Talking Shop with Cope, Collins and Cale at Green Man 2013
August 23, 2013 | by Faber Social
There’s a beautiful festival in Wales called Green Man. It’s a decent sized festival for a man of my age. No major queues for the Real Ale and the Goan Curry was just as The Observer Magazine had described it – ‘spicy yet refreshing’. And let’s not forget the Kedgeree for breakfast, a snip at £8.
I was there to do some talking in an area called Babbling Tongues, first to interview Edwyn Collins and his wife Grace. It all seemed to go well and old acid head Julian H Cope was there. The man who made looking at stone circles cool. The man who became an expert on Neolithic Culture. I’m not sure if Neolithic Culture are a Dutch prog band from the early 70’s or not but Julian is an expert nevertheless. I had the pleasure of introducing Julian and Edwyn. Well, it was actually more like an episode of This Is Your Life. They had not seen each other for 30 years.
Julian chatted as Edwyn smiled and listened. Julian presented Edwyn with one of his books as he recounted tales of how dark it is in Norway and how his new novel is called 131, set in Sardinia and is mainly about football hooligans and the rise of rave culture. It really was a sight to behold. 1983 seemed like yesterday. And as my wife’s grandfather used to say, what a terrible day it was yesterday.
The other reason I was at the festival was to read some extracts from my forthcoming book. My good friend Richard King was going to interview me and allow me to ramble on and sing my song. I didn’t realise until the day though that I was going to be a warm up act for John Cale. That’s right John Cale was going to be talking right after me. At last I was on the same stage as The Velvet Underground – another dream come true. He looked fantastic for a man in his early 70’s. Short trousers and pink hair is a good look for someone who used to date Nico, produce the Happy Mondays and have tea with Graham Greene.
These moments sometimes reveal old memories. Seeing John Cale reminded me of listening to I Heard Her Call My Name from the second Velvet Underground album at ear splitting volume to annoy my step dad when I was 15. ‘What do you mean it doesn’t sound like music?’ I shouted back at him. ‘Neither does the Brighouse and Rastrick Brass Band’, I muttered to myself as my Mum’s husband loudly whistled the tune to The Floral Dance.
It also reminded me of being in Loop back in the late 1980’s. We played a gig in Rugby on Easter Sunday in 1987 – it was with Spacemen 3, The Perfect Disaster and a band called The Darkside. The event was cleverly titled EASTER EVERYWHERE. I recall that Spacemen 3 closed the night and invited us on stage. We did a 25 minute version of Sister Ray again from the second Velvets album. From what I recall it was totally brilliant – in reality it was probably only 5 minutes long and an utter shambles.
Seeing John Cale also reminded me of his great solo album from the 1970’s called Paris 1919. It’s a short, sharp shock of an album with beautiful melodies and catchy tunes, perhaps his most commercial album to date. The first song on the album is called Child’s Christmas in Wales, which got me thinking…
I remember on time in either 1986, 87 or 88. I was in Loop and we were on tour. It was a month or so before Christmas and we had a gig in Wales, Port Talbot to be precise. It was a cold, dark winter night. It was also a Sunday which meant everything was shut. I mean everything. We struggled to find a caff or pub to eat in and eventually settled for crisps and a mars bar from the local garage – which we caught just before closing time at 4pm. I recall trying to buy a packet of cigarettes as well. ‘20 Marlboro Red please’ I asked the old man behind the counter. He looked at me as though I was an alien. ‘We don’t sell them yankee fags’ he said. ‘They are the most popular cigarette in the world’ I arrogantly replied. ‘Not round here they’re not’. I accepted defeat and got 10 B&H.
We searched for the venue. There was no one around. It was like the end of the world. Eventually we came across a shopping centre – someone in the band remembered something about the venue being in a night club in a shopping centre. Surely there can’t be more than one shopping centre in Port Talbot. Bingo. This was it. We found the door to the night club. It was open.
We wandered downstairs and surveyed the scene. Classic discotheque vibes, mirrored walls and mirrored balls. We went back to the the van and carried our AC 30’s and Telecasters down the stairs. Get ready Wales. Get ready for a sonic aural assault. We 4 skinny leather troused oiks are gonna blow your little minds and take you on a trip to the outskirts of reality. Throw your indie preconceptions out onto the street, lock up your loved ones. We are out to destroy you with 30 minutes of vibrato, pounding drums and screaming guitar solos.
I looked for the stage so we could set up the gear. Where the hell is it? We looked around. Nothing. I spotted a dreadlocked chap behind the bar. ‘Excuse me mate do you work here?’
‘I do boy. I do.’What can I do for you boys then. Pint?’
‘We were looking for the stage actually mate. We wanna set up our amps and the drums for tonight’s gig.’
The dreadlocked man looked at me and smiled. ‘You’re after the stage are you lads? Sorry but we’re using it for Santa’s Grotto.’
Christmas in Wales. God bless John Cale and god bless Santa Claus.