# 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 12

  by Martin Whitehead

published: 13 / 1 / 2002

Flatmates - Part 12


Chapter 24: Back in Blighty Our first gig back in the UK was playing at The Fridge in Brixton, south London. The Fridge is a large theatre and a prestigious venue to play. We were supported by the

Chapter 24: Back in Blighty Our first gig back in the UK was playing at The Fridge in Brixton, south London. The Fridge is a large theatre and a prestigious venue to play. We were supported by the Rhythm Sisters, a band who owed more to cabaret than pop or rock, and it seemed an odd coupling to me. It reminded me of those bills they had in the 60’s where the Beatles played beneath an impressionist and an ageing music hall act. Back stage at the Fridge I read the instructions to staff for what to do in the event of a fire. The PA would play the record "Please Release Me" which would be a signal for the staff to open all the fire exits. If anyone has a gig at The Fridge would you mind playing "Please Release Me" as part of your set and let me know what happens? Later that week we played at Burberries club in Birmingham on another Subway night. First on that night were The Clouds, now an ostensibly "acoustic" outfit, although this just entailed Geno playing bongos rather than a full drum kit whilst the Charnley brothers and that month’s bassist played electric guitars. Main support was from The Groove Farm who were going through their "long" phase. Out were the 2 minute pop attacks that typified their earlier e.p.s. Their set now consisted of 5 or 6 long pseudo grunge-psychedelic workouts that indicated too many records by Loop in their collections. Burberries has a low stage in the middle of the club that has a glass floor and mirrored walls. This makes the sound completely crap as everything bounces around and feedback levels start at barely above audible levels. The crowd were crushing around the front of the stage. I’d acquired a wah wah pedal which the subsequent recording of that gig shows I used to a greater degree than taste required. We played ‘I Could Be In Heaven’ as the last song in the set. Deb managed to sing the first line before the crowd spilled onto the stage knocking the mike stand over, hitting her in the mouth with the microphone. Within 30 seconds the song had degenerated into anarchy topped with a noodling wah wah solo. On 22nd April 1988 we supported Microdisney at the Town and Country Club in London. The second support act, who we shared a dressing room with, was Edward Barton, bearded author of ‘It’s A Fine Day’, purveyor of fine wooden products (including Wooden Records) and maker of the chairs in James’s ‘Sit Down’ video. Of all the support acts we played with I regret not having got into conversation with Mr Barton the most. At the time we thought he was some odd eccentric. To be honest I still suspect he is an odd eccentric, but one I’d have liked to have chatted with a while. The next night, 23rd April, we played at Retford Porterhouse. The Porterhouse had two floors, we played to an indie crowd on the upper floor whilst a toga party carried on downstairs. Retford that night was full of pissed up Romans being sick in the High Street. Retford is not a million miles away from where Mark, our latest acquisition to the touring party lived, or rather, where his parents lived. Mark’s mum and dad didn’t seem to mind the visitors, and that’s one thing we can always say in our favour, we always got on fine with fan’s parents whenever we were offered a floor for the night. The Flatmates - you can take them anywhere and they won’t soil the carpet. We had an early start the next morning, which was Sunday. Joel was particularly poor at early mornings and would never manage anything more substantial than a mug of coffee before midday. Me and Rocker were firm believers in breakfast, although in Rocker’s case it was frequently the pizza he didn’t finish before falling asleep the night before. Carry on where you left off is a phrase that could be applied to Rocker’s meals. So with varying degrees of full stomachs we were on the road again by 9.30a.m. setting out for Peterborough for the only Sunday lunchtime gig I’ve ever played. It was strange playing in a nightclub at 2 o’clock on a Sunday lunchtime, to a crowd of people filling that vacant space between Sunday breakfast and the long drawn out procedure of Sunday lunch. At least we played late enough for them to have gone to church before going to the gig, and we were back in Bristol in time for tea, having already played a gig that day. 6th May 1988 saw us at Northwich Vics, which is the social club for Northwich Victoria Football Club, from the Football Conference. The Vics must have been regular watering hole for many locals. In addition to the usual mix of indie kids and a slight smattering of the Westward Ho! syndrome, groups of grannies sat around tables at the back doing a sterling job of ignoring us. If there was a league for pop groups The Flatmates would probably have been down there with Northwich Victoria at this stage, gamefully clambering their way to the top of the Conference. Ambitious part timers hoping to attract a beneficial new chairman with deep enough pockets to lift us into the third division placing of a minor chart hit. The following day we were off the Liverpool to savour real scouse charm rather than Paul’s distilled version of it from up the road in Chester. Liverpool had a reputation for being a place that could be dangerous if you were a stranger to town. Liverpool also lives and breathes football, and in the late 80’s Liverpool were the biggest team in England. The other team in Liverpool, Everton, weren’t even in the running. After the soundcheck we went into a pub near the venue. One of the locals got into conversation with me as we waited to be served. Having established I was from out of town the conversation turned to football and that afternoon’s match. Trying hard to find favour with the scousers I sung the praises of the Liverpool team, who in my humble opinion were certainties for that years league title. I enquired after Liverpool’s chances in the cup with my new pal. "I haven’t got a fookin clue mate - I’m an Evertonian me." Thankfully a tolerant Evertonian as my fingers were needed for playing the guitar. 11th May saw us in Basingstoke, playing at the Caribbean Club. Basingstoke is home to the AA (Automobile Association, although one could imagine Alcoholics Anonymous also being based there), but isn’t noted for it’s Caribbean population. The following night we played in Hampton Court at The Jolly Boatman. The stage was a piece of board on top of the pool tables. I made a mental note not to jump around on stage as the ceiling was about 2 inches above my head. The next night was a gig in London at the LSE and another Subway night with The Clouds and The Groove Farm. The gig seemed to go about as well as a night in the company of The Clouds could be expected to, or at least it did for us. The Groove Farm were last seen that night looking for The Clouds and enquiring as to the whereabouts of a missing bag of leads and various bits of band equipment. Sarah had been a bit quiet, but we were all feeling the strain of a hectic schedule and the pressure of having to write a follow up to Shimmer. At the end of the set we went back to do an encore, all of us except Sarah. Having walked back on stage you’d look a complete lemon having to walk back off again because one of you had gone AWOL. As the main songwriter I could remember the chord structure of all our songs and had written specific bass lines for several of them. We carried on with the encore with me playing bass and Tim playing sole guitar. The night after the LSE we played in Nutley. Now even the towns were starting to sound like locations in a Beatrix Potter story. From what I recall of Nutley, The Shelley Arms was along narrow bar with a stage at the far end. Nowhere to hide if you wanted to exit the stage at the end of the set. After a few days off we were back west into Wales again and a gig at Cardiff’s Radcliff Square Club. The promoter was fine and the gig went well. What was the catch? The catch was that in the autumn I arranged for Choo Choo Train to play a gig there after they’d done a tour with us. The promoter phoned me the following day with a heap of abuse and allegations then slammed the phone down on me when I asked him to explain what the problem was. I never found out what had upset him, but it is said that the Welsh eat seaweed. If it’s true then what more need be said? Later that week we headed down to Southampton to play the West Indian Centre. It was another good gig and we sold loads of T-Shirts. A whole load of the audience piled into the dressing room after the set, including the bastard who stole all the money we’d taken that night from record and T-shirt sales, well over £100 of it. A few days later we played at the Fulham Greyhound in London. Our support band were The Darling Buds whose star was very much in the ascendant. The Greyhound seemed overly kitted out with onstage paraphernalia, which included great banks of lights and a smoke machine. At one point all of us disappeared in a cloud of smoke directed from the back of the stage. Later smoke started rising from the front of the stage as well, together with an acrid burning smell as one of the coloured acetates fell onto a spot light and started a small fire. Thankfully there was just one more gig to go before we took a break, although we had had to tell our agent to stop booking us gigs to let us rest. Had it not been for that we would have carried on all year playing every gig that came our way. 3rd June 1988 we played at Leo’s in Gravesend. We soundchecked and as usual went to a nearby pub. One more gig then we could rest, see friends, spend our weekends socialising and seeing bands rather than slogging up and down the country and being the band that people go to see. Then Sarah announced in the pub that she was quitting. There was no debating it. This was to be her last gig. I felt like my arm had been cut off. Sarah’s joining the band had been an unqualified success. Musically she polished my songwriting, and she helped with so many of the organisational tasks of the band. She almost single-handedly dealt with all the fanmail. We’d built up too much momentum for Sarah’s quitting to have split the band. We’d had far more press following Shimmer than we had for the previous 3 singles and our draining tour schedule proved there were plenty of gigs for us to play. Whatever we chose to do it was going to be a hard task replacing her. Chapter 25: Another replacement bassist required… Our first task for the summer was to find a new bass player. There was no one that we knew in Bristol that would fill the roll, so we placed an advert in the back of Melody Maker. We had half a dozen or so replies, one from a session player just looking to pick up work, one from a woman who might have been perfect, had we been a band playing the cabaret circuit and based in Wigan. Of the replies we had only one looked interesting enough to offer an audition to. Jackie Carrera lived in Islington in London, but she was prepared to travel. Jackie had previously been in a band called Orange Car Test, so called because whenever they recorded a demo they assessed the mix by listening to it on the car cassette player. Once when we stayed at her flat after a gig I discovered it was in the adjacent street to Noel Road where Joe Orton had been murdered by his lover Kenneth Halliwell, and that there is even a blue plaque on Orton’s old house to prove the point. Our prime concern was finding the right person to fit into the band. The Flatmates had developed a personality of its own that was more than just that of its members. We’d also reached a point were we didn’t want to spend 6 months indiscriminately gigging from John o’Groats to Land’s End. We expected future tours to be condensed and well organised leaving us more time to write and record songs. If there were one off gigs in London then Jackie was well placed to play them. Our long term plan was to secure financing from a major label, and if that happened then a few train fares wouldn’t be a major financial hardship. Jackie was from a different mould to Sarah. Her boyfriend was Moose, the bassist from New Model Army. Where Sarah played bass through a stylish and discrete Vox AC30, Jackie favoured a 100W top and 2x15 cab. Sarah’s skirts above the knee were replaced by Jackie’s black leather strapless dress. In one interview she asked the interviewer "D’you wanna see me tats?" and peeled down the shoulder of her dress to reveal a couple of tattoos on her shoulder, one of Chinese script, the other I think was a panther, or other big cat.

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