Keeping It Peel, eh? A worthy and admirable affair since you’re askin’. Click on the face of the great man just over there on the right to find out more.
Late 80s/Early 90s music in the UK was a strange place to be. The Smiths were long gone but still on everyone’s lips and Morrissey was trying to carve out a solo career and somewhat failing (the lukewarm Kill Uncle limping behind the giddy thrill of Viva Hate). New boys on the pedestal, The Stone Roses (whatever happened to them?), were on extended hiatus and the charts were full of 2nd rate Roses-inspired trash that was supposed to keep us entertained till they pulled on their Joe Bloggs and got down to business again. Happy Mondays were self-imploding on a cocktail of every conceivable drug. Bridewell Taxis? Naw! Chapterhouse? Naw! Carter the Unstoppable Sex Machine? Naw! Naw! and Naw! Hairstyles started creeping downwards and greasy globs of lumpen grebo clogged up yer actual pop charts – Neds Atomic Dustbin, Wonderstuff, PWEI. Looking for a fix I turned to The House of Love and posh boys Ride. Both were very traditional 4 piece bands with all the right reference points and songs coated in all manner of guitar effects, but whereas House of Love used their pedals subtely to enhance their songs, Ride used them to disguise their shortcomings as musicians and singers. Flange. Chorus. Delay. Wah-wah. Turbo Distortion. Throw them all at the verse. Add a bit of Phaser to the chorus. Extra Delay in the middle eight and, voila, music for the kids. Being 19/20 years old, I loved them.
In a hazy blur of stripey t-shirts, girly fringes and expensive guitars, Ride thrashed their way fantastically through their first couple of EPs and debut album. With 2 singing guitarists (how very 60s!) and token silent moody bass player, the secret to their success was Lawrence on drums. A seemingly 8-armed whirlwind of Moonisms, right down to the target t-shirt, he was always the one to watch whenever they played live. First time I saw them, in the old Mayfair (now Garage) in Glasgow, the tall brothers walked in and stood right in front of me just as the band took the stage. I have a vivid memory of watching Lawrence thrash at his drums in the mirrors on the wall. I also remember trying to work out the chords Andy Bell was playing during Chelsea Girl, but, given that I was watching in mirror image, I couldn’t work it out. Damn those 2 Joey Ramone lookalikes.
Ride recorded a couple of sessions for John Peel. Their first from February 1992 is my favourite. In the spirit of all the great Peel Sessions, this session featured new stuff and a cover – 3 tracks from their not yet released second and third EPs plus a cover of a Pale Saints song – the joke being that Ride claimed to dislike Pale Saints, although their version of Sight Of You is pretty faithful to the original. Opening track Like a Daydream is sadly minus the backwards fade-in cymbal rush that introduces the EP2 version, but fairly clatters along in a rush of boyish off-kilter harmonies and masses of bravado. Great machine gun drums too, of course. Perfect Time (also from EP2) is awash with a combination of chiming 12 string guitars and fuzzed out Fender Jags. Did someone mention Shoegaze? Shoegaze was never this slow, though. You want slow? Dreams Burn Down featured on both EP3 and the album, but on the Peel Session is stretched out to 6 and a half minutes of tremelo ‘n feedback and ‘she doesn’t love me anymore’ angsty lyrics. I thought this might’ve sounded dated 20 years on, but, nope, it still sounds mighty fine to these ears. Dreams Burn Down was always a favourite of Andy Bell, as he said in April this year:
“What can I say? It’s a great tune. It’s about the end of an affair — the end of a relationship. Kind of a typical, teenage reaction. I remember it became massive when the band started playing it. It was written as a pretty straightforward sound, but I remember the rehearsal when we first played it — we decided to go with this noise kind of thing. The noise emphasized certain parts of the lyrics, and that really worked and it was fantastic. Lawrence plays a massive drumbeat on it that actually Coldplay ripped off. I don’t know if that’s actually true or not.”
And he gave all that up! To play bass! In MKII (or was it MKIII?) Oasis! The fool.
Here‘s the EP2 version of Like A Daydream, backwards cymbals ‘n all.
And here‘s Pale Saints‘ original version of The Sight Of You.
The beginning of the end I’d imagine.