So there was this bar and this barmaid…
I hated the pubs in Penarth. I never felt at home in the Railway Tavern, the main pub and social hub of the town, not helped by being thrown out for under age drinking in front of all my peers during the Summer of 1986. By 1991 there was a new pub on the block called Inn At The Deep End, which was the old swimming baths on the seafront across from the pier. I didn’t like that much either, no atmosphere at all and just horrible noise and horrible people. A few of my friends had started going to a bar on the seafront called Rabiottis but it was still a bit stuck up and poncey for me. About a hundred yards to the left of Rabiottis was Luciano’s, a bar on the ground floor and an Italian restaurant upstairs. Nobody went there, until my friends all gave it a go one night in June. And from there started the best Summer of my life.
It was about circumstances all coming together at the right time. I had a job and some money, the weather was great, I finally had a bar I liked and had discovered Budweiser, an alcoholic drink that I actually enjoyed drinking and all my friends were there. Sounds corny but it was great. Lots of music was bought and consumed, lots of alcohol was bought and consumed, lots of pizzas were bought and consumed, and they really did do fantastic pizzas there.
The turning point was The Barmaid. There was already a cool barmaid there called Sue but when a new one started I fell into what I called Like. I really really really didn’t want it to be love because that usually meant me going shy and tongue tied and stupid. Here was a member of the opposite sex who I found attractive but who I could actually talk to as a friend, which was a first for me. Even if I did like her a lot I didn’t want it to interfere with our friendship. So I started to spend a lot of evenings at Luciano’s along with my friends. It was never that busy and it felt like our own private club.
Meanwhile I was working at BT in Cardiff and constantly writing. There was a long letter to my friend Julian (hi Jules) which became a diary of the period, and there were songs. I started to write a series of songs about girls which would be called “Songs about girls” (truth in advertising), one song about different girls I had known from Penarth and Sheffield and Treforest, and then this thing happened at Luciano’s so naturally I wrote songs about that. In the end I wrote five songs which became the “What happens next” EP.
As the Summer progressed she dropped hints that she was leaving to go to college in Portsmouth or somewhere like that and every evening became precious to me, counting down to her leaving. At the start of September my parents went on holiday so I had the house to myself so I set up a bunch of tape decks with my microphones and mixer and guitar and recorded the twenty one songs I had written that Summer quickly and simply, minimal overdubs and as live as possible. Recorded in alphabetical order too. That was the “Our little secret” c90, and the five songs for The Barmaid were within the tape. I extracted the five songs, put them on a C15 tape and gave her the tape on her final day at Luciano’s thinking I would never see her again.
So lets have a look at the songs. The order of the songs on the EP was the order they were written in, so you could say it shows some kind of development. Or maybe not.
“You me and everything”
The first song I wrote, around July, and it’s pretty self explanatory. Suddenly I’m confused by my feelings and don’t want to spoil the friendship. Very simple musically, that’s the Casio SK5 pumping out a sick beat (thanks Taylor) and programmed bass, then my guitar over the top, all recorded live to tape then an overdubbed vocal, complete with asides about how awful my singing is. Oh and the v chorus was adapted from “Goodbye Cologne”, a song I wrote in 1986. Not a great start but it sets the scene.
“Time and distance”
Written at the start of August, I wrote this while watching a Grand Prix on TV, hence the title taken from Murray Walker saying “And he’s putting time and distance between himself and the next car”. I wrote this and went to a party at Howard’s house, showing him the words and him saying “Bloody hell that’s good”. More confusion, but kind of eloquent too. Me and my guitar live to tape. I can hear the sound of my parents’ music room on this one. I like the way the verses are frantic but the chorus is quiet and calm, it reflects how I’d suddenly start panicing and hide in the toilets listening to the Field Mice on my walkman to calm down – this would be referenced in the following song too.
“What happens next”
A song about a specific night at Luciano’s. The neurotic sidekick was Julian, the world and his wife was Mike and Helen (who are still together, bless), the potential girlfriend was The Barmaid and I was hiding in the toilet again. It’s a m, and another guitar and vocal live to tape, hence the cock up at the end. I like this song, it’s cute. Shame the guitar is a bit out of tune. This was mid August, the second verse about ‘two houses’ was something that Mike said to me that night.
Another night, towards the end of August. All my friends went to a party but I didn’t, so i spent the entire evening propping up the bar and talking to The Barmaid. More personal references regarding her name, and Sue gets a namecheck too. Nice Casio chug, and the only appearance of my overdrive pedal.
Recorded live around 2pm on 2nd September, and improvised straight to tape. The music was meant to sound like “Speak to me” by Moose, but doesn’t really. God I sound pissed off, or maybe I was slightly drunk. At the end of the full twenty song tape there’s an audio description where I talk about each song and admit I’ve had a bottle or two of Bud…. The eternal question is posed here – if you forget me, can I forget about you? I like the end too.
The next night at Luciano’s I sat at the bar and Sue kept smiling at me and saying she liked the songs. “How did you hear them?” I asked. “We put the tape on in the bar after you went home” she replied. “Oh God, what did she think?” I asked. “You can ask her yourself, she’ll be here later” she replied. It turned out she loved the tape and the songs and we had a nice long chat and decided we should be friends rather than anything else and I was happy with that. But more importantly both her and Sue wanted me to play a gig at Luciano’s and after much persuasion it was arranged for the last Friday of September. Just me and a mic and a guitar. There is a ten song rehearsal tape somewhere, but on the night I did five songs before my stage fright overcame me, four of my own and one by Husker Du. The Barmaid was there and I asked her which song from the EP she wanted, she asked for “What happens next” so that was the third song in my set.
Then Autumn set in, she headed off to wherever she went, my job at BT ended and I was genuinely unemployed for the first time. Luciano’s continued to be our place, and even if I had less money to get drunk I still had a good time. From time to time the Barmaid would return to Penarth and we would chat and drink and be nice to each other. And slowly more songs came, eventually recorded in December 91 for the “Somewhere Out There” EP. A slightly compromised EP because there were better songs available but the restrictions of a C15 cassette meant there was no room for “Rubble”, a great song. So what was on the EP?
‘Where does love end?”
Obviously about what happened when we decided to be friends. Still slightly confused but accepting the reality as the best situation. I think there’s some good lines in this song. Not sure about the music.
“This is all there is”
Vaguely inspired by “Little Fury Things” by Dinosaur Jnr (Compare “I run but I can’t catch her” with “the rabbit runs away from me”), this isn’t quite formed yet and would be recorded again in 1993 for “The Beauty Shelter” with a more balanced lyric. Still, the basic concept is good but not quite all there.
“Drowning in lavender”
Nothing to do with the song of the same name on “Songs about girls” in 1994. An instrumental knocked up quickly in order to fill space when I found that “Rubble” would not fit on the tape. It’s quite charming , like a cut price New Order forced to use Casio keyboards. It passes the time nicely.
Inspired by a comment I made to Mike when i was drunk one night – “I’m flying and I’m too scared to land” – but also inspired by what the Telescopes were doing at the time, the “Flying” EP and the wonderful October Peel Session. You probably can’t tell. It’s a kind of love song, looking forward to seeing someone, that kind of thing. The influence of Sarah Records is blindingly obvious.
The whole EP was a little more polished than the last one, though I recorded it all back to front – live guitar and vocals first, then overdubbed keyboards and bass and more guitars as necessary. Instrumentation was my guitar, the SK5 being used as a sampled drum machine (it had four sample pads, so I sampled bass drum and snare drum off records, an imaginary prize is available to anyone who can spot the snare sample, it’s from a record issued in 1988), my Roland Sh3a as bass, and I think the old Casio MT45 on chordal duties in the second half of “Strawberry blonde”.
And that was the end of 1991, I didn’t release any other records until “Candlelight Ecstasy Romance” at the end of ’92 and that’s a story I’ve already written.
Thanks for reading and listening. A normal Goldfish post will appear soon. And if you really want some primitive crap, my 1985 recordings may become available in the New Year.