Sky Tv are showing a series of films about Sheffield and the Sheffield music scene of the 1980s.You can read more about the documentary here http://www.thebeatisthelaw.com/ but in a blog post only marginally related to work (go straight to www.lmmuk.com or to this page if you want to read about party bands , bands for weddings or DJs) I thought I would share my thoughts of the era.
I was around in Sheffield playing in bands and out clubbing pretty much every night during this period….indeed I was working at Sheffields notorious Pinstone Street HMV as described by co-worker Richard Hawley (ex of the Long Pigs and Tree Bound Story) in detail in the film although the way he describes taking off a Stock,Aitkin and Waterman loop tape to put on a hip hop 12″ single (a story I have also read in several print interviews) has got a little exaggerated over the years and I have reason to believe was influenced by a similar scene in the movie Hi Fidelity!Truthfully everyone who worked in the shop would sneak the pop pap off the decks and put something decent on at any given opportunity.I remember playing the re release of Sweet Charles “Yes Its You”,Smiths singles,Trouble Funk,S Xpress and all kinds of stuff but inevitably Stock,Aitken and Waterman would end up back on the system sooner or later.
Anyway I digress.This story takes place before the days of Stock,Aitkin and Waterman.
What I was going to say was that I knew many of the movers and shakers of the 1980s era of Sheffield legend and there are many amusing tales to tell.
For the people who love the music created by the main bands of the electronica/industrial era of Sheffield music the scene must seem very serious.The Sheffield of the time is portrayed as a grimy,post industrial landscape populated by strange and intense young men wearing long macs making odd noises on synths and with treated tapes.
For me the kings of this scene were Clock DVA.They seem to epitomise that particular school of Sheffield cool.
Besides the fact that Adi Newton was once described in the NME as the only British person who could wear leather trousers and get away with it (during the period when he took on the look of Marlon Brando in the wild One) they had Paul Browse who never took his sunglasses off (even in the dark corners of The Limit nightclub) and a Sheffielder who dared to call himself John Valentine-Carruthers.
They were serious young men.
So serious that a friend who went back to one of their houses was treated to a soundtrack LP of a train played at full volume whilst the band member whose place it was sat in silence.
So serious that a musician who joined the band briefly and then made the mistake of chatting to a pal in The Limit was told “we dont talk to him in this band….he’s not in the circle.”
So serious that Adi,whose girlfriend shared a flat with my girlfriend of the time,would take five minutes to answer the question “Do you want a cup of tea?”
They would stand in the old working mans sandwich shop next to our rehearsal room huddled in a mass of long coats and silently eat bacon butties like they were in a Parisian Left Bank cafe.
In the rehearsal room itself (which for several years was next to our Jive Club headquarters) we would rarely hear anything but saxophone arpeggios and never any singing or anything resembling a song.It was something akin to the mystery of Willy Wonkas Chocolate Factory…we knew music (and records) were being made but we never heard any of the process.
Music was made though and we (particularly Phil and myself from the Mirror Cracked) loved much of it. The mystique of the band made it even more special.Despite spending many mornings drinking tea in Katies flat with Adie and his girlfriend I never penetrated the mystique and I couldn’t tell you anything about the guy except that he was intense….and that pretty much sums up the music as well.
Mine and Phils favourite Clock DVA track is 4 Hours which we often drunkenly quote when the mood takes us.Along with Eternity In Paris and Beautiful Losers this music sums up the underground sound of the eighties Sheffield and it brings back memories of the dark corners of The Limit populated by serious young men in long macs who wouldn’t talk to you…unless you were making them a cup of tea!
This was released as a single and climbed the indie charts of the music weeklies.
It’s a great song and even went so far as to be deemed an underground hit!
The rhythm comes in boisterous and Charlie Collins has just a great Sax sound.
It’s in tune but out of tune at the same time and is set just at the right volume in the mix- so as not to derail everything else and Newton delivers some of his finest words-
“This mid-morning awakening…this bleak whiteness, nothingness…
the eye that stares through your mirror, a suction entanglement
On stained sheets, figures with no regrets, their doubts caste a shadow here….the time drifts…the time swells…the skies melt…..
This could be New York, this could be London, I don’t care anymore
I’m wearing this suit, a black suit, I’m wearing this time, A black tie
I’m carrying this case, a black case, I walk down the street…
the people are staring, the taxi cab is slower….
A piano falls from above………… it smashes in front of me!….”
If Clock DVA were remembered for anything back then, it was for this fine piece of paranoid pop (!)
Clock DVA-We Salute You!!!