Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Blast From The Past #1 - 1987 : Somebodys Brother

.

5 students, 1 house: from left to right there are three bloggers, then two musicians -
RR-registered but never-commented PurplePasty, gordonimmel, DarceysDad, Andy, Mikey

Ah, the student days! Four years of pub lunches, beery evenings, gigs, scuzzy clubs, parties - often all on the same day! Grotty houses, jealously-guarded coffee stashes, health-hazard kitchens, more coffee, Neighbours & Blockbusters on the telly, cheap circuit-training or a swim just to get a free hot shower, laundry once a fortnight, yet more coffee to fuel those cod-philosophising all-nighters . . . and I'm sure there was something else too: Gordon?

gordonimmel: "*SIGH!* Studying, Richie, studying!"
DsD: Oh no no no, never that!
gi: "[wearily] And that's why you and Andy failed, and we didn't!"

That's it! The mention of Andy reminded me: SOMEBODYS BROTHER.

Originally from Sunderland, the pub-gig level band of that name had moved to Bradford in the early 80s, and were playing the sort of places that meant we were bound to run into them. To cut a long story short, they were looking for a keyboard player, and got together with mine & Gordon's aforementioned housemate. Shortly thereafter, they needed a new bass player too, and so joined another resident of our fondly-remembered terraced home, who we'll call Mikey.

Playing predominantly Dylan/The Band, Little Feat, Grateful Dead covers, Somebodys Brother (lazily but deliberately missing the apostrophe) were a typical small-time band: perfectly-competent players, but not a lot of ambition. Singer/guitarist Denny Austin could write, and had an OK singing voice made distinctive by that Mackem accent; guitarist Vince Deary had a lovely blues feel to his playing, but hey-ho, they weren't even setting Bradford alight at this point.

But then two things happened fairly simultaneously - they started to play more of their own songs, and they acquired some extra players. Whilst part-timers Brett (congas/percussion) and Tony (aka "Shipwreck", sax) brought some variety, singer Carol Neen was just awesome: equal parts sassy&steel, and WOW, what a voice!

Fairly disciplined rehearsing (a lot of which was at our house), persistent gigging (that was hindered only marginally by having yours truly as the usual van driver / technically-clueless roadie), and a little bit of luck raised the band's profile to the point where they were getting heard about as far away as London.

Replacing Mikey (who, on leaving Uni, buggered off to the US) with local ace bass player Cecil Zinyuku (who had then just had another daughter, Chenai: ring any bells, X-Factor watchers?), the quality, profile, and indeed sound of the band all changed for the better yet again.


They got some better management, better transport (I got sacked, much to my relief!), and funding for a single, the 3-track, 7", beautifully-sleeved So Damned True EP.

As well as the title track, there were two other songs - Soweto and It's Not For Long - both of which have remained DsD faves ever since, and have been pointlessly recommended on the mothership for various topics.
Now it is fair to say that Soweto hasn't stood the test of time very well. The lyrics betray the apartheid-era age of the song, and fairly amateur production leaves Andy's keyboards too far back in the mix. The latter issue in particular robs the song of much of the power and danceability that made it a live favourite, But I still love it, AND it DID get played by John Peel. Ach, judge for yourselves:

Somebodys Brother - Soweto

But It's Not For Long still tugs at the heart strings. It may well be that I have a particular reason for saying that - I was engaged at the time to someone who lived 150 miles away - but I am absolutely overjoyed that I now have this digitally, thanks to borrowing Gordon's Ion deck. Not my usual style, I'm sure you'll agree, but see what you think.
For what it's worth, this is the one song in my entire 50,000+ collection that I am least likely to accept criticism of, so be careful what you choose to say to me!


Sadly, soon afterwards it all fell apart. Vince left, all their gear got nicked from one of Bradford's venues, they got money troubles (including getting stiffed after a support slot for Desmond Dekker), Carol left to find fame and fortune in London (she has a MySpace page, if you're interested). Oh the band continued, into this millennium in fact, still with Andy (now Company Secretary for one of Bradford's biggest employers) on keyboards, but it's never been the same.
What could have been . . .

I'm left with just two copies of the vinyl EP, one of the follow-up cassette Sunderland EP, various live recordings, some photos, and a lot of fond memories!
:o)

23 comments:

gordonimmel said...

Can't believe we ever loked that slim! You haven't stretched that photo inwards have you?

Anyway, off to the pool to see if I can swim off a few of those xs pounds. May comment a bit more when I get back.

tincanman said...

Great story - thanks for sharing. You need to quit all that work and family stuff that keeps you away from the keyboard and spend more time here telling us stories. I'll get my pipe and slippers.

Japanther said...

indeed, great story and photo....a wee touch of The Young Ones I can't help thinking!

"50,000+" !!!! Is that songs or albums??That's a real real lot!

gordonimmel said...

And on the subject of studying, the observant may notice that in the top photo, I'm the only one (a) with my coat on and (b) without any sunglasses on. The reason for this is that I was the only one who hadn't been t*ss1ng it off in the summer sunshine for the whole of the day and I was only in the photo 'cos I was rushing past on my way from the house to the University to do some more of that 'Study' stuff (this was around about the time of our finals).


But if I were to say that I spent most of that year in a sunless room, that wasn't necessarily due to xs study on my part. No, it was because the Band stored their equipment in the bay window behind us (our 'lounge') thereby blotting out what little sunlight managed to get through the grime on the glass.
Not that you wanted to see too much in that room anyway, I mean, there were some things on that floor......

DarceysDad said...

That's songs, JP. There's 33K files in my mp3 folder, 25K in my iTunes, and approximately 3,000 CDs. Given the overlap between those three stashes, and then add in my vinyl and tapes, and I figure it's at least 50K different songs.

Gordon? Shall I post up the gasfire-as-toastrack/homebrew-kit/Jayney's-sofa photos? I can't post any pics of the kitchen, they're restricted under the Cold War Weapons 50yr Secrecy Rules!

Shoey said...

Gordon's looking abit like that other Gordon, whatsisname? Sumner? Ryhmes with Ping?

steenbeck said...

Love the story, love the pics. MORE PICS! MORE PICS!

steenbeck said...

d'oh, forgot to say I like the songs too. She does have a great voice!

Shoegazer said...

As for the music....well it doesn't really matter what I think does it?

DarceysDad said...

Would I be wrong if I said that everybody's silence on that subject has been most eloquent?

:o{

NotSatanKidneyPie said...

Loved the story, DsD. I quite liked the songs too, but you tied everyone's hands a little by saying you couldn't accept critism of them. They're good, but perhaps a little dated which didn't really encourage me to go for repeat listens. Sorry...

*ducks for cover*

NotSatanKidneyPie said...

Loved the story, DsD. I quite liked the songs too, but you tied everyone's hands a little by saying you couldn't accept critism of them. They're good, but perhaps a little dated which didn't really encourage me to go for repeat listens. Sorry...

*ducks for cover*

StillNotSKP said...

Sorry, didn't mean to rub salt in the wounds by posting twice...

nilpferd said...

Hey, someone posted twice.. better check out what they are saying..

Hmmm..

Uh huh..

DD, isn't that one of those Ts Ts Ts cymbal lines you hate on It's not for long?

I quite liked it, actually, for the scat singing, the guitar/synth break, and the Ts Ts Ts cymbals..

*Ducks for cover. Bangs head against NotSKP's. Twice.*

Chris said...

These are pretty good, DsD. Yes, a bit dated (particularly It's Not For Long) and imperfect productions, but there's some very competent playing, fairly sophisticated chord sequences and a great voice. Nothing to be ashamed of (oh, you're not. I see. Fair do's.)

gordon: I'm trying to remove this from my head: 'I was the only one who hadn't been t*ss1ng it off in the summer'.....

gordonimmel said...

@ Chris, you should become a politician, taking quotes out of context like that.

I was ofcourse using the vernacular to say that all the others had been having a lazy day in the sunshine whilst I was being stupid* and working hard at my studies.

*It's not far off to say that of those five, subsequent earnings have been in inverse proportion to our respective grades

DarceysDad said...

Thanks all.

@ SKP - yeah, I know. I'm not actually that bad about hearing negatives; I was just trying to get over how much It's Not For Long means to me. I have a slightly slower, more guitar-orientated live version on one of my cassettes (recorded before the single) that is just lovely.

@ nilpferd - no, my bête noire sound is the rapid-fire false hi-hat sound which is depressingly ubiquitous on early/cheap synths.

@ Chris - thanks, that comment reads very well, and gives me a nice warm glow.

@ steen - plenty more old pics and songs to come in further Blast From The Past posts, which will be an infrequent and irregular DsD thread.

steenbeck said...

I recently realized that an old friend of mine is in a nationally touring band that's doing pretty well. He's the bass player in Sea Wolf.

Here they are on Jimmy Kimmel

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-qW_YL8O8ec&feature=related

He's the fellow on the right in the hat. We were friends in college (he asked me out, heh heh) and then later we worked in the same restaurant, and became better friends. Then I moved to Boston, he moved to NYC. Next time
i heard of him he was a one of the musicians in Hedwigs back up band in Hedwig and the Angry Inch. And now I found this. Brings back some memories.

SatanKidneyPie said...

*Pushes hippo off foot and slowly emerges from bunker*

I know how you feel, DsD: some songs you've invested so much emotional energy into that it's almost like they're your own. That live version sounds like it's worth a listen. Any chance of mp3ifying it?

DarceysDad said...

I'm hoping so, SKP. I haven't retried the cassette player with Audacity since we got the vinyl to transfer. I'm also VERY conscious that I'm dependent on a piece of quarter-century-old tape playing properly *GULP!*

@ steenbeck - interested in how watching your friend makes you feel ...

FP said...

Totally Young Ones. Didn't realise you guys went back that far... Respect.

DarceysDad said...

Cheers, frogprincess. In fact, all five of us still live within a dozen miles of that house, twenty-odd years later, in spite of various globetrotting exploits in the interim.

TracyK said...

Fab fab picture there! It's the 20th anniversary of me and my uni mates meeting this month, and boy, do those perms look dated on us. I quite liked the second track, I can hear a similarity with Natalie Merchant's voice, and I know you're a Maniacs fan, so that makes sense. It's a little bit Latin Quarter jazzy for me, but it is a pleasant listen. It's so nice when such long friendships are maintained. I've been re-reading Mark Radcliffe's Showbusiness(a life measured in going-nowhere bands) and reading Giles Smith's Lost In Music (a life measured in artists and going-nowhere-except-briefly-Hamburg-bands).
Very reminscent of your post!