Our first trip to New Zealand and Australia was a highlight of my time in PWEI. We had lost some credibility with the UK music press and were still reeling from the fallout from 'Beaver Patrol'.
From memory 'This Is The Day, This Is The Hour, This Is This!' was highly acclaimed by the 'NME', averaged by 'Sounds' and hated by the 'Melody Maker'. We were not the coolest kids on the block.
Although gigs sold well in London, Birmingham, Wolverhampton and Portsmouth we rarely attracted capacity crowds across the UK. Imagine our surprise when we were booked for a tour 'down under'!
In 1989 bands rarely toured such far off places, most Australians were content with the invention of tribute bands, such as the Australian Doors, Pink Floyd and Abba.
The night before we were due to fly, we booked into the Colombia Hotel, which for the last few years had become our London base for many after show sleepover, we also stayed there whilst recording 'This Is The Day.....'. It was pretty infamous on the rock and roll circuit, the late night bar was run by a guy who looked like Benny from the cartoon series 'Top Cat'.
There are many fantastic sounds in rock history, the Beastie Boys 'Sabotage', Nirvana's 'Smells Like Teen Spirit' and Motorhead's 'Ace Of Spades', but the greatest sound of all was that of an irritated Benny throwing up the little gold metal shutter that protected his bar. That classic rock and roll sound I still remember as if it were yesterday. Furthermore, I guarantee anyone reading this who experienced late night drinking sessions at the Colombia will also, and they will now have a little wry smile on their face, and a comforting warm feeling inside. Everybody that is except poor old Benny the Ball, PWEI legend!
People who stayed at the Colombia rarely actually went to bed, it was purely a license to drink all night so every time Benny shut the bar there would be a congregation of people refusing to move, inevitably his little golden shutter would reluctantly be thrust open several times each night to joyous cheers and rapturous applause.
There were always more people in that bar than beds in the hotel, while American rock bands shared their rooms with Pamela Anderson lookalikes we would share them with friends from home, people like Large Mole, Jord, H, Tyler, Bones, Cookie and Grouse. The dormatory style rooms had beds no bigger than fish fingers, I clearly remember the bottle green bobbly bedspreads, but never any sheets underneath them, I don't think any of us actually got into bed, we just fell onto them, spread-eagled, dead to the world. On other occasions I would sleep in the bar or against my bedroom door in the corridor. I liked the Colombia!
Crazy nights were common place, Van Morrison would be 'on the piss' with Graham Crabb lookalike Mick Hucknall from Simply Red, me and Clint would be on a table embracing Siouxsie Sioux, all three of us singing "We are Wolves!, We are Wolves!, We are Wolves!" Earlier we had abused the RCA credit card at Pacifico's, our favourite Mexican restaurant in Covent Garden after both bands appeared on 'Top Of The Pops' together. Frozen marguerita's were sunk by the jug full. Big jugs and lots of them!
On another occasion I adopted my usual position and woke up on one of four fish finger beds in a room with Dave Mustaine from Megadeth, Keith Rowley from the Mighty Lemon Drops and Graham Crabb.
Dave introduced himself as 'Dave from Megadeth, too fucked up for Metallica' and was shadowed by his security wherever he went, who warned me Dave was mental whenever he had whisky. That night, already pissed on lager, we drank whisky. Lot's of it! Cheers!
Graham and Dave had squared up at some point but peace had been maintained by the ultimate professional and utterly patient security guy. However, even he was powerless to act when in a cartoon, 'comedy gold' moment Benny the Ball whacked Dave across the head with a wooden plank he kept to protect himself from anyone who overstepped the mark and invaded his bar, his six square yards of turf.
In the hundred or so nights PWEI stopped at the Colombia, with all the excess that went on, we were never deemed to have overstepped the mark.
Dave Mustaine of Megadeth, previously thrown out of Metallica for alcohol abuse and being 'just too fucked up', it was a pleasure to spend the night with you. Stand up. Rock and roll legend!
Apart from the snow sweeping the country, the journey to the Colombia and the night before our first trip to Australia were pretty uneventful. We had a very early call and even Graham arrived on time from the squat he now lived in on the Clerkenwell Road.
We threw snowballs at each other before getting a minibus to Heathrow.
When we arrived in Auckland, New Zealand the weather was blistering, me and Clint checked into our hotel and hit the golf course.
For a laugh when we signed to RCA we cheekily asked for a set of golf clubs each. When CJ our manager turned up with four envelopes containing £500 as a 'sweetener' on top of our deal, Clint and me thought it rude not to buy a set of clubs and take up golf.
We could often be seen hacking balls to all parts of the West Midlands on days off from our rock and roll lifestyle.
Richard i think bought something called a Sony Walkman, pocketing the rest, Graham bought the world's largest TV then struggled with it for years to come from one London squat to another.
Oh, I almost forgot, over these 18 holes we were accompanied by Graham who was to play his one and only game of golf. Needless to say he was not a natural and after two holes decided to throw his ball round the course. He still came last!
Later we spent the night with our crew sitting on bar stools annoying the locals by shouting the word 'No!' in a variety of tones, accents and voices in tribute to a one word remark contained in our current favourite film; Michael Palin's gentle comedy 'East Of Ipswich'.
Occasionally just for fun we would burst into song at the top of our voices with a combined Midlands, North of England rendition of the Andy Williams' song 'Can't Take My Eyes Off You', but only the "Der, der, der, der, der, der, der, der, der, der, der, der, der, der!!!! I love you baby" line.....obviously!
After listening to our repetitive monologue for hours the barman used the same overly used two letter word and refused to serve us any more beer.
"Why?" we enquired!
Because, "YOU GUY'S GOT A THOUSAND WAYS OF SAYING NO!"
He had only the one way, but it made most sense! We were very drunk but merely having a bit of innocent fun. Oh well, fuck it, we're off to bed!
The following evening after a triumphant debut gig in New Zealand, innocence was gone forever. The following morning one of our touring party rushed into my room, tapped the contents of his electric shaver on my bedside table and beamed "Guess what that is?"
The last thing I remember from the night before was seeing him in the company of an absolutely stunning beauty. Obviously I had no idea!
The next time we toured New Zealand we played six different cities, the same touring member had changed his grooming regime to 'wet shave' leading to even more fun, this time with shaving foam, a female journalist and a biro! Bic-tastic!
When we arrived in Australia we couldn't believe it, we were trendy, we were not just 'hot', but really 'cool'. This was particularly difficult to comprehend having recently witnessed a flight stewardess during our twenty hour airborne drinking session force a toilet door, and attempt to shuffle up Graham's trousers after he had fallen asleep halfway through his business.
The tour was promoted by Roger Grierson, a top boy and determined to show us a good time. He succeeded.
We were based in the thriving, colourful area of Sydney called Kings Cross. We had hotel suites with balconies overlooking Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Opera House.
We dined at the best restaurants, took boat trips, spent time swimming with turtles, lounging round the pool, drinking with Nick Cave and oh yeah, the gigs were amazing. We played four packed gigs in Sydney alone.
After one of these momentous gigs Graham fell asleep on a bench just yards from our hotel and woke up to a tramp stealing his questionably trendy Fila hiking boots. Graham gave chase in bare feet but soon admitted defeat. Later that day he came down to reception wearing a pair of cheap sandals donated by a local who witnessed the whole thing and gave pity on him. We all thought he'd found God!
Our first tour of Australia was solid gold, thanks Roger. Thanks very much!
We returned to a big freeze two days before Christmas. I got a cat!
Graham had an Italian house type instrumental tune, Clint had nothing, me and Rich had a great tan. We did however have a foundation to build on and as Korda our RCA boss would say, "We now need to move to the next level!"
We needed a single to keep the momentum going, an album was a long way off.
We had only one basic idea, but we had Flood, we had the 1990 Football World Cup looming and we had an idea for a publicity stunt.
'Touched By The Hand Of Cicciolina' was released with our 'destined to fail' movement for Cicciolina, a Hungarian born porn star who had recently 'entered' (amongst other things) Italian politics, to present their World Cup rather than some Fifa goon.
We failed obviously, but we 'entered' the UK top 30, got a free trip to Rome to meet Cicciolina for a photo opportunity with 'Sounds' magazine and miraculously received a full travel refund for every traveller in our party. In simple English this was due to our reluctance to leave the airport bar until the last possible minute. Our timing was impeccable, we arrived at check-in with a minute to spare, the flight was overbooked and we stayed in Rome courtesy of an 'airport cock-up'. 'Quid's in'.
Band, management, journalist and photographer were pleased. RCA were non-the-wiser, afterall it was 'our' inconvenience.
Money talks, a front cover was gaurenteed. Nice one Rome!
We also had a small feature in the Sun, the Mirror or the Star, can't remember....who cares?
We played 'Cicciolina' on Top Of The Pops accompanied by Dan the Neds Atomic Dustbin drummer, Patricia Morrison from the Sisters Of Mercy on 'sampled' vocal and Richard's best man from his wedding who once owned a trumpet, Eddie. Well, why not?
We were struggling for new songs, Graham and Clint had dried up, we went into an East end studio with Flood who introduced us to really hot curries only to be repaid with really lukewarm ideas. I remember Graham even introduced a favourable Steve Bull (Wolves legendary striker) reference into a tune to encourage favour from me and Clint. Bless!
By this time 'Cicciolina', it's remixes and such desperate studio time had taken it's financial toll on the album.
A flat in Marylebone High Street accommodating Flood, PWEI, no ideas and a huge catering/hospitality bill would do little to help.
We set up studio, spent a fortune, partied in London a lot and achieved 'fuck all'.
This was a big improvement on a weekend famously spent at a plush rented flat in Ladbrock Grove where we left an open invitation to the local pub, along with the 'Wonder Stuff', but definitely not to various passing pissed up fancy dress revellers who heard our party and benefited from the open door policy. My personal benefit was trying to clean up lager and blackcurrant sick delivered by a late night stranger dressed as a member of a foxhunt. I had a broken hand, it was tough, I failed and RCA benefited from a bill close to £10,000.
Writing the sleeve notes to our first four albums I've had a gentle smile to myself, this memory now just makes me cringe. Sorry!
We retreated home to a London squat, to a Birmingham flat and to a couple of modest Stourbridge terraced houses.
Under looming DEADLINE pressure Clint and Graham did the business, ideas started to come and gigs were booked to help us trial new stuff. Two gigs at Birmingham Digbeth Civic Hall soon sold out. We had no record to promote, and probably co-erced by Graham and against our wishes opened with a brand new track. Stupid idea! Really stupid idea!
It was fast, it was dynamic and it absolutely fuckin' lifted the roof off the place. 'Dance Of The Mad Bastards' was out in the open, Korda loved it, we would now reach the next level for sure....no doubt..no sweat!
The only thing that could stop us was if Graham had second thoughts and dropped the 'singalong' chorus for a less catchy melody, but why would he do that? No way!
Korda punished us by not sanctioning a video....good. We hated doing videos anyway!
The night before our first tour of North America we congregated at the Colombia hotel as usual but this time Graham popped over for a gentle drink before he planned to return to his squat and meet us early next morning at Heathrow. Passports were already held by our tour manager with the required visas stamped and ready to go.
Graham was in shorts and t-shirt and carried two shopping bags filled with random vinyl he had purchased on the Portobello Road on a gentle afternoon stroll to meet us at the Colombia.
We had a few gentle drinks and arranged to see him the next day at Heathrow. When we stumbled down stairs next morning, instead of returning to his squat, packing his bags and meeting us at Heathrow he was sprawled on the lounge floor fast asleep surrounded by two bags of spilt records. He had partied all night with various people from the music industry not getting a flight to Miami at 8 O'Clock in the morning.
We did a six week tour of America with Graham dressed in the same clothes and if we moved those two bags of records once we must have moved them a fuckin' thousand times.
At customs he was accused of being on drugs and refused entry, he was 'processed' in a room with various suspected drug smugglers and illegal immigrants. He was not high on Colombian drugs but definitely low on Colombian beer. Cheers for that Benny.
He feigned an extreme fear of flying, said he naturally sweated a lot and got away with it.
Many a night back in England at the Colombia hotel, I like many others would venture Jason Bourne style through a window and onto a high ledge overlooking Hyde Park. Sitting there one night, pissed and chatting about our impending tour of America with Robert from Primal Scream, he told us gorgeous women would ask if we were from the UK and when you said you were would follow this up with the question, "Can I suck your cock?"
First day in Miami, our first drink had not even arrived and a stripper from the bar next door approached us, said her name was 'Teesey' and asked if we were from the UK. We admitted we were...........
You could have heard a pin drop.......... We waited anxiously............
She welcomed us to America, wished us good luck with the tour, said it was nice to meet us and went on her merry way. Nice lady.
No she actually did, honest. No come on, listen, she really did!
Primal Scream, lying bastards!
Legend has it both Trent Reznor and Marilyn Manson witnessed early PWEI American gigs helping influence their sound. Is this true? I don't know, by this time I was reknowned for my partial recall. Still am!
If I started to write about our numerous trips to North America where in Los Angeles, Toronto, Chicago and Phoenix we were equally cool as we were in Australia but in other towns largely unheard of I would be here forever. The vastness of the country and the power of localised radio stations would determine where you were 'happening'.
'This Is The Day....' had nestled in the lower reaches of the top 200 album chart for a number of weeks and generally the opinion was "YOU GUYS ROCKED!"
One such local radio DJ who supported us was Matt Pinfold. He went on to be big news at MTV and was totally 'psyched' for us guys. In fact he was totally 'psyched' for all things P.WEE as he liked to call us, in fact he was totally 'psyched' full stop.
The gig in New Jersey was packed, mostly with people jumping around on stage with us. We were massive in New Jersey, I let it go to my head and before I even knew what a moral compass was, I had lost mine.
Very little budget remained to complete our next album. We only had one song ('Cicciolina') recorded but Graham and Clint had been working really hard and RCA got a good deal for a month at a residential studio called 'Black Barn' in a quiet village in Surrey.
Not sure why it was cheap, maybe because:
a) Eric Clapton was born in the village.
b) The studio owner had the 'best ears in the business'.........he didn't!
c) We had to make ourselves scarce one Sunday afternoon whilst erstwhile actor Frank Muir recorded his latest " Everyone's a Fruit and Nut case" advert for Cadbury's chocolate.
I remember Graham being particularly productive and workmanlike even though he invited various members of his London squating scene to stay. He would sleep till evening meal time but work till 6:AM, poor old Flood made himself available 24 hours a day. Graham reeled off 'Dance Of The Mad Bastards', 'Axe Of Men', '88 Seconds', 'Lived In Splendour, Died In Chaos', '1000 x No' and resurrected '92 Degrees'. Others soon followed.
Clint wrote 'X,Y,Zee' and 'Nightmare At 20,000 Feet'. Suddenly the album took shape. Time was tight and we really wanted to expand our new album like the Beastie Boys had, like Public Enemy had and like Run DMC had done from the usual 12 songs towards maybe 20. Maybe we ran out of time because whilst Flood was in London cutting the first side of the album we were still mixing and cross-fading tracks for 'side 2' in 'Black Barn'.
Richard by now had become an accomplished studio boffin and would forever more be worth his weight in gold.
Actually Rich deserves great credit for much of our programming, often pulling together basic ideas from Clint and Graham, getting them in time and adding vital dimensions.
During our time at 'Black Barn', my mind was elsewhere. I had let myself and others down, my personal life was failing. I dabbled with vegetarianism.....what a wanker!
Things were to improve during the last week in 'Black Barn' for a number of reasons:
1. The arrival of a forgiving girlfriend, sorry again.
2. The arrival of the wall chart that recorded the highs and lows of studio life, a cassette biked over from London and the studio door challenge!
3. The culmination of the four week garden penalty shoot out finally won by Clint. Miraculously it came down to the very final spot kick. To make it worse a post was involved!
4. An attempt to redeem my lazyitis by providing the instrumental 'Psychosexual'. Graham loved it and promised with more time he would have made it a PWEI classic. He wrote the vocal at the very last minute. There was time for only one vocal 'take'.
One final memory from the recording of Pop Will Eat Itself's 'Cure For Sanity' was the ongoing RCA run in with Graham and his de-commercialising of various demos. Korda was beside himself with the removal of the more catchy chorus from 'Dance Of The Mad Bastards' but couldn't catch his breath when he heard the finalised studio version of 'Another Man's Rhubarb'. He invited us all into his office in London and tried to impress on us the need to get the imaginary 'Deidre from Des Moines in Iowa Usa' (and numerous faceless others like her) to whistle our next single whilst she washed up the dishes.
Basically the need to "Sell, sell, sell"!
Graham said he doubted if she ever whistled Public Enemy's 'Don't Believe The Hype' and that had sold plenty. He had a point. We left Korda's office to the sound of "They've only gone and ruined me rhubarb!" He was clearly upset that another classic PWEI demo was 'spoilt' by our non-commercial squating loveable rogue. Stand up Sir Graham Crabb.
We always respected Korda and were grateful for all his support and direction. Obviously RCA were putting pressure on him to 'bring home the bacon'. We felt most of the RCA 'top brass' considered us 'Korda's pet project'. By now we were in debt to the tune of 'lots of cash' and the accountants were getting nervous. Although 'Cure For Sanity' spawned four Top 40 singles, we were ignored by daytime radio and never achieved the kind of hit single that made you a household name. We had a fantastic hardcore fan base that were totally 'mad for it', helping us create 'cult status' but to the general public their response to hearing the name 'Pop Will Eat Itself' was, "WHO"?
Korda's loyalty would be further unrewarded when a song later written by Graham called 'Babylon' which Korda loved suffered at the hands of a typical re-working.
We had played it 'live' in it's former glory, popular opinion generally supports Korda's view on 'Babylon'. I think I always prefered the original too, maybe I should have said something.
Korda Marshall went on to be head of Warner Brothers Music.
I feel such a fool!
Love you Gra, love you Korda!
Graham loves you too Korda. He just had such inner turmoil!
Kind regards, Ad.