New Tennessee Waltz
Gary Wollen and Paul Haskell, in their own words.
‘I think I first met Gary when I was around 14/15, our parents were mutual friends but we didn’t become good friends until we got talking about music and Gary got his first car ( very cool Herald) and we started going to gigs around 1984. We went to see Prefab Sprout / Hurrah and the The Daintees .
I remember he played me The Velvet Underground, early Bunnymen which was very new to me as I was listening to Japan , Banshees , Cocteaus and anything on 4AD.
Gary was listening to…
Paul was listening to…
We starting jamming together around this time after I got my first bass guitar from Kingfisher in Fleet. The first song we learnt was ‘ C’mon everybody’ which was interesting as I wanted to be Mick Karn and Gary wanted to be Josef K !!! We then became a three piece when Gary’s friend Paul Gilden joined on rhythm guitar and eventually we found a drummer whose name escapes me. I seem to remember he had dubious fashion taste and a love of Level 42……… I have vague memories of recording the tracks . For me it was a case of turning up , plugging in and focus on playing the right notes .
Paul Gilden (and Paul Haskell with his face covered)
I don’t remember thinking that we wanted to sound like anyone in particular – it was just 4 guys playing some great songs that Gary had written. It was all recorded very quickly in one day . Around that time we were listening to more jingly jangly indie . Some of it was horrifically twee , I preferred more bleak noisy stuff. I remember Gary playing me Never Understand by the Mary Chain which had a big influence on me.
That led onto House of Love, my bloody Valentine , Ride My first car was a white Chrysler Hunter – a bloody great 1.8 litre rust bucket that a mechanic friend was selling .
I think it was a case of ‘ I saw you coming ‘ ! It broke down several times , one night after seeing The March Violets at the Electric ballroom with a very drunk Gary and Paul in the back , the second time the police pulled me over in the early hours of the morning with bass and amp in the boot and thought I had nicked it. After questioning they drove off and I the car wouldn’t start so I was stranded in Twickenham for the night.
I definitely wasn’t a muso when it came to playing bass. I played a squire jazz bass which I bought because I liked the looked of it and I could afford it . I remember my amp being bulky and heavy , that’s all .
I was glad eventually to be a singer , so match easier lol.
I liked Gary’s bit about shopping in Kensington Market . I’d forgotten I virtually lived in there . Especially Johnson’s where I bought most of my clothes and got my first tattoo ( tintin and Snowy), also the Great Gear market on the Kings Road . I think also around that time I had just starting going to heaven so by night I was dancing to HRNG music , going to the odd goth concert like Gene loves Jezebel and then playing in a cool indie band . My dress code would change quite dramatically along with my music taste which would change according to who I was hanging out with .
Gary and I started playing again a few months ago after the release of the EP. Basically it’s your fault Jo ! We had a drunken Sunday lunch, talked about playing again and the next day I went down to Denmark Street and bought a Cheap squire affinity and started playing . It had been a while since I played , it’s a bit like riding a bike. First rehearsal was very nostalgic – I felt 17 again and it all felt very easy . Gary writes great songs and lets me get on coming up with bass lines . I’ve mellowed with age and don’t try and play as many notes as possible ! Within 2 months we have about 8 songs , a mix of NTW songs and new stuff which is great.’
‘Paul’s parents and my parents were friends and when I moved to fleet in 1983 we spent more time together as both had a left field taste in music. We started going to gigs together. One I remember was the bluebells and the Daintees in London.
I remember Paul was into Japan and a growing interest in the darker aspect of the Cure ie pornography , faith etc. I was into the live 1969 Velvet Underground album, Postcard records , the Byrds and the Beatles. I had been learning the guitar with Paul Gilden and would spend all night trying to sound like the velvets as we bludgeoned the three chords we felt we knew.
The connection was cemented when Paul bought a bass guitar and his parents spare room was re appropriated as a rehearsal room. We bought the misleadingly named Korg “super drums” drum machine and started to put together some songs. We put an advert in kingfisher music for a drummer and then Paul Gilden announces that he is moving to Liverpool.
At the time we had both just passed our driving tests and bought a car which opened up the world to us. Suddenly gigs were accessible without the logistics of last trains and the stale cigarette carriages that delivered one in “style”. I had a 1968 Triumph Herald in a deep sea grey and Paul had Hillman Hunter I think it was white but I could be making that bit up. I remember many happy days travelling to either London to go to the panic station in Dingwalls or Brighton to the Big Twang club. People actually danced to this music!!
(Gary had a sea grey version of one of these)
The car was also essential to get us to Camden market to buy records, bootleg cassettes or clothes although I remember Kensington market being a particular favourite to get clothes that no one in Fleet would have, Johnsons did some great 1950s bowling shirts. Millett in fleet would be a staple to get the Creedence Clearwater Revival checked shirts I also developed a fondness for ( a bit like Big Country shirts but with sleeves).
Paul Gilden, Gary Wollen and guesting on drums, Kevin Moorey of Bluetrain.
Paul was developing his hairdressing skills so short haircuts were always readily available and free. I was working in a sports shop so there was a casual element to what I was wearing with the odd Pringle jumper, Fred Perry shirt and I had first edition adidas gazelles in royal blue which used to bleed blue dye on ones socks after a days wear.
I decided one day that, to be the new Phil Spector or Trevor Horne, I would buy a portastudio and we set about recording some songs. One of these, My Town found its way onto a demo tape that we gave out to get that all important first gig and my meeting and growing friendship with Danny and Jo gave me an opportunity to lighten my load of demos to the tune of one. Thankfully they spotted a kindred spirit and we had a date to work towards.
We recruited Richard Sedgwick on drums after he came into the sports shop where I worked and said that one of his friends who worked Saturdays in the shop had played our demo in the common room and he was interested in joining the band. That was two weeks before our live debut at the West End Centre. That became the line up that recorded the ‘Come hell or high water’ demo in Godalming in 1986.
By this time, late 1985 Paul Gilden had returned from Liverpool and we had grown back to a three piece. We had enjoyed a year with Ian Steele on drums and that had meant Paul’s Parents spare bedroom wasn’t going to work and we started to rehearse in a factory in Ash Vale where my mum worked. It was here that the songs that formed the backbone of the band were crafted and wrestled into some form of presentable shape. We would record rehearsals , demo whatever arcane ideas we thought would change the world and naively and probably moronically thought our music was so commercial that it couldn’t possibly fail to appeal to all and sundry.
We were listening to creation records roster, dreamworld , subway, and adding Love, Television and Modern Lovers to the older bands we were listening to. We were buying the indie fanzines at gigs and meeting likewise souls who shared the passion and love for this alternative 80’s .
At this time I believe Paul was playing Fender Precision bass , Paul Gilden had a telecaster and I was playing a right handed Epiphone Riviera upside down . it was about this time that I bought my first Gretsch Country Gentleman (1967) in Macaris in Charing Cross road.
I had to have one to get the Edwyn sound .I was playing through a Roland jazz chorus 120 which was huge and Paul Gilden customised it . he explained that it would be really cool to make it look tudor and so he painted it white with black surrounds. I can’t believe it never caught on.
I still have that same Gretsch although I now play a 1968 left handed orange Nashville model Gretsch which took me 25 years to find. I also play a lot of my Jazzmaster to record on as it can be more versatile. Like I play so many styles!!
Paul Haskell and I meet up and play, with a new drum machine and play some of the old songs and some of my retro flavoured newer material. It is still so much fun and trying to write “that song” after so long drives me on .
I was speaking to Michelle the other day saying that when a song is fermenting in my brain it is so exciting because the possibilities are endless. It really can be anything you want it to be. When it is realised and recorded no matter how happy you are with the result there is always disappointment that you somehow have restricted the song to a defining format sound and structure and contained that possibility.
I hope that I haven’t rambled for too long and Pauls recollection is probably vastly different.’
The ‘Come Hell or Highwater’ e.p. is available, via Indie Through The Looking Glass Records.
You can listen here on Spotify.