Thousand Yard Stare’s Back Catalogue and Tales of the Slough Festival 1991


When you think of Slough, you might think of David Brent or John Betjeman and his bombs. But when I think of Slough, I remember a wonderful day out in July 1991. Slough once had its very own music festival, so in tune to my tastes at the time I could have claimed to have curated.

Me and my then girlfriend took the trip that sunny day, getting the bus from nearby Amersham. I’m not sure why – I was both a car driver and owner, but for whatever reason we took public transport, a long, arduous ride winding round the Chilterns. It would have been quicker to go to a festival in London. We were the only passengers, apart from a tramp who took a shine to us and chatted about drinking. We half-feared it was all a ruse and we’d be dropped off at an empty field.

But upon arrival there were plenty of like-minded souls, and we had a great time. I bought three t-shirts and we heard some wonderful music. I thought Slowdive were terrific, as were Curve. Headliners Ride though were magnificent, playing as the sun went down to clear skies. Its sounds like a cliché but when they played Vapour Trail, a plane did soar overheard, leaving its mark as guitars churned and throbbed around us.

Also, it marked the moment where the people on stage were mostly my age. That tipping point where pop stars are either the same as you or younger. It’s a curious shift in the paradigm. People bang on about policeman looking younger but there’s nothing like a young musician to make you feel old and a waste of brain and skin.

I find it hard to think about the Slough Festival without a sense of underlying sadness, which is a shame as it should have been one of the greatest days out of my life. The two most significant bands in my life at the time were playing, and the rest of the line-up looked fantastic as well. But the relationship with my girlfriend was destined to fail, and despite our best attempts to make the best of things we both knew, even though I desperately didn’t want it to be the case.

During Slowdive’s set, with the most beautiful music spiralling around my head, I looked over and saw another couple, so similar to us, the boy standing as she knelt back on him, his arms resting gently round her stomach. She leaned into his neck and they looked so romantic, yet still so indie. I wanted to hold my girlfriend like that, but knew that she wouldn’t let me, that she would squirm away, that any attempts would be awkward. I knew in that moment that after three years, it would all be over in a few weeks, which made me so sad I could have cried. Video exists of Slowdive’s set, so watch knowing that at some point during this, at the age of 21, my heart was broken for the first time.

The biggest revelation of the day were homeboys Thousand Yard Stare, who quickly became a firm favourite of mine. They sounded great, chippy and upbeat, with some great songs. So I duly set about buying as much of their merchandise as possible, both t-shirts and records.

I saw them live on numerous occasions, the best of which was on the 5th October 1991 at the Reaction club. This was an indie night they used to have at The Well Head Inn, a pub in Wendover. Proof of my ‘never throw anything away’ policy can be found in me still having my membership card (member 2204 if you’re interested). This was an incredible night, beer soaked and sweaty, one of the best live performances I think I’ve ever seen. They were playing to a home crowd and were superb.


At the start they released records on their own label Stifled Aardvark but were soon signed to Polydor, the home of the Wonder Stuff. They were a band with an over abundance of material and released a brace of EP’s, mostly on 10″ vinyl in a variety of different colours. I seem to have bought almost all of them, as evidenced below. My favourite of these was the Keepsake EP, on yellow vinyl. Title track Buttermouth is a burbling treat of guitars whilst its companion track Twicetimes is about as twiddly indie as its possible to get.


Really good b-sides poured out of them, in particular Happenstance?, from the Spindrift EP. It has a pace to it, crashing in with the vocal, with a middle interlude of snappy drums and frenetic guitar work. As this was the last single from the first album, it gave great promise for album number two. Sadly, those hopes were short-lived.

It was almost as if there was a switch inside my head which someone had flicked off. My interest in the band fizzled out as soon as the second album Mappamundi was released. I bought it, on tape, but I remember switching it off after track two and never listened to any of it ever again. I still listen to the first album from time to time, even now, but never their swansong.

They were dropped by Polydor, and that was it. Or rather, was, because like most bands they’ve reformed and are played some gigs in 2016. I’ve often wondered though what it is about that second album, why I put so little effort into listening to it. Part of me wonders if it was a reaction to events at the time. The girl I was seeing at the Slough Festival had finished with me, despite an curious on and off relationship that tiptoed into 1992, and part of me thinks Thousand Yard Stare died with that relationship. So today I tried again. I got the cassette out of a box in the garage, put fresh batteries in my walkman and had another go.

And I can see why I gave up after track 2. God’s P45 is terrible. The whole album could be immeasurably improved if they ditched that track and went from lead single Version of Me into Tragedy No. 6, which is actually really good. But nothing on this album comes close to their debut. They sound like a band who have forgotten what they want to be, rather like Neds Atomic Dustbin on their second album. They try too hard to sound polished and come across as a facsimile of a band.

But in 1991 and 1992 they were amazing and I was a huge fan. And paid the price. I spent a good £40 on concert tickets, £20 on shirts and, judging by all these records, about £80 on tapes, vinyl and one CD. Which is all fine. If I hadn’t spent it on them I’d have only wasted it on some other band. I’m sure they enjoyed their brief moment as rock stars and hope they have fun doing it again.

So here I am, nearly 30 years on from the Slough Festival, in a relationship with my beautiful wife for the past 25 years, married for 20 of those. So if I won the lottery, I would put a sizeable chunk of the winnings into recreating the Slough Festival. I reckon I could get the same bands, as far as I know they exist in one way or another. I may struggle to get Ratcat, but I reckon I’d get there in the end. So I’d repeat the festival, same bands, same line-up, and during Slowdive I’ll hold my wife and have a better memory to carry me forward. Who wants a ticket?

Duran Duran Arena (An Absurd Notion) on DVD

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As this blog will testify, I’ve wasted a lot of money during my life. Countless books, records, films and games, hard earned wages thrown away in a vain pursuit to fill my waking hours. But my excess pails into comparison put against the band Duran Duran, who decided to spend what must of been a huge chunk of their earnings on this very strange feature film.

According to Wikipedia, the band were reluctant to issue a straight forward concert video, and so instead hired Australian director Russell Mulcahy to do something a bit different. He’d already directed a number of their promos, and had just finished his first full length movie (unless you include Derek and Clive Get the Horn, which I must make a note to write a blog post about one day) Razorback.

I have no idea what budget they handed Mulcahy, but the film looks expensive. They shot the fantasy elements on the Bond soundstage at Pinewood, the concert segments at the Birmingham NEC. The storyline, such as it is, concerns the origins of their name, taken from the Jane Fonda movie Barbarella. Doctor Duran, the evil presence of that film, keeps on hearing his name and so returns to Earth to battle these impudent humans who have stolen his identify. I can only imagine the reaction of the average 14 year old Duranie, sat watching the rather bizarre opening five minutes of utter nonsense, alien Brummies and all, before the band launch into song.

What’s good about Arena? Well, it’s got a Time Bandit in it, so that’s something. The concert scenes are pretty thrilling, spoilt somewhat when the filmed elements creep back in, particularly the characters in the lift during the opening song. The song choices are all quite safe, sticking to the bigger singles, so a fan hoping for something musically more interesting would be disappointed.

The centre piece is the full promo for Wild Boys, which is extraordinary in so many ways. Not just for it’s absurdity, or how despite this it takes itself utterly serious, as the band spin on windmills and bang their heads on car bonnets. Possibly the presence of TV chef Rustie Lee on a monitor is the sanest part of the whole piece.

My first introduction to Arena came when my brother bought the VHS. I was about 15, and whilst I liked the band I wouldn’t say I was a fan. I’d never even bought one of their singles, let alone an album. I was still more into computer games than music, a situation soon to be massively spun on it’s head.

My reaction when he played it was mostly one of utter confusion. What was this? Is it a film, or a music concert. It annoyed me that it couldn’t make up it’s mind what it wanted to be, something I still think to this day. The clip below of The Reflex from the movie says this more clearly than I ever could.

So many bands of the era went down this road. The strangest is Pet Shop Boys and their movie, It Couldn’t Happen Here, which tellingly has yet to recieve a DVD release. I have only seen it once, and remember it as being like an art house Carry On Film. One minute Chris Lowe is chucking fried eggs over Barbara Windsor, and then you have Gareth Hunt messing around with a dummy. Their songs are few and far between, the character elements drawn out and boring.

So why so I own a copy of Arena? Well, my wife is possibly the biggest Duran Duran fan on the planet, and so she bought the DVD reissue when it came out. It sits alongside her other Duran Duran DVD, Sing Blue Silver, another treat for the senses.

It was late into the 1980’s when I bought my first Duran Duran record, when I purchased the 12″ of All She Wants Is. I also bought the album it belongs to, Big Thing. These days, I love Duran Duran. I’ll listen to their albums at work and they bring me great pleasure. I’m not sure though I would ever have the patience to sit through this sorry excuse for a movie again though. Personally, I’ve spent about £50 on Duran Duran. When you add in my wife’s contribution to Le Bon’s boat fund, the household’s spend it considerably higher.



The Wonder Stuff – Eleven Appalling Promos on VHS

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I’ve covered The Wonder Stuff on this blog before, but I came across this tape in the loft the other day and couldn’t let it’s discovery go unmentioned. Back in 1990 I clearly had more money than sense, and should have been banned from ever entering a Woolworth’s at lunchtime.

I can only imagine that’s where I purchased this Wonder Stuff video. This was a good ten years before I’d waste my wages on Amazon. So I’m guessing I probably heard about this release in the music papers and sought it out in the wonder that is Woolies. The town where I worked had a store and I used to go in there a lot. I remember queuing for The Love Album by Carter USM in there, with both the person in front and the person behind clutching a copy. Imagine that. I bought a copy of Dark Side of the Moon on tape in that shop, probably alongside a pound of Pick and Mix, my first experience of Pink Floyd. So I was a sad man when they went bust in 2008.

I watched this video a lot. I am staggered by how much free time I had in my early twenties. I would finish work about five, go home, have my tea, and then there would be five hours stretching ahead of me, waiting to be filled. There were no distractions, no phones to flick through, no internet to clog my brain, just minutes to fill with television, music, and videos. I would do anything to have that attention span again, and in some ways to have a more limited selection rather than the groaning digital collection of everything, meaning I find it hard to chose anything. I had a shelf of videos above my bed, so each evening I would take one down and watch it, usually from start to finish. One lively evening the shelf collapsed, showering me and my bed in plastic boxes. I had sitcoms, films, and a large collection of music tapes.

A suspicious mind might consider this video an opportunity by the band just to get some product out there, a relatively cheap way of putting some money into the coffers. At the time the band were in a state of flux, original bassist Rob Jones having left for New York at the closure of their Hup tour. He features in a photo on the back and all through the videos, but his absence is largely unmentioned. In his diaries, Miles Hunt talks of the band occupying a rental flat provided by the record company, and they would spend their time there, going out drinking most nights, and often the same most days.


We get to see a glimpse inside the flat on this tape. They link the videos in vision, perched on the edge of an uncomfortable looking futon, cigarette boxes strewn on the floor whilst sharing what looks like a bag of prawn crackers. They are filmed talking about the videos, an early version of a director’s commentary, bored and listless, barely having one good word to say about any of them. They slate each of their promos in turn, complaining about the process of making them, the waste of money they represent, even turning on the very fans who foolishly went into Woolworths to buy one.

A few moments liven up proceedings. The band take a call from Pop Will Eat Itself’s Clint during the filming, which to me at the time was very showbiz and exciting. I talk about my love of that band here. At the end they all go out with the film crew to a pub, sitting with the lunchtime crowd, looking settled in for a long session. The band revert into characters. Miles Hunt is sneering and dismissive, Martin Gilks cool and above it all. Malcolm Treece, who I’ve always had a soft spot for, tries his best to be funny and engaging but is soon shot down by his colleagues.



The videos themselves are not all that bad. The early promos look cheap, but nowhere near as bad as the band make out. The clip for Don’t Let Me Down, Gently is great, and looks expensive, beautifully shot on high quality film. The duller videos (which perversely, are the ones the band like) are the later sepia toned live videos. Worthy of mention is the alternative cut for Circlesquare, shot at the Trocadero in London where you used to be able to film yourself against a green screen to your favourite song. It looks very naff but at least has some charm.

I guess this video cost me about a tenner. As I said I watched it a fair amount in my youth, and still get it out say once every five years or so and give it another viewing. How much money did I give Woolworths over the years? Obviously not enough, or they would still be going. As far as to how much I’ve given The Wonder Stuff I’ve covered before, but I don’t begrudge them a penny.


Ticket for the band EMF at the London Astoria

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I used to love going to The Astoria, walking down Charing Cross Road from Tottenham Court Road tube, usually to see a band on the way up before you’d have to travel to Brixton or Kilburn to see them. It was an amazing venue, and we used to go there all the time. It’s sad to think that it no longer exists, demolished ten years ago to make way for Crossrail.

On the 30th April 1992 I went to see the band EMF, who were supported by noisy Indie rock band Silverfish. Confession – the ticket stub above is one found on the internet, I still have mine in my ticket album but it’s in the garage and I’m too lazy to get it. EMF had just released the Unexplained EP, a stop gap between their breakthrough debut album, and their rather underwhelming follow up Stigma. At the time of this concert the new music had yet to drop, and they were still riding on a wave of success.

I remember the night vividly. We stayed upstairs for Silverfish, who I must confess I found rather alarming. Their singer Lesley Rankine was intimidating even from a distance, an angry, prowling figure on the stage as she spat her vocals into the microphone. They were also incredibly noisy, which is another reason why we chose to watch them from the safety of the upper floor.

My other main memory of the night was a free gift we were given at the door. We were passed a pair of EMF glasses, which were rather like the 3D glasses you used to get in the eighties when they experimented with it on television. They were bright yellow, with EMF printed on the side, like the glasses you buy in garden centres that make Christmas lights look magical and weird. I still have them, I think they’re in the garage along with the ticket stub, and I can find no trace online of anyone else recalling these.

Wearing these glasses made the light show like something out of 2001 A Space Odyssey. Everything took on a slightly trippy edge. As I say I kept them, and used to sometimes put them on when I watched a VHS tape I had by the band The Orb. I’ve never been a drug taker, so can’t vouch for their effectiveness, but I guess that was considered their general purpose, something to wear whilst in a chemically enhanced mood.

I’m can’t say EMF totally blew us away, but they were fun enough and a good time was had by all. And I’m sure it’s no surprise to hear what they did as an encore (clue above). They played a smattering of new songs, and they went down as well as they did when released to the general public that Autumn, judging by the queue at the bar. They never caught the public conciousness again after their first album, which remains an fun listen. Third album Cha Cha Cha sank without trace. I liked catchy lead single Perfect Day, but that was about it.

EMF though still exist, with three reunions under their belt. And why not, I’m sure its fun to get together and play and if you can make a few quid as well, then what’s the harm. I had a good night up at The Astoria, and got a nice free gift as well. I bought all three EMF albums, the EP, and a brace of singles. So I Believe about a hundred quid has changed hands. Not too bad in the grand scheme of things.

Pop Will Eat Itself – Unspoilt By Progress VHS Tape

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I have only a shady memory of when and how Pop Will Eat Itself first came into my life. In my late teens I was a sucker for all types of music, soaking up every genre, as likely to listen to indie legends Kitchens of Distinction as the latest by Kylie.

I was aware that Pop Will Eat Itself existed, as my brother had their first major label album. The artwork caught my eye, but I never took it from his room to give it a spin. My girlfriend from then though had a cousin, who would occasionally come and visit. He was a bit like an infrequent character who appears in a sitcom to liven things up, like Exidor from Venus in Mork and Mindy, or Terry and June’s nephew Alan. Those characters would turn up once a series and cause mayhem, and this was the role of her cousin. He would appear, usually on no more than an annual basis, get everyone around him extremely drunk, before hopping back in a train. In my mind, he only existed in those fleeting visits. I have no idea what he’s doing now, even what he was doing back then really, but I greatly enjoyed his sojourns into my life.

It was on the occasion of my girlfriend’s 18th birthday that he made one such trip, and my sketchy memory tells me that he came with a Pop Will Eat Itself tape, and I thought it was terrific. He also got me so drunk that I threw up all over my parent’s bed. They were on holiday at the time, due back the next day, and people from the party stayed at my place. This meant a Yellow Pages style escapade the next day as I attempted to clear up and sort out the duvet situation.

He hopped back on a train, back to goodness knows where, and I hightailed it to the record shop where I got my copy of This is the Day, This is the Hour, This is It… From there I did my usual trick of throwing money at something, buying their rather small at the time back catalogue. We also went to see them loads. They played a five night residency at the Marquee Club in London and we went twice, and we also saw them in various venues and festivals, usually supported by bands such as Scorpio Rising or Eat.

And of course, I bought their albums. And their singles. And far too many of their shirts, which I wish I still had, but sadly they’ve passed into legend. My favourite was a black, long sleeved top with their logo on the chest and text down the sleeve. I have a photo of me taken in 1991 wearing this shirt and I look every inch the textbook indie kid, floppy fringe, massive shoes, the lot.

My favourite album remains 1990’s Cure for Sanity, an incredible potpourri of different styles and genres, all wrapped up in the most amazing artwork. I have a superb picture disc vinyl for single Bulletproof that looks the business, taken from the follow up album. I followed them right up to the bitter end, loving their last original line up album Dos Dedos Mis Amigos, and find it joyful that Graham Crabbe is still going, and how Clint Mansell has made a solid career out of writing film scores.

Onto this VHS tape. It was the done thing at the time for bands to release product like this, but PWEI didn’t put in a whole lot of effort. It’s a collection of promos, right back to their first effort with Sweet Sweet Pie, with a handful of home movies and captions thrown in to make it look as if they’ve at least discussed bonuses and presentation. At the time, bands of their ilk were making movies or smaller documentaries, such as Neds Atomic Dustbin with Nothing Is Cool, so it’s a pity a band as interesting as the Poppies didn’t do the same. Or that there weren’t more high quality live tracks on the tape.

But there you go, it’s too late to go back, and I do drag this tape out every five years or so and give it a play. The major label videos are attempts to look glossy, but are full of goofy little touches that actually add heaps of charm. I still listen to PWEI from time to time, but I can never be sure if I like them because they are great or because of familiarity. I have a feeling it’s 75% the first and 25% the latter.

And they have received a large chunk of cash from me over the years. If I added up all the tickets, albums, singles and shirts, you would be looking at £250 or more. Wise Up Suckers. I can dig it.

New Order True Faith Poster

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I was never that cool a teenager, but I always liked a poster. For most of the 80’s, my walls were adorned with computer game images, usually Oliver Frey artwork from magazine Crash, until I feel for the charms of the band New Order. Up in London one day, I bought a bunch of posters and smothered every spare inch of my tiny bedroom with these iconic Peter Saville images.

My first encounter with New Order came in 1983, when I was twelve. I had a big brother with a budget, who used to buy lots of records, and when he was out I would break in and play them. One day, I came across this incredible twelve inch sleeve, black and sleek, fashioned in the style of a floppy disc. I couldn’t resist taking it out and giving it a whirl. That record, of course, was Blue Monday, and from those first thudding drum beats I was captivated.

As time went on, my brothers New Order collection grew. He never bought any albums, only singles, my favourite of which was the insane Subculture, part of a series of records where the band seemed to go slightly studio crazy. It’s not so much a song, more of a musical casserole, every idea thrown into this mad mix of synths and clattering drum machines. In 1987, I bought two tapes of my own. The first was Substance, the best compilation ever released, and their third album Lowlife, which remains one of my favourite albums of all time. Mostly because of this.

By now I had a Saturday job and a bit of money, so I set about obtaining every single, despite owning all of them on Substance. I was also delighted to see the re-release of Blue Monday, and loved 1988 single Touched By the Hand of God. Little did I know that this was a band with serious cash flow problems, and these releases were more a way to keep the creditors at bay. So I did my bit to prop up their crumbling empire, buying everything of theirs I could lay my hands on.

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I have never before, or since, anticipated an album more than Technique. I was in sixth form, having the time of my life, and thought lead single Fine Time was the business, despite their attempts to derail it’s chances with this rather suspect Top of the Pops performance. On day of release I bunked off lessons and got my poor Grandfather to drive me to the record shop in the neighbouring town so I could get the tape. Back at school, I ensconced myself in the language lab and listened to it twice. I was not disappointed, and raved about it to my peers as if I’d discovered the cure for the common cold.

And so I bought posters. I had both True Faith covers, a promotional one for Technique, and the Joy Division poster for Closer. Me and a friend made a pilgrimage to Birmingham to see them live, and they were amazing. Less good were the shambolic support, Happy Mondays, who took the whole thing less serious. These posters stayed up on my walls right into Britpop, when they were replaced with the bum on the bed from Dog Man Star.

And here we are in 2019, and New Order are still as vital as ever. It’s hard even to mourn the lack of Peter Hook when they release albums as impressive as 2016’s Music Complete, and their shows at the Old Granada Studios in 2017 showed their knack to innovate. Songs like Plastic have the same visceral DNA as Everything’s Gone Green, Temptation, or The Perfect Kiss, sounding contemporary and part of their heritage at the same time. Not an easy trick to pull off.

I shudder to think how much money I’ve spent on New Order product over the years. It has to be upwards of five hundred pounds, easily, most likely more. I have bought every album three times at least, on tape, CD, and most on record. I am so tempted by this years boxset for Movement, even though I don’t rate the album much. I want to buy into the experience, that feeling of attachment to my favourite band, who even after all these years excite me like no other.


Stuart Murdoch ‘The Celestial Cafe’ Paperback


I’m not sure why, but I love reading diaries. Maybe it’s because I’m a diarist myself, but ever since I was a teen I’ve loved digging into the events of another persons life. Even fictional diaries interest me. I am roughly a year younger than Adrian Mole, and so grew up with his journals from my early teens. I was saddened greatly when possibly the greatest character of modern fiction died along with the author Sue Townsend back in 2014, and I would no longer get to discover the exploits of Leicester’s greatest son.

Other favourite diaries include Kenneth Williams’, a waspism, bitter account that takes him through the whole of his rather sad and regret filled life. Equally compelling, but altogether more uplifting, are the journals of Michael Palin. He spread his over three volumes and the detail is extraordinary, almost as much as his capacity for alcohol and fine dining. Likewise, the diaries of The Wonderstuff front man Miles Hunt are a boozed sodden journey which show how being in a band is not everything its cracked up to be. Volume 1 describes the hard climb to recognition, with the second collection charting what life is like in a band that’s going places. Volume 3, the most illuminating by far, takes you back to the gutter as the band falls apart. His honesty is remarkable, particularly as diaries do not have the benefit of highsight. You record them in the moment, and reading the day to day struggle of a musician as his band implodes is a sobering read.

Less depressing is the diary of Stuart Murdoch, which is a complete joy. The founder and singer with Belle and Sebastian writes with clarity and a bright, engaging prose, giving a captivating account of his daily activities both in and outside the band. This volume was issued by indie publisher Pomona back in 2011, and is now quite hard to come by having sold out of its print run some time back.

As he admits himself in the book description, it is very light on orgies and tales of debauchery. Instead, on the 23rd January 2003 you hear about how Sunday night was bath night, and how he played football in the week, and helping out with the Church youth group. This makes it everything I wanted it to be. Sure, I’m interested in recording sessions and tours, but I’m equally interested in what musicians get up to when they are on hiatus, how they spend their downtime between band commitments.

He charts the bands progress on the sublime album Dear Catastrophe Waitress from 2003, the book taking us up the release of The Life Pursuit in 2006. He travels, spends time with his friends, talks about films and records he likes, documenting it all in a breezy, friendly manner. The more mundane times are often the most interesting. On the 10th May 2005 he listens to Prefab Sprout, makes a simple dinner, and has Radio 4 on in the background. He follows this pattern into June, when suddenly he is in Los Angeles, recording with Tony Hoffer, though the style remains as conversational as it was back in Glasgow.

Its a great read, the sort of book I’ll pick up every few years or so and read all over again. Although he would probably find this hard to come to terms with it’s hard not to feel jealous at his more relaxed attitude to life, and how much control he has over what he does and doesn’t do. It’s highly unlikely my diaries will ever see the light of day, with my tales of office politics and what I had for my tea, and that’s probably for the best.

This book cost £8.99, but it actually cost twice that as I got one for myself and one for a friend. Over the years I have bought every single album they’ve produced, and a bunch of singles, so I’d guess I’ve spent a good £150 on this wonderful band, who have enriched my life in so many ways.

Daniel Land – The Dream of the Red Sails

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When you have children, it’s hard to imagine what you used to do with your free time.

These days, I have an exquisite 90 minute window between their bedtime and mine, which I generally squander fiddling with my phone or flicking through Netflix. In the BC period (Before Children), I had whole evenings to fill with whatever activity I came to chose. This is how I found myself writing for music blogs.

It all happened alarmingly fast. In 2004, I sent a sample review to a website, and before I knew it, fistfuls of jiffy envelopes started plopping through my letterbox, crammed with album promos and singles. I unwittingly became the main contact for a couple of major PR firms, and my job was to post news items on the site, select albums to review, and redistribute the CD’s to other writers. The download era was nascent, physical releases still their preferred method of getting content into the wild.

This may sound exciting – ‘free music!’ – but became a massive chore. The novelty soon wore off – you’d be amazed how much Lady Sovereign sent out into the wild. I’d groan as cash in compilations spilled out amid Paolo Nutini singles.

The low point came when, to appease a PR who threatened to stop sending releases, I had to review Donny Osmond’s ‘Love Songs of the 70’s’ and an album by an outfit called The Puppini Sisters. I took a day off work to write what were at best rehashed press releases. So I jumped ship to a different blog called The Line of Best Fit (TLOBF), which I’m pleased to see is still going to this day. Here, there was more freedom to write about music I was passionate about.

There were bright spots though. I made a good contact at Fierce Panda, who sent me the first release by iLiKeTRaiNS, a band I still adore to this day. 4AD sent me all their new releases, and I quickly became a fan of the late Johan Johansson. Another was a Manchester musician called Daniel Land. He sent the site a copy of his EP, which I thought was terrific. So I wrote a glowing review. His follow up was equally enthralling, as was an album he made as a member of outfit ‘The Engineers’.

I stopped writing for TLOBF in late 2010, parental duties getting in the way. Daniel has continued to release material both as a solo artist, and in an instrumental side project called ‘Riverrun’. I still took an interest in Daniel’s music, purchasing some of his main releases. I loved his 2016 album ‘In Love With A Ghost’, but this year, 2019, he has excelled himself with his new release, ‘The Dream of the Red Sails’.

He describes it as ‘an album of summery, wide screen Dream-Pop’, but it is so much more than that. Track ‘Long Before the Weather’ stands out in particular, a glorious blend of melody and sentiment with a shimmering coda of beautiful guitar and keyboards. There are other highlights. ‘Starless’ has a tight, repressed tension that unleashes itself towards the end, whilst ‘SkinDivers’ manages to blend melancholy and optimism into four blissful minutes. The production is smooth, and as sonically impressive as anything on a major record label.

The Dream of the Red Sails captures an effortless feeling of mindfulness, with music that sharpens the senses, making the world around seem more vibrant and colourful. I heartily recommend it. You can listen to it on all popular streaming services, or buy a CD direct from Daniel at his website.

Daniel has had about thirty quid from me over the years, money well spent. I’d rather give it to him than any funded band, in the hope it gives him the opportunity to make even more incredible music.

Scorpio Rising – Watermelon EP

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.

Eden Burning – Live in Session on BBC Radio Leeds cassette


I love it when bands engage with their fans. It all seems so impersonal these days, most groups using emails and social media to keep you up to date on their activities. Without sounding too much like an old man it somehow seemed better before the internet came along and spoiled things.

In the early 90’s almost every CD single came with a little postcard you could fill in and send back to be put on a mailing list. Some bands went one step further, setting up elaborate fan-clubs and sending out detailed newsletters.

The best in my mind were sent by little known folk band Eden Burning. They were unlikely to trouble the pages of the NME and so relied on postal communication to let people know what they were up to.

Eden Burning came out of Cheltenham, and became reasonably big fish, left to wallow in the small stream of Christian rock. They became a fixture at the Greenbelt festival and toured incessantly, mostly in Church halls but occasionally in proper venues. I saw them live at least a dozen times and they were always tremendous, as were their studio albums.

They had a brief foray into the mainstream, realising two singles eligible for a chart position, but they failed to make an impression. The single choices were rather misguided – two rather twee tracks that sounded thin and overly romantic amidst the bluster of Britpop.

But they were really good at keeping the fans happy – for a small fee you could sign up for their newsletter, The Caper. It was more of a fanzine, a beautifully put together round up of recording activity, tour dates and general whimsy. Me and my wife seem to have somewhat unwittingly become unofficial curators for the band as we still have every newsletter, as you can see from this picture.


They also offered exclusive products, including this tape. It featured an interview the band did with a local radio DJ who took an instant and lasting dislike to them. The tone soon turns frostier than a branch of Iceland. It’s a brave release, funny and honest, with three excellent live songs.

Eden Burning released four albums, although one, Thin Walls, is more or less a home-made effort. They are all great but the best in my mind is their swansong, Brink, a polished collection of songs that shows considerable depth both musically and lyrically. However, after this they made the decision to call it a day and you can understand why. They’d been full time for a number of years, but families and commitments made it difficult to sustain without the support of a record label.

Another highlight is their live album, Smilingly Home, which captures the band touring their second album, Vinegar and Brown Paper. It’s a raucous affair, in front of a home crowd, a rip-roaring gig of jigs and reels amidst a heady atmosphere. They were always excellent live, evidenced on their one and only concert video, Through the Looking Glass. And those with a keen eye and access to the pause button can even spot me and my wife having a dance in the crowd.

They really looked after their fans, and you often saw familiar faces at concerts. The bloke with the hat in the video above used to be at every gig it seemed. It’s a shame they never crossed over but they were out of step with the time, more like The Waterboys than Menswear. They announced their demise during the promotion for Brink, headlining Greenbelt as a final hurrah.


I really loved Eden Burning. From time to time I’ll get the albums out and feast on them. And as you can see from the above photo, between myself and my wife, we’ve got almost everything, maybe even bits of paper the band themselves don’t have in the scrapbook.

And all members of the band are still happy and well. In 2010, The Decemberists released their album The King is Dead which really reminded me of the album Brink. I was driving home from a works meeting in Newbury and played it on the journey home. Upon arrival I plucked up the courage to look lead singer Paul Northup up on Google and sent him an email, explaining how this album I bought that day reminded me of his old band and extending my praise for his music.

He sent me a lovely, charming reply full of modesty and self-deprecation. He said he was a fan of the Decemberists and thanked me for the comparison and for my comments. It had been many years since I looked up to him, brightly lit on a stage. To be honest, he’s probably not much older than me. But I still felt like a fan.

As I said, I saw them at least a dozen times, and I bought every album, tape, CD, EP, even a couple of t-shirts. And I subscribed to their fan club at a fiver a year. I estimate a spend of £300, which in my mind is an absolute bargain.