Ch. 3 1984 – 1985 John Mohan ‘Guitar In My Hands’

1984 If I Could Make The World As Pure, And Strange As What I See :
David Westlake was influential without being pushy. His knowledge of music seemed way
ahead of his age, his world revolved around music and literature, he also loved Tony
Hancock humour and enjoyed punning with a dry, wry humour. David was different from
the lads I knew socially who were out and about pushing their luck.

I was more reserved than my friends and didn’t have any great plans, instead
was just floating through, absorbing influences from interesting people and situations and practising guitar.

By now David had a growing collection of original songs, including ‘She’s Always Hiding’.
Phil King responded via music press adverts in 1984.
Phil combined style and sophisticated cool with ability, and was easy to get along with
while being 4 years older and more worldly than us. He played a Gibson SG guitar, wore
black, drove a ’60s English car, had a great collection of ’60s electric fires, memorabilia and
musical equipment and had been in bands before. He was a decent guy as well.
Phil, David and I became The Servants and Phil switched to bass, I think it was my old
Musicmaster bass to start with but he later bought an Epiphone Semi-Hollow body.
As David’s songwriting flowered, we started to gel together and moved into a succession of
cheap rehearsal rooms around West London. Some were good and worth going back to,
some were basic with cranky PA, others had all the ambience of a soundproofed tramps den.
I often gave Phil a lift back to where he was living and we’d chat about music. He liked the
Chocolate Watch Band, Love, Nuggets, Felt and I rated his musical instincts highly. It
seemed like a plan for this band would need to take shape, but how on earth would that ever
Early that year the Pale Fountains released ‘Pacific Street‘, it was a classic and Mick Head’s
singing and songwriting stuck with me.

1985 What Is Happening And How Have You Been :
Recording and making demos was a problem so I bought a new 244 Portastudio and a
couple of effects, it cost about £600 – a months take home wages. It was a 4 track but could
be bounced to get at least 7 tracks and it sounded great, plus I’d invested in a decent Hi-Fi
separates system with double tape deck and headphones too – all this was in the spirit of
DIY ethos that had permeated all aspects of the music scene for years.
In June the Pale Fountains released the album ‘From Across the Kitchen Table’, it was great
but not as great as ‘Pacific Street’.
I went with my family to Ireland on holiday, we’d fond memories of carefree hols there with
relatives on the farm. My uncle in Glencorrib, Mayo, knew I played guitar and said that a
local man’s son was in an English band but he didn’t know the band name. Twenty years
later he told me “The band is called Smiths, but none of them are called Smith”!
That ‘son’ was Mike Joyce – drummer from Manchester. What a coincidence from a tiny
Irish farming village. Later, in idle moments I thought we could start a Mayo Supergroup
and ask the Gallaghers to join!
After nearly a year of rehearsing and plenty of songs demoed on the Portastudio, Phil had
been pushing to start gigs, he was right to as David and I needed pushing. We didn’t have a
drummer though despite music press ads. After a long run as a rehearsing only band, The
Servants entered the pre-indie London music gig scene in July which centred around
Creation records. The Servants only played David’s originals – no covers.

The Servants (*) gigs in 1985, main band shown first
1-7-85 Pindar of Wakefield, WC1 – TVP’s, *
17-8-85 Pindar of Wakefield, WC1 – Spit Like Paint, *
2-9-85 The Enterprise, NW3 – Jasmine Minks, Red Harvest, *
3-9-85 Crown and Castle, E8 – TVP’s, History of Gardening, *
9-10-85 New Merlins Cave, WC1 – Jamie Wednesday, *, The Trees
6-11-85 Crown and Castle, E8 – *, The Trees, MacArthur
9-11-85 The Enterprise, NW3 – Mighty Lemon Drops, *
13-11-85 Central London Poly, W1 – *, The Trees
11-12-85 New Merlins Cave, WC1 – *, But Jim Millions Will Die
22-12-85 The Enterprise, NW3 – *, no other band played that night

The next gig or two was played without a drummer, so drum machine patterns were
recorded onto a tape and played back through the PA and we played along.
It didn’t work too well so David recruited an old school friend Eamon Lynam to stand in.

The Servants (without drummer) at the Enterprise 2-9-85. L-R Phil, David, John M

Eamon was rusty but game and after a couple of rehearsals he was playing live albeit
needing big cues to know when to finish songs.
After starting live performances, the network of mainly Victorian pub rooms around London
started to reveal itself. Someone knew someone who knew someone who was putting gigs
on etc, Dan Treacy of the TVP’s was quite involved in a lot of this.

David’s singing was shy, my Vox guitar had a slightly off intonation and Phil was the only
one who ever moved on stage so we weren’t exciting to look at – David’s songs though were
great and getting better all the time.

The attendances were small like the payment but it didn’t matter, we were getting
experience of playing, exposure and some good responses.
Phil knew Adrian Borland from The Sound and in October, after only 5 gigs, we got the
chance to go to Elephant Studio in Wapping to record the songs ‘She’s Always Hiding’ and
‘Meredith’ for a compilation on the Statik record label. Adrian was producing, he was a
lovely guy and the studio itself was luxury to us compared to the tramps den rehearsal.
When the recordings were being played through the mixing console master speakers it made
me think that maybe this band was going places – it was a big boost for us.
We were asked to go to the Statik office in W14 later that month and they presented us all
with a legal document to sign detailing their options for an exclusive multi-album deal with
an oh-so-shitty royalty rate. David smelled a rat, this is how bands get shafted before they
have even achieved anything. Nothing was signed so the tracks didn’t get on the
compilation but it was a good experience overall.

The Servants sixth gig, and first ‘headlining’, was at the Crown and Castle on 6th
November, it was filmed and later surfaced on Youtube.

‘She’s Always Hiding’
The Sun A Small Star

We then did a few gigs with a band called The Trees, they had a great drummer John Wills.
David was learning to be more pushy now and asked John Wills to join the Servants, he said
yes and David told Eamon that he was out – it can be brutal in a band!

John Wills was a few years older than Phil, he was a decent guy and easy to get along with,
he also had a small Ford van for his job delivering flowers and that was used for gigs too.
The van had ‘FELTON’ on the side which looked funny when we turned up to support Felt.
After going through two drummers and one drum machine John Wills settled the line-up and
off we went with my lead guitar leaking out all the influences of the past few years, mostly
third album VU.
Around this time NME writer Bill Prince (later GQ deputy editor) took an interest in the
Servants, Bill was literate, musically talented and friendly – what’s not to like. This multiplied publicity and moved us up a decent ladder on the Snakes and Ladders board.
First gig review appears in the NME

The first photo shoot was done for an upcoming NME article. The shoot was in the Tate
Gallery in SW1 with ace photographer Jayne Houghton, the actual NME interview was Bill
Prince with David and Phil which was perhaps best as I hadn’t much to say.

Read chapter 4 1986 here

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