The lovely Michael Dog was now a regular in the Ultimate office, he was signing new acts for his label and the Megadogs were monthly events at the Rocket on the Holloway Road in North London (the smaller, weekly Club Dogs having stopped at the end of 1992). Banco De Gaia (AKA Toby Marks) had recorded a few self released cassette albums and been a regular at Club Dog and Mega Dog events since the early 1990’s. He was the newest signing to the Planet Dog label and his debut e.p., ‘Desert Wind‘ (Bark001cds) came out on July 2nd. His blend of electronica and world-music earned him a fast-growing and loyal live following. Again, this was going down really well at the press and I got good coverage.
On 10th July I had two of the Ultimate bands that had toured together earlier on in the year play The Buzz Club (plus as yet undecided and handwritten first on!).
A German tv station had got in touch with me at work and asked if they could film Sidi Bou Said, I figured since I was already promoting this gig it would make sense for them to come along to Aldershot. There is not much video footage of the Buzz Club, so this is pretty rare.
Vince Power (the Mean Fiddler) had set up the Phoenix Festival after running the Reading Festival for a few years. He believed Phoenix would rise to be an alternative to both Reading and Glastonbury. The first one took place in 1993 and we had Sidi Bou Said and Senser on the bill. However, the event was impaired by controversy. Travellers, annoyed they could not gain free entry, blocked the entrance, meaning many spent Friday night in their vehicles in long queues. Festival goers were made to put out camp fires and turn off sound systems at midnight. I do remember guys coming round with hoses to put out the camp fire I was sitting at with Senser. These rules were in contrast to the 24-hour culture of Glastonbury. There were demands for refunds, and the festival’s reputation was marred from the outset. The enforcement of these rules by security staff led to many of the festival goers showing their displeasure in no uncertain terms. Fencing and light rigs were toppled, fires set and physical clashes between festival goers and security staff also occurred.
My own memories are somewhat hazy, so I am very fortunate that Iain Blatherwick got in touch via social media to share his with me! I’ll give Iain the floor:
‘So Phoenix Festival – I think the story of how we came to be there is probably more interesting than our memories of the festival. Lime Lizard magazine ran a competition to go and see The Blue Aeroplanes play in New York. The question – how many members of the Blue Aeroplanes have there been? I’d got to know Pat Fish (The Jazz Butcher – RIP) a bit and he’d given me a ‘Are You Now Or Have You Ever Been a Member of The Blue Aeroplanes’ t-shirt, which listed all their members & dates on the back – Pat adding his name with a Sharpie at the bottom. I duly entered and won! Now the bad news – they haven’t played in New York since… they kept promising replacement prizes (we’ll fly you to LA where they are recording their next album, we’ll take you on their Far East tour until eventually we’ll take you to a gig in Bristol and you can have a meal with them… and even that didn’t happen – although in that case we were probably relieved!). Anyway to keep us sweet the magazine and the management (Sermon who went on to bigger things with Franz Ferdinand) kept giving us freebies – gigs (The Radiohead/Strangelove guest list was pretty special), cds and festival tickets. Lime Lizard we’re sponsoring a stage so along we went… before leaving The Blue Aeroplanes – I did meet Gerard Langley years later and reminded him of the story. He said enigmatically ’strange things prizes’ and recounted a tale of someone who had won the chance to join them on stage and never showed. I tried to point out that failing to collect a prize was a bit different to never being given one in the first place but I’m not sure the distinction landed!
As we had won the tickets, we decided to treat ourselves and stay in a B & B nearby (I know…), which meant that we didn’t see any sign of the trouble which apparently happened when the site opened. Probably not a surprise given it was an old airfield, but the site was pretty soulless, quite a bit of concrete and the main stages area fenced off. There were some activities outside the fence including a terrifying bungee jump from a crane – we didn’t partake! Next reflection is how many bands on the original line up didn’t play – pretty sure Radiohead didn’t, don’t think Dinosaur jr did – and Uncle Tupelo & Giant Sand didn’t although occasional member Rainer (RIP) did, playing his National Steel guitar and loops – did nothing for me at the time, but I suspect I’d love it now! Highlights – only time I ever saw The Buzzcocks. Think they had only relatively recently started touring again and were in good form and the stage had loads of old tvs behind them which looked good. Dr Phibes were great, Crikey what a tragedy happened there. Ian McNabb had just gone solo and Be Prepared to Dream was a highlight – incidentally The Icicle Works were the first band I ever saw live. A House were as entertaining live as always, and having had some stick played the all female version of Endless Art (‘Walt Disney’s Minnie Mouse…’).
I remember the weather was good, so as the Main Stage (I think) was the only outdoor stage we spent quite a bit of time there watching bands we wouldn’t otherwise have chosen to see, so Bjorn Again (entertaining)! & House of Pain – mainly remembered for a man nearby dancing madly to Jump Around holding a Corn on the Cob on the top of his head. That’s a point, I can’t remember anything about the food – did you have to leave the stage area for the food stalls? Finally – one memory which became a ‘thing’ in our house when we had kids. The Rubber Bishops performed (who would have guessed where Bill Bailey would end up) and (sorry) they had a routine about poo – the highlight being an ‘angel poo’, one which results in a clean wipe (I can’t believe I’m typing this…) a phrase which stuck with us! Beyond that I look at the line up and literally can’t remember seeing people – I mean surely I’d have watched Julian Cope, I loved The Rockinbirds, did The Blue Aeroplanes actually play.,, hey ho memory.. No idea if any of that is any use at all, but it was fun remembering!’
Submarine released ‘Jodie Foster‘ (Topp18) as a mail order only, limited edition 7″ in red vinyl 7″ on 13th July. It was backed with their cover of the Galaxie 500 song, ‘Tugboat’ with Claire from Sidi Bou Said also on vocals and guitar.
The Deptford Urban Free Festivals at Fordham Park in South East London started in 1991 and ran until 1996. The line up in 1993 on Saturday 31st July was pretty incredible, over the years it got such a great reputation loads of bands wanted to play.
Danny and I went and walked around, taking it all in. It was very anarchic with a squat vibe; crusty punks drinking cider from large plastic bottles and dub reggae pumping out of sound systems. The sweet smell of marijuana hung in the air; skinny, wild eyed, tie-dyed, people freaky dancing. We didn’t stay until the end, it was a bit of a trek from where we lived in North London, but we were pleased to have gone.
Roger Morton from the ‘N.M.E.’ wrote this review.
On 9th August The Breeders released ‘Cannonball‘, it would later be the ‘N.M.E.”s Single of the Year. (Featuring Josephine Wiggs on bass – she played The Buzz Club a few years previously in The Perfect Disaster) 1993 was the year for off shoot bands releasing wonderful music – Tanya Donelly from The Throwing Muses with the brilliant Belly and then Kim Deal from Pixies formed The Breeders with her twin sister Kelly (interestingly, Tanya Donelly was in the original Breeders line up.) Indie dance floors the world over leapt up and jumped around when this track was played.
11 August – The Department of Health reveals that the number of people on hospital waiting lists has reached 1,000,000 for the first time.
I was very busy with Senser. Their next single, ‘The Key’ / ‘No Comply’ was now ready on promo, so I had started to send it out. They were also playing some fantastic gigs, including a couple of times within weeks of each other at the Brixton Academy. The first was a 24 hour gig with a massive line up!
Danny and I went with Jess and Martin and had the most fabulous and hilarious time. We were in-sync with the trippy visuals and general vibe. We bumped into people we knew and danced to the never ending list of great music. At one point, Jess and I lay on our backs, pretending to cycle, on the floor of the crowded upstairs bar. ‘Can’t stop, just about to knock five minutes off my personal best’. It amused us greatly and people kindly walked round us rather than over us, smiling and giving us bemused backward glances. After we left the gig at about 3am we decided to head on over to Covent Garden and join the goings on at the Gardening Club. Ophelia had stopped in 1992 and had been replaced by a night run by the venue manager, our old flat mate, Shelley Boswell.
Club For Life had some wonderful line ups with our friends, Chris & James along with Jeremy Healy as resident d.j.s. (Jeremy was in 80s popsters Haysi Fantayzee who had a hit with ‘John Wayne Is Big Leggy’ and often used to finish the night of house and techno by playing ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit‘ which was always pretty mental, everyone leaping around and screaming.) We met ‘the Stoke boys’ at the Gardening Club – two very funny lads who travelled down especially to go to Club For Life. They often came back to our flat in Highbury where the partying would continue – again any of my neighbours – sorry!
I asked Chris Day (Chris & James) for his Club For Life memories:
‘I think Shelley started Club 4 Life in December 92? Obviously she had been involved through her job at the Gardening Club with hosting Yellow Book, and then Ophelia– following this she then did a more garagey night on her own called ‘Ethos’ that didn’t really take off. Myself and James had been doing a student night called ‘The Pinch’ on Tuesdays since Feb 1992, and she asked us to be residents at the new Club 4 Life night, which would be aimed at the more glam end of clubbing, which was starting to take off. First night was us, then Sasha, then Jeremy Healy, and it was roadblocked. The atmosphere inside the club was always incredible, low ceilings and dark corners with the DJ booth almost on the dance floor! Sweat dripped off the ceiling, and James’s twin brother Ian was on the lights which helped! I can remember finishing our set on the opening night with Brothers In Rhythms remix of Heaven 17’s ‘Temptation’ which sounded amazing.
Sasha then proceeded to absolutely destroy the club with one of the best sets I have ever heard – he did his now legendary live mix of Remake’s ‘Bladerunner’ with the Inner City acapella over the top…incredible stuff!
Healey finished the night, he brought along lots of his fashionista crowd, like John Galliano and Kate Moss who then became regulars at the club. His usual set would be lots of Michael Jackson, cheesy house and even a bit of Nirvana thrown in. Sounds naff, but it worked. Within weeks it was hailed as the best club night in the country, Shelley had absolutely nailed the direction of the night and from 93-94 it was certainly up there with nights like Renaissance. Myself and James would play a mix of styles – house, some hip hop, disco, progressive and early trance, you would just know certain records would work so well there. The big northern rave tracks like ‘Hardcore Uproar’ by Together were huge there as well, which weren’t being played in London much.
Lots of the old Ophelia / Yellow Book Balearic anthems like Chris Rea’s ‘Josephine’ and ‘Rock the Casbah’ by The Clash still got an airing and were passed on to the next generation of clubbers! You could definitely feel it was the next step for the Balearic crowd – a mix of styles and genres that showed the early Ibiza influence, but with added 4/4 beats. Many huge records were broken at the club – Tinman, Leftfield / Lydon, Everything But The Girl’s ‘Missing’, even 2 Bad Mice’s ‘Bombscare’ which wasn’t being played much in house clubs (Sean O Keefe’s brother Matt was a regular, and he couldn’t believe a drum and bass record was being played in a house club, but that was the nature of the night – if it worked, it worked!). Monthly parties using both The Gardening Club and next door’s Rock Garden started as well, and the line ups got bigger. If I’m honest it lost its edge late ’94, as the music (and the guests dj’s) got a lot cheesier and less eclectic and Shelley was struggling to get Healey or us there regularly due to our diaries getting busier and busier (even though she managed us!) ….Healey had become the number 1 dj in the country, pretty much single handedly off the back of Club 4 Life’s success. By late 1995 we had all gone our separate ways – Healey was now a superstar DJ, we had become in demand remixers / producers alongside the global DJing work, and Shelley moved Club 4 Life to Holborn and then Watford I believe. Overall it was a magical time….my best friend from those days is still my best friend now, and I met my amazing wife through mutual friends there as well x
Chris Day’s Club 4 Life Top 10
1 Blow – Cutter
2 2 Bad Mice – Bombscare
3 Unity 3- Age of love suite
4 PDQ – I’m gonna make you see (Flip n Al’s mix)
5 JT Company – Don’t deal with us
6 Moz-art and Master Freeze – let the music move me (funk remix)
7 The Stone Age – Patheolithic
8 Two Tons O’ Fun – I got the feeling
9 River Ocean – Love and happiness (Delorme mix)
10 Jump – Funkatarium
Great memories! Amazing, thanks so much Chris!
On the 17th August, Senser recorded a John Peel session.
Earlier in the month, they had also recorded their performance for ‘The Beat‘ which was broadcast on 17th. We had to arrive very early in the morning and I was nervous the band might not get up in time, not known as early risers, so we told them 7am to ensure they were there for 8am. I think a few of the band stayed up all night rather try to get up early! Croissants and coffee were available upstairs for myself and the other pluggers and record company people. Quite strange to be watching the bands do their stuff at 8am!
I asked the show’s presenter, Gary Crowley, what his memories of ‘The Beat‘ were:
‘It was only meant to last a couple of months but Carlton kept extending it and eventually it ran for three years. It was such an exciting time for music. It was post grunge whilst Brit Pop and Trip Hop were emerging and to be presenting a weekly show was heady stuff. And as well as the exciting new groups and artists coming through I also got to interview my film heroes like Jack Lemmon, Tarantino, Alan J Pakula, Angela Bassett and more. Good times as the old adage goes.’
Heady stuff indeed – thanks Gary!
26th August Submarine played The Powerhaus – I had organised a live review in ‘Melody Maker‘ and for some reason, the journalist’s name wasn’t on the guest list. I had to charm him as best I could to not let his annoyance over shadow Submarine’s awesome set.
27th Senser’s John Peel Session was aired (recorded on the 17th).
27th – 29th Reading Festival
Being fairly close to London and near my parents’ house, Reading was always easy to get to. Danny knew of an industrial estate at the back where we could park, handily close to the guest list entrance. We would drive there and back , without pitching a tent, leaving in the early hours of the next morning. Sometimes we returned to the festival the following day, sometimes over to the Nottinghill Carnival instead. Danny would stop partying a few hours before we needed to leave (invariably, I’d keep going).
The backstage area, through the Mean Fiddler / Hall or Nothing guest entrance was large and as soon as you walked in the ‘oi, ois!’ would start. This would be our base camp, leaving for a wander, to see bands, have a dance but always returning to the back stage bar.
In 1993, Senser played in the large Melody Maker tent. It was absolutely rammed when Senser played, and everyone went mad. People were climbing up the pole in the middle of the tent and jumping off – security attempting to get through the massive crowd to stop them. I was genuinely worried the tent might come down as the pole was visibly bending. Absolutely nuts and a strong indication of how popular they were getting!
We went to the Rivermead Centre to the afterhours Subterania stage and danced to M People. Not really my cup of tea but I had a splendid time. From there, we went back to London, giving a few people (Rad Rice!) we’d bumped into a lift, and went to the Gardening Club.
3 September – The UK Independence Party, which supports breakaway from the European Union, is formed by members of the Anti-Federalist League, which itself was formed two years earlier by opponents of Britain’s involvement in the Maastricht Treaty
On 11th September, it was back to the Brixton Academy where Senser were supporting Rage Against The Machine. Ultimate Records had bought lots of tickets for me to give to any journalists up at the music press. The gig was long ago sold out and a brilliant night. Along with Danny, Amanda and Rudy came along with me. We sat upstairs and watched, rather than join in the mosh pit!
13th September ‘In Utero’ by Nirvana was released.
Also released on 13th September, ‘The Key’ / ‘No Comply’ the second single by Senser.
Which entered the Chart Show Indie Chart at number 4 a few weeks later.
17 September – The British National Party wins its first council seat, in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets
20th September ‘Smoke Belch II (Beatless mix)’ The Sabres Of Paradise
Andrew Weatherall always played this track at the end of his ‘Sabresonic‘ nights, held in a railway arch venue in Crucifix Lane, near London Bridge. We were members and I wish now, we had gone more often.
This was always one of my favourite 12″s to play back at our flat in Highbury in the wee small hours after a night out.
Well that was a lovely trip back down Memory Lane! I was 19 y/o in ‘93 and went to many of those same gigs/clubs.
Thanks for a great read!
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