Hello folks, ta for all the love for Pleasure Death today. Realising it was a quarter of a century old coincided with hearing this morning of the closure of the legendary Harlow Square venue. Such a shame. There is a story linking both venue and album.
Late ’91 we were touring the U.K. and had planned to record some songs at Southern Studios, London for release on the Wiiija/Southern label. The night before we had a gig booked supporting Spiritualized at Harlow Square. We were staying with Gary Walker, boss of Wiiija Records in North London so we headed down to Harlow with Gary and got ready to check out this venue we’d read so much about. Spiritualized’s soundcheck took forever and we weren’t allowed into our dressing room until they finished. When they eventually stopped doors were opening, an event that also coincided with our dinner being served by the venue. We went to take our baked potato and beans ( I remember what we had to eat. Is that sad?) into our dressing room and were told by Spuratualized’s crew that they were using all of the backstage area and we weren’t allowed in it. The three of us sat on the stage, dinner on laps and chatted to those punters who had made their way in early to check us out. This was very strange indeed. Within ten minutes our plates would be empty, we’d strap on guitars, pick up sticks and play to those who had just watched us scoff our food. When we went to leave our empty plates backstage a crew member told us we couldn’t come back. Naive as we were then we we’re still aware that this was a load of bollocks. Fyfe tried to push past the Scottish tech who proceeded to do what all Scots and Irish do in that situation and exaggerated his accent to sound as if he’d just come out of doing a ten stretch. Seeing the guy was giving Fyfe grief myself and Michael piled in, knives, forks, dishes flying everywhere, lots of pushing and shoving. In the background a terrified Jason Pierce looked as if he had just shat his pants while his crew huffed and puffed and tried to keep us out. Eventually, people from the club and Gary Wiiija got involved and the melee was stilled. We grabbed our instruments and played a blinder. The audience that had come for blissful space rock were startled while the noise heads down the front lurched back and forward In revelry.
After Spiritualized finished their set they got out as quickly as they could. We hung around and got amongst the vibes in the club. For some reason I decided that some speed was what was needed and got a punter at The Square to hook me up with a dealer who arrived in a navy blue Ford Granada and looked like Barry Grant from soap opera Brookside. I spent the night tearing the ears off Gary Walker and Harvey Birrell and ranting about soap operas I liked. I was still flying on the way back to Gary’s house in London, still awake chatting to Gary’s flat mates and still awake when we arrived in Southern Studios the next day.
I remember recording Potato Junkie and thinking my Fender Telecaster sounded the best it had ever sounded. We hit the pub later that night and the next day we’re back in again. After we finished recording we headed out to do a John Peel session and drank more beers but this time Tennents Super which is, as some ‘specialists’ are aware the most awesome of beers ( if you’re wired that way). On the trip back from the Peel session I was hanging out the back of the van while being shouted at by the late, much missed,John Loder, head honcho of Southern who was in a vehicle behind and trying to get me into safety. From there we headed to London ULU to watch Silverfish. After their fantastic set us and Silverfish headed over to a party at RAK studios where I drank more and took microdot acid. This episode would later be memorialised in ‘Knives’ as I wandered around, kitchen knives in hand silently freaking out. I stayed up all night in a spare room with shades of ‘the fear’ and when I went into another room later everybody had left. The next morning staff at the studio came in to inform me that my bandmates had left a message that they would be at Southern Studios with Harvey to mix our album. They also, in no uncertain terms, requested I get off their property as they didn’t like the look of the saucer-eyed Wurzel Gummidge with the Ulster accent.
There I was, still tripping, on the street with no mobile phone (this was 1991) and hardly any money. I’ve a vague recollection of standing at a bus stop in Picadilly scared out of my wits and also a vague episode on Oxford Street. In the end I managed to make it to the studio where I was so fucked I spent the entire mixing session under the mixing desk shouting “turn up the feedback” or “sounds amazing” to anyone that would listen. That night the thought of getting on a bus back to another destination filled me with dread so, as we were due in the studio again the next day, I asked if I could sleep in the studio. John Loder didn’t mind, fair play to him, and so with the aid of a sleeping bag I bedded down under he desk. That night I had fitful night terrors and couldn’t settle, wishing the last of the acid, booze and speed would leave my system and let me feel normal again.The next morning I was woken by a staff member from Southern saying “Andy? Can you get up please? Cathi Unsworth from Melody Maker is here to interview you”.
Where the fuck did I get all that energy and capacity for shenanigans?
The album sounds great and, despite the freaking out, it was a marvellous time. Big up to fellow travellers Michael McKeegan, Fyfe Ewing, Harvey Birrell and John Loder. The album would come out in ’92 and go to number one in the independent charts and later that year my beloved Fender Tele would bite the dust on stage at the Mandela Hall in Belfast (it’s on display at the Oh Yeah centre in Belfast, fact fans. There’s probably still some speed lodged behind the scratch plate) so it was such a vibrant and thrilling time to be involved in music and involved with the band. I heard this morning that The Square in Harlow is to close. That’s a shame, a real shame. If you fancy it, get a can of Tennents Super and crank up Pleasure Death and wish the good people of The Square all the best. Go easy on the acid though….shudder….
(You heard the man, CRANK IT!)