1987 And Then You Said That The World, Was Something To Behold :
Phil King and I stayed friends and in touch. Early that year we worked on some songs he’d written. Apart from being a cool bassist he was a fine songwriter too – wow!
Apple Boutique (*) gig 1987, main band first
19/10 LSE, WC2 – Felt, House of Love, *
Phil was playing bass with Felt, Alan McGee’s Biff Bang Pow and the Hangmans at the same time and knew Alan McGee well so we got the chance to record a single on Creation in May without actually being a band yet. Phil played bass, rhythm guitar and vocals, me on lead guitar and keyboards, Owen Seymour (Summerhill) on drums, and Emily Brown (Hangmans) on backing vocals. Emily had a voice that could rock or sing a lullaby, she seemed friendly and knew Phil well from the Hangmans. The recording was in Alaska Studios underneath Waterloo railway arches. Phil’s songs sounded great I thought and the production preserved the feeling of the songs and left them uncluttered.
Michael, the Southall cousin, was now living in West Berlin and I went with my brother to visit him for a long weekend which coincided with the Hangmans supporting the TVP’s there on a European tour. Phil was playing bass for the Hangmans, with Emily Brown and Sandy Fleming on vocals/guitar, their sound was raw and a bit psychedelic.
We played one gig that year supporting Felt on 19th October at the LSE, London. There was a rumour that Felt needed a guitarist for a tour in Europe so I learned the guitar to the ‘Forever Breathes‘ album but the call never came.
Around this time I boarded a late night bus toward Hayes and headed to the long back seat, where it became apparent that David Westlake was occupying the other corner of the back seat, we both avoided any sign of recognition. Then another foggy late night in Hayes, I was walking home passing a graveyard and spied a figure materialising through the miasmal gloom. Keeping a steady up eye on its approach and now a few strides apart it turned out to be David again, he had his head down, deep in thought and we passed by like strangers in the night apart from the exchanging glances bit – what a shame…
1988 It’s So Funny, And Quite Amusing, And It’s Not Too Late For Believers :
Apple Boutique now had a drummer, Paul Gregory (who was a friend at work), and a bassist Don Rothwell. Don was also playing in Seal’s band at the time, his playing was clipped and melodic with an occasional funky touch.
Phil wrote all songs, sang and played a 1960’s Gretsch, I played a 1979 black Fender Strat.
Apple Boutique (*) gigs 1988, main band first
25/4 Portlands, NW1 – Nikki Sudden, *, Sun Carriage
26/5 Arts Centre, Bracknell – Weather Prophets, Mexico 70,*
21/7 Market Tavern, N1 – * (acoustic gig so no bass)
30/7 Falcon, NW1 – *, Revolving Paint Dream, Windmills
1/10 White Horse, NW3 – *, Hangmans Beautiful Daughter
4/10 Portlands, NW1 – TVP’s, *
8/10 Rough Trade shop, W11 – * (afternoon gig)
8/10 Falcon, NW1 – Bob, *
13/10 Falcon, NW1 – Mighty Lemon Drops, *
26/10 Drummonds, NW1 – *, Hangmans, Mick Bund
16/11 ULU student bar, WC1E – Wishing Stones, *
9/12 Falcon, NW1 – *, Claim, Mick Bund
10/12 White Horse, NW3 – *, Dentists
19/12 Dingwalls, NW1 – Darling Buds, Snap Dragons, *
Our gigs mainly covered the Camden/Euston area, a flourishing circuit of venues. Apple Boutique were back at the band starting gate, playing songs nobody was familiar with and with no reputation to precede us.
It seemed time to do some more demo’s and Phil was in touch with Adrian Borland about producing them. I think Adrian did it for free on the understanding he would produce our next record. The studio was in house near the West End, it was a digital studio with programmable drums. Adrian was excellent to work with, enthusiastic and knowledgeable and the demos came out well.
At one of the Falcon gigs was Lawrence with Rose McDowall (Strawberry Switchblade), we had chatted in the past at Servants gigs so we sat together in the pub and talked about music and then Lawrence extolled my guitar playing to Rose – that was out of the blue! One night in October, still living in the dull, prospectless suburb of Hayes and working in a dull, prospectless factory by day, the phone rang. “John… it’s Lawrence. We’re gonna make an album. Do you want to do it? There’s no money in it though.”. I had met Lawrence a few times and chatted, he was an interesting character. Apple Boutique were still playing, ticking over mostly, there were some good songs but the band hadn’t really got it together yet – I couldn’t put my finger on why. It wasn’t in my mind to leave Apple Boutique, this was just another opportunity to play with great musicians assuming it came to fruition. I told Lawrence, “Yeah, definitely.”
Lawrence was a unique mixture. Often shy, vulnerable, self-absorbed, possessive, sometimes fired by visions and unconcealed enthusiasm, frequently droll and funny and at other times like a distant conductor hinting at what should happen to colour the music to match the unseen picture in his head. He was the leader of a band, his band, and you went with his poetic flow. You couldn’t help but like him and everyone did. Felt had relocated to Brighton, following various Creation records people who had a base there; it was a better place to be on the dole than in London and it was by the sea. Felt in Brighton were Lawrence, Gary Ainge and Martin Duffy. Marco Thomas still lived in Birmingham so Robert Young of Primal Scream was employed to play bass on the forthcoming album.
A cassette tape of songs for the album arrived in the post. The tape was just Lawrence strumming an acoustic folk guitar and half-singing the lyrics. The songs were low key and painfully quiet at times but with unique lyrics and a variety of song structures that showed yet again that this man could write beautiful songs. Shortly after would follow a demo tape done maybe two years earlier of song demos that had never been released such as ‘I Can’t Make Love To You Anymore‘ and ‘Cartoon Sky‘.
Between Christmas and new year, Lawrence came up from Brighton to stay at mine for a couple of days and rehearse the new songs, primarily to see what guitar ideas I’d have. I had given him instructions on how to drive from the M25 to my place in Hayes but an error by me sent him on the M4 out of rather than into London – oops.
One of the first things Lawrence did when he arrived was to inspect the kitchen, he looked a little pained about what he saw and decided not to eat in the house. It’s not clear what exactly the problem was, there wasn’t any cheese on display. Perhaps it looked like the type of kitchen that had used cheese in the past but anyway it got a thumbs down.
The rehearsing was done in the front room, Lawrence on his folk guitar, no mics. Time flew by, continually going over and over verses, choruses, middle eights and instrumental sections, trying out guitar ideas, waiting for shouts of, “Oh, that’s it, that’s the one” to signify that it could be useful. It was very productive, lots of ideas put on tape and Lawrence seemed really enthusiastic, and then off to get some fast food at the local Wimpy and away from the kitchen.