Growing up, ‘The Old Grey Whistle Test’ was the music show of its day. Prior to that there was only really ‘Top Of The Pops’ which was for the most part heavily laden with the worst that British music had to offer, thus representing the record buying public of all generations. ‘Top Of The Pops’ was simply so painfully uncool (what young person was buying music by ‘The Wurzels’ or ‘Clive Dunn’?) and being on that show was a deep source of shame. However, it was also incredibly powerful in terms of generating public awareness and subsequently record sales and was therefore compulsory labour, despite all the shenanigans of switching supposedly re-recorded backing-tracks with original ones, a manoeuvre that kept many a BBC union rep well wined-and-dined as he would knowingly turn a blind eye in exchange for an otherwise unaffordable gourmet experience.
‘The Old Grey Whistle Test’ on the other hand had more kudos. I remember being glued to the TV watching live performances by the bands of the seventies. They would often perform more than one song, as opposed to the quick turnaround we were used to seeing, and you got a sense of their musicianship as opposed to simply being ‘performers’. This show was influential in teaching me how to play drums. To finally be in that same studio performing live (although not broadcast live) gave you the sense that you’d reached a certain status beyond the disposable pop category and were perhaps being taken more seriously as musicians. Just a shame that kindly, whispering Bob had by then been replaced by bitchy, rasping Annie. A sign of the times when music journalism was about people asserting their unpleasant, acerbic personalities. Put Nightingale & Morely in a room and you could probably clear your blocked drains.
We only spent a couple of days together at Midge’s home studio recording these tracks and at the time they remained ‘unfinished’, as far as I recall.
A bit of trivia on the subject of early collaborations: At the end of ’79 (after finishing the ‘Quiet Life’ album and performing in Toronto) myself and Mick (Karn) recorded 4 or 5 track demos for our old school friend Jack (Jak Airport) from the band X-ray Specs, who had recently disbanded. I don’t think anything came of these demos. I believe Richard (Barbieri) also contributed some keyboard parts. Sadly Jack passed away in 2004.
(Polaroid taken around ’77 in Brockley with Jack in the middle)
It was rather a long time ago and such a brief trip, not a tour. Since I recently had occasion to look at some old journals I found the following:
05.11.79 – STARTED REHEARSING DAILY FOR CANADIAN SHOW
12.11.79 – RECORDED BACKING TRACK FOR LIFE IN TOKYO (AIR/PUNTER)
13.11.79 – RECORDED BACKING TRACKS FOR COM. CHINA & SUB. BERLIN (AIR/PUNTER)
14.11.79 – RECORDED BACKING TRACK FOR EUROPEAN SUN (AIR/PUNTER) – FOLLOWED BY REHEARSAL
18.11.79 – FINAL REHEARSAL – RAN THROUGH SET 3 TIMES
19.11 79 – DRESS REHEARSAL AT ‘VENUE’ (NOT SPECIFIED) – EVENING STANDARD PHOTOGRAPHER PHOTO SESSION IN FOYER
22.11.79 – FLEW TO TORONTO VIA NEW YORK – DELAYED BY FOG
23.11.79 – INTERVIEWS / PRESS – EVENING PARTY AT THE DOMINION – TV CREW RECORDED INTERVIEW
24.11.79 – DAY OF CONCERT – TWO PERFORMANCES 7.30 & 9.30
25.11.79 – DEPARTED TORONTO NIGHT FLIGHT TO PARIS (VIA MONTREAL) – DUE TO STRIKES NO FLIGHT CONNECTION – SPENT THE DAY IN PARIS
Live in Toronto (I think)
In transit and in Paris. I believe we managed to see the Polanski film ‘Tess’ that day.
Gratitude in the sense that the studio recording learning curve began with them, you have to start somewhere … but musically they were somewhat premature in our lives as musicians and many of the tracks lack focus, taking a stab at various different musical influences with no real follow through. There are a few tracks which shine through as an indication of where we were heading but the majority are more a case of wanting to sound like a band that can play their instruments rather than creating something with any depth, which was down to our age and wanting to prove ourselves, as well as inexperience, (although I can understand why some people would enjoy them for that very reason, but it’s subjective). I also feel that the production was wrong, should have been more edgy, because our influences at the time were more in line with American punk, and at that age had we teamed up with the right kind of producer steering the recordings with a bit more imagination then perhaps something better might have emerged. I’ve not listened to them for many, many years but it’s not something you forget.
London 1978 (photo by Günther Rakete)
Thanks very much for the compliment. I used to play virtually every day when I first started out, not so much practicing drums as such, more playing within the band and coming up with patterns. I didn’t have access to any drum books so it was a case of listening or watching and figuring out how things were done. I guess I compromised on technique by jumping straight into things in that way and then adapted my abilities accordingly. I don’t think I’ve had any posture issues due to drumming, (perhaps I would have had I not started using drum stools with back support), but I never had great posture to begin with.
In rehearsals 2001 (photo by I. Chavez)
If you mean literally being recognised then no, it’s awkward, but it doesn’t usually happen because the 300 remaining old JAPAN fans are frail and partially sighted now and the younger age groups are too busy looking online to notice a real human.
I’m not the collecting type, I accumulate rather than collect but will jettison en mass. I’d say space is more important to me than possessions.