We recorded the album at Stage one studios , in Forest gate, in London. I remember the shop front above the studio had a grand piano sitting in it. The studio was in the basement, and we had to hump our gear down several flights of stairs. From the 2nd til the 9th of June 1980 we diligently played take after take, for the benefit of an engineer known only as “Pete”, an snooty Coke head, with little empathy to our cause. He thought himself an “engineer/producer”, and we were the lowly junior band, even tho’ by that point we’d played hundreds of gigs, and seen the best and the worst side of every conceivable type of audience. I’m not sure if it was designed to rake every last penny from the Plastic Fantastic coffers, but he made us play up to 27 takes of certain songs, which completely destroyed any spontaneity our playing may have had, and tempers got frayed. June was hot that year, it was arduous work, but because we were committed and highly motivated we took it on the chin and did our best. And as the studio cost £50 an hour, a lot of money for those times, we were keen to get on, and bang the album down.
We all felt somewhat overwhelmed by the studio, and the situation we found ourselves in. We were making an album, we had a record deal! We felt we’d almost got there, almost made it, and this was our big chance and we were happy to comply with whatever the money people asked. Henry did his level best, as always, to make us as comfortable as possible in a rather restricting environment. It simply wasn’t right, we knew our sound, we knew our songs, and yet Pete, who was a poor communicator at best(especially to a deaf person like myself!)was calling the shots. I felt like I was intruding in his studio!
After the ordeal of the backing tracks, things got lighter and the overdubs came easy. Mark and Paul were just brilliant, virtually every take they did was faultless, and Nick did a sterling job on his backing vocals and bass. We had another musician on the album, Martin “Oats” Wheatley. Oats was a bud from Colchester institute, and lived in Belle Vue road, near East station, a derelict housing project,whose electricity had been reconnected by a Christian charity. The street was basically falling down, but was squatted in. Martin played lead guitar in the Gremlins, a Surf/Punk band I mentioned in my Pirates piece. We’d jammed with the Gremlins when we were still a 3 piece, playing stuff like “I can hear the grass grow” by the Move and regularly got fried with them via “hot knives”! Colin Murray lived across the street, as did the lovely Rachel Wrigley. I was close to Martin, I loved his musical tastes, his Buddhist attitude and his sublime sense of humour. He was a brilliant musician, and excelled on pretty much any instrument you could mention, especially guitar, piano and sax. Also Tony Beech lived in Oats’ house, the prime mover in the Rest, now a member of http://www.thepewkeband.co.uk/ . We thought Tony was a bit old, but he had a phenomenal record collection, lots of great 60’s singles, including some prime Yardbirds. Oats liked to play his cranky Peter Sellers 1o inch records on Tony’s system, hysterically funny when you’ve just been sucking on a cardboard tube over a gas ring! And the Accidents were front row for the Gremlins Pirates support slot at Woods, Thursday the 29th of June, 1978. I loved them, finally a local Surf band, way before the Surf Rats tho’ more akin to the Barracudas in their style. And they skateboarded onto the stage!
Oat’s sublime sax playing turned mine and Paul’s Punky Ska chop “Puss in boots” into a pre Dexy’s soul stomp, his three part overdubs sounded incredible, tho’ there was a touch of the “Bilks” in his solo! And on the Will/Paul penned “Peking”, Oats’ sax gave the eastern flavour we needed, and for once Pete did a great job with the FX. Oats’ piano playing on “It’s Nature” was heavenly, a rolling, languid piece. And it’s his Lennon-esque harmonica playing on “She’s leaving here tonight”, giving it that Sixties R’n’B rave up feel at the end.
Mark did his best to emulate Alex Chilton’s “Radio city” jangle and sheen(with his obligatory Hendrix references, i.e. Trigger Happy). I tried to channel Paul Jones, John Leyton and Elvis Costello, and when we weren’t busy being the Beatles, we dreamt of being as cool as the Flamin’ Groovies. It was held together with a wing and a prayer, but we made it through all the bullshit. And amazingly, 31 years later it still still holds up, catchy and Beatle-eque, funny and charming.
After we’d finished the album, we continued to gig, tho’ perhaps not as intensely as before. We did showcases, colleges, and amongst other name London venues the then obligatory Rock Garden in Covent Garden. After a gig there with Switzerland’s answer to the Slits, Lilliput, in October that year, the priceless Fender 2×12″ speaker cabinet that I used was stolen. I was gutted, as was Jed, the owner. And amazingly that’s been the only time in my whole life I’ve had a piece of equipment taken from a gig.
We played Ronnie Scott’s upstairs, which was a gas, and also in Soho, Gossip’s, in Dean street, where we gigged on and off in regular intervals across 1980(and then with the Gene Tryp in the mid Eighties, when it was re named “Alice in Wonderland” by Doctor and the Medics). I can’t recall which date it was, perhaps the first, but as we pulled up at the back of Gossip’s, in a street with a terrace of three story Victorian houses, a very odd sight met our eyes. In the bay window on the ground floor of the house next door stood a very dark skinned woman, dressed in leather fetish wear, holding and provocatively playing with a big leather bullwhip! It was obviously something we’d never seen before, a brothel. I remember getting out of the van rather sheepishly, hoping we wouldn’t attract the good lady’s attention! At the start of the evening at most of the gigs there, the audience mainly comprised of streetwalkers, who were friendly, funny types, several of whom were absolutely gorgeous.
Then in the early Autumn Jackie magazine(the 1970’s equivalent of Seventeen)offered us a feature, with us as the cover stars. There was also talk of me getting work with their sister magazine, Photo love, a kindof romantic cartoon comic, except there weren’t cartoons, but photos with captions, very surreal! But hey, some people will do anything for money……plus I figured we’d garner a heck of a teenybopper following. Sadly no one can remember, but the photographer for the sessions was either Grahame Douglas’s brother(he of Eddie and the Hot Rods infamy)or a close relative, an up and coming Rock’n’Roll snapper at the time.
I don’t recall when, tho’ I believe it was in the Autumn of 1980, Plastic Fantastic, the company who financed the album, went bust. To say we were deflated and disappointed would be a massive understatement. We’d worked so hard for four years, in various incarnations, and we did believe in each other . Trouble was, aside from our brilliant and wonderful fans, the music industry obviously didn’t. And I suppose that was the point where we fragmented further. Mark and I wanted to soldier on, Paul and Nick wanted a fresh start. To quote Henry from the Detour sleeve notes “the final date the Accidents ever played was at the Top Alex, in Southend, on the 28th of November 1980. It was a piss poor gig and we got £30 between the 5 of us. On a freezing cold night, pouring with rain, we wearily packed the gear away, and altho’ no one said it, we all knew it was the end. The dream had been shattered.”
Mark and I limped along with another version of the band, but the magic had gone, and although we played several excellent gigs, it simply didn’t happen. I was asked to front the Flying Heroes in the Autumn of 1981, that began another musical adventure for me. But wait, what’s that monster noise on the event horizon……?
And as a special treat for all you Hot dogging Accidents fans out there, he’s an alternative version of “Kiss me on the Apocalips” album……