Indie Originals: The New Hormones Story

The story of New Hormones records 1977-1983

Posts Tagged ‘Richard Boon

A note on using this site

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This website tells the story of New Hormones records. The label that started the indie revolution, later overshadowed by Manchester rival Factory, and now unjustly and inexplicably forgotten. It’s time to set the record straight.

To read the story of New Hormones, click on the relevant sections in the Categories bar to the right. The story is told in both long (’the full story’) and shortform (’the short story’) versions. Other sections expand on key areas touched on in the main story, namely: the label’s sleeves and packaging (’Graphic Design/Packaging’); a full discography (’Discography’); the story of The Beach Club, inspiration for The Hacienda (’The Beach Club’); the relationship between New Hormones and Factory (’Factory’s shadow’); the chaos of the New Hormones offices at 50 Newton Street, Manchester (’Fifty Newton Street’); The story of City Fun fanzine and Crone Management (who shared office space with New Hormones) (’Fun with the Crones’); full interviews with New Hormones acts Biting Tongues and Diagram Brothers; a selection of sleeve imagery, flyers and photographs (’images’); choice quotes from some of the key protagonists (’Pull quotes’); and a personal selection of the best New Hormones tracks (’My New Hormones mix’). Added to the site as of March 12, 2oo8, Jon Savage’s 2006 essay on The Secret Public (’The Secret Public’), republished with permission – many thanks Jon. Links to various related websites can be found in the section dubbed The Associates in the right nav bar.

I’d like to say a big thank you to the 30+ people who very generously agreed to be interviewed for this story. And a special thank you to Stuart James for inspiring the whole project. Tour manager, producer, sound man and sometime performer, Stuart is one of the unsung heroes of the music business. “The poor man’s Martin Hannett” indeed!!

Enjoy – and listen to the music! Postpunk Manchester was definitely not just about Factory…

Cheers, Justin

Update: June 5th 2008: Just added to the site – an interview with former Gods Gift guitarist, Steve Murphy. It was a great please to speak to Steve, particularly as Gods Gift proved so hard to track down during my earlier research. To read the interview scroll down or click on ‘Gods Gift’ in the Categories bar to the right.

Written by justintoland

June 5, 2008 at 9:55 pm

Gods Gift: too good to be forgotten

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An interview with former Gods Gift guitarist, Stephen (Steve) Murphy, Sunday May 25, 2008.

SM: I think we were a bit of a fringe group in many respects, and at times we could be very good, but when we were bad we were very bad. It’s really nice that [your website’s] allowed people to have some sort of memories of the group. As for members of the group, I’m still in pretty regular contact with Steve Edwards but Steve’s an internationally noted academic now.

JT: Is he? In what field?

SM: Nursing ethics.

JT: That’s pretty impressive.

SM: I’ve told him everything that I’ve read and has happened because there seems to have been a flurry of activity. And obviously Steve’s dead interested but he’s got to safeguard his position in a way.

The basis of the group was from a psychiatric hospital in the first place – Prestwich Hospital in – well it’s Salford – but Manchester. I worked there, Steve came to work there, Iain Grey worked there, also Andy Glentworth, so, at one point there weren’t much hope for us.

JT: How did the group actually start and when?

SM: I think it was 1978 after a few dummy runs with Steve and myself and groups of friends. We came from different ends of the spectrum musically – Steve at the time very much liked Roxy Music and Bowie type stuff and I liked rock, weird I know, but… And pretty much early on the punk thing had happened and we both liked that, and we had a mutual coming together – we’d been friends since we were 13 – but we had a mutual coming together group-wise, boring, but The Velvets. And it grew from there because we both thought ‘well, they can’t play, but they’re brilliant’. That really was the cornerstone I suppose.

JT: Well, up until punk everyone had to be really musicianly, didn’t they?

SM: That’s right – we saw loads of groups that weren’t particularly good throughout the punk thing and we were proud to become one(!) I think we improved and we had our own little niche I suppose.

JT: What was the original line-up of the group?

SM: The original line-up was Steve Edwards vocals and saxophone, myself guitar, Laura Plant who played bass and sang occasionally, and then Paul Leadbetter drums. Paul was a mate of mine who worked at a giant cash’n’carry, and Laura was Steve Edwards’s girlfriend’s best mate. So it was always a group of friends. When Laura left we two or three stand-in bass players, then we had Rob Hall, a couple of years he did, Rob. He was about 10 years younger than us and I think he was a bit caught up with it.

JT: How old were you at this time?

SM: Probably mid-20s. Well, ’78, I’d be 21. But we’d be 25-26 when Rob started and he was 17. You know he was a few years younger than us. Eventually Iain Grey joined who was a friend of the group. He was just like a mate who used to come and watch the gigs. We said, can you play bass and he said yeah.

JT: Course ‘e can!

SM: That’s it. And Iain Grey’s got this thing, he’s mentioned all the time: he was friends with Ian Curtis. It’s quite incestuous the whole thing, i’n’t it? Like we went to school with Joy Division, like Barney Dickens and Peter Hook were in our school, a year older than us.

Drummer-wise after Paul got a bit fed up of it we had two or three stand-ins and eventually settled on Andy Glentworth, who again was a friend from work. That was the final version of the group: Steve, myself, Iain Grey bass and Andy Glentworth drums. I think that was the best line-up; probably the original was the oddest line-up.

There was plenty of progression but it stayed using a similar sort of formula, if I’m honest. It used to be fun because if things were going wrong we’d make them go even more wrong. We figured you’re just as well making a show of it rather than having people drifting out saying, ahh, they were crap.

JT: Yeah, you might as well be really crap!

SM: Well that was the attitude. We supported Adam and the Ants at the Factory once and our drummer at the time was Paul Leadbetter – he was a nervous wreck because all our mates were there, it was a big gig. I think he took substances he shouldn’t have took and it made him play very fast if you know what I mean, so the set lasted about three minutes. Well, we beat him up [laughs]. Some funny things happened along the way.

JT: Where was the first Gods Gift gig?

SM: The first ever Gods Gift gig was at a Christmas party, the nurses’ home at Prestwich Hospital. If you could find a greater baptism of fire I’d be surprised, because we knew them, they knew us. We played White Light/White Heat for 40 minutes – I think they thought we were going to be like Joe Tex and the Sex-o-Lettes. It didn’t quite work! A girl I used to work with invited me to a party years later and said please promise not to bring that dreadful group, Stephen. So that was the first gig we played.

JT: Always good to start with a hostile audience.

SM: Oh we crossed over as well. The first proper gig we played, we supported a group in Yorkshire called The Bombers in a big hotel in Leeds. For some reason I’m sure it’s called the Ford Green Hotel – I wouldn’t stake my life on that, it just rings a bell. We got there and it was like a Hell’s Angels convention. It really was, everybody was in leather. We were really worried because they were real rockers these lads. I mean they were decent lads. But we got them, we absolutely won this audience over immediately because they had a lad on mixing desks and a lad on lights and they asked ‘what lights do you want?’ and Laura Plant in a lovely sweet voice said, ‘just a black one please’. And you could see everyone go ‘what?’ So we sort of had ‘em: it was quite good. Really I suppose we were pretty amateurish, but absolutely like nothing anybody there had ever seen, so we went down okay.

JT: One of the other people I spoke to said you looked like a bunch of civil servants. How would you have dressed for a show in those days?

SM: Like a civil servant to be honest with you! We always figured – as I’ve read on your site, I was a big fat bloke: I was and I am. I can’t hide that in a gold lamé suit: I’d have a blue jumper on and a shirt. I’d perhaps been working 12 hours in the loony bin prior to that – I was a charge nurse. I’d quite often finish work and we’d go and play. Ian Curtis might have been able to act it, but I was it, you know!

Steve Edwards used to wear some dreadful, ill-fitting suit. So I can’t fault it that, we did probably look like civil servants, we made absolutely no effort to be liked. No effort to gain any acceptance by dress.

JT: What about the band name? Who came up with that and was it the first choice or did you go through other names?

SM: It was actually me. Gods Gift: we thought it was a brilliant piss-take because we’re definitely not. We weren’t, we aren’t: we never will be. It was Gods Gift. And we thought it had a strong image: A big G and ‘ods ift’. The alternative name when we started – and it shows we were very similar in our thoughts, Steve and I. Steve came up with John Smith & The Insignificant. It was just looking at the same problem from different ends so to speak.

JT: That’s interesting: probably The Smiths would never have come up with their name if you’d taken that one.

SM: That’s absolutely right.

JT: Morrissey would have had to call himself God’s Gift!

SM: I think they made a mistake there, didn’t they?

JT: So you started playing around the end of 1978. Your first record [‘These Days’, 1979] was on Newmarket records, how did that come about?

SM: Well, we used to practice at Steve’s dad’s pub. He had a pub in Pendlebury , Salford and the pub – get ready for this – it’s the Newmarket. All the practising used to go on there: we used to practice new songs and the group practiced – there was enough noise in the place. I think Steve was the driving force with that: we wanted to do it and everyone was making singles off their own bat. We just put money in together and did it ourselves basically. We went to Hemel Hempstead to have them pressed, came back with them, bought a rubber stamp to stamp one side of ‘em and on the other side we wrote different comments on every one. So every one’s different. There’s some junk written on them, but incongruous junk, so it’ll probably look intelligent really.

JT: How many copies did you get pressed?

SM: We did 2,000. And I think we probably got rid of three-quarters of those. Steve actually told me he thinks he’s got a couple of boxes in his loft. Hold on to them!

A funny little nothing anecdote: where we used to practice, The Newmarket, it was a real boozer’s pub, and they were all like engineers who went there. When we used to come down from practicing, they all used to applaud us. They were all old fellers and I’m one now. And they used to call us ‘the turbines’ because of their engineering background, because they used to say all we can hear is [makes whirring noise]. For one brief moment we thought we should call ourselves The Turbines.

JT: Then you thought better.

SM: Yeah, definitely.

JT: So you put out the single and you sold most of the copies. And then you were involved with the Manchester Musicians’ Collective.

SM: It was a means of getting regular gigs, and it was also good because everybody was pretty affable. There wasn’t really any aggressive competition and people tended to pal out with other bands. It was really good. And there were actually some really good groups. There was a bunch of kids, when I say kids it sounds a bit patronising, I don’t mean it that way. But at that time we were perhaps mid-20s and these kids were 15, 16 – we used to share gigs with this band called The Enigma – they were fantastic. I’m astonished that nothing ever became of them. The lad that played the guitar, sang, did all the songs, he was only 15 and he was brilliant. Martin Tivnan he was called. They were a good band.

The collective, I quite liked it. Playing at the Band on the Wall regularly with good groups and then the Cyprus Tavern when it went there; at a squat in Manchester, the Mayflower when it was there.

We had a track on the album, Unzipping the Abstract. I think everybody put their best song on and we figured that’s what everyone would do. So we knew we had three minutes so we actually made one up. That’s completely made up off the cuff that. I think it’s pretty good, it’s strong, it stands out: it’s not like anything else. That was recorded in – Frank Ewart – cracking fella, a real hippy – well that was recorded in his loft – it was just like 3 minutes, go. We got some decent reviews.

JT: Some people seemed to think the musicians’ collective was a bit earnest, all the meetings and stuff. Did you go along to the meetings?

SM: We went to most of the meetings, yeah. If I’m honest I don’t know that we were overly enthusiastic with the hippyness of it, the sharedness. We went to try and get more gigs. It was an exchange of information, with regards that it was great. I still remember having meetings in the Sawyer’s Arms and what were Joy Division being bladdered in a pub in Manchester laughing their heads off with everyone.

JT: So, after Unzipping the Abstract you then got involved with New Hormones, with Richard Boon and his crowd. How did that all start?

SM: I think Richard approached Steve. Steve was really the mouthpiece. I think in fairness, I was married with a child at the time and Steve did a lot of the chasing about. Steve got on quite well with Richard and he asked us if we wanted to release something on New Hormones. Of course we snapped his hand off because we knew obviously of the Buzzcocks and Ludus were involved with them and we said, oh, definitely. And I think the first one was the EP, the 12-inch EP [Gods Gift EP, 1981].

JT: That’s really good, I like that a lot.

SM: Thank you. He helped us greatly with it but actually told us to do what we wanted and bring it to him when we were done. I thought he was a good bloke. I’ve not got anything negative to say about anyone really – it seems such a long time ago, I’ve got only positive thoughts of it. I think Richard Boon was quite visionary and he had strong ethics and strong morals. That didn’t come across a lot with a lot of people.

He had some funny little things. He got this night where we played at the Venue in London with Eric Random. That was quite funny because we were told to take our gear to a place in Salford to meet up – we were going to be driven there. And when we got there, there weren’t enough room. I’d worked the night before and I had to drive to London and I’m still half-convinced that Richard had something to do with that. Coz he knew that we were pretty spiky, fired up like. We had to drive to London, play and drive home. I remember seeing Richard standing at the mixing desk, sort-of-smiling, sort-of-gloating. We started playing and this is where the quote I’ve seen on your site comes from, Steve Edwards screaming his head off saying “what you dancing for, it’s tuneless, you pillock!” You know, why are you dancing? We decided we’ll change this, we run off the stage and we played the same song for 40 minutes. We got off and people were just like absolutely stunned and we made it funnier because we had to drive home then – we jumped off the front of the stage and went home.

JT: Just walked out?

SM: Yeah. It was quite funny, it was like the parting of the Red Sea – everyone dived out of the way of these psychopaths from Manchester.

JT: That’s cool. So, the Gods Gift EP, some of it’s live and some of it’s in the studio, yeah?

SM: One of the tracks again was done with Frank Ewart. I know one of the tracks was definitely done at the Derby Hall (Bury).

JT: Actually, I’ve got it in front of me. Track one recorded 102 Studios Withington.

SM: That’s Frank Ewart.

JT: So Soldiers and No God were recorded at Frank’s. Anthony Perkins was done at the Derby Hall and then track four, The Hunger of Millions, recorded at Newmarket Recording Suite. So, is that in the pub?

SM: In the pub, yeah [laughs]: Newmarket Recording Suite, that’s full of crap that!
I think that was sticking with the ethics of what we’d grown up around. It certainly weren’t Strawberry Studios!

JT: Was it a four-track mixing desk or something?

SM: Absolutely. No more. I think Frank Ewart had an 8-track in his loft. The one that was done in Steve’s pub would have been a four-track – that was owned by a guy called Chris Brierley, a lecturer for Manpower Services, believe it or not. He used to give us a lift and he had, well, a glorified tape recorder, four-track.

JT: Do you know how many copies that EP sold?

SM: I have a feeling that was again 1,500-2,000.

JT: After that you did one more record for New Hormones, which was Discipline, which a lot of people really like, they think it’s your best track.

SM: It’s terrible to say you like your own songs, but I think it was good. It was poppy but powerful. I think the words were brilliant – it’s almost visionary [of] the way we live our lives today.

JT: Was it the other Steve who wrote the lyrics, or did you do them together?

SM: Steve wrote the words to Discipline and it was my riff. I think it was probably half and half with the writing. Iain wrote a couple of songs here and there, but virtually everything was either Steve or myself. Discipline was Steve – cracking words. That did well in the Independent Charts if I remember correctly.

JT: Richard Boon said he had one more Gods Gift track lined up but he ran out of money before he could release it – something called Clamour Club.

SM: The funny thing about that: last week I actually found a cassette copy of that that was a recorded in a studio: a belting copy. When you read things like Richard Boon saying he was disappointed that he couldn’t put it out it’s really gratifying. I think it’s a very catchy pop song. I did the words for that and the words are ultimately I suppose about Taxi Driver the film. But the chorus Steve put in – Clamour Club. The Pope came to Manchester in 1982. Steve had watched it from a distance drunkenly with Iain and he referred to the people who were waving and shouting as the Clamour Club. So, it’s about Taxi Driver and the Pope. If you’re interested I’ll pop you a copy in the post.

JT: Yeah definitely. Actually I’ve had a bunch of people from different independent record companies in contact with me who are interested in reissuing your stuff.

SM: My God. It’s really strange you know when your last memory of playing was people saying ‘oh, not them!’ [laughs]. “Manchester’s hippest band, but sadly they’re bastards”, I remember that one as well.

JT: Who said that?

SM: That was in a Manchester magazine: “Manchester’s hippest band, but sadly they’re bastards”. I thought it was quite funny – I never thought we were, like.

JT: You talked about a show in London earlier: did you tour much outside Manchester apart from that?

SM: Yeah, we played in Leeds a few times. We once played in Leeds to two people. That was bad, but eventually we asked one of the lads at the bar to play guitar with us(!) We played locally quite a lot; we played in Scotland. We did a little tour in Holland and Belgium, which was fantastic. I suppose that was the peak of it all – we found it weird that people knew the words of the songs we were playing: in Manchester people would turn their backs and carry on drinking. I think sadly Manchester went very cool: too cool to listen to anybody.

JT: After New Hormones finished did you do any recordings with anyone else, or was that it?

SM: We did a cassette release with a lad called Robert King who lived in Glasgow. It was called Pleasantly Surprised, his label. We did a 10 or 12 track cassette through him called Folie à Quatre [actually 11 tracks]. There’s a mental illness problem called Folie à Deux, where two people share one person’s madness, so we figured we’d be four people sharing one person’s madness.

JT: So when did that come out?

SM: That was probably ’84, early ’84, something like that. And the last thing we recorded was in – you know Mike Harding, the folk singer from Rochdale?

JT: The Rochdale Cowboy.

SM: That’s the feller. He had a studio in Levenshulme in Manchester [Spirit Studios]. We were friends with the lad who was an engineer there [Joe] and he’d let us in at night. So we went three nights on a run: we’d never been able to afford studio time like that. We did five tracks and sadly for me they were the five best things we ever recorded and nothing ever came of them. It’s typical. I think there was some sort of poetic justice – we got good and packed it in. After years of being shite we actually recorded something that we thought, God, that’s not us.

JT: You sounded too good you mean?

SM: It sounds really stupid this, but we sounded like a group, we sounded professional. I think that was the death knell, particularly for Steve, who wanted everything to sound like Mark Smith. Steve liked The Fall, loved The Fall – still does.

JT: His voice is quite similar to Mark Smith, but lyrically certainly very different – he’s much more direct than Mark Smith.

SM: Yeah. The Fall also had great connections with the hospital we worked at. Una Baines from the original band worked at Prestwich and Kay Carroll, the manager, Smith’s girlfriend, was a staff nurse.

JT: So did you know The Fall?

SM: Reasonably, yeah: the original members – Karl Burns and Martin Bramah and Tony Friel. In actual fact Tony Friel’s girlfriend played bass with us for a while. As you say, it’s very incestuous.

But we recorded something worth listening to and thought that’s it, we’ve done it now… You’ve won!

JT: After Gods Gift split did you get involved with any more bands or was that it for you?

SM: Steve and Iain did a sort of improvised, jazzy thing a couple of times but Steve’s heart wasn’t in it. It was a bit acrimonious when we packed it in – not between Steve and I, I might add, we’re still good friends. I carried on with our drummer Andy Glentworth and started playing bass with another group, which was called Brutal Grey Killers, the emphasis on the Grey, so you can work out where the acrimony came. That was more for enjoyment – a group of mates.

JT: Who designed the Gods Gift logo?

SM: A lad we went to school with called Mike Turner. He did all of them – Sorry, I just remembered, the very first thing we ever did, before the Newmarket one, we did a cassette called The Greatest Story Ever Told. That was Mike Turner’s first thing for us, and he did all the covers after that. He was a mate: I think we bought him a couple of pints and that was it.

The Discipline single: out of interest, the centre of the record is a picture of the secure unit at Prestwich Hospital. The drawing is Steve Edwards on his haunches – that actually came from a picture of him locked in a seclusion room at Prestwich. I got a written warning for it.

JT: Are you still working in that field?

SM: No, unfortunately, I had my back broken a few years ago – an attack from a patient – and I’ve not worked since. I was a senior charge nurse at the hospital for 20 years. I’m still walking, so that’s what matters.

Of the other lads, Andy Glentworth works in a secure hospital on Merseyside, the one where Ian Brady is [Ashworth].

Now I’ve still got guitars, still got a bass, still got a little recording studio at home, mess about. Steve sold his sax when he was skint. Steve and I had a chat for an hour last Wednesday or Thursday and we were having a laugh about [the band] and I asked him do you ever fancy doing it again and he said no, I’ve done it and I’ve enjoyed it and I think if I’m honest I feel the same. We always said when we started everyone’s gonna hate us because we’re just going our own way, said it’d be great if in 25 years someone picked a record up and said ‘oh, they were all right them’. It’s really bizarre to think that that’s happening. If we’d have been Simply Red I couldn’t have been any happier.

Written by justintoland

June 5, 2008 at 9:46 pm

Jon Savage – The Secret Public

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The following article first appeared in “Linder: Works 1976-2006” (jrp/Ringier, 2006)

THE SECRET PUBLIC

“JS: I’m fascinated by gaps in communication…

HD: I‘m all for them. I don’t believe in closing them up. I believe in trying but not succeeding. They’ve got to be big enough for an average-sized adult to pass through comfortably. There will be communication gaps until they’ve got the whole world bugged. There’s something totalitarian about complete and perfect understanding. Do you see what I mean? They give you room to breathe, time to think”
Jon Savage: “Howard Devoto: Heart Beats Up Love” (Sounds, 5 November 1977)

“S&D: You wrote ‘Autonomy’ – can you say what it’s about?

Steve (Diggle): Well, it’s a discussion between the two sides of your personality – it’s about discipline in yourself, like then you say you’d really like to do something and you haven’t got control: you’re not autonomous.”
Jon Savage: “Buzzcocks” (Search and Destroy 6: April 1978)

The Secret Public was published in Manchester during the first month of 1978. It was the second New Hormones product – catalogue number ORG 2 – after the Buzzcocks’ already iconic Spiral Scratch, and was distributed through Rough Trade and other independent outlets. Priced at 40p (although, as this was nowhere mentioned on the cover, the prices tended to vary), it failed to sell out or make any money. Not that that was the point, which was to do it, get it out there, and see what happened.

Like many products of that time, The Secret Public was the result of a far wider collaboration than just the two featured artists. Linder and I may have physically altered the images, but also involved were: Richard Boon (finance, distribution and support), Howard Devoto (creative and practical support), Ruth Marten (the lettering on The Masculine Principle Has Gone Far Enough), Steve Montgomery and Geoff Travis at Rough Trade (distribution), Malcolm Garrett, Judy Nylon, Vivienne Goldman, Vale of Search & Destroy, Ian from the Worst, and the four members of Buzzcocks, just then recording their first album.

The wider creative matrix of The Secret Public was: David Bowie’s ‘Heroes’, Iggy Pop’s ‘Lust For Life’, Buzzcocks’ ‘Orgasm Addict’ and ‘Sixteen’, live shows by Siouxsie and the Banshees, Subway Sect and the Fall, the first three Pere Ubu singles, Devo’s ‘Live At the Mabuhay’, Kraftwerk’s ‘Trans-Europe Express’, Throbbing Gristle’s ‘First Annual Report’, Sounds’ ‘New Musick’ issue, Paul Morley’s Girl Trouble, Eno’s ‘Music For Films version 1′, Wire’s ‘Pink Flag’ and Donna Summer’s ‘I Feel Love’. Between the last night of the Electric Circus and the Sex Pistols’ last show at Winterland, this period encompassed the death rattle of first-wave Punk.

Responding to this, The Secret Public attempted to dive further into the sea of possibility heralded by Patti Smith. It seemed possible to do so because of the extraordinary proliferation of the fanzine economy: by autumn 1977, there were literally hundreds of self-published magazines that you could buy in Rough Trade, Compendium, and similar alternative shops around the country. Most were formatted like junior issue tabloids, but ‘zines like Glitterbest’s Anarchy In The UK and Andy Palmer’s Observer dispensed with all but the most minimal text and focussed on imagery and texture. This then was our self-imposed remit.

*****

“enclosed are the latest montages I’ve done – hope you like them…I’m very excited about the idea of doing a magazine – I think our work would mix well together. If we’re going to do a 12 page broadsheet size format (ie Anarchy in ther UK size) we’ll need 13 montages…I can produce 4/5 right now, using old stuff as well by next week. I’ll try and do 2/3 more to give plenty of choice. Cos don’t forget we need one extra for back/front covers…I dont’ know about printing costs etc…Some of them would need screening up from the size they’re at…I can provide up to £100 if necessary but maybe Richard Boon can come up with something between Buzzcocks traumas…it might be cheaper in Manchester too…(should be black and white). Shown your montages to various people – Rough Trade, Viv Goldman, Judy Nylon…general verdict is that they’re amazing – so there you are. New Bowie album is beautiful (dreamt about it last night) – post everything music.”
Jon Savage: letter to Linder, early November 1977

It all came together very quickly. In late October 1977 I went to Manchester to interview Howard Devoto for Sounds and to review the last night of the Electric Circus. During the course of that weekend, I met Linder – who shared a house with Devoto in Lower Broughton Road, Salford – and was awed by her handbill for an October Buzzcocks show: ‘cosmetic metal music/manicured noise’. I thought it was roughly along the same line but much better than the montages that I’d been doing for my own amusement and occasional commissions. By this stage, Linder had just completed – in collaboration with Malcolm Garrett – the now classic single sleeve and full-size poster for Buzzcocks’‘Orgasm Addict’ 45.

Both of us had come to a similar place by chance design. Linder was already receiving art training [ay Manchester Polytechnic]: “I remember the pure pleasure of photomontage. I had spent three years working with pencil, paint and pen trying to translate lived experience into made marks. It was a moment of glorious liberation to work purely with a blade, glass and glue. Almost a scientific methodology. Sitting in a dark room in Salford, performing cultural postmortems and then reassembling the corpses badly, like a Mary Shelley trying to breathe life into the monster. For a short period I’d found a perfect mode of articulation.

“Punk was cutting out the question, ‘Can I do this?’ I began to do bits of collage, quite naturally. I took lots of photographs and wondered, what could I do with them? I started to get bored, and then moved from collage to montage, using scalpels, glass cutting. I’d always loved magazines and I had two separate piles. One you might call women’s magazines, fashion, romance, then a pile of men’s mags: cars, DIY, pornography, which again was women, but another side. I wanted to mate the G-Plan kitchens with the pornography, see what strange breed came out. I did it all on a sheet of glass with a scalpel, very clean, like doing a jigsaw. Rising above it all.”

For my part, the attraction was in being to express myself in purely visual terms. My day job was as a trainee lawyer, my second job as a journalist for Sounds, but neither was enough. I’d always worked with parallel text and visuals[1] but here was a chance, such as would not be found in hierarchical London, to let rip with the imagery of Dawn Ades’ Photomontage[2]: the accumulating skyscraper stacks of Fritz Lang and Walter Ruttman, the dismembering done by Max Ernst and Hannah Hoch, the political savagery of John Heartfield – whose summer 1977 exhibition at the ICA was a major stimulus. Then there was Norman Ogue Mustil’s beat/ surrealist Flypaper[3] and Skot Armst’s contemporary Science Holiday.

It was all coming to one point, and that was given precision by our instrument of choice: as Linder writes, “The knife used was a surgeon’s scalpel still made in Sheffield by Swann Morton Ltd. The packets of blades look like condom packets, I think we used blade No 11a for our cutting out work.” Cut-ups were in the air of 1977, a way to cut through the detritus of twenty years’ plenty – in my case, old copies of National Geographic and Picture Post – the sheer boredom of commercialised punk rock. The knife offerred a certain visceral, brutal control: it was a process at once violent and peaceful, which allowed the subconscious to come through.

Looking at the magazine now, I can see that Linder’s five montages have a distinct unanimity of theme: the dismemberment of women by conventional attitudes to gender and sexuality. They are all set in the home, perhaps the prime location for violence. The centrepiece is T.V.Sex, a startling vision of sexual alienation, where the distinctly human bodies (hairy, a bit fat) are topped by TV heads (the racing’s on: must be weekday afternoon); the background is catalogue furnishing 1977 style, pristine, with no hint of bodily secretions or emotional entanglements. These techno-humans are divorced from their bodies and themselves.

On page 2 is the image that titled Buzzcocks’ first album: a perfect kitchen dominated by a woman, naked and bound, inserted within a saucepan; inverted eyes and a slashed, lipsticked mouth leer from her mixer-head. Pete Shelley: “Another Music in a Different Kitchen was a mixture between Linder, Howard and Richard. We were trying to think up titles for the montages in The Secret Public and Howard said,‘ another housewife stews in her own juice in a different kitchen’. We shuffled it around a bit and it came out like that. It’s like an extension of dada where you get a meaningless phrase and you free-associate with that to find out what it actually means. And it gets a meaning and then you DO the meaning.”

Applying this to the Savage imagery, I can see various strands coming to the surface: Strength and Health is the homoerotic man-machine, taken from a nudist magazine; pages four and five are Metropolis transplanted to New York, with strong hints of media saturation (like the Slits sang on‘F.M’, “my nightmares don’t project my dreams”) and eco-doom. I’m a New World Fan was a simple depiction of my day-by-day life in 1977, going round and round the Circle Line, and The Masculine Principle Has Gone Far Enough is self-explanatory: like Linder, I had been attracted by the freedoms that Punk offered to the sexually divergent. We were both, for different reasons, appalled by the return of culturally-sanctioned laddishness in the latter part of 1977.

Despite the fact that The Secret Public sourced both hetero- and homosexual pornography, we were genuinely surprised when we had trouble trying to find a printer who would print the magazine. As Linder writes: “The one we eventually found wanted paying in cash without receipt. Some left wing bookshops wouldn’t take TSP because of its content.” It seems obvious to me now that the Secret Public is not erotic and that any sexuality in there is either covert or highly polemical. A case in point: the only penises in there, while engorged, are placed next to missiles and lipstick to make a point about phallocentricity in social life rather than sex.

“Then you do the meaning…” The most striking thing, twenty four years and two snake cycles later, is how predictive of our biographical future The Secret Public seems. I look at those images now and see the desire to work with imagery that saw me move to Manchester to work in television, the obsession with sexual politics that has been a constant in my writing, and the sheer fascination with New York that has led me to visit Manhattan over 30 times. Read as a visual diary of 1977, I would have to say that I can’t have been very happy then, but then I don’t remember happiness being possible or even desirable at that point. I feel sympathy with that person, but I am no longer him.

In Linder’s case, The Secret Public marks the meta-feminist concerns that have taken her through montage to music – with Ludus – and video performances, to installations and performance pieces. As she writes now: “I didn’t realise it then but the process of montage (as the ultimate container of dichotomy) has formed an invisible continuum throughout all I’ve done to date. Even The Return of Linderland had the audacity of montage to let Ann Lee cohabit with Clint Eastwood, old with young, faith with nihilism, north Manchester with the West.”

I now think that The Secret Public wrote its own script. It was a deliberately hermetic document that forced you to enter on its own terms. There were few concessions to any ideas of marketing and accessability. Hearts were not worn on the sleeve. It fully explored its dichotomies: cool designed outer images covering angry, savage montages, women placed in bondage but by their own design (or is that in itself a product of internalised oppression?), metropolises that offered opportunity and excitement at the same time as they ate you alive. Its impact was qualitative rather than quantitive: perhaps this is why, at its best, it has not dated at all.

[1] See “London’s Outrage” (Dec 1976) and “London’s Outrage 2” (Feb 1977) and sundry issues of Sounds, eg Singles Reviews for 5 November 1977.
[2] Dawn Ades: “Photomontage” (Thames and Hudson, 1976)
[3] Norman Ogue Mustill: “Flypaper” (Beach Books, 1967) – this and other Beach Books including William Burroughs’ “Apo 33”, were on sale cheaply at Compendium Books, Camden Town during this period.

COPYRIGHT JON SAVAGE 2006 – Republished with permission.

Written by justintoland

March 12, 2008 at 12:37 am

Indie Originals (short version)

with one comment

The story of New Hormones records begins with a revolution and ends in a skip. In between much is shrouded in fog.

“New Hormones began with Buzzcocks,” explains Richard Boon, who was both the band’s manager and, in due course, the owner-manager of the record label.

“Once Buzzcocks had done a few gigs, including the famous Lesser Free Trade Hall, there was a bit of a thing around them. But Howard [Devoto] was thinking about going back to college; the future was very uncertain. We just thought: we need to document this – let’s make a record.”

That 7-inch slice of vinyl was the Spiral Scratch EP (ORG 1), the first DIY record of the Punk era. The success of Spiral Scratch inspired bands up and down the UK (and beyond) to follow the Buzzcocks’ lead and put out their own recordings.

After Howard Devoto left the band to return to college, a second New Hormones release, a 7-inch EP called Love Bites (featuring Orgasm Addict) was mooted. However, an ultimatum from John Maher’s dad put paid to ORG 2. The drummer had a job lined up as an insurance clerk – he could carry on with the band but only if it gave him a regular income. A second DIY single offered no such guarantees. With offers from majors coming in following their support slot on The Clash’s White Riot Tour (May 1977), The Buzzcocks agreed to sign for United Artists (UA). “We got on very well with Andrew Lauder,” recounts Boon.

Inking a deal with UA meant putting New Hormones on the back burner. “After we put Spiral Scratch out we started getting tapes from people like Cabaret Voltaire and Gang of Four. And we weren’t in a position to do anything other than offer support slots,” laments Boon. He and The Buzzcocks were particularly keen to support other bands from the provinces, such as Penetration and The Fall.

Highly enamoured with the latter, Boon paid for the band’s first recording session, later released as the Bingo Master’s Breakout EP. “I would have put [it] out if I’d had the money.”

The Secret Public
After the rush of Spiral Scratch, New Hormones lay more or less dormant for three years while the Buzzcocks took precedence. However, one project did come to fruition during this hiatus. At the end of 1977, collagists Linder [Sterling] and Jon Savage put together a fanzine of their work called The Secret Public that was given the catalogue number ORG 2. Linder’s take on feminism saw her mesh images from women’s magazines with those from porn mags; Savage explored the alienating effects of urbanism.

Speaking at the Secret Public event at the ICA in London in April 2007, Linder explained the genesis of the project. “In 1977, there were hundreds of A4 fanzines, mostly words. Jon Savage and I wanted to produce a fanzine that was slightly different – A3, on glossy paper, no text. We had the idea it would somehow stand slightly apart.” “We put out a fanzine that says fanzines can be anything you want, they don’t have to be slavish copies of Sniffin’ Glue,” is Boon’s take on it. The name of the publication came from West Coast Situationist Ken Knabb, aka The Bureau of Public Secrets. “I just thought it was a conceit to turn that round,” says Boon. “It’s a wonderful contradiction: something secret and at the same time public. It seemed a very nice and neat title,” adds Linder.

“The ‘secret public’ were the people we were trying to reach,” explains Boon.

One thousand copies were printed. “It was sold in Rough Trade and other independent record shops, hidden under the counter. A lot of people got it through friends and friends of friends,” remembers Linder. The cover price was 40p, although “It didn’t have a price on it, which was possibly a mistake,” notes Boon archly. “I’m sure most were given away,” says Linder.

Boon believes that ORG 2 influenced the early stage development of the UK style press. “It filtered through to a guy called Perry Haines who founded i-D. And he took from it: I could do a magazine, just pictures of people wearing clothes, and ask them what they are wearing and where they got it.”

The Secret Public, says Boon, was about “putting a different kind of noise in the system and seeing what would happen.”

Big Noises
Having been unable to follow up his earlier interest in the likes of The Fall and Gang of Four, towards the end of 1979, Boon suddenly found himself in a position to revive New Hormones. “Once [Buzzcocks] were kind of established and there was a team around them like Pete Monks the tour manager and Sue Cooper [Boon’s assistant], there was a little more space to operate in. And, God bless Maggie Trotter the bookkeeper, there were some resources.”

By the time New Hormones returned to the fray, the music scene had changed immensely: dozens of tiny labels had flowered from the seeds sown by Spiral Scratch; musically, three-chord ramalama had given way to the dark, dubby spaces of post-punk. In Manchester, the scene was dominated by Factory, home of Joy Division, whose Unknown Pleasures LP set a new benchmark for moody yet muscular introspection and minimalist design.

Despite Boon and his cohorts’ best efforts, New Hormones was never quite able to escape Factory’s shadow. “Factory was the hip Manchester label in everyone’s mind so we were always fighting that a bit especially with press, which was so important then,” recalls Pete Wright, who managed Dislocation Dance and later helped run New Hormones (see sidebar: Factory’s shadow).

The first release on the revitalized New Hormones (February 1980) was Big Noise in the Jungle by The Tiller Boys (Peter Shelley, Francis Cookson and Eric Random). The Tiller Boys had been an occasional live irritant over the previous 18 months, following a memorable debut at The Factory at the PSV [Hulme’s Russell Club] in May 1978, bottom of a bill that also included the Durutti Column, Cabaret Voltaire and Joy Division (Peter Saville’s poster for this gig would become FAC 1, the first Factory Records ‘release’).

“I remember the three of us leaving the stage and standing at the bar,” says Eric Random. “We’d barricaded the front of the stage for some reason and hidden everything. And we came off and there’s still all these tape loops playing and the crowd’s stood there watching and we’re at the bar.”

It was all about “abusing the equipment”, says Random, “affecting people in the audience physically: I watched people in the audience throw up,” he recollects.

“I think we only actually did four gigs altogether and Shelley did two of those,” says Random. “The main nucleus of it was me and Francis really, we did most of the recording.”

On Big Noise from the Jungle, the boys combined Neu! with Sandy Nelson to powerful effect. “This record is so incredibly alive it attacks like a slap in the face,” said Sounds at the time.

The initial roster of the revamped New Hormones also included Ludus and The Decorators.

With the cool, charismatic and design-savvy Linder, Ludus (Latin for ‘play’) had had been attracting press attention ever since their live debut in August 1978. An early line-up, featuring Arthur Kadmon on guitar broke up before it could commit anything to vinyl.

Linder chose Cardiff native Ian Pinchcombe [later known as Ian Devine], to replace Kadmon as the band’s guitarist. “When she met Ian Devine something different happened,” believes Boon. “A bit more open-ended: We would say post-punk, actually a bit more jazzy.”

After a recording session with Peter Hammill proved unsatisfactory, the band – Linder, Devine, and drummer Philip ‘Toby’ Tomanov (later of Primal Scream) – went into Pennine Studios in Oldham in December 1979 with Stuart James, a local radio producer, who had recorded sessions with the likes of Joy Division, OMD and, indeed, Ludus. The result was The Visit (ORG 4).

James went on to work with most of the New Hormones roster over the next couple of years. “He was our producer: Factory had Hannett, we had Stuart,” says Boon. “I was the poor man’s Martin Hannett,” says the producer, semi-jokingly. “New Hormones didn’t have a lot of money to spend in the studios, so it was very much about getting it down. There wasn’t a great amount of time for experimentation. My idea was to just bring the best out of the bands, as much as possible. I certainly wasn’t trying to imprint an auteur’s sound on them,” explains James.

The Decorators debut single, the wonderful ‘Twilight View’ (ORG 5), was one exception to the cheaply recorded rule, cut at Eden Studios with Martin Rushent producing.

The Decorators were a five-piece from Ealing. “It was nepotism: my brother-in-law [the band’s sax player, Joe Cohen],” says Boon. “We wouldn’t have put it out if we didn’t like the record, even if it was family. Mick the singer was quite an interesting guy. They were doing something other people weren’t doing.”

Mick Wall described the band as ‘street rock’ in Sounds in 1980. Certainly, Twilight View has a hint of Nick Lowe about it, although singer Mick Bevan’s voice is like a more tuneful Peter Perrett. “Neo-classical,” says Boon.

Twilight View was the producer’s choice for the A-side. “Martin Rushent wanted to do that track, so Richard went along with his choice: ‘Let’s do a ballad.” It was not really representative of our style,’ believes Cohen. “In hindsight I’m not sure the results were that great,” agrees drummer Allan Boroughs. “One of the things we struggled to do was to capture on record the sound we had live. What [Rushent] produced was really good, but I didn’t feel it was really us,” he says.

The Decs, as they were fondly known, only released the one single with New Hormones. “I think we recorded four tracks with a view to doing a second single, but that never happened,” recalls Cohen. “I don’t think we were the favourites, the label sound was more left field. I never felt we really fitted in with the other bands,” he says. Stints with Red Records, Red Flame and Island followed, before a final single on Virgin France in 1984.

With New Hormones back in business, Richard Boon set about finding new talent for the label. One early discovery was Biting Tongues, spotted supporting The Fall at the Beach Club in May 1980 (see sidebar: ‘The Beach Club’).

Filmmaker (and saxophonist) Howard Walsmley had initially formed the group to play a live soundtrack at a screening of his film, Biting Tongues. The Beach Club show was the band’s third, with its third different line-up (this one stuck). Bassist Colin Seddon describes the nascent group’s approach: “We had a kind of unspoken rule amongst ourselves that if anybody else does it or follows any rules of musical harmony, then we don’t do it… Mix that with a high level of energy and arrogance.” “Organized noise” is how Graham Massey (keyboards, tapes, guitar) sums it up.

New Hormones paid for a recording session in the denim-clad Drone Studios in Chorlton with Stuart James at the desk. Not for the last time, cash flow problems led to the label sitting on the tape. When Peter Kent at Situation Two expressed an interest in putting out a Biting Tongues record, Boon agreed to let them have the Drone tracks, which became the second side of the Don’t Heal LP.

One important conduit for new bands in Manchester in the post-punk era was the Manchester Musicians’ Collective (MMC), co-founded by arts administrator (and later member of The Passage) Dick Witts and the composer-in-residence at North West Arts, Trevor Wishart.

The MMC enabled bands to share equipment and it organized Monday night gigs at the Band on the Wall. “Later we moved to the Cyprus Tavern,” says Witts. The MMC “was trying desperately to be democratic in decision-making,” he says. “Earnest” is Boon’s recollection. But, he adds, it facilitated “Spaces for a whole range of bands to play in.” The Fall were early beneficiaries, whilst two bands that would go on to record for New Hormones – Dislocation Dance and Gods Gift – were MMC regulars.

Dislocation Dance formed in August 1978 after singer/guitarist Ian Runacres, recently arrived from Wolverhampton, spied bassist Paul Emmerson’s ‘musicians wanted’ ad in Virgin records. Emmerson’s influences piqued the newcomer’s interest: “I wish I could remember the list,” says Runacres. “It wouldn’t surprise me if it contained Pere Ubu, Brothers Johnson, Bert Bacharach, the Clash and Vaughan Williams, exactly the sort of cross genre I embraced.”

With an initial core of Emmerson, Runacres and vocalist Kathryn Way, the band quickly attracted local attention. However, they turned down the opportunity to sign for Factory when approached after a 1979 gig at Wilson and Erasmus’s Factory Club. Emmerson recalls getting “Bad vibes after Alan Erasmus asked if Kath ‘was available’. Also they seemed a bit too cool for their own good.” “They were probably all spliffing,” reckons Richard Boon. “Paul would have a hard line on that.”

Instead, the band released debut EP, Perfectly in Control (ORG 7) jointly on its own label, Delicate Issues, and on New Hormones (ORG 7). “Hopelessly derivative of Ubu and Scritti” is Emmerson’s verdict today. With its existing accounts with pressing plants and printers, New Hormones was “just a conduit into not having to have any money upfront, so, if they sold the records then they paid the bills,” says Boon of the joint-release arrangement. Dislocation Dance thereafter put Delicate Issues on the backburner and became New Hormones’ band-most-likely-to.

After the ‘conceit’ of the Tiller Boys had outlived its usefulness, Eric Random carried on recording for New Hormones as a solo artist. In August 1980, his debut EP, That’s What I Like About Me (ORG 8), was made single of the week by the NME despite clocking in at more than 30 minutes for the three tracks, two of which were produced by Cabaret Voltaire.

“I was still in the same sort of frame of mind as with Tiller Boys,” says Random. “Still quite an aggressive physical sound, but using a lot of repetition. I’d started using drum machines by then, things like that, very basic synthesizers as well. Usually I would just start by making a backing tape, which could be anything – like mixing in TV adverts – just to create a moving texture. And then I’d just improvise over it.” Some people preferred listening to the results at the wrong speed.

“It was said that Eric’s personal energy field caused electrical and electronic equipment to malfunction, he had trouble even watching TV,” comments Cath Carroll, of City Fun fanzine (see sidebar: Fun with the Crones). “Eric was very cool,” says her City Fun partner, Liz Naylor. “He used to walk around with a python round his neck,” recalls Fraser Reich. “Just a very far out guy.”

Reich, together with his fellow Diagram Brothers, joined the New Hormones team in 1981. The group, postgraduate science students Reich (vox/guitar) and Lawrence Fitzgerald (guitar/vox), undergrad Jason Pitchers (bass/vox) and his drummer brother Simon (who worked as a chartered structural engineer), had formed from the remnants of student band The Mysteronz.

Pursuing an ultra-democratic approach, musically and lyrically the key elements of the band’s approach were the use of discords and of simple words. “Because we had a diversity of political viewpoints, we decided only ever to state facts,” recalls Jason Pitchers. In essence this meant quirky pieces about everyday life such as Isn’t it funny how neutron bombs work?

Ultra-democracy also extended to adopting the same surname: Diagram Brothers came from a structural engineering term, the Williot-Mohr diagram. “They were early geeks,” laughs Naylor.

The combination of an appearance at a John Peel Roadshow at Manchester University in January 1980 and a demo tape memorably wrapped around a brick secured an early Peel session for the band.

The Diagrams cut a single for Mike Hinc, who ran All Trade Booking, part of the Rough Trade empire. We are All Animals (b/w There is No Shower and I Would Like to Live in Prison) came out on Construct Records in October 1980. “I liked We are All Animals,” explains Boon. “I recall Mike Hinc phoning me up and saying do something else with them, because he was too busy being a booking manager.”

By this time Jason had left the band to return to Bristol, where he formed The Skodas. His replacement was found through the MMC: Andy Diagram, a classically trained musician freshly arrived from the London squat scene. As well as picking up bass duties in Diagram Brothers, Andy started playing trumpet with Dislocation Dance (and
then the Pale Fountains), bringing a new level of professionalism to the bands.

“He was exactly what I was looking for,” recalls Runacres. “Andy has the perfect blend of musicality, individuality and freedom.”

The first Diagram Brothers single for New Hormones was Bricks/Postal Bargains, respectively a tribute to the humble household brick and a tirade against shoddy mail order purchases.

Joining Diagram Brothers at New Hormones in early 1981 were Gods Gift, a different kettle of fish entirely. “Gods Gift were just Goddamn weird,” says Naylor. “They were fronted by this really intense skinny guy, Steve Edwards. And the guitarist [Steve Murphy] was this really big, fat guy.” He was “very, very good” says Boon. “Used to play with his back to the audience all the time.”

“They were devoutly fashion neutral which we always found fascinating,” says Carroll. “They looked like civil servants who’d had their desks stolen.”

For Carroll, Gods Gift were New Hormones’ “Most unsettling and powerful live act, like a very focused Velvets, though they always ended up being compared to The Fall because Steve their singer shouted and had a Manchester accent.”

“Steve Edwards would hold a pint glass and crush it,” explains Naylor. “I remember [him] telling someone off because they were dancing,” says Biting Tongues vocalist Ken ‘Capalula’ Hollings.

The band’s first release for New Hormones was the Gods Gift EP in July 1981. In the label’s catalogue later that year, Boon describes the record as, “Confronting war and religion with uncompromising, compelling noise. And confronting the listener. Frantic minority appeal, loud and extreme…”

“Richard loved Gods Gift. He adored them. I think they were his ideal,” says Random. “One of the great lost bands,” reckons Naylor.

Almost a family
New Hormones was based in an office on the top floor of a large, ramshackle old merchants’ warehouse at 50 Newton Street right in the centre of Manchester (today it houses a backpackers’ hostel).

“A typical day at 50 Newton Street is beyond description,” reckons Boon. “It was an open house to derelicts.” (See sidebar – ‘Open house’).

When they weren’t recording or hanging out at the New Hormones offices, the label’s bands were often on the road together. One live package, I Like Shopping, featured a line-up of Ludus, Dislocation Dance, The Diagram Brothers, Eric Random and the Mudhutters.

“It was almost a family with New Hormones,” says Fitzgerald. “I remember playing bass with Dislocation Dance because Paul couldn’t make a TV [appearance].” When the Diagram Brothers played with the Mudhutters, “They’d be out the front cheering us, and we’d be cheering them. It was all very friendly,” says Reich.

That collaborative spirit extended to the recording studio, where Graham ‘Dids’ Dowdall [Ludus drummer in 1980/81], Diagram Brothers and Dislocation Dance all took their places in Eric Random’s ad hoc backing band, the Bedlamites, for the full-length 1982 LP, Earthbound Ghost Need (the title came from William Burroughs). “I just liked the idea of these people stepping out of their normal way of working, to see how they reacted to it,” explains Random. “It was like having a house band. Except we didn’t have a studio like Berry Gordy,” says Boon.

Another collaboration saw Dids, Dick Harrison and Ian Runacres provide a percussion jam for Northern Lights, a quarterly cassette magazine that appeared four times between April 1981 and February 1982. Northern Lights was the brainchild of Shaun Moores, who produced and distributed the first two editions himself before New Hormones stepped in with an offer of funding and distribution.

“It was the Walkman era. Cassettes were the format of the moment,” recalls Graham Massey.

With its mix of music and interviews, Northern Lights “was the podcast of its day,” reckons Ken Hollings. “Yeah, alright, it was groundbreaking,” chuckles Boon. “Except there was nothing underneath. It didn’t really build any foundations.”

The New Hormones cassette series, released in batches of 500 in 1981, was also aimed at the new Walkman generation. There were three releases in all: Pickpocket by Ludus, Radio Sweat by the CP Lee Mystery Guild, and Live it by Biting Tongues. Multimedia was the thing: “You’d get a tape and you’d get a magazine,” says Boon. “So you have the whole joke of Radio Sweat [a parody of commercial independent local radio]: It’s nicely put together. You’ve got Linder’s work, which was a musical work and a visual work put together. Biting Tongues: I’m sure we were supposed to do some text thing but didn’t. It wasn’t just supposed to be the Live it cassette.”

A fourth project, 20 Golden Great Assassinations by Liverpudlian Ambrose Reynolds was slated and then shelved. “That was supposed to come with an assassination calendar,” recalls Boon. “Me and Nathan McGough and Ambrose did a lot of research [at Manchester Library]. It was too big a project really for too few people,” says Boon.

Renamed The World’s Greatest Hits, the musical part of the project was given the catalogue number ORG 23. “Rough Trade were a bit dubious about the subject matter (people being murdered set to music), so Uncle Geoff at RT pulled the plug, then Richard ran out of money, and so it goes,” recalls Reynolds. “A few years later I released the mini LP on Zulu [the label he shared with fellow Pink Industry member, Jayne Casey].”

By 1982, as Reynolds suggests, New Hormones’ financial difficulties were becoming more extreme. Yet, despite (or perhaps because of) these problems, the label reached its creative high water mark at this time, releasing a string of great records: Eric Random and the Bedlamites’ Earthbound Ghost Need, the Diagram Brothers’ Discordo EP, Ludus’s The Seduction and the fiercely experimental Danger Came Smiling, the punk classic, Discipline, by Gods Gift and two sublime pop records by Dislocation Dance: Rosemary (b/w Shake) and the Double-A side, “You’ll never, never know”/You can tell’. Compare Factory’s output over the same period and New Hormones wins hands down.

The label was also beginning to improve its promotion and distribution by this stage, securing licensing deals for Ludus in Italy (the Riding the Rag compilation LP) and Dislocation Dance in the Benelux countries (the single Rosemary). The latter, a proto-Housemartins kitchen sink vignette with a samba beat, became New Hormones biggest seller since Spiral Scratch, reaching the top 20 in the Netherlands, and prompting an appearance sitting on bales of hay on the Dutch equivalent of Top of the Pops.

The relative success of Rosemary followed hot on the heels of a successful US East Coast tour to promote the first full-length Dislocation Dance album, Music Music Music. Released in October 1981, the Stuart James-produced LP showed off the group’s mastery of a range of styles, from 1940s swing to brown rice funk to bubblegum pop.

Despite winning over both critics and audiences, the US tour “didn’t actually help sell many more records,” notes Boon. It also inadvertently led to Pete Wright’s departure from the New Hormones organization. “I met someone when the band was in NYC and then got an offer of a (paying) job,” recalls Wright. “Things were getting pretty tight back in Manchester by that time,” he notes.

“I thought, ‘we’re fucked’,” recalls Runacres. “Pete leaving probably had a bigger impact than the lack of New Hormones financing. Nothing is more important than an effective manager.”

Shortly after this blow, New Hormones was dealt another when Diagram Brothers decided to call it a day. The band had just released what would turn out to be its swansong, the Discordo EP. For this record, The Diagrams added synth and trumpet to their sonic palette (both played by Andy Diagram) and mixed complex vocal harmonies with their trademark discords, in a bizarre twist on Gilbert & Sullivan. It all sounds remarkably fresh today; at the time it just seemed strange.

Reich recalls how the split came about: “We’d come to the end of our time at college. I had this sense of destiny: I had to get a job. I was about to get married.” Simon Pitchers had also had enough: “Things weren’t going brilliantly and you don’t want things to go sour. It’s a bit like doing a set that’s too long – best to leave everybody on a high note rather than a low note.”

New Hormones’ monetary difficulties certainly played a part in the decision to call it a day. “They couldn’t afford to release anything more really,” says Fitzgerald.

‘Bastard!’
Aside from Spiral Scratch and Rosemary, Ludus’s The Seduction was the biggest-selling record New Hormones put out. Given the record company’s predicament by late 1982, a more business-savvy label boss might have despaired at the anti-commercialism of the group’s next LP, Danger Came Smiling. “Reichian therapy. Screaming birthing therapy!! You have to love them for that, don’t you? You have to love Richard for putting it out,” chuckles Liz Naylor. Today, Boon says it is his favourite New Hormones release. “Richard had a contrariness about him that allowed to him see things like Danger Came Smiling as a valid business move where others would have simply viewed such a release as indulgence,” believes Carroll. “He enjoyed Art and allowed it to resonate. He really seemed to enjoy its meaning, not just its effect or symbolism.”

After further singles from Gods Gift and Dislocation Dance (by now original vocalist Kathryn Way had rejoined, after three years at college), the final New Hormones release was Cruisin’ for Santa, a Christmas 1982 CND benefit single by CP Lee’s band Alberto y Lost Trios Paranoias (ORG 25).

“We’d talked to CND and it was supposed to be a fundraiser: it just didn’t sell, so it didn’t raise any money in the end,” recalls Boon.

Further releases were planned for 1983, including Biting Tongues’ Libreville LP (ORG 26), and a new Dislocation Dance single, Remind me (ORG 27), before Boon’s parlous financial status intervened. “My bank manager called me and said ‘I’ve been having a word with Richard – he had the same bank manager as me – I think you ought to lend him some money’,” recalls CP Lee. “I was like, ‘well, I’m not going to’, which was sad in a way because maybe that was the end of New Hormones, I don’t know. He wanted five grand. In those days that was a lot of dead presidents.”

With New Hormones on the verge of collapse, Boon was offered the chance to sign a new band fronted by Linder’s best friend: “Morrissey came in saying ‘right, we’ve recorded Hand in Glove and we’ve got this live track from the fashion show, could I help’? And I said ‘no, because you need more resources than I could possibly, possibly offer. You need to talk to Simon Edwards at Rough Trade Distribution’.” Boon’s referral led directly to The Smiths signing with Rough Trade.

Shortly after, the New Hormones chief received his own offer from the London label. “I couldn’t sustain Dislocation Dance anymore and I’d done some demos and I took them to Geoff [Travis] and he rang me and said, ‘oh, this is interesting, I want to talk to them. And I want to talk to you’.” Travis asked Boon if he would be willing to deputize for him for three months while he was in the US. Boon agreed.

When he moved down to London (early summer 1983), Boon carried on renting the office at 50 Newton Street, just in case. “I paid two months ahead. Liz and I packed up all the press releases, all this stuff – boxes, labelled them. I told [Leslie] Fink [the landlord], we were packing up, we’d be going in two months, but I paid – He threw everything in a skip! Bastard!”

Based in Acton, there was little Boon could do to salvage the remnants of his record company – original Linder artwork, master tapes and all. “Pete Shelley rescued some things,” he says, “One being a multi-track of The Worst, which is now in the hands of Tony Barber, Peter’s bass player. Tony’s going to, hopefully, bake it, see if there’s anything salvageable. They were great lads, The Worst: They were crap but they were brilliant.”

Boon says his “big regret is not putting out Clamour Club by Gods Gift. It was just great punk rock.”

He would also “Have loved to do something with Basil from Yargo. He walked into the office one day and said, ‘I want to be produced by Thom Bell’ Fantastic – he had ambition. With the last 90 quid of New Hormones’ money I stuck him in a four-track.”

“This music should be heard”
“Richard Boon was the Malcom McLaren of the North: Richard’s vision ‘became’ the music, such was his influence,” reckons Ian Runacres. “He used to drop hints a lot,” the Dislocation Dance frontman explains. “He gave me a copy of Nick Drake’s Pink Moon as a birthday gift. The message, which I didn’t really pick up, was ‘That’s where you should be going’ – You should be a cross between Nick Drake and Burt Bacharach.”

“Richard was really a vital glue conceptually for everybody. I think from him came that sense of it’s a creative house and I support you in your creative stuff,” says Reich. “[He] was so clearly committed to the idea of the creative part of it that actually money hardly got discussed at all.”

“Richard detested business. It wasn’t him really. He was more into the creative side,” agrees Random.

Why then, given the undoubted creativity of Boon and his bands, has New Hormones left barely a trace in the collective consciousness?

Perhaps it’s a question of economics: whereas Factory, FAST, Postcard and Rough Trade all had chart acts, New Hormones artists didn’t sell, either whilst with the label, or after. Even Dislocation Dance, listed by Smash Hits as one of the bands to watch in 1983 (alongside Wham!), never broke through following their transfer to Rough Trade, their eclecticism proving too difficult to market.

“They could have been a big pop band. They were good songwriters,” believes Random.

“Our ideas were bigger than our budgets. Partly a product of our influences,” says Runacres. “I wanted to do plausible American cop show themes, Savannah Band swing and bubble gum parodies. It would have been easier to have just been a guitar band.”

“Maybe New Hormones as a label was a little bit too diverse,” suggests Stuart James. “The bands were diverse. Even though a lot of the bands shared the same producer, there was no signature sound necessarily. The artwork didn’t have a unified style. Even though they were more of a family, it wasn’t perceived as that.

“New Hormones didn’t have the mouthpiece that Factory had,” he adds. “There wasn’t a PR department to the label. It was very much hearsay. It was enough to put the records out.”

But, in the end, it is those records that should determine a label’s legacy. Listening again to the New Hormones back catalogue, the individualism of its output is incredibly refreshing. Play Dislocation Dance’s You’ll never, never know next to Mistresspiece by Ludus: two more divergent, yet equally entertaining takes on feminism you could hardly imagine.

Has New Hormones had any influence? “Hardly any, apart from its attitude,” reckons Boon. “If there was an ethos,” he says, “it was just that this music should be heard. And these players should be paid attention, because they have, hopefully, something to say, or they are making an interesting racket. There wasn’t an overarching ideology. I didn’t want to be Ahmet Ertegün or anything like that.”

“If you look at what New Hormones didn’t put out [The Fall, The Smiths, etc] Richard’s very generous with his advice, or his enabling of other people to do things. And subsequently has been a lot less successful than anybody else,” reflects Naylor. “He really was an important person in Manchester’s music history.”

“I’m not bitter – about anything actually,” says Boon. “It was a great adventure: set out with that map and see where you land.”

COPYRIGHT JUSTIN TOLAND 2007/2008 – ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Written by justintoland

February 3, 2008 at 1:48 pm

Factory’s shadow

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The story of New Hormones is, first and foremost, a story about Manchester. Yet, as Ian Runacres, frontman with the label’s ‘nearly men’ Dislocation Dance, points out, “For those outside Manchester the assumption is that Factory was it.”

“I think New Hormones actually had better bands than Factory,” says ex-Ludus drummer, Graham ‘Dids’ Dowdall. Runacres concurs: “New Hormones was a better label than Factory; of that I have no doubt.”

“Factory boy through and through”, Nathan McGough, naturally disagrees: “New Hormones was important because it was the first independent in Manchester if not the UK. But it hasn’t left the same footprint on Manchester [as Factory].”

For Liz Naylor, New Hormones and Factory had a “really complicated’ relationship. “Factory we all just used to call ‘Fat Tory’ records and they were like the mill owners. There was a real, palpable sense of their power in the city,” she says. “I don’t wholly suggest that Tony [Wilson] went out to do that, and certainly not Rob [Gretton], who was a lovely feller. But that was just how it was because they achieved success quite early.”

With Factory’s power came a sense of exclusion. “I think it’s to do with Saville’s graphics in a way,” says Naylor. “It sends out an aesthetic that says ‘No’. There was something much more approachable about Richard – he’d be around and you’d see him around. I think Tony, because he was on telly, had a kind of distance. I went to Palatine Road [Factory HQ] maybe twice and I felt quite intimidated by being there.”

[Factory] really did have their heads up their own arses,” reckons CP Lee. “It wasn’t deliberate, it was just the way they were – deadly earnest – and it went hand in hand with what we used to call intense young men with minds as narrow as their ties. Then you’d go to New Hormones and it would be Nico jacking up in the bog. Liz and Cath trying to get five quid together to write the next City Fun. And Richard… Just complete madness.”

“New Hormones was more of a family thing than Factory,” says Graham Massey, whose Biting Tongues recorded for both labels at different stages of their career. “Tony always had this media connection as well that sort of widened it out. It didn’t feel quite as cottage industry. Two different styles, definitely.”

Despite Factory’s pre-eminence, relations between the two camps were friendly: “Both labels looked on each other quite affectionately,” recalls Runacres. He felt that New Hormones and Factory “had a common purpose. We were comrades. A tangible example was my loan of Vini Reilly’s amp for a gig in Liverpool, (or did he lend mine?).” He also recalls how on the Dislocation Dance US Tour, “Tony Wilson helped to finance the hire of our backline when the New Hormones cheque bounced. For that, I’m forever in defence of Tony’s reputation.”

Tony and Lindsay Wilson lived on Broadway, just round the corner from 569 Wilmslow Road, home of Richard Boon, Ian Runacres and Pete Wright. “They used to pop in all the time,” says Runacres. “The first time I met Tony Wilson, he was sitting on the floor in the front room [at 569 Wilmslow Road] showing someone out of Dislocation Dance how to solve the Rubik’s Cube,” recalls Ken Hollings.

“[Tony and I] were very close friends,” says Boon. “We’d just hang together.”

Lawrence Fitzgerald recalls an early encounter with the two men: “I remember being in a kitchen with Tony Wilson and Richard Boon, chatting. It was quite obvious where the ideas came from. Tony Wilson, I don’t think he had an original idea. They came from Richard.”

“Tony was a fan. Richard was different: he was an innovator,” believes Runacres.

But, says Albertos and Durutti Column drummer, Bruce Mitchell, “If Wilson stole an idea he would make it work.”

Yet, if New Hormones sometimes lacked the wherewithal to implement its ideas, conversely sometimes Factory’s conceptualism got in the way of the music and the individual bands.

During Biting Tongues’ spell with Factory, Howard Walmsley recalls Tony Wilson complaining about a bill from the record producer while happily spending much more on the sleeve designer. He says this was indicative of “A value system that didn’t actually understand the thing that seemed to be at the centre of it, the music.”

“Factory had a sort of set image. If you signed with them you had to have their image. And you had the Martin Hannett sound put on you as well,” says Andy Diagram. “Raincoats and dour and miserable Manchester,” is how Fitzgerald defines the house style.

“Half the bands were forced into it,” believes Eric Random. “Or they’d end up promoting a weaker version of something else.”

“One tends to think of all the Factory bands being quite the same,” agrees CP Lee. With New Hormones, “There wasn’t a house ident. It was definitely a whole mess of individuals. Which possibly led to its eventual demise.”

“If New Hormones had had the same resources as Factory, it would have left a bigger mark,” believes Runacres. “Some Factory releases trade on the label, they don’t stand up so well by themselves.”

“There was no great vision with Factory, which is odd because Factory has this reputation of being a visionary label,” says Massey. “A lot of it [was] front,” he reckons.

The signing of Biting Tongues could be seen as evidence of this lack of vision: “Factory didn’t know who we were,” remembers Walmsley. “They had no idea who we were or what we did. But they did it.”

“If some of the New Hormones bands had been on Factory and vice versa the world would have been a different place,” believes Runacres. “In some ways better.”

COPYRIGHT JUSTIN TOLAND 2007/2008 – ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Written by justintoland

February 3, 2008 at 1:43 pm

The Beach Club: inspiration for The Hacienda

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In April 1980, a collective of friends based around the offices of New Hormones records in Manchester launched a new club night in the city. The group included Richard Boon (New Hormones label chief and Buzzcocks manager), Eric Random (then a member of Pete Shelley’s side project, The Tiller Boys), Sue Cooper (accountant for Buzzcocks and New Hormones), Lindsay Wilson (Tony Wilson’s ex-wife – now Lindsay Reade) and Suzanne O’Hara (Martin Hannett’s girlfriend). Held each Tuesday (“there may have been some exceptions”, says Boon), The Beach Club would showcase “cult, weird films with cult, weird bands,” he explains.

“Although Lindsay Reade might dispute this, I think I found the venue for the Beach Club,” says Liz Naylor, who together with partner Cath Carroll, published City Fun fanzine, put together from a desk at the New Hormones HQ at 50 Newton Street. Oozits, formerly known as the Picador, “used to be a really disreputable, scuzzy gay club,” recalls Naylor. “It was completely horrid. It was a complete firetrap. And it had a sort of seedy ambience that was perfect.”

Oozits was situated on Newgate Street in Shudehill, close to Manchester Victoria railway station. “It was a very seedy area,” recalls Manchester music historian and ex-Alberto y Lost Trios Paranoias frontman, CP Lee. “There were dreadful hardcore porn shops that had wooden windows because they were always being set on fire or kicked in.”

“At the Beach Club, you’d walk in, go up a really nasty, rickety flight of stairs, pass a really horrible toilet, go up some more stairs and there was the room where they showed the films. On the top floor, you had the bands,” recalls Naylor. “It could have out-seeded the club in Blue Velvet,” reckons Dislocation Dance drummer, Dick Harrison.

The club’s name was inspired both by the Situationist slogan, ‘under the pavement: the beach,’ and by a poster belonging to Richard Boon’s friend Jon Savage for a 1960s exploitation movie called Horror on Party Beach. “It was a kind of rock’n’roll/Annette Funicello film, but with atomic creatures coming out of the sea and ripping teenagers to shreds,” explains Ken Hollings of Biting Tongues, one of the groups who played the club.

Not everyone got or cared about the references, recounts Naylor. “At the time we just thought, ‘oh, The Beach Club: let’s go there.’ We were 20 years old or whatever – it’s just somewhere you go and get drunk.”

The club’s founders had much more ambitious and idealistic motives, however. “When I asked Richard why he set up the club, he talked quite a lot about really needing to carry on the impetus of the Factory, about creating a space,” says Naylor. “There was nowhere which had that sense which the Factory at the PSV did, of a community,” says Boon. [Tony Wilson and Alan Erasmus’s Factory at the PSV (aka the Russell Club, Hulme) ran from May 1978 to September 1979].

For Eric Random, “One of the reasons for starting the Beach Club was to do things like Certain Random Cabaret [a joint performance with members of A Certain Ratio and Cabaret Voltaire] – entertaining with the films, but also mixing the groups together. Different combinations of people would play at certain times. They were all just little experiments really. Nothing was focused to anything in the future. They were one-off things.”

Sue Cooper’s father ran film distribution company, Contemporary Films, as well as London’s Phoenix Cinema. “Through her family connections she could track down which distributor had what and she knew what to say,” explains Boon. “Don’t know where we got the projector: probably from the Manchester Film and Video Workshop, which was basically a guy called Bob Jones.”

“We had to become a registered film club,” says Random. Members paid 25p to join. “It was such a small space that it was quite limited musically as to what we could put on. I enjoyed putting the films on more than anything,” he recalls.

Screenings included art house staples such as Kenneth Anger’s Scorpio Rising, Cocteau’s Orphee and Tod Browning’s Freaks. “In the days before video there wasn’t much of an outlet for this kind of film,” says Cath Carroll. “Admittedly, there was the Aaben in Hulme, which was excellent, but it tended to show much drier fare,” she adds.

Bands were allowed to pick the films that appeared the night they played. “Or I’d give them a choice of so many films,” says Random. “Eraserhead was our choice of movie,” recalls Ian Runacres of Dislocation Dance. “We had an argument about whether it should be Pepe le Moko or Orphee,” says Dick Witts of The Passage.

“It was like a sandwich – film, band, film, band – it just went on for hours,” says Fraser Reich (aka Fraser Diagram of The Diagram Brothers). “The Beach Club was fantastic: very original.”

CP Lee played the Beach Club with an Albertos offshoot, (“probably The George Sugden XI”). “I remember thinking, Richard’s doing what we used to do in the 1960s – put a band on with a film showing at the same time; dancers; just weird shit. It was great!”

“Watching the films there felt rather illicit and underground,” recollects Carroll. “There was a bit of a frisson when they showed A Clockwork Orange because it was still banned,” confirms Fraser Diagram. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Ai-No-Corrida also found their way to the Beach Club’s screen.

“People wanted to see them, you know. It seems ridiculous now you can watch them on TV,” says Random.

“All the Factory crew came down the Beach Club,” remembers Peter Wright, who managed Dislocation Dance and later helped Boon out with the running of New Hormones. “A lot of the bands that played at the Beach Club were Factory bands,” adds Random. New Order played their first ever gig at the club on July 29, 1980, disguised as The Names. They wanted a sympathetic crowd for their debut. “I think everyone in the audience knew them,” says Random.  “I just remember them being terrible and shambolic,” says Naylor. “They sounded like Popol Vuh,” reckons Boon.

The roll call of Beach Club veterans stretches from the Diagram Brothers and Kevin Hewick to the Mudhutters and Royal Family and the Poor. “I remember seeing Section 25 and having to walk out of the room because they were so loud,” says Naylor. One surprising and very well-known name also chalked up at a gig at the Beach Club, as Eric Random recalls: “I remember we tried to book Blurt and the agent said if you’re having Blurt will you have this other band that we’ve got. I said ‘alright, we’ll have them as support’. So we get there and there’s this huge artic – you couldn’t even get it in the same street. The band had endless equipment. Blurt saw this and left in the end. It was a complete disaster… So U2 ended up playing there, but I left, I didn’t watch them.”

The Beach Club didn’t last long. “It seemed to go on forever, but I think it only lasted six weeks or so,” says Carroll. “We were running out of music to put on,” recalls Random. The precise date of the final Beach Club is unclear, although a Melody Maker article from February 28, 1981, refers to the club as having closed down “when attendance began to drop.”

“The flyer for the last night was the last page of Horror on Party Beach, a detourned page from the comic of the film,” recalls Boon. “The last panel was a speech bubble saying ‘There’s nothing go on here but the recordings. Let’s Fuck. The End’.”

Eric Random says that, “Afterwards, somebody sneaked in and carried on the name for about a year.”

Despite its short lifespan, The Beach Club has left its mark.

“It was as important in changing clubbing in Manchester as the Hacienda,” reckons Graham Massey (Biting Tongues, 808 State). “It was the first time Manchester focused in that arts way, because it had cinema and everything as well. It had that feel.” For Biting Tongues drummer, Eddie Sherwood,  “It was more than just a club where you went and got drunk and watched a band.”

“Looking back it was probably the best club night in Manchester at the time,” says Andy Diagram. “[The Hacienda] took the idea of the Beach Club and made it bigger, “ believes Naylor. “We didn’t give it a catalogue number, possibly a mistake,” muses Boon.

The former site of the club was razed several years ago and a car park built over it. But the memories and influence live on. Under the pavement…

COPYRIGHT JUSTIN TOLAND 2007/2008 – ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Written by justintoland

February 3, 2008 at 1:42 pm

“An open house to derelicts”

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Richard Boon began renting the office at 50 Newton Street when he was managing Buzzcocks. “I was living in a shared house and it didn’t seem appropriate to be working from it. So I found a cheap office,” he recalls.

“The offices were hardly salubrious. You knew they weren’t exactly rolling in it,” remembers Lawrence Fitzgerald. “Looking back, it could have been the 1930s, the architecture of the building and our maverick but impoverished lifestyles somehow became blurred,” says Ian Runacres.

“Chaos,” is Paul Emmerson’s memory of the New Hormones HQ. “Just insane really,” says Lix Naylor. “Random was pretty out of it quite a lot of the time.”

Boon had invited Naylor and Cath Carroll to run their City Fun fanzine from his office. “Richard’s invitation of free rent and phone was not just generous, but a great opportunity to perch and gripe whilst watching the scene go by,” says Carroll. “We liked drinking as well. And Richard liked drinking and speed and they were probably the things that bonded us,” believes Naylor.

“Richard Boon’s kindness” is Carroll’s favourite memory of 50 Newton Street: “He used to buy us halves when we were broke, even though he wasn’t too far behind owing to a failure to put out Wham!-style records. Least favourite memory but still entertaining was the incredibly bad tempered lift operator, Tommy. He seemed to be well past retirement age and had a grudge against the world that going up and down in a lift all day did nothing to wipe clean.”

“He was a complete cunt,” says Naylor. “A one-armed armed, belligerent Irish ex-soldier.” “Grumpy old sod. Probably had a very interesting story,” says Boon. Was he a potential New Hormones signing? “I didn’t have Bob Last’s wit.”

To add to the general mayhem, Boon also let out a large connecting room to self-styled doctor of theology, Alan Wise, and Nigel Baguely (“his waster sidekick” – Naylor). Together they promoted a lot of new wave and art rock gigs under the banner of Wise Moves. “Alan Wise is one of the most bizarre people you’ll ever, ever encounter,” reckons Naylor. “The James Young book about Nico is fantastic on Alan Wise – it nails him exactly.”

“Ideally they were supposed to be there to pay half the rent, because I couldn’t afford the whole rent,” explains Boon. “Did they pay? Now and again.”

By 1982, Wise was also managing Nico. “She was an extraordinary presence,” says Naylor. Boon’s favourite recollection from Newton Street involves the German chanteuse: “She comes in the office to wait to be picked up by the road crew – the van’s running late. She’s sat reading this book, she keeps bursting out laughing: Nico, what are you reading that’s so funny? And she says, ‘Bleeeak Houuuuse’.”

Another bohemian figure lurking in the shadows was Steven Patrick Morrissey. “He just used to sit in the corner ogling Linder – Starstruck,” laughs Eric Random. Lawrence Fitzgerald recalls seeing the future Smith in a “trilby and long trenchcoat.” Others have no recollection of his being there at all. “In those days Morrissey was a bit like Zelig – he was present at all these major events – at the Russell Club, at the New Hormones offices – but no-one noticed him,” says Runacres.

“He was in and out the office quite a lot, because he was big mates with Linder,” says Boon. “He gave me a cassette of him singing very quietly fragments of songs. And I’m sure some lyrics ended up on Reel around the Fountain and the Hand that Rocks the Cradle. And there was a Bessie Smith song, a blues called ‘Wake up Johnny’. And the trope, which I quote myself on endlessly, is a couple of months later Johnny knocked on Morrissey’s door and woke him up.”

The tape may still exist: “If only I could find it,” says Boon. “He would kill me if I put it on Ebay!”

COPYRIGHT JUSTIN TOLAND 2007/2008 – ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Written by justintoland

February 3, 2008 at 1:39 pm