“It’s The Place That I Love The Best”
You can blame Rhodri for this.
He’s been wandering down memory lane and I’ve decided to join him for a while (different lane mind but you get my drift).
Many years ago I “worked” for a band, a band called (in fact still called) Magoo – I say “worked” because I had no idea what I was doing and rather sweetly Magoo didn’t seem to mind. They’d been playing and recording together for a while and had released a track on a local CD compilation (which I’ll not speak of any further as a) it wasn’t very good and b) I’m a confirmed revisionist) and a rather better debut single, The Mudshark ep (on orange vinyl – although strangely with no paper labels, hence the fact that we had to write the track details with marker pen directly onto the vinyl centres – I say we, I think it would not be wholly unfair to suggest that I wrote on around four hundred and seventy seven copies with the various members of the band at the time writing on the rest – that’s about twenty three). However with all the work surrounding what we were doing none of it really dropped into place for me until we released ‘our’ second single Robot Carnival, four tracks of treble induced guitar shenanigans pressed onto translucent midnight blue vinyl – you can listen to the lead track here. At the time I thought it was tremendous – in fact I still do, but that’s not my point, I also thought that as a result it was destined for great things including, possibly, significant sales and at the very least extensive radio-play (I tried to instigate this radio-play by hand delivering copies all over London town and remarkably bumped into John Peel outside BBC Radio 1, who commended me on my Bill Shankly t –shirt (boy was I trying hard) and promised to listen to the record that very evening – whether he did or not remains unclear however he played the all the tracks from the record over the next few weeks and remained a fan / friend of the band up until his death in 2004 – in fact Magoo were one of the very last bands who recorded a session for him).
You‘ll perhaps be unsurprised that in fact the sales were less than significant – we did sell out of the initial pressing of five hundred however given that we didn’t consider repressing on some equally odd coloured vinyl perhaps indicates that there wasn’t exactly a clamour for them in the independent record shops of the United Kingdom. Simon Williams in the NME did say nice things about it, “In short, a thoroughly commendable crash-course in artrock without the self-concious wankery. Brilliant.”, but reviews were few and far between. And radio-play ? Well as I said dearest old Mr Peel played all of the tracks on the record and booked the band for their second Peel Session (I played on the first one !), however other than some student radio stations and a couple of shows on local BBC stations (and a somewhat surprising play on BBC Radio 3 – thanks to Robert Sandall) the recorded was wildly ignored. (Looking back at Close Continental DNA (which was a compilation CD of early singles) Andrew R (Magoo Kingpin, singer, songwriter and much much more) wrote about Robot Carnival in the sleeve notes, “Back to The Swamp for the second single, getting to grips with the studio better, although after it came out some people phoned to ask if it was really meant to sound like it does.”.)
And and and ? I know, get to the point – what’s interesting about all this (well it is to me – you may have wandered off already) is the hopelessly blind optimism we had at the time. We just knew that this record would sound great on day time radio, we just knew this record would receive rave reviews, we just knew this record to quote Eddie Argos was one that we were going to play “Eight weeks in a row on Top of the Pops”. But hey – listening back to it now it’s perhaps not a huge surprise that these things didn’t happen – it is a great record, I’d argue that point with anyone, a wonderful cacophony of noise holding down and beating the tune that’s buried beneath to within an inch of it’s life – however can you image it being broadcast across the nation’s airwaves ?
Be honest – it’s a no isn’t it ?
So what’s my point – well, that overlong, awkwardly sentimental set up is all to allow me to stand on my soapbox (I know I know my reference points need updating but as I say I am traversing memory lane), and say how much I miss that level of optimism and that as a result I’m considering an attempt to reclaim it – anyone want to join me ?
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Tags: BBC Radio 1, BBc Radio 3, Bill Shankly, Close Continental DNA, Eddie Argos, John Peel, Magoo, NME, Rhodri Marsden, Robert Sandall, Robot Carnival, Simon Williams, The Mudshark ep