# A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

Flatmates - Part 3

  by Martin Whitehead

published: 13 / 1 / 2002

Flatmates - Part 3


Chapter 8: Love and death and Janice On 5th February 1987 we played at the Knightstone Theatre in Weston Super Mare. The Knightstone is an old theatre near the sea front. At the time we played ther

Chapter 8: Love and death and Janice On 5th February 1987 we played at the Knightstone Theatre in Weston Super Mare. The Knightstone is an old theatre near the sea front. At the time we played there it had just reopened after a long spell being derelict. Although not best suited to gigs due to it’s cavernous interior and echoey sound it was a welcome addition to the live music circuit. The gig was promoted by a man called Kevin Long, who had just started promoting gigs in the area. Kevin was some years older than the rest of us and we were surprised that no one had heard of him before. Most promoters were in bands themselves, or, like Mark Simpson, were ex hippies who had knocked around in various aspects of the local music scene long enough to be, if not loved, at least known and generally trusted. Kevin’s account was that he’d just returned from Germany where he’d been working for some years. The gig was as good as can be expected for a town like Weston Super Mare and we got paid, so there was no cause for concern, but before we move on, make a note of that name; Kevin Long. In February 1987, me and our erstwhile fan and promoter Rosey got engaged, all together now….. "aaaaaah". March and April 1987 saw The Flatmates playing 17 gigs in support of the follow up single, ‘Happy All The Time’. The second single was issued in 7" with Rocker’s ‘Thinking Of You’ on the B side and as a 12" with ‘You’re Gonna Get Hurt’ and the Ramones ‘I Don’t Care’. The runout groove of the 12" carried the message "This is the sound of happiness", a line from Orange Juice’s ‘Felicity’. The single peaked at number 4 in the NME indie chart and 3 in the Melody Maker chart. ‘Thinking Of You’ featured a Stylophone solo, that was worked out by Rocker and played live by Deb, until the Stylophone broke. ‘I Don’t Care’ was a cover we’d been playing for a while and reflected not just our fascination with The Ramones but the whole New York punk scene of the 70’s. At the time my amp was a tiny 20 watt Carlsboro practice amp that sounded nice and fuzzy when cranked right up. After 18 months or so of being run flat out it finally gave up and just melted down. When recording ‘I Don’t Care’ I decided I wanted something more menacing for my guitar sound. The recording engineer that we regularly worked with at SAM, Sooty, still had his bass set up that he used when he was in Vice Squad. When we were recording with Sooty he’d just been leant a copy of Bret Easton Ellis’s ‘Less Than Zero’ that featured a gig by Vice Squad which Sooty told us was a real event. It had all happened at the venue as described in the book. Sooty’s old amp was an Ampeg 200 watt top into a 2x15 speaker cabinet. I stood right in front of it to record the guitar part which was all done on the first take. It was a struggle to play through the constant feedback but it got a great guitar sound. At the end of the track I’m bent double trying to "play" the feedback and end up just collapsing on the floor. Debbie, senses numbed by the racket gets my name wrong and shouts at the end "Ow, wow, Rocker’s on his knees" which although robbing me of a credit for possibly one of the greatest noisefests ever, was too good to re-record. The sleeve for ‘Happy All The Time’ was probably one of the most memorable of the whole post C86 period. Another creation of Simon Barber of the Chesterfields and his girlfriend Amanda Wallwork, jointly The Terrible Hildas, it showed a girl in a red dress leaping in the air on a yellow background. Simple, but striking. In 1997 the women’s fashion chain Etam ran a series of billboard and press posters around the word ‘mates’ based on an anagram of ‘Etam’. One of the posters showed a jumping girl in a red dress. Another was titled ‘Flatmates’ and showed a blond and dark girl, one playing guitar and one singing. Which ex-student at which art college we played at was responsible for that concept I wonder? We saw March in recording our second session for the BBC, this time for the Janice (no relation to aforementioned Kevin) Long show. The session was recorded 1/3/87 and broadcast 18/3/87. The engineer on this session was Harry Parker who was less of a whip cracker than Dale Griffin. The songs we recorded were the original version of ‘My Empty Head’ much faster and less grungy than the version that was later to appear on the B Side to ‘Heaven Knows’, ‘I Want To Be With Him’, ‘When I'm With You’, a different version of which appears on the Subway compilation ‘Take The Subway To Your Suburb’ and a cover of Buddy Holly’s ‘Everyday’, a song we had recently started playing as an encore. The piano solo was worked out and played by Sarah to make use of the grand piano that was in the studio as much as for any artistic reason. The Janice Long Session was later released as a 12" single by Strange Fruit Records as part of their ‘Nighttracks’ series of BBC sessions. Of the 3 sessions we recorded it’s my least favourite. It lacks the urgency of the first John Peel session or the spikey production of either of the Peel sessions. Still, we were young and needed the money so we signed the contracts and it was later released. Chapter 9: Spring 87 At Brighton we gave an interview to the local radio station, at Southampton University not much of note happened, at Aston University in Birmingham we played to a cross legged group of students in the bar and I told Deb mid set that ‘Happy All The Time’ was number 3 in Czechoslovakia or somewhere and for a few seconds she believed me and passed the good news on to the audience. On the 26th March we played at the Bath Pavilion. I remember it being cavernous and more suited to flower and produce shows or something similar. The following night we played in Bath again, but this time in the cellar of 7 Walcot Buildings. The gig was Rosey’s flatmate’s 21st birthday party. Although now a charity shop at street level, the building had been a baker’s premises in a previous life and the cellar still contained the ovens. Although the main room was no more than about 15’, maybe 20’ square at the biggest, about as big as a good sized living room, we probably played to more people that night than the previous night at the Pavilion. Although a private party, it was decided to hire a couple of the university rugby team to look after the door and check tickets. The following morning forged tickets were discovered amongst those collected. We’d set up our amps and drums along one wall and a couple of p.a. system foldback cabs separated us from the crowd. Somewhere along the line we’d picked up ‘Spider’ as a roadie and soundman. ‘Spider’ was a gangling, ex psychiatric nurse and used to be my postman when I lived with my parents. He later found a degree of success as singer with The Seers. His soundman duties that night consisted of flicking the p.a. amp off after every song before the feedback deafened everyone. People were falling over the foldback cabs and hanging off the pipes that ran through the room. All electricity was supplied off one long extension lead run from the flat above the shop to the cellars below it. A lot of people could have easily died in those cellars, but the only casualty we were aware of was Spider who had an asthma attack, but was last seen that night being taken home by a nurse. Chapter 10: Warm welcomes and close shaves On the 2nd April 1987 we played at Raffles Club in Port Talbot, South Wales. This was some years before that part of the country gave us The Manic Street Preachers, Catatonia or even The Darling Buds. South Wales at the time was known only for producing heavy metal bands. Far from keeping a welcome in the hillside, Port Talbot has to score pretty low for its lack of band hospitality. Despite our contract, signed by the promoter, including 24 cans of decent lager and 4 hot meals, we each received a can of Kestrel lager (37p from your local wholesaler), £1.00 and directions to the chip shop. The crowd was sparse and disinterested which we were later told was our own fault because we hadn’t sent the promoter any posters. We could be excused for wondering exactly what promoters in Port Talbot did? Would we not get paid because we didn’t provide a person on the door taking money? As we left the dim lights of Port Talbot we could be heard muttering under our breath "We hope you go out of business". In fact, I still to this day hope he goes out of business. One of the few people in the audience at Port Talbot was Kevin Long (you do remember that name don’t you?) He had recently started managing The Chesterfields and was taking a not entirely passing interest in The Flatmates and particularly our bass player. More of him soon. A little over a fortnight later we were at Coleford Community Centre in the Forest of Dean playing our 50th gig. Like Port Talbot we’d travelled west, and like Port Talbot the welcome was less than tepid. The event was a Young Socialists fundraiser. Despite turning up on time, playing our set and the venue being sold out we were later told we weren’t going to get paid as the gig was a fundraiser and the Young Socialists had greater need of the money than the young musicians. Despite being held in the back room, surrounded by a dozen or so members of what appeared to be the National rather than Young Socialists we still maintained that we were to be paid, and finally, grudgingly we were. We never heard from the genuinely pleasant young man who booked us. No doubt his colleagues in the party took the matter of money up with him. It was at the Coleford gig we started hearing stories about Kevin Long. Playing a circuit of gigs you end up getting to know the local p.a. hire companies, most of which are run by local sound engineers with their own rigs. We’d done several gigs where the p.a. was owned and operated by a soundman called Henry. One of those gigs was the Knightstone Theatre in Weston Super Mare. Henry apparently had a cheque bounced on him by the promoter, Kevin Long, and apparently so had a few of the acts who had played the Knightstone after us. Rodney Allen was also playing at Coleford that night, and he’d heard rumours that Kevin had been in prison, supposedly serving a term for fraud. Alarm bells started ringing. A week or so later Kevin Long had walked into Revolver, Subway’s distributor, and telling them he had my authority removed 50 copies of a Chesterfields single. It was time to talk turkey with Kevin. He called at my flat where I told him he could pay for the singles, which he did. I also told him I heard rumours that he’d been in prison for fraud. He admitted that he had been in prison, but not for fraud. When he was in Germany he went out drinking with his best friend, and when they were both drunk got into a fight in which he killed his best friend. He told me he’d just served 5 years for manslaughter. He also sold me his answering machine, which to be fair, gave me 11 years of generally reliable service. Bulk purchaser of Chesterfields singles and purveyor of reliable second hand answering machines or not, you haven’t heard the last of Kevin Long.

Visitor Comments:-
567 Posted By: Bruce Forsyth, Oz on 16 Jul 2012
Dear Martin, I was in the dressing room after your gig, as I was the Treasurer of the Young Socialists at the time, and I've always felt guilty about the way you were treated so please accept my belated apologies! Just to set the record straight (don't ask me why I'm bothering after all these years) the kid who booked you had failed to tell anyone else you were coming along, so we really didn't have the money to pay you. Personally, I thought your band were terrible but that doesn't excuse the way you were treated after the gig. Rock and Roll eh? x

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