Thursday, 30 April 2009

My First Fanzine

.....wasn't really very good and, given the stated remit of the blog, I only bring it up as it started a friendship that lasted more than 25 years until an untimely death in 2006. Late in 1980, Nikki Sudden was visiting his parents who then lived in the village of Harbury, a couple of miles from Leamington Spa. Earlier that year, his band Swell Maps had split – not, to be honest, that I was aware of this, the Maps being a band I'd only vague John Peel associated memories of, and I then owned none of their records. Setting out on a solo career, he was chilling out for a while, far from the buzz of London, in leafy Warwickshire where he knew no-one, and had sallied forth into Leamington itself to check out the local record shops. Of which there was one, Rentons Records, who I'd persuaded to stock my fanzine One Off.

Pompously subtitled “The Leamington Fanzine”, I guess he bought it to get an insight into what was going on in the Spa Town. As Davy Jones (almost) sang, disappointment haunted all his dreams, as this very personal fanzine fell some way short of being anything near where it was at. Still, he decided to track me down, 'phoned me out of the blue one evening, and introduced himself as a local musician up for an interview with a local fanzine.

As a glance through the hand written photocopied One Off now confirms there was neither hint nor prospect of actually speaking to or interviewing anyone. Instead, it was full of reviews of local gigs by the likes of The Dangerous Girls, The Selecter, Stiff Little Fingers, The Piranhas (!) and U2, the latter playing at the General Wolfe on 6th September 1980 (excerpt from the review: “....much of the vocals were inaudible but the lead singers antics and obvious enjoyment did a lot towards nullifying that complaint. They were on for an hour and did two encores....” Yup, I didn't even know the singers name – plenty more on encounters with this band in future posts.)

Add to that stuff on local record releases and local fanzines, a moderately embarrassing rant on “The State Of Radio” and to finish (and I'm quite happy never to show this to another living soul) a treatise on what's wrong with the Leamington scene and how I would put it right. I sold a few copies locally (memory says fewer than 50) and was so taken with seeing my own work in print, that it wasn't long before I came up with a second fanzine, called (imaginatively) Two Off – more content (still no interviews though) but too much na├»ve ranting, and hardly a step forward. Roll on Stringent Measures.....

But, as I say, without One Off I would never have met Nikki, his parents Trevor and Lois, and a year or so later, his brother (the also very much missed) Epic Soundtracks. My life would be very much the poorer not to have known the Godfrey family and though my two best friends are no longer with us, there's memories aplenty of the two people mostly responsible for my adventures in music. Of which more anon.

Coming Soon – Nikki Sudden: The Sex Pistols “Spunk” Cassette

Tuesday, 28 April 2009

Start Me Up

Skittling through the early years, I was born August 1960, eldest of four children, brought up in a home of limited musical content – my father liked James Last, Acker Bilk and, his saving grace, Nat King Cole. Funnily enough it was my grandmother on Mum's side who was largely responsible for what was to become, at times, an all consuming love of music. She worked in the record department of Warwick electrical store Bonel & Curtis, and passed on to me the occasional 7” single, most memorably “Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep” by Middle Of The Road, and “Mouldy Old Dough” by Lieutenant Pigeon

This latter platter featuring on piano Mrs Hilda Woodward, great aunt of one of my class mates at Leamington College For Boys and the choice of Jarvis Cocker as one of his Desert Island Discs back in 2005.
At the age of 13 I was introduced by a school friend, alas name long since forgotten, to the delights of Buddy Holly and, much as his music had influenced Lennon & McCartney some 15 years earlier (...hey, if you're going to make a specious comparison, make it a big one.....) so I too never looked back.

A year later, and possibly my most shameful admission, a visit to Boots record department, acting as the stooge on look out and diversion for a thieving school friend, saw me own my first album, his slightly scratched copy of Lou Reed's “Berlin”, our (well, mostly his, m'lud) illegal actions providing him with a replacement mint copy.,,20213002,00.html How cool it is to be able to report that as the first album I owned? I'll confess though that I failed to love it much then, appreciating none of its references to depression and drug addiction, though it went on to become an important part of a significant collection of albums by junkies and dope-fiends alike.

My first real passion was 10CC's “Sheet Music” which I was given on pre-recorded cassette for my 14th birthday in August 1974, and which I listened to on permanent repeat for the best part of a year. I remember every word to at least half a dozen of the tracks, and will never tire of listening to this innately clever pop masterpiece.

Otherwise, odd songs stand out as being ever present throughout my mid to late teens - “School's Out”, “My Sweet Lord” and “Telegram Sam” spring to mind, but truth be told, from 15 to 17, music took a back seat to the “study” of UFO's , (fear not friends, as passionate a believer as I then was I am now as sceptical) On recovering my senses, my love of music and all the ensuing consequences returned with alarming vengeance when I left school and started earning a living, the princely sum of £15 a week in my pocket, most of which I'd spend on records. Which I continued to do for the next 22 years....

Following the time frame, you'll have worked out that it was the glorious year of 1977 when life took a moderately interesting turn, setting in motion a series of events, experiences and encounters, some of which I'll deign to share through this blog. I'll apologise in avance for what might seem like a bunch of (wholly essential) name dropping, as I ofttimes lead my life vicariously through the action and adventures of others - it might just be fun.

Coming Soon - My First Fanzine

Sunday, 26 April 2009

Living Life Vicariously

Irregular ramblings on my loose associations and brief encounters with the movers shakers and risk takers I secretly longed to be brave enough to emulate....but with whom I chose instead to discretely (for the most part) tag along for the ride.

We'll start at the beginning but thereafter will flit backwards and forwards as the mood or relevance suits, sharing one man's musings on both the glamorous and the (occasionally) mundane events and occasions I've experienced and spent with people far more interesting, more talented and more dangerous than I in my wildest dreams ever could be.

As I've never kept a diary, dates will be vague, but I hereby promise that though for literary purposes there may be some verbose embellishment, everything I write will be grounded in truth and be a report of a real event, encounter or relationship. Where available I'll reproduce souvenirs of the time, some very general, some very personal, which I trust will add to the tale be it tall or short.

Weekly. at least, I'd hope though I'm anticipating an initial surge of enthusiastic outpourings - feedback fair or foul welcomed.

Chris 17