Category Archives: Halcyon Days

A Film For Friday: Grace Of My Heart by Allison Anders.

 

One of the things I did during my brief jaunt to The Big Apple in 2001 was to walk from Times Square- where I was staying – and down Broadway to place my hand on the Brill Building. And I did. It was a hot summers day and I burnt my hand.

It’s a fantastic looking building, of course, but that wasn’t the reason for my pilgrimage.

You see, not a lot of people know this- not even Michael Caine – but once upon a time, I wanted to be a songwriter. Indeed, after the band Oceans 11 split up in the mid ‘80s, me and guitarist Peter Ord decided to write songs together. Like Bacharach and David. Goffin and King, Fagan and Becker. But, of course, nothing came of it.

In the 1960s the Brill Building, though, was a hit factory that  housed some great songwriters. Including the ones that I mentioned above plus Paul Simon, Laura Nyro and more.

And Allison Anders’  wonderful  Grace Of My Heart is the story of that era, that great period of musical creativity. Well, it’s a fictional amalgam of a couple of people’s stories-mainly Carole King, I think – and it’s a gem.

Music is by Elvis Costello, Joni Mitchell, Burt Bacharach and others and it’s a smashing story, very well told, with fine performances from Ileana Douglas, John Turturro, Matt Dillon and others.

Short, Sharp Interview: Richard Sanderson.

PDB: Can you pitch the latest LINEAR OBSESSIONAL RECORDINGS release in 25 words or less?

Tulse Hill” by Hannah Marshall is an introspective solo cello album, built around hypnotic repetition and strange extraneous noises.

PDB: What music, books, films or television shows have floated your boat recently?

I loved David Peace’s “Occupied City” – probably his most experimental yet, but so well researched and compulsive he really captures the true horror of the way crime effects ordinary people. I also really enjoyed Kate Atkinson’s “Started Early, Took My Dog”, which reminded me of my Barbara Vine kick of a few years ago.

I recently watched “The White Ribbon” which is still reverberating round my bonce.

Music – Petrels, Joni Mitchell, Vic Godard, Evan Parker, Chic, Bob Dylan

Also,can I add http://www.mobydickbigread.com/ to my stuff that I like? It’s an amazingly inventive thrilling serial…with terrific artwork and more terrific readers. What the internet is for.

PDB: Is it possible for a musician to be an objective listener?

Unless you’re one of those weirdos who only listen to yourself, I don’t see why not. I listen widely, even though the music I produce or distribute is generally classed as “experimental”, so I’m rarely thinking “could I do better?”

PDB: Do you have any interest in writing music for films, theatre or television?

Yes, and I have done a bit – the last was the soundtrack for Clive Shaw’s “True North” a brilliant animated film about a polar bear. On the whole it seems a hard area to get into.

PDB: How useful or important are social media for you?

Quite important – although I kind of resent it too! I can’t see me ever using Twitter though and I recently deleted all my blogs.

PDB: What’s on the cards for the rest of 2012?

An EP with Alex Charles, recording with Foulkestone and the Horse Trio. Concentrating on noisy solo work too. A gig with loads of others at Cafe Oto for the wonderful Mike Cooper’s 70th Birthday. New releases on Lin Ob from Kev Hopper, Alex Charles, John Love, Jude Cowan Montague, Hanetration etc. Boxing day tour with Blackheath Morris. Possibly a compilation album of my old songs – to say goodbye to them…

RICHARD SANDERSON’S BIOG:

I’m originally from Middlesbrough in the North East of England, but I’ve lived in London since 1985. I started off playing guitar and singing in punk and post-punk bands in Teesside. The most successful of which, Drop (1978-1979) was championed by Julian Cope who praised the band’s “sheer confidence and succinctness”. Drop have been dragged out of retirement a couple of times in the 21st Century, and may be again. In 1980 I released a 12″ EP with the band Tick Tick that has remained resolutely underground ever since.

Since arriving in London, I gravitated towards the improvised music scene, initially playing toys, samplers and electronics alongside musicians such as Adam Bohman, Mark Browne, Mike Walter, Mark Wastell, Chris Burn, and others before joining the band Ticklish with Kev Hopper, Phil Durrant and video artist Rob Flint. Other groups I was in included Kelsey Michael’s widescreen pop octet “Minnow” and a trio with Steve Beresford and Anna Homler. From the late ’90s onwards I played many gigs throughout the UK experimental scene as well as at festivals in Germany, Austria, Holland, Denmark and France. I was also active as a promoter, organising clubs such as The Club Room (with Mike Walter and John Russell), Reaction Time, The Departure Lounge and Baggage Reclaim. For nearly 10 years I was a director of the London Musicians Collective.

In the last 7 years my interests have widened to include traditional English music and dance, taking up morris dancing (with Blackheath Morris Men) and the melodeon (a diatonic button accordion). These interests are also reflected in the group Foulkestone (with Jude Cowan Montague) which performs traditional songs with modern accompaniment. As well as playing solo gigs with amplified melodeon, I play in the Horse Trio with Sue Lynch (saxophone and flute) and Hutch Demouilpied (trumpet), and in duos with Paul May (drums) Clive Pearman (guitar and banjo) and Steve Moyes (‘cello). I’m also continuing to make music with Mark Spybey and my cousin Mark Sanderson – a collaboration that has lasted 38 years.

In 2012 I started the netlabel Linear Obsessional Recordings to release music by experimental musicians from around the globe under a Creative Commons licence.

 

Days Of Futuramas Past

Here comes the sun, which means the rock festival season is already upon us. Young and old alike are turning up at football stadiums or muddy fields for the likes of Coldplay, The Stone Roses and, er, probably loads of people I’ve never heard of. And all in the name of ‘fun’. Apparently. Not me, though. No way. And here’s why…
 
Dexy’s Midnight Runners once sang ‘Lord Have Mercy On Me/ Keep Me Away From Leeds’, in the brilliantly titled Thankfully, Not Living In Yorkshire, It Doesn’t Apply.
 
And, to be honest, many people would probably agree with Dexy’s, since Leeds certainly fits a lot of folk’s idea of the grim, industrial wastelands of the north of England.
 
What could be gloomier, in fact, than, say, Leeds on a cold and rainy weekend in September? Maybe watching Joy Division, too? Ah, well …
 
And so it came to pass … it was 1979, at the age of 17, when I first visited Leeds to attend the Futurama Festival (nothing to do with the cracking telly showat the Queen’s Hall. Organised by local boy John Keenan, the festival was billed as ‘The World’s First Science Fiction Music Festival’ – even though there seemed to be  little sci-fi to the experience, apart from a couple of people dressed as robots.  
 
Mind you, sleeping in a municipal building’s drafty hall, on a grubby and sticky floor, with a bunch of other waifs and strays (who had travelled the country – and further afield – to see some of the hippest, most cutting edge, post- punk bands around) did have a touch of the dystopian future about it, when I come to think of it.
But the sci-fi angle wasn’t important. It was all about music. And what a line-up of ‘hot’ bands it was.
 
Yes, of course, the now legendary Joy Division were among the odds and sods  of bands playing over the Festival’s two days, along with their fellow Factory Records glum chums A Certain Ratio and, electro-pop  superstars in the making, Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark.
 
But, there was also The Teardrop Explodes (who were beaut and performed a cracking version of Aretha Franklin’s Save Me)Scritti Pollitti, Cabaret Voltaire, The Monochrome Set, Spizz Energy, Echo and The Bunnymen (complete with drum machine, Echo),  The Only Ones, and, er, The Invaders.
 
And there was also one of the first performances of former Sex Pistol John Lydon’s Public Image Limited (I also slept through a bit of them but bought a Bowie bootleg from Lydon’s brother Jimmy.)
 
And, of course, The Fall who, for my money, were the best band of the whole two days. I still have fond memories of Mark E Smith hassling the Hawkwind fans about their ‘cosmic crap.’ Hawkwind, along with other sixties psychedelic types, such as Nik Turner, seemed prehistorically out of place but their stoned fans seemed happy enough to wander around and take abuse from the younger punks and long-mac wearers.
 
futurama pass.Joy Division, by the way, were damn fine. At the time, they were on the crest of a creative wave, after Unknown Pleasures and Transmission, and before the synthesizers softened their sound. They were, for most people, the stars of the show. The bees’ knees, the cat’s whiskers, the dog’s bollocks.And any other animal’s anatomy.
 
As was the Futurama Festival.
 
More than a few of those bands went on to make something of a name for themselves and when Keenan organised another Futurama Festival in 1980, I went along, hoping to recapture the magic of the previous year. But as little as a year later, though, it looked to my naively jaded eyes as if the Futurama Festival was already moving towards the mainstream.
 
Acts then, included Siouxsie and The Banshees, who were promoting their mega selling  Kaleidoscope album, The Psychedelic Furs, Altered Images, Soft Cell (who, I remember, did a pretty tasty version of Black Sabbath’s Paranoid in front of projections of hard core porn) and, ahem,  Gary Glitter.
 
The Bunnymenwere back, too, complete with a real  drummer, and seemed to be on their way to a bombastic psychedelic form of what became known as stadium rock. Speaking of which, there was also a newish band from Ireland, who were being raved about by Sounds’ Garry Bushell – the ill-fated U2.
 
I actually thought they were alright, on the night, what with their Television-lite pop rock, although I –along with my mate Ronnie Burke – did spend most of their set shouting Nanu Nanu at the singer because of his remarkable resemblance to Mork From Ork.
 
The annual Futurama Festival  apparently carried on for a few more years after that but I didn’t go again or, indeed, go to another music festival.(Apart from Dock Rock in Hartlepool, my home town.) It could never be bettered.
 

SWEENEY! BY HALCYON DAYS

I was in the band Halcyon Days  from 1981 to 1982. The band was Richard Sanderson (guitar/vocal), me (bass),Peter Ord (guitar) and Ronnie Burke (drums).
 

As Richard says:
‘One of the odder unfinished projects was “Sweeney!” from which these three tracks came. Influenced by the 70’s cop show of the time, we conspired to play some new incidental music for the series.“Gunman” features me on piano, and “Conflict in Underground Car Park” features the only recorded example of Braz playing the (inside of) a piano.’

How can you resist that?

 

Interview: Richard Sanderson -Banned From The Big Breakfast!

Q1 : Tell me about your first and your most recent bands?

 
My first band was called “Solaris”, it was me, my cousin Mark Sanderson and his friend Mark Spybey – we were aged about 13. 
 
Unlike the rather swish rock groups 12 and 13 year olds play in now, no doubt schooled by their rock-literate parents, we were musically inept and had no real instruments. 
 
We just used my Dad’s piano, a tatty acoustic guitar and an ancient Boy’s Brigade drum plus radios, tape recorders and a stylophone. We were basically playing free improv – albeit influenced by Krautrock and Hawkwind
 
The three of us met up again last year and it was rather lovely, and we’re hoping to actually record something this summer! I’ve still got the first cassette, and, astonishingly, a label has expressed an interest in releasing it, so soon the world could delight in our squeaky adolescent voices and ramshackle non-musicianship. 
 
I suppose my most recent band is “64 Bit” which is trio with Kev Hopper on electric bass and Ian R Watson on trumpet, I play melodeon (button accordion) and electronics. We improvise too, which doesn’t suggest a lot of progress over 35 years. 


For good measure I also play in a group called The Mixed Porter Band, a load of squeezeboxers, fiddlers and percussionists doing traditional English tunes – we play in pubs and ceilidhs and that. It’s good fun, and beer is involved.
 
Q2: Julian Cope described you as ‘The Post Punk Peter Hammill.‘ Was that a compliment or an insult?
 
I thought it was very nice of him! He was talking about me as an 18 year old – so I guess he’s referring to the perhaps over-serious and intense young man I was then (come on, you remember!) 
 
Hammill’s never actually been an influence, even though I knew the song “Scorched Earth” from Fluff Freeman’s show in the mid ‘70s. Lately I’ve come to enjoy his music a bit more, but I still find his choirboy to snarling rocker voice a bit, well, daft. But compliment I reckon – came right out of the blue too…I haven’t listen to Julian’s music for decades, but his website is a real goldmine of interesting stuff.
 
Q3: Didn’t a breakfast TV show once invite you to go on and play with toys?
 

Yeah! Back in the Mid 90s when Ticklish were just starting, I used to play a big collection of toys, which I’d amplify and process. It was very John Cage and abstract. 

 
Anyway, some researcher on the Big Breakfast heard about us and booked us to appear with Chris Evans, and he clearly thought that we’d be doing funny tunes with quacking ducks or something. 
 
Almost as an afterthought he asked to hear a recording, and a motorbike courier was sent round to pick up a demo from my house. We never heard another thing! 
I just wish I’d been there to see their faces when they actually played the tape. We used to claim we were “banned from The Big Breakfast” after that- it made good copy.
 

Q4: You played the Berlin Jazz Festival. Did you take lots of heroin? And die?

 
Yes. And I don’t recommend it – the heroin and dying bit anyway, not big or clever. 
 
Actually, this was probably the acme of my avant garde career. It was another toy gig in a trio with Steve Beresford and Anna Homler – I’m not sure it was what the promoters wanted, but the audience seemed to like it. 
 
Most embarrassing bit was just before the gig I was told that Guy Klucevsek (easily the world’s greatest avant garde accordion virtuoso – admittedly a niche area, but still) was coming to watch me play accordion. I’d only been playing for about a year on a klunky little toy one knocking out a few hamfisted chords. Let’s just say he didn’t come backstage to congratulate me – I assume he felt his position was safe….
 
Q5: You’ve played with Simon Fisher -Turner who was famously handcuffed to Robert Mitchum during the making of Micheal Winner’s The Big Sleep. How did you meet him? What’s he like?
 
Simon auditioned me for a group to play backing Blixa Bargeld at a gig at Nick Cave’s Meltdown. He’d heard about the toy stuff (again! Is it any wonder the gigs have dried up now that I’ve dropped playing toys?) and he came to my house in Hither Green to chat to me – we sat in our garden in glorious sunshine for about an hour chatting about all kinds of music – he looked at the gear I used, and I got the gig without playing a note. 
 
Simon is charming and debonair and totally lovely. I didn’t know he was in “The Big Sleep” or that Michael Winner directed that version! You are an education, Braz.
 
Q6: When did you get involved in Morris Dancing? Does it damage the car?
 
Right – Three rules for talking to Morris Dancers-
1. Don’t imagine he hasn’t heard the “I’d try anything once except for incest and morris dancing” quote. (He has, many, many times)
2. Don’t say “it’s just like ‘The Wicker Man’ (it really isn’t – I’ve only met about three morris men out of hundreds who are actual “pagans” and none of those have sacrificed anyone, yet)
3. Don’t make clumsy puns with the car
 
I got involved about 5 years ago. That’s the easy bit, slightly harder is “why?”
 
I guess I’ve always been attracted to music and arts outside the mainstream, but these days “the avant garde” is mainstream – look at The Wire (the magazine…or the TV series come to that), or half the gigs at the Festival Hall. 
 
Meanwhile there are these lovely people playing music and dancing outside pubs- sometimes to blank incomprehension, piss-taking or even hostility – more often charming the birds off the trees. Keeping fit, getting your body to move slightly more gracefully, hanging around with interesting people (my side includes bankers, monastery gardeners, professional west-end musicians and the man who’s responsible for public safety if there’s ever a major nuclear incident) and drinking beer. Obviously I was going to have some of that. 
 
Five years later and 2 and half stone lighter, Its becoming clearer that it was one of the best decisions I ever made. My wife, Ruth, does it now too. The kids are doomed!
A good morris joke –
Q- Why was line-dancing invented
A- To give morris dancers something to take the piss out of
 
Q8: What is Scaledown ? Is it like a Scalextrix?
 
Scaledown is a monthly performance above The King and Queen pub in London (Where Dylan did his first UK performance interestingly) that I started with the musician Mark Braby. Six acts, each playing for 15 minutes, with 15 minute gaps for socialising between, using minimal gear. Free admission, donations to performers. That’s it. 
 
 
Basically I’d been putting on experimental gigs for over 10 years and I was heartily sick of it – having to deal with lousy and grumpy soundmen, people trying to get in for nowt, musicians expecting enormous fees etc etc all eliminated immediately. Of course it still became too much for me and I stopped being involved several years ago (having kids helped force that decision) but Mark’s still hanging in. 
 
Scaledown has scaled up a bit, it actually has two great soundmen and a pretty good PA, and has attracted some big names, Vic Godard even played there! I wouldn’t mind scaling down the concept even more, and actually dispensing with the PA altogether, but until I can find a venue I can walk home from, this is unlikely to happen soon. A scalextric would be nice – I’d probably try to find a way to make music with it.
 
Q9: You’re a Notherner who lives in East London. Do you eat jellied eels and love the Krays?
 
I live in SOUTH-East London actually, Braz, so we have none of that, being on the “wrong” side of the river.
 
I’ve been in London for over 25 years now, which I reckon qualifies me as a Londoner, and I still love the place – even though these days I rarely get out of Lewisham (I’m a “Stay-at-home Dad”) so I don’t get to see the iconic sights of London Town Centre- apart from at the top of Hilly Fields, but I feel at home in this neighbourhood. I think my accent’s slipped a bit mind, when I go up North friends imitate me as some kind of Michael Caine, even though my neighbours think I sound like Chris Rea. I have never eaten jellied eels – as Ogden Nash wrote “I like Eels, excepts meals, and the way they feels”…
 
Q10: Are you more Leslie Crowther, Aleister Crowley or Ice Cream For Crow?
 
Ha!
 
I always thought Leslie Crowther was a bit sinister to be honest, something about the eyebrows. More sinister than that old fraud Crowley, who was most accurately demolished by yourself when you described him as looking like “Benny Hill with a cushion on his head” – I’m a staunch rationalist and like my magic without a “K”. So I guess it’s “Ice Cream For Crow” even though I don’t like the album that much.
 
Can I have Doc Rowe, Teesside Docks and Doc At The Radar Station instead?


Bio:Richard Sanderson was born in 1960. He is originally from Middlesbrough in the North East of England, but has lived in London for over 25 years. After a background in punk and post-punk groups he shifted into experimental music. Playing electronics, toys and squeezebox, he has recorded and performed with many left-field musicians.


He was a director of London Musicians Collective for 10 years, and ran several clubs promoting experimental and improvised music such as “The Club Room”, “Baggage Reclaim“, “Western Civilisation” and “Scaledown”. In 2005 he joined Blackheath Morris Men as a dancer.


In July 2005, together with Neil Denny, Richard created the ‘rationalist’ radio show Little Atoms.


In 2009 he left the world of paid employment in the music business, and scaled down his other activities to look after his two young children. He has been married to Ruth for donkeys years.


His blog is BAGGAGE RECLAIM.


This is his DISCOGRAPHY

The Post Punk Peter Hammill – Richard Sanderson

In his introduction to his very good Postpunksampler 2, the legendary Julian Cope says tells this story:

‘In 1979, a smart, cool-looking guy called Richard Sanderson came backstage after a (Teardrop Explodes) Middlesborough show and gave me a bedroom recording of his quartet Drop. In his manner, style and quiet confidence, Richard was the Peter Hammill of Post-Punk; anguished, lean and nobly Norman. I loved every song on the tape and played it to Bill Drummond and Dave Balfe (of Zoo Records) , who rejected it outright for being too much like ‘The Teardrops and the Fall’.

So, who was the ‘Peter Hammill of Post-Punk’?

His bio says this: Richard Sanderson was born in 1960. He is originally from Middlesbrough in the North East of England, but has lived in London for 24 years.

After a background in punk and post-punk groups he shifted into experimental music. Playing electronics, toys and squeezebox, he has recorded and performed with many left-field musicians. He was a director of London Musicians Collective for 10 years, and ran several clubs promoting experimental and improvised music such as “The Club Room”, “Baggage Reclaim”, “Western Civilisation” and “Scaledown”.

In 2005 he joined Blackheath Morris Men as a dancer. In July 2005, together with Neil Denny, Richard created the ‘rationalist’ radio show Little Atoms.

In 2009 he left the world of paid employment in the music business, and scaled down his other activities to look after his two young children. He has been married to Ruth for 15 years.

And what of Richard’s legendary band Drop?

Richard says: ‘Drop coalesced out of my first punk band, The Silencers, and by the end of 1978, the steady line-up was-

Richard Sanderson – Vocals/Guitar Neil Jones- Keyboards Chris Oberon – Bass Andy Kiss – Drums

Listen to the music that Julian Cope raved about HERE

I’ve know Richard Sanderson for over thirty years. I first met him in a pub in Stockton when he was in DROP and I’ve been a friend and fan since then. I was even in a couple of bands with Richard- Halcyon Days and Oceans 11.

Richard has now also released an MP3 compilation of some of his songs from 1978 -2009. One of the songs is Oceans 11‘s ‘I Guess I’m Sentimental’ which was one of their better tunes. There’s also some other cracking stuff there including Drop’s French Windows which was covered by Julian Cope’s brother’s band. Click HERE for the track listing and download details at Richard’s blog BAGGAGE RECLAIM.

There’s more to The Weird & Not Very Frightening World Of Richard Sanderson than this but it’ll get you started.