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Stories about the songs
Linus stories


Born Again

The oldest Linus song, written before we named the band. It's a throwaway, Dead Kennedys style song about body dysmorphia/body modification. Pretty simplistic, but hey, it's only a song.


This is the song that started Linus. Jennifer and Andy were splitting up, and I was worried that my dreams of being a rock goddess were becoming less likely if I was not in a band. I remember saying, "We can't split up now, Andy's just written a really good song; our first real song."

I wasn't being entirely selfish- it is a really good song, with a dirty grinding guitar sound, and an insane squall at the end. It's fun to do the oo-oo's. You might think the chorus seems familiar... perhaps it is. We have a tendency to borrow things.



This song was originally called (to my shame) 'Bland Blubber'. It's another pre-Linus oldie. I really like it, because it's rockin' and has a nice melody. There are hardly any lyrics.
My songs are never very long, because
  1. I'm lazy.
  2. I have to remember all the words. Stressful in a gig situation.


Arlo Bay

Anyone know any pig latin? So, we're the type of girl who gets crushes easily. So our favourite albums at the time were The Freed Man/Weed Forestin. So we like guys in glasses. What's wrong with that?

The Bearded Tomato

You know, I think this one actually belongs up there with the other 1991's. It's old.
Jen plays guitar on this one. Andy's hammering away on a cowboy/western-like bassline. The words are rather explicit, and re-reading them makes my palms sweat. I believe I was taking a 'Cultural Women' course at the time, and as you can see, I took it very seriously.
Not to make light of female infibulation.

'Chipping', Dale

Hoo boy, these lyrics aren't getting any less embarrassing. I've even left off the worst of them, 'Kikapu Joy Juice', and still I feel humiliated. (That song was about someone's suicide, and now I can't even remember who it was. How shallow am I?)

Why are my words so bad? What was I thinking? I guess the problem was that I really wanted to be Jello Biafra from the Dead Kennedys.

Anyway, I think all the girls had a crush on Dale. He's a likeable guy.
This song is not about him, though.


Driven Thing

Started as a home demo, with a scrap of lyrics punning on ELO's Livin' Thing.


Jack T Chick

Jack Chick publishes bizarre little comics/pamphlets which are intended to convert the reader to Christianity. Not just any Christianity, either - this is hellfire and brimstone Puritan evangelism. Chick believes the Pope is an Earthly manifestation of Satan. His comics are prized by collectors of weird ephemera worldwide.

Also mentioned in the song are the scary televangelist Pat Robertson, who believes feminism "encourages women to leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism and become lesbians." (Well, I think we'll let the children live.)

Finally, there's Richard Kern, the post-punk filthmonger who's made films of and with Lydia Lunch and Sonic Youth, among others. The picture of actress Lung Leg on the cover of Sonic Youth's Evol is from his film You Killed Me First.


I was tickled to hear that someone used to put this on compilation tapes. What a compliment! This song has a lovely little melody. I think I overdid the singing, but I was young and inexperienced. Years later, we dragged it out of the Linus archive to play for fun, and we had a girl come up to us and say, sneering, "You're still playing Jack Chick?" Honestly, we do have a lot of songs. So there.

La La

I was doing a comic book based on songs by the band God. I'd just finished a two page strip with some wild collage, all about a car which turns on its sadistic owner. I was on Oxford Street, on my way to show the artwork to the band's vocalist Kev Martin, when I heard a sharp 'crack' behind me. I turned around to see a man crumpling into the gutter. He'd been hit by a speeding black cab which had jumped a red light. The car was already too far away to get the number. I stood staring for a moment, wondering how it was that I'd never learned any first aid, let alone artificial resuscitation, while a crowd quickly gathered around the man. His eyes were half open and he was clearly dead. Shocked and disturbed, I walked quickly away.

The second verse is about an incident in the old London Cartoon Centre near Ladbroke Grove. Steve Marchant, the Centre's administrator, told me he'd just been called to help at one of the other offices in the building. There was a lot of noise coming from this office, and it was locked from the inside. He got on a chair to look through the window above the door, and there was a man lying on the floor, screaming incessantly into a telephone. We never did find out what it was all about.



One of the oldest Linus songs, this started out as 'Refuge For Rape Babies' (from a news story), but when we finally demoed it in 1995 new lyrics were required, which I supplied - though if it's resurrected again, it's quite likely to get yet a third set.




Noted often by reviewers who assumed Tammy had written it, this one is actually all my work - though obviously intended to be sung from a female perspective.


Super Golgotha Crucifixion Scene

I went with my friend Steve Whitaker, a comics artist and historian, to meet Brendan McCarthy and Carol Swain. Their graphic novel Skin (written by Pete Milligan) had just been published, after years of controversy and publishers dropping the book. It's about a young skinhead who's also a thalidomide victim. Steve was interviewing Brendan and Carol about the book, and Carol happened to show the others a weird piece of fan mail she'd received.

It was a sheet of paper with a few other little strips of paper attached to it, with bits of writing in pencil all over it, at odd angles. One phrase that stuck out was "long shadows of yours make a super Golgotha crucifixion scene" - I instantly decided it had to be a song title. When it was released as a single, Carol designed the sleeve, and a portion of the fan letter is reproduced on the back cover.


Take My Hand Lord Jesus, I'm Coming Home

The title comes from a Christian comic by Jack Chick (see the song Jack T Chick).


Zap Gun

We had the music, and were determined it should go on the album. There we are doing the vocal tracks in the studio, and this one still has no lyrics. I went outside to buy food and walk around for ten minutes. Came back with the words (given another ten minutes, it might've been a better song, but time is money). Sing them as a guide vocal for Tammy. Who then insists I sing the lead, and adds the little repeated lines that really make the song. It's about: that refreshing feeling when you feel like your brain's been sleeping for an age, then you meet someone intelligent and sparky and feel fully alive again.



Big Bucks

The demo was just the guitar part, titled 'Item Robot Commander' (which was printed on a big cardboard box I was using for storage). Is "older"/"bolder" a corny rhyme? Maybe. The song still says a whole lot about our history and ambitions.


Concrete Kite Flier

The title refers to the music only - it was the name of the guitar demo that started the song.


Days Gone Forever

About nostalgia and losing touch with people. We were listening to a lot of Brian Eno at the time, hence the spiralling guitar break.



No check-shirted woodchoppers in the actual song, of course, but although it's been retitled a couple of times, the title of the original guitar demo has stuck. It's not really about anyone in particular, just a hymn to (slightly anxious) optimism.


Riding With Rich and Darryl

Autumn 1994. We're playing in Wigan with Scrawl, and some friends are driving to see the gig from over the Welsh border in Clwyd: Rich Holden and Darryl Cunningham, two underground cartoonists, and a few of their friends (who, it turns out, are in a band called Emperor Julian). Rich and Darryl share a house in Buckley, and they're quite a double act: both tall and thin, but while Rich is loose-limbed, wide-eyed and essentially a flower child, Darryl is stiff and inhibited and as square-edged as his distinctively angular drawings. They're putting us up for the night, so after the gig, we split our two parties between the two cars - ours and theirs - so that each will have someone who knows the way.

Rich and Darryl are in one car with Peter the drummer (who's driving), Andy, and Jennifer. Rich is navigating in the front seat, but talking animatedly to the others, and he misses the turning off the motorway. They take the next one - miles out of their way - and it dawns on them that they will be anything up to an hour late driving down the country lanes, and the only two people with keys to the house are both in their car. Tammy is going to be pissed off and miserable waiting outside the house with the other guys. But there's nothing to be done, and the conversation gradually falls silent as everyone's hypnotised by the winding roads ahead and by the unexpectedly perfect late-night music on the tape player - Patti Smith's Dancing Barefoot, Blue Oyster Cult's Don't Fear The Reaper. It turns into a magic carpet ride.

They pull up to the house, and the other car isn't there. Uh-oh - have they gotten so fed up with waiting that they've left? Thirty seconds later, the other car pulls up. They've taken the exact same wrong turn and the same circuitous route, without ever knowing they were almost right behind the first car.

Rich is a magnet for such events. If you're ever in Chester, he can be seen on one of the standard postcards of the town, striding across the main street amidst a crowd of shoppers, tiny but unmistakeable with his red hair, black leather coat, and shopping bag full of drawings.



Started off as a home demo called 'Input Faders'. I had just got a four-track, and the lyrics came from the machine's manual. We worked hard on the final version. Elastica were breaking through at the time and we had a sort of band crush on Justine and Donna - but the words aren't specifically about them. There's always people we get all saucer-eyed and fannish over. This was recorded as a single (with 'Big Bucks' and 'Sweetcheeks' as b-sides), still unreleased; the intro was considered too long and too odd for radio play.


Vein In The Neck

Ever been let down? Ever been betrayed? Ever know someone you though was 'cool' and who considered themselves 'cool' and turned out to be just cold?


Written On Your Body/Lyin'

It's a long time ago and I'm not sure what I was getting at with this song. It references Jeanette Winterson and the Riot Grrrl thing - started by Bikini Kill - of writing slogans or messages on foreheads, arms, midriffs. I guess from the point of view that the slogans expressed something ambiguous but masked some things even more ambiguous.



Better Genes

Started life in my notebook as 'Bigger Jeans', even though I had actually lost weight at the time. I sure as hell wasn't going to make Tammy sing that, anyway (not that she would've), so I changed the title before making the demo. She changed the lyrics just a little - in the process turning a nonsense song into a poignant anthem. This was intended to be a single at one point, and may still be one in the future.


Dreamless Sleep

The 'wub wub wub', as our friend Jenni calls it, is a Gnat - an old, primitive analogue synth which now, sadly, refuses to work. I wrote the lyrics (the cheerful so-and-so).


I'm From Outer Space

A sixth-form essay on social alienation, slightly adapted for personal relevance by Tammy. A popular tune since we first played it. Partly inspired by a comic strip in a small US publication, about an alien who infiltrates human society in order to take over the world, but ends up being sucked into the hypnotic tedium of office life.



New-wavey song with lyrics pretty much dictated by the music. Surprisingly hard to play, simple as it sounds.


Old Age Rebellion

Why does the idea persist that rock'n'roll is about rebellion, and that said rebellion consists of shouting a lot and jumping up and down? On the other hand, just because it's entertainment doesn't mean it isn't going to bite you in the ass.



It happened pretty much as described in the song. On my way to a friend's after a recording session, a guy on the bus starting talking to me - in London this usually means that person is a nut, but this guy seemed saner and more interesting than most. I liked him straight away. Then he told me he was on his way to get more of the drugs he expected would eventually killed him; smiled, and shrugged, as if to say "that's the way it goes", slipped off the bus and disappeared.


We're So Cold

Feigned ennui. People are always saying, it seems, that Tammy sounds 'bored'. We're not really so aloof, honestly. Far from it.


Where's Billy Zoom

The cover just says "LOS ANGELES", in red, in the top left corner. The rest is a grainy photo of a big letter X burning at night in the middle of nowhere. I've always imagined it's in the desert for some reason. It looks fearsome and eerie: just above the cross the flames seem to form a face, so that the whole picture looks like some fiery spectre with its arms raised threateningly.

X's first LP is a tight, frisky thing, not particularly noisy but invigorating just the same. It was produced in 1980 by Ray Manzarek of the Doors, whose unnecessary organ playing obscures the rawness of the band but not the melancholy in the songs. The back sleeve shows the group lit as if by the flickering light of the burning X. On the left stands long-gone Billy Zoom, a vision of cool and beauty whose disappearance from X and music in general, in the mid-80s, was one of the many things that haunted me about the band for years. On the right, DJ Bonebrake, bright-eyed kid drummer, and in the middle, John Doe and Exene Cervenka draped around each other, all ennui and disdain.

It's hard to figure why I find X so sad and creepy. On the face of it, their music is just ordinary rock'n'roll played a bit faster, with no particular demon chasing its tail. After a few years they became horribly mainstream and dull. But their early records seem full of sadness behind their snotty, flat delivery. Maybe it's the harmonies between Doe and Cervenka. They always sound like a couple facing the choice of pulling a robbery or starving on the street, with a sort of resigned despair.

On the back of their third LP, Under the Big Black Sun, Billy Zoom glances disinterestedly at the camera, the epitome of glamour in bleached blonde hair and silver leather jacket, a 50s film star that never was. He used to stand stock still on stage, legs splayed, blasting out effortless rocknroll licks while beaming incongruously at the audience. He always looks out of place in photos and films of the group. In Penelope Spheeris' Decline of Western Civilisation Part One, amongst all the stupid, drug-wasted, spoilt-brat punk kids, he is tight-lipped, aloof, apart from it all. He'd played with Gene Vincent, and his bona fide jet-propelled early rock sound set X themselves apart from the other LA punks. What happened to this shining, flawless-looking young man? Did he die unnoticed somewhere? Join a bar band? What?

When I'd just written this song, Tammy showed me an article from Option magazine about erstwhile punk musicians. There was Husker Du's Greg Norton, now a respected chef (!); there was Ana from the Raincoats, just before they reformed. And there was Billy Zoom, leaning on an impossibly perfect beaten-up truck outside his house in Orange, California, his hair now its natural brown but his face and body still those of an angel in blue jeans. According to the article, he now repaired amps and stuff in his garage, attended an evangelical church, and supported the rabid right-wing radio host Rush Limbaugh. Appalled as I was, I could see it made some kind of sense. Burned out, fervently religious, like some character in a song. The thing that really made my jaw drop was finding out he was in his mid-forties (early fifties, now). Which makes him about thirty when, looking like an ageless marble statue, he pounded the boards with X. And he still looks great. Did he make some pact with the devil? Is that why he's repented so forcefully now?

The blues'll get you in the end.



Don't Forget

A silly song inspired by the cereal boxes and ad pages of comic books from my childhood. Back then you could get tiny model kits inside the boxes, or badges, or masks printed on the back. The ads promised a better life through X-ray specs, spy pens, hypno-coins, and all kinds of other tat which looked amazing and glamorous to a five-year-old.



Don't Be Sad

I wrote this to cheer myself up after Jen left Linus. The band started from just Jen and I jamming, it was her band really, so it was a big upheaval. The words are mostly from things friends have said to me in times of distress, things I wanted to hear at that time.


Lovers of London

Do streets have memories? London is full of history, the modern buildings next to the old, the empty streets when you walk through the lonely financial zone at night are majestic and spooky. You see more people going up and down the escalators in the tube than you could ever meet, know, be friends with, fancy, fall out with, love, marry, forget. We could own the streets if we all wanted to. Every pavement carries our footprints. The little side-streets you never noticed before, where do they go? Who lives in that lit room up there? Are those offices really still full of people at this time of night?


Okay, Okay

A song about everyday stresses, being separated from your friends, and relying on your partner. The people in the last verse originally had the names of my friends, now they have the names of Tammy's friends or acquaintances, though what the song says about them doesn't necessarily apply. The title and the last bit "I'm okay if you're okay" come from the famous 1960s self-help book I'm Okay, You're Okay, which you can find in charity shops across the English-speaking world.


Thing of Beauty

An Atlantic Ocean of a love song. The drums in the first half were recorded through one mic on the other side of the room, to get that muffled, underwater sound.



Long Distance

A person I loved went away for a long time. The prospect of this inspired the lyric. The music was improvised around Deb's bassline in rehearsal. Those engine noises towards the end are the Gnat (see 'Dreamless Sleep'), on its last legs by that stage.



Good Medicine

A relic of the worst time in my life. The home demo has a whirring drum sample from an old hip-hop drum breaks album, played forwards and backwards at various speeds. Rewritten a little in rehearsal, additional lyrics and arrangement by Tammy.


Little Goddess

My song of admiration (and thanks for friendship) written on seeing Charley on TV for the first time. Same vintage as Good Medicine.


My New Life

This one was written in stages - my intro, then Deb's chorus, then the verse and middle section. Pretty clear what it's about - self-image, self-doubt, hope, common themes for us. Tammy's singing about her teeth again. Probably our most-played song - we tend to warm up with it in rehearsal.


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Linus stories