part 1 of 1
always has been a love-hate relationship.
the mastermind behind my favourite band ever, and the
man who dissolved them without ever giving satisfactory
reason. the traitor who then recorded another boo radleys
album which he sung and played all by himself ('go with
yourself') and which he is taking on tour around practically
every humdrum satellite town in england - except oxford.
the guy who i met in the summer of 1996, contributing
to one of the best days of my life, and the one who
stood me up a few months later, cancelling a gig because
he was ill, yet well enough to be playing on the other
side of the channel at the same time.
the man who inspired me to go on a pilgrimage to liverpool,
visiting the many places referred to in his songs, only
to find half of them don't even exist. the one who agreed
to an interview after months of pestering, only to cancel
on the day because he was feeling 'under the weather'
again. i was told he'd call me when better, but for
days i heard nothing. i contented myself in the meantime
by bitching about his new album and seeking inspiration
elsewhere, finding an illuminating ultimatum on the
seventh day of waiting: when i get in, i'll dial 1471-
if your number's not there, your records are staying
in the bin. but, of course, he called.
and you know what it's like - no matter how angry you
get with those you love, you just can't stay like it
for long. so even if he seemed confused when i asked
him if he was feeling better, i overlooked it. especially
as he was prepared to talk about the boo radleys for
an hour and a half, making only fleeting references
to his current solo project, bravecaptain. he seemed
so disinterested in the whole promotional merry-go-round,
in it only for the love of the music, that my asking
if he minded talking about the boo radleys brought another
'it's basically the same set-up. its
still me writing songs'.
its little wonder, then, that any of the bravecaptain songs released thus far, except perhaps the
beat-heavy 'big red control machine', could have been
a boo radleys song. 'it should sound the same. i learnt
to play bass by watching tim for 15 years, so ill
always have that kind of sound'.
the future, then, is looking bright. not least when
you consider that tim will be part of the sound team
on the forthcoming tour. and not least when carr expounds
his theory on music:
when a band starts out, you usually combine 90%
of your influences with 10% originality. as you progress,
if all is going right, this ratio should gradually be
reversed - you start doing new stuff, or at least get
cleverer so nobody notices.
'when we started with 'kaleidoscope' in 1990, we were
just trying to be spaceman 3'. so, in that case, who
is bravecaptain trying to be? 'the boo radleys'.
the inevitable question, the one i promised myself i
wouldnt ask, just cannot be avoided. the predominantly
melancholic sound and lyrics of 'go with yourself' ('where
are my friends/ sice and tim and bobby' and 'though
i've made so many friends/i have lost some that i've
loved'), suggests nothing but regret, whilst the conversation
almost makes it feel like it has not happened.
he enthuses about the times he had in the band, the
best time of his life. so why? 'we just weren't seeing
each other as much or having as much fun.
'when we did 'giant steps' we were all living together
and running the fanclub from home, but then we started
getting married, having kids, moving to other parts
of the country.
'by the end it had lost the intensity and become like
work, where wed turn up just to record.' indeed,
things got so bleak during the recording of the last
monumental album, 'kingsize', that it was nearly abandoned
half way through.
'there were always alcohol and drugs, but by that stage
i just wasn't interested anymore. i just sat in the
corner and hid, contributing very little while tim tried
to keep the whole thing going. i became really depressed
and knew it would end, so walked out. it was only mark
bowen who persuaded me to go back'.
bless that man. not only is he responsible for the release
of what carr admits to being his best songs, but, as
head of wichita recordings, those that came after.
and those that will keep on coming. there's already
several albums of matrerial ready to record, better
material written for his own voice and not sice's, material
which will make up the bulk of his forthcoming tour,
along with a few album tracks and perhaps a boo radleys
cover or two.
if you can't be bothered to walk to
cowley road for a gig, you're never going to travel
to london or northampton. but, hey, that's your loss.
if there was a god, martin carr, with his five-man band
and brass section, will never be playing venues this
small again. hell, if there was a god he wouldnt
be playing them now. but, as his strict catholic upbringing
and lack of earthly appreciation have convinced him,
there is no god, 'just someone i keep talking to'.
after an hour and a half on the phone, i know exactly
how he feels.