Tuesday, 6 November 2012

MUSICAL MEMORY #3 - Adorable

ADORABLE January 1991- November 1994 
Pete Fijalkowski - Guitar / Vocals, Robert Dillam -Guitar, Wil - Electric Bass Guitar Kevin Gritton - Drums
DISCOGRAPHY - 'See' (3 song demo), 'Sunshine Smile' (3 track 12" on money To Burn Records - unreleased) , 'Sunshine Smile' (Creation Single), 'I'll Be Your Saint' (Creation Single), 'Homeboy' (Creation Single), Sistine Chapel Ceiling (Creation Single), 'Against Perfection (Creation Album), 'Favourite Fallen Idol' (Creation Single), Fan Club 2 track acoustic cassette, 'Kangaroo Court' (Creation Single), 'Vendetta' (Creation Single), 'Fake' (Creation Album - ltd edition vinyl came with free 7" of alternate mixes of 'Man In A Suitcase' & 'Vendetta')

Within two pints of Adorable meeting Alan Mcghee for the first time in a pub in the centre of Coventry in January 1992, the conversation got quite heated when we asked him about the droppping of My Bloody Valentine from the label. Mcghee likened his relationship with MBV as that of a girlfriend and boyfriend, but said that he couldn't tell Kevin Shields face to face that his services were no longer required at Creation. I made Mcghee promise that if and when he came to drop Adorable from Creation he would have the guts to do so to my face. So was born an uneasy relationship between Adorable and Creation records, that was never really to thaw over the next two and a half years.

Changing our name from The Candy Thieves, and the new impetus from having a new band member in Robert, seemed to suddenly move things along. Within 6 months of our first gig under our new name (on the night that the first Gulf war started) the treks up and down the M1 to London seemed to be paying off & we landed ourselves a manager (the lovely Eddie who had had a stab at indie stardom in the fabulous Meat Whiplash who had released their one and only single in the early days of Creation), which meant I no longer had to spend quite as long feeding 10p's into the phonebox at the end of my road when ringing around labels. We got to record with Pat Collier, who was to later produce our debut album, and he pressed up a 3 track white label 12", which though never released, got a great review in the NME. 

Labels starting sniffing around. Rough Trade again came, and again went, but we lucked into the influential 'NME On For 92' gig at the end of the year which showcased 8 up and coming acts over 2 nights. PJ Harvey was headlining, and the gig was full of A&R types checking out the unsigned bands, which included us & Suede. We played our best ever gig to date that night, and when we came off I knew that if we didn't get a record contract that night we never would. The next morning Eddie rang to say he was getting offers left, right and centre and over the coming weeks we met many labels, including several majors who offered us deals, but in the end it came down to 2 labels -a toss up between Food Records (home of Blur) or Creation. We went with our hearts.
Things started promisingly enough. Our first single 'Sunshine Smile' got NME single of the week, lots of evening session play on national Radio One, #1 in the indie charts and three weeks in the national top 100 charts, but had we had the advantage of a crystal ball we would have seen that this was to be our UK high point, and that it would be downhill all the way from thereon. Perhaps it's just as well you can't see into the future.

"I'm going to come back soon in another life" (Vendetta)

Inspired by The Smiths, and by our own insatiable appetite for buying 7"s on a Saturday morning, we were eager to release lots of singles, and we set about releasing tracks as quickly as we could. 'I'll Be Your Saint' was perhaps a mistake as a second single, and helped to seal our fate in the eyes of the music press as 'arrogant bastards' (coupled with our own cak-handed attempts in interviews at distancing ourselves from the anti-image shoegazing movement), but Mcghee, who saw us as a punky Echo & the Bunnymen loved the idea of it ("It's rock n' roll Pete, it's rock n' roll - pure Iggy"). Whilst we could never understand why our third release 'Homeboy' (probably my favourite Adorable song) was overlooked, 'Sistine Chapel Ceiling' got us on the road back with another NME single of the week and a high Indie chart placing, in turn helping our debut LP 'Against Perfection' to a Top 75 spot in April 1993.

A 5 week American tour promised lots and won us many friends & fans, but we found ourselves caught in the middle of an argument between Creation and our US label SBK that had nothing to do with us, and any hopes of American success were dashed on the chess board of label politics, with us playing the role of a lowly pawn. We had hoped to escape the negative press tag that we had picked up in the UK, and arrived in the States full of hope - eager to start afresh in a country that as yet didn't really know that much about us, but to our horror we discovered that our American label had decided to market us as "Adorable - the band you love to hate". Each night at every  venue, we discovered with sinking hearts that enthusiastic college students working for SBK had plastered the venues with hundreds of posters with this slogan, and each night we died a little more inside. We had a great ending at an open air gig in Golden Gate Park where the police had to try and stop the surging crowd and the sell-out gig that night meant we left on a high.
We had other great times in Australia, Japan and across Europe, but on returning from promoting 'Against Perfection' we were a bit down, feeling that we had made as good an album as we could that we were really proud of, but that seemingly wasn't enough; the English press were at best indifferent (we hadn't been able to get an interview in the NME or Melody Maker since our debut single, though everyone seemed to think we were in every week), and our relationship with Creation (at best described as 'lukewarm') took a turn for the worst with the Sony takeover and Mcghee's subsequent breakdown, which left us without an ally at the label.

What we had to do was produce an album that would grab everyone by the proverbials, drag them into a darkened alleyway and either give them a kicking that would last a lifetime, or a damn good shag, or maybe both. Instead we recorded 'Fake'.

Whereas 'Against Perfection' (originally titled 'Against Creation', though dropped 24 hours before we had to submit the artwork as we were worried about pushing our relationship with the label) was the sound of 21 year olds who felt that life was there ahead of them, ready to be inhaled and enjoyed ('Glorious', 'Breathless'), 'Fake' is a frail, insular, insecure album, made by four guys who felt like the world was against them ('Kangaroo Court', 'Go Easy on Her', 'Vendetta'), and whose own relationships within the band were also being tested.  The song 'Radiodays' (though not especially a favourite of mine) pretty much sums up how I felt about the whole thing, with a poetic appearance of Mcghee in it to boot. ("A father figure put a gun in my hand and said, 'aim high, but don't aim for the sun son'. Blinded by my own beauty of course I did, but then that's my perogative... If it's all the same to you I want to crash my car my way."). It isn't a bad album, it's just it isn't a great one either.

Creation needed the figures to add up, and Adorable's didn't. Quite simply we didn't sell enough records for them, and the fact that there wasn't exactly a warm glow inside them when they thought about us as people made the decision easier. The 'dear John' phonecall came through to us in the glamorous setting of Colchester as we loaded in for a gig in late 1994. As poetic luck would have it our support band that day were The 60 Foot Dolls who had just that afternoon signed a lucrative publishing deal, and came into the venue clutching bottles of champagne, as we moped around in the suitably mournful setting of the converted church that is Colchester Arts Centre. Needless to say the call to say we were dropped didn't come from Alan Mcghee, or anyone from the label, but our long-suffering manager Eddie, so I never even got a phonecall from Alan, let alone the face to face as promised. Kevin Shields got one more phonecall than we ever got. Lucky Kevin Shields. Feeling as if we had taken a battering in the boxing ring, we called it a day after completing our European dates in late 1994 culminating in a glorious drunken night out in Brussels.

It was a rollercoaster of a ride over the two and a half years we were signed to Creation, with ecstatic highs and sickening lows but Wil, Kevin, Robert and myself all had the experience of a lifetime that has shaped who we are as people, and I think we are all better for it. Better to have loved and lost they say, than to have never loved at all.

We never did get to set the world alight, but we got as far as striking the match.

Friday, 26 October 2012

MUSICAL MEMORY #2: The Candy Thieves

THE CANDY THIEVES October 1988- September 1990 
Pete Fijalkowski - Guitar / Vocals, Wayne Peters -Guitar, Simon - Bass, Simon Harper - Drums, Wil - Bass, Krzys Fijalkowski - Guitar (one gig), Adam Watson - Drums, Pete's Panasonic Hi-Fi - Drums, Kevin Gritton - Drums
DISCOGRAPHY -' Head Inside' (4 song demo), 'Lush' (4 song demo), Homeboy/Underwater (Trolley Records Flexidisc 7"), 'Blow' (3 song demo)

High on the adrenalin rush of Bubblegum Flesh's shambolic first gig, I spent the summer learning to play the guitar and discovering the wonders of a barred E chord (which means you can play lots of different chords simply by moving an E chord up and down the neck without the need for any troublesome finger shape changes). I wrote a song which I recorded on my brother Krzys' four-track in Norwich, called 'Drink me Up' - a shameless rip-off of 'Coming Thru' by The Pastels, with a bit of  'Crash' by The Primitives thrown in for good measure. Maybe I'm making this sound kind of cool...When I tell you that it contained the immortal lines (and rightly much derided for years to come) "...Your love for me, is like a cold cup of tea..." you get an idea of what the levels of my song-writing talent were at the time. Wil looked suitably unimpressed when I played him the song, and it was filed under "we'll think about it later". Suitably frustrated at this block of my creativity I decided I was going to form my own band. Fate is a strange creature when you sit down and think about it, but had it not been for Wil turning down my sonic gem, The Candy Thieves would most likely never have seen the light of day and with it the knock on of Adorable, Polak, and beyond,  and you in turn would not be here reading these pages now. What would you be doing instead? What would I be doing?

I got together with fellow film-student Wayne who was into a lot of the same kind of stuff as me, though he drew the line at the Psychedelic Furs. Wayne both looked and played a bit like Will Seargent of Echo & The Bunnymen which was fine by me, and was a perfect foil for my simplistic guitar lines. Originally Wayne was to front the band as he had been the singer in a previous outfit in Somerset, but in the end it was decided that I'd have a go at mumbling and singing flat. We got 2 guys called Simon to play bass and drums, within two months we were playing out of tune and out of time to an enthusiastic crowd made up of girls who all had a crush on Simon the bass-player. 

Listening back to our first demo now, I can see little promise, but we stuck at it. Simon's good looks sadly outshone his bass playing abilities quite considerably, and though there was a sharp decrease in attendances at our gigs following his departure, we did all generally tend to be playing the same song at the same time. Wil was drafted into the fold on bass, and at the same time Simon Harper on drums felt it was all getting a bit too serious and left to concentrate on fronting his band The Ludicrous Lollipops who were to go on to release a handful of singles on Damaged Goods in the early 90's (as well as tour managing Adorable). 

We found ourselves stuck with a cassette of some ridiculously complicated drum patterns (programmed by yours truely) played through my old Panasonic hi-fi, and it was with this line-up that we recorded a second demo ('Lush') which we sent off to a dozen or so labels.  Rough Trade wrote back: "Dear Candy Thieves. This is quite interesting. Are you playing in London?" These 11 words were as good as an admission in our eyes that they wanted to sign us up. We analysed the letter again and again. "This is quite good" - well they didn't want to come over as being too keen, but two could play at that game and we kept them waiting by the phone for two whole days before we got back to them. We went down to the big City to hawk our wares. Rough Trade came. Rough Trade left. 

We started getting serious. 

My hi-fi had gotten stood on by a lard-arsed compere at a gig, and we replaced it's cracked plastic shell with the more human exterior of a young Scottish lad called Kevin. Things started looking up - we recorded a flexi that nobody could play and we finished second in a talent contest to a funk-covers band. Wayne, Wil and myself moved into a ramshackle house, with intentions of living some mad-cap Monkees-style existance. Crazy adventures every week tail-ended with a couple of new Candy Thieves pop classics. If only. We were broke, and starting to get frustrated that our continual jaunts down to London weren't paying dividends. 

During this period we wrote 'Homeboy', 'I'll be your Saint' & 'Pilot', which would later appear pretty much unchanged as Adorable songs, and we sent these three tracks out to twenty labels. We were convinced that we would crack it with these tunes, but despite a good live review in Melody Maker, and a write-up tipping us as 'one to watch' from the industry magazine Music Week, the initial vague interest from two or three labels slowly ebbed away. We felt a bit defeated and decided that the best way forward was to ditch our rather 80's sounding name, and trick labels to listen to our stuff again by sending it under a different moniker. Via The Adored we rested on Adorable, but before we could start plan b of our cunning ruse Wayne jumped ship, fed-up with the whole kaboddle.

Sunday, 21 October 2012

MUSICAL MEMORY #1: Bubblegum Flesh

BUBLEGUM FLESH / THE FUZZYFELTS March 1988 - April 1989 
Wil Superstar - Guitar / Vocals, Pete Fijalkowski - Bass, Matt Crane - Drums, Louise - Tambourine & Smiles

It was 1988. Those in the know were getting ready for a flared-trousered summer of acid-dropping raves, but me and my friend Matt just wanted to be in a band...any band...Wil's band.

The fact that neither Matt or I could play our instruments didn't really bother us and we duly lied to our musical guru-to-be telling him that we're a rhythm section when in fact neither of us have ever picked up a bass or drumstick between us in our lives, but Wil didn't examine our musical CVs too closely -  he  just seemed glad that he had found some willing accomplices.

Every Wednesday afternoon Matt and I would hitch the 10 miles from Coventry to Leamington Spa to rehearse our set in Wil's damp attic bedroom. Matt favoured the Bobby Gillespie school of drumming - standing up hitting just a snare and a floor tom, (though even this most basic of kit set-ups was beyond our meagre resources & so two cardboard boxes were used), and he used to rehearse with an almost Charlie Watts-style nonchalence, reading the NME as he played, sometimes missing a beat so he could turn the page. He had many things going for him, a great sense of humour, a floppy fringe & a large collection of Burlington socks to name but three, but a sense of timing was not one of them. I sweated my way through the tricky 3 note bass-lines, thankful of the fact that all of Wils songs used the same trio of chords, thus saving me the stress of having to learn any further complicated finger movements, whilst our leader crooned in a style reminiscent of a very Welsh and very angry Morrissey shouting in your face. "Slit your wrists in a cold bath, go on go on and make me laugh". His girlfriend Louise was roped in on tamborine duties, and she used to lie in bed watching daytime TV as we played around her. Occassionally when we played live, she could be cajouled into an upright position.

I played my first ever gig in June 1988 at Warwick University, and to quote Wil's great hero "I can laugh about it now, but at the time it was terrible". Seeing as our set was only 15 minutes long (4 songs, one of which we played twice because we thought it so good!),it didn't seem a good sign when my flatmates started heckling 2 songs in. Luckily I sported quite a long fringe at the time which I was able to hide behind. The live tape of that gig is the only recording that was ever made of the band, and it's kind of beautiful in it's absolute crapness, it's so naive it's almost pre-music. Matt slows down, speeds up when he is horsewhipped over the PA by Wil, goes a canter for 3 and a half bars, then slows down to a practical standstill. The bass makes random lumbering noises whilst Wil Superstar (as was his stage moniker) trying to manfully make up for his complete lack of a rhythm section, decides to opt out of singing the words and shouts them instead. 

After this the gigs were easier. We knew we were crap (as opposed to before the first gig were we kind of hoped we were alright), and we started revelling in our crapness. People started liking us, and our gigs became something of an event, our notoriety helped by Wil getting hawled up in front of an over-zealous Student Committee to answer accusations of sexism because he put Louise's role in the band as "Tamborine and Smiles" on a poster. Other friends in slightly-less crap bands started wanting to do guest slots on stage. I was against it, preferring the purity of the classic four-piece, but there was an advantage of safety in numbers, that made it easier to glare at the barrackers.

Somewhere along the line Wil, changed the name of the band to The Fuzzyfelts and a controversial fourth chord was added to the repetoire, but after a dozen or so gigs, I had had enough, and hung up the bass for good. Matt threw away his drum sticks for a life of computer boffiny, whilst Wil went off to form (and subsequently get kicked out of) The Beautiful Happiness who post-Wil released a Sonic Boom produced single on Cheree. However, as Wil walks off into the sunset, I think that maybe, this might not be the last we hear from him in this self-indulgent tale.

Saturday, 29 September 2012


After years of waiting, Pete Fij & Terry Bickers have finally broken cover and have released the first fruits of their labours in the studio, in the shape of a free download of the radio un-friendly track "I Don't Give A Shit About You".

"Once you look beyond the cussing, it's a tender lost-love song" says Pete "I used to always steer away from swearing in songs in my younger days, but in this song it feels justified and essential. There's a tension I like with the actual words & Terry's lovely harmonies - we're like a foul-mouthed Simon & Garfunkel".

" It was my least favorite song out of all the candidates for our album in rehearsals" confesses Mr Bickers "but during the recording process it evolved way beyond my expectations. After the initial backing was recorded a lot of extra ideas came along and it was a really enjoyable process adding these and developing the song into what it is now. This experience reminded me that if we keep open to things, give them our best what we encounter may surprise us! The song is in part a homage to the Velvet Underground with a bit of Dr John's 'Gris Gris' thrown in and for me that's part of it's appeal."

The track is the first official release from the duos forthcoming album, which is slated for a release in Spring 2013. It can be downloaded here at Pete & Terry's Soundcloud page, although those who are swear-averse might want to give this one a miss due to the explicit nature of the lyrics as suggested by the title - but as you're already reading this, we've probably already offended you - sorry.

Don't forget you can keep abreast of all of Pete & Terry's activities by liking their facebook page.

Photography by Tiya Ivy.