Record Duggie Chop's into, right this moment:

Record Duggie Chop's into, right at this moment: Muswell Hillbillies - The Kinks (1971)

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Monday, 11 January 2010

Nothing like 'Give My Regards To Broad Street' - meeting Hair Tom in 1982

Going back to the here for where we got to.

[In the corner of the studio, there's a pile of six or seven broken chairs, cheap metal 'bistro' style chairs, with legs bent in impossible shapes. No one knows how they got there or who bent them. It was rumoured that a local 'sneak-sculptor' was breaking in and turning furniture into off-the-cuff artworks. But that may have been the drugs talking.]

Matt brought Duggie and his mate upstairs.

Nels played a walking bassline, booming through at ultra-low frequencies through a 50 watt amplifier: Boong, Bong, Boong, Bong, Boong, Bong [I'm sure get the idea!] Swedish keyboard player [from this 1982 period 'Hair Tom' line up – the keyboard players tended not to last long in the group] Anders Lornsvelg was accompanying Nels with impromptu trills and noodles.

Drummer, Tony Cort sat behind the drums, in half-shadow, eating an orange without removing the skin. Every now and then, a citric acid burst made him scowl.

Doland McGregory, Rhythm Guitar, Acoustic Guitar and occasional percussion, was skinning up on the cover of a Cliff Richard gospel album: 'Now You See Me...Now You Don't'.

For many fans, this early 80s line up was the definitive 'Hair Tom'. Apart from Lornsvelg, this line up recorded the astoundingly successful LP 'Illustrations of Gargoyle' (1985) [more info on this ground breaking album and the biog of the band 'Hair Tom', soon - Steve].

But the band wasn't operating like a unit. As Nels had suggested, bringing Duggie and his mate into this studio would be like taking someone to meet The Beatles during 'Let It Be'.

Like The Beatles [surely the only valid comparison between The Beatles and Hair Tom...] at this time Hair Tom was more of a loose collective of almost like-minded souls (i.e. work-shy musicians) seeking any opportunity to express themselves individually – or take more drugs, while still claiming some social security payment [“Hey, lay off, that was never proven” says Nels, “don't want those anal retentive freaks investigating me now!”]

[“Excuse me for holding up proceedings,” says Herbert Glumm, Civic Servant (retired), former Benefits Agency Administrative Officer, “but it is unlikely that your case would be re-opened after nearly 30 years. Besides, now you would be eligible for an Arts Council England Grant for doing what you're doing. Why, I remember, not too long ago, the so-called 'Arts' Council funded some layabout for setting up a cafe that never opened.
A kind of installation, commenting on the transitory nature of the fast food trade in the UK, the fact that so many cafes and kebab establishments open their doors only to close them again, with no one very much the wiser. The artist was trying to make a connection between this phenomenon and the fact that so many people are unaware if precisely what's going on in their neighbourhoods...and...” “Herbert! That's enough!” (says Steve). “Sorry Steve, it's just that it gets lonely, you know, being retired and all. I don't have many people to talk to, apart from the Blue Tits on my bird table, and a neighbour's cat ate the last one...”]

Tension also developed as each band member, sporadically, wanted to take the 'artistic' lead. Currently Matt Score, Lead Guitar, was the most forceful. He was attempting to stage a coup, taking 'Hair Tom' away from festival-style space rock, and towards the latest craze in guitar twiddling at lightning speeds (soon to be exemplified by the likes of Yngwie Malmstreem).

Others were content to hibernate between gigs, act like kids and waste time.

“It was like, we went in there,” said Duggie Chop to his mate, a little later, “and these people are just sitting around in a dim, smoke-filled room. There was some music, a plonky bass and an irritating load of organ stuff, but mainly it was like being in the school bogs on a wet dinner break. I was expecting a jam session to be in progress, you know, the band getting stuff together.”

“What, like in Paul McCartney's 'Give My Regards To Broad Street' film?” said Duggie's mate.

“Sort of, only not crap.” said Duggie. [I must say, if you're reading this, Sir Paul, that I'm a fan of yours (this is Steve Hill speaking) and take no responsibility for what these people decide to say. What do they know? I went to see your film 5 times back in 1984 at the Picturedrome in Bognor and bought the LP.]

“Things went downhill even quicker after the owner of 'the Torpid One' [he means Fleesey, also Hair Tom's Manager at the time] came in and told them they were rubbish,” said Duggie, “I mean, he was talking to Hair Tom. Hair-bloody-Tom!”

Fleesey did have a point, though. He was riding high after securing Hair Tom a gig at the first WOMAD festival in Shepton Mallet: “this'll raise your profile again,” he told them, “you'll be going on before Echo and The Bunnymen!” [Nels: “Echo and the... bloody hell, did it really get that bad!”]

But, the band was mucking about a wee bit too much. For example, a week before, Doland, after inhaling the smoke of some particularly strong hash, decided to 'defrost' an emptied out, tinned Ox Tongue by pissing on it – before being told that the tongue wasn't frozen but suspended in aspic jelly. [“Piss all over me Mam's rug 'an all,” recollected Fleesey, from his villa in LA (that's Little'ampton, by the way – local joke)].

So, Duggie and his mate, time travellers, Austin Maxi crashers, stepped into the gloom. “Hey kids,” said Doland, “Wanna turn on?”

Duggie looked at his mate and nodded. He nodded a “that's more like it” kind of nod. Nels was laughing in time with her walking bass. Matt cracked open yet another can of full sugar Coke.

Next stop WOMAD? Right on!

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