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.