Other Things To Do

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"Because Midway Still Aren't Coming Back" on Facebook.
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Thursday 29 March 2007

Senseless Things

A genuine rarity this one, no fannying around. Selling for almost £15 on some sites I give you one of 1000 original copies of "The Shape of Things to Hum", a 7inch EP that came with Issue 8 of "Cloth Ears" a fanzine that I must have bought at a gig in either Top Spot or The Wharf in Huddersfield in about 1990.

The EP features outings from such luminaries as Exit Condition, Playground and Perfect Daze, but it's the Senseless Things that are getting an outing here, what with them being a proper indie band and that, as well as being chums with cartoonist Jamie Hewlitt - he of 2000AD, Tank Girl and latterly Gorillaz fame.

Wikipedia has this to say about the band: "Before they split up, the Senseless Things consisted of the following: Mark Keds - vocals/guitar Ben Harding - guitar/vocals Morgan Nicholls - bass Cass Browne - Drums

The Senseless Things formed around the musical partnership of songwriter Mark Keds (vocals, guitar) and Morgan Nicholls (bass, originally guitar), who as 11-year-old schoolboys in Twickenham, London, England, put together Wild Division in the early 80s. With the addition of drummer Cass 'Cade' Browne they became the Psychotics, playing various venues in their local area despite still being at school. Their first gig together as the Senseless Things followed at the subsequently demolished Clarendon in Hammersmith, London, in October 1986. Auxiliary members at this stage included a keyboard player Ben, then a guitarist, Gerry, who deputized for Nicholls while the latter was studying for his 'O' Levels.

In 1995, the band released a final album Taking Care Of Business, and a controversial single "Christian Killer" (renamed "Christine Keeler" for the album). They split up after one last UK tour.

Before they split up, the Senseless Things consisted of the following: Mark Keds - vocals/guitar Ben Harding - guitar/vocals Morgan Nicholls - bass Cass Browne - Drums

Keds went onto form Jolt then Trip Fontaine and now The Lams. He very briefly played with The Wildhearts. Ben went onto join 3 Colours Red and is now a press officer for Help the Aged. Morgan joined Vent with Miles Hunt from The Wonder Stuff then went on to play with The Streets. He is now part of Muse's live set-up. Cass went on to sing for Delakota and then Gorillaz. He also briefly played with Urge Overkill."

The EP was released on 4th Dimension Records (FD22 for completists), a proper independent label based in Kent. In the olden days there were loads of these real 'indie' labels that had grown from the late 70s/early 80s punk scene and were knocking out this sort of stuff. Before the internet and myspace, this was one way to learn about new bands and had something to show for it at the end of the day (or indeed century as this offering shows).

The whole things has survived remarkably well and recorded with only a minor jump and scratch on the first try; the insert for the "Things" reads: "Their intended track for this EP was "I'm on black and White", a real stormer of a song with a truly amazing chorus...However their manager ran off with the master reel on the day it was due to be cut and so poor mark in panic took along a newly-recorded, unmixed version of "Teenage" as a desperate attempt to save the whole thing from total chaos..."; which explains why the record and sleeve say one thing and the actual music says another.

And the fanzine? Well, it's what you'd expect (if you were a chap of a certain age with an unhealthy early addiction to punk, indie and and gigs dirty pubs); although it's got a picture of a rabbit on the cover.

So here you go, "Teenage" by The Senseless Things.

Tuesday 27 March 2007

New Fast Automatic Daffodils

Ahh Manchester, you gave us so much and demanded far more than it was worth in return. New FADS (I'm so cool I can call them that, that's what the hip kids did) released their first EP "Lions" in 1989; riding the Madchester wave into the NME and our hearts.

Lions, Big and Stockholm are great bits of music. Lions and Stockholm are the rocky-dancey-indie stuff we know and love, Big is a quite fantastic bit of early 90s almost dance music that's up there with Primal Scream's Loaded for invention and genuine novelty in the true sense of the word. They just don't write them like that any more, and more's the pity.

I remember getting this bit of vinyl. I was after a gig in the Students' Union at Manchester University in, I presume, 1993. They played in what used to be called the Great Hall and is now called the Academy 6 or something. You remember, upstairs by the big bar, the one that sold snakebite for somewhere between £1 and £1.15 a pint depending on whether the barman was a maths student or was "doing art" and couldn't add up properly.

I can't remember if I bought it or they were giving it away,Lions (Live)but it's got two lovely live recordings on it and has a big hole in the middle - like the one old jukebox vinyl used to have - and it got me rummaging in the cupboard again for the plastic inster thingy that you need to play it on a record player.

CDs just don't have that excitement. Apart from the short-lived flirtation with 3.5" mini-CDs when the techonology was all new and exciting, they just don't have the interest value of trying to find a bit of plastic you know you've got somewhere just so you can listen to another bit of plastic you'd forgotten you owned. Can you imagine your Take That boxset being quite as thrilling in 15 years time?

So; here is Lions (Live) for your delight and delectation. According to the back of the sleeve it was recorded live at the Melkweg, Amsterdam, 29th November 1992 [FAD01; Play it Again Sam (1993) for john Peel-esque obsessives] and the other side is "Bruises".

Amazingly this bit of vinyl commands prices of almost 8 US dollars on the internet. Think of it, if only I dared part with it I could be rich! Please don't tell me what the exchange rate really is. Nice people to do business with.

Monday 26 March 2007

Ned's Atomic Dustbin

The first gig I ever went to, at least the first one I can remember, was Ned's Atomic Dustbin at the late and lamented Duchess of York in Leeds. It was the summer of 1990, I was in the middle of my GCSEs, christ alone knows how I managed to convince my parents to let me go.

I remember seeing the advert in the NME and being so excited I had to rush to school and tell my friends and convince them to go. I remember that it was Gareth (who was at the Bob gig with me below) and Si. In later years these two were to lead me astray more than any other people since, but they were up for it so off we went.

At the time the band only just released Kill Your Television, so they can only have had about 8 songs but it didn't matter, this was my introduction to proper rock and roll. And watered-down piss-awful beer and stage-diving. And the late train back to Huddersfield.

Ned's Atomic Dustbin were part of the same West Midlands indie scene that gave us The Wonderstuff and Mega City 4. They were so rock and roll they had two bassists and by God they were good live. More than anything though, they sold t-shirts like nobody else alive. Jon the singer couldn't so much as go to the shops without the band releasing a celebratory shirt.

As I typed that last line I remembered that I've still got a t-shirt from that very first gig, it's old and fucked and faded and I've been carting the sodding thing around ever since even though it doesn't fit me, but I've still got it and if I have any say in the matter it'll be buried with me.

I know that the band have cashed in over the past couple of years and you can get pretty much everything on CD now, but "Plug Me In" from the very first Ingredients EP is still one of my favourite 150 seconds of music so here it is in all it's scratchy vinyly goodness.


thanks to Steve (http://www.myspace.com/jesusofknackereth)
Before Richie Edwards took a header off the Severn Bridge and the Manic Street Preachers became mid-table rock tedium-mongers extraordinaire they are now, they were mid-table sub-punk-mongers extraordinaire; but the Manics don't interest us here.

What does interest me are Birdland; by God they wanted to be the Manics and who knows, with a little less swagger and a bit more talent they may have been; and now we'd be subjected to a bloated Robert twatting around on Radio 2 like a performing seal instead.

The entire Wikipedia entry for the boys from Brum says "Formed in 1989 by brothers Robert and Lee Vincent. Their debut single 'Hollow Heart', released on 'Lazy Records', was much hyped in the British weekly music press, due partly to their adrenalised live shows but also to their striking cartoonish 'four peroxide blondes' image, one which suggested in equal parts Brian Jones, Andy Warhol and Transvision Vamp. Despite the release of two well received singles and a Peel Session, by the time of the release of their debut album 'Paradise' their time had passed."

And passed it had. Even releasing a limited edition all-white version of the album (which of course I bought) didn't help. Caught up in their own hype and believing their talent far beyond what it was, they covered Patti Smith's "Rock 'n' Roll Nigger" in a last ditch attempt to salvage some critical credibility. They failed.

When I was a lad, Birdland were one of my favourite bands, something that has led to unremitting mockery for the past 15 years. I don't care though. They shouted, they swore, they bleached their hair, they were cool to me, I bloody loved them. It doesn't matter now that they are long forgotten, I can hold my hands up here and say with pride that I own everything they released in Britain. I've even got a bootleg album called Kamikaze Kids.

I went to see them playing a gig in Leeds in what must have been their post-halcyon days - I'd guess 1991. They were bloody awful. Still, like many bands would have loved to have been, they were big in Japan and that was the main thing.

So hats off to Birdland, and have a vinyl-to-mp3 of Paradise to remember the mop-topped ones by.

Buy Paradise the Birdland Anthology


It's indie-gig-reminiscence time I'm afraid. Back in the mists of time me and my mate Gareth saw Bob supporting Carter USM at the "Black Hole" - the affectionate name for the Huddersfield Poly bar/small gig venue/disco - in what I presume was 1990 or 1991. Bob were supporting Carter just after the release of Anytime Anyplace Anwhere (I bought a T-shirt from each band which were favourites for many years).

As I recall we left our friends, who didn't want to come, in the Zetland and went across the road. We stayed almost to the end, then had to leave as we were only young and had to make the last bus home. I never said it was a good story.

According to the INTERNET they were "formed in North London in 1986 [and released] their debut EP What A Perfomance in 1989. The follow up Kirsty was released the following year. The band at this time were being play listed by John Peel which saw them record two Peel Sessions in 1989. With their profile growing the band released three singles in 1989 being the 7" flexi Prune Your Love as well as two singles Convenience and Esmeralda Brooklyn. 1990 saw the band release the Stride Up EP and this was followed by the bands proper first album Leave The Straight Life Behind. Sadly for the band the distribution arm of Rough Trade financially collapsed and the band dissolved at the back end of 1991."

What the records on the internet haven't heard of by the looks of things is the band's penultimate EP; so to celebrate me finding it in the cupboard, here is the vinyl-to-mp3 conversion of the title track from the Tired EP.

As an aside, Stride Up features a fantastic cover of the Beatles song "Rain", but for me it's Tired that brings back the memories.

Again, download is righty-clicky. And again, yes, I know it's copyrighted material but as none of this stuff is available on one of those new-fangled CDs, it's the only way to remember them.

Bob - Tired

The Family Cat

Back in the mists of time, people used to play music from big chunks of plastic called "records". These came in various shapes and sizes, although most were round and 7 or 10 inches in diameter. To play them you put them onto a "record player" and they span round while a little needle wiggled merrily in tiny grooves cut into the plastic (commonly called vinyl).

Anyway, as I as rooting through the cupboard we store all our crap that we don't know what to do with I found what is pictured above.

It's a demo flexi-disk sent out to members of the fan club of a band called The Family Cat.

The Family Cat (this link goes to Wikipedia) were an early 1990s indie pop band. They never really made it big, but had a modest and dedicated following of which I was one.

The letter that came with the record says "You have in your hand the first fruits of these labours [recording their new album] "Rockbreaking" was recorded at 3:30am on a tape recorder with a dodgy pause button and it's in this state of the art format that [the record company] have decided to present it to you: Guaranteed one play of passable quality. "Sneaky" Pete Charlton the band's fence advises taping this historic first play for posterity and using the disc to line the cat tray". The envelope is postmarked 23rd April 1993.

Using the miracle of 21st century technology one can, should one wish, convert ancient bits of vinyl to those new-fangled mp3s so that people can listen to them on their "ipods". So, in the spirit of preserving a once 'great' British band (and seeing as nobody 'tapes' music any more, here is the aforementioned flexi-disk in all it's digital glory. Of course, since it's from original plastic there's crackles and in once place a small jump of the needle, but it's here for you to remember the band by, or learn of them afresh.

Right click here to download. Of course, I understand hosting this for download is technically illegal, if any of the band want me to take it down I will; In the meantime, share it with your friends.