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Flatmates - Part 5

  by Martin Whitehead

published: 13 / 1 / 2002

Flatmates - Part 5


Chapter 13: Summer 1987 On 28th May 1987, not long after we got back from the Dutch tour, we played in Lichfield in Staffordshire where the Rosehips turned up to hang out with us. On 8th June we pl

Chapter 13: Summer 1987 On 28th May 1987, not long after we got back from the Dutch tour, we played in Lichfield in Staffordshire where the Rosehips turned up to hang out with us. On 8th June we played at Dingwalls in London where The Clouds were to support us. That night’s Clouds post-gig hilarity consisted of stealing my sweater and selling it back to me for £5.00. If they’d ever made any money for Subway I suppose I could have treated the £5.00 as a recoupable advance, but The Clouds were very good at spending other people’s recording budgets and very poor at delivering recordings and artwork on time. On the 12th and 13th June we had an away weekend in Devon, organised by Roger Cowell. Roger had got us gigs in Exeter and Westward Ho! - the only British town with an exclamation mark in its name and inspiration for the similarly titled Chesterfields album. We took the opportunity of temporarily renaming our first single "I Could Be In Devon". Accommodation for the weekend was at a pair of holiday cottages and in addition to the 4 of us were Roger, Joel O’Beirne, another friend of Roger’s named Rocky, Jan and Rosey. We played Exeter on Friday night and had all Saturday to enjoy ourselves in the sunshine. We spent the day at Clovelly, walking down the steep cobbled street that leads to the harbour, patting the donkeys and stopping for a Devon cream tea on the way down. At Westward Ho! we had supper in a fish and chip restaurant on the sea front before wasting our money in an amusement arcade. You see, it’s not all hard work and drudgery being in an up and coming indie band. There’s a phenomenon that occurs at gigs in small towns, especially remote ones, and it was very obvious at Westward Ho! The more remote the gig, the wider the cross section of audience that you play to. From the stage I could see 3 anorak kids exchanging fanzines and sipping orange juice, 4 heavily made up goths sitting in a dark spot at the back, a couple of rockabilly kids chicken dancing at the front, a handful of hippies sitting cross legged in the corner. Every genre of youth culture was represented. Westward Ho! must be so starved of visiting live music that everyone aged between 12 and 60 with an interest in pop music turns up. Were it not for the obvious ghettoisation of the factions it would be a healthy attitude to have. On the 16th June we were back at Emmanuel College in Cambridge for our return booking. This time it was for their summer ball and thankfully control of the sound had been wrestled from the Dramatic Society (probably locally referred to as DramSoc in the truncated language of the undergrad world). Student summer balls tend to be occasions where those who have finished their exams and haven’t yet started any summer job, let alone career, show how disregarding of convention they can be by dressing up in Dad’s evening wear and staying up all night getting drunk. Some of you may think you detect a hint of bitterness, but let me point out - we were doing that and getting paid for it, so yah yah yah. (Except for dressing up in Dad’s evening wear, and if Rocker was driving he couldn’t get drunk). Two days after Cambridge we made the first of our 2 appearances at 1987’s Glastonbury festival. Thankfully it wasn’t the complete mudbath that 1986 had been, but it must be remembered that the site is a dairy farm for 50 weeks of the year, not designed for easy access by car and van. It was bearing this in mind that Rocker forgave Joel for sliding his car into the back of Rocker’s while we were trying to get off the site. We played on the Thursday evening on stage 2, just as everyone was arriving, and Voice of the Beehive played right after us. People have sometimes asked if it was a frightening experience to play in front of so many people, but I always found it harder to play in front of small crowds. When there are thousands of people it’s very difficult not to hold the attention of at least some of them. When only half of five or ten thousand people applaud, it’s still a loud noise. We were back at Glastonbury on Saturday afternoon, this time playing in the Cinema tent. Before dark this was used as a venue for a series of smaller acts. I was suffering particularly badly with hay fever that summer and until five minutes before we went on stage had been sleeping in the back of Rocker’s car. It was therefore a puffy eyed, snotty nosed, sleepy guitarist that got trundled on stage that afternoon. The stage was set up to avoid lengthy backline changes so all the bands used the same drum kit and amps. I plugged into a Marshall stack, which given time I could’ve grown to enjoy, but not having used one before and having no sound check I just couldn’t get that punk rock fuzz out of my guitar. Unsurprising then that I should go into a sulk and turn my back to the audience - only to find a hoard of people standing around the back entrance to the tent behind the stage. Oh well, if you can’t sulk your way out of it, play your way out of it. Hay fever aside, I think I ended up enjoying it in the end.

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