Fuzz Townshend, great chap, great drummer, bit posh. Ding dong!
Fuzz played drums and famously a bath in the Birmingham band Pigbros, a favourite of John Peel. He was put on early alert to mime on 'Top Of The Pops' for a potential appearance by PWEI with 'Dance Of The Mad Bastards'. Graham's removal of the singalong chorus and Korda's removal of a video budget perhaps dictated such an appearance unlikely, although it did enter the top 40 somewhere.
Ever the perfectionist, Fuzz practised the very fast complicated cut-up loop and fell in love with the song. We were never invited to do 'Top Of The Pops' that week and the single sank without trace. Fuzz was gutted.
A year or so on, PWEI decide we needed a change and settle on a live drummer to complement our sonic assault. Craig our manager, nudged by Rod his assistant suggested Fuzz. We meet for a night out in Birmingham at some club I can't remember. Fuzz was keen as mustard, we drink a lot and Graham tests Fuzz's resolve by finding the hardest looking bunch of people in the club and diving full length across their table, sending their drinks flying. Fuzz stood his ground.
Fuzz was rewarded by PWEI dropping his favourite song. He only got to play 'Dance Of The Mad Bastards' at the 2005 'Reformation' shows after me and Fuzz painstakingly went through lost samples to cobble together a backing track. He had waited 15 years!
Around this time our crew also saw some changes. Sal who mixed our 'front of house' sound had tasted 'forfidden fruit' in Wakefield. He swapped his cherry red 'bovver' boots for pipe and slippers. He had his 'wilderness year'.
We welcomed him back when he saw the error of his ways but demoted him to 'new boy' and put him on stage monitors.
By this time a character from Stourbridge called Shaun Fulton had started doing Sal's old job. Poles apart, Shaun was into 'The Dark Lord' and worshipped at the alter of 'ROCK'!!!
He was renowned for being careful with his money and careful what he lifted.
Accused of wearing 'white gloves', he considered himself a 'cut-above' the other crew because he held the most important position. He was never seen to carry a guitar, a lead or even a plectrum, only his own small briefcase filled with headphones, earplugs, a sharpie pen, maybe a bit of paper and a couple of CD's that he used to set up the PA system. He would use a 'Talk Talk' album to check the balance and finalise the detail but then put on AC/DC just to show anyone who hadn't evacuated the area for over exposure to 'Talk Talk' that he really was 'quite cool'.
He shared a flat in Lye just outside Stourbridge with The Buzzard and Wayne Hall. He had the best bedroom but was wary his black satin bed sheets may be used for entertaining whilst he was away on tour. He would therefore say goodbye to his various skulls and black decor and lock up his room.
He marked the levels on his bottles of milk/ketchup/squash whenever he went on tour and wrote down the number of fish fingers he had left in the deep freeze.
Maybe I shouldn't say this but 'what the hell'!
The Buzzard and Wayne used to amuse themselves and 'punish' such behaviour by pushing those fish fingers up their arse and replacing them in the box. It's probably a lie though. Can't imagine them really doing that!! Can you?
Although Shaun has taken a bit of stick here, it's testament to his personality that everyone really liked him and he fitted in a treat. He still remembers with fondness his days with PWEI, and along with Sal, still tells the best tour anecdote.
Still touring today he regales bands with tales of The Buzzard, Al and Sal, Clint, Graham, Rich and Adam as if they are characters from a Beatrice Potter novel. They must think WHO?
Apparently though, many love these tales, some of which I now share with you, but if you want to hear them to their proper worth, get Shaun 'Grasshopper' Fulton to tell ya! Top boy, another PWEI legend!
Talking of legends, there is only one Howeird Freeman. On our second or third Australian tour, Roger Grierson was as usual our promoter, but neither his pocket nor his waistline could justify coming along to every gig, to every bar, to every restaurant. Instead he employed a tour manager.
'Melbourne's finest' met us at the airport to pronounce, "Oh, look at you!" in his most gay of voices. He resembled a crazed Aussie Hells Angel straight out of 'Mad Max'. In his fifties, bald head, handlebar moustache, imposing as hell.
All day we couldn't relax around him, he was really spoiling the vibe. Later, lying on a bed in a motel dressing room, he jumped on my back, held me down, smothered me with a pillow and simulated sex with me, vicious dirty sex. I was shit scared, everyone laughed and the ice was broken. We had a tour manager from heaven.
He is the only person imaginable who could call someone; male, female, young or old a 'cunt' or more likely a 'fuck-stick' but within a minute have them in the palm of his hand, friends for life. Never forgotten anyway!
We would arrive at a gig, sometimes supporting other bands to be told there was no dressing room for us. He would tell them to go 'fuck themselves' and make his own.
A room would be commissioned, mood lighting acquired, tables and chairs set up, a bar area with optics and opulent decor revealed. Every potted plant or decorative tree would be removed from the managers office, reception area or caretakers bedroom and placed in the corner of our ill gained dressing room to make a woodland walk to help us 'chill out'. He would always charm more alcohol from the promoter and more often than not the headline band would vacate their dressing room and be found chillin' in our little grotto.
After each gig there were refreshments lined up on a table above each band members name written on a piece of white 'gaffa tape'....water, tequila shot (with salt and lime), champagne, 'Howeird's special treat', frozen Marguirita and a lager. It helped convince us to do an encore because we knew when we finished, there would be 'seconds'!!!
Occasionally a member of the crew was rewarded with a place at the table of Howeird, more often than not Howeird himself filled that envious position. We didn't mind, we loved him!
He looked after us for years, all over the world.
His attention to detail and the dressing room ambience much envied by headline bands was rewarded by naming our live album after him- 'Weird's Bar And Grill'.
Adam Birch was our second roadie, on his first night working with us he broke into the hotel reception and showed us how to find a spare if we ever mislaid our room key. Never again would we have to sleep in a corridor outside our room. Shame really!
Adam Birch was instantly liked.
I remember being excited on a night off in Melbourne. Howeird had managed to get us on the guest list to see Kylie perform in her home town. The venue was a large indoor sports arena and we travelled from the hotel in a horse drawn carriage. Why? I have no idea!
On the way I tried to quell our excitement by telling everyone about my only other arena guest list experience at the Birmingham NEC. I was on the list for New Order supported by the Happy Mondays. I soon realised unless you are VIP guests you most likely get 'restricted view' tickets. My girlfriend and I were to the side of the stage, behind the monitor desk, side monitors and drum monitor and they were BIG! All we could see of either band was an occasional glimpse of Bez's hands and maracas whenever he ventured right to the front of the stage. Pretty iconic rock and roll image but not so good!
When we were seated at the Kylie gig, my worst fears were confirmed, we were low down and behind the stage in the circular arena.
All we could see of Kylie was her bum. We never moved, another iconic rock and roll image. Soooooo good!
Adam Birch enjoyed the view so much he later went on to be guitar roadie for Kylie's backing band and spent many happy hours re-living our Melbourne experience.
Another iconic rock and roll image was Clint's penis. Cynthia Plaster Caster came to a PWEI show in Chicago, she was famous for having sex with rock stars and 'casting' their erect members all in the name of 'art'. She no longer had sex with her 'rock stars' but travelled with a young attractive companion who may, or may not have been an active assistant in the artistic arousal and consequent 'masterpiece'! (Clint will like that last word)!
Many films, documentaries and exhibitions have been made or shown about Cynthia Plaster Caster's life, all of which feature prominently Clint's dick! Or should that read, 'feature Clint's prominent dick!' Go on, 'google it'! You know you want to!
Cynthia along with her 'Hard Party' has since stood for mayor of Chicago, her quest for 'artistic' legendary status propelled by 'plastered' rock stars such as Jimi Hendrix, Pete Shelley, Mary Byker and Clint Mansell. All in the name of 'art'!
I wonder what Mr. Monk and Mr. Colquitt, our art teachers at King Edward VI College, Stourbridge would make of it all?
Returning from Australia to play '5 Nights At The London Marquee', we were flattered to see 'Sold Out!' signs everywhere. Graham had broken his leg gently stepping off stage in Brisbane and spent each Marquee gig in a 'cherry picker' elevating himself up and down accompanied by various lights courtesy of Oscar's lighting design. The gigs were a triumph and another highlight of my time in PWEI.
The greatest memory I have of these gigs though was Graham proudly inviting a proper pucka tramp from Soho Square (just around the corner) back to the dressing room to share our refreshments. The tramp shied away from our food but filled his boots with Stella. We left him alone in our dressing room as we took to the stage. He was gone when we returned, we were a little sad because we liked the idea of having our own personal PWEI tramp. On second thoughts maybe we already had more then one!
I can't ever imagine any other band leaving a total stranger with access to all their personal belonging's whilst they disappeared on stage......this was the way we were, Ok pretty 'fucked up' but essentially good natured, trusting, well brought up kids with a 'lust for life'! Let's 'ave it!
We had such fantastic times on tour but we were maybe hiding from something. I think we were now beginning to feel the pressure to have a bone fide chart hit, one that propelled you to the masses, to daytime radio and one that stayed around the top 40 for a couple of months rather than a couple of weeks. I believe the 'alternative' nature and our ever changing style of music helped give us longevity and afford us 'cult status' and absolute fan loyalty.
We had been making albums for six or seven years and outlived many bands who achieved greater success but had since lost their fanbase, split up or disappeared from view.
Pop Will Eat Itself had an amazing hardcore fanbase, kids that followed us around the country, bought the Designer's Republic t-shirt and had one big PWEI party. Fans knew we would always be having a drink in the nearest pub prior to each gig, even before the 2005 Reformation shows, we would be there mingling with our crowd, something I am not sure any other band would do. Occasionally someone might be out of order but generally we got a buzz meeting our fans and felt totally at home in their company. I don't think we realised how popular we were, I found it impossible to comprehend people thought we were the best band in the world or 'This Is The Day, This Is The Hour, This Is This' or 'Cure For Sanity' were the best albums of all time. Reading some web pages today in 2011, some people still believe this to be the case. It is very flattering, I could never understand how a PWEI album could come close to 'London Calling', 'Never Mind The Bollocks', 'The Scream' or 'Three Imaginary Boys'. But thanks guys, thanks very much!
On our previous tour we had sold out two nights at the 1700 capacity Birmingham 'Hummingbird'. We agreed to do a secret half hour set of new songs supporting Carter The Unstoppable Sex Machine who had also sold out two nights at the Birmingham venue. We played a brand new song 'Bulletproof', and it went down a storm. New songs are rarely afforded such extreme reaction. I remember the reaction to 'Def Con 1' at Birmingham 'Powerhouse' and 'Dance Of The Mad Bastards' at Birmingham 'Digbeth Civic Hall' were equally as enthusiastic. I think we all thought 'Bulletproof' would be a breakthrough single.
However I now have a feeling life on tour began to change a little, we weren't necessarily falling out but maybe getting a little tired of each others company. For years we were living in each other's pockets and looking back, maybe we were getting a bit bored with the 'same old same old'.
It seemed back then on days off, people would 'do their own thing'.
Instead of hanging around, often up to an hour for everyone, (usually Graham) to congregate in an American hotel foyer, and finally have the well used conversation that went something like, "What shall we do?"/"Don't know"/"Don't mind"/"Well, there's an Irish bar in town, lets have a beer"/"Ok"/"I'll order three taxi's"/"Sound"!
Now it seemed little cliques were forming. Don't get me wrong we were all still best of mates but there was a move away from the 'everyone down the pub call'. Now our hotel foyer 'meets' would often only require the one taxi.
Each tour, returning back to the same town, people found other things to do. Friends and acquaintances were made and horizons broadened.
A Stourbridge group of lads had travelled to the 1986 World Cup in Mexico and had never returned, they lived across America and although we only knew a few by name, the Stourbridge connection would bring us together. We had a few more quid in our pockets so some of us would be escorted on shopping trips to find the cheapest Levi's, the best trainers or the local Stussy outlet. Otherwise people would disappear to the San Francisco Waterfront for a few beers or a boat trip around Alcatraz, to Haight Ashbury to hang out or like me for a tattoo.
We played a gig in San Francisco and got friendly with the head of security, a big rockabilly guy who drove a fantastic 50's car and was covered in tribal tattoos, a new fashion for the time....well except for a load of tribes I guess! Doh!
Five of us, (his car full) arranged for him to pick us up next morning and take us to his tattooist friend. Next day only I answered my phone, funny that. I was too shy, embarrassed or scared to make my excuses so now some 20 years on I still sport one tattoo. I was clever enough to have it where very few will see it, just in case I didn't like it!
Thanks for that guys, I owe you one!
On other occasions people disappeared simply to avoid the whole mass congregation thing.
Some even flirted with sightseeing. This was most unusual, I think only Rich and maybe Sal had even bothered to get off the tour bus and visit Niagara Falls on the three occasions we parked up at the site. I now try to justify this to myself by saying, "I think I heard it!".
In fairness on all three occasions it was between 3 and 4 O'Clock in the morning and we were always quite wasted by the time we hit the US/Canadian border. It was no real surprise that when one of the many bus drivers who propelled us across North America came into the back lounge, ruffled the curtain to your bunk or tripped over a sleeping Clint in the narrow corridor (dreaming of happy days outside his room back in the Colombia Hotel in London), to announce we were at Niagara Falls he was greeted with a reply of "Bollocks! Double Bollocks!" for his trouble.
I remember a US border guard getting on the bus, gently kicking Clint as he lay asleep in the bus corridor and demanding to see his passport. As Clint pulled himself up the border guards legs towards his holstered pistol, things could have gone very wrong. Thankfully Clint looked up, said "Don't know what the fuck you're talking about mate!" and promptly collapsed back to the floor!
Richard also visited the war memorials in Washington DC, presumably to cheer himself up after a local from the Washington 9:30 Club (who had never moved from his bar stool in years, witnessing every gig at the famous club), told us "I deem you the worst band to play the 9:30 Club". We thought we were great! We discovered Jagermeister that night. A connection perhaps?
Alternatively, some of us would accept rides off rolla-skating cocktail waitresses to visit the 'grassy knoll' in Dallas whilst others were happy sitting in the dressing room meeting other PWEI legends like Clyde. Clyde was a rather shady Dallas character, he arrived with a briefcase and could loosely be described as a salesman. Not a very good one, he stayed a while and partied with us and EMF. Memorable night all round!
We met EMF in a club in Dublin, we were due to play some local barn dance the following night, they had just played the enormo-dome to crazed screaming girls and 'indie-kids'. We now witnessed first hand what Korda at RCA meant about the 'next level'. Various PWEI guys chatted with EMF guys, I spent hours at the bar talking to Derry, we got on instantly, we are still friends today.
Strangely enough, even though EMF's debut single 'Unbelievable' was selling in it's thousands across the world, it was the RCA credit card that was abused by both bands. It was placed behind the bar by an office junior who had been rewarded for good work with a trip to Dublin. The Parlophone rep escorting EMF was a wise old hand, one of which he kept firmly 'in his pocket'!
After this brilliant night EMF asked us to support them on their tour of Europe and the west coast/middle America part of their US tour (Carter supported them on the east coast). 'Unbelievable' was number 3 in the UK, but number 1 in America and other parts of the world. They were huge and their debut album sold thousands each day.
Derry also played bass with us during 'Cicciolina' at the Reading festival.
We had a brilliant time on tour with EMF, both camps loved each other and we had the best of times. EMF were so young, five friends from the small town of Cinderford in the 'Forest of Dean' in leafy Gloucestershire. It was funny to see them truly embrace and enjoy the whole rock and roll lifestyle. James made front page headlines in the 'Daily Star', a result of lazy journalism making assumptions about the youth of today! We took the piss out of the journalists camped outside his mom and dads house.
EMF would fly out hairdressers from their local Cinderford salon every few weeks wherever they were in the world. We didn't! My mom still cut my hair!
Zac, tragically no longer with us was a delightful kid. He has become relatively infamous for being able to hide a lime under his foreskin but I remember him sat in a dressing room somewhere in America signing autographs for various young fans. He sat eating a pre-gig meal of steak, new potatoes, sweet corn and gravy on his lap. Half eaten, he decided to rip a hole in the paper plate and replace some of the new potatoes with his bollocks. A steady stream of people passed by for autographs, some apologising for interrupting his meal, some politely asking him if he was enjoying it. He looked down at his meal and declared 'his spuds were a bit hard'. We were in stitches.
Finally, a girl was offered some of his meal, she screamed and left.
Zak, born comedian....what a waste. R.I.P mate, thanks for the good times!
We played Vancouver in Canada on the last night of the tour. Spirits were high. As a thank you for supporting them, EMF made us a cake and brought it into our dressing room straight after our set. We pulled the tea towel off the 'cake' to find all five members had taken a dump onto a plate. Five different shits, I remember thinking 'you're unbelievable'!!!!
Our response was to smear 'Cinderford's finest' over Mark's drumsticks, we never thought he would toss them into the packed crowd, who of course were delighted to be taking home a little bit of EMF that night.
Ben Wolff and Andy Dean were two DJ's pretty hip on the London scene. They had done a pretty commercial remix for '92 Degrees' the final single from our previous album. Flood was committed to new Depeche Mode and PJ Harvey album's and was unavailable. Korda suggested Ben and Andy, aka 'Boilerhouse' produce the record. We got on well, and thinking perhaps we needed a more commercial sound to allow us to continue our fantastic lifestyle we went with the flow.
We set up rehearsals in Birmingham and with Fuzz now on drums everything sounded great. We recorded 'The Looks Or The Lifestyle' in the famous Rockfield Studios in the Welsh countryside where Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath and Stone Roses have all recorded.
The Buzzard came along, played some guitar and tried to get us all jogging up the Welsh hills. I got Stitch before we reached the gate. We got on with it. Pretty smooth going.
The album was mixed in London. Ben and Andy took some of us to see Millwall at the old 'Den'. This was full of real characters, one of which bought a cup of hot tea purely with the intent to throw it at the linesman's legs as he ran past in revenge for him correctly signalling a Millwall player off side. Madness!
'Karmadrome' was the first single from 'The Looks Or The Lifestyle'. It was Clint's tune and the chorus 'pay-off' lyric originally went 'Let's make love!' The rest of us thought it really corny, though in fairness, I think Clint was talking about the bigger picture, about society as a whole. We just thought the lyric was shit. We argued and agreed to always call it 'The Scottish Song' in honour of theatre actors' reluctance to call the Shakespearian play 'Macbeth' by it's name in fear of imposing disaster, instead calling it 'The Scottish Play'.
Clint reluctantly changed the lyric, and called it 'Karmadrome' but already the song had lost something. To appease ourselves we made it a double 'A side' with another of Clint's songs, 'Eat Me, Drink Me, Love Me, Kill Me'. We were happy with the release but not totally excited!
Rumour has it we were partially responsible for giving the world Take That.
Karmadrome had a better midweek chart position than their single 'It Only Takes A Minute Girl'. Take That were RCA's bright hope and their previous singles were yet to chart. They were at the 'last chance saloon'!
The final 'Top Of The Pops' slot available based on end of week chart position was due to go to PWEI but according to reliable inside sources Karmadrome was 'pulled' by RCA and record shop requests for more PWEI product met with a 'sorry out of stock' response! Allegedly!
Take That appeared on 'Top Of The Pops' and history suggests firstname.lastname@example.org was probably right.
'Bulletproof' was our next single, this time written by Graham. It was well received live but it didn't quite happen, I don't remember a video being made and the high hopes we had for the 'On-U Sound System' mix of the single was disappointing. It did Ok!
'Get The Girl! Kill The Baddies! was to be our last single with RCA. I think some contractual thing reared it's head and RCA, already owed hundreds of thousands of pounds, and unlikely to recoup decided to call it a day and 'drop' PWEI. They did however make a video and left us to it.
In Belfast on tour we received the news that our new single had entered the UK charts at number 9. A top 10 hit! Well sort of.
We appeared on 'Top Of The Pops', the only unsigned band ever, but true to form 'Get The Girl' sank without trace.
Korda left RCA, we followed shortly. As an unsigned band with a top 10 single there were apparently no shortage of record companies vying for our signature but a distinct shortage of record companies actually willing to part with their cash and sign us. A high profile London gig was attended by nearly every record label in town. The gig was storming but the industry response disappointing. Just like six years previous, one Korda Marshall would be in the crowd, blown away by what he saw, he would sign us up to his new label.
Label mates to Ash and Garbage we were now proudly signed to 'Infectious Records'.
'Vive le PWEI'.