Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Pathetix - 1978 - Don't Touch My Machine 7''

Pathetix - 1978 - Don't Touch My Machine 7''
Nelson, Lancashire band, formed as early as 1976, initially by Nicholson and Husband. Nicholson, now a producer for the BBC, had first chanced upon punk while doing his paper round. “I was a 15-year-old paperboy delivering someone’s NME when I noticed a photo of some bloke called Johnny Rotten sporting a bondage suit. It thrilled and frightened me. I wasn't sure what to think. I'd grown out of Slade and had been desperately looking for something to like. I bought shit album after shit album in a forlorn hope that this might be the one - it never was. I still hadn't heard the Pistols but even the way they looked was enough to hook my attention. Then sitting at home one night watching So It Goes on Granada Television, there they were, it was a seismic moment and although it sounds corny, things really would never be the same again. When ‘Anarchy In The UK’ came out, I went to the local record shop to buy it. The shop owner wouldn't even say the band’s name. He called them the SP's - already this was more exciting than anything else that had ever happened to me and I hadn't even listened to the record yet. At home I had one of those record players that if you left the arm up, it would keep on playing the same record time after time. I put on my headphones and as my mum and dad watched Nationwide, I listened to it 15 times. It was and still is the most powerful manifesto any band has ever managed to put down on to seven inches of vinyl. I went straight over to my friend Philip across the road, who I'd been writing songs with, and played it to him. It was obvious that this is what we'd been waiting for. That record redefined everything.”
Thus enthused, Husband and Nicholson set about putting a set together. “We wrote lots of songs, and approached a time when we needed to play them to someone, but there was just the two of us. My brother told me he knew another punk called Star (Terry Sanders) who lived in Nelson so we asked him through my brother if he wanted to be in a band, not knowing whether he could actually play anything. As it turns out, he couldn't, but somehow it didn't seem to matter. We were booked to do a gig at Bold Street Working Men’s Club in Accrington, where we'd seen a local skinhead/punk band called Schoolgirl Bitch support Eater the week before. Star was going to play bass but was so bad he changed to drums two days before the gig. He bought his kit for the princely sum of a pint of Mild - I kid you not.”
So how did their debut gig go? “The soundcheck for the gig was really good, I think we surprised ourselves. Unfortunately, that was as good as it got. Philip and Terry got very nervous and drank far too much. We went on stage and Philip turned everything up and to appalling feedback, we announced the birth of the Pathetix. After two songs I said to Philip: ‘This is shit, let’s get off.’ Philip ripped all the strings off his guitar, Terry kicked his kit all over the stage and we walked off, feedback still reverberating around the room to huge cheers. Everyone thought it was some kind of stage act and wanted us back on. But Philip didn't have any more strings so that was that. To cut this interminable story slightly short, we added Gary Brown to the band, got a lot better then added Pete Rowlands on lead guitar and Peter Leeper on saxophone.”
The band played a lot of gigs during the summer of 1978, until eventually “we thought it was time to make a record”. However, the major labels were not beating a path to their door. “As no-one showed the slightest interest in signing us, we embraced the DIY ethic and went into Smile Studios in Liverpool. The track we chose for the a-side was a song that had been written one boring evening after the band and a bunch of friends had taken out a ouija board and attempted to contact the spirit world. To this day I still don't know who around that table knew who Aleister Crowley was, but I sure as hell didn't. Who knows - perhaps it really was the man himself. After a sleepless night waiting to die, Philip, myself, and a friend called Quentin, wrote ‘Aleister Crowley’.
The EP was duly released on their own No Records label, and its drunken séance diorama seemed to hit a chord, which was more than some of their peers were capable of at this stage. “These six sprightly young sprogs deserve encouragement for going it alone,” stated Max Bell in the NME. “A good idea brilliantly realised.” Both Giovanni Dadomo at Sounds and Mark Perry of Sniffing Glue were similarly impressed. The good press saw them reach the Top 10 of the (then unofficial) Independent Charts after the single was picked up for distribution by Rough Trade (ie they took 500 copies off their hands).
After a further batch of gigs they signed with Manchester’s TJM label, which was “without a doubt the worst thing the band ever did". We thought it was going to change everything and sure enough it did, we never really recovered from the experience. We'd have been better looking after ourselves, what momentum we'd built up (admittedly not exactly turbo-charged but people were beginning to know who we were) was lost over a period where Tony [Davidson] played at being Richard Branson with his dad's money.” A further single emerged, by which time Leeper had left to join the theatre and Brown had joined the Notsensibles. He’d been practising with them and received an ultimatum from the band. ’Love in Decay’ should have been great but Tony wouldn't pay for a producer and just when we should have been sounding better and getting a push there was a big nothing. At a time when every single had a picture sleeve, ours didn't. I've only ever seen one copy of the picture sleeve and that's framed on Philip's wall. This sleeve was allegedly sent to the band by Tony Davidson with a note stating this is how the sleeve will look! Not, here is the single sleeve, does the band approve? (Phil Husband adds: Since then, I have been led to believe that a handful of sleeves do exist! They were all mock-up proof sleeves BUT apparently Tony Davidson never paid the photographer for the photo session and therefore he put a stop to all his photos from being used!! So that is the story why our single came out without a picture sleeve! I was lucky enough to have been sent one which I have kept safe over the years until I recently sold it to Dizzy !!!) ”It did at least garner some vaguely positive reviews. Mancunian fanzine City Fun, edited by the notorious duo of Cath Carroll and Liz Naylor, saluted its “great sound”.
TJM did at least organise a package tour for them (See advert below). “It included a band called the Frantic Elevators with a flame-haired eejit as vocalist. He used to go bright red whenever he sang. They did lots of covers and I remember watching him singing ‘Don't Let Me Down’ thinking his head was going to explode. His name was Mick Hucknall. Imagine my surprise years later etc.” Hucknall was a big fan of the Pathetix’s ‘Don’t Let The Bastards Grind You Down’, and once sang it back to its co-author verbatim in a drunken moment while doing an interview for Music Box. “The tour was a real Tony event. No hotels for us, we used to do the gig, jump on the coach and drive all the way back to Manchester. Then next morning meet up again and drive off to wherever we were playing that night for the whole routine to repeat itself.” But there were encouraging reviews. “The Pathetix take to the stage – instant improvement,” noted Ian Ravendale in Sounds. “This lot have style, panache, power and punch. A shower to watch out for.” By now, that shower’s set had expanded to include, in addition to their recorded material, the aforementioned ‘Don’t Let The Bastards Grind You Down’, ‘What Do You Expect From Me’, ‘Teenage Idol’, ‘Pressure Drop’ (not the reggae staple) and ‘My Friend’s A Moron’. Nicholson’s favourite, though, was ‘Soldier Tommy’, about Northern Ireland. “It’s one of the first songs Philip and I wrote and it’s a song I regret never recording.”
TJM’s only saving grace, apparently, was its rehearsal studio. “It was an old warehouse on Little Peter Street in Manchester and because we were on his label, we got to rehearse there for free. Amongst the other bands that had to pay for the privilege was a local Manchester band called Joy Division. Philip and Terry were interested in starting a fanzine and interviewed three of the band members; Bernard, Peter and Stephen. Philip still has the tape. It's hilarious. Amongst the searching questions they ask are: ‘Where do you get your ideas from?’ and ‘How do you get gigs?’ But my favourite moment is where they ask them to say their names into the mic, and say what they do in the band. Very sweetly, the band oblige.”
Thereafter the line-up of the Pathetix shuffled. Gary Brown left to join the Notsensibles and Pete Leeper became an actor, appearing as Malcolm Parrot on Grange Hill. But the band weren’t satisfied that TJM were delivering on their promises and promoting their single nationally, and instead signed a deal with French independent (with Mancunian connections) Sordide Sentimental. They ground to a halt soon after, though they were joined for a while by keyboard player John Finch. They’d also grown a bit tired of punk’s self-regulation. “It was ‘79 by now. We all felt that punk was a moment in time, a moment that had gone. Bands like Discharge, the Angelic Upstarts and Crass were about as far away from what punk had meant to us as it was possible to be. To me punk was about limitless possibilities and not accepting your lot in life. The interesting bands were trying to articulate themselves in new ways and so did we - it didn't last long and maybe we were wrong. We made one last record for Sordide Sentimental [as Citizen UK, by which time Pete Rowlands had left and John Finch had joined on keyboards] and that was that. By 1981 it was all over.”
There was a further cassette as Citizen UK while Husband and Nicholson were also involved in the aforementioned punk-hip-hop hybrid Trash Culture. And as the man says, that was that. All over. But not quite. Nicholson: “In 1998 I was working as a director at the BBC. Noel's House Party needed a last-minute replacement for the NTV section of the show [in which viewers are unknowingly filmed in their own living room]. By this time, Peter Leeper was an actor and was pretty well known as Malcolm Parrot, a teacher on Grange Hill, so it was arranged for Peter to be the 'guest' on NTV that week. Noel clicked his fingers to reveal Peter apparently sitting at home utterly shocked. But once Noel mentioned the Pathetix, Peter dismantled the hidden camera by his TV set, and with the words ‘I'm not up for this, Noel’, put it in a cup of tea he was drinking.”
source Bored Teenagers (link)

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