The Day We Caught The Train (The Rise And Fall Of An Unsigned Band – Pt 9)

Ocean Colour Scene were part of the Oasis phenomenon.

The bold OCS.

The first Oasis gig I went to was in a tent at Irvine Beach in 1994. The support acts were Cast and Ocean Colour Scene. I liked Cast, I’d heard ‘Finetime’ by this time and I was suitably impressed. Ocean Colour Scene were a different prospect. I had never heard any of their stuff before. I tried to get a ticket for that gig for a lassie a year below me in school called Sarah-Jayne. Turns out I couldn’t. Turns out it didn’t matter, because she went to Irvine and bumped into the bassist of Ocean Colour Scene and got in anyway.

My first thoughts on them were ‘who do they think they are?, poncing about like the Stones, blah, blah, blah.’

When I look back, they were twice the band (musically) that Oasis would ever be.

So, there we were, arranging another gig in Bar Cuba. This time someone told us that the band we were playing with were supporting OCS in Blackburn and Damon Minchella (OCS bassist) was coming to see them. As with everything, we took this with a pinch of salt. However, it turns out this was the truth.

We were on first. I saw Damon Minchella walk in with another guy (who we know now as Pete) and near pished myself. We played. We played as well as we could play. I remember the third song in, looking over at Damon Minchella and his head was bobbing like the Churchill dog (Who didn’t even exist then)… He was enjoying our set…

We came off stage and Minchella got a hold of me…

“I really enjoyed your set” he said, while I struggled to compose myself.

“Thanks, man” I said, pathetically.

And that was that… until later.

The band that was supporting them in Blackburn was on next. Initially they seemed alright… and then they played a cover version of A-HA’s take on me. With trumpets. We were aghast. Turns out, so was Damon Minchella.

Damon Minchella got a hold of me, while that band were still on, and said “how do you fancy supporting us in Blackburn?”

“Well” I thought. “Fuck me…”

So that was that. We were supporting OCS in Blackburn a few months later…

Nearly.

Proud Mary. Shite.

A month before the gig we got a phone call. “Sorry boys. Proud Mary are the support for the tour. Gig’s off for you.”

FUCK SAKE.

Turns out NOEL GALLAGHER had intervened. His shitty little prodigies (and they were shit) had exclusive rights to the support slot, and there was fuck all we could do about it. Damon Minchella later explained that “OCS had a lot to thank Oasis for” and they had no option but to accept this.

Bastard.

Disappointed didn’t begin to describe my feelings. So close.

We plodded on. Gig, after gig, after gig, after gig.

We came back up the road and played at Caledonia Uni for some reason. Can’t remember why. Anyway, we met a guy called Alex there who wanted to manage us. We told him he could if he took this number of an OCS contact and sorted out another support slot. I’ll cut a long story short here and tell you that he did. Oh aye, did he.

The Shores were to support Ocean Colour Scene on their ‘North Atlantic Drift’ tour for all 3 Scottish dates. Will it actually happen this time?…

The Shores (The Rise And Fall Of An Unsigned Band – Pt 8)

Manchester. Madchester. Maaanchestaaah.

But with a 'K'...

The Shores was born. Ellis was dead. Another painstaking name game was played and ‘The Shores’ was the winner. For some reason Craig wasn’t there when we decided. Just as well, his idea was ‘Kapri’…

Manchester is a hub of musical activity. Venues like Night and Day Café, The Roadhouse, The Music Box, Jabez Clegg and The Academy gave us plenty of options for our assault on the Manchester music scene.

Manchester was (and still might be) full of Gallagherites. Ryan may read this and think ‘That’s rich…’, but it was. Swagger, attitude, hair, swagger, Red Stripe, hair, soonsheeeine, hair. It was everywhere. Neanderthal ‘front men’ sneering at everything that moved, moody bass players and self-absorbed guitarists ruled over tiny stages with nominal crowds watching. The Shores were different.

Ryan had (and has) an exceptional voice. Coupled with the fact that he knew (and probably knows) how to write a chart-topping song, The Shores had more of a chance than any Mancunian band at the time. Ryan, in a funny way, was (and is) my hero. Craig was a textbook bassist, with timing, eloquence and a presence befitting any band. Danny was the sound of the band. With impeccable solo’s that weren’t too ‘wanky’ and a sense of how things should be… Never bought any of his own plectrums, though.

Me? I just hit stuff. In time. Mostly.

The majority of gigs we played were ‘showcases’. Get 5 bands, let them play for 25 minutes each, see how many people they bring to the venue, re-book them. A pathetic strategy by the ‘promoters’ I mentioned earlier. We did meet a couple of great bands along the way, though.

We embarked on an England-wide tour a year or so in. We covered Sheffield, London, Liverpool, Leicester, Bristol and London. At every one of those gigs at least one person was there to see us. In Leicester it was exactly one (and the bar staff). That particular gig we bumped into a band we had played with before. Their name was Riley, and they changed the way we wrote songs. A band with exceptional talent, they taught us the art of the ‘uplifting chorus’. They did get signed, but sadly it came to nothing.

Liverpool. Where do you think we played in Liverpool?

This is where it's at.

The Cavern in Liverpool is not the original building. It has now been moved (brick by brick, apparently) across the road to make way for a car park. Liverpool City Council – be fucking ashamed. Ashamed.

That was the first time we played with Riley. Danny forgot his Adidas hold-all and it had all his leads and pedals in it. Ryan and Danny had a proper ‘set-to’ while we were sound-checking about how Danny could be so irresponsible. So much so, that I stood up from behind my drum kit and flung my sticks at them. More about their relationship later…

Gigs came and went. We were quickly proving ourselves to be one of the brightest prospects from the Manchester music scene. We played in Bar Cuba again.

The Shores were about to prove their worth…

The Silk Road (The Rise And Fall Of An Unsigned Band – Pt 6)

I once served Iain Robertson (Actor – Small Faces, Grange Hill) in the Springfield Quay Brewers Fayre.

"Ha!" Now take that smug look off your face, Robertson.

As he approached the bar I recognised him instantly. If you’ve seen ‘Small Faces’, he played the main character. Coincidentally, The guy who played ‘Gorbals’ (Mark McConnochie) worked in the kitchen of The Quay. “Ha!” he proclaimed as he approached the bar with a very attractive young lady on his arm, “Did you iron your shirt with a brick?!” “Ha!” I exclaimed… “What are you having?” “Eh, pint of Stella and a…” “Ha!” I announced “Any ID?”, “Oh” he frowned “Eh, naw”… “So, what are you having?” I asked, quizzically. “2 Irn-Bru’s please” he replied sheepishly. SCREW YOU ROBERTSON. I KNEW YOU WERE 17, YA WEE DICK.

So, Ryan had moved to Macclesfield and Craig followed suit 1 year later. With nothing holding Craig back, he decided that having a go at a band with Ryan in Manchester was a risk worth taking. I hadn’t spoken to Craig in a while. I was on a ‘lost weekend’. This lasted approximately 2 years. When I heard that Craig was moving to Macclesfield I wasn’t all together surprised, but at no point did I think I’d do the same.

Craig and Ryan auditioned band members for about a year, settling for none of them. 2 that they had been in the studio with were Matt and Jake Evans. We would become friendly with them somewhere down the line, but that’s for later.

One night after a shift at the Orion Way Brewers Fayre, I got a text from Craig which read “When you moving down?” Craig and Ryan had just auditioned a couple of guys who had NO discernible musical talent, and they were the last straw. For some reason, and without thinking, I instantly replied “Soon”. I thought about it that night and concluded that there was NOTHING holding me back. Why not? It’s not like I’m emigrating. Craig and Ryan are there (another good friend, Stuart was moving down as well, nothing was holding him back either). What’s the worst that can happen? I can always move back if it doesn’t work out…

Being a decisive person, I handed in a 3 month notice at the Brewers Fayre the next day.

There’s many things that establish who is a real friend. Remember, I was on a ‘lost weekend’, not contacting anyone and behaving like an all round scrotum. ‘Real’ friends will pick up where you left off. Craig, Ryan and Stuart (amongst others) are ‘real’ friends.

That was that. I was moving to Cheshire too. Christ, when Craig moved down and arrived at Macclesfield train station he nearly bumped into the Verve’s guitarist. The place was a rock and roll Mecca. A record deal was a certainty. Plus, OASIS were from Manchester. We had it made. EASY.

A man.

Macclesfield’s heritage is in Silk. In the uprising of 1745, Charles Stuart and his army marched through Macclesfield as they attempted to reach London. The Mayor was forced, reluctantly, to officially welcome the Prince, and this welcome is commemorated in one of the town’s famous silk tapestries. At one point, Macclesfield was the world’s biggest producer of finished silk; now, the four Macclesfield Silk Museums display a huge range of information and products from that period. At one time the silk manufacture was home-based but as machinery was introduced large sheds were built to accommodate it and the workers were expected to move into them. Paradise Mill is a working mill museum which demonstrates the art of silk weaving to the public.

Cheers, Wikipedia.

In April 2001, I arrived with Stuart in Macclesfield. Stuart, Craig and I would share a flat in Hatton St, with Ryan living down the road. No time was wasted in getting me a drum kit, but I was skint. Ryan and I went to Hyde (or Sale, can’t remember which) and Ryan bought me a black and silver finished Yamaha YD series 5 piece drum kit… Please refer back to the paragraph about friends.

The 3 of us went into the local studio. Trackside Studios, Macclesfield. This was to be named ‘Twatside’ for the rest of our existence. It’s still there and thriving, we owe a lot to that studio. In saying that, we kept it afloat for years… It was like we’d never been away, the tightness reared its head every so often, the chemistry between us as strong as ever.

We needed a guitarist. Immediately.

Hello, Goodbye (The Rise And Fall Of An Unsigned Band Pt – 5)

There’s so much more that I haven’t told you. I feel I am arrogantly assuming you care.

Gigs in Glasgow were fun. Ryan and Pagey were at Uni and we knew things would change when they graduated. I moved to Glasgow and we gradually stopped rehearsing and playing. See if you know, or remember some of these venues which were lucky enough to have us grace them with our entertainment…

The Arena, The Cathouse (Brown St.), The Cathouse (Union St.), Strawberry Fields, King Tuts, Nice ‘n’ Sleazy, 13th Note, The Brewhouse, The Old Printworks, MacSorlery’s, Clutha Vaults, The Vale… and others I can’t remember.

I remember one gig in The Brewhouse I got ID’d. “I’m in the BAND” I protested, arrogantly. “I don’t care, pal. No ID, you’re not playing.” “We’re bringing over 50 people here tonight, but!” So the bouncer spoke to the manager and we were allowed to play on one condition. This ‘condition’ was the most ridiculous suggestion I’d ever heard… “If we draw the backstage curtain round your drum kit, you can play.” The management wanted me to play out of sight like some kind of ‘Drummer Of Oz’ character. Didn’t happen.

When Ryan graduated it was decided he would be moving to Macclesfield, Cheshire for his employment. Pagey would relocate to Southampton, I was already in Glasgow, and Craig was drunk.

Nevertheless played their last gig where it all started; the room above the Railway Inn, Howwood. A mix of cover versions and original songs were used in this celebration of the life and times of Nevertheless. This was captured on video and looking back, some of it is brilliant. It was a sad end, but we were growing up and moving away. We were each presented a small ‘Lilliput Village’ model of a house with a clock face on it by the Railway Inn owner. We presented him with a wooden model train for the display above the bar. It was like a proper retirement.

Off we went on our separate ways, never to look back. The dream had died, time to move on…

And Then There Was Robbie Williams (The Rise And Fall Of An Unsigned Band Pt – 4)

Nevertheless were no good at recording.

Our first effort took place overnight in a studio in Govan. I won’t dwell on it, it was appalling. We recorded a song there called ‘Star To Fall’, which was a pretty decent song, in fact that song made a comeback about 10 years later with a bit of work on it. That is all there is of note from that experience. The second recording session was a little more interesting. We booked an expensive session at Glasgow’s plush ÇaVa studios, expecting the professional surroundings to have some kind of magic that would come across in the recording. As it happens, it didn’t, however, it wasn’t that bad an effort. Our session kept getting interrupted by sporadic power cuts, though, which didn’t help… Let me tell you the cause of these power cuts…

Robson and Jerome.

That’s right, you heard. In posh studio one, Dr Tony Hill and The Ugly One were recording the VIDEO for ‘What Becomes Of The Broken Hearted’. As far as I remember, studio 1 had a grand piano and the sound desk was elevated like an air traffic control tower. Those couple of rockets cost us the chance of fame. I know it.

How did you finance these recordings? I hear you think…

COVER VERSIONS.

The money for unsigned bands lies in the following:-

Weddings
Functions
Pub residencies
Staff parties

See? "As seen in King Tuts", as if that validates our existence.

So we sold out. This was initially to finance our true art… but we were good at it. We  have learned about 30-40 stereotypical ‘wedding’ numbers. A particular low point being Robbie Williams’ ‘Angels’. Of course, we indulged ourselves in about 8 Oasis songs, a few Ocean Colour Scene and Cast, the odd Beatles track and U2, but we had to pander to the masses. A terrible realisation for a band. We ended up playing a fortnightly residency at The Old Printworks, just off George Square, for £150 a gig. Easy money… Let me make this clear; we played HUNDREDS of gigs with original songs before, during and after this, I’m just moving the story along a bit. We didn’t sell out instantly. Right?

So, anyway, what started off as financing our own music turned into a second job. We played many nights at the Turf Inn, Dalry as a cover band and those were a riot, but we knew it was all fake.

Little did we know it at the time, but being good at it was the beginning of the end…

Tonight, I’m A Rock And Roll Star (The Rise And Fall Of An Unsigned Band Pt – 3)

I bought Definitely Maybe in Tower Records, Glasgow. I also bought an Oasis t-shirt the same day. (I had only heard Live Forever and Supersonic by this time, a t-shirt purchase was a major commitment.) Sadly, Tower Records is no longer there. I remember going to see Big Country play out of the big bay windows when they released ‘Why The Long Face’. Standing just outside the Heilan’mans Umbrella, gazing skyward to catch a glimpse of Stuart Adamson, doing long-term damage to my neck. After that gig, Big Country did an in-store record signing. I queued for hours after their set, ready to meet my idols. As I got to Mark Brzezicki I said “I try to play along to your records, but it’s too hard, I can’t.” Stuart Adamson, who was sitting to his left, piped up on hearing this devastating news, and in his chirpy Fife accent exclaimed “Don’t worry, son. Either can he.” I almost shat.

Anyway, Oasis…

Definitely Maybe was as complete an album as I had ever heard. The Stone Roses had seemed to have somehow passed me by, I could compare Oasis to no other band. Of course, in hindsight this is ridiculous, Oasis were a parody of many other bands, but it wasn’t just music…

I instantly bought into the whole Oasis package. Hair. Shirts. Retro Adidas tracksuit. Sunglasses. Cigarettes. Alcohol. Liam Gallagher became my idol. A deity. A living legend. I’d never seen anybody walk and talk with such an attitude. I’d never heard a voice that pronounced ‘sunshine’, ‘soonsheeine’. I’d never seen cooler hair. I’d never witnessed anyone spit with such grace. I had a crush on Liam Gallagher.

This was to instantly change the band. No longer did we try to play ‘The Fly’, badly. Now it was ‘Live Forever’, ‘Supersonic’, Cigarettes and Alcohol’, ‘Slide Away’, ‘Rock and Roll Star’ and ‘Columbia’. More poignantly, though, it made us write our own songs. Oasis made it seem easy. EVERYBODY could be a rock and roll star. That’s what they said.

Dream Out Loud was ditched as a pretentious, camp band name and ‘Nevertheless’ was born. Nevertheless would prove to the world that a second Oasis were required. Sorrowfully, hundreds of other fledgling bands had the same, uncreative idea and Glasgow was soon awash with bands singing about sunshine, immortality, drink and destruction.

Nevertheless (another awful name for a band) would rehearse in the Howwoood Church hall initially, and then above the Railway Inn public house in the same village. Songs were born, then killed. Lyrics were written, then scribbled out. Riffs were created, then erased from memory. Nevertheless always had something different, though. Nevertheless had a tightness that I  have yet to see replicated in any other unsigned band. Yes, the songs were weak in hindsight, but at the time we knew that we had a sporting chance of being the next big thing.

Our first Glasgow gig was to be in The Vale Bar, Dundas St. A pokey wee place, but with a great atmosphere and ambience. This was a big deal for Nevertheless. Glasgow. The big smoke. We felt that we would be indoctrinated into the Glasgow music scene immediately. Unfortunately, the Glasgow music ‘family’ was not a friendly place (for the most part). Glasgow was, and possibly still is, very cliquey. Twee was the order of the day, and Nevertheless were too commercially viable (or predictable, offensively so, at times) for most tastes. Still, Nevertheless had a succesful first gig at The Vale, and more were to follow after taking a reasonably sized (underage) crowd.

The Mecca of all Glasgow gigs was King Tuts Wah Wah Hut. The very place that Alan McGhee first clapped eyes on Oasis. King Tuts was a difficult venue to get a gig. A good track record in Glasgow was required to prove you were worthy enough of playing at their prestigious venue. King Tuts’ ego was overly inflated by the Oasis phenomenon, but nonetheless it was (and still is) a great place to play a gig. We did eventually manage to play it, and more or less sold it out. This is favourable for any gig venue/promoter.

While I’m on it…

‘PROMOTERS’

A term used in the loosest sense of the word, for the majority. Getting a band to guarantee attendance, sell their own tickets, hand over 90 – 100% of the money taken and advertise the gig themselves, is not promotion. It is being a middle man between the venue and the entertainment. The vast majority of promoters in Glasgow and Manchester are talentless chancers.

Once King Tuts was achieved, we simply had to commit this wonderful music to tape…

Dream Out Loud (The Rise And Fall Of An Unsigned Band Pt – 2)

How does one go about forming a band?

I am from a little village in Renfrewshire called Howwood.  It’s name derives from ‘Hollow in the Wood’ and… blah, blah, blah. Nice wee place, though.

Musicians were limited. My mate Craig couldn’t play an instrument and the only music he owned was a double cassette of ‘Queen: Live At Wembley ’86’. Bass for him, then.

1 down, at least 2 to go. Craig borrowed the minister’s son’s bass and into the cellar of Howwood Parish Church we went.

Boredom set in quickly. We needed a guitarist. Luckily, Craig knew a guy who played guitar through a friend of a friend. Rumour had it, though, that he was a big Slayer/Iron Maiden/Metallica fan. This did not please me. Heavy Metal was, for me, the bastardisation of all music at the time. No doubt he had long hair and piercings. How uncouth.

Michael Page is the most placid, quietly spoken and talented individual I have met to this day. Could he play guitar? Fuck aye. You see, that’s the thing about ‘Heavy Metal’; technically it is brilliant. It is an abhorrence to behold, in my opinion, but it fair teaches someone how to play guitar.

Michael was invited to join my band. At this point I would like to stress the importance of the statement “my band”. It was always MY band. Start to finish. Anyway, we started by covering songs like ‘The Fly’ and, oddly, Stiltskin’s Levi advert song ‘Inside’. Nobody singing. Just a musical ‘tribute’.

We needed a singer.

Through my industry contacts at the Mossend Brewers Fayre, I found out that a young man called Ryan fancied himself as a ‘bit of a chanter’. Turns out he was a ‘bit of a chancer’. First audition, Ryan turned up at 10 am (supposed to be 9 am) with a black guitar with ‘Axe’ written on it in a clear guitar case. A half consumed bottle of Irn-Bru was cradled like a baby under his left arm and he was still drunk. Ryan was 16. Craig and Pagey looked at him, horrified. I looked at him and thought “you’re in, my friend.”

We started off thinking about a name. Many were suggested, none I can remember. We settled for the inappropriate name ‘Dream Out Loud’. Inappropriate mainly because we didn’t have any of our own songs. It’s also a fucking AWFUL name for a band. Still, we were young and excited.

We mostly tried to play Beatles and U2 songs. The occasional other bands got a look in, not often though.

There we were, quite settled as our little 4 piece, boring as sin band. Clean, tidy, dull.

Something happened in 1994, though. Something that would change our (and many other) lives, forever.

A little known group of 5 Mancunian scallies released an album called ‘Definitely Maybe’…