Tuesday, 19 June 2012

A place of memory and desire, part four

First the memory bit . . .

(Recap for newcomers: I’m writing about Sound City Beat, a new album by the Radiators from Space, a Dublin punk band.)

I was one of the first people to write about the Radiators From Space. Certainly the first in England. They’d been signed to Chiswick records. I was a journalist on Sounds magazine. I was friends with Roger Armstrong and Ted Carroll of Chiswick records. They flew me out to Dublin so I would write about the Radiators.

Corrupt? Well, yes, in a way. But, no, not at all really. Music journalists — in those days, anyway — prided themselves on being able to take the hand that fed them and chew it right off, up to the elbow and beyond.

I wouldn’t have gone if I hadn’t thought it was worth going and the magazine wouldn’t have agreed to it if they didn’t think it was worth a shot.

So I saw the Radiators play at . . . well, I think it was in Bray but I can’t quite remember where in that seaside town. I do remember, though, that it was a Sunday afternoon gig and I’m fairly certain it was arranged entirely for my benefit.

Or rather for the benefit of someone who was representing a London music paper that could — and did — regularly transform the careers and lives of pop musicians. We didn’t create their talent but we did turn a light on them. Sometimes we were right. Sometimes we were wrong. Sometimes the public agreed with us. Sometimes they disagreed with us. Sometimes the public was wrong. Sometimes they were right.

I wrote enthusiastically about the Radiators. Economists put incentives at the heart of human motivation. So, however right I might think (and still do think) my judgment was, it would be wrong of me not to acknowledge that such positivity was also a logical response to incentives. Simply, if you enthused about a band, you had more chance of it being a big story in the paper, maybe even a cover story.

I meant what I wrote, though. They really were worth enthusing over. They were one of the first Irish punk/new wave bands. At this distance, I can’t remember for certain whether this was before or after I saw the Boomtown Rats play in, I think, the basement that became the Arts Theatre — drawn there by their quite wonderful PR BP Fallon*. The timings were close, though. And I’m sure I’ll be corrected by someone.

The Radiators made one lively punk album which didn’t really sell what they’d hoped. Probably, it was neither simplistic nor arty enough for the contemporary market. It wasn’t yet another Ramones-based thrash or suburban rant. Punk’s first rank aside, that is pretty much what was selling then.

So they did a poppier and smarter record with Bowie’s producer Tony Visconti but that didn’t work either. I remember being in the studio and feeling there was something wrong with it but I couldn’t say what. I just knew that it would be lucky to find much a wide audience. I couldn’t explain why — then or now. So I shut up. For once.

Then things fell apart. I don’t know how or exactly why. Though I’d become friends with Phil Chevron, we didn’t see each other much around this time. Most of the band, I think, drifted back to Ireland. He stayed around and, in time, took a place at the heart of the Pogues — and, by extension, in the hearts of Pogues fans.

* Former Led Zeppelin PR, semi-professional Irishmen (only semi because it was mostly instinctive rather than considered — mostly anyway), he later took to walking up behind you in a club, hooking an arm round your neck, causing you to gasp in surprise and sniff up the popper he’d just cracked under your nose. Now there’s charm for you. He’s not a big fella, either.

Next More memory. Some desire, too.

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