January – March

1 January Ben Silcock, an inadequately treated schizophrenic patient, enters the lion enclosure in London Zoo.

It would take a few days from picking up the vibe about a great track to actually getting to hear it. A thing of conversation at gigs; ‘have you heard so and so’s new single?’ I couldn’t rest until I had. Luckily, I was usually able to blag myself a copy, sending some of our releases in return.

10 January British newspapers carry reports that The Princess of Wales wants a divorce from The Prince of Wales, despite the announcement of their separation (issued the previous month) stating that there were no plans for a divorce.

I was really looking forward to getting Tanya Donnelly‘s band, Belly‘s debut album, and tore the 4AD package open as soon as it arrived.

‘Feed The Tree’ was released on 11th January, an excellent start to the year.

‘So take your hat off boy, when you’re talking to me…..’

We started the New Year full pelt at Ultimate. Singles, albums and signings. A label deal, the U.K. wide Ultimate Tour (with a free flexi disc) and dates in Europe all within the first few months.

Kerry had set the wheels in motion for all the releases by starting on the production towards the end of 1992. Now the promo cassettes, cds and vinyl were all starting to arrive. Boxes and boxes were delivered and taken downstairs at 271, Royal College Street. We were stickering up limited edition 7″s, press releases were written and lots of cds and vinyl were getting sent out.

Often we had friends of bands Andy was managing coming in and sitting on the floor to help pack everything into mailers. I’d then carry full sacks, past The Falcon and The White Horse, onto Kentish Town Road, look through the window at the unwieldy, sticky pastries in the Greek bakery and arrive at the large post office. The feeling of everything packaged up, stamped and on its way was always a satisfying one. I would dawdle on the way back, calling in at the record shop, where there was a permanent, hand written sign, decrying the lack of any new Donald Fagen material and have a flick through the racks. On the same side of the road a couple of doors along, there was a music shop, up some stairs from the pavement. It took a bit of nerve to go in here as it was always pretty quiet, and the staff all looked round when you appeared after the short climb. It was nice to spend a few minutes looking at guitars before heading back to the office though….

….where I was telephoning radio stations, journalists and venues. There were trips to the N.M.E., Melody Maker, Select, Vox, Mojo, Uncut and Q. Trips to Radio 1 and MTV. I walked to Camden tube and headed off to which ever part of London I was going to – usually the West End or Waterloo. Occasionally I got a cab, if I had too much to carry, or if Andy came along. Things were going well, there was a general positive curiosity about the label. I was able to get interviews, reviews, radio sessions and plays along with videos on MTV’s 120 Minutes and the Chart Show.

The money from the deal we had signed with A&M the year before was allowing us to get great marketing campaigns together (full page adverts in the press!), we were also in a position to sign more bands. Which we did, starting with Sidi Bou Said from Greenwich and Lewisham in South London in October 1992. Claire Lemmon, Lee Howton, Gayl Harrison and Melanie Woods played scratchy, wonderful guitar pop music, dealt with feminist issues and had uncomfortable lyrical themes.

From Lisa Bennet, Sidi Bou Said‘s manager’s 1993 diary:

Friday 8th Jan NME ‘ON’ interview. The Venue. Back To The Planet, Sidi Bou Said (9pm), Molly Halfhead, Wishplants

Mon 11 Jan SBS Melody Maker interview 7.30 prompt (!) -9pm

Sat 30 Jan SBS Mark Goodier Session, arrive 12.00 recording 2pm-10pm

The Werefrogs album was due out on 11 March.

On the 25th January, the glorious, ‘Dinosaurs‘ by Submarine (Topp 011 T/CD) was released.

‘Chemical Tester’ the year before, was, like The Werefrogs first single a coloured vinyl, mail order only 7″.

‘Dinosaurs’ was their first proper release – in the shops and available on cd.

I had approached DJ Mark Goodier and producer, Jeff Smith at the Evening Session on Radio 1 and asked if they could support our Ultimate Tour, which they agreed to do. They were fans of all three bands, and Sidi Bou Said had just recorded a few tracks for them. The Evening Session logo is on the poster with ‘As featured on…’ written above. This was all brilliant news as it meant they would be playing the new singles and reading out the gig dates. They actually recorded the first night at Sussex University and then broadcast a few of the live tracks, along with the Sidi Bou Said session, while the tour was underway.

When Mark Goodier played Submarine, singer, guitarist Neil was in the bath and remembers, ”Dinosaurs’ was 7 minutes long…..in a deliberate sort of fuck you to everyone…and it STILL got played on Radio 1 . I got out of the bath and ran around the garden stark bollock naked I was so excited! Unbelievable really, he played the whole thing. First time I’d ever heard us on the radio’.

Also released to coincide with the tour was the awesome, ‘Nixie Concussion‘, from Americans, The Werefrogs (Topp 12/T/cd). Their follow up to ‘Forest of Doves’ and the mail order, ‘Lazy’.

I confirmed The Werefrogs their second John Peel session, which they recorded on 8th February.

Lisa’s diary:

Mon 4th Feb – ‘Ultimate Gig Splash club ‘Interview with World Service BBC meet Jo 5.20 Water Rats’ SBS Radio Thamesmead Interview 8pm (John Kennedy)

Tues 9 Feb SBS interview Mark Goodier 4.40

12 February – Murder of James Bulger: a 2-year-old is murdered by two ten-year-old boys on Merseyside.

Sidi Bou Said‘s debut, ‘Twilight Eyes’ was released on 8 February and had been produced by Tim Friese-Greene (Talk Talk) during the November recording sessions the previous year.

The sound quality of this isn’t great but it’s the only version of the video I could find, from MTV, the brilliant ‘Twilight Eyes‘ (Topp 14 / CD).

Once again Andy was talking excitedly about a band he had seen and thought we should sign. He described them and I must admit, I thought it sounded like a bit of a mess. ‘A rapper, a dj, a thrash metal guitar, female vocalist, dub bass and rave beats.’

Maurice, myself and Andy went to see Senser at The Borderline in January. Still confused as to just how they were going to sound, I stood a little way back. They had been on stage for a few seconds before I was pushing my way to the front, already transfixed. We started talks with their manager Paul West straight away, they were mind blowingly good.

Heitham Al-Sayed from Senser
Early Senser promo shot

There were also a couple of Buzz Clubs in January. A local band night, ‘Snakebite City Launch Party’ on the 16th.

Followed a couple of weeks later by a band who had just released their ‘Days of Ford Cortina‘ e.p. (Wiiija Records) on ‘curry coloured vinyl’, Cornershop, who played a wonderfully shambolic set.

My band, Poise played one of the support slots.

We also played a couple of times at The Flacon

Poise supported Fret Blanket on 14th – this gig got reviewed in the ‘Melody Maker’ – see below, plus Submarine also played there on 28th.
The Werefrogs on Feb 7th and Poise on 24th

Poise had a strong start to 1993 with some nice press.

‘…like Debbie Harry’s younger sister.’ 🙂

Lisa’s diary:

Sun 14 Feb  Rough Trade Shop

Mon 15 Feb BBC Radio Scotland. 2pm. Also noted SBS number 102 in charts no18 in “breakers”

Tues 16 Feb. Liverpool gig

Wed 17 Feb . Manchester gig

Thurs 18 Feb Lee on Mark Goodier programme 6.30pm-9pm

25–26 February – Warrington bomb attacks: Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) bombs are planted and explode at gas holders in Warrington, Cheshire.

Dinosaur Jnr released ‘Where You Been’ including this great track.

We went to see Royal Trux at the 100 Club. So darn cool. I was chuffed, as on the way out some of the band’s female entourage were hanging out on the steps leading up from the club. ‘Nice jacket’ one of them said in a throaty, nicotine soaked, American drawl. We both had the same jackets on, which was actually pretty mad as they were original ones from the ’70s with fake fur at the front and faux brown leather at the back and on the arms. They had wide elasticated waists and great pockets to shove your hands in on cold February nights. Very ‘Starsky and Hutch’ hooker vibe. I loved that jacket. There was a second hand clothes shop on Endell Street at the back of Covent Garden we would regularly go to. Sometimes me and Paul R sometimes with Danny or Amanda and Rudy, we all bought stuff there we were really happy with.

Royal Trux

On 13th February Rage Against The Machine, had the ‘wrong’ version of their groundbreaking single ‘Killing In The Name‘ played on the BBC Radio 1 chart run down including the ‘F’ word seventeen times!

The Ultimate Tour started in Brighton on 11th February. I drove down with Maurice, we met Andy there and went for a meal ahead of the show. At the venue, the bands were in a collective good mood they all played slightly nervous but basically lovely sets.

I went to a few more dates on the tour, each better than the last, including Northampton and on the 19th when Danny and I caught the train up to Glasgow for the King Tutt’s gig.

An interview for Sidi Bou Said in ‘The List‘ magazine in Scotland. (I was always happy to get things in ‘The List‘.)

We were also able to squeeze seeing Belly at the Queen Margaret Union on the same night, jumping in a cab between the two venues. A cracking night.

This was released on 15th February.

This was released on 22nd February. Brit Pop was on it’s way.

Ches decided to leave Poise. We placed an advert in ‘Melody Maker‘, ‘Dinosaur Jnr fronted by Chrissie Hynde looking for drummer’ an American phoned up.

Club Dog had been organising gigs and parties since 1986. Building up a loyal following on the crusty, squat rave scene. Ambient, techno and trippy music with djs and live sets. This is a flyer from their first ever club night in 1986.

Andy and Maurice had been in talks with organiser, Michael Dog for the last couple of months, discussing a label deal for him through Ultimate, to be called Planet Dog. They signed the deal and various releases were put in place.

Club Dog had evolved into including larger nights called Mega Dogs – bigger venues with better known acts. Danny and I met Jess and Martin outside The Rocket on the Holloway Road in North London on a chilly night at the end of February for a very psychedelic happening – The Drum Club and Aphex Twin were playing live with Mega Dog DJs also appearing. Andy was already inside, as were Kerry and her boyfriend Jeremy. We shuffled around in lazers, dry ice and multi-coloured darkness, looking for them. Hands and arms were dancing in long sleeved and hooded tee shirts, smiles and flushed faces around us. More ravey and crusty than the clubs I was used to, the same happy vibe, with everyone into the music though. Both The Drum Club and Aphex Twin played fairly insane sets.

It was a brilliant night.

(Thanks to megadog.co.uk for these flyers.)

This is the Aphex Twin in Paris a couple of months later –

The next day, we had The God Machine at The Buzz Club. It was the second time they had played, the first was supporting Catherine Wheel, this time they were headliners. We did ok, about 100 in.

Andy Winters, wasn’t just over seeing the campaigns at Ultimate, he was also managing Dodgy, who had just finished recording their debut album with Ian Brodie in Liverpool. The album’s release date was to be May, with a couple of singles preceding it.

The first, ‘Water Under The Bridge’ came out on 1st March and was picking up air play both on radio and tv. Their gigs were getting fuller and the live reviews were great, there was an air of excitement around Dodgy, who were regular visitors to the office.

On 3 March, the Ultimate Tour played at The Powerhaus in Islington, pretty much my second home for a while. I had organised a live review in the ‘NME’, so was there to meet the journalist and get the drinks in.

Mark Haines wrote to me on social media after I initially posted this chapter;

‘I distinctly remember that Ultimate tour gig at the Powerhaus – that was the one where everything started late because of a power cut if I remember correctly – so basically the entire audience and all of the bands were in the pub down the road waiting for the nod to file into the venue.

I’d already seen Sidis a few times by then, but it was the first time I ever saw Submarine or Werefrogs. I’d end up going to see all of these bands quite a few times more after this, but that night still ranks as one of my most memorable gigs ever.’

The flexi we gave away at certain gigs and Chain With No Name record stores – featuring the singles by the three bands on the Ultimate Tour.

On the 5th March, I was up early as I was travelling to Amsterdam for the first of the European Ultimate shows. ‘Melody Maker’ were covering this, so I met the journalist Pete Paphides and the photographer in Camden, where Maurice picked us up and we made our way to to Dover to get the ferry. As Pete and I were queuing up to get food on the boat, he mentioned that he had all the Dreamworld Records releases, including two of my previous band’s 12″s – Go! Service and Bluetrain, which was pleasing to hear.

We arrived in Amsterdam in time to grab a bite to eat before the concert. The venue, the Sleep Inn, was also a youth hostel, where I was to stay the night. To my horror I saw I was given a bunk bed in a dorm. I decided to put off actually going to bed for as long as it was possible.

After the gig, myself, the photographer and a couple of band members bowled round Amsterdam. I had never been before and was pretty shocked to see the red light district which was also a main tourist drag. Women sitting in shop windows advertising the services they could provide, was barbaric.

We went back to the venue and everyone was still up and partying, so we joined them.

The Sleep Inn, a former psychiatric hospital, now the 4 star, Hotel Arena.

As the last stragglers carried themselves off to bed, I knew it was time to find my dorm. I gently pushed the door open into the dark and heard men snoring accompanied by a fusty smell and hairy arms. I was the only female. I got under the thin blanket fully clothed, my leather trousers sticking to the blue rubber sheets and making a noise every time I moved. It was awful. I think I did manage to get a couple of hours, but I was the first one up, just to get out of there.

We then drove to Paris. I slept a little in the car, but was happy and excited to be driving through Europe, stopping at service stations for coffee and sandwiches.

The accommodation in France was a hotel and I had my own room. Slightly more civilised.

Another great gig. Another night bowling around a European city afterwards. This time with one of the roadies, who I had just met. We walked for miles, through the Parisian late night streets, laughing and walking and laughing and walking. We got back to the hotel at about 4am said ‘goodnight’ and I never saw him again.

‘Swing’, The Werefrogs’ album was released, I was able to get them some good reviews in the music press, plus a couple of small side line features. A nice enough campaign.

On 14th March a rather fab gig took place at the Town and Country ClubBelly / Radiohead / Sidi Bou Said. Another time for me to see Radiohead without meaning to!

On 20 March we go full circle when the band we booked to play the first ever Buzz Club in 1985 made their return visit. That Petrol Emotion had played at The Agincourt in Camberley where we ran the first couple, so it was their first visit to Aldershot and The West End Centre. They had been on quite a journey in between. From lo-fi indie 7″ singles on Pink Records, to signing a major deal with Virgin, fusing rock, post-punk, garage rock and dance music, they had Paul Oakenfold remixes and had been part of the indie / dance explosion.

Support came from a band who were getting a fair bit of attention, Manchester’s Molly Half Head. Here they are on Gary Crowley‘s fab tv show, ‘The Beat’.

20 March – Warrington bomb attacks: IRA bombs in the town centre of Warrington claim the life of 3-year-old Jonathan Ball and injure more than 50 other people. 

The Town and Country Club in Kentish Town was to get a refit and a renaming. The last gig before it closed for a few months, was Van Morrision on 21 March. Terry Staunton from the ‘N.M.E.‘ had a couple of guest list spaces and asked me if I’d like to go along. I love Van Morrison, so gladly accepted.

On 23rd March Submarine recorded their first Peel session.

  • Fading
  • Junior Elvis
  • Tugboat

Claire from Sidi Bou Said sang and played guitar on a lovely cover version of the Galaxie 500 song, ‘Tugboat’.

March saw old favourites of mine, The Bluebells reach number 1 with ‘Young at Heart‘, a song that had previously made number 8 in 1984. It was reissued after appearing in an advert for Volkswagen, and the band reformed to promote the song.

There was a crazy venue at the back of the Hawley Arms near Camden Lock called The Jungle Club. It’s hard to believe they had a licence. It was ramshackle, anarchic and fabulous. Fiona and Andy organised a party there for a band they were looking after, Land of Barbara (or LOB). Nigel Tudman from the band shared these photos with me from March 1993.

Nigel and Debbie on the door.
Jon sorting out the slides and super 8 film loops
Fiona trying to take a photo – Andy removing the lens cap.

I loved it there so hired it for us to make the debut Poise gig with our new drummer. We called it ‘The Demonstration’ and made cool flyers using images of Paris 1968 riots.

We played live with slides shown over the top of us, friends played records after our set. It was an all-nighter at the end of March. I remember standing shivering, outside in the cold early morning air. Waiting for the car to arrive so we could load up the gear and get home to bed!