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norway trolls or was that troggs?
- Subject: norway trolls or was that troggs?
- From: "Richard" <richard@li...net.au>
- Date: Sun, 29 Feb 2004 16:50:55 +1100
Nathaniel, yes sorry for the delay in the Norweigan 87 tour diary posting.
cant actually find the document at the moment .. but sure it will show up.
> Fabulous. But although I am already itching for chapter 2, I'm fascinated
> this tour of Norway that assumes greater mythical status with every
> enigmatic aside about it.....Sounds like it could be the bristolian
> equivalent of the troggs tapes.
> any chance of a full write-up of that once 'miracles' is out of the way
> >From: "Richard" <richard@li...net.au>
> >Reply-To: blueplanes@st...net
> >To: <blueplanes@st...net>
> >Subject: [Blueplanes] the Making of "Tolerance"
> >Date: Wed, 18 Feb 2004 16:46:16 +1100
> >The Aeroplanes second album Tolerance is one of the least referenced and
> >heard of the bands work, coming well down the list of most fans
> >'Planes albums. Released in 1986 on Fire Records, it is the sound of a
> >finding its feet. For many years i did not listen to it at all .. wasnt
> >sound of the record was too thin, a rush mix job? But nearly 20 years on
> >there are many likeable elements to the record, and like
> >Bagpipe Music by the Art Objects, is an important element to Gerard
> >Langley's body of work as a whole.
> >So I wrote this piece about the making of
> >the album, trying to account for what it contains and how it sounds. I
> >realise this is a subjective account but i have tried to remember
> >objectively and with a sense of humour, plus the disclaimer is that it
> >long time ago!
> >Absentee Notes: the Making of "Tolerance"
> >Following the release of the Action Painting EP in 1985 Gerard recruited
> >number of people to the band in order to make it a more viable live
> >prospect. First came Dave Chapman, a London friend of Nick Jacobs who
> >a variety of instruments including mandolin, harmonica and guitar, and
> >had made an appearance on the Action Painting EP. It was
> >hoped he would fulfil the "utility" role held by Ian Kearey, who was
> >to commit full time to the Aeroplanes as his bass playing duties with
> >Oyster Band were taking priority. In effect Dave stuck mainly to the
> >electric guitar, at least for live work, leading us quickly into the
> >position of being a band with three guitarists. On bass was Ruth
> >from Bristol,
> >and on rhythm guitar and piano myself, Richard Bell. Both Ruth and I had
> >been active on the Bristol music scene for a while. In addition to
> >songwriting i ran a mixed media club night at the Thekla in the docks,
> >Intimate Club. DJ John Stapleton also started to play a more prominent
> >in the group, live with two decks, splicing in spoken word material from
> >diverse and often comic sources. But the whole question of who was in
> >band was rather vague and no-one really knew. Was Angelo Bruschini a
> >He was certainly important, but too good a guitarist to remain
> >tied to the
> >Aeroplanes. Of course he went on to provide guitar sonic depth to
> >The live set at that time consisted of the Bop Art material, plus
> >Painting, Warhol's 15, Le Petit Cadeau de Don Juan and Breaking in my
> >Heart, so the new "associates" collectively and individually began
> >for what was to be the second Blue Aeroplanes album.
> >Rehearsals and writing sessions took place in a basement room in City
> >St Pauls, Bristol, under a cafe called The Impulse. There is a picture
> >on the inner sleeve of the Bop Art cd, Gerard perched against the piano,
> >John's sticks flailing to the right, Wojtec looking on. Gerard taped
> >everything on a portable cassette walkman, all the jamming. He'd come
> >to us with an isolated riff and say "repeat that bit 8 times"! He was
> >much the director of the music, making the music fit the poems he had
> >prepared. Although he did not play an instrument he had a strong sense
> >musical innovation or cliche, and steered us towards the former. Journal
> >an Airman was structured like this. Other tracks were written
> >most obviously with Nick and his own songs (Shame, When the Wave Comes,
> >Severn Beach and Rare Flowers from this era). Ups was an Angelo echo
> >which was one
> >feature of his writing - see "And Stones"! Also Who Built this Station
> >the Midwest dates from here. Warhol's 15 was a Nick track that was
> >part of the live set, Angelo's Richard Thompson-isms adding some depth.
> >Tolerance and 30 Love i wrote at home and bought to the band more in
> >than anything, but everyone liked the folky tuning of the later (its
> >major) and Tolerance was a short pop song that made a good contrast with
> >longer tracks like Control of Embassies. Soul I wrote with Ruth just
> >the album got recorded though was not often played live. Wierd Heart was
> >Nick/Dave collaboration reflecting their angular guitar influences and
> >dislike of too-regular time signatures (its working title was "the
> >Beefheart"), Lover and Confidente a Dave Chapman riff that started as a
> >at Impulse, Arriving similarly. As the material built up I contributed
> >country-ish Complete
> >Blessing, Dave weighed in with The Couple in the next Room to which
> >added words by John Ashberry. Both of these ended up as B-sides on the
> >Tolerance 12" while the Arthur Lee-influenced Stripped, a personal
> >favourite, ended up on Friendloverplane and also one of the later Radio
> >sessions, for Simon Mayo in early '88.
> >So there were at least three writing forces at work at this point: my
> >folky/REM type pop songs, Dave/Nick's angular alt.rock not wishing
> >to be too polite, and Angelo's spacey echo pieces that no-one else could
> >play quite like him. Add to this Gerard's nonchalant, edgy spoken
> >and use of poets like WH Auden and it made for a pretty eclectic
> >Fire Records extended their provisional deal to include recording time
> >Bristol and London, in view to making a new Blue Aeroplanes record. The
> >label was run by Clive Solomon, with whom Gerard had incredible
> >but whose vision today seems pretty good - other bands on the roster
> >included Pulp and later Teenage Fanclub. Like all independent labels
> >was thin on the ground, and after the minimal
> >recording budget there was very little left for promotion or tour
> >Gerard always argued, rightly, that more money should have been made for
> >making demos and remixing. How could recording time for 10 days or so
> >guarantee a quality product?
> >Looking back the economics and the way time was used was a bit crazy. As
> >band we may well have spent more on Red Stripe than equipment. We spent
> >more time angsting over whether to buy a tour bus than fine tuning the
> >structures. There were also issues of control. Gerard was in control. It
> >he who made the decisions on the set lists and
> >the overall direction of the band. I dont think the band understood
> >Gerard's vision to the full all of the time, and sometimes being told
> >to do boiled over into resentment. Perhaps why so many
> >people have joined and left over the years is not because "everyone was
> >student and had a tutorial on a wednesday" as was put on one of the
> >sleevenotes, but because it is hard playing second fiddle to someone
> >idea, especially when there is little obvious financial return.
> >Gerard hated the idea of being pigeonholed by the press into a "scene".
> >whole "indie" scene that was happening was anathema to him. Apart from
> >Fall there was no-one else really doing what he was trying, and actually
> >none of us listened to Mark Smith and co. Today in the US with artists
> >Howe Gelb, Will Oldham and Iron and Wine the Aeroplanes might "fit"
> >When we were paired with Primal Scream for a gig at the Clarendon in
> >Hammersmith it felt
> >uncomfortable. When Felt rang up, however, for a double header at the
> >venue, we were happier.
> >Most of the Tolerance album was recorded in London, although the sound
> >the Bristol recordings made at SAM, above the old Moon Club (now Lakota)
> >the same period is a lot better. Alaska Studios in Waterloo was a dingy
> >place that doubled as a rehearsal studio and there was a lot of coming
> >going, not least by underground trains that caused the place to shake.
> > The band members stayed in different places. Gerard and John stayed
> >Wojtec in
> >Ealing. I stayed in a squat in Stoke Newington. The house was condemned
> >it sloped from East to West and had rats running up from a flooded
> >Even more dismal was the power-less place round the corner occupied by
> >Kurt Ralske, a quiet American guy who was to become Ultra Vivid Scene.
> >hanging around the area was a woman called Debbie, who turned out was in
> >Bloody Valentine. Anyway, enough of the name dropping.
> >To what extent did that group of people share musical taste? Gerard
> >described the band member's tastes as a series of overlapping
> >venn diagrams, ie with some common ground but mostly not. There was thus
> >unspoken struggle for creative space within the group. Gerard was a
> >Dylanologist, also a fan of the diversity of the early 70's Island
> >and of course the Velvets. His whole place was an education, full of
> >and records by and about maverick artists. I could hardly match that,
> >kept quiet about rather liking The The .. But Nick Lowe was an artist we
> >liked. Also Richard Thompson, REM and Nick Drake, add to that
> >Camper Van Beethoven and Arthur Lee and you have some idea of where we
> >crossed. The two Johns (Langley and Stapleton) and Wojtec went for
> >soul, anything with a degree of authenticity, which in most music in the
> >80's had
> >disappeared under the weight of synthesizers and studio effects.
> >Within all this there was the struggle with the label and the publisher,
> >their expectations of what the recordings might produce, and the bigger
> >picture of packaging this for the press and the industry at large. At
> >the music industry felt like a big battle ground, and i sympathised with
> >Gerard trying to do something different and out of time that was going
> >annoy alot of people. Bop Art did not generate big sales, the band were
> >something of a cult thing or an acquired taste, depending on how you saw
> >Elistist? Arty? Certainly plenty of people were never going to get it; a
> >consant knockback we got was that a band with "talking" instead of
> >could never be widely successful.
> >The producer of Tolerance was Jon Jo Key, who had played in the Art
> >I cant honestly remember him influencing things, it was definitely
> >the helm. But the engineer was influential, Iain O Higgins, who liked
> >mucking around with the studio effects. Rare Flowers on the album was
> >me) an experimental mix that ended up released. Wierd Heart went through
> >same process, though is more successful, with John Stapleton's inspired
> >word sources. Samplers were invented for people like him! Most of the
> >was done live, in one or two takes, with a few overdubs. It was all done
> >dusted in a few days, maybe 10? Now that i know how studios work, ie
> >leave things out and when to listen to an EQ, i find it hard to listen
> >some of the record. If ever there was a 2" tape that needed retrieving
> >the Fire archives and remixed minus all the tinny EQ and excessive
> >on the voice and snare, Tolerance is it.
> >Because of the constraints we were under Gerard at one point just went
> >it. Fire weren't paying for any more time, so we had to just work with
> >we had. 30 Love was meant to be so lush, when Ian Kearey added autoharp
> >walked round the block struck with the beauty of it. Shame about the
> >mix! But some tracks are OK sonically. I remember Nick lining the vocal
> >booth with sheet
> >metal and cranking his Marshall stack up to 11 (!) for the feedback on
> >Cant remember if he had his pill box hat on at the time, but he
> >played a left handed Telecaster. Journal of an Airman, despite the out
> >tune trumpets, remains excellent, as does Tolerance itself, if a bit
> >Ups has lyrics about the Dug Out in Park Street, an awesome dance/indie
> >place to hang out at that time. The night they opened the video bar we
> >up there watching things like Tears for Fears's Mad World. Angelo's echo
> >technique is very distinctive on Ups, a style which Gerard had
> >with tracks like Passengers of
> >Fortune on the Art Objects record, and which was to rise to one of the
> >'Planes all time tunes, And Stones. Another plus of the album is John
> >Langley's inventive drumming - inventive, busy, pushing, pulling and
> >Lover and Confidente was the first single in mid 86. To our surprise
> >made it record of the week, though it didnt get much airplay. The cover
> >me whispering into an ear belonging to a woman called Helen O'Neill. She
> >writes a food column for an Australian sunday paper - trivia fact fans!
> >video was made by some students at Bristol Poly, shot live and at a
> >St Andrews. Tolerance came out next as the second single, released as a
> >and 12" with extra tracks, and things started to move. Janice Long on
> >Radio 1 championed the song, playing it about 30 times. Jed's
> >brother) Bowie
> >impersonation on the chorus appealed, and the video, shot for about 500
> >in an autumnal London park and containing images of the legendary
> >sheeting across the stage, captured a few TV commissioning editors'
> >imaginations. One week it was being screened on the Old Grey Whistle
> >BBC2, the next week the band went out live from the Glasgow studio, a
> >minute replacement for The Smiths. We played Arriving. The cameras
> >Ruth. Weren't women allowed in art\rock bands or something? Andy Kershaw
> >frowned with confusion at the whole thing, Stapleton's "blue .. blue ..
> >squawking out of the speakers after the song had finished.
> >Finally the album came out, to rather mixed reviews. "Interesting but
> >consistant" was the general vibe, which most people would still agree
> >The sleeve didnt help, a bad bit of advice there and a rare example of
> >Gerard letting his control standards slip, though the back cover of the
> >in full live throttle at the Trinity in Bristol is alright. Nick's photo
> >his girlfriend on the Tolerance 12" is a more alluring image. Fire
> >licensed the album to Emergo, a european label with distribution through
> >much of the continent. That version of the artwork has a black margin
> >much larger picture. What was it from, a Hollywood movie? Also the euro
> >release had the legend "contains three extra tracks" along the top, but
> >only counted two, Breaking and Midwest.
> >But all these things were kind of meant to happen, and were indicative
> >band in a formative stage, a band still finding out what it was good at.
> >me it was when Ann Sheldon's (the band's Paul Klee after all!) paintings
> >began to regularly grace the artwork that a coherance was established.
> > How many copies did Tolerance sell? I have
> >no idea, but probably not many. We also signed the publishing to Fire's
> >sister company Twist and Shout.
> >Gigs were where the band was strongest, and from which the reputation
> >with the added attraction of dancer Wojtec and trademark Solidarity T
> >(until it got removed). We worked hard as a gigging band, playing all
> >the UK. In Bristol our haunts were the Western Star, Tropic, Trinity,
> >Thekla, Glastonbury and
> >Ashton Court festivals. In London we played the Clarendon (with its
> >sound), and the other indie ghettos in the suberbs. But as soon as we
> >to a live agency things improved - great shows at Club Dog in Wood Green
> >(terrific promoter, Michael Dog), the George Robey in Stoke Newington,
> >Marquee and the Limelight in the centre of town. A turning point was a
> >brilliant and packed gig at ULU supporting Its Immaterial. We did buy a
> >van, and employed Andi Woods to drive it and manage us on the road,
> >including the "no sleep 'till Tromso" tour of Norway in spring '87. Live
> >reviews in the music press got other promoters in Europe interested, and
> >short tours of Switzerland, Austria, and a one-off in Berlin followed.
> >Austria the national radio taped one of our shows and broadcast
> >it the next afternoon, just as we were arriving in Vienna. Or did i
> >The vibe in and around the group was building, even if the chemistry
> >always right. Fractured and inspired amateurism just about sums it up,
> >although i would also say there was a lot of love ; we loved the music
> >never got sick of playing the songs. The NME didnt like us, allowing us
> >one grudging feature. I guess we were not experimental enough, or not
> >commercial enough. But the Melody Maker did, at the same time they were
> >going for artists like Band of Holy Joy. All bands need journos as
> >supporters and outside the loyal writers at Out West\Venue there was
> >Roberts at the Maker. He discovered The Sundays and Bjork, and was such
> >fan of the Aeroplanes he ended up writing the sleevenotes to
> >So if Tolerance wasnt a great album, we suspected we had one in us.
> >1987 we tuned our guitars, really thought about the writing, did some
> >Spitting out Miracles was coming.
> >Richard Bell, Feb 2004
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