Get Decidely Silly
In which Bill has fun with record companies
Polydor get conned into signing RH
And the boys go on a spending spree
The impact of the
Allan Jones article, one of the longest ever carried by the Melody Maker
about a band with no label no manager and no publisher, was immediate.
Although its timing, just before Christmas, meant that nothing definite
was settled, suddenly Bill was in the strange position of A&R men
phoning him, of A&R men being in when he called, of A&R men asking
to meet at his convenience.
Allan Jones followed up the interview with a rather more downbeat review of their December 11th gig at the dreaded Music Machine at King's Cross. He was, shall we say, 'constructively critical':
THE Music Machine in Camden Town is very possibly the least salubrious rock music venue in the capital, perhaps the entire country. At its best it resembles some especially grotesque, gothic chamber; at its most desperate it looks like the Lyceum transferred to hell and condemned to an eternity of glow decay. It was Random Hold's severe misfortune last Monday to appear on one of the venue's really bad nights.
The audience - a smattering of bondage punks, a few student nurses and their escorts and a clutch of A&R men lined up against the bar looking like plain clothes cops - could without any considerable difficulty have been forced into a small biscuit tin. The very atmosphere seemed to be suffering from some kind of terminal cancer.
It was not, then, the most celebrated location for one of this group's infrequent performances (they were actually supporting an Irish folk-rock group, of uncertain worth, called Spud). The sterile, lethargic atmosphere, the absence of an involved or interested audience and, a capricious sound system successfully conspired to undermine the band's potential. It wasn't so much that the circumstances defeated the subtleties of their music, rather that its intensity was entirely lost in the abject void of the Music Machine.
Simultaneously, the evening exposed their weaknesses and the vulnerability of their repertoire. Thus far in their brief career they have gigged only sporadically and they have yet to really test the strength and durability of several of their compositions; they need do extended run of gigs to isolate and define their strengths, as it were, and to either dispose of those items whose deficiencies detract from the impact of their better songs, or invest them with a more genuine force.
They suffer, too, at present from a lack of personality; their collective diffidence, and the absence of an individual whose identity (ego, even) is virile enough to create some kind of focus, lends to their appearance an unfortunate anonymity. They will have to learn - quickly - how best to communicate an empathy with their prospective audience: currently there is just too much shuffling of feet and muttering of incoherent asides whenever there is a pause of more than a minute between numbers.
These, perhaps, will be identified as minor points of criticism, but they are points which will have to be faced and considered if Random Hold are to fulfil their commercial aspirations. (And, I must just say, they need to sort out the visuals: coming on dressed in an assortment of second-hand suits and kipper ties is hardly an arresting image with which to confront the populace.) The news isn't all blue, however.
The were moments when Random Hold, most boldly overcame the manifold difficulties of the evening, most notably during "We Are People Out Of Love," which featured a vocal of suspended menace from David Rhodes, which built to an explosive climax. "The Ballad", too, possessed a sense of adventure and purpose which elsewhere seemed missing, with David Ferguson's keyboards creating dense atmospherics beneath the guitar interplay between Rhodes and Simon Ainley (their vocal interplay - chopping and swapping strategic lines - here and during "The Heart Of A Crowd" was similarly charged with interest).
The most effective piece, though, was the already celebrated "Montgomery Clift," its climax featuring the two guitarists alternating violent phrases that seemed to mount one upon the other in a. fierce conclusion that put one briefly in mind of the kind of virulent exchanges between Verlaine and Richard Lloyd on Television's "Marquee Moon."
Random Hold now, need nothing more than to work. They should not be rushed into a recording studio to produce a debut album before they've really sharpened and defined their material. They should now be dumped in the back of a Transit; if that's what's needed, and made to confront a variety of audiences. Then they will find their own voice and record an album worthy of their promise.
They had little
or nothing set up for January except for another round of rehearsals and
a gig on Saturday 20th supporting, of all people, The Troggs, another
on the 24th back at Oxford's 'Corn Dolly' (DF knew the publican) and a
third on the 30th at the infamous Rock Garden. But the rehearsals took
on a new urgency when Polydor offered them demo time in their studios
off Oxford Street. They were given three days, Monday 15th to Wednesday
17th, in which to self-produce something impressive.
On Wednesday, 14th March, the band went back into Polydor's demo studios for a second session. This time they recorded 'Precarious Timbers', 'The Ballad' and 'Verona Rolls'. Again, more companies than just Polydor got to hear them, helping to generate even more interest.
By the end of the third week in March the game was complete. Bill and Ian had cranked up the price of signing Random Hold to something like £70,000 and had yet to sign any publishing deals from which yet more cash could be harvested. The figures was an unprecedented amount for a band few had ever heard of and who three months before couldn't have given their music away.
On Monday 19th March, Bill picked up the phone and, as the rest of the group toured the music equipment shops of Charing Cross Road and the West End, for the last time called Stuart Slater at Chrysalis and Martin Rushent at Genetic.
Random Hold had signed for Polydor Records.
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