1989 I Look At You Now With Scorn, The Cap That Fits You Is Well Worn :
Apple Boutique played at the Falcon on 10th February with Andy Kershaw (Radio 1 DJ) in the audience. He came up after we’d played and asked to chat, he bought drinks, said he
liked our music and could I send him a tape of songs. Interest had been scarce the last year so I sent a tape to him at Radio 1 but there was no response back. Also in the audience that
night was Lawrence and he was enthused about the upcoming songs for the Felt album.
Apple Boutique (*) gigs 1989, main band first
30/1 Dingwalls, NW1 – Chills, Perfect Disaster, *
10/2 Falcon, NW1 – Summerhill, *
At this point, Apple Boutique were lacking a little motivation and confidence, we hadn’t got our sound together and rehearsals were getting difficult to schedule in. By default we began a break and after a while it looked like it might be permanent so Phil and I had a chat about the situation – I came to the conclusion that my heart wasn’t into staying so sadly Apple Boutique were no more. A postscript to our Creation single was that the instrumental track ‘The Ballad of Jet Harris’ later became an unlikely club favourite in the Valencia area, also spawning an electro version of the track.
…a short detour into the world of UK Street Soul
…end of short detour
Felt (*) gigs1989, main band first
5/10 Falcon, NW1 – Maybelynes, * (secret gig)
7/10 La Cigale, Paris – Stone Roses, *, La’s, Chills
14/11 Camden Workers Club, NW1 – *, Lush, Heidi Berry
4/12 Duchess of York, Leeds – *, Kit Colombia
11/12 Dingwalls, NW1 – *, Shack, Blow Up, Mexico 70
14/12 Rico’s, Greenock – *, TVPs
15/12 Roadmenders, Northampton – *, Mexico 70
16/12 Moles, Bath – *, Mexico 70
19/12 Burberries, Birmingham – *, Mexico 70, the Day
Early that year initial rehearsals started in Brighton, which meant a drive down on Saturdays in my Renault 5 to stay at Gary and Martin’s place, followed by rehearsals on Sunday.
To start with Lawrence was flat-sitting Alan McGee‘s lovely rented flat in a well-located part of Brighton. McGee would have rightly thought he’d not mess it up, the central heating though was full tilt to 32°C so the heat was stunning, you could have grown bananas there. Lawrence produced a five-string bass and said, “Can you use that for New Day Dawning?”
So the song ended up very taught and rhythmic somewhere between ‘Time is Tight’ by Booker T and ‘You’re So Good To Me’ by The Beach Boys, with the guitar solo at the end originally more like the underwater guitar feel of ‘Let it Be‘ by The Beatles.
One Saturday night the Creation Scottish party crowd arrived at the flat, it started to liven up with drink and music, then police arrived after complaints about the noise and someone being hung by the legs out of the first floor window. It was an atypical evening with Felt. Lawrence was a very clean person, teeth were brushed regularly during the day and he was strongly averse to pungent odours. He was not a foodie and avoided vegetables, instead preferring to take girls to his favourite restaurant – the Little Chef.
Around this time Lawrence was stopped in his old car in Brighton by police. When they
heard his accent they said, “What are you doing down here then?” He replied, “I live here.” He didn’t like getting mistaken for riff-raff.
Full band rehearsals also started. I was amazed at how well Felt could really play, there was no hint of being ‘indie’ or unable to play the instrument properly.
Martin Duffy was just superb on keyboards, full of ideas he could play any style or just make it up as he went, it seemed so effortless to Martin. Also he was a nice guy, often away in his own world coming up with unique theories and questions, and he loved to get off his head. One night later in the year at a motorway service station he asked the vegetarian Felt van driver about why he was vegetarian; the driver answered that it was because of the pain and suffering caused to the animals, to which Martin replied, “But how do you know that plants don’t feel pain just like animals?” He wasn’t joking.
Gary Ainge was an accomplished drummer who could really thump the toms. He was a lovely guy, relaxed and easy-going and seemed to know Lawrence better than anyone. “I’ve never seen him this excited” said Gary on how Lawrence was feeling about the way the songs were progressing. If Lawrence was Lou Reed, then Gary was Charlie Watts. Gary was a painter and decorator but had given it all up to play drums with Felt.
Richard Left was later brought in to add more guitar and his twelve-string Rickenbacker. Richard was married with a young kid, he could also play rock guitar better than me. By April, Lawrence bought a tiny flat in a grand mansion in Hove, he slept in a large cupboard underneath the stairs. The rooms were pretty spartan but he’d still managed to buy some luxurious Victorian taps for the bathroom suite. That was Lawrence, sleeping in a cupboard but with expensive taps for the bathroom, it seemed so normal.
He played the newly released Stone Roses album and said how good it was and how the producer (their old one – John Leckie) would now be too expensive for Felt. Gary, Martin, their friend Geoff and sometimes Robert Young or Bobby Gillespie’s brother Graham, shared houses or flats in Brighton, normally the Kemp Town area. Gary and Martin lived on the dole and pretty much on the breadline. Being in Felt wasn’t a well-paid job.
After all debts and expenses were paid there was nothing left other than the rider at the infrequent gigs, the sandwiches or hot meal from the venue. and being part of Felt. Adrian Borland was brought in to produce the album. A demo of the songs was done in late spring ‘89 in a Brighton rehearsal studio with Adrian. It sounded good but Adrian knew how to take it higher. The album ‘Me And A Monkey On The Moon‘ was recorded in ICC Studios, Eastbourne between 9-14th August. The studio had on site accommodation for the artistes. Only Felt would go to the retirement capital of England to record an album. Adrian was really enthusiastic and knew how to turn the band ideas into something coherent on tape, he also worked well with Lawrence who had a bit of a reputation for making producers wish they had taken an easier job. Adrian also drank two bottles of wine each night with his takeaway. The initial recording was the whole band playing each of the songs, it didn’t take too long before we went into the control room to hear it. Only the drums were kept from each initial good take, with each instrument getting successively added on in turn, Robert Young of Primal Scream doing all his bass first – Robert didn’t mess up, he just needed one take.
The rhythm guitar came next, then keyboards and lead guitar. Lawrence had wanted some pedal steel and had asked an ace session pedal steel player BJ Cole to pop down to the studio. He duly arrived with his girlfriend, it seemed like a trip to the coast rather than a recording session for him; he then blew us all away and then left. I think he got paid £50 plus expenses. The pedal steel is mainly in ‘I Can’t Make Love To You Anymore’ and ‘New Day Dawning‘.
It’s hard to get loaded when you’ve got no money so a friend of mine came down to the studio for a couple of days with strong black resin which helped the entertainment at night. Lawrence had given up smoking cigarettes but joined in, relaxed back and said in that droll way, “Ohhh, it’s so good to be smoking again”.
After recording the album, talk started of touring which was awkward as I was still in a full time job. The only solution was to resign, throw my lot in with Felt and be free for whatever would happen. Shortly after handing my notice in, it was down to Brighton again to tell the band, who were on the dole, that now there were no limits to gigs. Lawrence said, “John, you shouldn’t have done it. We’re splitting up at the end of the year.”
‘Me And A Monkey On The Moon‘, and the end of Felt, was promoted in typical low-key style with 9 gigs and 100 album T shirts to hawk as merchandise. Marco Thomas was going to play bass for the tour, he was a good lad.
After a secret gig at the Falcon on 5th October for 140 people, two days later Felt moved to the Paris Inrockuptibles stage in front of 1,400 people. On 7th October at La Cigale there was to be a seminal gig with Felt sandwiched between the La’s and headlining Stone Roses. The Stone Roses were ending a European tour on a tsunami of ability, attitude and style. Tony Barber was employed as driver. He reminded me of John Lydon in a ’50s velvet collar jacket and was a fan of The Who, which was apt as a hole in the knee of my jeans was covered with an old mod parka Who patch. Felt were to be paid around £700, most of which would go on transport and accommodation.
Tony got me from Hayes on the afternoon of 6th October. The Strat and AC30 were loaded and off we set for the pleasant drive to Brighton. I said to Tony that it was a real shame that things weren’t more organised as most things just seemed to end in a fuck-up.
After picking up Martin, Gary, Marco and Richard, we were now set to head off to the ferry port and Lawrence said, “Can everyone check they have got their passport.”
I said, “Passport???”. This really was a fuck-up and by me too. There was no option but to write down the Paris hotel address, head home to get my passport and work out if it was possible to get there the next day somehow. Tony dropped me at Brighton train station and a sad trip home, with guitar and amp still in the van. My last words were, “I’ll be at the gig tomorrow or you’ll never see me again.” I rang brother Tom from the station pay phone (this was the pre mobile era), he worked for an airline and might be able to sort out an early standby flight to Paris the next morning.
That night I got home late, found the passport, was in Heathrow by 6am and got called to get on first flight – halleluja! Landing in Paris, the tourist desk directed which trains to take and once out of the train a kindly and stylish Parisienne directed me to the road of the hotel where, with luck, I spotted the white UK registered van at 8am. Knocking the doors raised Tony’s sleepy head to the window, I said, “Alright Tony, where’s the rest of the band?” to which he said, “Dunno” and closed his eyes again. I sat in the front seat and also dozed off. Soon the rest of the band arrived at the van looking tired and bloodshot – they’d been out all night. “Fucking hell, he’s made it” someone said and they all climbed in for a sleep. At midday we checked into the hotel for the one night stay.
Richard and I shared a room.
Felt came on stage that night to West Side Story coming out the speakers, the Stone Roses party brigade chanted and shouted, it was like a British Benidorm party night – not Felt at all. Our gig didn’t go that well as the crowd only wanted the Roses. When the Roses came on, I watched them play and they were so magnificent it made me consider what the hell we were doing. After the gig, French hospitality meant Parisian nightclubs with crap disco music and trying to stretch a drink way past its intended lifespan. Then back to the hotel with various folk picked up along the way, resulting in an over-occupancy and raided minibars. In the morning the band and others were locked in the hotel. “You can’t leave till you pay extra for the guests and all empty minibars” said the owner; police were called and a long hungover standoff ensued until someone found some cash to quieten the amateur jailers.
The album ‘Me and a Monkey on the Moon‘ was released on 13th November, it got very good
and reviews in the music press which sort of summed up our luck now that the band had
only 6 weeks left to exist.
Felt played Camden Dingwalls on 11th December for a decent fee but I still had to pay petrol to get there. Such was life and you could take it or leave it, but that night Shack supported Felt. I loved Shack and The Pale Fountains as much as Felt. Lawrence introduced me to Mick Head, “This is John, he used to be in The Servants.” Mick said, “Boss group!” Who cared about money when you got to play with Shack. I love Shack as much as The Beatles, can’t believe how underrated they are.
While travelling north up the motorway to a gig, the traffic stopped. Someone suggested to drive on the hard shoulder to get moving again with the sensible excuse that we were going to the hospital. Geoff (Gary and Martin’s flatmate) then had his head bandaged up using the first aid kit from the large hire van and off we sped up the hard shoulder. Geoff looked like something from a comedy sketch rather than a patient. We all laughed but soon a police car signalled the van to pull up, the driver then announced he was under 21 so too young to have hired or be driving the van in the first place. Geoff removed the now unfunny bandages and Gary volunteered his name to take the rap saying to the underage driver; “Tell them your name is Gary Ainge. Ainge. AINGE don’t spell it wrong for fucks sake.” The policeman said the offence would incur penalty points on the driver’s licence and started taking the driver’s details. It went OK until the policeman asked the young driver for his date of birth, the driver looked vacantly at the policeman and we all looked vacantly at each other, then Gary spoke up and reminded the driver when he was supposed to have been born. The policeman shook his head in a pitiful way and told us to stay off the hard shoulder in future.
The only Scottish date was in Greenock at Rico‘s. We stopped in Glasgow, wandered in the freezing cold for two hours then headed off to Greenock. Rico‘s were great and offered a free hot meal, L brought up his famous cheese aversion and said, “Nobody is to have cheese, OK?” I had parmesan on Spaghetti Bolognese just to be a rebel (this was about as wild as it got). Gig went OK, it took ages to get away from Rico‘s as a dozen people seemed to be relying on the band to get back to Glasgow.
Felt’s final gig was Birmingham, Burberries on 19th December. As always, you don’t know
what you’ve got till it’s gone. The gig was great, Felt were on top form, it was how it should be and afterwards Lawrence introduced me to Maurice Deebank.
Lawrence sent a Christmas card that said, ‘Thanks for a great year” which was thoughtful.
Felt were now over, as was my sojourn as a guitarist in bands.
To read the complete series, from Chapter 1 – click here.
Thanks so much to John for sharing these wonderful memories, photos and fliers with me and letting me share them here, they’ve gone down really well! Jo X
I really enjoyed this John Mohan overview. I bought the She’s Always Hiding 7″ when it came out in 1986 and it’s still one of my favourite singles (after a lifetime of listening to all types of music), as is The Sun A Small Star 12″ which came after and is equally as gorgeous. That first incarnation of the Servants were wonderful, not least because of John Mohan’s guitar playing which was full of melody and understatement – his playing really shone out for me at that time, in a world full of guitar histrionics. I wish they had recorded an album proper, though the compilation that came out a few years ago is very good, called Reserved, and is sort of a Servants album.I wasn’t that crazy about the second version of the band with Luke Haines, though the Disinterest album is pretty good. I’d also recommend the second David Westlake album called Play Misty for me, which whilst it does not have John Mohan on there, does capture the understated atmosphere and ambience of the early Servants I think (his first solo album is nice too). I think John Mohan and David Westlake should reunite – they were really good together.