Ch. 4 1986 John Mohan ‘Guitar In My Hands’

1986 A Fools Dream, I’m A 104 Degrees With A Head Full Of Steam :
The year started with the interview published in the NME, we’d had a break for a few weeks around this time and I wasn’t aware it was coming out so didn’t buy it. David thought it was funny that I didn’t know.

The Servants (*) gigs1986, main band first
26/1 Enterprise, NW3 – *, Hangmans Beautiful Daughter
18/2 Escape Club, Brighton – Felt, *, 14 Iced Bears
1/3 George and Dragon, Bedford – TVP’s, *
2/3 New Merlins Cave, WC1 – *, Miaow, Enormous Room
6/3 Bay 63, W10 – Pale Fountains, Weather Prophets, *
15/3 Enterprise, NW3 – *, Eyes Upwards, Miaow
10/4 Underground, Croydon – Go-Betweens, *
15/4 Escape Club, Brighton – Go-Betweens, *
21/4 Warehouse, Leeds – Go-Betweens, *
22/4 Zhivagos, Nottingham – Go-Betweens, *
8/5 Hammersmith Palais, W6 – JAMC, Sonic Youth, Pink Industry, *
21/5 Pickwicks, Liverpool – Pale Fountains, *
28/6 LSE, WC2 – Mighty Lemon Drops, *, Primitives, Pop Will Eat Itself
4/7 Enterprise, NW3 – *, Say Wild17/7 St Pauls Art Centre, Oxford – Felt, *, Talulah Gosh
23/7 ICA, SW1 – Primal Scream, Wedding Present, *
26/7 Claredon Hotel, W6 – Weather Prophets, *, Happy Mondays, Pop Will Eat Itself
6/8 Bay 63, W10 – Felt, *
25/8 Enterprise, NW3 – *, Miaow

In February I went to east London to see a 2nd hand AC30 amp. I thought all AC30’s were tubes but this one turned out to be a solid state AC30 from the Rose Morris era (1979-85). It had Vibrato/Tremelo/Reverb and sounded good so I paid £160 for it. Jeff Barrett (later Heavenly records founder) worked with Creation records and now appeared on the Servants horizon. Jeff was friendly with Bill Prince, had plenty of contacts and seemed a decent guy, Jeff provided more ladders up the board.

Brighton in Felton van. John M, Phil (taken by Sandy Fleming)

Much better gigs now started to appear, on 18th February a journey to Brighton to support Felt. At this point, unlike Phil, I hadn’t paid much attention to Felt so was delighted to see them play. It struck me that they were a great band apart from the singing.

At Bay 63 6-3-86. L-R John M, David

Supporting the Pale Fountains at Bay63 in Ladbroke Grove, how beautiful to support bands that you held in awe. The Go-Betweens were ligging there and just as we went on Grant McLennon said “Break a leg!” which was a saying never heard before in Hayes. I grimaced and he added “Oh, it’s a showbiz expression, it means good luck!’’.

Now into the studio to record the first single ‘She’s Always Hiding’ / ‘Transparent’ using the same studio/producer as the Go-Betweens for their Liberty Belle album. David was determined to follow their star trail.

In March the single was released on Head records a label set up by Jeff Barrett and Bill Prince, it got to #26 on the Indie charts.

On 16th March, a John Peel Session, thank you god! In my head Peel would have met us at the door and we would have discussed Merseyside derbies but of course he wasn’t there and the session was in BBC Maida Vale studios with producer Dale Griffin (ex-Mott The Hoople), Bill Prince came too and brought his Fender Strat for me to use rather than the Vox Consort, he was right though as the Strat sounded better. Four songs recorded live in a few hours with minimal overdubs apart from the vocals. The songs sounded great, the only wobble being some of David’s vocals.
The broadcast was 24th March, it was elating to hear Peel read our names and introduce songs. I’d told pals at work and next day one Robert Roper (later DJ Mastermix of Street Soul band ‘Special Touch’) laughingly imitated the wobbly vocal from ‘Rings On Her Fingers’ and said “You need a singer man!”. We both had a good laugh at that.
April brought four support slots on the Go-Betweens promotional tour for ‘Liberty Belle and the Black Diamond Express‘ – that album was fantastic and the Go-Betweens played with a style and beauty that took your breath away. Robert Forster had star quality, he sang his lyrics with a rakish guile and his delivery pulled you in, Lindy Morrison was a star too in my mind, sometimes people just have an aura about them and she did. Grant McLennan was witty, he and Robert were great foils for each – a double act indeed while Robert Vickers played excellent bass, smiled and didn’t bother to complete for the already thinly-spread limelight.

For the Brighton leg on 15th April, I hired and drove a large cheap transit van, normally John Wills used his FELTON work van but couldn’t this time. The van was acquired about midday and I spent the afternoon driving around London picking people and gear up, then off to Brighton to play. The gig went well, then there was a post gig drunken disco and it was about 2am before we finally left Brighton now with band, gear and 9 other people wanting to get back to various parts of London. The van was so weighed down it struggled to go faster than 30mph (and 20mph uphill), I was probably the only sober person and the sweet smell of weed wafted from the back of the van. The police followed behind for a while and then pulled us over. The breathalyser was negative so they opened up the back to check its contents and found a bunch of London’s indie finest smiling back. The journey home took ages to drop folk all over town and I got to work that morning with no sleep and an empty stomach. Lawrence met us at the Nottingham gig, he knew Phil was a Felt fan.

The Servants May 86. L-R Phil, John M, John W, David (taken by Sandy Fleming)

May brought another step up playing bottom of the bill at the Hammy Palais to JAMC and Sonic Youth. The promoter told us to go on just as the doors opened or not at all. It was odd walking out onto the famous large stage with hardly anyone there, the crowd increased though as our set progressed. May also brought a Liverpool gig supporting the Pale Fountains at Will Sergeant’s Pickwicks night. John Wills drove the 200 miles to Sefton Park where we were to stay with one of the Paleys for the afternoon, the guy had a large bare apartment overlooking the park and a big heap of albums of which ‘Scott 3‘ was prominent. On route, David said he’d done a music paper interview (not NME/Sounds) these retrospective updates were unsettling and the short interview itself was embarrassing. Hopefully the Pale Fountains didn’t read it. After the Paleys played I went to their dressing room, they were quiet and a bit down, to me they were stars though and I tried to chat about their music and the Liverpool scene and of course football. Mick Head to me, was like Arthur Lee to Mick.

I’d called a sickie at work for that Liverpool gig. A guy at work was buying my Cortina and knew the band were off to Liverpool. He’d forgot though and came looking, the office said “He’s not in today” and he said “Oh, his band are playing in Liverpool” so I was rumbled. In July supporting Felt in Oxford, some kids asked us to sign copies of our single. By this time David’s songwriting was really strong and he was getting known in his own right as an up and coming talent. Maybe folk were whispering in his ear, or maybe he was struggling to keep it all under control but either way the band dynamic was changing more into David Westlake’s Servants. I liked David and still trusted him though.

NME then issued their C86 cassette which included ‘Transparent‘ off our single B side and we got to play on 23rd July at the ICA supporting Primal Scream and the Wedding Present.

The Mall was quietening down after the Royal wedding of Andrew+Fergie that day, we weren’t on the guest list for their wedding and they weren’t on the guest list for the gig.

A few days later it was off to Hammersmith supporting the Weather Prophets with the Happy Mondays lower on down the bill. None of our gear went missing thankfully. On 6th August at Bay 63, London another support for Felt, this was a showcase gig arranged for Felt which Lawrence abandoned after going on stage still on acid. Then the Servants played what turned out to be our last gig, back at the Enterprise. We had recorded a 4 track 12” at Elephant Studios, Wapping. Amanda Brown from the Go- Betweens, played violin on the ‘The Sun a Small Star‘ – she was so talented. At this point David seemed almost obsessed with the Go-Betweens, they were of this moment in time and songwriters/characters of the highest quality – something to aspire to.

For reasons unclear it all ended there, maybe it was supposed to be a break, maybe David wasn’t happy, I never got to really know.

The 12” EP was released by Head Records in October, David didn’t seem to want Head involved as we had a very strange photo shoot where he held a headless toy doll, so a different pic was used for the record cover. It all went quiet then, we had landed on the biggest snake on the Snakes and Ladders board. I asked David to get in touch when he was ready to go again, later that year he rang up but my heart had gone out of it and I said no thanks – that was it.

The Servants compilation CD issued 2006

David then went solo, Phil played bass in Felt and the Hangmans, John Wills played drums in Loop and I listened to Spanish guitar and ‘Rubber Soul‘. Phil raved about ‘Forever Breathes The Lonely Word‘, I got a copy and loved it too.

26 in the independent charts
Weather Prophets back stage pass
The Mighty Lemon Drops pass
The ICA C86 week of gigs
John and David
The Servants at the Enterprise
John himself

Read Chapter 5 here


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