Following our recent foray in to the world of “Variations On The Theme of Desert Island Discs” courtesy of @Shinpad11, we were delighted to be approached by another party wishing to step up to the indie confessional.
Seb Gevers aka @zerozero31 on Twitter has washed up on our indie desert island bearing only his collection of valued tunes and the memories associated with them. We’ve not known Seb a huge amount of time and in fact getting to grips with his many monikers has been a challenge in itself. Maclogg was an early trading style of @zerozero31 on Twitter and then he popped up on Facebook as Bas Gevers. When we got an email from him offering to contribute to the site, he was called Seb.
Whatever his real name, we certainly know him a lot better after reading this remarkable insight. So without waffling further we would suggest you just kick back and immerse yourself in Seb’s indie world as he guides you through his musical life.
My first musical memory comes from 1976. I had been left sitting in the car (it was the 70’s, so …) while my parents quickly went to the post office to do whatever it is you do at post offices. They must have left the radio on because, as I watched them disappear into the building, “Dancing Queen” by Abba came blasting out of the speakers. Even allowing for the fog of memory and the dreadful quality of the speakers in the car, Dancing Queen was, is, just a joyous happy song albeit with questionable lyrics (again, the 70’s …) that just puts a smile on your face whenever you hear that opening piano glissando (Editor’s note: a glide from one pitch to another, after consulting wiki).
I grew up listening to music from the 50’s and 60’s. My mother was the one with whom I share a love of music, her tastes being very broad. On any given Sunday in our house you could hear Amalia Rodrigues, Nat King Cole, Dean Martin, something Tex-Mex, blues, R&B, doo-wop and, of course, Abba. My father was more into classical music and brass bands, two influences that have not, so far at any rate, rubbed off on me.
So there was always music in my life. Music remains important, because I can still hear pretty much any song and be able to relate a moment in time to it, like musical milestones on the road of my life. Looking back now on the music on my iPhone, it’s clear that my musical highway traverses the ages of 13 to about 26, which equates to the years 1982 to 1996, a golden era for indie music – post punk, new wave, C86, grunge, alt rock and Britpop. And as indie music is what this blog is all about, it comes as no surprise that having been left on a desert island, I need music to keep me company. I need indie music. The following eight are probably a good place to start …
The Lotus Eaters – The First Picture of You
Years ago, my local TV station up in Aberdeen, Grampian TV, used to kill the dead space between programmes with adverts, obviously, but occasionally also music videos. I’m not sure why they did this, but my guess is that somehow advertising revenue was hard to nail down between 3pm and 5pm, when the task of selling shampoo, tampons and washing-up powder to kids just home from school was something that even Saatchi and Saatchi would have had difficulty with.
So instead they’d play videos. And you have to remember that this was of a time when this was quite unusual for a regional broadcaster to do. Not many people had even heard of MTV, even though it had been around since 1981, so to see an actual music video was very unusual. Most of the time it was real dross, but occasionally something interesting would appear. It’s been a while, but I remember being introduced to, amongst others, Madness (“House of Fun”), The Stranglers (“Golden Brown”) and Dexys Midnight Runners (“Come on Eileen”) in this way.
They’d have played hundreds of songs I’m sure, but one in particular caught my attention. I don’t recall when I first heard it, but it must have been somewhere around 1983. Thatcher had just gotten re-elected on the back of victory in the Falklands War, the first episode of Blackadder had just been shown and I was about to go into my second year at Hazlehead Academy.
When the song came on, I stopped whatever I was doing, because in a year in which you had Wham, Culture Club, Kajagoogoo and Rod Stewart filling the charts, nothing sounded quite this different (the Flying Pickets perhaps being the exception, but, well, hey ho ..). So if you know the song, you’d know what that intro sounded like. A quiet, pulsing synth leads it off, it’s then joined by a woodblock, then even more synth voices (basically imagine any early 80’s synthesizer pad), then jangly guitar, finally a piano .. it all goes on for about a minute and half before the vocals, a bass, a particularly difficult drum pattern and lovely lyrics kick in making for a wistful tune, but a belter nevertheless.
I had no idea what the song was called, or who the artist was. In the days before you had SoundCloud on your smartphone (or you even had a phone, or the internet for that matter), there was no alternative other than to sit in front of the telly every afternoon waiting for the commercial breaks between episodes of the godawful “A Country Practice” and reruns of “Columbo” hoping that it would come on again so I could get my fix of not only the song, but also the rather delightful young lady in the video.
Having remembered to keep a pencil and a piece of paper near the TV to write down the name of the song (“The First Picture of You”, as it turned out) and the artist (the exotically named Lotus Eaters), I rushed out to our local record shop – One Up, which was then still on Union Street – to get hold of a copy. I ended up buying the picture disc version which I cherished and looked after, the disc itself being, in a sort of easily-impressed-13-year-old kind of way, a work of art. But whatever hopes I had of it somehow ending up being the next undiscovered A&M copy of “God Save The Queen” are long forgotten – I hear my lush picture disc might be worth as much as £8 now.
So this was pretty much their only hit, everything else that followed not even coming close to repeating the highs of “The First Picture Of You”. Their final single “Hurt” reached number 5 in the Italian charts, by which time the band had been dropped by their label before eventually splitting somewhere around 1985. Of course, they didn’t know any of this yet. Back then, Peter Coyle, Jem Kelly, Ged Quinn, John Hendry and Phil Lucking believed this song would lead them to bigger and better things, to fame and fortune beyond their wildest dreams. It didn’t, but I still have this single somewhere, in a drawer, in a box. I can’t play it anymore, the record player long having disappeared into the nearest charity shop. But now we have the internet I can play this song whenever I want. Time may dull the memory, but the song remains the same. A fabulous slice of summer pop so it is.
Billy Bragg – Greetings To The New Brunette
Round about the same time I was being introduced to The Wedding Present by John Peel. One evening he played a track called “They’ve Got A Bomb” by delightful anarcho-punk band “Crass”. He had a way of doing that you know, John Peel, taking you out of you comfort zone, hitting you with something completely unlistenable just when you were bopping along to the Undertones, or some Ukrainian folk music collective.
Now, I had been listening to a lot of punk at the time – the Sex Pistols, The Clash, The Jam, The Buzzcocks, Stiff Little Fingers etc and so on, but Crass, Jesus, they made Johnny Rotten look like Johnny Mathis. Crass were everything I thought punk stood for: politics, action, revolution and change in a way that the sort of stuff I had been listening to just didn’t. “London’s Burning” is all very well, but no one I was listening to sang about the things that Crass did on Do They Owe Us a Living: “At school they give you shit / drop you in the pit / You try, you try, you try to get out / but you can’t because they’ve fucked you about”. And even now, thirty years later, listening to “Asylum” still gives me the shivers.
Listening to Crass in the early 80’s in Britain made me stop and think about the world around me. I was only about fourteen at the time, but seeing the striking miners on the news every night as they struggled to keep their jobs and their communities together in the face of the brutal onslaught of the monetarist economic policies unleashed by Thatcher at the height of her powers, I knew that the world was not a fair place. Punk was supposed to be a catalyst of revolution, but somehow it had failed to materialise. In bands like Crass, and to some extent Angelic Upstarts, I realised that safety pins and fashionable boutiques along the Kings Road selling swastika t-shirts are not the answer. I mean, I still listened to Prefab Sprout, but at the same time I began to look more critically at was was going on.
Having asked my dad what segment of the political spectrum Thatcher represented, I vowed that whatever she believed in, I would believe the complete opposite. So, one evening in the Central Library in Aberdeen, I picked up a copy of the Communist Manifesto and slowly worked my way through that. It was hard going, but I understood the general thrust of what Marx was saying. A bit later on I picked up Animal Farm, 1984 and A Brave New World to reinforce my fundamental belief that the world was basically a dysfunctional place, led by a corrupt elite that had only their own selfish interests at heart and would stop at nothing to keep the status quo.
Throughout all this period, during which I must have been insufferable, I also picked up at the library a copy of “Workers Playtime” and “Talking with the Taxman About Poetry” by Billy Bragg. I’d never heard of him, but I was initially attracted by the Workers Playtime album cover, with its flag waving communists proudly on show. Figuring that this sort of artwork could only mean I’d found a political musical soul mate, I took the records home and played them pretty much non-stop.
I loved Workers Playtime, there’s a lot of great tracks on there, but it was “Talking..” that really enthused me with it’s mix of politics (“Ideology”, “There Is Power In A Union”) and everyday life (“The Home Front” , “The Warmest Room”). Those last two tracks in particular still invoke a particular sentiment nearly 30 years later, a nostalgia for an era I never knew, an era that comedian Stewart Lee would call “the post-war socialist utopia, contract with the people, Call The Midwife etc”.
But the song that stands out for me is the opening track – “Greetings To The New Brunette”. On an album that’s got some heavy moments on it, lyrically, “Greetings To The New Brunette” is like a breath of fresh air. Think of it as a Ringo Starr number, like “Octopuses Garden” just turning up in the middle of Abbey Road, and you’re like “what the hell… “. That kind of thing.
So “Greetings” (only real fans get to call it that) is really about politics and sex. The former was a big issue for me back in 1986, when “Brunette” (ok, just joking now) was released; the latter less so, but not for the lack of hoping. Put it this way, it was easier to get my hands on a copy of the collected works of Chairman Mao than it was getting my hands on Yvonne Mintie from the 5th form who lived on the end of our street and for whom I had “a thing”, as was the parlance of the day.
Interesting trivia – being a political song, I always thought the Shirley referred to was Shirley Williams, the former Labour and Lib Dem grandee. Tehee. So this song is important because it happened to me at that point in time when my burgeoning social conscience met plain old crude puberty. A tense meeting of minds, as seen in a mixtape I made at the time, where “Suspect Device” is followed by Dire Straits’ Romeo and Juliet. A lovely song then, both lyrically and musically that evokes so much. Another track to pull me through the lonely evenings on the island.
Portishead – Wandering Star
Life on a desert island is not always going to be fun. There’s going to be times, probably at night when the animals come out and a murky gloom falls over the lagoon. And if we’re talking gloom you can only go one of two ways: either Jesus and Mary Chain gloom (think “Deep One Perfect Morning”), or film noir gloom. And that’s where this track comes in. Actually, that’s where the whole first Portishead album, Dummy, ought to come in.
It’s a masterpiece of the trip-hop genre, the sort of atmospheric yet slightly edgy music that, when you close your eyes and just immerse yourself in it, you can just see a whole scene in front of you. Black and white, late at night, in the rain. Cobbled streets, a club somewhere, dark and gloomy, avant-garde patrons, an expectation of something strange and dangerous and otherworldly going on.
This track is as near to that sort of perfection as you can get. From the steady du-du-du-du bass line, the harmonica sample, the jazzy solo – wonderful. Yeah, “Glory Box” is a better song, but “Wandering Star” just sounds different to me every time I hear it. And every time I see with my eyes shut, it plays a different scene in my mind. It’s a track that keeps on giving, making it an essential track on the island – it’s a track that I could never get bored listening to.
Slowdive – Celia’s Dream
This track, from 1991’s “Just For A Day”, is one of those constants on whatever music storage device I’ve owned over the years. To think that most of this is done using feedback and a wall of effects pedals (and this is where the term shoegaze comes from, from musicians on stage looking down at their pedal banks) is just astonishing. I mean, I’ve owned a few guitars and effects over the years but never quite managed to make feedback sound this good.
Slowdive (the name alone is brilliant) were one of those shoegazing acts (see also Chapterhouse, Ride and Lush) that broke through around this time. There’s something very immersive about Slowdive. My favourite way to listen to a Slowdive album is in the dark, on the floor, with a decent set of headphones and, above all: volume! My idea of shoegazing heaven would be listening to the first two Slowdive albums whilst floating in one of those isolation tanks. Again, not sure where I first heard this but it’s been a perennial favourite ever since, along with “Alison” from the Souvlaki album.
Ned’s Atomic Dustbin – Happy
Having spent most of my teenage years young (by default), free (inasmuch as you can be free whilst living at home) and single (through general outward appearance), by 1991 I had somehow managed to get myself a girlfriend. We were both in college at the time. I was studying computing science (not very well, see track 6) and we’d spend literally hours sitting next to each other, sending email back and forth on the college’s Univac computer with it’s brown and yellow screens and the interminable keyboard shortcuts. We had arranged a date, all without direct verbal contact, all done through email much like the way it’s done nowadays.
So on the afternoon of the date I went out and bought, apropos of nothing, two things from the HMV in town: Ry Cooder’s first album (I wanted to get a copy of “Police Dog Blues”, a track I had heard on Paul Jones’ Rythm and Blues Show on BBC Radio 2 the week before) and the single “Happy”, by Ned’s Atomic Dustbin. I was into The Wonder Stuff and The Levellers at that time, so from there to the Neds was not a huge leap into the dark.
I think I might have seen them on Top Of The Pops or something, the whole two-bass thing being quite a novelty. In fact, that’s what makes the song for me, that bass line on the intro. Again, not one of those lyrically deep songs that says something to you about your life, but it’s the sound, it’s the bass, it’s the guitars that plant this song firmly into the “I remember where I was when” category. In this case, I remember where I was when I first heard Happy: on my way to a disastrous first date that ultimately led, three years later, to a failed relationship and a rather hefty financial settlement. Still, those basses, eh?
The House of Love – Hope
Another survivor from the drives around the town, “Hope” comes from the House of Love’s eponymous debut album. Like much of the Wedding Present’s early work, the lyrics only became clear once the internet had been invented and someone bothered to put the words to the songs up. “It’s a lie on a seat of a night / When you’re bawling like a baby”, which I heard as “It’s a life on a seat of a knife / when you’re bold and lack a baby”. The fact that these words made absolutely no sense bothered me not a jot as I drove my little Vauxhall Nova (with the alloy wheels and sporty steering wheel) around the streets of Aberdeen at night, terrorizing pedestrians with 80’s alternative pop, mouthing misheard lyrics in their general direction.
I first heard The House of Love somewhere around the early 90’s. I had just started a course at Uni (see also track 5) and rather than listen to my maths lecture (a deeply tedious subject given by a deeply tedious man whose name I cannot recall but whom we all called Doris) I would sit at the back of the lecture theatre and listen to “Destroy The Heart” and “Christine” and “I Don’t Know Why I Love You” until the batteries on my Walkman gave out. Which, for anyone who remembers Walkmans, happened fairly quickly.
But this song always sticks out for me, partly because I used to listen to it all the time (probably because I was constantly rewinding the tape to make sure Guy Chadwick really didn’t sing “when you’re bowling like a lady”) and partly because it’s one of the songs I’ll always associate with living in Aberdeen.
The House of Love, like most of the tracks in this list have not only a spiritual home, they also have a geographical home, mostly around the north east of Scotland. As far as I know The House of Love are still going, but it’d take a lot to better this album and this song. So, this one makes it onto the island to remind myself of home.
The Wedding Present – Never Said
Like most of the songs I’m taking to my desert island, I was introduced to the Wedding Present by John Peel. It was probably around 1989, and I was out on one of my drives around the town. I liked to borrow my dad’s car and go driving around Aberdeen, the music providing a backdrop to the world rushing by outside the windows.
It was at the traffic lights somewhere along Union Street while waiting for the cassette deck to wind back “Give ‘Em Enough Rope” by the Clash that I first heard that “da da da dadadadadada da da da dadadadadadada” intro to “Kennedy” from 1989’s Bizarro. I remember being struck first and foremost by the guitar sound, an unrelenting wrist-damaging assault by pick on string, and by the lyrics, and by the extended outro (some 2 minutes long). Having heard that, after the roaring silence that followed the end of that song my life was never the same again.
As a 19-year old for whom the ladies were not exactly lining up around the block, or indeed any form of architectural construct, David Gedge spoke to me directly. It was like listening to The Smiths at 78 rpm, at once mixing my drab existence with unattainable hopes of (ultimately failed) romantic encounters. If Alan Bennett had played bass and not written for a living, this is the band he’d have been in.
Having been initiated into the world of the Weddoes, I sought out their albums. In 1989 having only released Tommy and George Best that wasn’t that difficult, my local Our Price Music obliging. I finally got to see them in the Music Hall in Aberdeen somewhere around 1991. And jings, they were LOUD. Having somehow ended up near a speaker, I spent most of the next two hours being aurally punched in the stomach whilst simultaneously having my eardrums punctured.
There are three versions of the Wedding Present. There’s the Tommy/George Best jangly guitar, student bedsit Wedding Present. Then there’s the mid-career, edgier Bizarro/Seamonsters/Hit Parade Wedding Present, and then there’s everything else that followed. In that last incarnation I’m not that interested (though ‘The Thing I Like Best About Him Is His Girlfriend” is a stand-out track).
And so the song I would pick, the one that just encapsulates everything the Wedding Present are about – and there’s a lot to choose from – it would be “Never Said”, from Tommy. “I’ve walked behind you for more than an hour / I don’t even think I know this part of town / I think I’m trying to find a way to talk to you again / I think I’m trying to find a way to bring you back again / Oh won’t you please come back again”.
You can keep your Ed Sheeran, that’s real teenage angst right there kids.
Oasis – Cast No Shadow
Ah. Britpop. Whenever I think of Britpop I always think of the bloke who lived in the flat above me. Stan, his name was, and he’d play Robbie Williams every night before he’d go up the town. I reckon he only had the single “Angels” as it was all he ever played. After a night out you’d hear him struggling up the stairs at 2am, more often than not with some bird he’d picked up on his trawl, followed by a lot of crashing and banging. Then silence (“wait wait wait, you’ve got to hear thish song from Robbie Williamsh, itsh <belch> fabuloush.”), then “Angels”, the loud singalong version, and then after two repeat plays there’d be more banging, if you get my drift.
None of which has anything to do with my final choice of track on my indie desert island other than that it came from the same period.
So, I was an Oasis fan. Well, to my friends and acquaintances at least that is, because I was in fact, during that whole period, a sheltered, closeted Blur fan. To me and most of the popular press at the time, Blur where the Beatles, purveyors of carefully crafted, lyrically clever music, while Oasis where the Stones. Grunts, balls to the wall, in yer face RAWK. Blur had cheeky chappy music, they had Phil Daniels, they had music with wit and humour. Oasis just had volume, an overdrive pedal and somone named Bonehead. Oasis was real man’s music, Blur whimsical art-college faffery. But to this day I still prefer the Beatles, even though I’ll admit to anyone who asks that the Stones wrote the better music.
Still, it’s Oasis that seem to have stood the test of time. Every weekend, “Wonderwall” is played at some wedding somewhere around the country. After a Christmas single (apparently Paul McCartney still rakes in more than £500k per year from “Wonderful Christmas Time”), this is the next best thing, having your songs sung in chorus in a Best Western hotel next to a motorway by groups of drunken middle-aged men standing in a circle with their ties tied around their heads, air-guitaring away and getting the lyrics wrong. (I suspect this is very much the way that my neighbour Stan spent his early Sunday mornings back in the day.)
So, where was I? Oh yes. Oasis. Desert Island. So in the early 90’s I was working for a large computer company that no longer exists, having been bought over by a company that makes printers as well as, it turns out, a malt vinegar-based sauce, blended with tomato, dates, tamarind extract, sweetener and spices. They’d send us down for a week to Farnborough where we had a training center. Essentially, this training turned into a week-long binge-drinking session on account of our ridiculous per-diem rates which allowed us, if we pooled our resources together, to clean out the hotel mini-bar every evening for a week and still come out the other end with money to spend. So we’d get drunk, then decamp to someone’s room where we’d all sing along to “Angels” at top volume.
After one particularly gruelling trip in which I had learned nothing except the price of a pint of Bailey’s (£27 back in the day, or £45 in today’s money) I remember hearing “Cast No Shadow” on the radio, and I remember thinking that this was not the way I imagined my life to go, in a shitty hotel, eating shitty food with a stinking hangover in a dining room full of photocopier salesmen from Guildford while the airshow was going on (“shut the fucking windows!!!!”).
Somehow the words “Chained to all the places that he never wished to stay / Bound with all the weight of all the words he tried to say/ As he faced the sun he cast no shadow” resonated with me, and I resolved there and then to change my life, just as soon as I got back to Aberdeen.
So whenever I hear this song, it reminds me of a time in my life when change was needed. It’s a song that fills me with hope, even though the lyrics are not that positive. I guess the message is not to turn into the man in the song – casting no shadow, being invisible, a nobody. It’s what I strive for everyday I think, though not always with success.
Must Have Track
There’s so many tracks that I considered that would make any list, but I can only choose eight. Gone are The Smiths, The Sundays, The Stone Roses, Nirvana, Tad, Dodgy, Sleeper, Blur, Belle and Sebastian, Turin Brakes, the Delgados. I could just have asked for the entire soundtrack to Monkey Dust series one, two and three. I’d have had Goldfrapp with me on the island in that case, or Eels. But alas.
No, the track the rescue party would have to pry from my cold, dead, sunbleached hands would be: “Greetings To The New Brunette”. Lovely song, lovely lyrics, lovely times.
I’m not really sure what an Indie book would be. Apart from “A Beat Concerto” (Paolo Hewitt’s autobiography of The Jam) I don’t own any music books. Music is for listening to, not for reading about. So I’d probably bring something by Irvine Welsh, perhaps the Trainspotting, Filth, Glue and Skagboys anthology, if such a thing exists. Welsh often references music in his books, so I get by here on a technicality.
A luxury item
Tricky this. I’d like to bring a guitar so that I can do my perfect cover of “There She Goes” at passing ships as they sail off into the distance, but being an Indie island I’d have to bring my best baggy cardigan. It’ll keep me warm when I’ve burned my way through the Bible and the collected works of Shakespeare.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
In short: Bloke. Life. Mortgage. Music. Football. Scotland. Holland. The odd photograph. You’re going to need a tray.
Okay, a bit longer then: I’m Seb Gevers, a mid-forties father of four and husband of one. I play a bit of guitar and sometimes also a bit of drums. Neither with any great proficiency, but then that didn’t stop most of the bands that I listened to in my teens, bands which I realise now would be called ‘indie’. I live in Netherlandshire, a small country just to the left of Germany. In a country not exactly known for its indie credentials (Betty Serveert aside), I dream of the good old days when John Peel was on the radio, The Word was considered ‘edgy’ and Chris Evans would have Sleeper on his show.
Back in the day I used to do a lot of writing about Scottish football (hey, someone had to) and sometimes also about music, both topics I’d very much like to get back into writing about. So if anyone wants to talk about that space where Scottish football, midlife crises and indie music overlap, I can be found on Twitter (@zerozero31) and occasionally on Tumblr (zerozero31.tumblr.com). Also, less interestingly, on Instagram. I’ll leave you to figure out the username.”
Thank you to Seb for that fantastic and enjoyable insight and for taking the time to contribute to EIO40. If you would like to contribute to our Indie Encounters feature and share your indie moments please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or DM us on Twitter
We are waiting in anticipation