Bands 1982 - Onwards
PLEASE REFER TO THE DISCOGRAPHY SECTION FOR FURTHER INFORMATION ON MANY BANDS NOT LISTED IN THIS SECTION
The Flatmates formed in 1985 shortly after I met up with Rocker, the band's original drummer at a gig by The Jazz Butcher in the June of that year. It took me some time to discover why he was called Rocker, but it was a nickname given to him by The Blue Aeroplanes and refers to his style of dancing. As someone who couldn't possibly be more unlike Gene Vincent or James Dean it suited him in a post modern ironic kind of way. Geographically, the band was from Bristol in the west of England. In that respect we were removed from the Scottish scene that spawned The Shop Assistants, Soup Dragons, Close Lobsters, Pastels, BMX Bandits, Fizzbombs, Dragsters, Jesse Garon & The Desperadoes etc.
Our contemporaries in the Bristol scene were The Brilliant Corners and Blue Aeroplanes and whilst we frequently shared the bill with those bands we came from a different musical background. Although not appearing on the NME tape that spawned the genre, The Flatmates were widely regarded as being part of the C86 scene. Rather than being a scene created by one NME cassette, the C86 release merely reflected the explosion in small bands, clubs, fanzines, labels etc that had occurred in the mid 80's. The early 80's had been typified by Goth, a dreadful punk sub genre infused with hippiedom that involved dressing up in black, taking yourself very seriously and singing songs about bats. (Compare and contrast with Haircut 100 - an early 80's band that evidently didn't take themselves seriously, dressed in white by wearing cricket clothing, which is a game played using bats). It was also a period that required you to have a political manifesto in order to be taken seriously by the NME. That was a trend that never entirely went away, but in the early 80's Billy Bragg, The Redskins and The Specials were where it was at. All of them fine bands, but not pop in the sense of a celebration of love, life and all things bright and beautiful. The movement that was tagged C86 was a mass reaction to the dreariness of the early 80's. Cutie accoutrements of lollipops and anoraks was possibly taking the point too far, but 3 minute 3 chord pop and fanzines printed in bright colours was a welcome antidote to miserabalism.
The Jazz Butcher gig was one of a series on board The Thekla (a retired cargo ship moored in Bristol docks) that I'd promoted under the title of 'The Mission Club'. Other bands appearing at The Mission Club included The June Brides, Marc Riley and The Creepers, The Pastels (supported by The Shop Assistants) and The Loft. The Jazz Butcher's contract had been sent to the venue who had not passed it on to me. Part of the contract was the rider for the bands drinks. If the band didn't get their drinks, they weren't going to play. I had to appeal to the audience for a whip round to pay for the drinks and Rocker chipped in a couple of pounds to ensure The Jazz Butcher's appearance.
Whilst later exchanging bootleg tapes I told Rocker that I'd written some songs on my guitar with the intention of performing them as a support slot for a headline band at the Mission Club. After years of trying to get a band together Martin was prepared to go it alone as a solo performer. Rocker mentioned he used to play in a band in Birmingham by the name of The Drain on the Balcony. He used to play 'drums', or rather a stool and tambourine. The seeds of a pop adventure were sown! The as yet nameless duo practised a couple of times a week, sometimes at Martin's parents, sometimes at Rocker's flat, where Rocker's flatmate of the time, Kath Beach, mentioned she could probably play bass as she had a guitar that she could play a few things on. The duo was now a 3 piece.Rocker's other flatmate, Debbie Haynes, would also come along to practises, just to see what the band was like. She started to sing a bit, but after 2 songs Martin decided that Deb was a far better singer than he was and so gave her all the lyrics. The band was complete and late summer and autumn 1985 was spent writing and rehearsing songs and making 4 track demos.
For months the band tried to come up with a half decent name, 'The Mess' lasted about a week before it was decided that it might be taken too literally. Ann Sheldon, a writer for Bristol's listings magazine, Venue, and friend of Rocker's asked who was in his band. "Oh, me and my flatmates". "The Flatmates?" she replied. The name stuck. The world got a taste of what was to come when in autumn 1985, me and Rocker supported the Housemartins, performing one song, 'Out of Love', which was written by Rocker in his Drain on the Balcony days. We performed as The Roommates with me playing guitar and Rocker singing and playing the melodica solo.
Chapter 2: Martin, Rocker, Debbie and Kath
Rocker found us rehearsal space in the basement of the offices of the Bristol branch of the Communist Party of Great Britain. Virtually all our rehearsals with the original Flatmates line up were on Monday night with the communists. There never seemed to be anyone else in the building, the basement was massive and half the price of any other rehearsal space. The basement was where all their banners and placards were kept that were dusted off for demos once a year, together with the Revolutionary Vegetarian Worker's Bean and Cereal Wholefood stand. The first gig as The Flatmates was on January 21st 1986, supporting Half Man Half Biscuit at 'The Bunker' at The Tropic Club in Bristol. Since the previous September me and Rocker had been promoting gigs together every Thursday at the Tropic Club in conjunction with Mark Simpson, another local promoter. Martin and Rocker being the promoters, The Flatmates got the pick of the best support slots at The Bunker (including their 2nd gig, supporting The Wedding Present). The gig was the first that the newly discovered Half Man Half Biscuit had played south of Manchester. The capacity of the Tropic Club was just over 300, and twice as many people were turned away as were admitted. People even travelled from London for the gig including Radio 1 DJ John Peel who arrived too late to see The Flatmates. When he did turn up, Deb gave him a badge and told him he "didn't miss much, cos we weren't very good anyway". A message which was relayed to all his listeners the following week. Thanks Deb. Also there to see Half Man Half Biscuit was a minibus full of students from Bath University. One of them, Rosey, was actually impressed by The Flatmates, especially their bubbly singer. She didn't notice the guitarist too much though.
Further and full information on the band can be found at www.theflatmates.com
Singles and EPs
'I Could Be In Heaven' / 'Tell Me Why', 'So In Love With You'
The Subway Organization (Subway6) 7" September 1986 (Also issued on K Records with a slightly different sleeve 7" 1987)
'Happy All The Time' / 'I Don't Care'
The Subway Organization (Subway9) 7" April 1987
'Happy All The Time', 'You're Gonna Get Hurt' / 'Thinking Of You', 'I Don't Care'
The Subway Organization (Subway9T) 12" April 1987
'You're Gonna Cry' / 'Life Of Crime'
The Subway Organization (Subway14) 7" October 1987
'You're Gonna Cry', 'Barbarella Blue' / 'Life Of Crime', 'Sportscar Girl'
The Subway Organization (Subway14T) 12" October 1987
'Shimmer' / 'On My Mind'
The Subway Organization (Subway17) 7" April 1987
'Shimmer' / 'On My Mind', 'If Not For You', 'Bad'
The Subway Organization (Subway17T) 12" April 1987
'Heaven Knows' / 'Don't Say If'
The Subway Organization (Subway21) 7" October 1987
'Heaven Knows', 'Don't Say If' / 'Turning You Blue', 'My Empty Head'
The Subway Organization (Subway21T) 12" October 1987
'Heaven Knows', 'Don't Say If', 'Turning You Blue', 'My Empty Head'
The Subway Organization (Subway21CD) CDs October 1987
My Empty Head', 'I Want To Be With Him' / 'Everyday', 'When I'm With You'
Janice Long Session e.p. Strange Fruit (SFNT011) 12" 1988
Love and Death
'I Could Be In Heaven', 'So In Love With You', 'Tell Me Why', 'Happy All The Time', 'I Don't Care', 'You're Gonna Cry', 'Life Of Crime', 'Shimmer', 'On My Mind', 'Heaven Knows', 'Don't Say If', 'This Thing Called Love', 'Is It Me?', 'Never Coming Down'
The Subway Organization (Suborg14) LP April 1989
Love and Death
'I Could Be In Heaven', 'So In Love With You', 'Tell Me Why', 'Happy All The Time', 'I Don't Care', 'You're Gonna Cry', 'Life Of Crime', 'Shimmer', 'On My Mind', 'Heaven Knows', 'Don't Say If', 'This Thing Called Love', 'Is It Me?', 'Never Coming Down', 'Thinking Of You', 'Turning You Blue', 'Love Cuts', 'When I'm With You', 'My Empty Head'
The Subway Organization (Suborg14CD) CD April 1989
Midi Music (Japan) CD 1993
Clairecords(USA )CD 2004
Potpourri (Hits, Mixes and Demos '85 - '89)
'Don't Say If', 'On My Mind', 'Trust Me', 'My Empty Head', 'Shimmer', 'Tell Me Why', 'You're Gonna Cry (4 track demo)', 'I Don't Care', 'I Could Be In Heaven', 'Nothing Kills', 'When I'm With You', 'BAD', 'Heaven Is Blue', 'If Not For You', 'Heaven Knows (Tranquiliser Mix)', 'Love Cuts', 'Out Of Love', 'Happy All The Time', 'Life Of Crime (Demo)', 'You're Gonna Get Hurt', 'Sportscar Girl', 'Turning You Blue (Campfire Mix)', 'Femme Fatale'
Cherry Red (CDMRED269) CD, 4th April 2005
Take The Subway To Your Suburb
'So In Love With You', 'When I'm With You' ('I Don't Care', 'Love Cuts' on CD version only)
The Subway Organization (Suborg1) LP 1986 / (Suborg1CD) CD 1991
Surfin' In The Subway
'I Don't Care', 'Love Cuts'
The Subway Organization (Suborg4) LP 1987 / Issued on CD as extra tracks on 'Take The Subway To Your Suburb' (Suborg1CD)
Whole Wide World
'I Could Be In Heaven', 'Happy All The Time', 'Shimmer'
The Subway Organization (Suborg16CD) CD 1993
Whole Wide World Vol. 2
'Don't Say If', 'Nothing Kills', 'On My Mind', 'Trust Me'
The Subway Organization (Suborg17CD) CD 1994
Indie Top 20 Vol.1
'I Could Be In Heaven'
TT01 Beechwood Music LP 1987
Indie Top 20 Vol.2
'Happy All The Time'
TT02 Band of Joy Music LP 1987
Indie Top 20 Vol.4 - State of Independents
TT041 Beechwood Music LP 1988
Let's Try Another Ideal Guesthouse
'Heaven Is Blue'
Shelter/Rough Trade LP 1987
'Turning You Blue'
Breaking Down Records (Break LP1) LP 1989
'Nothing Kills Like Time'
Heol Cassette About 1989
Sound Affects e.p.
'Heaven Knows (Surf Mix)''
4 track 7" white vinyl e.p., also featuring The Handmedowns, The Walkabouts and Cheepskates. Given away with issue 38 of Sweden's 'Sound Affects' magazine to celebrate its 10th anniversary, March 1998.
Rough Trade Shops - Indiepop 1
'I Could Be In Heaven'
Mute Records (CDSTUMM239) Double CD, September 2004
The Roots of Britpop
Rolling Stone Magazine (Germany). Cover mounted CD free with January 2005 issue