From Spike Island to Singapore.
April – June
A letter had been forwarded to me from our old flat. It was from Reni, The Stone Roses drummer. It included two tickets for Spike Island and a note scribbled on the back of his telephone bill saying ‘thanks for the free meal.’
Needless to say, I was chuffed to bits! I had already bought my Spike Island tickets, which meant Rudy and Amanda could now come too.
1–25 April – 1990 Strangeways Prison riot in Manchester.
The opening night of a new club run by Roger from the Falcon, Headspin, was on April 3rd at The Borderline in central London. Ride headlined, it was a secret gig. Swervedriver went on first. I ended up at Headspin on many Tuesdays nights over the next few years.
Ride‘s ‘Play’ e.p. had just been released on Creation, their second e.p. of 1990. (Danny was also the production planner on these 12″ e.p.s at Mayking.)
This was actually the early days of the next scene – Shoegaze was on it’s way.
5 April – Aldi, a German discount food supermarket chain, opens its first store in Britain, in Stechford, Birmingham.
But Manchester was still dominating the tv and airwaves. Here’s a special that was on MTV at the start of April, all about the Manchester scene. ‘Top people. Top buzz. Top atmosphere.’ Well said fella!
On 5th April we saw Les Negresses Vertes at the Town and Country Club in Kentish Town. Gypsy folk or world music. They played WOMAD in 1989 and were great fun live. Here they are a few months after I saw them, in France – they were from Paris.
The next night, April 6th, we were down in Aldershot for a local band night at The Buzz Club – no flier I’m afraid.
April 8th 1990 Lloyd Cole at Brixton Academy. Here’s an interview from ‘Rapido’.
This is when something very important happened.
My life got too hectic. I was going to loads of gigs, big and small, most nights, every week and I simply stopped writing them down. So, I’m in free fall a little from here on in. I still have my Buzz Club dates and a few other pointers to lean on. I’ve written down and looked up anything I can remember, there will be loads of gig dates and bands I saw, missing though. But, hey, that’s ok. On we go, I’ll just have to dig a little deeper on my thoughts and memories.
10 April – With nineteen inmates at Strangeways Prison in Manchester still staging a rooftop protest against prison conditions, rioting has broken out at prisons in Cardiff and Bristol.
I was lucky enough to have seen Suede‘s first ever gig, at the White Horse in Hampstead when The Ruby Tuesdays supported and The Prudes headlined, a few weeks earlier. I actually booked them for their second ever gig, at The Rock Garden on 12th April. They had Justine Frischmann on guitar and a drum machine. This photo is from around that time. Justine playing a lovely black Rickenbacker.
28th April Finitribe at the Buzz Club.
Finitribe were from Edinburgh and formed in the mid ‘80s. By the time they played The Buzz Club in 1990 they had transformed from being an experimental guitar band into being a sample lead rave / dance act. We had seen them play at a club night in St. James’s in London through Danny’s One Little Indian connections.
After signing the deal with One Little Indian, and encouraged by label boss Derek Birkett, the band ran into controversy almost immediately with the ‘Animal Farm’ ep. They had reimagined ‘Old MacDonald had a farm…’ and the subsequent threat of legal action was not exactly helped by a ‘F**k off McDonald’s’ poster and T-shirt campaign.
Lots of dry ice, groovy beats and not a burger in sight when they played Aldershot.
They later had ‘101’ remixed by Andrew Weatherall and Graham Massey from 808 State.
12 May – The final of the FA Cup ends in a 3–3 draw between Manchester United and Crystal Palace at Wembley Stadium.
17 May – Manchester United win the FA Cup final replay 1–0 at Wembley Stadium, with the only goal of the game being scored by defender Lee Martin.
I was in a very short lived band at this time. It was basically the Bluetrain line up which released the 12″ on Dreamword in 1987 – me, Danny, Rudy and Kevin. I’m not sure why we didn’t just call ourselves Bluetrain, but we were called Here Comes Jordan. To be fair, the project had started up as an acoustic duo with myself and Rudy the year before, when we played a few gigs and recorded some tracks in Germany. With these recordings, Rudy was able to organise us a short tour of Singapore, as part of the Arts Festival there. When we heard we could take a total of five people with us, we decided to invite Danny and Kev back into the fold and Amanda, Rudy’s girl friend (now wife) was to come along too. Rehearsals were tricky as Kevin was in Brighton, but we got a set together, about 40 minutes worth, and rehearsed when we could. The dates were for June, not too far away now.
But before then though, this……Spike Island.
Danny and I travelled up with Gary, Paul and Dave by car. We went to Manchester the night before and stayed at a friend’s place. We went out and couldn’t get into the Hacienda, Manchester was full. We went to a smaller club nearby and danced. Went back to the place we were staying in and crashed out until morning. Breakfast in Manchester, then drove to Spike Island. It was so packed we weren’t able to hook up with Amanda and Rudy. My memories of the event itself are strangely few and very vague. We stood not far from the mixing desk and there were quite a few people, a little bit worse for wear, all around us. We chatted and danced our way through the d.j. support acts, it was sunny and occasionally sitting on the grass was also fine by me. When The Stone Roses came on stage it was immense. The sound wasn’t great though, the wind was blowing it all over and you could sometimes hear people talking. Nothing like the intensity of the London and Buzz Club gigs I’d seen them play the year before. I think I spent as much time looking around me, catching peoples’ eyes as we danced as I did watching the band. It was glorious and just a little disappointing. I had wanted it to be so good, but the sound issue was a real shame.
We made it back in one piece after stopping at Keele service station and spotting loads of other Spike Island people, travelling home.
Luckily, Dave who was one of our crew has a much better memory than me, so, I’ll let him have the floor:
‘The main things I remember the night before in Manchester was not getting into the Hacienda, which I thought was funny as 5-6 years previously I had gone there quite a few times & no matter who played there it always seemed about 70% empty, the joke at the time being someone should always bring a ball along as you could have a game of 5 a side using those columns for goalposts…. I also remember having a bit of a verbal with the door guys at that other place as I had the “wrong trainers” (they were steel toe-capped work trainers)… as we arrived at Spike Island….a guy, his face looked like an old Woolworths bag turned inside out, stuck his head through the car window & shouted “eeeee” … So wandering around, the afternoon was warm, without being too hot.. We saw Bobby Gillespie on the grass in his leather trousers, with his girlfriend… Comments were made, you can guess who led them (my guess is Gary).. Along the lines that it’s hard to not be impressed by a man wearing leather trousers outside on a humid day… With zero fear of chaffing… I remember most of the afternoon just dancing non stop with people coming & going… This girl came dancing in front of me… She was big, not remotely overweight just big, with what can only say was a blonde Louise Brooks haircut, wearing a white long sleeve t-shirt & denim flares that oddly reminded me of Dumbo… She suddenly grabbed me & snogged me with such vigour I actually checked my front teeth were still in place afterwards… In that short moment of combined shock, surprise & arousal, she did say something to me but I can’t remember a word apart from she said she was from Sheffield… I don’t think there were any support bands, just DJ’s.. But in honesty I was dancing to the ice cream vans as much as what the DJ’s were playing… As evening progressed you could feel a palpable excitement… Everyone was surging forward & I lost track of the rest of you but we were compos mentis to arrange to meet up at the back of the sound desk afterwards… As the band came on stage, I was sucked towards stage left… If you look the attached video, I remember the ball landing on the stage & Ian hoofing it in the crowd… What the video doesn’t pick up is the roar when he did it.. You would have thought he had scored a winning goal at Wembley…. The first thing I remember as the tempo of “I Wanna Be Adored…” upped I got half spun around to see the whole pace erupt, absolutely everywhere… I have never been to a gig / festival where absolutely everybody is bouncing up & down.. It was quite breathtaking… (check out 2:14 on the video)… This enthusiasm was kept up for most of the gig, the only breather I can remember is when they did the extension to “Waterfall” I looked to my right there was guy watching them crying his eyes out… He was totally enthralled, but it did seem somewhat alarming… But by the time they got to probably my favourite song at the time “Where Angels Play” the breeze had got up & taking much of the sound out towards the Mersey… It also became a lot quieter.. But I was n’t 100% sure if it was the wind / PA’s failings… So as things were coming to a climax the sound very much made it an anti climax… I’m not a fan of fireworks but I do remember being quite pre-occupied with the pretty colours… Driving back, there are 2 things that stick in my memory….Firstly, driving back I saw a sign that was a caution for Deer… That was terrible for me, as everything thing seemed to be a deer wanting to jump out in front of the car, but I couldn’t say anything to Gary.. As no doubt if I screamed “look out!!” I was convinced I would make Gary jump & he would crash the car… So for a long time I just sat the in silence, with the exterior of Bjorn Borg in the 5th set but inside I can’t tell you chaos that was occurring… The other thing is when we all stopped at Keele Services for some food.. Loads of other people had the same idea… You have never seen so many people sit down & eat an “all day” breakfast in the middle of the night in silence trying at all costs trying to avoid eye contact…’
A couple of days later, on the 29th May, Dave, Gary and Paul’s band, Vinegar Blossom played the first of their three dates with The Charlatans, as organised when they played The Buzz Club together in January. Danny and I travelled down to Portsmouth University for the gig. They did brilliantly as did The Charlatans after them. An exciting night. The next nights were the Bier Keller in Bristol and Sheffield University, but sadly, we didn’t make it to those ones.
The Ruby Tuesdays rolled into town to play The Cube at The Bull and Gate in Kentish Townon 30th May.
Friday nights we were going as frequently as we could, to the Yellow Book Club at the Rock Garden and dancing the night away.
The Happy Mondays kept releasing great records.
7 June – France, Italy and West Germany lift bans on British beef imposed during the BSE outbreak.
We were really very pleased to have booked Flowered Up to play the Buzz Club on 15th June. The excitement around them was huge, once again Danny had been the production planner for their debut 12″ released on Heavenly Records.
In my lunch hour, I made a call to the to printers check the posters were ready – they were. Then as soon as I got back to the office, my phone rang – it was their agent to say they were cancelling the gig. Oh No!
I’ve actually been pretty lucky over the years with the lack of cancellations I’ve had. It’s part of the game, you just have to sort it out, even though it’s really annoying. Alex Nightingale recommended a band from Brighton called Eusebio, so we booked them.
We got ‘Eusebio’ printed and stuck it over ‘Flowered Up’ on the posters – I kept an original one for posterity though.
We had to work pretty hard to get a crowd along to see a band no-one had heard of with only a couple of weeks before the gig. It was ok though, we had about 75 people in. Vinegar Blossom played and Here Comes Jordan used it as a warm up before we headed off to Singapore the following week.
On Friday 22nd June, myself, Danny, Kevin, Rudy and Amanda all flew, business class on Singapore Air. It was fantastic. Walking around the plane, chatting to each other during the 13 hour flight. A strange culture shock when we landed, there were small sharks swimming around in large glass fish tanks on display at the airport.
We were met by a man holding up a ‘Here Comes Jordan‘ sign and driven in a people carrier to the hotel. Once there, we were met by one of the festival organisers. We checked in and were paid in cash for the gigs up front. Casually taking the envelope full of money from her, we cheered when we got into the lift! We got payed a nice amount and had a little ‘let’s throw the money up in the air’ game in one of the rooms before calming down.
We had the next day off so went to the outdoor hotel pool, where I stayed a little too long and felt a bit woozy for a while in the evening. I soon perked up and we went into Singapore, where we were once again met by the festival organiser. She also had some of the other artists who were performing with her. There were a bunch of actors who we got on with instantly and were soon laughing together as we walked through the streets. It was crowded and very hot, even as darkness fell and the lights began to glow. We were taken to a restaurant where instead of plates, we ate from banana leaves. There were pictures of the President, Lee Kwan Yew, on the wall and we were warned before we went in that we must in no way laugh or make fun of these.
The next day we had a gig in the evening, on the main stage on Orchard Road. We played well and went down well, although I was slightly conscious our set could have been longer. It was roasting and we were all soaked through by about three songs in. It was actually quite liberating once it got to that stage, I found it easier to move around. When we finished the last song, a man came to the front and handed me a note. It said ‘From the people of Singapore, please can you play some more songs?’. The most polite encore I’ve ever had!
The World Cup was on while we were there so we watched as many games as we could in the hotel bar – time difference and gigs allowing. We saw the incredible match where Ireland goal keeper, Pat Bonner saved the all important penalty against Romania, sending Ireland through to the quarter finals.
The week of gigs were a strange mix. After the opening night, we were to play in a couple of shopping malls, a hotel bar and a boys’ and then girls’ borstal. Again, the second gig went well – it was in the hotel bar, a nice full, seated crowd. We went back to our rooms to relax when after about half an hour, Amanda was banging on our door. ‘Quick, help, Rudy’s cut himself!’. He had been peeling an orange with a Swiss army knife when he missed and caught the bottom of his little finger. When we rushed into their room, he was leaning over the sink, a lot of blood running down his arm, white faced, groaning. I called down to reception and they sent someone up straight away. They didn’t want us to use the guests’ lift though (understandable) so we had to go through the back of the hotel and use the works one. It was large and had laundry in baskets and took ages to start. Poor Rudy, his arm in the air with a towel over it, clearly in a lot of pain, with the guy from the hotel hitting the button nervously.
The hospital was extremely clean and shiny and we were seen immediately. Amanda had been told she could stay with Rudy, they brought a bed into his room for her. When we knew they were being taken care of, we left them to it and returned to the hotel. I called the festival people to let them know what had happened and asked if they could book a studio for us to rehearse as a three piece the next day. They were very sympathetic and organised everything.
Rudy had been singing three of four of the songs. With him out of the picture, it left us with about 25 minutes of music we could play. We had four hours to not just work on the songs with a man down, we also had to think of another ten minutes of music. We threw in a cover of ‘Brown Eyed Girl’ and I ran through a couple of half backed ideas I had been working on. We didn’t really have much time to think about it or panic as we were picked up and driven straight to the next gig. Amanda was in the car and she updated us on Rudy‘s progress. He had cut through his tendon but was getting very well looked after.
The gig was the boys’ borstal. A very strange experience. It was outside and we had a little concrete stage to play on. The boys sat in rows of chairs and a teacher came on stage, introduced us and asked them to clap, which they obediently did. We played a few numbers when I could see a few on the back row sneakily standing up and attempting to escape. The teacher also noticed and they were dragged back, put into their seats and made to watch us! Luckily they weren’t the most discerning of audiences and couldn’t hear the gaps in the performance. We did ok, which was good because we had another gig to play straight away. This one was in a large shopping mall. I went for a wander and looked down at our equipment set up with a few chairs around it below me and thought ‘this is an odd day’. We played and people walked past doing their shopping. A few people sat down then stood up to be replaced by a few more. It was pretty soul destroying and I was glad we didn’t have many songs!
We went to see Rudy that night. His hand bandaged and held upright, connected to a surgical pole. He seemed in good spirits considering how his trip had so far turned out.
We played the girls’ borstal the next day. Luckily no one escaped.
Rudy was discharged from hospital and able to join us for the last gigs – two in one day again. The first was another shopping mall and actually got reviewed in the ‘Straits Times’. We played a bar in the evening Rudy sang a couple but obviously couldn’t play guitar. He was able to play bongos with one had through the rest of the set though! That night we met up with the actors and went to one of Singapore’s hawkers. A large outside area full of food stalls and bars. Crowded with people sitting down eating or walking round, looking for somewhere to eat. It was fabulous. Noisy and full of our jokes and relieved laughter, drinking beer and relaxing into the night.
Two of the gigs were recorded, one with Rudy and one without. I found footage of Orchard Road, Singapore from 1990 and condensed the gigs down to a couple of minutes, including the boys’ borstal and teacher’s introduction.
The next day, 30th June, Kevin flew home. Danny and myself had booked ourselves on an overnight train to Kuala Lumpur the capital of Malaysia, en route to the island of Penang for a couple weeks holiday. Rudy needed to see the doctors again and was doing some physio to get his finger working, so he and Amanda had to change their plans and stay put. They were due to go travelling for three months and had to postpone their start.
Frustratingly, I lost my photos from this trip but found some of Kuala Lumpur in 1990 online at Say.com.
(For Jan – March 1990 click here)