Friday, 25 May 2007

Victim of a Hoax

The search for a drummer was on...

While the search was on we had fairly regular meetings. On one of these occasions names were discussed, not for the band, but for the band members. Johny said I should adopt the surname Nelson, apparently Dale Nelson was a notorious American serial killer, and it would be a good choice for me.
The reason that they wanted to push band surnames was because they wanted to discourage the music press from using the surname Smith, as was a habit in those days ie Johny Smith, Stephen Smith etc.
This would have been predictable and highly likely given that the band name was The Smiths.

We had arranged over a 2 day period various drummers to turn up at Decibelle and audition.
Bill turned up, he had played with both Johnys bands and mine before, and although technically very good, was rejected on image.
Tony, another one of my ex drummers gave it a go, but again was declined, a couple more turned up, then Mike showed.

I’ve read his account of events, usually prefaced by “I was out of my head on mushrooms so can’t remember anything”, I wasn’t, and can remember the day.

Curiously I’d known Mike for a while, the Adorables had played several festivals with Victim, and The Hoax, and we had played uncountable nights at the Cypress Tavern, where all the MMC * bands took it in turns to play. We usually ended up with them, and one other band.
He’s never really hinted at having prior knowledge of me, but we were on quite good terms. The audition went well, he was chosen and a date set for the demo.

During the time all this was going ahead, I was building a recording studio and rehearsal complex on Tarrif St in the centre of town. I had been headhunted (for want of a better description) to become a partner in a new studio, he would put the money in; I would bring the expertise and bands across, both to rehearse and record.

This would become “Spirit”, and eventually “The Manchester School of Sound Recording”. John Breakall (the money man), though English had been working as a car park attendant in Australia, and had arrived back with his savings. He’d arrived at Decibelle, and made me an offer which was at the time, an offer I couldn’t refuse.

*Manchester Musicians Collective

Saturday, 21 April 2007

Haircuts and Action Men

Over the next couple of weeks, we discussed the bands image.

Although I used the term “we”, It was made clear that The Smiths were S&J only. That any contracts would reflect this, and I would assume the role of a more traditional bass player.

It was odd to suddenly be a "band member", and not leader, but I took into consideration the fact that I'd had no success with any of my bands, so maybe it wouldnt be a bad idea to let someone else have a go.

S&J told me to buy some bowling shirts, turn up at a house near Fridays nightclub to get my hair cut, and that there was a strong possibility the band would project a gay image, more pretty boy than activist AKA Tom Robinson.

This last statement seems to have caused more hostility from Smiths fans, than anything else Ive recollected. For the life of me I cant understand why:

Im not judging or commenting on Stephens sexuality, Johny obviously isn’t gay, and Mike wasn’t on the scene yet. This has to be viewed in the context of a new band formation, where all sorts of ideas are placed on the table. At that time, the first single was going to be “boy for birthday”, and the band was going to have a gay identity. Weeks later it was never mentioned again.

I don’t really want to state arguments and counter arguments that have been voiced both by the Smiths and their fans at this point, as I really just want to narrate the first 3-4 months.
I will present my viewpoints as a closing piece.

I went to buy my shirts from the old Army surplus store on London Rd. They had huge boxfuls of 60’s bowling shirts, I made my choice and I had my shirts. This store has long since gone, replaced by the Malmaison hotel.

Above this shop was The Dolls Hospital, an amazing place lined with plastic body parts, a place where my Action Men turned up, when their injuries were beyond domestic repair, at a time when toys weren’t disposable.

The next event was getting my hair cut, I picked Stephen up, and he directed me through various gestures to an old house on Paletine Rd, fairly close to Fridays. Johny was already there.
The three of us had our hair cut in the flat top style, that stayed with the band for quite a while.
I’ve been told John Moss was there, I cant remember him, Ive seen him on TV, but he doesn’t look familiar. I do remember a guy with heavy makeup, maybe this was him. There was a photographer who took shots of us outside and inside the house, he later turned up at rehearsals for more shots, the last I saw of him was at the Ritz.

I only visited this location once, and we had stopped rehearsing in Bowden and had moved on to Decibelle.

The Smiths

First Meetings

The First Couple of Weeks...

I'd known Johnny for a while.

I'd engineered a session for Freakparty (Johny's and Andy's band), they rehearsed at Decibelle, the studio I worked and rehearsed at.
Due to the incestuousness of the Manchester music scene at that time, we had also shared band members, my drummer Bill Anstee, had also been Johnys drummer in Sister Ray.
Johny had also formed a physical attachment to my vocalist.

My band "The Adorables" had a bit of a following and minor interest from some of the independent labels. It consisted of two bass players, vox, drums and keyboard.
For anybody interested in this period of Manchester Music, I will continue in another post, as its prob not of too much value for the people reading this.

J approached me and asked if I wanted to play bass in his new band. I'd never actually been in a band I hadnt put together myself, so was initially reticent.
I cant remember the events that turned my indecision to a yes, but I eventually agreed, summoning my old band members to a meeting at my flat located in the Crescents in Hulme, and letting them know.

They were a bit miffed, it wasnt pleasant, they decided to carry on without me, and the deed was done. (if any of them stumble upon this I'd like to hear their point of view, and their memories concerning these times)

So...I was now a free agent.

The First Meeting

I rode down to J's place in Bowden. He had a room in the house of a local Granada TV presenter "Shelly Rhodes" who presented Granada news and a smattering of current affairs progs from time to time. I think he was friends with her son, and had secured a room in her large sprawling house.
It was a fairly typical room, couple of guitars, double tape decks, portastudio, sofa etc.

Stephen was there, I'd already been told by J that he didnt like to be called "Steve", so Stephen it was.

We got chatting, shared a few common interests (vegetarianism, velvet underground).

J played me "I want a Boy for my Birthday" on cassette, said it was likely to be the first single, and could I put a bass line to it. As it stood, it was just guitar and vox. I took the cassette, promising to have the bass written for our next meeting. I was there a couple of hours, and we agreed to meet a couple of times a week to get things started.

I said I'd pick Stephen up from Stretford, I was coming from Whalley Range, so I passed his door anyway. I took him back home, Stephen riding pillion, and that was the way we travelled for the next couple of months.