1992

October – December

A new music prize was launched and it was very exciting to see a band we had been involved with for a few years – either putting them on at The Buzz Club or going to see them live as they morphed into the off the scale euphoric beast that would release ‘Screamadelica’. The winners of the inaugural Mercury Music Prize.

I had been trying to get a band of my own going again through all of 1992. I had a few versions, with different drummers, guitarists and name changes. I was able to organise pub gigs (The Falcon, The Monarch) through my connections at Ultimate Records.

However, we lacked any real musical direction, focus or passion and things would fall apart quite quickly. Too much of my energy was getting spent going out late at the weekends and seeing other people’s bands all the time. I was listening to such a wide variety of music, from techno to indie guitars, that I hadn’t worked out what music I should actually be attempting to make. So I stuck with the same, two guitars, bass and drums formula I had always used. We rehearsed in Acton in West London on Tuesday nights and would drag ourselves over there, shattered from the weekend and work and have a very low level uninspired session as we ploughed through our music.

I realised I needed to sort this out or any chance of my own band getting heard would soon evaporate. A new drummer was invited to join our ranks, Ches (his brother Eds had briefly sat in the drumming stool and left soon after to join newly formed band and Dodgy‘s housemates, The Bluetones). I knew Ches from his band Two Lost Sons who were managed by Andy Winters and who had just split up.

Ches looked great was funny and the best drummer we had had. The music started to get better and with it a determination and creativity to get somewhere.

We called ourselves Poise.

I got my nose pierced at around this time. I caught the bus to Tottenham and went to a girl’s flat – recommended by Kerry who had just started at Ultimate. I hadn’t told Danny I was getting it done and knocked on the door of our flat afterwards with a ‘surprise!’ expression on my face. I didn’t realise that it had bled quite a lot en route home, he was indeed surprised to see his girlfriend on the other side of the door with dried blood over her face. Yay! I had also chosen a ring that looked small in my hand but quite large when actually in place, (where it had to stay for six weeks before I could change it). Tee shirt is a Ralph Lauren Polo, second hand from Rokit in Camden.

A studio had opened in Shoreditch the year before and I was hearing great things about it. Toe Rag used only analogue equipment and was run by Liam Watson who, like studio engineers in the ’60s, wore a white lab coat when working. (The White Stripes would later record ‘Elephant’ there. Loads of great bands ended up working with Liam at Toe Rag – which moved to Hackney not long after our session).

We recorded a demo on Liam’s wonderful eight track. The results were exciting, three new songs, ‘Rainbow Days’, ‘Man At The Back’ and ‘Funnel’. I sent the demo round to various labels and started to get ‘phone calls from a few record companies, saying they liked the demo and wanted to see us play live. This was the first time I was getting slightly raised eyebrows from Maurice and Andy – quite rightly too – that I was getting calls at work about my own band along with those I was employed to get noticed.

The Belltower‘s album, ‘Popdropper’ (Toppcd 002) was released and earning some fine reviews.

To get albums in the monthlies – Select, Vox, Q etc – promo copies had to be sent months in advance. For the weeklies; ‘N.M.E.‘ and ‘Melody Maker‘, about a month. I had bits of paper with release and postage dates covering my desk. In between trips to the various music press offices, I’d be trying to contact journalists on the ‘phone. (E mails were not yet in common use.) If you could get hold of someone’s home number, that was excellent, but usually, messages were left and calls not returned.

Lists of names and publications, either freshly written or scruffy and covered in biro, were stuck all over my computer and surrounding area. You knew upfront if shows were getting reviewed in the nationals and it was my job to either get the journalist there – particularly if out of town, (or later International) – or meet them at the venue. Buy them a few beers, chat amiably, try not to push too hard and really hope they are enjoying the band!

Melody Maker ‘The Belltower are a great band. If you can´t afford to buy ‘Popdropper’ now, find a friend who can and tape theirs. Five years, ten years hence, when times are better, it´ll still be in the racks. You can search it out then. Yes, it´s true, I´m a fan, and with good reason.’

Select ‘It´s a measure of American taste that a band so damn fine, so emotionally charged and so American as the Belltower have to come to the UK in search of recognition’ 4 ****

Live Review Melody Maker ‘If tonight is any indication of what the future holds, it won´t be long before the Belltower are headlining for an audience of thousands.’

For some reason, ‘Melody Maker’ was always more of a fan than the ‘NME’ for Ultimate bands at this stage.

Through their manager, Paul Samuels, Submarine had got themselves a cracking slot first on at The Astoria on on 9th October. The Frank and Walters were headlining with Radiohead second from top. (These days Paul is Vice President of A&R at Atlantic Records. He was absolutely mad about Submarine and worked tirelessly to get them the attention they deserved.)

Andy had also been tipped off about a really interesting all female band from South East London called Sidi Bou Said. We’d been to see them several times over the previous months and also met with their manager, Lisa Bennett a couple of times. Luckily Lisa kept a diary and was recently able to remind me –

Sidi Bou Said signed with Ultimate on Tuesday 27 October 1992 at 7.30pm, I coloured in that diary entry with green, blue, pink and highlighters! I’m pretty sure it was Maurice‘s idea to approach ‘big indie producers’ (that Sidi’s admired) to produce the first single – on the principle that if you ‘don’t ask – don’t get’. I think you did all the legwork there Jo, calling ‘their people’. We didn’t really expect anything to come of it but Tim Friese-Greene was keen.’

Tim Friese-Greene had been in Talk Talk and was well known for only working with bands he really found inspiring and turned down the vast majority of offers of production work he was given. So this was very exciting news!

Sidi Bou Said then went into a studio in Camden and the work of recording album and singles to release in 1993 started.

I kept seeing Radiohead live at this time, not meaning to, to be honest, they just seemed to be on the bill of loads of gigs I went to.

Wednesday 28th October Radiohead / Drop Nineteens Bristol Fleece and Firkin.

Danny, our friend Guy and myself drove to Bristol, to see the Drop Nineteens (once again Radiohead were playing). Drop Nineteens had signed to Hut in the UK but Danny had stayed in touch with Greg from the band, after trying to sign them to Cherry Red.

Drop Nineteens at the Fleece and Firkin photo courtesy of Paula Kelly

In November, we had a local band night at The Buzz Club.

In December (not sure of the date) Jacob’s Mouse, from Suffolk, played, to promote their ‘Tun Up’ e.p., released on Wiija.

Then, there were the usual rounds of record company Christmas parties to blag yourself into, always great fun. Sometimes a couple in one night. Bowling round London with Andy, in and out of cabs and clubs. We also had our own party for Ultimate in 1992. In a wine bar Andy had discovered off Oxford Street. I djed and a good crowd came (free booze essential). I played ‘Coup’ by 23 Skidoo and Dele Fadele, the celebrated ‘NME’ scribe went nuts. The dj booth was quite high up and he shouted at me – I thought at first in annoyance and then happily realised in jubilation.

Dele Fadele who sadly passed in 2018.

Also in December, we played our debut Poise gig and it got a great review from Mark Sutherland in the ‘NME‘!

‘It’s the songs that threaten to transform Poise into national treasures’

I’m not entirely sure what all my sloganeering was about but I sent this sheet off complete with the review and demo to more labels.

New Year’s Eve had a joint party linking the Rock Garden and Gardening Club venues through a corridor usually locked. I remember dancing on the Rock Garden stage (along with many friends) when this was played. One of the finest dance tracks ever. What a combination: Chrissie’s voice, those beats. Perfection.

Click here for Jan – March 1993