There it is again.




I told you. No, shh. Listen . . .




Did you hear? Listen. No ….




There! You must have heard that!




See, I told you but you didn’t believe me, did you? She’s down there.


Of course I’m sure it’s her.


What do you mean?




It stands to reason doesn’t it? When was the last time you saw her, eh?




See, what I reckon is … Shhh! Toby’s coming back. Neck that and let’s get a couple more pints in while he’s here.


How’s the match, Toby? Aye… Aye. Well there’s still time ,eh? Game of two halves and all that.


Yeah a couple more pints of Nelson please Toby … Ta.


Many in the other room? Oh, aye, him. Well he’s attached to the place like it’s an umbilical cord, eh? Tight as a gnats twat, though, eh?


Ta much.


Good CD this. Love a bit of Simple Minds, me. Could you turn it up a bit before you go back, Toby. Ta.


Aye, pain in the arse having to go outside for a cig but what can we do eh? The law’s the law.


Oh, ey Toby. Keith here was asking after your Lisa. Said he hasn’t seen her for a bit. I said a bit of what? Ha, ha …


Ey, ey, ey!


Ey, only joking mate. Sorry! No offence. Just making conversation, like.




She still in Jockland then?


Aye, well as long as she’s alight then. Yeah. Yeah.






Aye, we’ll give you a shout if anyone comes in.




Shh. . . Wait . . .






See. Told you. It’s her, Keith.


It is.


Think about it. She was always hanging around here in them jeans so tight you could read her lips. You could see Toby’s face when anyone tried chatting her up.


Aye, only natural. But you know, the little green – eyed idol and that …


What? But she hasn’t been in for …


… Yeah, I know. I know he said she’s off with her aunt in Scotland but it’s not what I heard.  I heard she was banging that Gypsy bloke that was sniffing around her and .. .


Yeah, I know. Only sixteen, but old enough to bleed old enough to breed, eh?




Now you must have heard that?


See, that Gypsy bloke, you remember him, all gold, tattoos and hairy arms? Aye. Pentagon medallion dangling round his neck.


That’s the lad….


Shhh … Ahh, Don’t You Forget About Me… this is the stuff… Simple Minds biggest hit, you know? Broke them in the US of A …


Yeah, well Toby was ever so protective, eh? That lad must have been forty if he was a day…


May to December relationships, eh? Call it what you want Keith, I doubt Toby was too impressed. They reckon he covered Lisa’s neck with some nasty love bites … Yeah, she was smitten and that. Walking around like she was hypnotised. Spaced out, like…


Nah, doubt she touches the wacky backy, all fitness and health and safety, her.


Anyway,  I reckon that he’s got her down there like that Fritz bloke in Austria. Remember him? Had his young un locked up in the basement for donkeys years?


Probably banging her himself. Can’t say I blame him, mind you …ey, ey, no need for you to get all touchy as well … only a bit of a …


What? Go where? The filth? Grass him up?


Not on your nelly, Keith. I’m many things but I am not a grass. Anyway, I think they’re still looking for me for that B&E at the gas works. Nah, you see, I’ve  got a  …


Hold on … Wait for the next song to start. . .










Ahh, Promised You A Miracle. Love this one. Classic.


Naw, my plan is to get down there after he closes up the pub and see if she’s there, just to be certain, like …. yeah, I’m sure she is … and then phone the press…


The papers!


You know, The Mirror, The Sun, News Of The Screws and that … and get them down here when we set her free. I reckon we could make a fortune selling the story. Telly. Book deal. Films. The lot, Keith. The lot.


What? The lock? Do you know who you’re talking, to Keith?


Piece of piss. Easy peasey, Japenesey. We get in through those double cellar doors at the back of the pub. The ones that the brewery use to deliver the booze.




He’s only got a daft padlock on there, I can pick that in no time, you know that.


Yeah, we’ll do it tomorrow might after he closes up.


* * *


You tosser. I can’t …


Of course we need a friggin torch. I left me night vision goggles at home … nah, that was a joke, Keith. Honestly some people …


Well, at least we’ve got that full moon dangling  there. Should give us a bit of light …


A what? A gibbons moon? If you like, Keith, if you like…


Right, now slowly, slowly  .. shh, don’t wannna frighten .. . Jeesus, you reek. How many slices of that garlic bread did you tuck into?


Nah, can’t stand the stuff. Don’t like foriegn food, do I?


Right here we go. Steady on the ladders. Soon as we see her we phone Col at The Gazette.




What was that?




Ehh? Sounded like a bird flapping around?




… yeah … maybe a scream … sure of … Yeah, I can see it.




Hold on, it’s landed in the corner… who the …?


Nahh, it’s her. It’s Lisa… well of course it’s her.

Alright, Lisa love, only  me and Keith … eh up!


Lisa, love, don’t you think you should get some clobber on? Eh, Lisa? Bit nippy down here for …


Ey, you’re eyes don’t half look red … What the fu… Lisa, no offence, normally I’d love a snog but …




Ey, Keith, where the fuck are you scarpering to? Get your neck back here …


Aw jeez, Lisa! No … please!











(THUMP! first appeared at Thrillers, Killers N Chillers)

Guest Blog: Supporting The Damned by Alan Savage


Amazing what you think is a break when you are young. Getting a support slot to The Damned was a big scoop in my mind. But I wasn’t in awe of them. After all, they had not at this point had a decent sized hit record. Support them we did: twice. This is an account of those two gigs.

Middlesbrough Rock Garden – perhaps a more geeky ex-band member of Basczax can supply the date – was the venue that we were supporting them at. The Rock Garden was, of course, one of those venues that a lot of punk bands visited (heavy metal ones too) in the late 70s up to the very early 80s. It was small, rather squalid and suited the spit and snot ethos of punk perfectly. It was a great night out and I looked forward to going there most weekends as I did, between late ’78 and up to mid-1980.

So, there we were, all eager but trying to look nonchalant: too cool to boogie, punk was one big sulk for a lot of bands. Not that Basczax were a glum bunch. We had our stupid goofy moments too. Like the time we exited a stage, ran back on for an encore and Laurel and Hardy-like, I banged heads with bassist Mick Todd. Basczax: we fancied ourselves as Roxy Music if they had met in a British Steel work hut. We were pretty good, had a strong local following and we may or may not have had that whiff of ‘going places’ about us. I was having the time of my life, not realising it at the time of course.


So, The Damned were late. We of course, got there unfashionably early, bag of chips in hand and ready, oh so ready, for the gig. When they finally did arrive they were mostly in a bad mood. Their bass player, a grumpy git in a leather jacket called Algy Ward (had to look it up actually) had no bass amp. It had been broken/ stolen/whatever. We of course, being benevolent spirits said he could use ours. He looked at Mick Todd’s Carlsboro Bass Combo like it was a piece of shit. In fact, he might have even said ‘what’s this facking piece of shit?’ (note the southern pretend cockney vowel)

Singer Dave Vanian actually seemed an ok chap. He kept himself pretty much to himself but remember boys and girls, vampire lead singers need to be enigmatic. However, he was quite nice. I seem to remember him asking about us and being at least half interested in what we had to say.

Captain Sensible. CU next Tuesday is a word that springs to mind. He was carefully cultivating his cuntiness for all to be appalled at. A professional nasty, a bit of a punk clown of the unfunny kind. He picked up my cheap Kay Strat copy, pulled on the strings and nearly broke them and then contemptuously almost threw the guitar back at me. I might have said something like ‘there’s no need for that’. Rat Scabies, scurrying around, bumming cigarettes from Mick Todd (or was it John Hodgson? Certainly not me or sax player Jeff Fogarty – he was as skint as a rent boy, like me. Drummer Alan Cornforth didn’t smoke if my memory serves me well) intervened: ‘come on captain, less of that, leave the lads alone’…Shock horror! He was that anti-punk word: NICE. But of course, the next minute, he was back to being a professional nasty, like his punk chums.

We soundchecked. Or rather, sat around for ages while the Damned arsed around, deliberately taking as much time as they could. Regular ‘that sounds facking shit! ‘Turn up the monitor!’ (screeeech!) no! You facking moron…sort it out’..and all manner of bad boy language spewed from the stage. Vanian was quiet. Very quiet. Like the eye of the punk rock hurricane, he was a persona of calm in the riot of nastiness around him. Professional nastiness of course.

When we did soundcheck, we did a song we used to open with: ‘Success’. It sounded crap onstage, but sheer excitement for the gig made me overlook this small detail. I felt a surge of adrenaline as the indescribable buzz of playing a ‘proper gig’ always gave me.

One song. That was all we had time to do. As we got off the stage, Rat Scabies said to me ‘good one mate, like that, catchy stuff’..or something similar. I noticed he did not use the ‘fack’ word, which made a change. He must have been going soft on me.

The gig itself? To be honest, it is a blur. I was half drunk as always and our set whizzed by. The place was packed. The punks down front jumped up and down, heaved about, we got spat on. They liked us then.

What I do remember was sharing the toilet sized dressing room with The Damned. ‘What are you facking doing in here?’ snapped Captain Nasty. ‘We’re in the dressing room with you’ I answered dead pan. ‘no room to strangle a facking cat and we have to share this?’. I think someone might have said something like ‘now…now…don’t act like a pop star’…We were not fazed by the Damned. I thought they were fun, but shit actually. Yes, ‘New Rose’, ‘Neat Neat Neat’ were classic punk singles but live, they were a punk panto-act – all of them ugly sisters in a parade of panto-hate. (actually, my revisionist self now likes them for this very reason)

By now, I had decided that Captain Sensible was a tiresome bore and avoided trying to talk to him. A punk lass and friends came into the dressing room. I was astonished how Middlesbrough hard lasses acted like fawning groupies. Well, not fawning…but something like a ‘I’m not interested but yes I will sleep with you’ way. Captain Sensible wasted no time in living up to his professional nasty status ‘what do you facking slags want?’….Rat Scabies ‘a good knobbing…fnaaar fnaar’. Such backstage exchanges were not uncommon dear appalled reader. The girls, to give them credit, gave back as good as they got as all good punks should. None of this sissy fluttering eyelashes stuff…


The Rock Garden gig had been a triumph on an obscure local flapping fish in the pond sense. The night faded into the drunken blur of being young and not giving a toss about the future. The Damned, horrible lot that they were, provided us with at least the memorable spectacle of a naked Captain Sensible pissing on the front row of the audience. Punk gigs were not the Carpenters, that’s for sure

Now forgive me if I got this the wrong way around, but we also supported the Damned at a place called Cleethorpes Winter Gardens. This was the gig where Captain Sensible stole my blue teddy bear jumper (actually Mick Todd’s, I borrowed it for the gig) and then wore it on the cover of the ‘Love Song’ single.

Anyhow, this gig was another punk nastiness packed event. I had a pint of lager thrown on me while on stage. Except a salty taste in my mouth betrayed the fact that it was not lager: it was human piss. Well, I hope it was human – if it had been dog piss that would have been going too far.

At this gig the dressing room was bigger and we could mercifully almost avoid each other. I remember however, walking in on Captain Sensible while he was groping a punk girl’s tits. He didn’t flinch when I walked in: in fact, he nibbled on her nubile nipple, her punky baggy jumper hoisted over the top of them. She looked to me to be about fifteen. Sorry parents, but sometimes your naughty daughters go to gigs where they really should not. She might have been sixteen. Oh well, that makes it all right then (!)

This was the night that Captain Sensible surprised me. He gave me a glimpse of the ‘nice bloke’ he could be underneath the punk panto facade. He sat at a piano backstage and played a Barry White song. ‘I love Barry White’ he said as I stood there, admiring his musical prowess, obviously well hidden in the Damned. Of course, I expected him to revert back to the ‘fack this, fack that’ persona as soon as a fan appeared. But this time he shocked me again by ticking off a part time punk (probably dressing up for the weekend) that there was a lot of good music before punk. It turned out that he was quite a fan of Gong and all that weirdo jammed out hippy stuff. I think Grateful Dead might have been mentioned too.

Of course, I suspected this. Not everyone was into the Stooges and other pre-punk bands before punk. In fact, the blackmail pictures of long, lank hair and flares, Yes albums under the trench-coated arm, were hidden in the attic, that’s all.

Professional nasties, then. That was a side of punk that nobody ever talks about, because there was a music hall/vaudeville element to it that has been bricked over by retro-intellectual sociologist takes on Punk rock and how it blew all the dinosaurs away. (It didn’t: Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, ELP all sold truck loads of records in this period) And Boney M and Abba were massive during the brief summers of hate that was Punk.

What I am saying is: don’t believe a word of it: punk was about being young, reckless, feckless and having a good time all the time – just like any other musical movement that catches you at a certain age.


Bio: Alan Savage is a Middlesbrough, U.K, born singer and songwriter. He releases music under his own name and other guises such as Dada Guitars and The Crystaleens. His previous bands include Basczax and The Flaming Mussolinis.


#FRIDAY FLASH: In The Devil’s Name

Isabelle told the man with the porkpie hat that she had only stopped off at the bar for a couple of drinks to drown her sorrows and that it really wasn’t the sort of establishment that she usually frequented.

‘My father’s funeral, you know?’ she croaked, eyes down, as if she were playing bingo.

Since Spencer was a stranger in town, he was unaware that James Gowdie’s apparent burial was, in fact, pretty much a monthly occurrence. A fabricated sob story – stained with wishful thinking –  that regularly coincided with Isabelle having boozed away most of her salary, teetering on the precipice of sobriety and the horrors that entailed. So, he took off his hat, placed it against his chest and offered her his condolences and, most importantly, a drink.

A Martini or ten later, the night corroded and he awoke in the wan light of an unfamiliar hotel room listening to the rumble of trucks from outside the window and the ghost of a blues song leak in from the next room. He expected to find Isabelle and his wallet gone, his bank account cleared out but the toilet flushed loudly and she walked out of the bathroom looking more than somewhat frayed around the edges but – he was relieved to find- not that bad looking at all.

‘Ready for another round, Trigger?’ she said.

She picked up a bottle of wine from a bedside table and finished it as she unsteadily plonked herself on the edge of the bed.

‘A little early for me,’ said Spencer, his voice like broken glass. ‘And I have a meeting in …’

‘Fair enough,’ she said, waving a hand dismissively.

Isabelle pulled on her long, black dress and pushed her swollen feet into her red, high-heeled shoes.

‘See you around,’ she said. She picked up her handbag and tottered through the door, leaving it open and letting in a cold, autumn breeze.


Rivulets of rain ponderously trailed down the windscreen as James Gowdie watched his daughter stagger out of the taxi and tumble toward The Swampsnake’s blinking neon sign. James lit a Marlborough with his Zippo as Isabelle headed down the steps and opened the metal door, a blast of hard rock bursting free for a moment. He slowly smoked his cigarette, his heart pounding.

A truck pulled into the car park and a skinhead in a tartan shirt got out of the truck and rushed into the bar.

James felt frozen. Trapped like one of the wasps he used to catch in jam jars when he was a kid. He eventually got out of his car and opened up the boot. He pulled out a long black leather coat and draped it over his paint splattered overalls. Put on a denim cap and took out a sawn-off shotgun.


Vambo could feel last night’s Vindaloo slicing through his guts. He rushed into The Swampsnake , through the crowded bar and straight into the graffiti splattered toilets. An old, wire-haired man leaned unsteadily against the urinals, smoking a pin-size roll up.

‘It’s a good life if you don’t weaken,’ he said.

Vambo growled.

There were two cubicles and Vambo slammed hard against the first one. Locked.

‘Get a move on will you. I’m touching cloth here,’ he shouted.

Two male voices giggled and Vambo squirmed. He smashed a massive paw against the second door and it flew wide open. A woman was on her hands and knees, her face in the toilet bowl. Vambo dragged her by the hair and pulled her backwards, letting her slide on her back across the toilet’s sticky floor. Then he saw she wasn’t breathing.

As he leaned over and gave the woman CPR, his jeans filled with toxic smelling shit,

‘That is fucking foul,’ said the old man. He rushed out of the toilets, gagging.

The sound of Isabelle’s gasps melded with the sound of her father’s gunshot as he blasted Vambo’s brains like a Rorschach test across the toilet floor. She dragged herself into consciousness in time to see her father turn the gun on himself and then she closed her eyes and slept the sleep of the just.

(c) Paul D. Brazill.

This yarn first appeared over at SHOTGUN HONEY.



Sheila, Take A Bow at The Flash Fiction Offensive.

ffo-badge-finalI’m flashing at OUT OF THE GUTTER‘s FLASH FICTION OFFENSIVE again.

She’s lost the plot again. It’s the third time this week. Sheila should never have come off her meds in the first place and now she’s just bounced straight back onto the cider. In fact, she’s bouncing around my front room at the moment, smashing into the telly, and knocking over the ornaments. As she waves a bottle of White Lightning cider around, I fear for the glass coffee table. I really do.’

Read the rest of SHEILA, TAKE A BOW here.

Richard Godwin is down Brit Grit Alley

buffalo-and-sour-mashOver at OUT OF THE GUTTER ONLINE, there’s a great guest BRIT GRIT ALLEY column from crime writer RICHARD GODWIN where he talks about publishing:

‘Publishing really is in a state of flux, with the rise and rise of Amazon and it still seems many publishers do not know what they are doing and behave with a lack of the kind of professionalism and regard for Artists that you would expect given the fact that without the author without the novelist there would be no publisher, a fact that seems all to easily to have been forgotten.

Read the rest HERE.

Pat McDonald Reviews The Last Laugh.

last laugh new (1)
The Last Laugh

Over at Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk , Pat McDonald says:

5.0 out of 5 stars More characters to make your smile muscles ache!

‘Another extraordinary fun filled book of short stories from Paul D Brazill you just have to read. A veritable cornucopia of exquisitely described characters that any one of them could make a novel feature in their own right – assuming they were alive at the end of each piece.

Picking up a few tips on how to ‘off’ someone, or not to by accident! My disposal of bodies list is growing with every book.

The hint of a secret – is Brazill really a nut or is he hiding behind the persona? I’ve been having the last laugh, two chapters every night; it beats a cup of cocoa any time. More characters to make your smile muscles ache. It’s wonderful! Can’t help but thinking that there is a serious crime thriller writer lurking in there waiting for a name change? Pat McDonald British Crime Author.’

#FRIDAY FLASH: Pretty Green at Spelk Fiction.

SpelkI’m flashing at Spelk Fiction again.

‘Gareth Jones had been sober for a little over six months when the royalty cheque came, out of the blue. Just like that. He licked his lips and then sighed deeply as he prepared himself for the inevitable crash that was to come.’

Read the rest of Pretty Green here.

Guest Blog: Recording Earcom 2 for Fast Records, 1979 by Alan Savage

earcom-2Recording ‘Kirlian Photography’ and Celluloid Love’ with Bob Last, Cargo Studios, Rochdale, May 1979 (I think it was that month).
..and the formation of the ‘classic’ Basczax line up.

Bob Last (Fast Records label owner and manager) first took an interest in Basczax (then called Basssax) before me and Jeff Fogarty joined in late ’78. He had seen them supporting the Rezillos at Middlesbrough Rock Garden and was intrigued by their weirdness: kimonos, pancake make up and strange avant-electro sparse music that sourced from both punk and Kraftwerk. Since then, founder member and bassist/songwriter Mick Todd had kept in touch albeit on an ad hoc basis. It was not until me and Jeff joined that things really took off. Mick Todd knew he needed to get some better musicians to play with and I guess me and Jeff fit the bill.

Let’s rewind shall we, to the night I met Jeff and was lured into Basczax?

October 1978. Local bands including No Way, The Barbarians, Shoot the lights out (or was that another night?) and Monitor were playing the Wellington pub in Middlesbrough. Jeff was the sax player in Monitor. I was playing too – only two songs, one of my own called ‘Trends’ – which was crap – and a New York Dolls cover ‘Personality Crisis’. The band I was in that night had the terrible name of Original Sin. Not my idea by the way. They were really a working man’s club band. Indeed, I had got stuck playing the workies clubs as I had left my boring soul destroying job at British Steel earlier in the year with the mistaken belief that I could make a living playing music. We were a mediocre, third division club band and I wanted out. I liked the lads in the band – we had a good laugh most of the time, but I think they all knew it was a matter of time before I jumped ship. I just didn’t know how to leave as I did not really know any other like-minded musicians who were not playing the clubs.

When we arrived to set up our equipment – I was using a borrowed amp- the Barbarians were there, running through their sound check. There were no monitors of course – there would have been no room for them anyway. A tall scraggly hippy looking man came over to us and said ‘Hi…you can use our equipment if you want…it might be better, there’s no space really’…It turned out to be Dave Johns, leader of the Barbarians. He was very open and friendly and had a great benevolent sharing attitude. I liked him straight away. I also liked the fact he had a Burns Guitar that sounded really trebly, like the guitar sound from the Beatles ‘Revolver’ album. He had a way of hunching over his guitar, his face in concentration, his long lank hair obscuring his face from time to time. He had an insectoid, quirky stage presence.

Standing at the bar later, I got talking to Jeff Fogarty. I had run into him in rehearsals at the local youth club down the road at Easterside/Grove Hill and we hit it off, sharing a mutual like of Roxy Music. I thought Jeff was quite exotic, playing the saxophone. I knew no other sax players and he really stood out. He had a charisma about him. (Don’t let this go to your head now Jeff!) Suffice to say, we really hit it off. This was the night that destiny called for me, that’s for sure.

I remember being really impressed with both the Barbarians and No Way. The Barbarians sang songs with local subject matter like ‘Binns Corner’. I remember talking to Dave Johns about the song. He was very obliging and seemed happy to talk about nerdy things like lyrics. I was too scared to talk to Fran, their singer: he looked really scary to me! (Of course he turned out to be a pussy cat once you got to know him)

No Way came on to big cheers. They sounded bloody great: really powerful, having an orderly sound that begged that admittedly awful word: professional. Their singer, Matey, was a great fitting front man – leaning over the mic stand, pint of lager in hand, off hand leery beery attitude- he was an instant local hero. They had a great guitarist in Paul Gardner too: minimal, droning string riffs and he used a proper guitar unlike all us el skinto copy guitar owners – he had a Fender Telecaster. Oh, their rhythm section was great too by the way. They were simply a very good local band who maybe could have done something outside their immediate back yard.

I remember standing there watching them, and watching the crowd going mad for them. It was the first time in my so far short life as a musician I felt a terrible feeling: envy. It made me even more determined to get out of my club band. (Paul Gardner might be surprised if he reads this!)

Get out I did.

Jeff actually joined the club band I was in briefly. I am not sure why he did this; he was more like a guest player on a couple of songs. I think he was trying to look for an opportunity to get me out of the band. I could be mistaken of course, but looking back, that is my impression.

I phoned Jeff regularly from the phone box up the road. I didn’t actually have a phone back then, being a council estate skint bastard. He was very excited one day and told me I had to come and see him immediately as he had in his possession a cassette of a band that was looking for new members. It was Basssax (remember, that was how it was spelt then)

I distinctly remember hearing that cassette. The quality was pretty bad, but there was something on it that sounded unique: it was ‘Kirlian Photography’. Now I was pretty hip to Kraftwerk and recognised straight away that it was a bit like ‘Radioactivity’. But that was exactly what I liked about it. I remember thinking that the singing was out of tune – but it had a strange charm, almost sounding oriental in its atonal between notes atmosphere. Plus the lyrics were strange and being from the Bowie school of pretentious art fops from Jupiter, I loved it.

It all happened very quickly. We joined bassist Mick Todd, with synth player Nigel Trenchard and drummer (and old school friend of mine) Mick ‘Cog’ Curtis. Rehearsals were intensive. We thrashed around in a place called the Gables on Marton Road. I remember it was always freezing there and when we got a Calor gas heater in, it became more bearable. The first songs we tried out were ‘Kirlian Photography’, ‘1999’ and a song that Nigel Trenchard had written called ‘Detached Houses’.

Nigel was a character – he fancied himself as the Eno of the band, which was cool by me. He was a very funny man and a practical joker. I remember once, when the band picked me up from my house in Easterside, he leapt out of the car and kissed me full on the lips in front of my mother. He was like Iggy Pop – recklessly impulsive!

I remember another time we were dancing at some new wave disco night in Middlesbrough. He was with a girl and every time he came into my view, he got his willy out and shook it for all to see. He was outrageous and there was never a dull moment in his company.

Why was he ejected from the band in favour of John Hodgson? I cannot actually remember the reason. Ego clashes perhaps. Pity we didn’t go a bit further down the line with Nigel…

Jeff in the meantime suggested we changed the spelling of the band name to Basczax. It was a kind of ‘Ultravox’ (John Foxx not the man with the Clark Gable moustache) sounding name – Jeff was really into these at the time as was I briefly. (though not as much as Jeff) My main bands at that time were Wire, Magazine and The Banshees.The Scream’ was a terrific album at the time. I was still very hung up on glam rock of course. I got a guitar because of Marc Bolan. His spirit was never far away from me. Bowie and Roxy Music were the other two obsessions of mine. I also liked Bill Nelson, his Red Noise album was impressive to me at the time. (but I found it irritatingly quirky on hearing it years later)

basczax-2Basczax we were then. And we got two new members: Alan Cornforth on drums (Mick Curtis, lovely lad that he was, couldn’t keep up with the fast evolution of the band, bless him ) And John Hodgson on Keyboards/synth and occasional vocal.

Both had been drafted in from Blitzkreig Bop. One of Teesside’s first punk bands who released a brilliant single with ‘Let’s Go’. I mean the original version on Mortonsound by the way.

I remember the phone conversation with John Hodgson really well.

He said ‘I’m looking for something cold, something more synth based’. I remember thinking ‘he’s on the wavelength’ and he joined pretty much straight away, as did Alan Cornforth. I think he did one last gig with the Bop and then he and Alan joined us.
Our first rehearsal had John introducing a keyboard riff to us that became ‘Translucent Tales’: our mock psychedelic epic set closer. We were a band that was not self conscious about bringing in then unfashionable musical influences. John never hid the fact that he was a huge fan of Genesis. He was actually a prog rocker in punk disguise. (your secret is out now John!) Me and Mick Todd loved psychedelia too – one of Mick’s favourite albums from the past at that time I remember was ‘Their Satanic Majesties Request’, the Rolling Stones’ ill advised but strangely fascinating 1967 acid blues album.
Basczax thus became the ‘classic line up’.

We were a band with one foot in the trashy punk/glam camp, and one foot in the emerging electronic wave of bands about a year in front of us then. I felt we were in tune with the musical zeitgeist, if only for about six months.


I wrote songs like I had two weeks to live. Jeff and I came up with ‘Hollywood Strut’, ‘Neon Vampires’ and ‘Madison Fallout’ around his Mum’s house. Jeff would vamp at the organ, I would direct chord changes, Jeff too putting his musical diversions. The first song we wrote together eye to eye was ‘Celluloid Love’. It was Jeff’s bass line I seem to recall, that sparked the song. I wrote the music on the chorus. We shared lyrical duties – writing a line each. It happened quickly, had that ‘Roxy’ atmosphere about it and I distinctly remember taking it to rehearsals to work out. John Hodgson came up with the great keyboard hook on it. He was very handy like that, always embellishing the songs with hooky parts.

Alan came up with the unusual drum beat –a kind of military shuffle. We were all mindful of trying to approach things a little bit differently.

It was to be a track we were to record for Bob Last’s Fast Records, along with ‘Kirlian Photography’ which was Mick Todd’s song.

bob-lastBob Last was producing a 12 inch ‘musical magazine’ as he called it: Earcom. There had already been one released and we were to be on the second one, alongside tracks by the Thursdays and Joy Division. I have no idea how Bob Last managed to scoop two out-takes from the ‘Unknown Pleasures’ sessions, but I do remember thinking: ‘Wow! We are sharing a record with Joy Division!’ (even that early on, already a legendary band)

Now a lot happened in the run up to recording these tracks. Basczax had amassed a large-ish local following, we were playing a Friday night residency at a pub on the Thornaby/Stockton -on-Tees border called ‘The Teessider’. We had by now, a full set of songs, we had a quickly evolving sense of who we were and we had a buzz about us, that even extended to some of the major record companies like Virgin, who I seem to remember were briefly interested in us. (if this is delusional hind sight, please correct me, ex-band members)

1979 was a year that was a white heat of creativity in pop/rock music. There was a pioneering spirit in the air as bands like PIL released the brilliant punk/dub/German prog rock influenced ‘Metal Box’ album. Joy Division led the way from thrashy punk to somewhere altogether more moody and atmospheric.

There was plenty of good new wave pop around: Blondie went from strength to strength.
Disco was big in the charts and was starting to become assimilated into some of the post-punk bands music. The most obvious example was ‘Heart of Glass’. It was a great record that made disco seem cool.

Chic were big in this year. I loved them and anyone with a sense of great dance grooves and hooks loved them too.

On the scratchier side of things you had The Slits and The Pop Group – both using dance rhythms in their music and the explorative dopey vibe of dub reggae (which John Peel played a lot of on his show)

The electronic vanguard was upon us: Gary Numan, love him or hate him, led the way with ‘Are Friends Electric’ – the first proof that men in black shirts and make up with synthesisers could make Top of the Pops. The Human League and all their ilk, followed in Numan’s steps about a year later. (Remember, it took the Human League quite a while to have a proper hit record)

But there was one album and band that blew me away that year, more than even Joy Division. It is still one of my favourite albums: ‘Fear of Music’ by Talking Heads.
‘Fear of Music’ was the sound of a band really hitting their artistic stride: it was an album full of great ideas and it set a benchmark for me. I loved – and still love – the album’s sense of experimentation, while still retaining a sense of song craft. ‘Heaven’ was a sublime track and ‘Life During Wartime’ was funky as hell. Welcome to the post punk disco party.

Even old hero David Bowie made a decent album, now somewhat overlooked I feel – in that year, with ‘Lodger’.

Basczax, 1979: we were in there somewhere, we felt sure we fitted the post punk synthy pop /rock bill.

So there we were – barely six months together and we were recording in a proper studio with a producer in the glamourous location of Rochdale, Cargo Studios.

Bob Last looked cool in shades and a combat jacket over his Human League ‘Being Boiled’ T-shirt. He had the air of a young Phil Spector about him I remember thinking. Of course, I wouldn’t have dreamt of telling him that. He was also eating apricots. Lots of them almost constantly. He was trying to quit smoking and this explained his rabid munchies syndrome. He had the air of someone quite calm and in control about him. He wasn’t exactly chatty, the kind of person who only spoke when he really had something to say. He didn’t really do small talk. I didn’t really know how to take him to be honest, but he was genial enough to get along with. I was young and still suffering bouts of adolescent self-consciousness. I was pretty insecure back then, coming to think of it, and my aloof exterior was a coping mechanism for my shyness. I also had a debilitating negative side to my nature that I still struggle with today to be honest. It didn’t take much to send me off at the deep end. Enough of this navel gazing now…

earcom-22I remember setting up my guitar amp. It was a small practice amp and not the Marshall stack or decent guitar combo that maybe the session engineer expected. It was all I owned.
‘Is that it? You are using that?’ he said incredulously.

I felt a bit embarrassed.

Bob Last intervened: ‘It will be fine when we mic it up’.

I had brought my only guitar: A Kay Fender Stratocaster copy, purchased from Gratton’s catalogue. It had that scratchy Strat sound, had a five way pick up selector and was not a bad sounding copy coming to think of it. (In fact many people said it sounded better than my next guitar, a Columbus Les Paul copy)

I remember thinking I hope I don’t break any strings because I didn’t have the money to buy any more. I was always chronically broke back then. I have no idea how I managed. Sometimes I didn’t even have the bus fare to rehearsals and walked. I was a rock n roll pauper. Once, I went two days without eating hardly a thing. No wonder I was as skinny as a rake. Mr. Bowie – I blame it all on you.

Bob Last was a pretty hard task master I seem to remember. He made us run through ‘Kirlian Photography’ loads of times. Drummer Alan Cornforth got fed up and was not happy with his drum sound. He went into a sulk and a bad atmosphere started to descend on the session. He went out for a walk, well actually, went off in a huff and I remember John having to talk him around. I just felt embarrassed more than anything as the session ground to a halt. I half expected Bob Last to say ‘forget it, just go home’ but he didn’t. He tried to talk Alan around and in the end, Alan did come around of course. Bob Last was trying to get us to hit a steady groove for the track. We were used to tear-arsing through songs live, and it was hard to pull back and let the music breathe. But time was up against us now: we had to nail these tracks; we had no choice, no luxury of time. We had to do a lot in eight hours.

Then, it was my turn to get stroppy.

Bob Last said to me ‘Oh come on…stop those pretty guitar solos will you?’ when I was overdubbing my guitar for ‘Celluloid Love’. I hardly had any time as John had spent ages overdubbing his keyboard lines. The atmosphere was becoming panicky now as time was running out and I hadn’t even done any vocals yet, apart from the guide tracks when we were recording the basic bass and drum track.

In a fit of frustration, I whacked the hell out of my guitar, running my fingers anywhere on the fret board. I got art rock rage in other words.
Bob Last was (at last) pleased with what I was doing.
‘That’s great…let’s go for it now’…
So, the manic guitar on ‘Celluloid Love’ was done in the second take. I was actually scared of snapping strings, I remember.

I fully expected Bob Last to give me the third degree again when I overdubbed my guitar for ‘Kirlian Photography’ but he liked that guitar line.
‘It sounds good; psychedelic’ he said, looking over his shades at me, probably sensing my nervy insecurity.

I wondered if the song was too long and should we cut it down? After all, who did six minute tracks in those ‘quick get it over with’ post punk days?
‘No’ said Bob Last. ‘It’s good as it is’.

I also remember Jeff doing his sax parts quite vividly. We piled on the Roland Space Echo, an effect that Jeff liked to use as it made him play spacey, more random notes.

As for my vocal, I had to do them quickly. And I did. I seem to recall that ‘Kirlian Photography’ and ‘Celluloid Love’ were both second takes after an initial run through.
We did some backing vocals quickly and I seem to recall we had a fit of giggles doing the Mr. Gumby sounding backing vocals for the chorus of ‘Kirlian Photography’. I remember John getting a little impatient ‘Come on Sav, get it together maaan’ he joked in his best mock hippy voice.

The session went a little over time as the tracks were mixed. The thump thump thump of the bass drum seemed to go on for ages, as the sound was tweaked and the drum sound worked on. Some of us went out to look around outside to get some air.

I remember hearing my vocals isolated in the mix and cringed. I wanted the music back in to mask them. I also remember thinking my guitar sounded tinny and wishing I could get it to sound fatter somehow.

I also remember the thrill of hearing the mix come together. ‘Celluloid Love’ sounded great with all of John’s keyboards textured. I also remember saying ‘get the guitar up’ on the chorus and Bob Last obliged.

The mix for ‘Kirlian Photography’ came together quicker. It was all there in the performance or take we had done and just needed the levels setting. The echo on the guitar and on Jeff’s sax was added in the final mix down I seem to recall.
The time came for playback after what seemed like ages.

We were really pleased with the results. Except I got a bit hung up about my rhythm chops going out of time at the end of ‘Kirlian Photography’. ‘Nobody will notice’ said Bob Last. Pretty soon it was forgotten about and even I didn’t notice it.

It seemed to take ages for the record to come out. In fact, it got to a point where I thought it wasn’t going to happen. I remember getting our copies of the 12 inch Earcom very vividly. They were sent to Mick Todd’s house in Redcar and that bus journey to his house that day just could not go fast enough for me.

Mick had done a nice collage for the inner sleeve that represented us in a graphic sense well. No band photos. This was becoming less the norm in those days. It was more about images and graphics. I always thought it was a pity. Some decent band shots would have been a good thing.

I did not like the cover of the record: a picture of someone abseiling/rock climbing. ‘What the hell for?’ is one thought I had at the time.

I was not even that impressed with the Joy Division tracks. They sounded just as they were: shelved out takes that did not make the ‘Unknown Pleasures’ album.
The Thursdays tracks were shambolic fun. Only in 1979 could a band of twelve year olds make a record in the name of alternative prankery. At least that is the impression I got.
So there you go. It was official: Basczax was now a proper band who had a proper record out on a proper (and cool) alternative record label.
Even John Peel liked it.

Which of course, made it all worthwhile.

We drove back to Teesside that day knackered but buzzing with the adrenalin of it all.
Then I remembered, the next morning, I had to go and sign on the dole. It’s a mighty long way down rock n roll as a certain band once sang.

sav  2Bio: Alan Savage is a Middlesbrough born singer and songwriter. He releases music under his own name and other guises such as Dada Guitars and The Crystaleens.

His previous bands include Basczax and TheFlaming Mussolinis.

Brit Grit & International Noir

%d bloggers like this: