One of the things I was most proud of over at the old blog was that I was able to post loads of guest contributions – I reckon something close on 70 different folk must have written something for The Vinyl Villain at one point or other over the near seven years of its life.
S-WC is of course continuing the tradition with his regular Tuesday slot but I’m delighted to say that for the next few dyas at least, the blog is going to have a series of things from other folk. And I’m starting with something that, following on from last week’s Cope/McCulloch/Wylie musings, is very apt. It is also very funny, self-deprecating and brilliantly written. Prepare to smile and most likely laugh out loud. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Phil Oates, the brains behind the corn poppy blogspot and ex-member of the beat-combo Dead Trout:-
Over at thenewcornpoppy.blogspot.co.uk I’ve been reminiscing, trying to post a lifetime of songs from 1961 to 2014. To be honest, I don’t really remember what I was listening to in the crib (when a crib meant a crib) but I’m looking forward to getting to the ‘70s. Then there’s a pretty fallow period from the early ‘80s . . .
While looking for pictures of Liverpool in the 60s and 70s to illustrate these posts I came across an excellent blog (streetsofliverpool.co.uk). Thumbing through I found a picture of Kirklands Wine Bar from 1977 . . .and it’s been used to illustrate this post.
Upstairs at Kirklands bands used to play. I remember going to a benefit gig there to save the Lyceum, once a Gentleman’s Club, later Liverpool’s first lending Library, later still a Post Office. This would have been late 1978. It must have been a successful gig because the Lyceum is still there.
I don’t recall exactly who was on the bill; I think the Moondogs played, remember the Accelerators were advertised to appear but didn’t, Big In Japan almost certainly headlined. One I do remember was Julian Cope playing his second gig as Teardrop Explodes. They played as a two piece: Julian on bass and stylophone (as advertised on tv by Rolf Harris) and Gary Dwyer on drums. It was a short set, just four songs, including Louie Louie and Robert Mitchum , Julian’s fanboy tribute “you’re such a dude, such a guy, you’re so half asleep” which turned up a decade later on the Skellington Chronicles.
More significant for me that day was a conversation with a couple of students whose band I had seen a few nights earlier at Eric’s.
Hello, I said. You’re the Dead Trout.
Hey, they said. Our first fan.
Which is how I fell in with the Dead Trout. (This was a long time ago, c’est juste une histoire, not a history book. Apologies in advance for any inaccuracies). They were Jon and Julian and within a few weeks they suggested I perform a song with them. It was to be based on a single note (E) and have one line. I am the controller. Although I was painfully shy and had no singing voice I obviously said ok. Because that’s what you do when you are 17.
My first public performance was at the Everyman Bistro and I remember nothing at all about it.
Bill Nighy’s first public appearance was also at the Everyman Bistro.
The next was at the Factory in Manchester. This was Tony Wilson’s club in Hulme, Manchester. There were rough bits of Liverpool in 1978 but Hulme was much, much worse.
Dead Trout were supporting Pink Military who suffered the indignity of having bottles and ashtrays hurled at them. Nobody really paid much attention to the Trout. I remember more about the before and after of that day than the gig itself. We met up at Jayne Casey’s flat in central Liverpool. Spent some time there. Oh hi Holly Johnson, hi Spitfire Boys, hi Pete Burns. Yeah, we’re part of this scene.
There was the Commer van journey down the M62 to Manchester and back as the snow began to fall. We heeded advice and didn’t stop at the traffic lights around Hulme. We had to carry gear miles through the snow when we got back to the Halls of Residence. And like George Harrison in Hamburg I was too young even to be going into the venue.
The highlight was a Saturday night at Eric’s. My Fifteen Minutes. I only found out about the gig on the Friday. Joe Jackson was playing at Eric’s and I was mithering him trying to get him to give me the Ramones badge he was wearing. These two came over and interrupted. Joe turned to give them the autographs he expected they were after but it was me they wanted.
We’re playing here tomorrow night.
This had been in the offing for a while, Roger Eagle, Eric’s manager, always happy to give enthusiastic amateurs their moment in the sun. Ok. We were the unadvertised support for pragVEC.
Being a typically pretentious teenager and trainee diva I had done my best to develop my part. I had expanded the lyric of I Am The Controller. I had translated its one line into French, German and Italian. Probably I was inspired to do this by the fact that Bowie had just recorded “Heroes “as “Helden” and “Heros”. Plus I knew an Italian guy called Dom. So now the song went:-
“I am the controller,
je suis le controller,
ich bin der controller,
Io son il controllotore.”
(repeat ad nauseum)
I step up onto the stage.
The stage previously graced by the Ramones, the Clash, Sex Pistols, Talking Heads, Iggy Pop, Elvis Costello, Rezillos, XTC, Punishment of Luxury, the Mekons, the Teardrops, Bunnymen, Big in Japan . . . This is my Madison Square, my Rainbow, Budokan. The weight of expectation. A short time earlier I’d been one of the crowd and now . . . The band, which numbered around seven that night, started this rhythmic drone (do I contradict myself? I contain multitudes . . .) the usual bass, drums, guitars, plus violin, kazoos and more. And I stepped up to the mic. I’ve never claimed to be a singer, so all I do is to intone the words, kind of in the style of Ian Curtis “day in, day out, day in, day out”. Getting a bit faster at the end, kind of shouting io son il controllotore. Went ok.
They’re still playing. Do the verse again. I can hear another voice singing the words, a fraction of a second behind me. This hasn’t happened before, ok, I’ll slow down and then we’ll be in time. I slow down . . . I . . .am . . .the . . .con . . .troll . . .er . . . the other voice slows too, still behind me. It kind of dawns that it is just a trick of the PA, a delay or echo but it is too late. I keep going. Deathly slowly. Like it is supposed to sound like this. It seems the slower I go the more the band get into a stramash, faster and noisier, everything playing at once. I think they’re going to finish so I turn around to watch them. If there’s one thing that feels more unnatural to me than singing it is dancing so I don’t dance.
But you can’t help but move, so I’m waving my arms around, except being too cool for school I don’t take my hands out of the pockets of the long mac I’m wearing. So I have my back to the Saturday night Eric’s crowd with this coat waving round like a raven having an epileptic fit. I’m not saying that Ian Curtis was in the audience that night but JD’s career began to take off after that.
When we came off Pete Wylie, then of Crash Course, later Wah! Heat said either “I wish I was in a dance band you can think to” or “I wish I was in a thinking band you can dance to.” Either way it sounded like a validation.
(and now back to JC for the choice of tunes related to today’s post)
mp3 : Pink Military – Did You See Her
mp3 : Spitfire Boys – British Refugee
mp3 : Those Naughty Lumps – Iggy Pop’s Jacket