Copyright © 2005 Martin Newell
Pepys 0.1 Blogware © Steve Dix
In the warm early spring of 1983, Martin Newell, now 30 years old, was in charge of a student boarding house in the small town of Wivenhoe. Here, in exchange for cheap rent, he acted as caretaker and rent collector for the students, artists and junior lecturers who were the house tenants. With his musical partner Lol Elliott now long decamped to the West Country, Newell, who also still had a part-time job as a kitchen porter, began work on what would eventually become In The Golden Autumn the Cleaners fourth cassette album. Late that winter he'd also bought himself a cheap drum machine, sundry percussion instruments and a spring reverb unit.
One of Newell's chief problems at this time, apart from constant money shortages, was finding musical collaborators who shared his own skewed pop vision. The absolute opposite of a musical perfectionist, the founder Cleaner believed that great pop was to be had by doing things quickly, in slapdash fashion and by 'fumbling around in the dark in search of happy accidents.' Most up and coming musicians just could not see the joke, so for the present, Martin Newell forged on alone.
He recorded at all of hours the day and the night or whenever his caretaking duties, his part-time kitchen portering or his personal life permitted.
It was all going well, if rather slowly, when a London book publisher signed him to a deal to produce a book about 4 track home-recording and music making. It was an attractive diversion but the writing of the book took up much of the summer, slowing the music down somewhat. Newell was halfway through both his book and the album when disaster struck, The publisher's cheque bounced and the publisher disappeared. In those pre e-mail days, because of a mix-up between his bank and his building society, the news took the best part of four weeks to reach him, eventually arriving by post.
With the scant savings, which he'd been living on ebbing away, he threw caution to the wind and decided to press on, in order to finish the album before the summer ended. He also finished the book in its first draft. In addition he'd only just managed to finish In The Golden Autumn and pay for its first small run of cassettes which he then hoped to begin selling.
By now almost broke, he managed to retrieve his part time job as a kitchen porter and in September of that year 1983, with a completed book but no publisher, he returned, tail-between-his- legs to the sinks. “Back to the draining board.” became his grim joke upon the subject.
Later that autumn, the publisher suddenly re-appeared, full of apologies. He offered to make up the difference which Newell had lost from his savings. He said that he was still ready to publish but would understand if The Cleaner from Venus said no. Martin Newell was in no mood to do business. Angry and hurt he said he didn't want to be published now and turned his back upon any literary ambitions which he'd harboured.. As badly-paid and ignominious as his music business career up had been up until that point it was a world which he felt at least that he knew. He threwhimself back into recording again.
He wasn't entirely alone, however. Guesting on the Golden Autumn project was a fellow kitchen porter, Martin Chapman, who wrote the tune and played the piano on Victorian Society. Chapman's other value during that disappointing year was to bolster Newell's flagging spirits. The two of them acted as a sort of comedy turn in the restaurant kitchen where they worked together. Newell said at the time that after a day shift, with Chapman, the two of them would frequently go home from a shift with their ribs hurting from constant laughter. Also on the project at that time was a young drama student who was a tenant in the house which Newell looked after. Paul Ridley Thomas was a music fan and something of an authority on early 1960s US girl groups. In the small hours, he would often play Newell old Ronettes, Orlons discs and the more obscure Shangri-las records The production values of these, the head Cleaner, even today, will claim as having been an influence.
As 1983 came to an end, the lone Cleaner busied himself with one last project. Two For The Winter was a limited 100-copy cassette made to raise some money for the Greenham Common anti-nuclear protest, which was then at its peak. Newell was sympathetic to the women protesters at that time. The cassette sold out almost immediately and even Newell didn't have a copy. This comparative rareity, which later C.f.V fans have sometimes expressed curiousity about has been included in this collection. Also included here are two tracks from that same period which have never been heard outside of his studio. It's Been So Long a 1975 George McCrae hit was an old personal favourite of Newell's from the time. When the Cleaner was improving his home studio, he needed a track to test out his newly-bought compressor and tape echo unit. In absence of a new song of his own he chose, It's Been So Long. The other song, Something In My Eye was an 'orphan track'. Too late for In The Golden Autumn and too early for Under Wartime Conditions it has lain abandoned in the vaults by its maker for almost three decades. Thus, did 1983 with its various highs and lows come to a close for the Cleaner from Venus. 1984 would prove to be rather more dramatic...