Having seen John Shuttleworth support Dodgy at The Underworld in Camden a few weeks previously, I was delighted when I saw in ‘Time Out‘, that he was performing at a pub walking distance from our flat. Danny and I both went along, it was a Sunday night and the upstairs room was fairly empty. I would say about twenty people, oddly including Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer. John Shuttleworth did a very funny set and the two established comics seemed to enjoy themselves.
We had been going to comedy nights fairly regularly since we had moved to London. I saw French and Saunders at the Shaftesbury Theatre in 1990 and lots of much smaller comedy nights featuring soon to be huge comedians across the capital.
The Meccano Club in the basement of the Market Tavern in Islington, was fantastic. We saw Punt and Dennis (a sketch about a fireman where they picked on me in the audience) with Rob Newman there in 1989. This was the first time I had laughed uncontrollably at live comedy and it felt wonderful. Rob Newman was doing impressions within a story, had started with Ronnie Corbett skillfully ending the skit back there, pushing his glasses up the bridge of his nose, perfect Scottish accent and it was absolutely hysterical. The magic of live comedy.
We went to comedy gigs at The Red Rose on the Seven Sisters Road in North London (Sean Hughes ‘tell them about the chicken Mrs!’ and Stephen Frost ‘the fucking Mayor’!), various pubs and clubs in Greenwich and South East London (Rich Hall at Up The Creek) often again seeing Vic and Bob nipping in and out of venues as they checked out up and coming comedians.
Along with going to venues for comedy, through my friend Clare P. we also went to a few television recordings, including ‘Clive Anderson Talks Back’ where we were lucky enough to see this comedy legend.
These television shows took a lot longer to record than the show actually lasted. There were various fits and starts and, to stop these becoming too boring and losing the vibe, there was also a comedian helping to keep the audience warmed up while camera angles were adjusted or takes re done. Laughter tracks and loud claps were recorded to be dubbed on later. Mark Lamarr was the warm up for Clive Anderson. We also saw him fairly frequently on the comedy circuit or out at gigs.
We saw ‘Drop The Dead Donkey’ getting filmed for Channel 4. Andy Hamilton, who was one of the shows creators, also did the warm up for the show. Clare remembers him asking her where she lived and when she couldn’t get the words out through sheer embarrassment, he said ‘don’t worry, I’m not going to be stalking you’.
Back at Ultimate, the newly signed Submarine had been in Elephant Studio with American producer, Keith Cleversley.
Keith had already been working with Mercury Rev and Spiritualized (who he had just finished recording ‘Medication’ with at Bath Moles) and was Submarine‘s first choice producer. After the Submarine recordings were completed, Keith went to Oklahoma to start ‘Transmissions From The Satellite Heart’ with The Flaming Lips, including the song ‘She Don’t Use Jelly’. He would return in early ’93 to work with Submarine on their debut album.
Submarine‘s first single, ‘Chemical Tester’ / ‘Salty Killer Whales‘ (Topp 10) was now ready (and amazing) and we pressed up 1,000 clear vinyl 7″ singles. They all had white labels which I had rubber stamps made for and hand stamped each one, both sides. We bought postcards from the World Wildlife Fund, which we gave away with the record. Also – a change in personnel – Splash had left Ultimate and was replaced by Essex girl with an equally caustic sense of humour, the brilliant Kerry Wadsworth.
Again, history has cast Submarine as a shoegaze band (see above YouTube link, from the Cherry Red box set released in 2016). At the time, none of the bands who were called ‘shoegaze’ wanted to be, it was actually a slightly derogatory term. Really just another music press genre invented to sell papers. Submarine were particularly annoyed. These days it is a positive description of indie, psychedelic guitar bands from the early ’90s which also includes Ride, Chapterhouse, The Pale Saints, Slowdive , My Bloody Valentine and a host of other wonderful groups.
I sent the single out to various radio stations and was delighted when, among others, John Peel played it.
At this time London was in the early stages of getting a new radio station, namely, XFM. Started in 1991 and set up by The Cure‘s manager Chris Parry along with radio entrepreneur, Sammy Jacobs. Initially the station broadcast on twenty eight day Restricted Service Licences a few times over a couple of years, from their Charlotte Street offices. Along with managing The Cure from there, they also ran Fiction Records. Each time we knew XFM would be broadcasting, I was sure to send them a package of our newest releases. One morning I turned the radio on and heard their Geordie breakfast show dj say ‘Jo Bartlett, you are spoiling me’! A great way to start the day. Along with the Submarine single, I had sent him the latest offerings from The Belltower, ‘Flight’ (Topp 009cd) and The Werefrogs, ‘Don’t Slip Away’ (Topp008cd).
The Buzz Club on July 18th was Creation‘s new signings, Adorable.
Recently back from supporting Curve on tour and releasing their debut ‘Sunshine Smile‘, an ‘NME’ Single of the Week, we had a nice enough crowd, around 150 people.
Most weekends were still all about clubbing and heading into central London to dance the night away. Since getting closer to Martin and Jess after Glastonbury, we were hanging out with them now too, either all of us going out or partying at each others’ flats. One morning, after a night at the Gardening Club a few friends came back to our flat in Kings Cross and we went up onto the roof. It was white and spacious, with chimneys and a great view of the St. Pancras and the surrounding area. We sat up there in the early sunlight, laughing, talking and feeling on top of the world Ma.
This track was a firm fixture at The Gardening Club that summer. Certain intros you’d hear and, no matter where you were – upstairs in the cafe area sitting at the chrome tables or on the steps at the back chatting, everyone would look up and know it was time to find your space on the dance floor. Nodding your head in time to the music, pushing your way through to the perfect place, smiling, knowing glances, ‘yeah, this is a tune!’
I booked a couple of weeks at one of my Dad’s cottages on the Isle of Barra in the Outer Hebrides. A gang of us went up – myself and Danny, Amanda and Rudy, John Andrews, Paul R. and my cousin Olga.
We hadn’t been there long when Paul (with Rudy filming) decided to jump from a high sand dune. Unfortunately his landing was awful and he really twisted his ankle and damaged his feet – they were black from bruising. He was pretty much unable to walk for the rest of the holiday. A few years later Rudy made a lovely film including Barra and clips from London for Paul‘s birthday. I put this little soundtrack together and cut the 1992 footage of ‘the jump’ to post here. Ouch!
Paul is a great cook and had intended to make us all a cake one night. Instead he lay on the sofa and called instructions to Rudy who put it all together. It did taste good, nice team work.
On our last night we stayed up later than we should have and when we woke we saw the ferry on the horizon on it’s way to Barra. This meant we had about 45 minutes to get up, pack and drive to Castlebay to catch it. Running around, nasty hangovers, chucking things in bags, poor Paul unable to help. We made it. Just. The six hour boat journey back to the mainland not very pleasant, nor was the start of the drive back through the Highlands towards our stop over at my brother’s place in Edinburgh.
From one extreme to the other – back from the Outer Hebrides and straight to the Reading Festival where Levitation were headlining the second stage on the Friday night.
Lots of brilliant bands that year, including Boston‘s Buffalo Tom, main stage Saturday.
And the Sunday night headliners, Nirvana. Rumours had been circulating all weekend that Nirvana weren’t going to play as Kurt Cobain was in hospital. He took the micky out of said whispers by getting pushed on stage in a wheelchair by Melody Maker journalist Everett True (E.T. was previously known as ‘The Legend’ and a regular at Dan Treacy’s Room at the Top nights selling his fanzine….he also released the first single on Creation Records as The Legend).
Nirvana then proceeded to play one of the most celebrated headline sets in Reading‘s history (with Bivouac‘s drummer Anthony dancing on stage with them!).
Culture in extremes this time. From Nirvana at the Reading Festival to Alan Rickman as Hamlet at the Riverside Studios in Hammersmith. Another one organised by Clare P. (she had also got us tickets to see Daniel Day Lewis‘s Hamlet in 1989). I consider myself to be incredibly lucky to have seen both these versions (and for what it’s worth, Rory Kinnear in 2010).
The revised date for Suede at the Buzz Club came round – September 12th. The gig had sold out back in June when their original date had been cancelled. The venue was absolutely heaving, Suede were a very big concern by now and I would not have been able to book them had this not been the rescheduled gig.
I invited Submarine to support and they played a great set, singer / guitarist, Neil Haydock, remembers Mat Osman as being ‘very sweet’ and Bernard Butler as being ‘moody as fuck’!
The hall was packed, hot and sweaty when Suede were on stage and there was a moment of dreadful fear when the PA momentarily cut out. Pat Doherty, one of the West End Centre stage crew and a couple of others, had to heroically stand near the speakers pointing electric fans blowing at the amps to ensure they didn’t over heat and cut out again. Thank you guys!
Three days after their Buzz Club show, Suede played a thrilling, packed gig at the 100 Club and we were there for it. The sound wasn’t great but the night was intense.
A couple of notable releases to end September. Radiohead put out their first official single on EMI, ‘Creep‘ which followed their ‘Drill e.p.’ from May. ‘Creep’ started to get the band noticed but when I was up at the N.M.E. on Tuesdays, drinking at the Stamford Arms with the journalists, it’s fair to say there weren’t yet many fans among them.
Lawrence from Felt, (who Danny and myself knew through Danny’s role at Cherry Red Records) had recently signed to Boys Own Records with his new band, Denim. Their debut album, ‘Back In Denim’ had just been released, many of the tracks were recorded at Bark Studio in Walthamstow by the wonderful, Brian O’Shaughnessy.