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Re: Special Intensities: the making of Spitting Out Miracles

  • Subject: Re: Special Intensities: the making of Spitting Out Miracles
  • From: "Neville Street" <>
  • Date: Tue, 2 Mar 2004 12:05:14 -0000


Your recollections evoke strong memories of the trials and tribulations,
highs and lows of my own band that particular time (and especially the
influence a new Aeroplanes LP would have our own sound!).

Thank you, your prose is a joy to read.

----- Original Message -----
From: "Richard" <>
To: <>
Sent: Sunday, February 29, 2004 6:08 AM
Subject: [Blueplanes] Special Intensities: the making of Spitting Out

> OK folks, here it is, Part Two!
> As 1986 morphed into 87 the band started to write new material.
> Cowardice and Caprice was first. This track I think was a real turning
> for the Blue Aeroplanes.  For my part I felt I was starting to be taken
> seriously as a writer; I purposefully put a lot of thought into the 
> chords
> and movement between verse and chorus. The A6 last chord was a bit tongue
> cheek but it stayed. Everyone in the group found a space to do what they
> .. but well rather than for the sake of it. Nick and Dave's sliding
> Ruth's subtle underpinning bass, John Stapleton's apt bit of spoken word
> the break-down section, and the truly great words. Gerard had Costello's
> King of America album .. and the other imagery suggests a romantic
> Gerard told me once what the "recording angels" were but i cant remember 
> -
> something to do with the logo of an American record label? We demoed the
> song at SAM in Bristol, nailing the tempo and feel. Later incarnations of
> the group regularly voted Cowardice as their favourite track by the old
> up, and its still in the live set from time to time.
> Julie was next, a Nick song also demoed at that SAM session, with John
> Langley stepping up to the mic for backing vocals.  The "background
> were sometimes a bit thin in the group .. maybe John should have done
> You could make a case for him being the best singer to have passed 
> through
> the band .. check that high bit in King of the Soapbox!  But listening
> my efforts on Coats and Julie dont sound too bad really.
> What do you Mean? was arranged at rehearsal at Impulse. Ruth's bassline
> us all struggling to keep up. Structurally it was one of those tracks 
> that
> Gerard directed so that the words would fit. Coats was Dave's follow up 
> to
> Lover and Confidente, with its odd chord changes, dark rock mood and 
> great
> improvised solo at the conclusion.
> In the Mystery and Teaching English through Sex and Death were pieces 
> that
> Dave had on mandolin. Ruth and I helped with the arrangement of the
> which we joked sounded like an enthusiastic Greek waiter. That's Dave
> counting in on the latter.
> My brother Bill was now living in Montpelier, Bristol and became a
> member of the band, playing violin, mandolin (on Gunning the Works from
> Friendloverplane) and singing. Days of 49 was a one verse idea Bill and 
> me
> had been knocking around at home. Gerard added some more words to give 
> the
> whole thing a point and there it was.
> I had supported CND, and Ruth had been to Greenham Common, to the US base
> there. (Before joining the band Ruth and I had camped outside the Wills
> Building at Bristol University in a makeshift nuclear bunker. It was a
> friday and the Tory students walking back to Clifton from a night out
> at us. I held up my black beret, which had a white peace sign and dove on
> it.)
> Gerard usually avoids overtly political statements .. perhaps best left 
> to
> the Michael Moores of the world. But his politics are spot on,
> "anti-conservative" he once summed up to me. Bill and I also had another
> band in Bristol at this time, Big Folk. Strangely, for the one London gig
> played, a benefit on the bandstand at Hampstead Heath, we were joined by
> Angelo. Bill later played in two other Bristol bands, pop group The
> Montgomery Clifts and the bluegrass-tinged Angel Band. After years of
> musical retirement he last month (Jan 04) played Days of 49 and Dimming 
> of
> the Day (ours, not the Richard Thompson song) at a folk night in
> .
> Do the Dead Know What Time it is? and Continually Torn Apart (B side of
> Your Love) were fired-up jams at Impulse. By now everything we played had
> sparkle. The line up had been together long enough to know how to
> I purposefully stayed away from Season Ticket and Teaching English, what
> there guitar-wise was enough. John Langley's drumming was sublime, he was
> really enjoying the new material. We chose to start both Ceiling Roses 
> and
> Days of 49 with drumming. On the sleeve of the vinyl edition his picture
> taken at Impulse. Gerard unearthed an idea I had auditioned for him two
> years earlier and before you could say "Star and Garter" we had Ceiling
> Roses. (A similar process must have occurred with Fragile from Life 
> Model.
> It was in the live set by 1989, but the first I knew of the band's
> to release it was when I bought the album. Not sure about the gospel
> ..!)
> On February 15th 1987 the band went to the BBC Maida Vale studios, to
> a session for Radio One, our first taste of the music "establishment". It
> was interesting to see how fast the engineers worked .. Ted de Bono and
> Etchells tracked, overdubbed and mixed four songs in one afternoon. 
> Gerard
> chose Cowardice, What do You Mean, Coats and Shame, a Nick song which
> make the album and frankly sounded terrible on the session when it went
> on the Janice Long programme on March3rd. The four tracks were eventually
> released in 1988 on the Strange Fruit label which specialised in Radio 
> One
> sessions.
> With our confidence a bit high from all this I had a long hard look at 
> the
> material and thought "we need one more track". I loved the Weather
> "Almost Prayed" and started a riff a bit like it, adding a REMish chorus
> a middle 8 key change (A to Aflat) which was inspired by a similar moment
> Peter Blegvad's The Naked Shakespeare. The band loved it, especially Ruth
> and Nick; Gerard rushed to bless the new baby .. Spitting Out Miracles.
> to be outdone, Nick weighed in with Bury Your Love Like Treasure, which
> shares the same opening E shape as Action Painting. We were ready to
> Cold Storage in Acre Lane, Brixton was a step up from our previous
> experience. It was a purpose built studio run by people interested in
> not just making money. The previous client to us was coincidentally Peter
> Blegvad, making I think King Strut. His producer Tim Hodgkinson was 
> mixing
> the album when we were in. he heard us working on In the Mystery and
> some clarinet (credited to More Armadillo Traces), one of the Aeroplanes'
> more succesful use of woodwind.
> I cant remember where anyone stayed, I just remember the vibe was 
> summery,
> and postive because the material was strong. Charlie Llewellyn, a friend
> Gerards from the Bop Art days, understood the band and went to great
> to capture warm sounds and performances. He insisted on "no click
tracks" -
> and that really allowed the performances to breathe. There are a couple 
> of
> moments where we could have used one perhaps - In the Mystery after
> "Hollywood tonight" seems to go out of time, and Miracles takes a few
> seconds to sink into tempo.
> Charlie also suggested a few guests. He was friends with Michelle 
> Shocked,
> who turned up one day, giggled a lot and played mandolin on Teaching
> English. He also knew Neti Vandraager who was an authentic bluegrass
> player from the States, living in London. Her solos on Days of 49 blew us
> away. Matthew Gale played organ in a band called Palace of Light. Mark
> Espiner was a cellist from Bristol, who later went on to be a multimedia
> writer for The Wire.
> Bill Bell recorded his violin parts but was never really happy with the
> of his vocal on Days of 49, finding it too nasal. I dont think anyone 
> else
> notices. I dont remember the melodeon going on Ceiling Roses. But surely
> star guest performance is by Nigel Eaton, hurdy gurdy on the title track.
> Nigel was in a band called Blowzabella, who Ian Kearey knew from the
> folk/roots circuit. What an inspired coupling - that music and that
> instrument. These days Nigel is one of the world's best hurdy gurdy
> touring with people like Robert Plant. He hand makes them too.
> When we recorded Do the Dead Know What Time it is? (all live, one take) I
> remember thinking how Doors-y it was. I didnt know Kenneth Patchen 
> ..maybe
> Gerard is reading from him in the photo in the cd edition - taken at the
> Tropic Club, Bristol. Season Ticket was also a one take, no overdubs
> Dave, Nick, Ruth and John creating a moody atmosphere. I love Gerard's
> on this one - is it about a Columbine-style tragedy? John Stapleton came
> with some inspired audio samples; after a smooth landing on side two, 
> stop
> talking and give her the gun, thats nothing to kid around about, my 
> name's
> Friday .. is it dolphins at the start of Ceiling Roses? Some kind of 
> sonar
> machinery at the beginning of Days of 49?
> The album was mixed and Gerard announced that Miracles was now the title
> track - that made two in a row for me. Looking back, what alternatives
> have been hanging around? Bibi dressed in see-through? Daily Checks on
> Fortune?
> I love the vinyl sleeve, a gatefold. Gerard had the idea of non-obvious
> mugshots for the inside, also the lyrics are printed in full and are very
> readable, a big lack in the cd edition which came out in 1990. But the cd
> sounds better, quite a few of the tracks were remixed. The cover painting
> Ann Sheldon is perfect, it really sums up alot of the lyrical content
> ..there is a lot of stuff about relationships, longing, and the imperfect
> ickiness of being in a couple. What indeed can we say about love in these
> times? Has anything changed?
> The first 1000 vinyl records had a 7" flexi disc with Ian Kearey's lovely
> interpretation of Cowardice, and Rodney Allen making his debut for the
> group -doing Days of 49, recorded in a small studio in Bristol Docks with
> Chris Martin engineering (I think Rod and Gerard borrowed 10 minutes from
> Big Folk demo session to record it).
> The reviews for Spitting out Miracles were terrific. In one of the
> papers, maybe the Independent, it was in the top 5 UK albums of the year.
> Three of the tracks got a lot of airplay, and still do, judging from the
> occasional small royalty cheque: Miracles, Cowardice and Bury Your Love.
> latter was issued as a 12" single (two of the B sides turned up on
> Friendloverplane, but one, Vice King's Son written by Dave, did not and 
> is
> thus one of the least heard Blue Aeroplanes tracks).  One weekend we went
> Wojtec's place in Ealing and had a mad party for the cameras, the whole
> thing was filmed and turned into the promo for Bury Your Love.
> Not on the album (and rightly so, its annoyingly lush) is Veils of 
> Colour,
> which came out as a 12" in 1988 instead of the obvious second release of
> Miracles. I recorded 20 acoustic guitar parts for it, all layered into
> At last we got the trumpet in tune. That release had a limited edition
> poster with it, a collage of Nick's with images from a huge student
> demonstration in Paris, and the words to 3 songs handwritten by Gerard,
> first time Arriving and Built in a Day had been made public. That song
> also had a video made, a rather pretentious and slow effort by Bristol 
> Uni
> film students, set in the Moon Club and an old folks home (?) .. must be
> somethign to do with the words. We continued to play live - a stormer at
> Ashton Court and a sharing a tour with a band from Southampton called
> Stiched Back Foot Airmen.
> 1988 was a year of transition for the group.  Ruth left and moved to
> We recorded another session for Radio One, this time for the Simon Mayo
> programme, laying down Stripped, Breaking in my Heart, Veils of Colour (I
> prefer it to the released version) and Angelo's tune 88 Out.  Its a good
> session, still sounds alright, but has never been available.
> Where to next? Rather than a bona fide 3rd album, Fire put out the
> compilation Friendloverplane, collecting together B sides, out-takes and
> alternative versions. I think now it is a work of art, including as it
> the Willie Nile and Bob Dylan songs we were doing in the live set, and
> the sheer diversity of the thing. Probably warrants a whole separate
> chapter. And the inner sleeve photos . .at least two taken at Ashton 
> Court
> Festival. But at the time industry people were confused .. why had the
> stalled on the momentum they had built up?
> Then Nick left. I think he just needed time out. He perhaps needed to 
> form
> his own band, as his songs were not getting the airing he wanted in the
> Aeroplanes. Soon after, Dave left as well. The band was at a crossroads:
> obscure art rock or chart-worrying famous? It was going the latter way,
> Dave wasnt going to fit.
> It had been a brilliant three years. The line up that made Tolerance and
> Spitting out Miracles was a bunch of very different individuals, brought
> together by a svengali, who made friends, created some art and then
> dispersed. It was an intelligent, pushy, emotional and good humoured time
> our lives. This list has given me a good excuse to remember it all.
> Richard Bell
> February 29th 2004
> thanks Paul Vallis and Paul Vearncombe for encouragement and proof
> stay tuned for Part Three: Writing Swagger ...
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