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home: interviews: 1995: melody maker - february feedback

CAUGHT BY THE BUZZ

Have you heard the new Maker motto? They're On The Cover On Tuesday, They're In The Charts On Sunday! First Portishead, then Sleeper, and now - SUPERGRASS! We made them what they are today - this month's best new blah blah blah. EVERETT TRUE suspends disbelief and spends two nights with them and THE BLUETONES, the new Stone Roses and next month's best new blah blah blah.

WED, 18.30, FLIGHT UP TO GLASGOW

The Maker posse is feeling wary.

What if our Favourite New Band In The World Ever Ever Ever (well, for this month anyway) let us down? What if (whisper it and shudder) Supergrass can't cut it live?

Surely reports of both Supergrass and The Bluetones have been too favourable - a case of way too much, way too soon. How can such barely formaed bands justify such praise? Even if, in "Mansize Rooster" and the awesome, coke-addled "Caught By The Fuzz" ("'Ere comes my mum/She knows wot I dun"), Supergrass have created two of the most insidiously catchy singles of the past six months - Oasis or no Oasis.

"Huh," we sniff, sampling the duty-frees. "Two flashes in the pan if ever we saw 'em. Supergrass? Kiss our ass! Young, unfeasibly hairy and good looking Oxford brats - don't cha jus' hate 'em?" (Yeah, we know we once helped write a cover feature on them - but a 10-year career based on two doses of three-minute brilliance? Oh, come on.)

It doesn't help either that nobody we know has actually heard The Bluetones - "Oh, they're those young geezers from Hounslow who're the new Oasis/Stone Roses, aren't they?" everyone blankly enquires - and that the only feature we've read on them was incomprehensible from Beginning (objects beginning with B - Bovril, bovver boots, Blue Mondays, beatniks) to End (objects ending with E - feline, Stoned Free, exquisite, gorge).

Okay, so only the other day, someone had thrown us a copy of their mail-order seven-inch, "Slight Return", which sounded like all the loveliest parts of Sarah Records slung together in four breathy, cataclysmic minutes, but still..."Hostess! Another Glenmorangie, please!"

WED, 20.30, KING TUT's WAH WAH HUT

We arrive to find the place in a state of upheaval.

The Bluetones are already onstage. The air crackles with a sense of expectation somewhat like ST Elmo's Fire. It mingles with the odour of several hundred sweaty Glaswegian students crammed too tight for comfort. Every available vantage point has been pressed into service by eager punters, craning their necks in a futile attempt to see the band over an ever growing head of steam. There are no apparent Ned's Atomic Dustbin fans in sight.

They sound pleasant enough - jingly, jangly, a touch of that ol' Manc spirit, a singer with cheekbones and poise, a dowsing from the magical fountain of mod, a smattering of those lush. luminescent melodies so favoured by 12-string exponents like Primal Scream and er, The Stone Roses..what's this song called? "Time And Again"? Sweet. Hold on, let's get a drink, then we'll check 'em out.

Three minutes later, they're gone.

Damn.

WED, 23.15, SAME PLACE

JESUS! What happened?!

They started with "Strangeones" (from the first single), a heady three-and-a-half minute rush of youthful adrenalin and ubsurdly catchy choruses, which segued seamlessly into "Sitting Up Straight" (from the second single), a fulsome two-and-a-half rush of manic adrenalin and outrageously catchy choruses, which segued seamlessly in the hit, "Mansize Rooster", a rampant two-and-a-half minute rush of unstoppable adrenalin and f***-me-I-thought-it-was-impossible-to-write-songs-this-catchy-any-more choruses, which segued seamlessly into "Time", a slightly slower, more thoughtful three-minute rush of sweat-drenched adrenalin and deadpan-cool catchy choruses, which...

Actually, by around this point, I was thinking, "Okay, very good, very clever, you bastard Supergrasses, throw away all your best songs at the start, put everything you've got into the first 15 minutes, there's no f***ing way you're gonna follow that, who do you think you are, the bleedin' Jam or Undertones or someone?", when f***-me-sideways-and-call-me-late-for-breakfast if a two-note piano riff didn't start up and they didn't top ALL THAT with a song called "Alright", a song so impossibly catchy and youthful and poptastic, it made everything before (and I'm talking the past five years here) look positively moribund(a-ha-a-a-a!) by comparison.

Let's switch tense - to the present. (How appropriate!)

"We are young/We are free/We've got teeth/Nice and clean," Gaz shouts to the accompaniment of some ferociously on-key "Twist And Shout"-style harmonies from Mickey, before ripping into the coolest two-note guitar solo this side of The Clash's "Tommy Gun". And then the set gets even better! My mind reels and does several Olympic Standard cartwheels, before thudding to the ground possessed by new heights of hyperbole and depths of depravity.

I'm thinking: "new Madness, in terms of chart longevity, new Slade in terms of terrace friendliness, new Buzzcocks in terms of a relentless riff, new Nirvana if only cos Mickey's basslines are so sizeable, new Who cos drummer is the Nineties Keith Moon or I'm a brainless Sleeper acolyte, new Blur cos I've been told to write that, new Monkees in terms of teen appeal, new Mungo Jerry for the sideburns..."

And then they play "Caught By The Fuzz" and the whole f***ing world explodes.

WED, 00.50, LORNE PARK HOTEL

The band seem oddly subdued. Mickey, Danny and T-shirt salesman, the garrulous Mike Swag, are all going straight to their rooms for a quiet "smoke". The Bluetones are absent, having snuck their way into a dance club while our backs were turned. (We can't join them due to Glasgow's torturous licensing laws.)

Gaz asks me whether I thought the show was all right. I look at him, aghast. "Did I think the show was all right," I repeat, shocked to the core. "Well, did you?" he asks again, concerned.

The Maker posse bonds with the Supergrass road crew. A bottle of Jack is produced, and the band look on bemused as it gets quaffed in 10 minutes flat by - ooh - at least four of us.

"Ere," asks a bewildered Danny finally, "I thought it was us who were meant to behave like that."

Danny, of course, is the one member of Supergrass who does almost live up to their image of being hedonistic, babe-lovin', cocaine-sniffing wide boys. The other two have girlfriends - and anyway, Mickey's far too old for such nonsense. Danny's the one you can rely on to invite everyone back up to his shared hotel room, the one who'll get off with members of Shampoo, the on who'll gently chide The Maker for its flamboyant approach to interviewing and then ask in his devilish soft voice which drugs we prefer. (And tell us he's a "bit of an everything" man himself.) Danny, as we have already indicated, is a Keith Moon in the making - without any of the boorish elements. Every group needs a member like Danny.

(Shame then, that is should be Danny who gets the fan letters from wannabe drummers, while it's Gaz and his sideburns who finds himself surrounded by nubile, thrusting young "Gazettes" - see Edinburgh.)

The last we remember of the evening is ordering a quadruple Peach Schnapps, no ice, until...

THURS, 04.00, OUTSIDE THE MOATHOUSE HOTEL

Ah f*** it, you don't wanna know. Suffice to say that several very large hotel security men, one irate receptionist and an even more irate Maker photographer were involved.

Melody Maker: diplomats to the stars!

THURS, 15.30, EDINBURGH STATION

Bump into rabid Bluetones fan - the 10th we've met so far. (How well-known are they?)

"Why are you so mean to The Verve?" he wants to know. "I only ask cos I pretty much agree with everything else you write. The Stone Roses review was spot on. But I love The Verve, man...anyway, weren't The Bluetones genius last night?"

We confess sheepishly that we missed nearly all their set.

"But man," our new friend exclaims, "they were f***ing top! They gave me the same feeling as The Roses, the Scream, The Verve. They've got f***ing excellent tunes. Don't you dare slag them off."

We assure them that nothing further could be from our minds.

We hope.

THURS, 17.00, HOLIDAY INN, EDINBURGH

We're just checking in when we meet Supergrass en route to soundcheck - wearing those kind of knowing grins which you only get when their wearers know that they were way less drunk than you were the night before and can remember everything. So I start telling them The Story Of The Moathouse, when someone taps me on the shoulder. "Er, Everett," says Simon, Supergrass' redoubtable press agent, "perhaps this isn't the best time to tell that story. Look behind you."

I look.

Behind me are three very nervous-looking hotel receptionists, hanging onto my every last word.

"Is sir quite sure he wants to stay here tonight?"

Ooops.

THURS, 19.30, EDINBURGH UNIVERSITY BAR

Danny is sitting at the T-shirt stall, licking each poster bought. Yeah, that's right - licking them.

"How much for a signed one?" a female admirer asks Mike Swag.

"A quid extra," he replies, quick as a flash, before picking up his pen which a theatrical flourish and writing, "With love from Mike Swag".

"That is going to be worth a fortune in a couple of years," Danny informes her, tongue at the ready.

The fan pays up, and departs bemused.

THURS, 21.55, SAME PLACE, BUT UPSTAIRS

Security are looking nervous.

So they should. Last time the place was this full was for Shed Seven and it was pandemonium: 450 people crammed into a space big enough to comfortably hold 50, a constant stream of crowd-surfers crashing against the lighting rig hanging down from the eight-feet high roof, sweat dripping down from the ceiling like a shower onto everything - even the odd stage barrier collapsing.

Everyone expects it to be worse tonight.

THURS, 22.30, SEE ABOVE

Impressions Of A Much Touted New Band As Viewed Precariously From Behind The Lighting Engineer's Board As Hundreds Of Kids Dance Wildly And Other People's Perspiration Drips Freely Onto Your Freshly Shaven Bonce (or IOAMTNBAVPFBTHEBAHOFKDWAOPPDFOYFSB, for short):

(i) They're not as great as people claim. Too raw, not formed enough. Great songtitles, though...the opening "Are You Blue, Or Are You Blind?", the Happy Mondays-esque "Carn't Be trusted", the rather swoonsome "Bluetonic". They show potential, sure. They have some cracking melodies - and, in guitarist Adam Devlin, an embryonic John Squires, perhaps (although isn't it about time critics found some other reference point?). But they're not quite there yet.

Give 'em time, you great mewling cat's chorus of critics - give 'em some f***ing time. Don't suffocate them already with your kindness.

(ii) Doesn't "Slight Return" have a great stuttering refrain? Isn't it like the culmination of every emotional quicksand you've ever found yourself dragged into? Doesn't it resonate with the imprint of dewy marigolds crushed underneath foot in the morning, stars glimmering above Brighton as you step off the night train and every ancient McGuinn riff?

Although, obviously not live...too un-formed still, too precocious. But the potential...damn, it's exciting.

(iii) Don't they look - and sound - young?

(iv) Where have all these rabid Bluetones fans come from? There are about 30 here: holding a private party of their own down the front, oblivious to everyone else, quite clearly aware that for them this is the "Second Coming". Claims that this tour herald a new Blur/Oasis-style order might not be so far-fetched at that.

(v) Seven songs! Yes! Great set length!

(vi) Isn't "Cut Some Rug" - which sways and swaggers in all the right parts - a great dance anthem for the Blow Up generation? (I mean, hopefully the new Blow Up generation have never been that smug, elitist, power-driven sector of London, but hell...to paraphrase The Jam, "I work in London/And I can only go where the London traffic goes".)

(vii) The new Stone Roses? Oh, f*** right off. Haven't people gotten tired of that tag already? The Bluetones (dreadful name: evoking nights of real ale, egg-plastered beards and gigantic beer bellies) are gonna be the new Bluetones.

THURS, 23.30, SAME PLACE

Yeah. Supergrass played too.

Complete pandemonium. The rivulets of sweat have become streams. The lighting engineer has to venture out mid-set to correct his lights. No one in the audience can see the band cos of the phalanx of security guards pushing back the surfers.

Gaz apologises for his voice being f***ed.

Danny, not missing a beat, intones "cocaine" in a deep New York accent. (Earlier, on the tour bus, the first word which comes out of the speakers when the CD player is switched on is "cocaine". Spooky. Or perhaps not so when you consider this band listen to JJ Cale and the truly atrocious Frank Zappa's "Dinah Mo Hum" for pleasure.)

Someone female yells "We f***ing love you, Danny".

A bare chested Danny ("sorry about my physique!") looks wildly around the crowd, before crashing down full-force on his kit and kickstarting forthcoming single "I'd Like To Know", which I've decided is my new favourite song ever ever ever with its Bowie-esque line "I'd like to know where all the strange ones go" and the frankly insidious guitar line...that is, until they begin the mighty swirling bass riff to "Lenny" which is like all the poppier sides to Led Zeppelin (if that ain't an oxymoron) all rolled into three amphetamine-drenched minutes.

And what about the garage-y SUb Pop single "Lose It", which is like The Beatles' "I Wanna Hold Your Hand" in reverse - "I won't come home cos you never hold my hand" - and their three-minute pummeling of Hendrix's "Stone Free" as an encore?

F***ing wicked, man!

THURS, 24.00, BACKSTAGE

Press officer Simon gently admonishes MM photographer Sweet for taking Gaz's picture with one of the three "Gazettes": "His missus will kill him if she ever sees that!"

At the other end of the room, Danny is attempting to convince his tour manager to take an innocuous-looking white pill.

"But I can't do that sort of thing any more, man, I'm too old," his manager wails, before distracting Danny with a handily placed spliff.

Some drunk student rolls around pretending to be from "The Courier" so he can ponce drinks. Various Bluetones wonder in and out, but I'm buggered if I can remember what we talked about: beer, pool and Award Ceremony parties, probably. And the Godlike genius of the new Stone Roses album. Then they piss off, to go "ambient pubbing" with Danny in tow.

Just another night on the road, really.

Albeit with two very special bands.


Extracted from Melody Maker, February 1995.