In my late teens and early twenties I used to go to gigs all the time. Now, in my 46th year, I can only recall one or two concerts I’ve attended since smartphones became a thing. But in that heady period between 1988 and 1994, I regularly stood amongst sweaty peers as my ears were assaulted by Indie.
There seemed a time where the support band for every gig was Liverpool’s Scorpio Rising. Neds Atomic Dustbin, Senseless Things, Eat, Pop Will Eat Itself – they supported all these bands, so almost by osmosis I ended up becoming a fan. My first purchase was the excellent mini-album If, and then a brace of 12” vinyl. This includes the single Watermelon, the lyrics to which baffle me to this day. I have never for a second looked at a watermelon and wondered what might be inside. It’s fairly obvious, wouldn’t you say? The answer is watermelon.
Scorpio Rising only officially released one album. Their earlier releases were on the label Chapter 22, the original home of both PWEI and the Neds. They eventually signed to major label Sire but had lost a lot of momentum by the time the album was released. It has a vicious mix, with little reverb rendering the guitars brittle and the vocals bone dry, giving it a harsh coldness. There are some though a couple of standout moments. The track Beautiful People in particular is brilliant, but the peculiar decision to render the mix so brutal makes the album a challenge on first listen. If you clicked on the link you can hear how buzzy the guitars are in the mix.
After this, they fizzled out, but since then the individual members seem to have drifted in and out of bands. I saw them headline their own concert at the Marquee and they were magnificent. If my memory is correct they were supported by even lower division indie band Kirk’s Equator. They had a great song called Mormon Death Squad, so catchy I can still remember how it goes, despite the fact I last heard it 25 years ago.
By then this sort of music was dying a death. The low point for the genre was Channel 4 documentary ‘The Next Big Thing’, which followed a similar outfit called FMB as they attempted their own break into the music industry. They were very similar to Scorpio Rising – even the lead singer looked the same. They had one great song, James, but the programme itself didn’t make the rock and roll lifestyle look like a whole lot of fun. It just seemed grubby, forever sitting in a minibus smelling everyone’s feet.
There is a weird coda to the story of FMB. And I promise I’m not making this up. Singer Roger Griffiths won £2,000,000 on the National Lottery and used a chunk of his winnings getting the band back together, finally producing the album he’d always dreamed of. However, gone were the days of slumming it in a mini-bus and sleeping on the floor to save a few quid. The Daily Mail reported a few years back that he now only had £7 to his name, having squandered his fortune on the rock and roll lifestyle.
Whilst I never gave FMB a penny, I bought numerous Scorpio Rising records, a couple of T-shirts, and saw them live a few times as well. Total cost – well, slightly more than £7. I’d say about £40. Whilst I still have their records, I never listen to them. I’m not even remotely nostalgic for their music. But at the time, they gave a good excuse for a night out.