Stories about the songs
Early Linus shows 1993
Huggy Bear, The Word, and Brighton 1993
Newcastle and Exeter 1993
The Laurel Tree
New Year's Eve 1998
The Monarch, 5th January & The White Horse, 5th February 1993The third Linus gig was our first at the Monarch, a pub in Chalk Farm Road close to Camden Town. Today, it's an indie club, with bands playing upstairs and DJs downstairs. In 1993, it was just a pub, newly refurbished, with a stage at one end. Where the slightly elevated seating area is now, used to be the bar. Chris & Loretta were doing their Chocolate Narcotic nights there, three or more bands at a time. We were booked to play there at short notice, with Huggy Bear, Bloodsausage, and about five other bands, but our drummer Pete was out of town. So, we borrowed Big Sean.
Sean, drummer in Wat Tyler, was and is a well-known face on the London punk scene, a powerful drummer, and a sweet guy to boot. We rehearsed three songs with him the day before the show, quickly discovering that he didn't do 'slow', or even 'mid-paced'. At the gig, our relatively tame song Jack T Chick (which at that stage still had chimey, high-pitched guitar all the way through, and sounded quite psychedelic) got faster and faster until we could scarcely keep up. The crowd loved it. I wrote in my diary that "we blew even ourselves offstage".
Exactly a month later, we played Paul Cox's Sausage Machine night at the White Horse in Hampstead. Finally playing properly in front of a bunch of excited, enthusiastic people. Our set was twice as long. Six songs! Eleven minutes! Yeah, our songs were SHORT.
Journalists from Melody Maker and the NME were there to see us, which was a relief, since they'd wanted to interview us without ever having heard the band, something that made me uneasy. Jen was disappointed because we finished too late to go and see Cornershop at the Underworld.
Later I caught the tube with Choc Narcotic promoter Chris Phillips. It was the first time I'd spoken with him. He was sweet, unassuming, bright-eyed. An old-school indiekid, big fan of Sarah Records. After I left him, I sat opposite a skinhead and skin girl, who were chatting away amiably, and I felt a little pang of warmth towards this kind-of-cute couple. They seemed nice. Then I noticed their Blood and Honour jewellery - the paraphernalia of a neo-nazi group. I never can reconcile those two things: fascism, and the fact that the people who support it, who are it, are themselves fragile, vulnerable human creatures like the rest of us.
February Fourteen!On Friday February 12th 1993, Huggy Bear were playing on The Word, a moronic late-night "youth" TV show. We went down to the studios with a bunch of friends to be in the audience. It was an unpleasant experience. We were herded around like cattle in the surprisingly tiny studio space. Tammy was told to smile or get out. Huggy Bear played an angry version of HerJazz, after which we milled around watching the pointless interviews and mind-numbing 'fun'. Someone - Sarah from Wiiija Records, I think - started heckling. She got ejected by security as we all started shouting and jeering. It was suggested that we leave.
It left a bad taste in my mouth for a couple of days. The next day, Saturday, I was moving house from London to Oxford. Pete, our drummer, drove the van. Then on Sunday - Valentine's Day - we were playing in Brighton. Some weekend. The Brighton show, upstairs in a pub called the Richmond, was with Huggy Bear and Bloodsausage. The Huggies had pressed a single to give away - very badly-recorded home demos of their songs 'Into the Mission' and 'February 14th', later redone for their split LP with Bikini Kill. We gave out home-made valentine's cards (Jen and Tam giving them to the women, me to the men). The feeling in the place was a bit tense. People who'd seen The Word came down to see what the fuss was all about, apparently expecting some kind of confrontation. Very different to the supportive atmosphere at our London shows. It was very hot on stage, we felt scared - well, we always did when playing back then - our own music felt all too intense, and Tammy started crying in the middle of the set.
Our friend Josie read some of her writing halfway through, and I did the same at the end. We'd been encouraging each other backstage, both terrified. It was okay, people seemed to like it. Stewart Home read a piece as well, and Josie heckled him, much to Tammy's annoyance. I figured Stewart could handle a bit of heckling.
Huggy Bear played a shouty, one-dimensional set. It was sad to see them so humourless, when just a few months before they would laugh their way through performances, and play with subtlety and power. This was just noise.
Next day we visited Jo Huggy at home and watched the tape of The Word. In the evening was the opening of an amazing art show organised by Erica Smith, editor of Girlfrenzy. She'd got a bunch of local self-published cartoonists to make non-comics artworks for display. The gallery was an old corner shop with big windows onto the street, with a larger room in the basement. Lisa 'Cool Cheese' Holdcroft (later a Linus cover artist) had made two incredible boudoir screens out of layers of yellow cardboard, intended to look like cheese. There were portraits made of shag-pile, and a little tree with tiny comics growing on it. Friends from Oxford turned up, along with some of the Huggy people, I got very drunk, and met Glenn Dakin (creator of the wonderful 'Abe') for the first time.
Newcastle and ExeterAugust 1993: We got on a coach in withering heat to play a show in Newcastle with Pussycat Trash. They'd booked a room above a pub called the Broken Doll, in a bleak half-demolished street as I remember it. Downstairs, grizzled old bikers played pool and eyed us suspiciously from behind their impressive facial hair. Upstairs, a group of riot grrrls, all smiles and bright floral prints, welcomed us and offered us butterfly buns from their cake stall.
As well as Pussycat Trash, Pete from that band was supporting with his impromptu act, Milky Wimpshake. This was to be a one-off thing where he and a very shy female drummer called Joey improvised songs on the spot. (The songs were great. Milky Wimpshake later went on to become a cuddly punk band, and released their second album in 2002 on the Youth Club Tape Club label.)
My main memory of Pussycat Trash is their guitarist Rosie's bright red hair and her mighty semi-acoustic guitar, which she'd found on a rubbish tip. Pete and Rachel are still playing together, in Red Monkey; wonder what happened to Rosie?
When we played, there weren't enough microphones for everyone, so I had to just shout my back-ups. It was a tiny venue so that was OK. Except that when we got to the last chorus of Driven Thing, I almost fainted from the exertion.
Having played way up north, two days later we got on another coach - sweltering heat again - to Exeter in the south west, hundreds of miles in the other direction. Our drummer Peter was particularly weary. (He left the band a couple of months later.) We'd been invited by the Frantic Spiders, an eccentric bunch of girls who all lived together in a house like the Monkees. Organiser of the show was Charley, their guitarist, who seemed very sensible and on top of things. There was a bit of a hiccup in the soundcheck. Normally, our soundchecks last fifteen minutes, if that. This one went on for an hour and we still couldn't hear the vocals properly. The guy doing the sound was new, but we were assured that he'd just completed a degree in sound engineering, or something. Finally the guy from the goth band who were opening the show went to take a look. Mr degree-in-sound hadn't switched on the PA.
Thereafter the gig went without a hitch, and we piled into the Spiders' tiny van and back to their house. Peter and I laid out our sleeping bags in the front room with the Frantics' friend Mo, and marvelled at one of those Innovations-type catalogues which included a "Terracotta Outdoor Information Centre" (a sundial with a barometer on it). Charley hung around for a bit, making no sense at all. So straightforward early on, she now seemed completely off with the fairies. I was bemused.
Next day when we left, I took away one of her four-page fastzines, and started a correspondence which led to one of the great friendships of my life. I later lived with Charley and Frantics drummer Caroline the Thrifty Goth for three years.
The Laurel TreeChris and Loretta had promoted many of the early London riot grrrl shows, at their Chocolate Narcotic nights at the Monarch in Camden. In 1993 they moved on to another pub in the same area.
The Laurel Tree was a gay pub on the corner of a back street off Camden High Street. Downstairs, it was roomy and comfortable, but when you got to the top of the stairs you'd find yourself fighting to get a place in the tiny venue.
The upstairs room was incongruously fitted out with framed posters of the Pet Shop Boys. The bands performed in front of the bay window, which was closed while they were on (to restrict noise blasting into the street outside), open when they were not (to let air in and stop everyone suffocating). I saw Slant 6 there, and Bis, and Kenickie. We played there a lot. Our last gig with our first drummer, Peter, was at the Laurel Tree in October 93. It was unbearably hot. I remember Tammy turning to face me during a song, everyone crammed together - us, the audience - Tammy and I bawling into each others' faces, laughing from sheer exhaustion/exhilaration.
Chris and Loretta's tenure lasted about two years. The Laurel Tree was empty and boarded up for many years, but recently reopened as a plush wine-bar.
MadridWe got off the plane Friday morning and were escorted to our hotel by Alexa and her seedy-looking friend, an old-style continental punk who drove his dilapidated van like a maniac. Alexa spoke good English, which was lucky, since no-one at the hotel spoke a single word (and of course we knew no Spanish) and there was some sort of arcane system regarding how to get in and out and what to do with your keys. The venue was literally round the corner. We were in the 'old town': I didn't see the new town, so I can't judge the difference, but this area was full of fantastic, appealingly run-down looking Spanish architecture, and prostitutes, who looked as run-down but less appealing. In fact they looked very bored. We stood outside the venue for well over an hour (just like in Britain, they tell you to turn up at such-and-such a time, make you promise not to be late, then keep you waiting for hours), and the women just wandered up and down the little narrow side street getting no interest from anyone whatsoever. The town seemed quiet, and I wondered why they bothered.
The El Sol was a neglected, inappropriately-painted (faded yellow, I think) disco/bar. A guy from some Spanish music mag interviewed us and had us sit on the floor, leaning over wackily, for a photo. The support band soundchecked for several million years; but we didn't care, we'd finished and just had to wait around. Alexa and her co-workers and friends took us to a bar where we occupied the basement, ate a meal, and marveled as the others casually passed a joint around in full view of the staff. Back at the club we did another interview, with two very clued-up young guys from a fanzine. The gig started at 11.30. The other band went on around midnight and played their dreadful dirges for an hour and a quarter. We hustled them offstage, annoyed that they'd overrun and fed up with their shitty goth/new wave schtick. We were running on pure adrenaline. It was way past our bedtime. Our set was our longest ever - an hour, when we were used to playing for 35 minutes at most. Playing every song we could bear to dig out of our back-catalogue, we stormed the place.
Afterwards: lots of nice Spanish people wanting to talk to us; I struggled with the tall glass filled with vodka they'd generously given me as a rider, eventually giving it away to a very grateful punter; Jen and Steve followed Alexa to a club, where they stayed till 5, while Tam and I went back to the hotel to crash.
We crawled out into the light at around 3pm the next day, hoping to find some food, but the whole town was deserted and everything was closed. Didn't seem much like a cosmopolitan European city to us. We went back to bed, still wrecked from the disrupted sleep patterns and expended adrenalin, and re-emerged at 6. The place was swarming with people. Whole families spent the entire evening wandering around, shopping, taking the air, talking, drinking in the bars, staying on the streets with their kids until 10, 11pm. We'd hit lunchtime when we went out earlier - the famous siesta time. The Spanish day is just completely different.
I found a comics/SF shop which had a couple of interesting small press mags. I got one to bring back for Jenni Scott, and flipped through the racks of old Euro-anthologies and Marvel reprints. The small press thing came in a bag with a calendar and colour cartoon stickers to put on it; the contents consisted mainly of the scabrous, glorious humour you only see in Europe and some US undergrounds, mostly really well drawn.
The whole town seemed to be buzzing with the kind of convivial communal life you only get in places where people aren't so afraid of each other. They bustled around in groups and crowds, closer together than English people ever like to get except at football matches. There was a sense of history in the buildings and the way of life. It was a city with a heart.
Madrid was not like England.
New Year's Eve
Club V, London, 31.12.98Drummers are hard to come by. Stuck without a drummer for the show, we phone everyone we know for possible contacts. Most of the drummers we speak to want paying - £100, £150.
A friend of a friend introduces us to Steffi. Once she hears the tape, she decides to do the gig and even offers to pay for rehearsals, taxis, everything. We gratefully decline and we pay her a share of the takings instead.
We arrive early for a long soundcheck/practice. Then waiting around, watching the other bands soundcheck, getting nervous. The doors open at 8 and the place fills up slowly; Jenni's one of the first. Everyone's in a good mood already. Familiar faces - Rachael, Jo and Mark arrive together; here's Charley, with her singer in tow. She gives me a big hug. Fosca are onstage and there's two boys at the front - a short one dressed in black and a tall, well-padded one with fair hair and eyeliner, wearing a translucent t-shirt. I exchange glances with the tall one. He's pretty, looks American somehow. I consider going to stand next to him, but I'm standing with Charley and anyway I'm waiting to be introduced to her pop star friend.
Dickon is singing about closeted MPs or something, his hastily-recruited rhythm section is plodding away and it all sounds (deliberately) like Galaxie 500. Charlotte Cooper is up next, doing a list of New Year's resolutions (almost), filthy and funny and touching, after shaking her body furiously to the Amps' Tip City. The rest of her band, The Lesbian & Gay Community - a man and a woman in drag - appear, and make a clangy racket for 15 minutes. The tall boy smiles at me as he walks past.
We decorate the stage with fairy lights, tinsel, and silver-and-gold painted tree branches, and ourselves with glitter and eye shadow, and plough through our set. I lose my voice half way through. Can't hear myself anyway. Everyone's having a good time. Afterwards I drink free 'champagne' and chat to Mr Pop Star. At midnight, Neil and Sarit play Violet, then the chimes of Big Ben over the radio, then Celebrity Skin. Ed picks me up and I spill some of my drink. Surprisingly, Tammy also picks me up and I spill even more. The rest of the band go home and I hang out in the back room with whoever. I've met a guy who did a fanzine I admired 5 years ago. It was called Rampaging Teenage Pervert and he is a funny, sharp-tongued chancer.
After some dancing and more drinking it's time to get the last tube and get on the Oxford coach with Jenni. I go to get my guitar and the tall boy happens to walk in the room so I grab him and snog him. I say, "Sorry, but I'm leaving now and I've been wanting to do that all night." He says "Thank you". He's not American. I float out of the venue and we head for Victoria. My synthetic leopardskin jacket is clammy in the cold air outside. I want to gossip on the coach but Jenni falls asleep as always. I watch the lights outside, doze and feel very happy.
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Stories about the songs