Working Class Love Songs from the Moseley Border
So ambitious and focused were my next band, we even had a name: The Stand, taken from an old Alarm song. Malcolm “Sonny” White, Paul “Beth” Bethel, Stephen “Lappy” Laplanche and myself (whose nickname appeared to be “Revs” at the time, for want of anything better coming along). I’d met all of these playing football on our school rec after hours. They were a couple of years older than me (I was fifteen at the time), but we managed to get on. I was already known as the school’s Echo & the Bunnymen fan, and I’d heard that Paul was into them as well. One night – this being in my confident days – I managed to strike up a conversation about the Bunnymen with Paul. We were on the same side at football and getting battered. As follows, me going first:
“This is rubbish.
“ Wish I’d stayed in and listened to my Bunnymen albums.”
"Oh, yeah. Which ones?”
“I’m listening to ‘Porcupine’ a lot at the moment.”
If you’ve never heard ‘Porcupine’, it is the archetypal “difficult third” album, mostly bereft of tunes or structure. However, Bethel – assuming me to be some sort of fly-by-night fan - decided why I liked it:
“Well, that’s the one with all the singles on it, isn’t it?”
As if “The Cutter” or, indeed, “Back of Love” could be anyone’s idea of a commercial pop tune. That was the start of a very spiky relationship with Paul. Eventually someone talked about forming a band. They knew I had an - albeit awful – electric guitar, so I was in.
World domination was our obvious initial aim, which was to become a recurring theme in bands I was involved in. Sonny on drums, Beth on bass (we may have been named after an Alarm song, but Paul idolized Les Pattinson of the Bunnymen), and Lappy, somehow, on vocals. I think Lappy got the gig as singer / lyricist because he had long, dark hair and was Irish. This was pre-Live Aid and the other three loved U2 almost as much as I hated them. By now, in my opinion, Echo & the Bunnymen were the greatest band to have ever hit Western civilisation, an opinion I’m not sure I’ve ever gone back on, or not for long if I ever have. But, as a band, there were was a mixture of influences between us: The Smiths, New Order, The Cult, Siouxsie and the Banshees – along with many post-goth efforts – and, of course, The Alarm.
We rehearsed in the back of the video shop ran by Sonny’s dad, on the row of shops on the Glascote Heath estate (I saw my first porn film when Sonny borrowed something from “under the counter” and brought it back to my otherwise empty house for closer inspection). For the brief time I was a fully-fledged member of The Stand, it always seemed to be freezing cold in the back of the shop. I’d stand or sit, wearing many layers and an overcoat, figuring out more and more elaborate ways of jerkily contorting weirder and wilder sounds out of the guitar just to keep warm. The only song I remember us writing was a really bouncy, poppy, three chord effort with lyrics by Lappy along the lines of: "Ask if you know if you really want to go.”
It was fairly rubbish and, if truth be told, so were we, although I have to take my share of the blame for that.
We did spend the majority of one week rehearsing at mine, my Mom being away on holiday. The trouble was, Lappy was also away on holiday. The week, which wasn’t particularly productive, ended with the decision to have Sonny as the singer. I’m glad I was never around when they broke the news to Lappy. I’d started to, and I hate the phrase, “jam” at the house of my school friend, Spencer Ireland, along with another classmate, Ashley Smith. The Stand found out: seeing me walking across the Silver Link road carrying a guitar was a bit of a giveaway. And so they sacked me. We stayed friends for a short while after that, occasionally even lending each other bits of equipment. They went on to recruit top bloke / great guitarist Roger Moore, and change their name to The Conspiracy. On discovering that their band name had been taken, they changed it – in a great act of defiance or originality - to The First Conspiracy.
To us, whenever we mentioned them, and because of the fact that I’d accidentally knackered the microphone stand that Lappy had lent us (nothing a bit of Sellotape couldn’t fix, mind) they would always be known as The Broken Stand.
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