Sunday, 21 October 2012

MUSICAL MEMORY #1: Bubblegum Flesh

BUBLEGUM FLESH / THE FUZZYFELTS March 1988 - April 1989 
Wil Superstar - Guitar / Vocals, Pete Fijalkowski - Bass, Matt Crane - Drums, Louise - Tambourine & Smiles

It was 1988. Those in the know were getting ready for a flared-trousered summer of acid-dropping raves, but me and my friend Matt just wanted to be in a band...any band...Wil's band.

The fact that neither Matt or I could play our instruments didn't really bother us and we duly lied to our musical guru-to-be telling him that we're a rhythm section when in fact neither of us have ever picked up a bass or drumstick between us in our lives, but Wil didn't examine our musical CVs too closely -  he  just seemed glad that he had found some willing accomplices.

Every Wednesday afternoon Matt and I would hitch the 10 miles from Coventry to Leamington Spa to rehearse our set in Wil's damp attic bedroom. Matt favoured the Bobby Gillespie school of drumming - standing up hitting just a snare and a floor tom, (though even this most basic of kit set-ups was beyond our meagre resources & so two cardboard boxes were used), and he used to rehearse with an almost Charlie Watts-style nonchalence, reading the NME as he played, sometimes missing a beat so he could turn the page. He had many things going for him, a great sense of humour, a floppy fringe & a large collection of Burlington socks to name but three, but a sense of timing was not one of them. I sweated my way through the tricky 3 note bass-lines, thankful of the fact that all of Wils songs used the same trio of chords, thus saving me the stress of having to learn any further complicated finger movements, whilst our leader crooned in a style reminiscent of a very Welsh and very angry Morrissey shouting in your face. "Slit your wrists in a cold bath, go on go on and make me laugh". His girlfriend Louise was roped in on tamborine duties, and she used to lie in bed watching daytime TV as we played around her. Occassionally when we played live, she could be cajouled into an upright position.

I played my first ever gig in June 1988 at Warwick University, and to quote Wil's great hero "I can laugh about it now, but at the time it was terrible". Seeing as our set was only 15 minutes long (4 songs, one of which we played twice because we thought it so good!),it didn't seem a good sign when my flatmates started heckling 2 songs in. Luckily I sported quite a long fringe at the time which I was able to hide behind. The live tape of that gig is the only recording that was ever made of the band, and it's kind of beautiful in it's absolute crapness, it's so naive it's almost pre-music. Matt slows down, speeds up when he is horsewhipped over the PA by Wil, goes a canter for 3 and a half bars, then slows down to a practical standstill. The bass makes random lumbering noises whilst Wil Superstar (as was his stage moniker) trying to manfully make up for his complete lack of a rhythm section, decides to opt out of singing the words and shouts them instead. 

After this the gigs were easier. We knew we were crap (as opposed to before the first gig were we kind of hoped we were alright), and we started revelling in our crapness. People started liking us, and our gigs became something of an event, our notoriety helped by Wil getting hawled up in front of an over-zealous Student Committee to answer accusations of sexism because he put Louise's role in the band as "Tamborine and Smiles" on a poster. Other friends in slightly-less crap bands started wanting to do guest slots on stage. I was against it, preferring the purity of the classic four-piece, but there was an advantage of safety in numbers, that made it easier to glare at the barrackers.

Somewhere along the line Wil, changed the name of the band to The Fuzzyfelts and a controversial fourth chord was added to the repetoire, but after a dozen or so gigs, I had had enough, and hung up the bass for good. Matt threw away his drum sticks for a life of computer boffiny, whilst Wil went off to form (and subsequently get kicked out of) The Beautiful Happiness who post-Wil released a Sonic Boom produced single on Cheree. However, as Wil walks off into the sunset, I think that maybe, this might not be the last we hear from him in this self-indulgent tale.

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