H, I think they did a pretty long set but it just kept getting more and more violent. I put this up on the James site the other year, there's a bit about it in there.
I got into James almost by default. I had a mate, Scottie, who bought every Factory release. He bought Folklore. Played it to me. I liked it. I bought Folkore. Another mate saw The Smiths at, I think, Doncaster said you've got to see this band James. Pure energy.
I used to go over to Manchester quite a bit with my old mate Scottie who went on to play bass in the Bridewell Taxis and later became a top DJ in the dance music scene in the north of England. Time Out or whatever the listings mag over there at the time had an add for James and The Railway Children at The Boardwalk for a Sunday afternoon a couple of weeks away. We rounded up the trops and a half dozen of us got the rattler over the Pennines into the land of perpetual rainfall. The gig, at the then rehearsal rooms, had sold out. Nice middlegaed bloke on the door let us in for two quid when we explained we'd just come over from Leeds for the gig. At the mention of 'Leeds' a small group of football types - a bit like ourselves actually- at the top of the stairs turned their heads. We walked up past this reprobates and came across Shaun and Bez and their chums for the first time. Nothing was said but we let onto each other knowingly. The Railway Children were on, going down well, all jingly jangly and very Postcard. I liked them at once. Bit of a shock to find no alcohol. We settled in with fruit juice and umbrellas, soaking wet after walking from Victoria. James came on and they were like nothing before, or since. They're a great band. Not my favorite, in fairness, but who else even sounds remotley like them?
We stood stage left to the front. A little gang. Tim looked our way regularly and smiled. He danced worse than me. I liked him. So unrock'n'roll in his big baggy jumper. Gavin, the drummer, was, I thought, a brilliant drummer. Wild, teetering on the edge of it all falling apart. The sounded raw. No one had a guitar sound like that. It sounded improvised yet focused. End of the gig Tim nodded, we nodded and fucked off back for our train.
They played the Riverside in Newcastle in '85, I went up with my mate Wayne and his bird. It didn't feel awkward, I'd know her as long as Wayne. Maybe longer and it was just three mates going to a gig. The Riverside was sold out and members only. Someone we met in The Barleycorn signed us in a nd we were away. Low stage expectant crowd - they'd been getting a bit of press and an endorsement from Morrisey which, at the time, wasn't considered a bad thing. It was a good gig, lots of wild dancing and drink. After the gig I managed to return a stolen guitar to the band and told myt mate not to nick guitars again. We got the last train down South, straight through Leeds and kipped in Doncaster train station.
Leeds Astoria. By now they were doing well, indy charts and a bit of press, 'The Next Big Thing. As my mate Dave was want to say,'There's a buzz on the band.' Half the football lads in East Leeds turned out for this one. James Brown fronted the excellent but short lived Butter Cookies a sort of Hank Williams meets Half Man Half Biscuit and gets the ale in type band as support. They went over quite well, the student/football crowd were mixing well and good night looked in the offing. Some band from Sheffield who sounded and indeed looked like The Icicle Works were on next and got everyone tapping their toes. By the time James took ther stage the ale had been flowing freely and, sadly, the local bikers who were doing security had been throwing their weight around. It was only a matter of time. It's hard to understand as the lads loved the band but the tention of some was directed at the band. Fights started and yes, some innocent students caught some shit. One biker got put through a cig machine face first and the gig almost collapsed. Tim and the boys battled on gamely. Ironically the music, such a frenzy sound tracked the violence. I was mad as hell, drunk and just let myself go, dancing like a loon. It was gonna end in tears. Keenan, the promoter grabbed me and threatened me with the bouncers if it didn't stop. To this day I have no idea why he grabbed me. At the time, these were my band, in my back yard. I was fucking pissed the way things were going. I got on stage grabbed Tim's mike and said if things didn't calm down the gig would end. Bit of a surprise for all concerned. Things calmed down - relative term. The band continued, getting lost in the music and producing a storming set. Maybe the tension in the air served as some kind of creative force? Whatever. Things came to a head with the drums going over, Tim saying, Thanks a lot Leeds it'll never happen again.' aand the boucers running for their lives. It got very hairy outside after, cars going over and running street fights. I saw Scottie talking to Tim after, upstairs, I smiled at him and shook my head. he responded the same. I've since challenged Kennan about his action that night and he said I stood out and he panicked. First and foremost I was and stil am a music fan. He didn't need the threats. Help me would have sufficed.
Inspite of everything it was a good gig. The Jesus And Mary Chain had contrived riots those veggie munching Mancs had the real deals.
Some Arts festival Manchester Town Hall. James came on after the abridged version of Wuthering Heights - Cathy. Heathcliff . But before the sword swallower. Me and Aidie had seen Edwyn Collins the night before at The Boardwalk and kipped on a bench outside the G-Mexx. We me Scottie Murph and Wuggie around dinner time. Me and Aidie got suck into the veggie snap and chatted to some birds about fuck knows what. Surreal band taking you places you'd never go. I loved them. Said sorry to them for the Astoria sketch but explained that those lads loved the band. It was one of those things.
The thing that will never happen again happened again. A tacky nightclub round the back of the Merrion Centre saw James return to Leeds. Mick - singer with the Bridewells, their Carl and a couple of other local boys hurtled into the car park as the band left their tour bus, hand brake turn and smashed the car into the building wall sending white stones flying everywhere. Everyone climbs out the passenger side door laughing, high and drunk, as the Mancunian entorage go drip white. What a night. The Wedding Present support and go down well. It's the same football/student crowd. This lad I know from Jumbo records DJs from time to time old 60s stuff and Creation label bands, he's here with his Roger McGuinn fringe getting off on all the crew necks semi flares and Adidas trainers. Apparentley, we can't like music because we like football. The irony is not lost years later when every half decent band appears to take their cues from the terraces.
A tentative start. Tim acknowleging the faces in the crowd. A chant of Para Dave goes up as it becomes apparent that a well known local football hooligan bears a strong resemblance to a certain band member. Things are going well. No bikers. Everyone's singing along. It's a happy crowd. I don't see Kennan but I'd love to tell him,'See when you don't put goons in front of us, we're civilized.
PPhhtt. the power goes off. What now? They can't get it going. How willthis crowd react? They react well. Sit Down becomes a calming mantra. Larry on slide and Tim pushing his arms downward. People are sitting down. It goes well. It goes very well. No violence, no riots. Improvised show turns out better than any dared hope.
I might have seen them again at the Poly or Uni or somewhere but, like a lot of us, that time is a bit of a blur. Any way they got big, very fucking big. They got rid of Gavin and got slicker, they got Andy Diagram from the excellent Palies in and the sound grew. They got keyboards. They got stadium rock big. I stuck with Andy's exband mates Shack. I was happy when I saw James on TOTPs. I knew how hard they'd worked.
I moved to America. I played the CDs which, in fairness belonged to my wife. I heard they'd split up.
I heard they were back together. I heard they were playing The Stone Pony. We pass it during the summer when we take the kids to Avon-By-The-Sea. I got tickets. We were having a rare night out. We dropped the kids in New York at Grandmas and set off-
Stone Pony. Excellent, excellent place. Guitars all over the walls, strings of red chilli light bulbs here there and everywhere, bar in an awkward spot, long narrow venue with the stage to the side, rather than at the end. Everyone's close to the stage. Low ceilings, black paint, whirling fans and you expect Adriene to be serving ice cold Buds or (yes they really had it) Tetleys as Christopher looks on.
Got there about 9:15, parked up, bit of a chat with a cop about the new meters. Sounds like they're on already. Yep. So me and Mrs C are stood right in the door. Capacity 600. I think 598 of them knew what time to get there. Sea breeze at our backs. Tim's obviously feeling it too if his wool hat's anything to go by. A bit mad, we're more at the side of the stage, behind the monitors and can barely hear the vocals. Music's good though. Actually, the music's great. They're playing new stuff, which, I don't know. Some of the crowd do and sing along. Except for the two Jersey Girls and, presumably, by the looks of things, one of them's boyfriend. in front of us who talk. Talk very fucking loudly about what a great time they're having. A great time while ruining it for everyone else who's actually come to see a good band.
Tim gets a bit pissed slamming the mike down and pleading with the sound engineer. It doesn't make much difference. Hard to understand as the instruments are note perfect and crystal clear. It's like listening to The Shadows cover James. Andy's trumpet blasts through, they double up on drummers on occasion and, even though you can't see him from our vantage point, you get the feeling there's a bass player up there.
Ring The Bells was the first one I actually know. Not a real fan then John? Not for 20 odd years. No. Even the Jersey Girls ( the sort you hope your daughters don't grow up to be like - they won't) shut the fuck up and sing along and dance. They look like they're enjoying themselves up there. The bar back keeps pushing past us with fresh supplies of ale and I'm getting the odd goose pimple from the breeze wafting in. Still can't really hear the vocals. Catch a bit about Soldiers coming home in body bags during one new song. Musically, it's as good as any of the old ones.
Bit of a chat about getting hit by lightning, something about Harry Potter scars? Sometimes is a sing- along that has everyone feeling warm and fuzzy. Laid get's them all going mental. It's in loads of movies isn't it? Larry stops playing and takes a few snaps of the crowd. I screw my face up as he points the camera in our direction.
They come back on for the encore only Tim's off far side in amongst the crowd singing and seemingly very happy doing so. Everyone on stage sports a big smile except Andy. Then again I bet it's had to smile and play trumpet at times. They're running out of time and, this is fucking nice if you ask me, they ask what song the crowd want.
Inevitably, it's Sit Down. I'm sure it's tradition now but halfway through they stop playing and just take in the sight of the whole audience singing along. Must be amazing to write a song and have it taken to a level like that. One advantage of been last in, first out. Tim and Andy have the same idea too, they're straight on the bus as we head to our motor. Good night out, great great band. Hard to understand how there was no headline show in New York on this tour but it's good to see someone this good at the famed Jersey Shore venue. Next gig here? Motorhead. Fuck knows what they'll make of the sound.
Well that was fun.