16. Suicide, Spacemen 3, Into A Circle, 999. Town & Country Club, 13th December 1987.
It was cold. Sign on the door of the T&C: “Unfortunately 999 will not be appearing tonight”. The general consensus in the queue was that this was fine by everyone. I associated 999 with the uncreative dregs of punk, purely because their logo (a raffle ticket) appeared on the back of leather jackets alongside the Anti-Nowhere League, Exploited and all those other bands I could never be arsed to check out.
So an odd choice for the lineup, but perhaps not as odd as Showaddywaddy supporting Einsturzende Neubauten around the same time. Which I missed out of guilt at my exam fuck ups. Bah. I suppose this gig was like an early xmas present to myself. I think I probaby went along with either Chris (an old school mate) and/or Martin (a mad Ramones fan I had hooked up with doing resits).
Into A Circle were on a psychedelic/pop/goth tip. They had evolved out of Getting The Fear, who had in turn spawned from Southern Death Cult. Bee, their singer, had some connections with Psychic TV which obviously piqued my interest. Their single “Forever” had been on the Chart Show and was pretty good. They had some nice collages as projections and tapes of flowing water between songs.
I picked up some leaflets from the stall and found you could order some demo tapes and collage artwork off them. They also had a pseudo-TOPY magickal group associated with them called “The Game” if I remember rightly. I ordered some tapes and a collage. The former was pretty good and even had a recording off them at the end talking about financial arrangements for a gig. The collage arrived in a clipframe which smashed into a million pieces in the post (it was just in a regular jiffy bag).
There was buzz about In To A Circle, but they didn’t really get anywhere. Bee was rumoured to be the source of PTV’s “why don’t you just enjoy your own fucking body” vocal sample, taken from an answerphone message. (The other story I heard was that it was the bloke from Bomb The Bass.)
“1987 and all I want to do is get stoned
All I want for you to do is take my body home.”
Spacemen 3 were excellent. I’d first heard them on Peel (he’d faded a 25 minute track of theirs in and out a few times in between other records). I suppose the Spacemen were the flipside of the Butthole Surfers in the eighties psych revival. Dreamy gentle drones and some almost-pop songs with choruses vs the Surfers balls-out chaotic rock. I saw Spacemen 3 a good few times and they were always completely brilliant. They often finished up by taping down several keys on their synth and leaving this huge cavernous drone running. I’ve never really bothered with Spiritualised, though.
As I pointed out in a previous episode, I spent a large chunk of the summer of 1987 rinsing valve casings in paraffin:
- Pick up one casing in each hand from the dirty pile on the left.
- Rinse in small vat of paraffin.
- Place carefully in the clean pile on the right.
To help pass the time I’d think about the records I was going to play when I got home. It only helped a bit, I was completely isolated without anyone to talk to and was probably going a bit mental. Possibly the actual records I was listening to didn’t help very much. “Industrial Music For Industrial People” sounds very evocative if you’re on the dole or in an office, I guess.
One of the records I was caning was the first Suicide LP:
Twenty year old Frankie
He’s married he’s got a kid
And he’s working in a factory
He’s working from seven to five
He’s just trying to survive
well lets hear it for Frankie
I probably tried to kid myself that I was having a really hard time of it like Frankie but the reality was that I was living with my Mum and Dad and was spending virtually everything I earned on records and gigs. But that Suicide LP is perfect – from the lush ambience of “Cherie” to the timeless astro-rockabilly of “Johnny”, it really has it all. The debut has been a staple of my late night listening for the last 22 years. In fact it is so perfect that I have studiously avoided hearing anything else by Suicide in case it detracts from my enjoyment of them.
They were awesome live. Martin Rev (basically Dr Teeth from the Muppet Show in a squatted space station) and Alan Vega (one of them androids out of Blade Runner channeling the ghost of Elvis) ruled the stage like they were a 32 piece ensemble. I’m not sure if Suicide or Sparks can claim to be the first synthpop duo but Rev held it tight, barely moving from his minimal equipment, yet conjuring up walls of incredibly rich sound. Vega prowled the stage, every inch the superstar.
Such was the iconic minimalism of the Suicide schtick that Vega decided they’d make up a song for the encore. How cool is that?
This was a Sunday night gig, so I think the place was half full. That didn’t stop me getting completely immersed in it all…