to bits to actually be meeting these journalists and going up to their offices.
If I had a record the journalists were pleased or even excited to be receiving, that was great. They would come and find me and chat to me. Sometimes I’d seek out a certain journalist who had been enthusiastic on the phone – if they became a fan of the band we might get a live or album review, or even a feature.
At about 2pm people would start to make their way down to The Stamford Arms on the corner opposite the I.P.C. building. Journalists, photographers and press officers all gathered here to talk, tell stories, moan a bit and buy drinks. It was very blokey but I coped, it was exciting to be a part of.
When I started at Ultimate, the first few records were due out very soon. There was no time for me to waste, I had to get stuck right in. On my first trip to King’s Reach Towers, I had promo 12″s of The Belltower, The Honey Smugglers and P.U.M.P.. Andy had told me what to do, we’d even cleared the phone call to let me up in advance with Iestyn.
The Belltower were a fabulous American band featuring Britta Phillips who now records with Dean Wareham (Galaxie 500) as Dean and Britta and Jody Porter who is now in The Fountains of Wayne.
Iestyn was on the N.M.E. news desk with Mary Anne Hobbs. Their little part of the world always felt fairly calm. Elsewhere, freelance journalists were in and out, full time writers and editors at their desks. Desks which were absolutely piled high with records, cds and press releases. Usually under the desks too. Often they would be standing up talking on the phone while trying to work at something on their desk. It felt like mild chaos in there; very exciting. I was always a bit nervous, I was somewhat in awe of these journalists. Along with Iestyn and Mary Anne there was, Steve Lamacq, Stuart Maconie, Simon Williams, Stuart Bailie, Terry Staunton, Johnny Cigarettes, John Harris, Dele Fadele, John Robinson and that was just the N.M.E. . The live editor, features editor and album reviews editor were three people it was important to befriend, these roles seemed to change quite frequently. I’d have to stand by their desks feeling pretty awkward waiting for them to finish their phone call while everyone rushed around.
Pete Paphides, Andrew Collins, Ian Gittins, Simon Price, Steve Sutherland, Jim Arundel, Paul Mather, Paul Lester, all at the Melody Maker. It was a it more subdued in there, a bit less frantic. Same ritual though, hope to catch a journalist and give them some cds and 12″s.
I started to go to hundreds of gigs. Bands I wanted to see, bands who were signed to the label, bands who the label wanted to sign, bands I knew, bands on labels I knew. I’d start bumping into the same crowd, Dave from Creation, Paul from Miracle, Polly from Food, often Lawrence from Felt. I’d usually be with Andy and often Maurice too. Our office was on the other side of the road to The Falcon pub. Roger from The Falcon put on the absolute best in underground indie and loud guitar bands many of whom went on to be huge. Here’s a flier including Ultimate band, The Belltower.
Obviously we were in The Falcon all the time, either for an afternoon meeting or a gig in the evening. There were a few rehearsal studios near by and a squat round the corner. Musicians were always in there. Damon with Justine and the rest of Blur, Andy Ross and Polly from Food Records. Blur had played The Buzz Club in October of the previous year and their star was rising.
We went to the Underworld opposite Camden tube fairly often. The Marquee, The Borderline, The Astoria, U.L.U., in the West End. The White Horse in Hampstead, The Junction in Tufnell Park. The Powerhaus and Hope and Anchor in Islington, The Venue in New Cross, The Bull and Gate and Town and Country Club in Kentish Town. All over London, most nights.
Danny was working at Cherry Red Records so he was busy going out too. Sometimes our paths would cross sometimes we’d just meet at home.
Moose were on Hut Records and they were the sort of band you’d see at gigs and parties all the time. We booked them for The Buzz Club. We had about 100 in. Managed to make ends meet by wheeling and dealing a bit with Jem, who ran the West End Centre. ‘I’ll forget about the printing costs if you forget about the PA fee’ kind of thing. Always a pleasure.
Here’s a great live version of ‘Susanne’ by Moose recorded at the Marquee, later that year, in September 1991 with Gary Crowley presenting.
Captured on that Buzz Club night in April by Dave Driscoll on his Sony Walkman.
Russell, the lead singer came back into our lives years later when he recommended we use Ken at Hermana to do the press for Green Man.
Support to Moose came from The Prudes who were managed by my boss at Ultimate Records, Andrew Winters. Andy had travelled down to Aldershot for the gig.
When the gig was finished, money devided up and venue cleaned, rather than stay the night at my parents’ house in Frimley Green, we drove back up to London. We gave Andy a lift to the West End and Danny and I went straight to the Gardening Club in Covent Garden. Late arrivals, around 1am, hugging all our friends who were soaked from dancing, feel our dry cold faces against their hot wet ones as we couldn’t wait to join them.
These were two absolute belters at this time.
The usual pattern was, Gardening Club (sometimes after Buzz Club) on a Saturday night, followed by Full Circle, Sunday afternoon. After the Gardening Club, it was back to someone’s flat, often ours. Even if you hadn’t gone out, you got up at 4am to join the fun. We were living in Stoke Newington in North East London with Shelley and Andy. Shelley was manager of the Gardening Club, Blackpool lad, Andy Potter, was her brilliant boyfriend. We’d get a few hours sleep, and then get ready to go out again, leaving the flat at about midday. We headed over to the Greyhound pub in Colnbrook, just outside Heathrow for Full Circle. Run by Phil Perry, clubbers would come from all around the country to join in this fantastic lunch time party. DJs like Andrew Weatherall and Terry Farley were regulars. It was wonderful. Dark and sweaty inside, green and sunny outside. Perfect. Sitting on the grass with a cold beer, chatting with a fabulous group outside or dancing, in the zone with the same people, inside.
Johnny (who was Danny’s assistant at Cherry Red) his mate Justin True and Danny.
One of the things that made it so exciting working at Ultimate Records was the constant coming and going of people through the office doors. Maurice and Andy both managed various acts, Andy was in the early stages of his management career so his artists tended to be young bands on their way up, still hoping to secure a record deal.
One such band was Dodgy. The three lads would come in the office all the time, being hilarious and loud and wonderful. Mathew Priest, Nigel Clark and Andy Miller.
Andy Winters had been managing them for a few months when I started to work there. They had a fortnightly club – The Dodgy Club at Baccus Wine Bar in Kingston. I went a couple of times and they were fabulous events. Their mate Chrissy H would play records and invariably Mathew’s brother Chris would create havoc either by joining them on stage of just by hanging out in the audience with us. Chris also looked after their artwork.
Another weekly ritual at this time was listening to Gary Crowley‘s Sunday lunch time show on BBC’s Greater London Radio (G.L.R.). We knew pretty much all the bands he was playing, either from having seen them live or it being one of our records (Danny was getting his Cherry Red acts on there too). There was a section called the Demo Clash and Gary would put a song from a couple of demo tapes up against each other, people phoned in and voted for their favourite. Dodgy’s track ‘Love Birds’ won it for ages.
Dodgy signed to A&M Records. Using the cash that provided, Andy thought it would be great to put out a few singles independently, to get a vibe going around the band before announcing signing to a major. And so, the brilliant ‘Summer Fayre’ was released. The photo on the cover was from one of their ‘happenings’ in Osterley Park. Andy W. sitting under the tree, with Nigel hugging Mathew, sitting next to Andy Miller. Chris in the sleeveless denim jacket. Some of the as yet to be formed Bluetones are also in the photo.
We invited Dodgy to bring their club to our club.
About 80 people in. Considering it was very early to be booking Dodgy, we were very happy with that.
We organised an Ultimate Records Tour – featuring Levitation, The Bellower and The Honey Smugglers for April. That meant I got as much local press as I could. Creating a catalogue of newspapers and radio stations, student magazines and fanzines. I soon built up a comprehensive list by investigating areas and calling people. No internet so cold calls to radio stations – ‘do you have an indie or alternative show please?’ Then posting them records and hoping I could get the gigs previewed and interviews on the night.
Maurice, Andy and I went to a few nights on the tour together. Andy went to more as he also managed The Honey Smugglers.
Thanks to Steve Dinsdale from The Honey Smugglers for the above and the Paris photos.
In May The Honey Smugglers went back out on their own tour, which included Paris on 24th – this was an Ultimate Records night again, featuring all three bands and we all went over for it.
I drove over in the Luton van with all the gear and driver / tour manager, another Andy – Andy Jarman. We all stayed together in a hotel round the corner from the venue – the Locomotive, underneath the Moulin Rouge.
Maurice invited me to join himself and the French artist he managed, Guesch Patti, to go out to supper. Guesch had released ‘Etienne’ a few years earlier, it had been number 1 across Europe and she was very well known in Paris. We ate at the beautiful La Couple restaurant in the Montparnasse district. Running since 1927 with it’s gorgeous interior, this was a real treat for me. We laughed and had a great time. Guesh said she wanted to make a short film of me describing drums being sound checked!
Bizarrely, sound checks took place the next morning from 7am and had to be over by 9am as the venue was in a business district and had strict sound laws. I missed them, but saw the bleary eyed musicians return while I was having my breakfast. Some had started the rock and roll vibe early and were already on the Jack Daniels.
Later we broke into groups and headed through Paris, stopping in at the odd bar and generally taking in the sites.
Above and below The Honey Smugglers on the roof of the Moulin Rouge.
The bar in the hotel featuring various members of Levitation (Terry Bickers with cigarette) and The Bellower.
Sally Johnson who was married to Terry Bickers and who worked for Hall or Nothing PR with Chris, the singer from The Honey Smugglers.
Below, Jody and Britta from The Bellower.
From the ashes of Spaceman 3 came Jason Pierce‘s (AKA J. Spaceman) new project; Spiritualized. The Buzz Club was a very early gig for them, even before the release of their debut album ‘Lazer Guided Melodies‘ the following Spring.
They had released two singles by the time they played this gig though, their first was a cover of TheTroggs ‘Any Way That You Want Me’ and the second was, ‘Run’ / ‘I Want You’
As usual, Dave Driscoll was in and recorded the gig.
It seems we had two people recording at this particular Buzz Club, the second was Rob Horricks, here are ‘Hypnotized‘ and ‘Feelin’ Just Fine’.
We had about 125 in and lost a bit of money. I didn’t know but at early Spiritualized gigs everyone sat down. I was mortified and like a hostess at a party, embarrassed the band would wonder what was going on, I was asking them all to stand up until someone explained that this was normal to me!
The N.M.E. came down and interviewed the band .
Two slightly interesting bits of trivia – Spiritualized are the only band Danny and I booked both for The Buzz Club and also The Green Man. (A space on 17 years in between!) Also, Spiritualized were managed by Mick Patterson when we booked them for their headline performance on the Friday night of the 2008 Green Man. We first came across Mick when he managed A Certain Ratio at the time of their Buzz Club performance back in 1986!
Seven days later we had another Buzz Club and it seemed the correct moment to book Levitation.
Recorded by Dave –
The whole gig also recorded by Dave. I think there were about 80 – 100 in. Broke even.
A little flavour of the Indie scene in June 1991 courtesy of ‘The Chart Show’.
Still running all the extra dates I had been given by the West End Centre at the start of the year, we were very busy with The Buzz Club in June. A week after Levitation, we held a local band competition, lasting three nights and ending on the Saturday with Scorpio Rising (‘Just back from supporting The Neds’!) headling and the last of the local bands supporting them. The competition was sponsored by a microphone company and the winners got to play a gig in Germany. For those who might be curious, I believe Frayed Edge were the winners.
After all that, we drove up to London and headed straight to Covent Garden.
For a big night The Rock Garden and The Gardening Club could join up. They were linked by a corridor which had to be unlocked. Usually it was on New Year’s Eve but on 15th June 1991, Ophelia and the Yellow Book Club had a joint party called ‘Come Together’ and it was fantastic. The Primal Scream track was out and a massive floor filler but ‘Screamadelica’ wouldn’t be out until September.
Our friend John Andrews had got hold of a cassette with 4 tracks from the album on and we couldn’t wait to hear the lot! John later worked at Creation.
Please continue reading 1991 adventures July – September