Monday, 26 April 2010

26th April 2000

The Rock Garden, Covent Garden, 26th April 2000. I was the bassist in a band who couldn't decide on a name. The week before this one we'd played our first gig to literally 3 people at the Camden Falcon under the name Aeronaut, and I think this next gig was my turn to name the band. I selected my favorite potential moniker, 'Silvery', and hence today marks 10 years since I first stepped on stage under that name. We'd been rehearsing for a few months - me on bass, Howard on guitar, Murray on drums and Dom on vocals - and were taking our first wobbly steps out onto the stage (kind of a Silvery Erectus - had mastered using tools, now learning to create and travel). I'm not sure 'amateurish' would do it justice, but we were green. Hence playing a dive like that.

London in 2000 was a world away from London 2010, and musically too my band of 2000 was a totally different beast to that which was signed to Blow Up in 2007. I couldn't even tell you what I was into musically at that time, although I think we were trying to be like the Elastica of 'Line Up' (as witnessed on 'Engines') or The Knack ('Hold Me Like Him') but it was fed through a very fey studenty filter thanks to the singing, the spiky musical arrangements taking pride of place to any sense of melody other than the chorus hook. I think we were probably mid-metamorphosis even that early on thanks to the recent arrival of Murray of drums. Although we still very much old 'indie' pop, we mixed it with some more adventurous sounds like the clockwork waltz of 'Single' and even our version of the bog standard live set 'noise' intro had a theremin driving it (bought on a whim from Blue in Islington to impress the girls from Kenickie who were browsing effects pedals - true story). We were literally progressing at every rehearsal (at The Joint, Old Street - don't look for it, it's not there anymore) as shown by the recordings I've kept. As good as we were getting, that turned out to be the last gig by that particular group, sensing that perhaps the singer wasn't quite up to the job.

A year later after some intensive mucking about at Panic in Acton and Backstreet on Holloway Road (don't look for it, it's not there anymore) the three instrumentalists re-emerged (slightly reshuffled) onto the stage at the Kentish Town Bull & Gate with a new set of songs and adding a new bassist. I'd ended up as the singer after some disastrous auditions for a new singer. I had point blank refused to be a singing bassist so I picked up my guitar again for the first time since school. We'd become a good band with quite a muscular take on where we were heading with the first incarnation, even featuring a keyboard on some songs with the very recognisable fairground setting. Confusingly, we decided to stick with the name Silvery. This new line up would, there or thereabouts, last until 2005 when most of the songs that eventually made it onto 'Thunderer & Excelsior' were in place ready to hand the baton on to the steady influx of new chaps who would form the foundations of what was to come.

So I suppose more accurately it will be 15th May 2011 that will really mark the 10th birthday of Silvery as we know it, being the anniversary of that first Bull & Gate gig with me singing. Without rendering this whole exercise redundant I'd go so far as to say modern Silvery 'proper' (Silvery Sapien) didn't really get going until mid 2005, but it's that gig on 26th April 2000 at The Rock Garden, Covent Garden that the name 'Silvery' first appeared on tickets and posters and that's what counts. On the eve of the release of the second album, I look back on those early adventures very fondly. Was it worth it? I don't know. But it was the start of a very complicated family tree of line ups, messing about, long spells dormant and amusing shopping trips - a very interesting thing to do. The only constant tying together a decade of music being me and the name which had just enough kudos to stick.

Setlist: 'Instrument / Theremin', 'Hold Me Like Him', 'Engines', 'Single', 'Lance Bolder', 'New One' AKA 'Neon', 'For My Fall'.

STOP PRESS: I just remembered I wrote a very flowery imaginary review for this gig (who else would write about my music?) but I can't find it. I'll have a look. I have some photos too. But you're not seeing them.

Friday, 16 April 2010

Don't Be Easy, Hot Cat

I've been reading lots of things about homemade compilation tapes, I guess Spotify has rekindled something in the hearts of those of us of such a bent. Everyone of a certain age did it of course and I'm not going to add to the romanticised hindsight of the analogue era. Yes, it was brilliant, yes we all had our own rules and I took it all very seriously (my top tip: start side one and side two first - build them up that way rather than going straight through one and two in order). You'd get lucky and there wouldn't be much of a tape click between songs, one day you could actually fit the whole track list on the original inlay - even occasionally spelling the name of it right on the label. Good days. I made loads and loads - for friends and for myself (I still have most of those) - usually just singles and key album tracks of the day compiled to play in the car (I'd even slave over that to make it perfect) or random collections to flaunt my own identity to whoever would listen. They ended up with names like 'Companion', 'Aeronaut', 'Floatation' and the more literal 'Luverly Choons From Essex Road N1'.

The greatest one I made was called 'Don't Be Easy, Hot Cat' - a very amateurish collection of funny lounge and up-tempo library music for my chums in the Laurent Toure Silky Lash Team to listen to driving to school / back from the pub / on the beach. Unusual in that it was themed and on a 60 minute TDK (a really nice one - selected especially). It was so popular among the chaps that eventually I had to run off about 10 copies and even 'reissued' it on CD with bonus tracks when the technology became available as a special treat on birthdays. These were the days before massive interest in this sort of music - TV themes and loungecore compilations had yet to cash in on the retro Loaded magazine / Italian Job / Ollie Reed / Are You Being Served market and it was quite hard to find, especially in Southampton HMV, still awash with Doop and Reel 2 Real. Hence some tracks were not the ideal versions - The Wedding Present doing 'U.F.O.' rather than the original, and some Walker Brothers, although these all came into their own over time. I was overjoyed that I eventually signed my band to Blow Up Records - the source of many of the trendsetting discs with their 'Exclusive Blend' series (we're talking 1994 - 1996 - very much hand in hand with the 'Southern' end of Britpop). With the help of 'The Sound Gallery' (Volume 1, on the EMI Premiere label) and 'House of Loungecore - The Easy Project (Volume 2, on the Sequel label) and some other stray Corduroy Acid Jazz b-sides the tape took shape effortlessly. With a short sleevenote of the type found in those library albums (Jason King would be turning in his leather jumpsuit) the collection was ready to be rolled out nationwide (in Eastleigh).

Who would have thought that Moog and windwind with double tracked drums would have sounded so contempory? Ok, I'll get nostalgic - John Schroeder's slowie 'Wana Nana Wana Nana' still reminds me of those hot days in Lorette De Mar, Keith Mansfield's timeless 'The Young Scene' of dancing at whatever dive it was played (I think the Club Hawaii stuck on the tape between Abba and The Prodigy a number of times, and maybe in the garden of the disused Hotel Eugenia across the road), the aforementioned 'U.F.O.' acting as get away music more than once, 'The Sun Ain't Gonna Shine Anymore' sitting in the glorious Mediterranean sunshine as we were facing the long trip back, 'Make It Easy On Yourself' walking from our bulletproof Daimler to the airport lounge (true story) suited and hatted, Roy Budd's epic 'The Car Chase' of driving into town on warm Saturdays with Little Chip. I even think we once played John Keating's unusual lounge reading of 'Jesus Christ Superstar' during some successful Euro '96 barbecues. Good days.

The arguably stronger but less successful follow up 'The Versatile Cornelius Lechenstein' is still to receive a CD reissue.