New Musical Express

NME 10-06-06There’s no such thing as bad press. But there is such a thing as bad photography. Presented here for your enjoyment are some pre-debut album NME cuttings from 2005 – 2007. They should probably have been included in some earlier articles here and here. It was an unwritten rule to always have a bassist in shot and for me to have a large face. And flowers. Lots of flowers. And hair. Beautiful, sweaty stupid hair. Of course, in the World Of Silvery progress was slow. I’m not sure we managed to capitalise on these little mentions in any real way and we certainly didn’t have anyone saying ‘Nah what you wanna do now is..’ but we were happy to quietly cut them out and stick them in a scrapbook, which up until that point only had flyers, nice pictures from Fortean Times and the odd Organ review stuck in it. Ticking off all these little boxes in our minds as we went along. There were some letters page mentions too but I can’t find them. ‘Eccentric, charming and smart’ in an ideal world should’ve read ‘Dangerous, sexy and swaggering’ like it did with almost every other band at the time. But I guess that’s what made us different. Joe was very pleased that pretty much his first note played on stage with us was captured in an NME live review photo. I think at the time he thought he’d joined Queen or something. Which with hindsight is funny because within a few months we were playing our own ‘picnic by the Serpentine’ in a big top at Wireless in Hyde Park. Things were changing fast. Fast-ish.

nme-29-10-05.jpgNME 24-2-07

October 2004

This is probably the maddest thing I’ve ever read. I found it in my drafts and here it is intact from back in the day. A perfect companion piece to David’s entry here. I’d forgotten about many of the details in this, and it is well worthy of a share. As always, the grammar is dreadful and I never could write very well, but check this out. Starting with Silvery’s support slot with one of our long time heroes David Devant & His Spirit Wife, Wednesday 13th October 2004 which at the time was the biggest thing we’d done. “Oh Dear, What Can The Matter Be?” seems to be the original title. Stick with it, it’s actually hilarious. A proper old time diary folly about everything and nothing.hhiiOctober 2004. Right… got an Organ player, we are now a kick ass 5 piece electric Victorian military band. After gigging for a couple of months, we suddenly get a break. As a long term fan of David Devant & His Spirit Wife, I have secured SILVERY a slot supporting them on our home turf of Islington. I find that this won’t be the last time. (Indeed it wasn’t, and now I’m happy to count them as my friends) 4pm: After a short hop on the number 38 bus with (as I found out later) the singer out of Hope Of The States, I turn up at the venue in the pissing rain. The Carling Academy (or The Old ‘New’ Marquee, if you like) is built out of Lego on the site of the shop I worked in when I first moved to London (Harveys 1997) and this feels really odd. (Turns out we’d play there again in 2008 to launch the ‘Devil In The Detail’ single). Whilst waiting around to meet the chaps for our gig tonight, this is the first time I’ve really had to look around my old manor. The shop frontages along Upper Street are the same as they’ve always been, coldly familiar, but a walk through the Parkfield Street N1 centre and you are into a puzzling hive of trainer shops. Gone is my old barbers, the florist where I bought my sweetheart her first bunch of flowers, the car park behind my shop in which I burst my boss’s car tyres… but the sense of getting closure is overwhelming. Various gentlemen of Silvery turn up and the massive task of moving our gear to the venue begins, with only a broken Mini Metro and some wonky directions to help. The absurdity of the situation we have got ourselves into strikes hard. We learn that a Metro (which we’d hoped to store some stuff in during the evening) has the least secure locking system in the motoring world when we avert a keys-locked-in-car situation with a lolly stick. Some Devants walk past us and into the venue, but a bizarre fear prevents us from introducing ourselves… although I was aware of the fact I was still trying to forget about my first awkward fanzine interview with them when I was about 12. Silvery talk excitedly of our last gig the previous Friday at the Bull & Gate in Kentish Town (a kind of home fixture) almost forgetting the task in hand. TV Deadringer Jon Culshaw loved us. In the split second I turned around when he tapped me on the shoulder I genuinely thought he was Tony Blair. And Dougie Anderson off Channel 4’s RISE seemed happy to spend his time at least chatting to us. Most bands at our level will tell you that gigs usually alternate between good and not so good. We were brilliant on Friday, and that kind of put us in the wrong frame of mind for this evening’s activity. By about 5.30pm, after a surreal build up, we are ready to start exploring inside the Academy (David Bass Silvery had managed to get in earlier to keep some guitars dry, but reportedly hastily retreated when he saw how big the stage was). Vessel recognises the totally lost and confused bunch of chaps that stumble in as he constructs the massive projection screen that he will jump through at the start of DD & HSW’s performance. ‘You must be Silvery’ he asks. A few thumbs up back to him answer. I for one had hoped to be drunk by now. We listen to Devant soundchecking fragments of songs as we kick a bottle top around the foyer in a rather energetic impromptu football session. ‘Cookie’ sounds fantastic. We discover we are brilliant at bottle top football. Italian Silvery Drummer Guiseppe seems to have invited some Columbian gun runners to watch us. We find out later that they are in fact his future kidnappers and will hold him to ransom (according to Silvery Guitarist Howard). A trip to the McDonalds around the corner and Silvery find time is going by VERY quickly. The daunting sound check approaches… usually not a problem, but this could be a little embarrassing. When we get back, we realise that the bar staff (and indeed the sound guy in the tracksuit) don’t look the sort to appreciate the finer points of our tunes like ‘The Ships Cat’ or ‘The Squadron Leader’ that consist almost entirely of fairground organ scales, angular new wave riffage, and falsetto singing. All wrapped up in Victorian military bandsman’s finery. We know we are on shortly after the doors open (at 7.30pm) and by the time 7pm comes and goes, we are wondering if anyone actually knows we are here. Still, after a very shambolic (and, yes, painful) couple of minutes setting up, we do half a song. It sound great, feels incredibly hot under the lights onstage. And I can’t help but think the entire Carling staff thinks we are twats. Yes. We leave the stage and find our dressing room (or at least, put all our stuff in an empty room at the furthest point possible from the stage) and go off in search of booze. As we gather our two (between five of us) backstage passes and arrange our guest list, we learn we are due on stage in 3 minutes. A very quick costume change (minus the trousers due to time constraints) and a bit of make up and we are back onstage, sober, and about to perform to an empty room. Some Silvery fans who are there early come to the front as we kick into our brilliant intro (of the genre ‘clown rock’, which has been said to be called ‘Clock’. As in ‘Clock N Roll’). I realise with horror that we are about to play without our bubble machine or backdrop films, or indeed without the alcohol in our blood that has inspired some jolly live moments in the past. It seems that our wanting to impress the Devant following isn’t going to go that smoothly. The room fill up nicely though (now there must be at least, ohh… 40 people in the hall) I’m thinking this isn’t quite how I imagined it. We play competently enough, none of our normal interaction onstage (we are the only band I know who can run out of room playing in an empty 3 story house). It feels like it is falling flat on its face, although it is nice to play feeling confident that I won’t end the evening with a) the usual snapped guitar, or b) the usual bruised face. Our finely tuned shortened set list finishes and we are left with a quandary: is it better to keep it short and sweet, or to play EVERYTHING? Either way, we accidentally play again one of the songs we played earlier. And don’t actually realise until the second chorus. Next thing I can recall is carrying two or more guitars (and possible one of their players) back to our dressing room, covered in sweat and being exhausted. ‘You sound like Cardiacs! Fantastic!’ shouts the next band on, passing us on their way to the stage. We did it! I immediately want to do it all over again. But first, some drinks. I make my way back to the hall to chat with our friends who are there… they share my thoughts of it not being quite the normal show we put on, but at least they know the deal. The hall is really busy now, and it strikes me that if we were on even 20 minutes later, we would have been fantastic. Doesn’t bother me, as Veldt are on now and I think they are great. A couple of hours go by, drinking and watching the other bands, exploring the venue, making the most of my ‘All Areas’ pass, chatting to lots of new and fascinating people – and I realise I’m still wearing my stage get up and eye shadow. Oh dear. One of the more interesting nights of my little life so far and I’m dressed like a twat. Hence Silvery’s appeal.

PART 2: Skiffle piffle. The next day I am really struggling with what is called a ‘gig hangover’, incorporating the usual quite lovely ‘happy’ hangover feeling, plus limited hearing capability and unusual vocal wobbles. I am excited about everything, but very, very tired … and having a read of a lovely book about the history of early diesel locomotives in and around London (God bless the men at Capital Transport Publishers) in a bookshop in Islington. I am pleased to report that a very pretty young girl comes up to me and says she thought we were fantastic last night. It turned out she was one of the barmaids. I now consider without doubt the evening was a success. However, with all the majesty I can summon, I forget to tell her not only that we are playing later in the month just up the road, but even that we have a website and mailing list that she can join. My response was, very roughly, equal to the noise Scooby Doo makes when flattered or pleased. And I dare say that my facial expression wasn’t that far off, too. However, I did manage to learn more about the operational sphere of the original prototype L.M.S. diesel CO-CO sister locomotives 10000 and 10001.

silvery_hope&anchor29_10_04 096About 10 days later we find ourselves on stage again, this time up the road at the tiny Hope & Anchor near Highbury Corner (and to all intents and purposes, our base camp… so much so that recently we have begun to call it the Silvery War Rooms) and playing sans drummer (going to university in Italy having more pull than starving in a rock band in rainy London). Thus, we have decided it necessary to go skiffle for this gig. And Clown Skiffle at that. It is also worth pointing out, as if to celebrate our own performance at a pub named as rhyming slang to one of my favourite pastimes, that my third Profanisaurus entry is published the morning of the gig. The Claw (joining Piss Bliss and Gentleman’s Toe Pump) is my greatest creative endeavour thus far (including my beloved band). In an effort to make light of our magical situation, this poster is put up around the venue, accompanied by a faded daguerreotype of the remaining Silvery in full stage wear, captioned with our full name and written in best Cardiacs sleevenote broken English. The misguided sense of self belief that anyone cared was massive:

“The Black & Silver Livery (left to right: Simon, David, Howard, James, and on the end there sits little ‘Forward Gun’ the dog) ~ AN APOLOGY ~ Tonight’s performance by SILVERY will be subjected to a few changes insisted on by their totally respectable (and sober) keeper, Quick Luke. After becoming a little too confident onstage, and gaining a little too much respect from all corners, it has been decided to bring the band down a rung or two by making them do THIS. It is hoped you will enjoy this performance, and will not be put off seeing SILVERY again, when it is hoped normal service will be resumed. Yes. Good Day, The Keepers of the Silvery Gentleman’s Club, Chelsea (1853)”

Could this be the end for our heroes? Or a brand new start? Not for the first time, it didn’t make any sense. But it at least seemed an attempt to prepare our audience of the impending SCENE. And I wasn’t entirely sure what a daguerreotype was. As always at the Hope & Anchor, we play some really fantastic table football upstairs, and look knowingly at the quiz machines, picturing the thrashing Cluedo and Bullseye will take later. It really had been a luxury this gig not bringing ANY equipment, bar 2 battered old guitars (an electric and an acoustic) and wonky organ. Even the bass was founding a skip earlier in the year. The absence of a drummer actually seemed to make the whole experience more fun. I hadn’t realised how much running around we had to do for him … especially since he didn’t actually speak English. The most expensive instrument used was a tambourine… compared to the kids in headline band who had just spent daddy’s gift on, almost literally, a kitchen sink. Purely to get in everyone else’s way. The nicest bloke in TV, Ashley Hames, (of Sin Cities fame) turns up in the bar and after chatting to him at the Devant gig seems excited about seeing us at last. I try to explain that this was probably not the best time to see us live for the first time (having not actually planned exactly what this skiffle idea would consist of… especially now as it would probably be more a ‘sniffle’ performance, given the amount of flu symptoms going around in the band) but not wanting to appear ungrateful for his presence. We panic and decide to play the three best songs first in the set to impress him. This plan backfires somewhat when after the 4th song of the evening, we see him enter the venue for the first time. The rest of the set goes by in a wobble of bizarre Country and New Wave. Not quite all hell brak’th loose like usual… more like ‘yoiks’. Afterwards a couple of people asked for demos, assuming we always play like that and are spearheading some secret inept Clown – Sniffle (with whistling solos) movement. I can’t help but laugh. Not only so we not have a demo yet, but this is the first time we’d actually played most of these songs. And it seems that no one in the entire postcode saw the apology posters. As a bonus, we have our usual percentage of ‘you must have balls of steel to do that’ comments. Anyway, fast forward 4 hours and Silvery are playing again courtesy of our acoustic instruments … this time upstairs on an unnamed night bus complete with some freestyle rapping from the hastily assembled (i.e. found) Gangsta Posse we christened ‘The Woolwich Arsenal’. I for one haven’t heard our tune ‘The Charge of The Light Brigade’ sound quite this contemporary. It would be easy to say the gig was a disaster, or more accurately, a right pickle… but it was a bloody funny right pickle. Each song punctuated by fits of laughter from the players and audience alike (bursts of Abba songs and gaps containing missing drum breaks seeming to edge the absurdity level into the red, as did the amazing moment when the audience suddenly got it, and were suddenly right on our side). Let’s just say it was obvious what didn’t work, but a joy when something did. And I’d like to think that is what will be written eventually on the tiny wooden cross that will one day stand on the little part of Islington that shall forever be Silvery.

Silvery-B&G29-01-05 046PART 3: Swords On The Boards. By the January, Silvery were back to being a 5 piece of sorts. A new drummer (Alex) had come along who learned the songs, but long time guitarist Howard had finally decided to concentrate on looking after the Silvery website. Unsurprisingly, within about a fortnight of announcing this, he visibly seems healthier and more energetic. A gig with the new line up is organised back at the Bull & Gate for the end of the month. I for one am apprehensive… my work load has doubled and I’m not sure if I can concentrate enough to SING and GUITAR well. Still, an influx of older repressed songs and new tunes popped up, filling my heart with joy…. and making the band seem a little nearer to how it should do. It was also around this time we started recording some songs on a 4-track tape machine (something we never did for the whole of 2004). These eventually end up on the website and lead to some quite splendid reviews and new opportunities for the band. Anyway, by the 29th we’re at the Bull & Gate soundchecking Queen’s ‘Seven Seas Of Rhye’ and spirits are high. That’s 3 gigs with 3 different line ups. That hasn’t happened for about .. oooo … 2 months?Silvery-B&G29-01-05 048

Around this time, and without warning, this appeared in The Times: “Currently stalking the capital’s night life is a seemingly new terror. A handful of London’s bands are favouring the benefits of loud angular punk sounds and brilliant military chic. Not G.I. greens or Action Man camouflage, but a more sophisticated finery… that of the Victorian foot soldier. While these bands do vary somewhat in the presentation of the look, there is no doubting this upsurge is the latest exciting development in the current revival of British Guitar music. After having the ‘army green’ hijacked by the high street teenage fashion parasites, it seems that the people who have been maintaining the look even whilst it was out in the backstreet cold have now reclaimed it. And for the better.

Having led the way for a couple of years now is the original full time amateur Billy Childish in his latest incarnation, the power trio “The Friends Of The Buff Medway Fanciers Association” (Buff Medways for short). Complete with Olde English Gentleman’s ‘tache, the awkward looking Childish wrestles a fine brand of Garage Punk from his antiquated instrument, taking in 60s Britpop covers, Soul standards and sweat soaked originals. The Medways unique look (Boa War, anyone?) strikes an impressive stance summing up the beauty and benefits of such a look. Although high profiled East Londoners The Libertines have flirted with red Guardsmans jackets in photo shoots, videos and a couple of times on stage, borrowing the look… the way forward seems to be paved by uniquely independent unsigned London bands such as Silvery, whose fledgling website reveals a whole pre-Victorian worldview, steeped in Fortean phenomena and bizarre imagery. It seems only natural that their early besuited stage gear should develop into the confrontational 1800s battlefield look… subconsciously always wanting to be at the exact opposite of what is credible, yet by some perverse twist ending up at the cutting edge. Though it isn’t the smart turnout the Buff Medways favour, but a more ramshackle presentation…. perhaps a good hour into the battle…. and sometimes, due to the intensity and theatre of their performance, that look is accessorized by real blood and explosions of flowers and glitter.

While many bands have dabbled in the kind of Nazi U-Boat Commander look pioneered by Joy Division, their music has also followed the similar grey shadings of New Wave. New Yorkers Interpol are current champions of that scene, the drabness of the look seems to compliment the sedated music, the opposite of the likes of the Buffs etc, where ‘quirk’ is never a few musical (and not so musical) bars away. Also of merit are Brighton’s British Sea Power whose early London shows benefited from a variety of military disguises but also stage props indicating performance in a woodland setting (or at the very least, a stinky pub). However, their early gigs seemed to lack the electricity displayed on their debut album (The Decline Of British Sea Power on Rough Trade), seeming to distance themselves from the general scene. Even Silvery’s awkward mix of Glam, Punk, Oompah fits in better with the aesthetic.

So, Where did this look come from? The formal look of the early Jazzmen is a clue (of course, even earlier military bands is probably too literal) and the uniform attire of the Skiffle and Beat bands in the 1950’s and 60’s (as parodied by The Hives) may be of interest, it isn’t until the dawn of the Psychedelic and the revival of all things Victorian that we get the first clues in a modern Rock setting. The Cover of the Beatles Sgt Pepper album is probably the most famous example of the look – a cartoon of military chic, but inspirational in that it led to Hendrix et al digging out the genuine article. Although this would have influenced certain bands (Buff Medways do the odd Hendrix cover), merely ‘copying the Beatles’ (a musical genre itself these days) has oddly enough led to some of the most boring bands visually and musically (see Creation Records). It seems that it wasn’t until the look had morphed by the turn of the 70s that things really started to get interesting.

When David Bowie took to the stage in 1972 with the Spiders From Mars resplendent in boxing boots and quilted jumpsuits it seemed that the aggression of the battle clobber could be ‘Deviolenced’ (Bowie’s word). It was as if the universal ‘Military’ wear had been given the unique ‘English’ treatment and ended up distinctly Vaudeville. Indeed, Bowie himself said that the idea was to take the look of the Droogs in Kubrick’s retelling of Clockwork Orange and dress them up in their mum’s make-up. Queering up the Ultraviolence further. Bowie’s Glam reading of the idea opened up many to the concept of mixing these looks, the military and the swishy. While it took until the 80s for the garish dayglow (and all too literal) take on Bowie’s version (see Adam Ant, most other New Romantics, and Freddie Mercury’s fantastic yellow 1986 tour jacket), probably the most influential person to have fallen for the idea was Londoner Tim Smith, whose presentation of his band Cardiacs has constantly vilified and pushed them away from mainstream acceptance, whilst at the same time making the select few love them even more. From the early days of gigs in matching boilersuits, through the mid 80s when they always seemed to be in some bizarre Victorian army band to the present day dressed as ‘Nazi schoolboys’ they have offered up musical ideas for the likes of Radiohead, Supergrass, most Thrash Metal bands, and most importantly, Blur. The sight of Damon and co. morphing from Madchester also-rans into Doc Martin wearing Bovver Boys and touting their ‘British Image Number 1’, while flirting with the National Front imagery that had killed Morrissey’s career a year earlier, seemed dynamic and intriguing and served as notice of their new musical adventurousness.

Hence, the concept of ‘concept’ was not lost on the Britpop pack who came in the wake of Blur. South London’s David Devant and his Spirit Wife took the who thing further with an entire Victorian worldview and magic tricks on stage. If uniforms had replaced the slacker chic of the American grunge bands Britpop saw off, then the sight of Menswear in their (albeit secondhand) Saville Row gear and, later, singer Johnny Dean in a red footman’s jacket was enough to convince a new generation of the merits of angular guitar based music and sharp (or was that Sharpe?) presentation. This also raised smiles when The Strokes, fitted out in EXACTLY the same gear and flogging the same musical tricks were hailed as the saviours of music, only about 2 years after Menswear’s final breath. It seems that time flies by quickly in music nowadays, and it is happening again, only this time, it is British bands again leading the charge, seeing off the invaders from the New Territories. Although we are all fighting the same war, pick sides and stick to them this time.”

Giles Syrup wrote that. He’s me. And it didn’t appear in The Times. I just wrote it to look good, and to set us apart from Post-Libertines London. Which was probably unnecessary as no one has heard of us.

2017: And that’s where the mammoth entry ends. Not a clue why I wrote it back then – but I’m glad I did and really wish I’d written more like this at the time especially as most of the articles on this blog written with hindsight are so short of contemporary detail. Not because of all the drugs and booze, but because I have a bloody terrible memory. Thank you for making it to the end. And a HUGE thank you to Tom for taking the pictures. It’s funny now looking through them all. Each one looks like some CGBG‘s punk reportage from other era that no one can quite remember. There’s video too, but you’re not seeing them.

These Questions Go To Eleven

(Originally published in January 2009 on an American music website. I’ve just had a look and see it’s no longer there so here it is for you to enjoy again! As always, with some added annotation because I can’t leave anything aloneJames Silvery).

1.  What music did your parents play in the house while you were growing up? I only really remember two records that I kept coming back to again and again when I was little, Queen’s Greatest Hits and Jeff Wayne’s War Of The Worlds. Both got played to death by me on my dad’s massive old Sanyo music centre. And massive headphones too. In those days I would never tire of repeated listens all day. They’re both quite an introduction to pop music, and it’s brilliant to think that as a kid I thought all music was that ridiculous.

2.  Who is the best artist we have probably never heard of? Definitely Cardiacs. I guess basically they’re the English Pixies, punky, loud, complicated, but capable of extreme beauty and artful lyrics. But where The Pixies go back to the American blueprint of surf riffs and bluesy chords, Cardiacs reference old music hall and typically English imagery like the seaside and horses. Their mainman Tim Smith is easily up there with Bowie & Lennon, at least on the sheer quality of his output for the last 30 years. I think he’ll be remembered as a real maverick genius when he’s gone. And they influenced everyone, from Blur to Radiohead to Faith No More to Arcade Fire.

3.  What record did you used to love, but now can’t stand? **** *** ********** *** by *********.

4.  What song do you want played at your funeral? ‘I Am In Love With The World’ by The Chicken Shed Children’s Theatre, and ‘Tiny Tears’ by Tindersticks. In fact almost anything off Tindersticks’ Second Album, if they don’t cry because I’m gone, they’ll weep at the music.

5.  What is your favorite b-side? I drive everyone mad by my love of an obscure b-side. There’s many early Blur and Britpop era ones, but I think those early Suede b-sides were amazing. ‘Where The Pigs Don’t Fly’ just nicks it I think, mainly down to it reminding me of walking my dog in the late summer ’92.

6.  Which medium do you prefer: vinyl, cd, or download? Another great question… and after much thought, I’d have to say tape. The format I grew up with, and it’s still the tape versions of albums I pine for when I’ve not listened to something for a while. I dabbled with MP3s and they serve a purpose, but they need to sort out nice packaging for them. That said, it was having a vinyl release that really made the whole band thing ‘real’ to me… the one format you can’t make in your bedroom. (Note – my favoured listening now is WAV and FLAC through the laptop, hopefully sourced from the earliest Japanese pressing of an album I can find)

7.  What artist would your fans be surprised that you like? I think people that know Silvery will know that we’re fans of a lot of different things, from classical, through some 60s lounge and easycore collections to bad 90’s pop. But maybe the music I like that is most far removed from what we’ve released so far is Ottowan. Remember them? ‘D.I.S.C.O’ and ‘Hands Up’ are amazing.

8.  What musician would you choose to cover one of your songs? Easily The Beatles, just to see what the most famous band on the planet make of it. And I’d coin it in. Or maybe a female… Tori Amos does wonderful covers of songs originally sung by men. Hearing her do a piano led ‘Ghosts’ would be wonderful, as I think it’s a bit based on her.

9.  Who is the most overrated artist? I never really got into Bob Dylan or Leonard Cohen, but that’s more down to me being lazy (as of March 2017, this hasn’t changed – although reading it back, I’m not sure that I actually answered the question). I think only newer bands suffer from the overrated tag in its purest sense and I could reel off quite a list of them. But I do like how the POP machine works so if a band flukes getting a load of hype, good luck to them.

10. What musician or band do you wish you’d seen play live in their prime? As much as I’d love to say Sparks or Queen in ’74 or Bowie in ’72 I have enough bootlegs of them to keep me going. So I’d say Jacques Brel. When I listen to him, I can listen to nothing else for a long long time.

11. What non-musical influences do you have? Loads! We’re always asked about the whole Victorian London thing… that comes from my love of H.G. Wells, which leads onto an interest in Fortean phenomena like ghosts and Ufology and JFK. I was obsessed with early diesel locomotives when I was young so we have a couple of songs about them and occasionally try to sound like them too, and I have a decent grounding in philosophy so that occasionally pops out in some of the more puzzling lyrics. (Thank you KC for the questions).

Silvery At The BBC

IMGP1199 copyThe next obvious chunk of recordings to talk about are the BBC sessions. A mixed bag to be honest. We’d been getting lots of radio play throughout the year so far – both singles to date (‘Horrors’ and ‘Devil In The Detail’ had been all over Radio 1, 2 and 6Music along with some album cuts, notably ‘Action Force’ which sealed it’s fate as our third single) but it was still a big step to be asked into the hallowed BBC to play. It was always a dream to do a BBC session of course, and when we got invited by Steve Lamacq to Maida Vale Studio 4 on the eve of the first album coming in August 2008 I was both terrified and elated. This was the same room, almost unchanged, that Queen and David Bowie had recorded sessions in. Not just any sessions, but versions of songs that I had cherished since I was little and in most cases deemed superior to the official album versions. Same during the Britpop years of my youth – all those bands that had done the same in these hallowed rooms. My bootleg collection was bulging with them and to finally get the chance to start on our own BBC adventures was almost a validation of everything we’d done as a band up until that point. That said, I doubt David Bowie got chased down the long Maida Vale corridors repeatedly by his drummer trying to control an exceptionally heavy equipment trolley. We’d just got back from playing Kendal Calling so weren’t exactly on-point. Selection of tracks to play was academic though. A singles, a radio hit, and one potential single for this debut sesh. I know we’d all have liked to have done something a bit more off the wall, but this was our first proper national (and in truth international) exposure so best keep it commercial. Or at least, our version of commercial. This one was good because it was all pre-recorded ‘live’ that afternoon so it took the pressure off a bit. Although we were surprised and horrified that we’d be interviewed too. We had a lot to talk about though so it flew by. Fortean phenomena, machines of light rotating under the ocean, Rock N Roll as a steamship voyage. I could imagine the great British public falling over themselves to preorder the album. Once we were done, it gave us enough time to go and get plastered afterwards and round up the troops to listen at home that evening. Super BBC Radio 1 – just on the cusp of it still meaning something. Listening back they are very ragged versions of course (the link up there only is a repeat that only has a couple of snippets) and one or two little mistakes (a nice juxtaposition with Simon playing the MASSIVE BBC Steinway piano) – but nothing to spoil our enjoyment. Believe me, it would get worse. I’ve just remembered too that the album became 6Music Album Of The Day when it came out. Even ‘A Penny Dreadful’ got a spin. Great days. (Songs played: The Nishikado, Horrors, Action Force)

Silvery at the BBC RileyThe second session was a couple of months later up in Manchester for Marc Riley on BBC 6Music. Again, for me, mind-blowing that we were doing what my favourites had done before. I remember falling in love with so many other bands in session with him and Radcliffe in the 90s. This time it was actually proper live and the hours we spent in the car getting up there allowed the nerves to wrack up. But by this point we were a well oiled machine so we knew nothing would go wrong. All I can recall of the music was during ‘Devil In The Detail’ the faders weren’t correctly up so the opening felt weird. That panic was still there once the solo came around and we had a nice on-air joke about the face I pulled as I fluffed it. NOT the song to sing if the levels are wrong. The bass bridge between ‘Foreign Exchange’ and ‘The Drilling Machine’ was marked with a whispered ‘hot lunch’ which I now hear at that point no matter what version of the song I’m listening to. This time we pulled out a slightly more eccentric song selection to suit the more sophisticated evening audience. We had a lot to talk about with Riley as we’d just played with British Sea Power at Tan Hill so banter level was high. A cheeky shout out to Tim Smith made it all worth while, and I think the audience reaction was good. We had a few discussions about who these people might be who had written in to say how amazing we were. Surely pals having a joke? Turns out it wasn’t. Just people who ‘got it’. Amazing. (Songs played: Foreign Exchange & The Drilling Machine, Devil In The Detail, Action Force)

The final session was just the worst, darling! Just on the brink of the second album coming out (August 2010) and after a brutal (and eventually fatal) 75% line up change which hadn’t played a gig yet – or in all honesty rehearsed much. At that point it wasn’t as tight as I’d have liked, and an illustration of how rushed into promoting the album it felt. In those first weeks together, Silvery Mk 2 (if you’re counting properly) had a crash on a golf buggy (2 ribs broken), broke a stage, broke unbreakable instruments, and fluffed unfluffable songs with alarming regularity. So it did feel like there was a cloud hanging over the band, but you know what – we bonded over it! Listening back now, to be fair, the session isn’t toooooo bad. So once again up to Manchester to show off live on air. I was sad and cross and just had nothing to talk about. Terrible jokes and seemingly hours of silence as I stood there politely fuming. (‘But that’s what you’re like anyway?’ Girlfriend Ed.) I took Marc Riley a CD of a rare 1973 Bowie concert as we shared a huge love of Bowie. He looked a bit puzzled at my thoughtful gesture. Later on I did a Bowie impression during the interview and he did a Jimmy Saville one. You couldn’t do that now. None of the beautiful backing vocals from days of yore were lavished over the tunes as no one knew what to do yet. ‘The In Insect Jerk’ and ‘Naked & The Dead’ were buggers to play anyway so that didn’t help, and ‘Two Halves..’ didn’t sit right live for about a year anyway. So naturally, it’s this session that 6Music keeps repeating to this day, most recently a couple of months ago. I don’t even bother telling anyone anymore. Although the 4 songs we played were pale imitations of the album versions, no one seemed to notice and I do occasionally get nice messages about it when it’s repeated. But I noticed and it killed me at the time. Woe. So much so that we were asked back again shortly after and I refused. A shame as by that time, the new line up was pumping on all cylinders. Remarkably, that wasn’t QUITE the end of the story. Maybe that will be the next post….(Songs played: The ‘In Insect’ Jerk, Identity, The Naked & The Dead, Two Halves Of The Same Boy)

So that was it (more or less). Full circle is reached however when I found a blog on-line sharing a collection of all the sessions entitled something like ‘Silvery At The Beeb’. Being a fan of the band, that made it all worthwhile. Our own BBC bootleg! I downloaded and kept, and those are the version I listen to. Lovely.

The 2007 Demo

Well I mentioned it just now, so I thought I’d do this entry while it’s fresh in my mind. We’d spent 2006 gigging and getting those 2005 demos out there with good feedback (airplay, reviews, better gigs, fan base building, all the usual for a fledgling band that had previously alluded us). I’m not sure we actually sent many off to labels etc, but as we were gigging so much it was easy to get rid of our stock (especially when we regularly lost entire bags full and had to run off more). After a busy but uncertain year with rots22aating bassists, by the end of 2006 we had lost our proper bassist after a triumphant KOKO gig (the last of 4 that year, and the last until 2011) as David just couldn’t commit to the increasingly hectic and busy life as a Silvery. This all scuppered plans to record more stuff that year so we made do with the increasingly out-of-date 2005 sessions. Again, the fates aligned and we quickly found Joe through Simon the keyboard player. Joe was a different bassist to David and anchored the songs with the sobriety they required and we all hit it off straight away. After a few rehearsals once again we were ready to play live and started 2007 with a live review from The Metro published in NME, a decent management team and even some legal oomph. We were getting offers and interest from all sorts of new places and we needed to record some fresh demos. Again, we had gone into the new line up and new year with a fresh outlook.

We were rehearsing at Fortress on Old Street the scene of the previous 2005 demo session (Here’s some pictures of the new line up on the roof there back in 2007 – careful lads!) and by chance found on one of the upper floors a little private recording studio called Pinna run by a chap called Kev Feazey. During a break in practice one Sunday we tootled up the stairs and asked him if we could book some time. He came down to watch us and liked that we obvious had our shit together and were doing something very different to the usual Shoreditch thing at that time. Although it’s fair to say initially he had alarm bells ringing due to our tight jeans and Russian naval tops. We all agreed on a weekend to do it that March. Avoiding the problems of last time, we decided to do just 3 songs and get them all finished and mixed by the end of the two day session. ‘Horrors’ had been a favourite in the set for about 6 months and was crying out to be recorded as it had ‘single’ written large all over it. Rather than doing a couple more new ones (‘Warship Class’ was3s less than ideal for the new serious and commercially minded band!) or ones that had previously fallen through the cracks (How we hadn’t recorded ‘Star Of The Sea’ yet is beyond me) we chose to redo previous Silvery favourite ‘That Which Is’, and live staple ‘Orders’ which by this point had developed into an entirely different song to the original 2005 demo.
Recording was easy. Drums and bass were done live and the rough live guitar and keys were either replaced or added to straight away barely before we had a chance to change the settings. Singing (that most hated part of my personal studio time) was effortless too this time (thanks to all the gigging we’d done and the jolly atmosphere in the studio). That is, effortless once I’d actually finalised the lyrics to the still fresh ‘Horrors’. We videoed most of the weekend and watching it back today is a joy. We had so much fun at those sessions. (Note: There is a sequence on the video of Alex adding cowbell to something. I genuinely haven’t a clue which song it could be).
So those three tracks became the new demo, splashed all over the internet and put on CDs for the fans, with half an eye on getting them out as a single. I’d met Paul from Blow Up Records after that January gig at The Metro mentioned above and we forged a friendship over favourite Glam Rockers and Britpop memories. He still doesn’t believe that I liked his old band The Weekenders back in ’94. I got the recordings to him, along with the other older studio sessions (more because I thought he’d like their Glammy Britpopiness rather than actually sign us). The next thing I know, less than 2 months after finishing these new demos, we were signed up to do an album. Simon and myself went out to celebrate in Camden – to such an extent that the following day I had to phone Paul back and ask him if he’d actually said ‘album’. Again, great days tthunderero be alive. Of course, we tweaked these new recordings for official release once we started our album sessions proper that summer (once again with Kev at Pinna, mainly adding handclaps) and ‘Horrors’ and ‘Orders’ became the double A-side vinyl debut. And, I hope you will agree, what a debut coupling that was. Straight onto the radio and even onto the telly a couple of times. Luckily, given the considerable gap between finishing the ‘demo’ version and the official release (some 10 months – which absolutely flew by) it gave us time to get the BRILLIANT video made and the still brilliant WWI lancer stencil single cover done with our friend Dirty Earthworm. For once in our pitiful struggling existence, everything came together. The story continues here.
Geek note: We actually re-recorded ‘That Which Is’ again (hey, why not? I make that 4 studio versions done) but the retake remains unreleased and the album cut is that original March 2007 demo. In a parallel universe somewhere, we released an EP of all the versions on one bit of vinyl. There’s lovely now.