When Nick Smith joined the band in 1979, the chemistry within it changed quite dramatically. Most of our Punk edges had been smoothed off by then, and we were now “New Wave”, adding Elvis Costello to our list of major influences, along with the Groovies, the Beatles and Big Star. Nick is a very amusing chap, a more than adequate songwriter, a great bassist, and was a delight to work with. Our sound and our songwriting took several steps up the evolutionary ladder with his presence. It got very serious and we were convinced we were contenders for major success. But it also meant we fractioned, with Mark and I in one corner, and Paul and Nick in another. It had to happen, we took the side and felt comfortable with our respective friends, that we’d all grown up with. Yet we functioned well as a team, and poked our “15 minutes” as hard as we could.
Henry was young and inexperienced as a manager, but his passion for the band held him in good stead. And once he took the reins proper he was unstoppable, and we became one of the most gigged band on the circuit. See http://www.boredteenagers.co.uk/PUNK GIGS.htm
It seems incredible now, but there were times when we’d play four times a week, mostly in London, which was probably the best way for any young band to learn their chops, to pay their dues.
I can’t remember why we chose Spaceward, but I recall it being trendy at the time in an Indie kind of way. And had we have known it’s heritage at the time, we’d have been even more excited! So it was we ventured to Cambridge on the 9th of October 1979 to record our first single “Blood spattered with guitars” a song that we’d been inspired to write after a gig at the Duke of Lancaster, in Barnet. We were playing to a minimal crowd, with a few eager Punks standing at the front, desperate to get off. I was playing the trusty Zenta Telecaster copy, as modified by Mr Mulville. At some point I hit a massive power chord and chopped the quick on the index finger of my right hand. Unbeknown to me then, I started bleeding rather profusely, which obviously excited the Punkers in the front row who started pogo-ing furiously. I couldn’t figure why until we came off stage(which was more like a glorified drum riser)and looked down at my “blood pitted white guitar”, which for all intents and purposes looked like something Leatherface would have played had there been a band in Texas chainsaw massacre!
Paul put a Big Star type intro together(the word “dags” being suggested by Henry’s then Aussie girlfriend as a substitute for the Shakespearean explicative Paul originally used)then Mark gave it some L6S raunch, and away we went, all Psychedelic, Punky and Rockin’, with a bit of Dub Reggae influence in the middle 8. Gary Lucas was a most agreeable chap, and I remember the whole session being relaxed and creative, tho’ the only vivid bit that’s left in my memory bank is the final mixdown, realising some of the fabulous overdubs Mark had done peaked on the bottom end, causing a big bass zoom at one point(the bit that wobbles your speakers when you play the vinyl single) tho’ the digital master seems to rectify that. But we’d done it, with help from our family and friends we’d made our first single!!!
Click the link for a free download of the single……
Henry got busy, and managed to catch the ear of John Peel, who promptly made “Blood” his single of the week. In my local pub, the Queen’s head on the quay in Maldon, the landlord Butts Yardley, an old mate of my Pa’s, agreed he’d put our single on the jukebox. Trouble was, it had a hard centre with no punch out on the label. No probs says Butts, we’ll file a hole with a cylindrical sharpening stone……and several hours later we were ready to rock! Though sadly I don’t think the hole was quite central, which meant the intro sounded a little wobbley, ah well, it was a gas having the single on the jukebox of my local pub!
We felt part of the DIY Punk ethos, the part that said anyone could pick up a guitar and play, anyone could write songs, and with help and a little financing release their own single. A two fingered gesture to the bloated monster that was the music industry then. A taking back of the power, and giving it to the little guys.
With Peel’s endorsement at least we were hip in the eyes of the Punk/Indie faction, and with a ton more gigs under our belt we were determined that 1980 would be our year. In the Spring, when Henry announced that Plastic Fantastic were going to finance and release our first album, we were over the moon!