The most immediate memory I have of the Gene Tryp, is supporting Husker Du at the Marquee. We’d played the Marquee quite a few times before, certainly with the Icicle Works. But to support a band who meant so much to me was a dream come true.
I can clearly recall hanging out with them in the dressing room back stage, asking all sorts of questions, some really dumb(“hey Bob, is Greg gay?”) and some technical, about Bob Mould’s fiery guitar sound.
As we finished sound checking I spotted two beautiful blondes that I knew, through the glass entrance doors, standing right at the front of the queue. I knew that the gig was sold out(I think we usually got £17 for a support there in ’85-’86, but recall we got a tenner bonus as the gig was sold out! Oooh-Weee!!!) so I started pleading with Husker Du’s road manager, trying to bribe him with a big bag of weed I had. “Dude, why do I need that? We’re going to Amsterdam tomorrow!”
But being a very nice chap, he relented and let the Gurls in.
Husker Du were phenominal live. And their audience were very kind to us, although all the “liggers”, the music industry guest list-ers, actually out numbered the paying punters!
Musical influence wise, I have to reiterate some of what Paul has said. The Accidents were very New Wave and quite clever. With the Gene Tryp I wanted to wear all of my musical tastes on my sleeve. I’d loved the Ramones since ’76, and the US hardcore Punk scene( Adrenalin O.D., Elvis Hitler, the Meatmen, Condemned to Death) seemed like their bastard sons, although I still thought the Brudders were the Top Cats.
The Stooges and the New York Dolls had to get thrown into the gumbo, as did the Who and other English Freak beat bands, where I’d acquired my love of power chords and guitar feed back, along with Jimi Hendrix of course.
We’d also loved the Paisley Underground scene, from the Salvation Army, to the Three O’clock, to the Rain Parade and the Long Riders, courtesy of my dear old friend Spazom. That untapped psychedelic Goldmine of the 60’s was being checked out by our Californian cousins, and we were re-ingesting it through them.
I also loved Jesus and Mary Chain, the guitar feedback(I love that!), the Wall of Spector sound and the moaning stoned vocals, delicious. And they did “Vegetable Man” by Syd Barrett, enough already!
I said to Paul and Mark that I wanted the Tryp to sound like The Beatles playing like Motorhead, with better guitar sounds, and Byrdsian vocal harmonies. Think we may have achieved that once or twice. I also wanted the band to look like the Bastard sons of Gene Vincent, our Hamburg look if you will, Winklepickers, black leather trousers, and black leather motorcycle jackets, the ultimate Rock’n’Roll cool.
To try and describe our actual sound live is difficult for me, in as much as I felt very aloof,(and often quite high) like I was in some sort of Shamanistic trance on stage. Seriously!
Mark had always had that Hendrix influence and edge, so his solos were very off the wall and unpredictable. Whilst he totally rocked out, his playing could be very subtle and gentle, his finger picking style second to none. And his singing voice was very sweet, almost a Hendrix/George Benson hybrid. His song writing skills weren’t shabby either, and he also had the ability to pen a pretty far out lyric.
Paul really came into his own as a guitar player in the Tryp, though of course in the Americans he’d stretched out, but with Mark as his ever dependable foil he could really fly. His soloing could be very off the map too, but I think his standard would have been George Harrison circa “Revolver” era, with a hearty dash of Roger Mcquinn Raja drone, a la “Eight miles High”. I was continually amazed by Paul’s playing, the guy is a natural talent, just like Mark.
And not for nothing did Elvis Costello describe Paul as “one of the better song writers of his generation”.
Kev and Tex were a great rhythm section, bendy but solid and fierce. And of course we all sang, so with my vocals up front(and Pauls too, from time to time) I had a formidable, never- less -than two part harmony backing.
So I suppose you could say we achieved that Byrds/Beach Boys vocal thang, thick and full.
And if you can imagine Jimi and George jamming over a rocking and determined bass and drums, with Lennon on vocals, and the Byrds on backing vocals, not necessarily stoned, but beautiful, you may be half way there!
We were a pretty hip name in London for a time, our shining five minutes.
And thanks to Jim Wallace’s connections and convincings, the Tryp played a lot of gigs. We played Unis, Polytechnics and colleges, which were a gas, and the money and rider always good. Not that there ever seemed to be a lack of alcohol, and when we were touring with the Icicle Works, if we drank our rider, well hey, theirs was ours for the taking- whilst they were on stage! We made up new words for their excellent “Hollow Horse” single, “We’ll meet at the bar, when all the free lager fades away”! Actually, they were always very kind, and shared their food and booze with us. It’s great that Chris Sharrock, their drummer, is now with Oasis, he’s a lovely chap and a superb player.
Aside from the Marquee,we played all the other London venues of ill repute. The Mean Fiddler(I’ve got a great picture in my head of the ‘Works doing “For what it’s worth”(by Buffalo Springfield) in a sound check there, with the tv being projected on the screen behind them, showing footage of the Brixton riots) Dingwalls, Ronnie Scotts, Alice in Wonderland(dear old Gossips in Dean street, where the Accidents once had a residency, given a psychedelic make over by Doctor from the Medics, with an outrageous brothel next door!) the Spread Eagle in Camden(which I remember being a total gas, a hip venue with lots of good looking, cooly dressed people, no wonder Oasis were well received there a short time later) and once, the mighty Walthamstow assembly hall, were we supported the Icicle Works. A wonderful old venue, with fountains and ponds, and Roman pillars at the front, very regal.
When we showed up at a gig, it was like the Leningrad Cowboys had swung into town.
As the door of our tour bus opened we emerged, all Black leather and winklepickers, through a cloud of blue smoke and a rolling carpet of empty beer cans, staggering towards the back stage and the rider.
Of course, there were cranky times.
Nigel’s bus dying on us en route to a gig in Portsmouth or some such. And the following stressful head spin of getting to the gig on time, and sound checking, and doing the “Mak shau”.
Me being so drunk I fell off stage, and to have Jim and the Tryp disown me, and all the guilt that went with that.
But I think I can say with hand on heart, the shite times were few. And I do feel some ridiculous pride in our legacy, and these recordings.
I have to give mention to the man who engineered and nurtured our sound, Pete Reynolds. We did our first ever demos as the Accidents with him in 1977.
Pete was as mad as a March hare on Crack, but really knew his way around the studio. He also had the 16 track Studer tape machine which, as legend has it, the Pink Floyd recorded the “Ummagumma” album on. His studio had originally been mobile, but the truck with the mixing desk, Studer and all the hardware had seemingly “crashed” in his back yard.
There was a sound room and sound booth inside the house. When we recorded our last demos there, we crammed as many speaker cabs into the booth as we could, told Mark to crank his Marshall amp up as far as it would go( we had another valve amp linked as a pre amp to the Marshall) and when it came time to play the solo in “She steps out of the picture” told to him to go crazy! And sure enough Mark came up with this phenomenal noise, which I thought was bloody brilliant.
“We’ll have to do it again”, said Mark, “the lead came out of my guitar!”.
The sound he’d produced, that I’d loved, was the sound of the jack plug of his guitar lead falling on the floor, all be it through a ton of effects and amplification, fantastic! And ofcourse we kept it.
We loved putting strange stuff all over our recordings, voices, movie clips, cut ups from wierd ads, sound collages. Scratching was set to go mainstream at that point in Rock’n’Roll history, and again via Spaz I’d picked up on that, as had Paul and Jed.
I once recorded a girlfriend having an orgasm and stuck that in the bridge of “ETA”.
Culturecide, a band I suppose who were the early pioneers of mash up, were an influence for me. And all the noises added to the psychedelic level of the music.
We did try the taped noises thing live once or twice, and probably because it was a pain technically back then, it simply didn’t happen.
I’d have to say, I don’t think there were any other bands doing anything remotely similar to us at the time. We were completely out of step with the eighties, which if we are honest, was pallid and bland.
As Lou Reed says in the Velvet Underground song “Rock’n’Roll”, “there was nothing going down at all”. Although I did love the Screaming Blue Messiahs, and the ‘Works were pretty cool, and did a little homage to us, the single “Understanding Jane”
Our audiences tended to be fairly Punky, although at some of the colleges we played, we had a very mixed Rock type audience, who I think were pretty knocked out by Mark and Paul’s virtuosity. Because we gigged extensively we were very tight, and had a lot of musical telepathy between us. When we eventually started to get a reputation in London, our audiences were very loyal, and pretty crazy too. Smallwallet always managed to get the front row slamming!
Speaking of whom, I also want to mention one of our roadies who has sadly long since shed this mortal coil, God bless him, Grahame Smallwallet. Of course his name wasn’t really Smallwallet, and his wallet wasn’t particularly small. His name came from his reluctance to pay for a round of drinks.
Grahame was our back line roadie, along with Big Nigel, our driver(who was also the bass player from Beachcoma, the band the Surf Rats evolved from). They were, it has to be said, very fast. And brilliantly efficiant. Grahame was distinguished by having the biggest, blackest Mowhawk hairdo. He said he had to hang upside down in preparation, and empty at least one can of hairspray onto it. He was a real sweet, funny guy, a kind of functional/dysfunctional mascot for us if you will, even though the sound of his grinding teeth used to drive us all crazy in the wee hours on the way back from Wales or somesuch. Sadly his space ship crashed. But he’s still remembered with a lot of love and smiles, and I hope he’s going to roadie for me when I do my last big tour, beyond the wall of sleep.
We were a team, a gang, we made a f**k off noise. We loved and respected each other, and fitted together like a f**ked up jigsaw, guitars to the fore.
As the man said, bang your maidenhead, and bring the glorious noise.