This is in no way a "defence" of any JBC product. I don't feel that I need to defend the stuff. There are bits and pieces that make me cringe now and again, but I'm quite happy to say so. For the most part I like my stuff, which is why I made it. I don't understand musicians who don't listen to their stuff. If they don't think it's worth playing, why did they spend all those thousands of bucks on making rubbish? No. Once JBC stuff is out there in the commercial arena then it belongs to the people who've paid for it, and they are (as I understand it) free to think what they like of our efforts. So I'm not after convincing anybody of anything, I'm just coming on line with a few random observations. As soon as I've rolled This...
The one nobody ever talks about, even though a surprising number of you seem to have it. Recorded for just £300 (Kevin Shields please take note...), it's really just the sound of a few mates failing to take seriously the fact they they've got an l.p. to make. Gloop Jiving and the unfinished Sex Engine make me squirm a fair bit, but Zombie Love , Girls Who Keep Goldfish and Partytime have all been good friends. It seems VERY early eighties now, but you must remember that there was a LOT of crap for us to clear out of the way in those days.
A Scandal In Bohemia
The Albatross. Since the recording of Bath Of Bacon (almost two years before this one) we had become a "proper" group. For all that, we still pooled our skills in the studio, and this isn't a bad two weeks' work. I think that, lyrically, a lot of the songs are a bit trite and immature, and our inability to take ourselves seriously is much in evidence. A record, I feel, of its time. We were young(ish) and cocky and I think it shows. I still haven't learned to sing on this one, which bugs me too. Still, it was cheap and cheerful, and it helped us to meet an awful lot of people. I was told, incidentally, that if we released this on Glass we could expect a top global sale of 2,000. We released it on Glass and sold about 25,000 copies.
Sex And Travel
One day's rehearsal in Kevin Haskins 's living room, five days' recording and two days' mixing was all it took for us to make my favourite of the Glass records. Now that the band had done a few dates with decent p.a. systems and stuff, I was beginning to have some sort of a bead on this singing business. Also, having exhausted the initial stick of JB songs (several of the A Scandal In Bohemia tunes had actually been written at the time of Bath Of Bacon, but were rejected back then as needing further development), I was obliged for the first time to write about my life as it was at the time, which was very different to the way I lived when writing the first two records. Now I was "in a band", had left my day job, had been to Europe... I even started to write songs that were not self-consciously deferential and mocking. Hence, I guess, the arrival of the first recorded "big ballad" in Only A Rumour , where David J. 's harmonies at the end STILL give me the shivers. I think that now we had started to learn about actually creating recordings rather than just recording the sound of a bunch of pals fooling around, and the disc does have a nice, unified feel. Credit John A. Rivers for his high-speed mixing job. When I think about it, this l.p. doesn't really have any "great" tunes, in the sense of numbers that people request or whatever, but it has a nice totality, a good, atmospheric vibe. This one I'd actually defend at length if I had to.
A Sri Lankan gentleman once sat down beside me in a bar in Bremen, asked me to sign his copy of this record, and then, even as I wrote messages of good luck and global harmony, announced sternly "This is a very...bad record." He was a berk, but he had a point. Alan McGee and a number of people in France, America and The Music Business have called this one a "classic album". People do, of course, say much the same about Dark Side Of The Moon. Can you hear my flesh creeping? Germans, on the other hand, despise it almost universally. We were deeply confused young men when we made this record. Max Eider , Owen Jones and I had all been drinking dangerously for over a year now, and the poor bass player who replaced David J. was finding it almost impossible to keep up with our twisted thought patterns. Do you like my bass playing? That's me on Buffalo Shame , South America and a couple of others. By now, effectively, Max and I had totally lost any sense of quality control on my writing. Tragic and sincere or glib and ludicrous, we recorded EVERYTHING. Sent in to make demos for this l.p. Max and I came out with Conspiracy, where we squandered a couple of great ideas that this l.p. so badly needs. John A. Rivers , you'll notice, has bought a new reverb unit, a Lexicon, in fact. He's also taken to recording digitally. The ensuing absurd gloss, matched with an absence of native intelligence around the bottom end, gives a lot of the songs a sound that I dislike. ON THE OTHER HAND, there's Angels , there's Falling In Love , there's The New World . Still, in 1986 the best plan would be to but the 12" single and go see the band in concert. Generally, we had it down in concert. In just about every other department, however, we were coming to bits, individually and collectively, and to me this record actually shows the morbid state of things at the time. Not, of course, that we really noticed any of this until months later, when, confronted by the realitied of having been on an accidental two-year intercontinental binge, we retired damaged, leaving the group in pieces. Oh, and another thing about "Gentlefolk"... it's pretentious too.
Having ended up on Creation Records, which I took as a bit of a validation, I was keen to get as far away from all those "w" words that had followed my group around, and to make it as clear as I could that this was a rock & roll thing, not some "eccentricity". I had my shades and I had my fringed suede jacket and I had the Weather Prophets rhythm section. In the last flickering days before Marriage and Acid House would change the world Kizzy O'Callaghan and I hung out in his dealer's flat in Islington and WALKED to the studio in Waterloo everyday. The sessions were chaotic and funny. At one stage Kizzy arrived 56 hours late for a mix, having been held by the Police under the Prevention of Terrorism Act. David has this down right as a sort of self-justificatory thing. What disappoints me is that it came out sounding so SMOOTH and tidy. I'd hoped it would be more harsh and mad. I guess perhaps it's the saxes, which, I recall, enraged some reviewers. Sonic Boom does good things on Susie (that's 4 of them big ballads at least, now), that was more the idea. Still, not to slag Iain O'Higgins who began a lengthy association with the JBC on this recording. This sold rather well, which was pleasing, and seems widely liked. I can't fuck with that, but I had hoped that it would be more a "change of direction" than it was. But I like Fishcotheque; I wish there more records as good as it.
Big Planet, Scarey Planet
This record gives me the pip. I think that the blame can be laid at my door and on the neatly-polished doorstep of John A. Rivers . This was a real "band" album by a touring unit which had become really quite ferocious. In choosing to work with John again we felt that we were sufficiently noisy and fierce to cope with any over-tidy production strokes he might pull. "Clean *that* up, then, ya bastard" was out declared policy in the group. Of course, we under-rated him. My share of the blame lies, I feel, in the rather hectoring tone of the lyrics. Early 1989 was, indeed a strange and desperate time; London, our base, really was beginning to seize up and malfunction after all that triumphalist Tory looting that had been going on. We listened to a lot of hip-hop and soul music at the time, and I think that we considered ourselves sufficiently HARD to take the whole fucker on in an l.p. Well, that was our idea - a surrealist broadside on EVERYTHING. The "We're-mad-as-hell-and-we're-not-going- to-take-it-any-more" album. Also, I wanted to start to mess with the pretty traditional song structures we were using. We were all aware that music was changing, and, more out of interest than out of any spurious "career" concern, we wanted to see where we could take our pop songs using things like breakdowns, the mixing in of "found" voices (which we first heard NOT from Steinski or the Bryne/Brian Eno collaboration, but from John Stapleton, a DJ who scratched things in at early The Blue Aeroplanes concerts), radical and unexpected changes of sounds - a series of sonic events rather than plain old verse/chorus structure. I probably did too much pre-production on my (new) 4-track at home, and the whole thing sounds a bit stillborn. Possibly with a more "clued-in" producer and a bit more self-discipline we could have come up with something like what we were looking for. Instead, with the exception of The Good Ones (another one - Hi, Stuart) and maybe Line Of Death , it all comes out sounding kinda..."wrong". A curious record. If you actually put it on and play it then it's pretty smart; it's just that I never really seem to WANT to put it on. A record out of time and place. A bit of a missed opportunity, I guess.
Cult Of The Basement
Well, if things seemed weird back in February 1989, by January 1990, when we made this baby, the Weird were going shopping on bikes. With Kizzy O'Callaghan sick and unable to tour, Richard Formby had joined and, during a long US/Canadian tour has turned us all on to Can and a lot of other weird things. In a farmhouse in the dead of winter, in personal circumstances too bizarre and complex to relate, we set about making our "commercial suicide" album. When we delivered it to Creation Records they did their nuts and said it was the best thing we'd done in years. It took me a while to figure it out, but then I agreed with them. For the first time, I felt, we had made an album that really sounded like us. In retrospect, one or two of the tunes are a touch throwaway, and EVERYBODY hates poor ol' Turtle Bait , but you get Girl-Go , She's On Drugs AND Sister Death AND Mr. Odd all on one record! Goodness! This record does have personality. It also has Alex Lee on guitar, the start of another beautiful friendship. One of my favourites, this.
Four desperate men, all too desperate to notice how desperate the others are, gather in a farmhouse with a queue of lead guitarists stretching round the block. For all the pain and crap from which this record was made, the actual sessions were a gigantic and wonderful party. The songs are all long because we ( Paul Mulreany , Joe Allen , Alex Lee & I) just enjoyed the playing on the "to-be-faded" bits so much that it seemed a shame not to let everyone hear them. This was warmly received by The Outside World, less popular among those who counted themselves JBC afficionados. Well, I couldn't have written it any other way, and I love that everyone plays on it, so I'm not in much of a position to know why you don't care for it. All I can say is that I'm still well pleased with it as a recording, and as a piece of writing about a tough subject. I mean, *I* hate "divorce rock" too. It wuz a tough assignment. Go on, give the fucker another listen. The songs may not make you laugh, but the playing ought to give you a few thrills. And, after all, I'm not in a band to make money, or be a "professional entertainer" - I'm in a band because I like to play very loud electric guitar. This IS the sound of me having fun, and getting me to do that in those dark days of mid-1991 was no small job. (Can anyone tell me how I *knew* that the French were going to like Girls Say Yes ?)
Waiting For The Love Bus
Too early for me to say, but there's a clean, simple sound to a lot of this that Condition Blue detractors might appreciate. It's not a deliberate change of musical policy, just a gradual personal evolution thing. I'm ten years older now than when I made Bath Of Bacon, and right now, after all that morbid stuff, it only really feels like about three. There's rockin' shit and there's a big ballad or two and some weird little pop songs and a nice family sing-along about penguins. I hope you like it.
We were all disappointed at the way this came out. The concert was great, but logistics prevented us from making anything much more than a glorified bootleg. Still, live albums are best as souvenirs anyway, so I guess some people regard it fondly. Lots of entertaining photos to look at anyway...
Yes, I believe something horrible DID happen to the tapes somewhere. The first time that Richard Formby and I played this CD we sat there laughing. Still, Bootleg No.2 is easier to get used to than the first one, so again, it's a souvenir. After all, if you were there, you can remember what it really sounded like. For loonie completists only, for sure, though, if you listen through the muck, you'll see that we did our bit.