Bent Meltdown at Celtic Connections
January 24, 2016
BENT MELTDOWN (Redux) is nostalgia for an age yet to come. Distant echoes. The event is in association with Celtic Connections, following on from the Creeping Bent organised Pop Group / Sexual Objects performance for Celtic Connections in Jan 2014. The Bent Meltdown takes place at Oran Mor, Glasgow, on Thursday 28th January. Come early, doors are at 7pm and first group is on stage at 7.30pm sharp.
Prior to the show, we invited Douglas MacIntyre, founder of Creeping Bent, to share his memories of taking part in John Peel’s 1998 Meltdown Festival. Over to Douglas…
The Creeping Bent Organisation had been invited by John Peel to participate in the 1998 Meltdown festival, which he was curating. This was indeed a thrill, the label had only been releasing records for three and a half years (after our inaugural flight – A Leap Into The Void / BENT 001 – at the Tramway Theatre on 12th Dec 1994).
John Peel had first contacted Creeping Bent when he sent a fax to my old flat in Mount Florida, which was initially Bent HQ. He picked up on Creeping Bent quickly and was soon booking sessions by Bent artists for his BBC Radio 1 show. Curiously, in 1998 we had Creeping Bent artists featured on BBC Radio 1, 2, 3 and 4, plus support from Radio Scotland and the other BBC regionals. However, it was with John Peel that Creeping Bent had the most fruitful relationship.
It was arranged for Adventures in Stereo, The Nectarine No9, The Secret Goldfish, and The Leopards to perform live, with roving / raving master of ceremonies Jock Scot linking the live sets magnificently with his pithy anecdotes and poems.
When we arrived at the Royal Festival Hall in London, we were met by David Sefton (who was responsible for programming RFH events). We were stunned when he told us the evening was a sell out, not an experience we were used to. Literally five minutes after this, in one of the labyrinthian RFH corridors, I met Vic Godard for the first time (resplendent in his Royal Mail uniform). Adventures in Stereo had covered the Subway Sect’s Nobody’s Scared as a B side, and Vic had turned up to a previous AiS gig to say hello to Jim and Judith.
Ergo, it was arranged for Vic to perform Nobody’s Scared on stage with AiS at Meltdown. Adventures in Stereo (who are Jim Beattie and Judith Boyle) really were meta pop. Judith’s angelic poptones were astounding, a harmonic vocalist who embodied cool detachment but also conveyed emotion – a great underground sound. As a songwriter and producer, Jim is one of hidden secrets of pop, who understands the importance of shadow figures like Gene Clark and Carl Wilson. Pop Art.
The Nectarine No9 had originally recorded their third album, Fried For Blue Material, under the auspices of Postcard Records (like the two previous NN9 albums). However, both Fried and Jock Scot’s LP My Personal Culloden (recorded in tandem with and featuring The Nectarine No9), were not released on Postcard as planned due to the final dissolution of Postcard. As massive fans of NN9, it was a natural for for them to join the madness at Creeping Bent, and thus we released Fried to much acclaim.
After the NME had raved about The Secret Goldfish, Peel swiftly followed with an offer of the first of two sessions recorded by the group. The radio support from John for the two albums released by The Secret Goldfish, Aqua-Pet…You Make Me, and Mink Riots, was instrumental in the Goldfish being invited by the British Council to tour Hungary as part of festival celebrating Scottish art forms (which included among others Douglas Gordon and AL Kennedy).
To say Peel was a fan of Leopards guitarist Mick Slaven is a grand understatement. Likening Mick’s surf-punk guitar strangling to Link Wray and Robert Quine was accurate, with the Leopards honouring Peel with a session cover version of Raw Ramp by T.Rex) The Leopards’ sessions were an explosion of sound, and exemplified why Peel sessions were legendary.
Capturing the raw elements of groups over the years was key to the success of these sessions, particularly from the punk period. Slits, Buzzcocks, Prefects, Subway Sect, Pop Group, PIL, all sessions that resonated and were part of the reason for a seismic generational shift. A few years later, after Fast Product and Postcard had kicked Scotland into touch, sessions by Scars, Orange Juice, Josef K, Fire Engines realigned the tectonic plates of Scotland. Seeing Peel dj-ing at Peel Roadshow nights at the Nite Club in Edinburgh and the Olympia in East Kilbride (when Orange Juice played live) inspired further.
On 18th May 1980 I was in the audience at a Teardrop Explodes gig in the Bungalow, Paisley. The Teardrops were at their Zoo peak, but when Cope came on stage and informed the crowd someone from Factory had phoned him to inform him that Ian Curtis had committed suicide, there was a palpable collective gulp from the audience. Cope then dedicated Sleeping Gas to him and played to a stunned crowd. So it goes, ….someone in the Bungalow crowd went out into the street and found a red BT phone box and called Peel live on his BBC Radio 1 show to inform him. Thus the news of Ian Curtis’ sad demise was broadcast to the nation. The days before the mobile interweb.
About a year later, shortly after Rational Records released the Article 58 single, we were driving from Strathaven to Hamilton with the Peel show blaring on the car radio. Suddenly, Peel played the Article 58 single, OUR single, on the BBC. We couldn’t believe it. He then mentioned the single had been produced by Alan Horne and Malcolm Ross, and he was going to get us in for a Peel session. The thrill is still with me, hearing our record on Peel as we viewed the Ravenscraig flames burning through the black Lanarkshire night sky.
That feeling,.. the essence of a certain type of pop… John Peel. Of course, Article 58 succumbed to teenage speed psychosis, and soon after a short tour of England with Josef K we burned out. Ergo, no Peel session for Article 58.
Fast forward to 2nd July 1998, and I meet John Peel for the first time at the Royal Festival Hall. Peel only had two labels featured as part of his Meltdown Festival, Warp and Creeping Bent – we were in good company. Some of our favourite artists were playing Meltdown; Broadcast, Cornershop, Culture, The Jesus and Mary Chain, Ivor Cutler, Gorky’s, Sonic Youth, Suicide (among others). I’d corresponded with Peel and his producer Alison Howe several times to organise the many sessions by Creeping Bent groups, to meet him in person was a pleasure. He was shy, self-effacing, and funny, and we largely spoke of football matters, him Liverpool to my Hamilton Academical.
Peel really dug the Nectarine No9, and confessed to being intimidated by their aesthetic (dunno why!!), in all The Nectarine No9 did seven Peel sessions.
Doing Peel sessions afforded the groups the chance to have fun doing cover versions, NN9 covering Beefheart & Nico, The Leopards T.Rex, The Secret Goldfish Subway Sect. Vic Godard came down to Maida Vale for the second Goldfish session and sang his magnifico song, Stop That Girl. Vic noted nothing had changed at Maida Vale since the Subway Sect’s second Peel session in 1978. He was not wrong. We reckon there were around twenty John Peel sessions recorded by Creeping Bent artists, always a pleasure, including a Bent 5th birthday party aired live during Peel’s show. This took place in Maida Vale, with Speeder and Element both performing during John’s show. A gas.
The Nectarine No9 transmogrified into the Sexual Objects after the 5th NN9 album, I Love Total Destruction, was released via Beggars Banquet / Creeping Bent in 2004. Heavenly have just reissued the NN9 opus Saint Jack, with a package that includes two sessions they recorded for Peel. The Sexual Objects recorded a series of 7″ singles, collected on a singlesgoingsteady LP called Cucumber. One copy of their new album, Marshmallow, exists.
Adventures in Stereo retreated to the shadows after their 2000 release, Monomania, and attendant US tour. After which, silence fell.
The Secret Goldfish released their second LP in 1999, and played their last gig the same year with Edwyn Collins and Vic Godard. However, a third album called Petal Split has finally been finished and will be released later this year.
The Leopards took a break after their 1997 album, They Tried Staying Calm, finally following it up with Never Been The Same in 2011. In the interim they recorded albums (and played live) with fellow Postcard alums; James Kirk, Paul Haig, Vic Godard, Malcolm Ross, and most recently Lloyd Cole. Expect a new Leopards LP soon. Surf On !!!
“The future sure is tense” – Don Van Vliet
Pop audio art will be coming your way from a variety of pop performers. Keep your ears and eyes Peeled for product by Sexual Objects / The Secret Goldfish / Article 58 / Port Sulphur / Jazzateers / Hapton Crags /