Friday, 29 August 2014

From my collection II

If there's one thing TSOM fans are suckers for, it's new merchandise, and the sad recent news that the MAM store is now longer seemingly trading reminds me of the halcyon days of the Reptile House mail order service in the UTR era. Nowadays it's mugs, tote bags and the like which the ageing goths who make most of the current 'live' audience seem to lap up (surely the first MR zimmer frame is not far away), but amongst my Sisters junk I found one of the flyers given away by Acme in the band's first foray into megabucks merchandising at the Merch stall on the Black October tour. These flyers were intended for those whose post-gig arrangements were too chaotic to get that Ruth Polsky poster home in perfect condition, or who had spent their last 72p on a pint of lager and black (guilty as charged, m'lud) and would need to save next week's giro to buy a fashionably unfashionable white t-shirt. I still have the set of three badges which I bought at one gig (the last of the big spenders), but I never did manage to save up the twelve quid needed to buy the tour shirt, although I'm not really sure where I was planning to wear it.

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

From my collection 1

Recent correspondence with other fans of TSOM's earliest incarnations has prompted me to have a rifle through what I sometimes rather laughably describe as my TSOM "collection", which is in fact a few old carrier bags stuffed with a variety of press cuttings, flyers, artefacts etc (but also containing old family photos, football programmes, random souvenirs etc etc), hidden deep in a pile of garage-bound boxes which we always intended to sort through when we last moved house over a decade ago.
Anyway, the first find I thought might be of interest to some is a photo (one of several) which I took at the legendary Sheffield Uni gig in June '83 (see blog post entitled "Sisters For Free Part Two" for further details).
It's never easy trying to take photos at gigs, and that was even more the case in the early 80's, as this shot was taken on a 110 Instamatic of East European origin (via Argos) whilst I was bobbing around in the moshpit trying to avoid being crushed by the toppling upper layers of the human pyramid from Wakefield. Then there was of course the lengthy wait for the return of the film from the processing factory somewhere near Watford to see if you'd actually managed to get any decent shots at all, or just twenty-four of your own left ear having held the camera the wrong way round.
Seeing some of the spectacular shots posted online of the recent 2014 tour puts this grainy, badly-lit shot of Von to shame, but at least you could see the band in those days and lightshow didn't burn your retinas.

Sunday, 25 May 2014

The Rose of Avalanche

Of all of the alternative bands to come out of Leeds in the mid 1980s, none were as controversial in their home town as The Rose of Avalanche. Like many people, the first I had heard of them was when John Peel  frequently played their debut single “L.A Rain” in the Spring of 1985. Although there some features that marked them out as a Leeds band – the drum machine, the twin guitar assault, the referencing of early 1970’s US pre-punk rock – their most distinctive feature was vocalist Philip Morris’ delivery, half-spoken à la Lou Reed and more California than Call Lane. Rather risibly, he kept up the mid-Atlantic drawl for his inter-song banter at live shows, which did little to endear him to an already sceptical music press. Their second single later in the year, “Goddess”, also made the indie top 20, but although it had more obvious appeal to those seduced by The Cult’s new “rawk” direction, the fact that again the sleeve featured the band’s name in a familiar font and little other information meant that it also appealed to the ever-growing Sisters following. “L.A. Rain” featured at number 26 in 1985’s “Festive Fifty”, well above the two TSOM entries (the stand-out tracks overlooked as singles which close the two sides of FALAA). I for one was certainly drawn in, and recall that I actually bought a copy of their first compilation (“First Avalanche”, still on the Leeds Independent Label, produced by Neil Ferguson who later became a member of Chumbawamba) on the first day of release, and fired off a hugely positive review in Leeds Student, the campus newspaper for whom I was one of several music correspondents (I believe I called opener Stick In The Works as “a punchy statement of intent” in the pompous music press vernacular of the day), and continued to fill my column inches with positive coverage of what were frankly lacklustre live appearances supporting the likes of Balaam and The Angel. Although they went on to have greater success with “Goddess” style rockers like “Too Many Castles In The Sky”, I always personally preferred the slightly hippyish, more psychedelic “L.A. Rain” influenced tracks such a “A Thousand Landscapes” and “Never Another Sunset”. Last week a cover of one of the slower burners, “Velveteen” (with a guitar riff seemingly “borrowed”  the following year by no less than Guns’n’Roses), was released by Carnival Star, and I’ve spent a very pleasant week re-discovering the long-forgotten joys of T’Rose.

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

The First York Rock Festival 1984

The chance to see the Sisters play outdoors (eek !) in broad daylight (double eek!) was an opportunity not to be missed by most fans, and although the bill for what was rather grandly billed as the “1st York Rock Festival” in 1984 was otherwise a little underwhelming (Redskins, Bunnymen and Spear of Destiny alongside the wonderful and hugely under-rated Chameleons), we got our tickets from one of the “usual outlets” (i.e. local independent record shop in those days) and set off on the fateful September Saturday morning. Veterans of the Reading Festival will know that in late August the British weather can turn decidedly chilly, so the brave promoters could hardly have been surprised some three hundred miles and a month further on that it was cold and windy day that greeted the first punters arriving at the famous Knavesmire racecourse, home of the well-known (in horse-racing circles) Ebor meeting. Sadly we were not amongst those first arrivals, Chris’ car having conked out not five miles after we sent off. A trudge to the nearest farmhouse and phone calls to his Dad and the AA soon had us speeding up the A1 in his Dad’s executive saloon rather than Chris’ cramped old banger), whilst his hero Dad waited with said jalopy for the fourth emergency service to arrive. On arrival in York, we were surprised to see that the stage had been set at right angles to the impressive grandstands near the racecourse’s finishing post, rather than facing them, meaning that the bands all performed in a rather inefficient wind-tunnel, the northerly breeze swirling down the final furlongs and randomly dispatching the sound from the stage to the four corners of the vast open space, and bouncing of the walls of the nearby chocolate factory. The festival itself was reasonably well attended for a one day event featuring such a disparate bill, with Sisters fans outnumbered only by those of chart regulars Echo and the Bunnymen in their casual gear (a la eighties football hooligan) or long dark coats for longer-term fans. Everyone and his dog will have seen vintage video footage of the Sisters performance that day, which like many of their subsequent festival appearances have done little to enhance their reputation with the curious potential future fan. A mixture of their own technical issues, the weather and sound, and the daylight seemed to make for a less joyous and less powerful performance than those produced on the spring (Body and Soul) or Autumn (Black October) which sandwiched it. York was therefore my first and last festival with the Girls.