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LAST CHANCE SO SOON?
Could it be true? Is this really the end for THE BLUETONES?
So there's comedian Bill Hicks, floating through heaven atop a cloud of Marlboro smoke, wings stained nicotine yellow, compiling God's officially commissioned Catalogue of Bullshit for the decade ending 1999.
He peers down upon his beloved rock music and sees nothing but slime. Supposedly 'credible' acts whose music is used to sell cars, Toffee crisps, the fuckin' Sun, ferchrissake? Sorry, The Rolling Stones, Spiritualised, Hurricane #1, £40,000, you're off the artistic roll-call, buds. Whole record labels 'retired' and dozens of bands dropped in a single act of industry 'streamlining'? Sheee-it, lets just thunderbolt the whole pile of snivelling corporate crap and watch the bastards fry. huh?
Then, just as he's closing the book on rock and heading off for an acid'n'joyriding night out with Hendrix, he spots two stoned slackers in a flat in Earls Court munching Happy Meals, shouting at Countdown and raging as hard as they can against the machine through the dull haze of The Chronic. Yeah, thinks Bill, those guys, they've got the right idea...
"We could've been a lot more famous by doing certain things along the way," says singer Mark Morriss between munches on his hamburger. "We could have let our music be used to sell products, stuck our songs in films. But there's a sense of purity to what we do."
"It made us angry that we're working in one of the most disease-ridden industries known to man." he spits. "It's all money and magazine covers and fucking revenue from adverts and shit and it makes me sick. Someone like Bill Hicks had a lot of influence on me when I was younger, opening my eyes to certain ideas and the way the world works. If he was still alive today he'd be disgusted."
He puts down his burger, sends a mental nod to the Dude upstairs.
"People are gonna look back and say, 'When everybody else was selling out The Bluetones never sold out. The Bluetones stayed true to their vision'." Mark grins. "That's gonna be worth something, innit?"
A few months ago the Bluetones released a single called 'Sleazy Bed Track'. You may not have noticed. The Bluetones certainly didn't. There were no posters or adverts or TV campaigns or anything. It's questionable whether their record company at the time knew what week it was coming out either, seeing as though the few people who were still working there were probably more concerned with applying to supermarkets for shelf-stacking vacancies.
We speak, of course, of Seagrams takeover of Polygram and the subsequent 'slimming down' of the company - a putsch which suggests that as a child, the local indie band must have chucked Mr Seagram's sports kit on top of a bus, called him Smelly Seagram McSmell and laughed. The A&M subsidiary was deemed 'dead wood' and lopped off, lots of smashing rock bands you hadn't heard of yet were re-signed by the DSS and those you have heard of are currently trembling under a new 'perform or perish' policy that will no doubt see several more contracts turn to dust in the coming months. The Bluetones own label, Superior Quality, which was licensed to A&M worldwide, has been shunted sideways, signing to another Seagram subsidiary, Mercury.
"Our last single suffered because of the change-over," says Mark, brave face to the fore, "but that's just the business world. You find yourself in a band and you become a commodity. It's disheartening to see something you love so much treated as sums. It's pretty shit when you see other bands on the label who've built up good, trusting relationships with the people they work with, not having the big hits straight away and just getting dropped. Y'know, we're talking about people's careers and lives here."
So did they ever fell the Sword of Seagram hanging over their exposed necks? "Nah," Mark declares. "We were lucky enough to have had some hits early on so being dropped was never an issue for us. It's like running a sweet shop now. If you don't sell enough cola bottles you stop stocking them. You're not involved in a creative industry any more, its business. It's not very tasteful or pleasant so we just try to distance ourselves."
Fair attitude 'Tones, but just look what happened to, er, Heavy Stereo... "The ideal is to become totally independent," Mark continues. "I think that's the way forward. When things were more frenzied for us a few years ago we always maintained that we were waiting for it to calm down so we could find our own space. A place where Talking Heads existed and Teenage Fanclub exist, not riding the crest of some cultural wave. "Its not about money and its not about fame. That's just cheap and fake. Its a merry-go-round and you go round once then get off because you're gonna get sick. Those who stay are idiots."
Bluetonius Spliffmungeous is a resilient breed, unbothered by fluctuating sales or seasons, cocooned in a fortress of self-belief. Destroy his indigenous record label and he'll roam gently onto another one. And leave him with bugger-all to do for a few months while his lawyers wrangle over small print and he'll relax over a spliff or 12 and concoct his elaborate theories about how daytime TV's Tricia marks the end of civilization as we know it.
"The standards of the world are dropping quickly," Mark orates, surfing his Happy Meal buzz, "and if we get left behind then fucking fine. We're not prepared to compromise ourselves just to get more front covers. The world is a really sorry place. On an intellectual level its run by monkeys for monkeys."
YEAH! WITH YOU COMRADE! Let's build a pyre for the capitalist pigdogs that have steered the world on a direct collision course with a huge global stock market disaster! "The world's economic crisis doesn't bother me," Mark shrugs, "it's the general level of human intelligence that does. You're encouraged not to think too deeply about things."
"There's a huge uprising in lads' magazines." adds Scott, "and that's a big part of the problem. We're all told who we're supposed to fancy and where we're supposed to drink..."
YOU WHAT? So people buying Loaded is more of a disaster than the Russian economy crashing, the impending Millennium Bug apocalypse and Bob Geldof on Xfm is it?
Scott: "It is to my eyes."
Eyes wide shut, perchance? Ignorance or intuition, it's just such philosophy that's expounded on the 'Tones new single, 'Four Day Weekend', a riotous rock blast of rampant nihilism that finds Mark inviting his girlfriend out on a night of looting and pillaging with the war-cry of "THE FUTURE IS DEAD!". Crikey.
"It's existentialism, man!" Mark enthuses. "That's very much the life we lead. You're running away from something that's unavoidable in the future, but there's no point. The future doesn't exist does it?"
Er, yes it does.
"No it doesn't. The only thing that matters is now and the next 30 minutes. We're told to worry and save for a future that never comes. We spend too much time thinking about tomorrow and hanging on to yesterday. The future is dead, it doesn't exist, it's not worth worrying about. It's like this A&M thing.. It's all in the past now. We've still got our guitars and we still make music so we've got nothing to worry about. Really."
He bites his lip. Right now, and for the next half an hour at least, his ass will remain unsponsored, undropped and unsold. And in this viperous world the only thing that matters to a Bluetones is staying out of Big Bill's Book of Bastards.
Extracted from NME, November 1998.