Early days | Spearmint? | A Week Away | A Different Lifetime | My Missing Days |
Paris In A Bottle | Songs For The Colour Yellow | Oklahoma! | A Leopard And Other Stories |
The Boy And The Girl That Got Away | The Future...
How did we start?
Simon and I met in Our Price, a chain of UK record shops which have now disappeared. We both worked in the Lewisham branch in London. I had just moved down from Newcastle where I had started a band called Laverne & Shirley, with my friend Michael Bradshaw. Simon joined a London version of Laverne & Shirley, which also included Toby Carter, another Our Price colleague.
I LOVED this line-up of Laverne & Shirley - I still consider it classic. We had a vision of an Indie Soul collision, half Michael Jackson, half The Fall. But we fell into those music industry traps of trying to get deals and relying on other people rather than ourselves, and after a lot of bruises we split up. Our story is later chronicled in the Spearmint song "Sweeping The Nation". Simon and I took the Indie part of what we were doing and formed Spearmint with Martin Talbot (another Our Price chum) on bass, and Ronan Larvor on drums. We got to know Ronan at Escapade rehearsal studios in Greenwich where we practised. He was almost the resident drummer in that studio.
They were quite gloomy days - I didn't feel there was any hope for what we were doing. My memories now are of dark nights, and a dark rehearsal room. Trying to get gigs and constantly being asked how many people we could pull on a Wednesday night, us lying, then strong-arming friends to come along... getting so stressed that not enough people would show up... there are only so many times you can rely on your friends... you end up playing to empty rooms, losing money, feeling bad and not getting asked back. After disappointments with Laverne & Shirley, I didn't want our destiny to be in anyone else's hands, so we decided immediately to put out a single on our own label. We recorded "Somebody" and "I Can't Sleep" and pressed up 500 copies, with a hand-written label. I can't even remember the name of the chap we recorded with, except that it was in Clapham, and involved a cheap, all-night-long session. Recording through the night is surreal and not ideal for great results. You end up unfocused and grumpy, and going straight into work afterwards is a nightmare, but is something you tend to do at some point if you are in a band.
The single didn't really get us anywhere, except it did get us a manager, the eccentric and wonderful Nick Hobbs. We also acquired the services of Nick's loyal right-hand man Rhodri Marsden. Nick didn't really want to manage another band, but got hooked on "I Can't Sleep". He started putting together hugely ambitious plans for us, which initially involved finding a producer. We had already recorded the next single "Goldmine" at Escapade with Gary Brady at the helm and we were pleased with it, but Nick put us in touch with JB, who did the final mix you hear on the record.
Martin left as he didn't really feel it was his thing. We advertised for a new bass player in the Melody Maker. Three people responded, only one showed up: James Parsons. I met up with Jim for the first time in a pub in Greenwich. I didn't tell him he was the only one to actually show. He had just been dumped by the band he was in and had a big case of the "rebounds" - he wanted to be in a band as quickly as possible, and if that that band already had a single out then all the better to show his ex-bandmates that he had fallen on his feet! (Still feel like that now Jim?) Jim arrived with an added bonus - he had trained in graphics and wanted to do the band's artwork. So all our artwork over the years has come from within the band, which has been great.