It’s every young musician’s dream: get noticed, get signed, make a record, get noticed again, and – blam! – fame comes a knocking.
On 14 November 1994, four hopeful, London-based musicians released their debut album. And as they turned on the news, each of them heard the same phrase: “You’re a star!”
Actually, it might have been “Eurostar” – the high-speed cross-channel rail link happened to launch that day too – but it doesn’t matter.
The point is that Retrosexual by Last Great Dreamers was finally out to buy, and the band who’d spent the past year being championed by the high and mighty at ‘Kerrang!’ magazine could get on with the job of being rock stars.
Here’s a blurry pic of me with keyboard player and songwriter Claudio Simonetti, one of the founding members of Goblin – Italian prog-rockers and purveyors of many excellent soundtrack recordings.
The occasion was the fourth HorrorConUK in Sheffield, which as I write is just about finishing up. I only went for the Saturday, so I’m sat at home now fondling my signed goodies and wishing that I’d given the Suspiria sleeve longer to dry. How was I to know he wasn’t using a Sharpie?
Madame Tussauds opened its Kong: Skull Island exhibit in March 2017, to coincide with the film’s release, and I’d been wanting to pay it a visit ever since. However, the time never seemed right. Weekends and school holidays were a no-no, as I don’t like crowds. But even on normal weekdays it seemed that the place was rather popular, with TripAdvisor reviewers noting lengthy queues.
With the film starting to feel like yesterday’s news – in the minds of the public, anyway – I was getting worried that Madame T might decide to melt Kong down. So I couldn’t put this off any longer: I had to launch an expedition to Skull Island right away – well, as soon as Tesco sent me the entry vouchers. Hiddleston, Goodman, Larson and Jackson might have reached the titular island via a fleet of heat-packing Hueys, but I’m taking the more sedate route offered by Clubcard points.
“On the 13th floor, she wanna know more…” – Ashtray Eyes by Last Great Dreamers
“This is where we do nine new songs, so if you all want to go to the bar…”
It’s Saturday night at the Asylum 2, a cosy first-floor venue just outside Birmingham’s shopping district, and Slyder, Last Great Dreamers’ lead guitarist and vocal co-pilot, is warming up the crowd.
The event is a launch party for the band’s new album, 13th Floor Renegades, whose official release is still six days away. However, as tonight’s audience are here with the intention of sampling some fresh tunes, there’s a good chance the barman might actually get to put his feet up for the next half an hour.
“There’s a ghost in the Tanglewood that offered light in the black separation.” – Phantom Memories by Ginger Wildheart
“Get a move on, Stockford!”
Yes – tonight, Matthew, I am that guy, the bloke who spends an age at the front of a queue, holding everyone up. I don’t mean to be, but the prize now that I’ve reached pole position is a chat with Ginger Wildheart – someone I’ve not spoken to, in person, for… ooh, it must be about 16 years.
Back then, my wife Tara and I ran his website SilverGinger.com, as well as the discussion group The Wildhearts Mailing List. It was the days before Facebook, Twitter and YouTube – heck, even MySpace was a glint in its daddy’s eye – and a lot has happened since. I’ve gone bald, for starters.
Record producer Pete Brown is guiding Last Great Dreamers’ frontman, Marc Valentine, towards a perfect vocal take. He advises him to listen to just one side of his headphones – to “take an ear off”.
“I’ve got all three off at the moment,” says Marc, before lead guitarist Slyder chimes in with an idea of his own.
“How about putting them over his eyes?”
It’s Monday the 11th of December and I’m at Henwood Studios in Oxfordshire, where the Dreamers’ fourth long-player, the follow-up to 2016’s Transmissions From Oblivion, is nearing completion. The album has been in production since early November, though the sessions have so far been split into three chunks, so no one has gone stir crazy yet.
“In another moment down went Alice after it, never once considering how in the world she was to get out again.” – Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
“I’ve been loved by the sweetest and hated by heroes.” – Geordie In Wonderland by The Wildhearts
The first time that Gary Davidson met The Wildhearts’ frontman, Ginger, things did not go well. It was April 1998, and Gary was at a Backyard Babies gig in London, when he spied his hero in the bar area. After tapping him on the shoulder and declaring “I’ve waited ages to meet you!” he went in for a handshake, only to send Ginger’s drink flying – a cue for the off-duty musician to storm off.
“What a fucking first meeting,” says Gary, as I remind him of the incident from his book, Zealot In Wonderland.
Here’s me at Foyles on London’s Charing Cross Road last night with one of my favourite human beings, the always-delightful Russell T Davies.
Russell was in town, along with the also-very-lovely James Goss, to talk about Now We Are Six Hundred: A Collection Of Time Lord Verse, which James wrote and Russell illustrated, and which looks like a lot of fun.
The evening began with some readings and an amusing hour-long talk, which was broadcast live on the official Doctor Who Facebook page, and at the time of writing is still there, should you fancy a look. This was followed by a signing, photos and posh chocolates – James’s posh chocolates, which he kindly donated to the patiently waiting queue, to aid their sustenance.
Despite loving the heck out of Kong: Skull Island, and hoovering up as much official merchandise as I could (the Blu-ray, the soundtrack CD, the novel, the ‘Art and Making of’ book, the comic book, the Pop Vinyl figure), I somehow managed to leave an 18-inch high and rather handsome-looking Kong toy on the shelf for the past five months.
How did this happen? Allow me to explain.
I clocked the figure – sorry, Mega-Figure – back in March, around the time of the film’s release, but it wasn’t stocked by Toys R Us, Argos, The Entertainer or any other high-street shop that I was aware of. As far as I could tell, it was only available from eBay traders and Amazon Marketplace sellers, which led me to briefly wonder whether it was an import.