Elevator rehearsal studios Liverpool.
This summer just doesn’t know when to quit, we may be situated in Liverpool’s Baltic Triangle district, but outside, it’s anything but. Baltic? Nah, “its fucking boss outside La”.
The Red Elastic Band are refining their chops downstairs, meanwhile, there is a warmth, worthy of late spring not the last knockings of September, currently caressing the city above us. As stated in its manifesto, The Red Elastic Band are/is anyone on the same stage or in the studio when Mick Head is at the helm. Today this comprises bass, drums and electric guitar, horns and cello arrive tomorrow.
A new song, Working Family is taking shape, the process seemingly as effortless as the smile currently plastered on the face of its writer, you’ve either got it, or you haven’t, simple as.
It’s not strictly true to call it a ‘new’ song, Mick has already admitted he’s had it slotted away somewhere in his head (sic) for years, for reasons unknown, nor worth exploring, NOW, is the time he’s decreed it ready to be heard. It’s easy to write about Micks past, particularly here in Liverpool, when a five minute mooch through almost any part of town leaves you feeling like you’ve been spied on by the souls of its long departed inhabitants. If walls could talk? Here they can, trust me on this, stand next to any one of the abandoned, red-brick monoliths that for whatever reason, still remain…listen, they’ll tell you a story. A good one at that, time is fluid in both directions here, people’s names and their stories put flesh on the bones of history.
Queen of All Saints, Walters Song, Lucinda Byre, Josephine, Working Family, you get the idea yeah?
As I write, they start playing Time Machine, coincidence? You couldn’t make it up could you? Maybe you could, but it wouldn’t be as great.
The days’ work done Mick and I decamp to The Grapes to meet Johnno, ace-face, photographer, editor of Liverpool F.C. fanzine BossMag and all round uber-dude. We’ve agreed to hold another interview focussing on Micks back-catalogue of songs, which will be the subject of the book currently being put together. It’s already been agreed that this will not be yet another ‘rock’ biography, we’re going to talk about the songs. The songs tell a better and frankly, more interesting story than the..
“I snorted a line of ants while getting bummed by a shark and pissing on the Alamo”
..kind of thing, you’ve read many times before anyway.
We’re happily trading anecdotes about Walters Song, how it came about, the film that inspired it and the personal aspect Mick reveals concerning the individual it was written about.
For a nascent writer and long-time fan, which in case you hadn’t already noticed, might be a description you could happily chuck at me, this is the sort of situation a teenage me would happily have traded his entire collection of LP’s (and Razzle) for, just to observe, let alone actually document.
As another ‘scoop of Guinness arrives, in walks a founding member of The Teardrop Explodes, what happens next reminds me of the infamous clip of Hendrix appearing on the Lulu show way back when.
Jimi was supposed to be performing his latest single ‘Hey Joe’ but decided, mid-song to pay tribute to the recently ‘split’ Cream and launches into an impromptu cover of ‘Sunshine of your Love’ instead. Johnno and I replace Mitch Mitchell and Noel Reading and wing it, while Mick demonstrates exactly the same level of sincerity Jimi displayed as he doffed his musical cap.
This may sound like a bit of an, over fanciful, slightly mismatched comparison, but trust me on this, it’s not. Micks heartfelt insistence that Paul Simmonds and Co, were the most significant inspiration to his teenage self as he decided to quit his shit job and turn his attention towards the fulltime task of writing songs and forming a band, comes from the same place.
As Mick tells it, he’d seen The Teardrop Explodes on Tony Wilson’s show, ‘So it Goes’ with his old man standing next to him essentially doing exactly what any teenager seeking confirmation he was witnessing ‘the future’ would want.
“The ‘auld fella just pointed at the ‘telly and said,
“You actually like THAT?”
I had exactly the same experience when watching Bowie performing ‘Boys keep swinging’ on Top of the Pops with my mum a few years after. You know what I mean right?
So, the day after Tony Wilson has exasperated his dad, Mick is in town, searching through the racks of a sadly, long-closed record shop, when he spies the keyboard player a few sections down.
“I told him I thought they were fuckin’ great, to which he kinda agreed, haha, then he asked me if I played an instrument myself. I said no, so he asked if I could sing, so I said I could and THAT was all I needed really, know what I mean.”
“Long story short, but a short while later, I’ve started a band.”
What was it I wrote earlier about time moving fluidly in both directions in Liverpool? I think we just had one of ‘those’ moments in The Grapes. We’ve gotta go but before we get off, Mick also pays tribute to ‘Simmo’s’ togs back in the day as well.
The fact that ‘Simmo’ agrees with Mick’s assertion that he was also, at that time, the best dressed man in Liverpool, seems less like arrogance and more an attempt to hide his blushes. True Story.
Over a late-night curry later that day Pete Wilkinson tells me, for what it’s worth, he always felt that Pete Burns was sartorially top of the pile back then.
“The Teardrops were cool, but people used to go into Probe records, just to look at Pete, he was amazing, didn’t even have band going either!”
It’s just another story, no doubt to be continued, as are the rehearsals for Fridays show.