WE ARE : Jonathan Beckett : Tom Parratt : Martin Haddelsey : Peter Temperton

Background to RESOUNDING (1987-1991)

Although Resounding is a brand new release, in a sense it is also an historical artefact. All ten songs on the album were written between 1987 and 1991. ‘Ex Genius’ and ‘Clarity’ were the two earliest compositions, and formed part of the set when we played our debut gig at The Garage in Nottingham in January 1988.

Starting off with myself on vocals and guitar, Pete Temperton on bass and Tom Parratt on drums, we formed the band just three weeks prior to our first live performance. Furthermore, Pete had never played bass before, although he was musical and had played brass and woodwind instruments at school. We borrowed a bass guitar from a friend, arranged a rehearsal, and we were up and running.

It would be nice to report that, after this flying start, we went on to take the Nottingham music scene by storm, quickly progressing beyond local gigs to achieve national and international acclaim. However, the reality was quite different. Living together in a shared house, we gigged only rarely, kept changing our band name, didn’t record our songs properly, didn’t network with other musicians, and had no coherent idea of how to present ourselves.

It is also important to understand that there was no internet back then, and therefore no way to reach a wider audience without gigs, radio play and press coverage. Whether we intended it or not, we were making music for ourselves, and for our small circle of friends.

At first, we rehearsed at home, but following numerous complaints from the neighbours, we were forced to abandon this practice. Just around the corner, there was a community centre, where we could have rehearsed for the princely sum of £5 per week. Unfortunately, we were always so low on funds that this never happened. Basically, we prioritised buying records (mainly from Nottingham’s legendary music emporium, Selectadisc) and going to the pub over our music career.

Despite our lack of drive, ambition and organisational abilities, however, we did have some good songs. After ‘Clarity’ and ‘Ex Genius’, ‘Bleed For You’ and ‘Between The Lines’ were the next two tracks from Resounding to be added to the live set. I also wrote ‘Princess Rainbow’ and ‘Coconut Shy’ around this time, although we didn’t perform these two songs until later on.

Regarding musical influences, we shared a lot of common ground in the bands we liked. We were all big fans of R.E.M. and Husker Du, which is easily detectable in songs like ‘Ex Genius’. We also loved the first few records by The Psychedelic Furs, and we were delighted when they recovered from their bland mainstream rock phase to release the excellent ‘All That Money Wants’ single in 1988.

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Some individual albums I remember receiving heavy rotation were Marquee Moon by Television, The Modern Dance by Pere Ubu, Astral Weeks by Van Morrison, Horses by Patti Smith, Clear Spot by Captain Beefheart, A Can Of Bees by The Soft Boys, A Trip To Marineville by The Swell Maps, Bob Mould’s first solo album Workbook, the compilation Boys Don’t Cry by The Cure, the first Killing Joke album, and Bringing It All Back Home by Bob Dylan. Tim Buckley’s “sex-funk” classic Greetings From L.A. was also a regular fixture, although I think it is fair to say that this influence has never been reflected in our music, then or now.

I was also still listening to plenty of albums by post-punk favourites such as Joy Division, Echo And The Bunnymen, The Teardrop Explodes, The Chameleons, Wire, XTC, Magazine and Talking Heads. I recall the odd treasured single, such as ‘Party Fears Two’ by The Associates and ‘Revolutionary Spirit’ by The Wild Swans. Tom Waits too, in particular his mid-eighties trilogy of Swordfishtrombones, Rain Dogs and Frank’s Wild Years. A couple of Robyn Hitchcock records, and the first two dBs albums. A Can compilation, called Incandescence, and a little bit of English folk music, in the form of Shirley Collins and Fairport Convention. Also, the pastoral beauty of Nick Drake, whom we all discovered after I purchased the compilation Heaven In A Wild Flower from Probe Records in Liverpool.

However, the biggest sonic staple at 2 Claude Street was sixties psychedelic music. Constantly on the turntable were records by The Byrds, The Seeds, Love, The Velvet Underground, The 13th Floor Elevators, The Doors, The Electric Prunes, The Chocolate Watchband and Syd Barrett-era Pink Floyd. Also, the various Nuggets and Pebbles compilations, featuring extraordinary songs by obscure bands such as The Third Bardo, The Calico Wall and The Bees.

This constant diet of raw and exciting garage punk and psychedelic rock music merged with an existing post-punk sensibility to shape my songwriting and influence the sound of the band at the time. The two songs we covered in our live set during 1988/89 – Pere Ubu’s ‘Non-Alignment Pact’ and ‘Tripmaker’ by The Seeds – illustrate this point clearly.

I don’t recall any of us listening to much contemporary music. There were some new singles, but these tended to be by artists such as Julian Cope and Grant Hart, who had been in bands we already liked from the early eighties. There were a few recent albums by American guitar bands such as Let’s Active, Dinosaur Jr, Guadalcanal Diary, Dumptruck, The Rain Parade, Throwing Muses, 10,000 Maniacs and The Pixies, but practically no new British music. I remember liking a couple of Happy Mondays songs, but that was about it. None of us ever followed the pack. It was one of our greatest strengths, I think.

Following a break of over a year, we reconvened in late 1990, adding our friend Martin Haddelsey on keyboards. I was writing new songs such as ‘Timebomb’ and ‘Wintersong’, and the overall sound of the band changed as we developed musically.

‘Chances’ was the penultimate composition on Resounding, and was never played by the band at the time. ‘Snapshot’ was the latest, written in late 1991 and demoed by Pete and I after we had disbanded for a second time. Although I subsequently worked with both Pete and Tom on various other musical projects, we would not all play music together again for over fifteen years.

Before we called it a day, however, we did manage to make reasonable quality 4-track recordings of most of the songs that would end up on Resounding. The intention is to make a selection of these early recordings available for download in future, in order to give an insight into how we sounded at the time, and to shed some light on the mind-bendingly long gestation period of our debut album. It’s taken us just over 28 years, but we’re finally ready. If we record a follow-up, we’ll be a bit snappier next time.

Jonathan Beckett, March 2016