Bristol Archive Records Blog

Jashwha (Joshua) Moses RIP

July 18th, 2019

I’ve just heard the incredibly sad news that Jashwha (Joshua) Moses passed away yesterday. Jash was a very dear friend of mine and a tremendous supporter of the record labels. In recognition of his enormous talent and with Jashwha’s full support, involvement and blessing, Sugar Shack are releasing his ‘Best of’ next week. Blessed love and thinking of you always. Mike Darby/

JASHWHA Best Of iTunes PACKSHOT

“The Best of Joshua to Jashwha 1978-2019”
JASHWHA MOSES
Released on CD and Digital Download
26th July 2019 via Sugar Shack Records

It’s more than three decades since I first saw Jashwha Moses in concert. He was already a seasoned performer and there was no mistaking he was someone special; as with the best performers he oozed charisma, and his performances were mesmerising. He is a rare and genuine talent and to this day his live performances are just as captivating.
Jashwha’s recording career got off to a flying start with the Dennis Bovell produced “Africa (Is Our Land)” a British roots reggae classic – released under his original name Joshua Moses which disappeared into the relative obscurity that swallowed so many independent releases and deprived the artist of greater success and a wider audience. Jashwha followed up “Africa (Is Our Land)” the following year with the more lovers orientated “Pretty Girl” and although he continued to perform and to record, it was to be more than thirty years before Jashwha released anything new when our Bristol Archive Record’s imprint released “Joshua To Jashwha – 30 Years In The Wilderness”.
The album was well received allowing for his discovery by a new generation of fans whilst reconnecting Jashwha with those who knew him from old. With his career reinvigorated and a fruitful long-term musical collaboration with producer Mikey Taylor Hall, Jashwha returned to performing full time and over the next three years released two albums of brand-new recordings “No War on Earth” and “The Rising”.
Forty years after his first release we thought it was time to celebrate Jashwha’s unique career and his numerous achievements by selecting 17 of his finest recordings and packaging them together as a ‘best of’ compilation, although that description hardly does the music or artist justice.
The tracks on this compilation are firmly in the ‘roots reggae’ tradition. Jashwha writes and sings with total conviction, this is the life he has lived, the things he believes, and every word resonates with that belief. Naturally we start at the beginning with “Africa (Is Our Land)” a hard act to follow, but something Jashwha achieves with the remaining selections. The thirty-five years between that debut and Jashwha’s first proper album “No War on Earth”, provides an additional six tracks that were recorded over a twenty-year period yet fit perfectly with both his debut and the songs from his later albums. Jashwha’s song writing has always been an evolutionary process building on what’s gone before rather than jumping on whatever bandwagon is currently fashionable, therein lies one of his strengths. Several of the additional eleven songs we’ve included from Jashwha’s follow up albums demonstrate that evolutionary process, as earlier versions were reworked through performance and in the studio, sometimes just tweaking and improving what went before and at other times completely reconstructing those earlier ideas.
Jashwha’s music has naturally evolved as he’s aged, but the message, the joy and the outstanding quality have remained consistent, these songs are his manifesto for a better world, a world where music can make a difference. “The Best of Joshua to Jashwha” is released on Sugar Shack Records on 26th July 2019, distributed by Shellshock Distribution and available on CD and digital download.

ARTIST: Jashwha Moses
TITLE: “The Best of Joshua to Jashwha 1978-2019”
RELEASE DATE: 26th July 2019
LABEL: Sugar Shack Records
DISTRIBUTION: Shellshock / Proper
CAT NO: FOD130CD
BARCODE: 5052571081921

Track Listing:

1. Africa (Is Our Land)
2. Suffering Is in The Past
3. No Weep
4. No War
5. Jah Time Has Come
6. Rise Up
7. Sign of The Times
8. Good Over Evil
9. Steel
10. I Believe
11. The Free Bird
12. Nothing to Lose
13. People of Power
14. Bobby Wrong
15. What A Situation
16. No! Not I and I
17. Children of The Light

The story of “PAPA’S GOT A BRAND NEW PIGBAG” by Ollie Moore

July 17th, 2019

The story of “PAPA’S GOT A BRAND NEW PIGBAG”

It’s important to say that the song was written collectively,as that was always the way we worked as a band as everyone had an equal input to the music that evolved.
I think it’s fair to say that “Pigbag”, the band, and ‘“Papa’s got a brand new Pigbag” were inseparable in many people’s view.
I will endeavour to explain my part in how this tune came to be.
As I am the only remaining member to live in Bristol, this is entirely from my perspective and, inevitably, this is linked to how my career in music started.
My father wanted me to learn the clarinet whilst at Bristol Grammar school, and my Uncle ,who played clarinet in the London Symphony Orchestra, sourced a reasonable student model for me to play. I still remember the pleasant aroma of the instrument in its furry case with its cork and “woody” aroma. Any pleasant associations with this intriguing instrument were soon to be dashed by an extremely abusive bad tempered impatient teacher called Mr Stone. I was 12 years old.
He was a lumbering figure of a man who stood at about 6 foot three and wore a suit several sizes too small for him. He also drove a three wheeled Reliant Robin car, in which he looked plainly ridiculous. A bulging leather briefcase completed the dishevelled look.
He would ‘correct’ my mistakes by a thrust of the base of the clarinet upwards against my teeth if I made a squeak or played a wrong note, his face bulging and turning puce in colour, as if he were about to burst a blood vessel, as he spat angry words in disgust at my incompetence.

Consequently after a few lessons with this monster I stopped going altogether.
I didn’t tell my father ,(who was Head of Music at BBC Bristol),until the end of term.
My parents were divorced by the time I had reached 18. The family house was sold and I went to live with my father, who had bought a flat in Clifton.
It was now 1979. I had finished an intensive one year A level course in Birmingham, where I had lived with my grandmother, in her large house where she rented out rooms to overseas students and an Indian family lived at the top in a self contained flat.It was very multicultural, and she was featured in an article in the BIrmingham Mail, where she was described as “Mrs United Nations..” ???? This was 1970’s Birmingham where the English population weren’t that tolerant of “foreigners”.

So I was now back in Bristol, armed with 3 ‘O’level passes….( 2 of which I had already).
So I now had an O level in Law..Let’s just say I did a lot of socialising and didn’t quite knuckle down to study, despite my dear Gran’s best efforts.
I sold my year old motorcycle which I had saved up to buy, as the insurance had risen drastically, and bought a car for £95..I then bought a Martin Tenor saxophone in silver from the music store in Hotwells.It cost £240..I was over the moon and excited to learn how to play it…BY MYSELF!..
I had met Simon Underwood, bass player with the Pop Group. I had got to know him through going to their gigs.I knew the lead singer, Mark Stewart, having been at the same school together. Simon was becoming disillusioned with the band, and the inevitable clashes, personal and musical, had come to the fore..It was time for him to move on.
He was becoming more and more interested in jazz and world music and was eager to experiment in that direction. He shared a lot of this music and I was eager to lap it up and I ended up buying a lot of records from him and from Tony’s record store at Focus in Clifton village. Eric Dolphy, John Coltrane, Albert Ayler,Archie Shepp, Don Cherry, Fela Kuti,Chico Freeman, Funkadelic, James Brown,and of course, the totally out there Sun Ra and his Arkestra.(to name quite a few)????.

Unfortunately my father wasn’t very keen on me playing the sax in his flat, and I had several complaints from an elderly retired Austrian doctor,who lived in the flat below.
A toilet roll stuffed down the Bell of the saxophone wasn’t a very effective mute.
I was looking to move out within a few months. Fortunately for me, I moved in with old school friend Rich Beal,(artist, singer and songwriter with Head and Pregnant,) in a tiny room at the top of the house in Regent St, Clifton.
I was lucky enough to have friends who lived in a basement flat and they would let me use their cellar to go and practice my saxophone without fear of upsetting too many neighbours.
This was just a temporary move until I moved into a squat in Hotwells..This was called Trinity Rooms and was a great place (and free!) to live, as there was a rehearsal room there, ,where we could play pretty much whenever we wanted.
It also had an empty church hall out the back with a great natural reverb echo.
My first band was called Fish Food, featuring the ( now sadly departed ) hugely talented and eccentric singer/poet Andy Fairley, who went on to record with the mighty Adrian Sherwood and On U Sound.Howard Purse was on guitar, Daniel Swan, former Cortinas drummer, also featured. The Cortinas were the first proper punk band I ever saw.They supported the Damned at Malvern Winter Gardens in 1976..They were riveting.

The first gig I played was at the Granary in Bristol on Welsh Back. A band called Double vision were playing, featuring Melanie Dicks on vocals (Bristol City manager Alan Dicks’ daughter!).Rob Merrill was on drums. I ended up on stage with Mark Stewart who was singing a version of Max Romeo’s “Chase the devil”..I had been playing sax for about 3 months by now!.A little while later I hitched up to Hitchin in Hertfordshire and played with the Pop Group. On this occasion they had two drummers, Bruce Smith and Brian Nevill who later joined Pigbag after Chip had left in 1982.

By this time my dedication to practice and playing had paid off and I was quite proficient at navigating the full range if the horn, although later in the Summer of 1982 Pigbag played at Bracknell jazz festival on the same stage as jazz heroes Don Cherry and Ed Blackwell with Nana Vasconcelos (Old and new dreams).
A subsequent review in the Guardian described my saxophone tone as like being in an Iron foundry!

In the Spring of 1980 I was jamming with Simon, and we had been put in touch with some guys in Cheltenham who had heard that Simon had left the Pop Group and asked if he would be interested in playing with them. We would go up to Cheltenham and play in a place called Beech House in a room with black walls. Sadly early recordings if these sessions were lost from an Akai reel to reel tape recorder..This sessions were where ‘Papa’ was born and it would go on for about 20 minutes in a frenzy of percussion, including frying pans and horns!
The band was James Johnstone, Chip Carpenter, who were in a punk band called Hardware. Roger Freeman was on timbales and percussion and Chris Hamlin on congas and clarinet..myself and Simon Underwood. Chris Lee was on trumpet.
After a few months in the summer, I decided to head off to France to look for an adventure working picking fruit. I took the saxophone with me. Janine Rainforth’s father( Janine would go on to form Maximum Joy) had a house near Avignon and there was a possibility of some work (..there wasn’t.)..I don’t think he was overly impressed with our work ethic.
I returned some six weeks later on the day the Pop Group played their last gig at a huge CND rally in Trafalgar Square on 26/10/1980. Coming back to Bristol things had moved on and Pigbag had played their first gig supporting the Slits at Romeo and Juliet’s. Fortunately I was welcomed back to the fold.
Dick O Dell had approached Simon with a view to managing us and he wanted to record ‘Papa’..
We rehearsed at Janine’s dad’s house in a village outside Keynsham, called Burnett, near Bristol.
I remember that it was the day that John Lennon was shot and killed in New York by Mark Chapman. 8th December 1980.

My first gig with the band was at a Bristol Recorder event at the Anson Rooms at Bristol university. We were supposed to be top of the bill, I.e. we were to play last.
The other acts, including the Electric Guitars, played over their allocated times and we were left with 20 minutes before the curfew.. The porters turned the power off and we carried on acoustically, banging frying pans and blasting away on the horns for a good 20 minutes longer..
We continued rehearsing with a view to arranging ‘Papa’ to around 3 and a half minutes.This took place in Cheltenham and we were booked in to the studio in Berry St. Studios in Clerkenwell, London. This was March of 1981. Legendary film maker and documenter of the punk movement Don Letts was there with his video camera.
He filmed us as we recorded it. Unfortunately, despite trying to obtain the footage, the story goes that he didn’t actually have any film in the camera..
As we were still raw, rough, self taught musicians high on energy, we didn’t have a grasp of bar lengths and sections so when it came to recording the solos it was decided that Roger would stand in front of us with a stopwatch and after 1 minute of free blowing he signalled us to end!
Dick O Dell, in what turned out to be a very shrewd move, withheld the release after a year or so of regularly selling 1000 or so singles weekly and attaining top position in the independent charts of the time. The strategy worked, and in the summer of 1982, the single entered the top 40 playlist and Radio 1 had to give it airplay, The pre order sales had built up over 6 weeks or so. At that time the chart positions were based on weekly sales. We got to number 30, then number 9, then number 3..We were denied the number 1 slot by Bucks Fizz and Paul Mccarney and Stevie Wonder with “Ebony and Ivory”…
I remember it well, on a sunny Tuesday afternoon, on the green outside my flat, listening to the radio, hearing the chart countdown..Happy times.
I’d particularly like to thank my clarinet teacher, Mr Stone, who ensured that I was going to teach myself the saxophone and play it in my own way.,
At work, a few days ago, one of my colleagues introduced me to two other workers at Bristol docks. “ Do you know who this is?…Do you remember Pigbag.?…Yeah, one of the guys,who was about my age, replied…My mate was the only one who could dance to that song…”
There had been some discussion about whether or not we should do TOTP . We were concerned about “selling out”.. Fortunately we decided to do it.. Roger Freeman wasn’t happy though, as he claimed we had told him that he couldn’t wear his donkey jacket, which he always wore. He decided not to appear and subsequently left the band.
That was a shame. He is a very talented musician and taught himself trombone in a short space of time. He played a solo on the 12 inch extended version of the song.
My only regret now is that we didn’t include the single on our debut album.
Our worthy reasoning was that we wanted people to hear new material as we felt we had moved on since recording “Papa” and people could hear it by buying the single..

One of my most enduring memories was supporting the Specials at the Rainbow in Finsbury Park ( later to become infamous as a mosque where the radical Muslim Abu Hamsa made his hate speeches)..The Specials had just written “Ghost town” and were playing it in Soundcheck with the great late Rico Rodriguez on trombone. Wafts of ganja smoke drifted out from the open door of the dressing room as the legendary trombonist warmed up on his instrument.
We were very nervous to be playing in front of a huge crowd of mods and Skinheads and ended up playing at nearly twice the tempo..Jerry Dammers was grinning at the side of the stage, encouraging us. We were on for about 25 minutes.
After a couple of numbers one of the youths at the front shouted”..Oi, what’s the name of the band?”..(the single wasn’t in the charts at this time)..James Johnstone ,guitarist,percussionist and keyboards player,leant forward and politely said “Pigbag”.. “What?..Pigshit?”

We were then met with chants of “PIGSHIT” after each number..I think they enjoyed it really though…

Copyright Ollie Moore

Chris Bostock Interview

May 29th, 2019

Here’s a link for a great interview with Chris Bostock (The X-Certs, The Stingrays, Joboxers)

https://www.buzzsprout.com/158544/1155065-episode-25-chris-bostock-joboxers-subway-sect-spiritual-cowboys-style-council?fbclid=IwAR3th6Wuy8qxFqsE8IxhG0-LzyfJlKGr_LrKdKm_J6CTvmEJ9D8TvOj6-TI

 

RIP- Brendan Whitmore

December 18th, 2018

Sad news.

Original line up Talisman Sax player Brendan Whitmore passed away last week.

Brendan was also one of the founding members of Revelation Rockers the band that proceeded Talisman (photo below (c) Brendan)

Brendan also formed and played with Baraka with Ben Baddoo

Our thoughts are with his family

Rockers1

 

Essential Bop

October 13th, 2018

Live album recorded in the USA about to be released in the digital format real soon

BopL

The Retrospect: The Early work of Alan Griffiths by John Ounsted

September 18th, 2018

1. The Tapes he left Behind

On 23rd March 2017 my close and cherished friend Alan Griffiths died after a short illness. A great shock to all those who knew him. The unexpectedness added to the sense of loss. Alan dead! He was only 57, the same age as me, and our friendship was part-based on sharing and exploring a fund of media memories–music, film, TV–stretching back to our 1960’s childhoods. I had known Alan since 1981, the year he launched his post-punk outfit The Escape, which extended the dark, brooding vibe of his previous band Apartment.

In the melancholy aftermath of his death, a large box of reel-to-reel tapes and two scrapbooks were recovered from the “House of Secrets”, (as he had once dubbed his long term address, a semi in Downend). The recordings had been left mouldering in the loft for nearly forty years. On studying these, I was able to piece together a picture of Alan’s early music, recorded prior to his published and better-known work in Apartment, The Escape and Tears for Fears.

For those who only knew the later Alan, that house was indeed keeping secrets: Alan mate, you never told me –or anyone else you met later—that Apartment started out as a four-piece…or that a lot of that band’s early (and very tasty) songs were co-written with the fourth guy! (A mystery man with a plain name who is hence difficult to locate now). And you were a bit stingy with the truth when talking to journalists of the time (1980 or so) about your musical tastes and influences, which seemed to be recently-acquired, and impeccably New-Wavy, ignoring or blanking the musical heritage of the sixties to mid-seventies.

…But then again, altering or omitting parts of your back story to suit the expectations of the time is creative in its own way- it’s called self-invention-although it plays hell with trying to work out your true musical history from this distance!

Anyway mate, the tapes reveal that you’d really absorbed loads of musical influences from childhood onwards, and even written/performed/produced in some of their styles—Blues, Power Pop, even Rockabilly–by the time you were 20. (One of the first recordings is a Gary Glitter cover!)…. The Punk shockwave jolted you into an altogether higher level of creativity, with attractive, memorable songs pouring out in profusion, and then a chill bleakness creeping over the work, soon becoming your trademark.

 

2. Some History; Alan, an introduction

So, Alan’s early work is full of surprises; he worked in a variety of styles, track-laying some intriguing and capacious songs, before, at 19, following a calling to the dark side of the New Wave. We’ll explore all this in the following history. We start in 1976…

Alan and Peter
Feb ’76: Soundwell Technical College, Bristol. Alan Ralph Griffiths (1959-2017) meets Peter Large (16 at the time) with whom he will work at length later. He recruits Drummer Richard Smith (18) and Bassist Kevin Prior, from advert in Virgin records. Band name, if any, unknown.

AG is gifted a Sony upright ¼ Inch stereo Tape Recorder, on which all subsequent recordings are done till approx. 1979. An important acquisition; His burgeoning production skills are now given full range in the tracks he creates on this non-pro, domestic machine. He can now do fully-produced songs (nearly) by track-bouncing. In this process, a drum pattern (say) is first laid down, then a bass guitar part is superimposed on it and the result re-recorded on the tape’s second track. This frees up the first track to record lead-guitar added to the first two instruments, and the process is repeated, bouncing the accumulating recording between the two tracks. (The disadvantage of this method is what’s called generational loss of quality, especially in the treble, meaning the cymbals may disappear, or have to be re-recorded. Another problem: the vocals are done last, and if the other instruments are already too “big”, the tape may then overload. Considering what he was up against, the boy Al done good, in many of the tracks to be discussed).

Alan The Explosion

Aug ’76: AG writes and records songs with Barry Toner, including the breezy, upbeat That’s You, the pub-rocky Don’t Harm Me, and three sorrowing, reflective numbers: Feeling I’ve Had, Save Yourself for Tomorrow, and Cry Little Girl (the latter a huge ten-minute slowie, starting with just ad-libbed vocals and [flat!] acoustic guitar…then building, with the drumkit picking up later). In Outside Room we hear a nimble guitar solo from the 17-year-old Alan. Some of the other tracks are clearly works in progress, and you can often hear AG barking terse comments, or demanding another take, as he finds his feet as a producer.

Oct ’76: Band splits.

Late ’76: 2nd Year Soundwell; Spare Ribbs: AG meets and recruits latterly-noted local bluesman John Fenlon (20) as frontman, whilst retaining RS, who introduces Rhythm Guitarist Colin Cheeseworth, (who doesn’t stick), also Nigel Bird (16) on Bass guitar.

Dec ’76-May’77: A Blues interlude for AG as he and JF co-write/record lots of songs, including Danger in the Night, The Needle, A Song called Punk and Chloe. Many are indeed bluesy, with striking lead vocals from JF–by far the best singer Alan works with in these early days. The songs are certainly very different from his later output, sometimes reminiscent of Free, Canned Heat, or even Mott the Hoople/Ian Hunter–a cover of Once Bitten, Twice Shy is amusingly waylaid trying to get the beginning “ELLO!” right. (John recalls long creative sessions in Alan’s bedroom/studio, refreshed with tea and beans-on-toast brought by Alan’s mother…and worrying about missing the last bus home!)

Spare Ribbs

Apr ’77: Rehearsal session in the basement of Biggles Music, Old Market, Bristol, considered important enough for photographs to be taken; these survive in a scrapbook. It may be just a rehearsal, but we see JF fronting vigorously, harmonica-honking and tambourine-rattling the while, whilst relatively impassive lead-guitarist AG, (in Francis Rossi waistcoat!), concentrates on his strumming.

Alan Spare Ribbs

June ’77: “My first gig!” writes AG in the scrapbook. He’s describing a Student Union “Rock Party” at the Granary. This had advance publicity in the Bristol Evening Post, courtesy of James Belsey, complete with quotes from JF, the band’s spokesman: “We’ve been trying to find ourselves for the last five months and now we’re ready to play in front of an audience. Our music is standard Rock and Roll, and we take a professional approach. If we weren’t prepared for this first show we wouldn’t do the gig”. Fading pix again show JF confidently struttin’ his stuff, with girls agog, and demure AG now sporting a peek-a-boo haircut—like Phil Oakey to come—but still with downcast eyes, dutifully attending to his fingering. He has a vocal mike, but at this stage looks comfortable just as lead- guitarist/backing singer. A backdrop says “Sweet Home Alabama” (Yes! It is 1977, after all!)

Alan Spare Ribbs Granary

 

Alan Spare Ribbs Granary

 

Alan Spare Ribbs Granary

 

Aug ’77: JF leaves Spare Ribbs. PL joins on Rhythm Guitar. A left-hooker, like AG.

Sept ’77: Change of name to The Godzilla Band, although AG and PL want The Mess. They play two gigs, then…..

Nov ’77: Retaining the Mess moniker, Alan and Pete strike out on their own, following fresh ideas. Ditching the Blues, these are much more in tune with the emerging New Wave. Some of their efforts are tuneful takes on formula scout-hut punk, a few frankly dreadful–and badly recorded too–but others show a lot more promise, revealing a new, sombre, desolate mood.

Between November and April, the boys write and record around 30 songs, including the fast and percussive Energy! –murderous to play, as drummer Emil now recalls; The Unwanted Blues, (with the great first line: I used to walk where I wanned, till they put up a CURFEW!); a big success crossing the Velvets with Talking Heads in the choppy The Book, The Table, and again, getting the David Byrne jitters in the yelps and ululations of Don’t Tell the Devil; never minding the Buzzcocks in the hard-driving Oh Shit! I think I’m in love! and Sign of the Times; playing Heads-Bodies-Legs with the words in the cut-up, pop-absurdist The Free World; two exhilarating spins through Sham 69 territory with Alive and Kicking and They Wanna be Us!; anticipating Tears for Fears with the brief, wistful An Hour, (a rare and attractive Griffiths ballad…quick…then gone, like the man himself. Somehow elegiac now, it explores a doomed, romantic side Alan never otherwise acknowledges); name-checking Mister Carl Perkins, Electric Guitar! in the totally unexpected, neo-Rockabilly All I want is Rock and Roll! Light, tight and pleasurable, with Alan in a rare sunny mood; nicking the same opening riff from the Jam (where it was already part-worn) for both Darby and Joan and Nymphomaniac; Geisha Delight, Alan’s obligatory teenage-boy-meets-tart-with-heart number; the epic and ambitious Shroud of Turin, a work he labours over through many revisions and, foreshadowing the vaulted darkness of the Escape, the layered, cavernous In Your Own Living Room.

Mostly lighter and poppier than he permitted his later works to be, many of these songs will form part of Alan’s set well into the Apartment days. Having reluctantly promoted himself to lead singer, he faces vocal challenges he can’t always meet—some of the near-octave intervals defeat him–but, as compensation, offers a growing confidence as a youthful fret-meister, with some soaringly articulate solos increasingly to the fore.

Apartment Setlist

Sept ’78: Bassman Richard White (19) recruited, through ad in Biggles Music. He introduces his friend Emil Joachim (17) on drums, and they combine with AG and PL to form Apartment. The multi-talented EJ is easily Alan’s longest-serving creative partner from this early period, lasting till Mar ’83. He not only provides precision, metronomic drumming, with superb dynamics, but collaborates on songwriting, and even creates graphics for posters and backdrops. Apartment rehearses in the garage of AG’s home in Downend, and plays many successful local gigs. Emil says that audiences seemed almost intimidated by the band, with Alan’s minimal between-song rapport adding an air of menace…which was exactly the intended effect. Starting out as a four-piece, Apartment present an anomalous appearance, with two left-handed guitarists. Studying b/w glossies of one of their gigs, we see that they don’t really look like a band. (Not unheard of, this, even amongst the big guys—think of the later Clash incarnations, or even 10CC). This all changes when…

The Apartment

 

Mar ’79: PL leaves the band. Years later, he was unkindly airbrushed, (or rather, cropped) out of the AG-authorised history of Apartment, as presented in the photos and text of the Compilation CD released in 2016. (Alan’s self-invention again). This cannot alter the fact that, early on, Apartment are highly-reliant on a number of AG/PL-penned numbers to fill out their set. (In all his early recordings, honest Al pays scrupulous attention to the writing credits; the tape boxes and lyric sheets provide ample handwritten evidence of Mr. Large’s co-authorship of many good songs; the late ’77-early ’79 boxes all say: “All songs written by Griffiths/Large”, with AG retaining the sole production credit. Also, he is always the lead singer).

Oct ’79: Apartment track The Alternative, a notable Griffiths/Large composition, included on nationally-noted compilation Avon Calling, produced by Simon Edwards.

 

The Alternative

 

Apartment

Dec ’79: Single The Car/Winter recorded at Crescent Studios, Bath; the B-side again a Griffiths/Large collaboration.

Early ’80: Steve Street (24), ex Europeans, temporarily joins on Bass, allowing RW to play Lead. Back to a 4-piece again! The band’s reputation gains them prestige support slots: they open for The Cure, and their performance is recalled as a triumph by all concerned, with encores demanded; they also support The Gang of Four.

Mid ’80: Apartment split. Musical differences, apparently. This has the predictable effect of blowing the considerable following they have built up since early ’79. Nonetheless, AG and EJ continue building a body of new material for their next joint venture, The Escape, which emerges, after a long gestation, in mid ’81. During this period they seek a new Bass player, and settle on Neil Acton. The new 3-piece band extends the Apartment ambience further into Gothy monochromatic darkness. Appropriately they all wear black.

The Escape

 

Sept ’81: Debut of The Escape at Trinity Hall, Bristol.

Alan’s subsequent career was well-documented by himself and others, both on this site and elsewhere. We now take a more detailed look at his newly-discovered mid-70’s output, relating it to his later work, where appropriate:

 

3. Al the auteur; recurrent themes/ideas/motifs, in the Griffiths oeuvre:

In Alan’s best work there is no narrative arc, no three-act structure. He points no moral; he declares his love for no-one. Instead, he aims for instantaneous euphony and sonority–the sonorities of his dark words, as they jostle and bed down, in grim conjunction. This is not to suggest the songs are random verbiage (except perhaps The Free World, noted earlier!); we notice repeated situations, perceptions, obsessions, from first to last; between 1977-80, Alan and his co-writers changed with the times, abandoning Teen Angst for Post Punk–moving from the light to deep shade. Hence the following paragraphs are in roughly chronological order, with some songs fitting into more than one category:

 

(i) Raw Teen Vitality/Angst/Ennui

Before we start, you might object that the above are the shop-worn subjects of many formula late-seventies punk lyrics, in which there was, even then, a hint (here comes the “i” word, sorry) of irony. I think that young Al (and Pete) sense this, so there’s often a droll, parodistic tone to their own lyrics, notably in songs like Alive and Kicking: We’re Alive and Kickin’,but we don’t know what to do!/We’re Alive and Kickin’, maybe we’ll kick you! and You say we ain’t got the manners/And we act like a bunch of spanners! Great rhyme boys, and the song is delivered with manic speed, and punctuated with machine-gun drum-fills. Likewise, They Wanna be Us! makes the hackneyed contrast between They (presumably anyone over 25) and Us (beautiful, feckless, dynamic youth). Good guitar solo though. But, in the already-noted The Unwanted Blues, Alan clouds over, lamenting: I used to walk where I wanned, till they put up a Curfew!… and, in The Book, The Table, he glumly reflects: What a vacuum/my life has become! The title tells all in another song: Why Can’t I be Like I used to be? Then, like the adolescent he is, he brightens up again for the much more upbeat Energy!, breathlessly boasting: Energy! I have an abundance of Energy! With muscles at full-stretch, and go-faster spin! which indeed he has, in a stunning performance from himself and the entire band, well caught by Al the boy producer—a rockin’ Succes d’Estime.

 

(ii) Blocked/Thwarted Relationships, Unrequited Love

These figure in several songs, like I’m X, The Unwanted Blues, Just to Carry On, and Lady, Lady. Alan hardly ever wrote a simple, declarative love song, the prominent exception being the beautiful An Hour, but even that seems somehow overtaken and then brought low by tristesse, notably in the brief, mournful guitar solo, and the piece’s overall minor key.

 

(iii) Anticipatory/Clairvoyant song titles

Alan, with various collaborators, wrote songs with the following titles: Sign of the Times, Hello, this is London Calling, In the City, The Free World, etc …….you’ve probably guessed what I’m going to say next.Yup, written in the seventies, they all pre-date their more famous namesakes–or near-namesakes–sometimes by years. I guess this is not uncommon with any musician or band, but here, the coincidences pile up–was Alan psychic?

 

(iv) Quirky/Enigmatic/Gloomy Lyrics

A Liquid likes to be in a Bubble/An Arsonist likes to be amongst Rubble! A disturbing couplet, spotted in the middle of All I Want is Rock and Roll, otherwise one of Alan’s sprightliest numbers.

…And if she hangs her flesh/Around the body’s crown… from An Hour. A sensual but ambivalent image, showing that Alan could write sexy, when he wanted to. From the same song: The Ark is docking/ On the wings of a Dove…. Sung on a rising inflection.

As previously remarked, the shadowed work, either desolate or entombed, started in Alan’s middle period, reaching its maturity in the Apartment and Escape days. From Third Floor: When I walk/And touch the walls/Feeling the depth/In what calls/ There’s some kind of Third Floor/ A lost cabaret… A lost cabaret– an image worthy of Poe, suggesting a long-ago-walled-up revelry, now sealed from our eyes…but with the doomed and skeletal celebrants still continuing a private Danse Macabre.

From Eden: Your umbrellas of Torture/Hang over me everywhere. This caused chuckles at the time, but it’s a striking image. Also, from the same song, and going up a scary octave on the final word: She laughed, exploded politely, and SAID….

From Silent Running (A slow, gothy, sleep-walky number, with a title borrowed from a film): Crumbled Faces/In a silk-screen net/ They’re…Silently runnin’/ Never forget! There’s a Bauhaus feel to these verses–Germanic, low-key–maybe recalling Marlene Dietrich movies?

Winter is…how I feel… the final line of from Winter.

 

(v) Religious Imagery

For a non-churchy young man, Alan seems to have frequent, almost damascene, visions and revelations. He is racked by these experiences, which assail him again and again: he goes to church on Sunday, (until he gets thrown out of the club)…sees Jesus on his cross….steals the Holy Shroud of Turin…. ….. and even, in the later, Escape days, presumes to enter Eden, but is then not impressed: It stinks! apparently. Thoroughly dissillusioned, he then asks: Do you believe in Heaven, or are you… prepared to wait? Earlier, he [Ran] with the tablets, Oh Moses would be proud/ Contradicting the King is just not allowed! Oh, God help a man/ Help this man to be! he pleaded. But now, An Agreement with Heaven/Is way out of hand/All the sages have quit/The promised land! Even the earlier, four-square The Book, the Table feels religioso, if only for its title. (Does he mean the good Book?) The same applies to the much lighter, attractively-poppy Christian Thing Christian: Christian thing, Christian man/ You die laughing, I just die. Did Alan covet the certainty of resurrection, and hence envy the devout?

Moving on, and down, (way down), Alan also has things to say about the hot place, and its proprietor. Hell is sometimes threatened as a punishment, and Old Nick himself appears at least twice: The Devil wants to steal your soul/ But all I want is Rock ‘n’ Roll! And Don’t tell the Devil/He sees you at night/ Don’t tell the Devil/He hates the electric light! (A wondrous couplet…but what could it mean?)

The Apartment

 

(vi) Death

I’ve left this till last, as we all do. Roughly a third of Alan’s songs theme-or at least, mention-death. Did he have premonitions of his own early departure? Away from the mixing-desk, (or writing table), and back in propria persona, Alan would talk, now and again, about the premature deaths of his father and grandfather, and make blackly-humorous remarks about what that might mean for him. He was told not to be so morbid, (which one regrets now) and anyhow, he didn’t seem prone to brooding over it.

Nonetheless, very early on, White Cliffs of Dover (1976) features the ruminations of a young man contemplating suicide, (as does Poison, a later, Apartment song) and Cry Little Girl, also from ‘76, mentions the death of the title girl’s father. Death, by name or implication, also features in the later Don’t Tell the Devil, Separate Beds for Lovers, The Alternative, Lately, The Desperation, Stony Ground, Christian Thing Christian, and The Road to Limbo. From the Escape days, we can also add I’ll Pretend to Kill You, and The Retrospect.

 

4. Turn the last page; Summing up

Alan had a forty year span as a musician, creating, playing, recording, singing; first as amateur enthusiast, then landing a contract on a big label and turning pro. Later, as a session guitarist-and writer-producer with a major, internationally-acclaimed act. Finally, as the money went out of writing and selling original music, he turned Sound-Designer for TV (notably CSI) and for film trailers, keeping several Terabytes of audio samples in three hot disc-drives in his tiny studio, assembling them on a virtual desk, then sending the finished files to remote US studios via the web.

From his teens, he was interested in music production, teaching himself the rudiments of mike placement, overdubbing, getting levels and EQ right, as well as arbitrating squabbles between band members! Between 1976-8 he and two different co-writers turned out upwards of 50 songs, tackling many diverse genres, often coming up with catchy, attractive works. His musical tastes (Queen, 10CC, even Supertramp) were conventional for that time. A very different time. But his most characteristic work, wherein he felt most truly at home, and in which he would most like to have succeeded commercially, came a bit later. It’s the Alan of this period I first met and now remember most fondly. The lean, gaunt, esurient guy, looking every bit the suburban Sid Vicious in some shots—but with carefully-crafted quiff—scowling at the camera in the approved way whilst a pic was snapped…before relaxing and breaking into a smile again—that lovely smile—when the camera was down. But maybe this amiable appearance masked an inner creative turmoil, or even, a double life…Alan’s songs of this time conjure up a bleak, malevolent milieu, a dank and grey landscape, with nihilism and pain to the fore, violence and war frequent, alienation rampant, and interpersonal negotiation and settlement quite impossible. Where God is in abeyance, and not taking calls. A world in which death seems an attractive alternative, a merciful evasion.

…..All of which is odd, as the imaginings of a smiling, waggish son of North-East Bristol, who never outgrew his love of Thunderbirds, (and retro TV, generally). No misanthrope he, Alan maintained a wide circle of friends, (surprisingly unknown to each other until after he left us), but united by a common knowledge of music–either as player, producer, or simple enthusiast–or of film and TV history and technique. Alan brooked no ignorance; you wouldn’t survive long as a Griffiths “disciple” without knowing your stuff. Alan himself was a self-taught artist-naif who seldom opened a book, but his great, untutored creativity flowed from life to art with the casual ease of an amiable strum.

…So, now the house has given up all its secrets, and stands blank, gutted and For Sale. And you’re standing, (or lying) still, Al, in a plot in Downend. We all stood still when you left us. But we remember to mention you…from tapes you left behind.

 

John Ounsted, 10/9/18, with thanks to Emil Joachim, John Fenlon, Mike Darby, Steve Street, Dave Massey, Marcus Valentine, Brother Andy… and with love to Alan. I hope his life’s not a blur in retrospect……… Merci le Livre, Merci la Table.

Postscript: Mr Large looms large over Alan’s middle period, and is still at large now. Pete, if you read this piece, please make contact, I’d like to talk to you about Alan. (Ditto other guys from mid 70’s Soundwell days).

The Retrospect: The Early work of Alan Griffiths by John Ounsted

September 11th, 2018
  • The Tapes he left Behind
  •  
  • On 23rd March 2017 my close and cherished friend Alan Griffiths died after a short illness. A great shock to all those who knew him. The unexpectedness added to the sense of loss. Alan dead! He was only 57, the same age as me, and our friendship was part-based on sharing and exploring a fund of media memories–music, film, TV–stretching back to our 1960’s childhoods. I had known him since 1981, the year he launched his post-punk outfit The Escape, which extended the dark, brooding vibe of his previous band Apartment.In the melancholy aftermath of his death, a large box of reel-to-reel tapes and two scrapbooks were recovered from the “House of Secrets”, (as he had once dubbed his long term address, a semi in Downend). The recordings had been left mouldering in the loft for nearly forty years. On studying these, I was able to piece together a picture of Alan’s early music, recorded prior to his published and better-known work in Apartment, The Escape and Tears for Fears.For those who only knew the later Alan, that house was indeed keeping secrets: Alan mate, you never told me –or anyone else you met later—that Apartment started out as a four-piece…or that a lot of that band’s early (and very tasty) songs were co-written with the fourth guy! (A mystery man with a plain name who is hence difficult to locate now). And you were a bit stingy with the truth when talking to journalists of the time (1980 or so) about your musical tastes and influences, which seemed to be recently-acquired, and impeccably New-Wavy, ignoring or blanking the musical heritage of the sixties to mid-seventies.…But then again, altering or omitting parts of your back story to suit the expectations of the time is creative in its own way- it’s called self-invention-although it plays hell with trying to work out your true musical history from this distance!Anyway mate, the tapes reveal that you’d already absorbed loads of musical influences from childhood onwards, and even written/performed/produced in some of their styles—Blues, Power Pop, even Rockabilly–by the time you were 20. (One of the first recordings is a Gary Glitter cover!)…. The Punk shockwave jolted you into an altogether higher level of creativity, with attractive, memorable songs pouring out in profusion, and then a chill bleakness creeping over the work, soon becoming your trademark.

 

Full story coming very soon…………………    

06_Spare Ribbs_Granary                 

Bristol thrashers Herb Garden celebrate 30th anniversary

September 11th, 2018

1 HG ep pic2xLegendary Bristol prog-thrashers Herb Garden make a rare appearance at The Exchange, Old Market on Friday, 14 September 2018 – their first live gig in 10 years!

‘Herb Garden: 30 years of stinking riffs and pure manure’ sees the Bristol act hit the stage on Friday 14 September, supported by youthful upstarts Milo’s Planes. Doors open at 7.30pm and advice from those close to Herb Garden is: ‘don’t miss this rare show!’

Emerging from deep in Bristol’s thrash-punk rockery, Herb Garden will celebrate three decades years since their first forays into the riff-pits of the late ‘80s hardcore-punk scene. Plus, it was in 1988 they released their first, eponymously-titled 12” EP. And you’re invited. But they weren’t really hardcore right? They sometimes put fans in a punky blue funk or caused a psychedelic flashback.

Who can forget the chorus of Bulldozer Jones, the twin guitar riffing of Sunburn, the purple daze of Convicted Man, or the intense drum battery of Ice Cream Man? These chaps, that’s who! But fear not – they’ve got their heads together, printed the words out, pumped some iron, and learned the songs!

This follows FOUR years of coaxing and persuading band members out of early retirement, to take the stage and follow up the 2014 release of ‘Herb Garden Quartet’ – their first album in 20 years!

Famous for ‘not being very famous’, their excellent European rock-tours, and for Carl giving birth to a garden gnome live onstage (by Caesarean), the Herbs had a five-minute flirtation with rock stardom when their crunchy Warner Bros album Destructive Natural Agent fell slightly short of the Top 100. Staunchly independent ever after (i.e. they split up), this once-in-a-Keith-Moon appearance by our ‘mad Muppets on raver-fuel’ guarantees to “muck out your mojo, thump you in the gizzard, then kiss your mind” according to singer Carl.

Carl, Dave, Ben, Rat, Phil, and conga Martin, invite music fans to help them bump-start the band’s Red Van! Expect free tea, ‘Garden patches, artisan vinyls, download codes for the remasters, and … politely British, Brexit-questioning hugs!

The show is aided and abetted by the fine and dandy Milo’s Planes whose post-hardcore, guitar-driven capers grasp the older generation’s punk baton and tells them in no uncertain terms where to shove it! Let’s all share the lovage!

Notes for editors:

  • Herb Garden appear onstage at The Exchange, Old Market, Bristol on Friday 14 September 2018. Doors open at 7.30pm. Tickets are £6 in advance and £8 on the door. Support band is Bristol suave-punks Milo’s Planes.
  • Listing/ tickets: Exchange event
  • Social media: Facebook event

 

Kevin McFadden – Misdemeanor – RIP

July 17th, 2018

Misdemeanor Pics_0002

Kevin passed away at his home in Bristol on the 1st July. He fronted Misdemeanor who were big news in Bristol in the 1980′s

Misdemeanor 1979 – 1988

Formed in 1979 from the ashes of Vitus Dance the line-up was Kev McFadden, Bob Watson, Steve Capaldi and Kieren Wright. They were under XTC’s management team, Ian Reed and Dennis Detheridge.

They were the first rock band to play at The Bristol Bridge Inn in March 1982. Traditionally a ‘Jazz’ pub the crowd walked out after the first few numbers! They soon built up a following and played there three or four times a month for the next couple of years counting Bananarama amongst their audience.

They attracted particular interest from local BBC Radio DJ’s Al Reed and Andy Westgate who gave them regular airplay. This resulted in a management deal with Dennis Shehan who also managed Iggy Pop, was a festival organiser and U2′s tour manager. Through Dennis they were taken under the wing of Steve Todd from the Wasted Talent Agency who were promoting most of the biggest bands worldwide and offering Misdemeanour support slots.

They parted company with Dennis in 1986 and advertised for a manager in NME. The ad was answered by Mark Handy who arranged gigs in Paris and launched a supporters club with over 2000 members.

Regrettably, their recorded material never lived up to their live performances. They were disappointed with their appearance on the BBC T.V programme ‘R.P.M’ in February 1981 where they felt that the set had no atmosphere. It resulted in a falling out between Steve and Keiren which resulted in Keiren being thrown out of the band. He was replaced by Kev’s brother on drums but the band never seemed to recapture their old sparkle and fire.

At the time, being managed by Dennis seemed like a great opportunity, but they later discovered that he had turned away Press and A & R interest as he was concentrating his efforts on U2. One of their biggest regrets is that the offer of a tour of the South Coast of America with R.E.M never materialised. Despite the band having made the offer personally, Dennis cancelled without their knowledge as he didn’t consider it of benefit!

Oh what might have been…….

 

Link: http://bristolarchiverecords.com/bands/Misdemeanor.html

 

The Bristol Recorder 4 – Stock has arrived

March 19th, 2018

Created with Nokia Smart Cam