Copyright © 2005 Martin Newell
Pepys 0.1 Blogware © Steve Dix
I have a few gigs to do quite soon...not the least of which will be playing a gig with Hurricane... in the Grey, this Saturday if you happen to be around and fancy 'the full nudge'. Then I'm in St Andrews, Scotland for a while at the Stanza Poetry Festival then hot foot back to Essex for the Essex Literature Festival. While at the launch last Wednesday, numb with a post-birthday head I was approached by author and Guardian columnist Francis Wheen, who told me that he'd been listening recently to the Off White Album. That was a bit a surprise. Then he found out that the producer was the man whom I know as Louis but whom Francis knows as Philippe Auclair, cricket and real ale buff and honorary Englishman. Well, it's a small world isn't it? Though you wouldn't (as Steven Wright says) want to have to paint it.
Where was I ,anyway? Ah yes, those young Cleaners from Venus: By about spring of 1981, Lol and I had about forty different tracks finished. An added complication was that EMI had just signed me to the Liberty label, for my first solo single Young Jobless. That's another story which of course, eventually ended in acrimony and lackofmoney.
Lol and I now discussed how we might distribute our music. We hit upon sending a couple of copies of various tapes to the cassette page reviews (there were such things in those days) of the music papers. Soon, Sounds magazine had written an unexpectedly-favourable review and the orders started coming in on paper napkins, scraps of cloth and lined notebook paper with 50 p coins taped onto them. The appropriate lunatics were out there. Lol lumbered into action and began transferring various songs to various cassettes. Another deal was that you could actually send The Cleaners a blank cassette and we'd fill it up with music for you. Nobody quite got the same album because Lol and I used to put about 25 songs on each tape ...that was all you could fit on..and it depended which tracks we found in the drawer first. It was chaotic but very stupid.
Sooner or later Lol and I disagreed about how we would sell the music..now that the orders were coming at several a week. Lol thought we should give the stuff away. We were both poor as church mice though. Where would the cassettes come from? I asked. Lol took me into an upstairs room in his house, with shelves full of new cellophane-wrapped cassettes...probably about 200 of them. He'd been systematically liberating them from chainstores, ten at a time. It meant we now could give the music away, he reckoned. I was worried about this.
Sure enough, a week or two later, Lol failed to turn up for his afternoon cleaning-shift at the restaurant where we both skivvied. He'd been lifted, while nicking two cassettes. They found some dope on him that even he didn't know he had. While in the police station, the arresting officer left the room. Another policeman came in and said to Lol: "So you're the one, are you?" Lol said: " I suppose I must be." The officer then proceeded to fingerprint and photograph Lol a number of times. This took some time. Only when he began reading Lol out the Prevention of Terrorism Act stuff, did Lol realise that something had gone wrong. The arresting officer re-entered the room and said: " What are you doing with my prisoner? " The second officer said: "He's not the terrorist guy then?" It was explained that Lol was being done for the theft of two cassettes and possession of about a quarter of dope. "Why didn't you say something?" asked the rather peeved second officer. " You never asked." Lol replied.
They gave him a statement sheet and charged him. Lol was asked if he had anything to say. He wrote on the statement sheet. It's a fair cop. Society is to blame. Now they drove him to his house to search the place for more dope. They didn't find any. They saw all the drawers and shelves of box-fresh nicked cassettes and ignored them, failing to put two and two together. Lol went to court and was fined £25.00 on each charge. We started charging 50p for our Cleaners cassettes after that. ( To be continued)
Martin, Val and Elli at the Essex Book festival Launch