Glaxo Babies – The Porlock Factor
"By the time we got to Brigstock"
The nucleus of the original band – Dan, Rob and Charlie – reconvened in the summer of 1985. Unfinished business. Work to be done. Legacy's to be undermined. Baggage to be discarded. Punk’s year zero ethos had proved untenable. Everyone had moved on. As Mark E. Smith said in only slightly different circumstances, "are you still doing what you did two years ago? Well don’t make a career out of it." No danger of that. Although geographically dispersed, Dan in Bristol, Rob in Brigstock, Northants, Charlie in London, there was common purpose, uniformity of intent.
Charlie was a part-owner/shareholder of Cold Storage Studios in Brixton and the majority of the tracks here were recorded in down time in SW9. On select evenings we’d be sneaking in on the night shift as assorted ex-members of Henry Cow, Quiet Sun, et al were coming out. Robert Wyatt was recording Old Rotting Hat there at the same time. We’d nod and touch forelocks to our spiritual forefathers and go in and make neo-psych pop funk that nobody wanted to release.
We carried on regardless. Long nights on the nightshift. Sometimes augmented. Sometimes just the three of us. Sometimes inspired. Sometimes dispirited. Tap tapping away at the 88 pre-sets on the latest piece of state-of-the-art synthware from Crapatronics of Tokyo. Deeming them all useless except for the settings for Sitar, Cello, and Harpsichord. As you will hear.
And during periods when Cold Storage was block booked we laid stuff down on a pokey little four track portastudio in various bedrooms within the Bristol-Brigstock-Brixton triangle. Buddy Said, I Know A Joke, and Mercy Corps all crackle with the dirty intensity that only cheap technology can provide.
Some days we felt useless. Some days we felt blessed. Some days more blessed than others. Tracey’s Face was inspired by the moment in Woody Allens Manhattan when Woody’s character Isaac recites his list of things that make life worth living. One late afternoon in 1986 Rob was walking down Kensington Church Street to catch a tube to the session where we recorded the actual track when a tall woman and a man suddenly appeared from a side street and strode along just a few paces in front of him. It was none other than Mariel Hemingway, Woody’s beau in Manhattan. Rob noticed that she had the same Mini-Mouse voice as she had in the film. True Story.
Tracey’s Face was supposed to have strings on it. Prophet was supposed to feature a Jack Nitzsche style choir. You can’t always get what you want. The master tapes to these recordings disappeared long ago. What you hear has been faithfully alchemised via the dark art of digitalisation. If we can live with it so can you.
The last four tracks, Shady World, What Goes On In Your Life, Prophet, and Orbit are rehearsal tapes and are strictly for the devoted. (We know you exist.) Just Rob, Dan, a condenser mike and a hydra-head full of ideas. They are as true as anything we ever recorded. Shortly after Orbit was recorded we gave up. You can only carry on for so long without someone patting you on the head (and giving you some money.)
We always thought somebody would want this music someday. Somehow it sounds fresher now than it did then. “Here, you have it all now” as Lenny Bruce once said, in vastly different circumstances.
Rob Chapman. January 2008.