Tuesday, 6 January 2015

A cellarful of noise annoys

A year or so ago the very fine blog The (New) Vinyl Villain had a guest post from here, from the non-musical blog The Corn Poppy.   It was a reminiscence of a time long, long ago when I was a teenage Dead Trout.  This was back in Liverpool in the 70s, an incredibly fun time to be watching bands, knowing people in bands, being in bands.  The (new) Vinyl Villain carried another piece featuring Liverpool bands this week, concentrating on singles released on the Zoo label, from Big in Japan to the Wild Swans, by way of Echo and the Teardrops, not to mention Lori Larty and Those Naughty Lumps.

Gladys Palmer, Something for the Weekend, Granada

This got me to surfing youtube and coming across the video above.  Everyone knows about Liverpool cellars and their place in the history of Merseybeat. In the 60's it was the Cavern in Mathew Street; in the 70s it was Eric's; all the best clubs are downstairs.  The video is all about another cellar.  Gladys Palmer's cellar in Prospect Vale.  This cellar was used as a rehearsal space for new bands including the Teardrop Explodes and Echo and the Bunnymen.  

It was also used by other less well known bands: there were the Occasional Tables for example, Julian Cope with Gladys' son David.  David Palmer, renamed by Mac, better known as Yorkie.  The Occasional Tables never played live, possibly never even rehearsed, these things weren't the  most important things about being in a band.  I remember some members of the Dead Trout with some members of Scotch Corner creating a band one evening called the Dead Barmy Faction (as in Red Army Faction). By the end of the evening there was a whole rationale, canon of songs, stage show planned.  That would have been Saturday night at Eric's, by Monday it would have been forgotten.

Yorkie was involved in several bands.  In the summer of 1979 it was A Rousing Silence.  Yorkie played bass, Mark sang, Abby played keyboards and I played guitar.  There was no drummer.  Because . . .  Echo and the Bunnymen rehearsed in the cellar.  They didn't have a drummer, the Bunnymen were a three piece with a drum machine. They left their drum machine there.  We used the Bunnymen's drum machine. Seriously. The keyboard? that was Paul Simpson's.  Paul was the original keyboard player in Teardrop, he left because they were becoming too poppy.  The keyboard was massive, a big wooden box, the size of a coffin.  It made an amazing noise,  play chopsticks on it and it sounded like a symphony.  Paul Simpson went on to be the Wild Swans.

 We played songs that Yorkie wrote and arranged.  The arrangements were all essentially the same.  Yorkie would play a bass figure, after a minute the keyboard would play a melodic phrase and the guitar would fill in the gap between each line with a little filligree.  It was mood music. It was a feeling, man.  There were lyrics that Mark sang but I don't remember them. The name came from a misheard Patti Smith lyric. We rehearsed every week.  We never played outside the cellar.

The neighbours complained about the noise from the cellar (I don't know why - the walls were covered in egg boxes, that should have kept the sound in shouldn't it?).  Probably not so much when we were down there, we were quite quiet and well behaved but the Teardrop Explodes rocked.  Gladys wrote a letter to her local MP (it was Liberal MP, David Alton) saying why it was so important that these boys should be allowed to play in the cellar. I'm pretty sure she invoked the more famous boys who got their break playing in the more famous cellar in Mathew Street.  She showed me the letter for proof reading before sending it.  It was beyond proof reading,  I told her she should send it as it was - I wish I'd kept a copy.

After I left Merseyside at the end of that summer Yorkie's band became HoHo Bacteria.  They got a new non-musician in playing keyboards.  His name was Michael Head and he later changed to guitar and subsequently led the Pale Fountains, Shack and the Strands.  Shack may just be the best band to  have come out of Liverpool.  Yorkie went on to play bass with Space.  You can see him here.  It's pretty damn good too,

(The rights to the Gladys Palmer video apparently belong to Yorkie although I guess Granada TV had a hand in the production.) 

dedicated to Yorkie and Gladys Palmer

1 comment:

  1. Great stuff Phil. Loads there that I didn't previously know.

    Interesting that two blokes called David Palmer have been integral parts of great pop music here in the UK. You've mentioned Yorkie in your piece while there was also a David Palmer who drummed with ABC and The The.