(April 2011) You may remember a year ago I posted about my first gig under the name ‘Silvery’ and mentioned that the ‘true’ 10th anniversary of the band with me singing would fall in May 2011. Well here we are.
Bull & Gate 19th May 2001. THE place to play in Britpop London. So it was natural we missed the boat by about 7 years. What do I remember? Loads actually. The setlist, the flapping ties and the oversized jeans. I remember the BBC radio workshop keyboard, the xylophone (harking back to even earlier experiments – more about those in future), the ill advised ballad. I have a recording somewhere – the first Silvery bootleg made by Mr. Briggs who was responsible for the recording made available to our 7 fans on the ‘Silvery I Presume’ download coincidently at the same venue, 8 years later. It’s worth saying that the Bull & Gate hosted many Silvery gigs after this first one – a very very drunk one the night England beat Germany 5-1 (including a wobbly version of a song not dissimilar to ‘Vindaloo’ halted by the drummer being knocked off his stool by a huge bunch of flowers), triumphant gala performances, two totalled guitars, two band splits and the latest (and last), sadly, a dismal short set opening Steve Lamacq’s night ‘In New Music We Trust’ boasting two broken ribs, 3 new members and an unplayable new single. Oh, and the best one – sometime in 2002 when I managed to fall off the front AND back of the stage.
What did we play? The year (!) since the previous gig (see that previous entry) hadn’t been wasted – although looking at the setlist it’s strange we didn’t play a few of our really good songs that I remember were ready at that point. We started off with a little ditty called ‘Lovely Lady’, a delicate and knowingly cheesey 2 guitar conversation. Myself and Howard (Silvery 2000 – 2004) trying to keep a straight face. Then came ‘Theremin’, the usual feedback intro favoured by bands who think they are being clever. I sat at the drums for that one, confusing work pals who had the grace to pop along for support. Murray the drummer (Silvery 2000 – 2003) whipped up a howling theremin storm and Howard started up his enormous amplifier. The marching intro of ‘Uncatchables’ came next (it’s notable that we had 3 intro ideas for the gig, so, naturally, played them one after the other in order of volume) – all inaudible backing vocals and heavy metal middle bit. It’s worth saying our bassist for the night was a chap called Steve. He played with us just this once and wore a t-shirt with ‘Bollocks’ written on it. I don’t know what happened to him. Oh hang on, that why we only played 7 songs. The next gig, in Luton (we were recruited for that one, unbelievably, through our Bassist Wanted advert in Melody Maker) was the first with Barnesy on Bass – my old pal from school days and adventures in our first band (‘Theme’ – they’ll be more about them here soon). Barnesy lasted as long as Murray although he had the sense to get a job and start a family rather than bugger off to go surfing.
Looking at the setlist, some of these are still contenders for album 3 – no mean feat for a band who have never had a problem with shortage of songs (shortness of songs, however..). Indeed, one of them stayed in the set all the way through and ended up on the first album. That’s right, ‘Revolving Sleepy Signs’ is nearly as old as the internet. I’m sure that mattered little to whose heard it that surreal Saturday morning on Radio 2 causing a huge on-air row between Mark Lamarr and Jo Brand. ‘Engines’ was Elastica and Menswear all in one (‘But…?’), and along with ‘March On Your Hometown’ formed the backbone of our first demo tape at the time. A tape incidentally that got some excellent reviews. We though that was it – a thumbs up from Organ. Job done. Alas, one taste and we wanted more. That is, until everyone cleared off and we mothballed the band for 12 more months and I wrote the first album, coming back fully fledged with a new line up and new clothes in 2005. Not the first of our ridiculously long periods being a band-only-in-theory.
Where were we? ‘The Confounders’ still has the best ska bit of any Silvery song – a shame the verses were gash. ‘Toads’ was played twice because the keyboards weren’t loud enough the first time. I liked Howard’s keyboard part for that. ‘Goodbye Waves’ is a brilliant song. Not really a ‘live’ song though if you know what I mean. We played half of it at the next gig and then it disappeared completely.
I could go on. You know, the look of shame on the bassists face when we saw he was wearing a t-shirt with ‘Bollocks’ written on it (he must have been a fortune teller or something) as we bounded on stage dressed as the cast of Das Boot. I’ve got to have my tea, so I’ll leave you with (for your enjoyment) some reviews from the era. I’ll be honest, I think I wrote the last one.
Organ, Winter 2000 – “Three tracks that have a fragile quirky Menswear/Low Art Thrill new wave pop art taste to them – this is rather good. They feel as good as anything Elastica have done, they remind us of Minty or Nancy Boy, Silvery are indeed a real low art low rent thrill. They’re from London, we should all make contact and find out more. Three spiky spunky songs that cum recommended.”
Songs & People Fanzine, Spring 2001 – “They look like a cross between Elastica’s kid brothers and “Modern Life Is Rubbish” era Blur, but sound like Magazine and XTC twatting each other over head with big glam guitars. That’s not to say they aren’t ‘pop’. The Bowie element is there, but when they play with the Ska awkwardness of the Cardiacs you go away scratching your head.”
Mumblezine, Summer 2001 – “We were promised mad elastic Ska, mental rhythm changes and acrobatic glam melodies. So, when the gig starts with two people playing a tender guitar duet, like the duelling banjos in the movie ‘Deliverance’ except blissed out and reflective, we were surprised. They all come about after the proper set opener (after 4 minutes of feedback and Theremin) ‘Uncatchables’ (which seems to be made up entirely of random chords and drumming) …. It is only after the awesome ‘Revolving’ and ‘Engines’ (now almost a disco thang) that Silvery seem happy. Drummer Murray sings a song himself, supposedly so the rest of the band can have at least one song to jump about with total abandon. ‘Toads’ is played twice… once in its extended form, and once in its 30 second original length, and seems to be the hit of the set… all Telstar Theremin effects and twisting guitars. Howard’s xylophone riff on the final tune is beautiful and funny at the same time. Hence Silvery’s appeal”