One of the unexpected highlights of the lockdown and the subsequent closure of pretty much everything we've come to know and love about the music scene has been the emergence of the listening party - as devised by Tim Burgess of The Charlatans. One of our favourite bands of all time, Inspiral Carpets, have embraced this more than most with a run of five events alongside Shine On Festival featuring their studio albums - Life, The Beast Inside, Revenge Of The Goldfish, Devil Hopping and Inspiral Carpets. To celebrate the final album in the quintet, the band have decided to release, for twenty-four hours only, Reason Why, an unreleased track from the sessions from the eponymous album.
By the time Inspiral Carpets' debut album Life was released in 1990, the band had years of history. Stephen Holt had been replaced in the band as front man by Tom Hingley, who proceeded to lead the band across their first four albums before Stephen returned for Inspiral Carpets. Life was their most successful and best known album, reaching number two in the charts. Running through the album from start to finish brought back many memories for long-term fans, sorting through ticket stubs, finding the milk bottles that advertised the band's huge G-Mex gig in the summer of 1990 whilst the band gave accounts of how, where and by who the songs were written and fascinating insights into some of the stories behind them.
Revelations include Clint's guide to which of his array of keyboards were used and which effects to anecdotes about the recording sessions which involved recording a drunk tramp outside their studio for Memories Of You, Craig's suggestion of the military style drums that lead into She Comes In The Fall and their pride in writing Sackville about the area in which their t-shirt business had blossomed into a thriving cotton industry. Tom talks about how Bjork and The Sugarcubes influenced some of his ad-lib vocals, Craig's drums (a recurring feature across the parties is the unequivocal love for their sadly-departed drummer) and his introduction to the band just a year earlier - but he tweeted as if enjoying it as a fan with the rest of us too.
Martyn recalls the start of many a gig with their roadie Noel Gallagher checking the amps as the rumbling opening to Real Thing would start the night off as the album does in spectacular style and why the spelling of Directing Traffik was a nod to their Berlin house scene. The band's (un)official archivist Graham provides lots of memorabilia and details behind where songs were written, stories from the studio and the little details about the songs that hardcore fans delight in.
Too kind Tom.— Stephen Holt (@StephenEHolt) April 2, 2020
You took the band to heights I doubt we would have achieved if I’d stayed.
Respect xhttps://t.co/EY5dDeIegj https://t.co/HubTzcimUR
Whilst the backlash had started against the Manchester scene that Inspiral Carpets had been geographically lumped into by lazy London journalists despite the garage sound of Life being a million miles away from The Roses and Mondays, Inspiral Carpets returned to the studio in winter 1990 "holed up in a studio, discussing rave, playing football, watching Twin Peaks and listening to Talk Talk" as Graham introduced the second listening party.
The Beast Inside's tales include Clint's story of the band smashing the windows of the camper van they hired in Spain for the Caravan video before they considered pushing it off a cliff before realising they wouldn't get away with it, spaghetti western influences, memories of a trip to the concentration camp at Dachau on the album's title track and their love of The Doors on the thirteen minutes and forty seconds of Further Away. Whilst the album was not viewed as a commercial success, it did actually peak at number 5 in the charts, higher than the two albums that followed.
Please Be Cruel - the first single by the band to splutter, reaching no.50 in the charts. We later intended to release a compilation album called ‘The Greatest Hits and Please Be Cruel’. #beastinside #inspiralThursday— Tom Hingley (@tomhingleymusic) April 9, 2020
What's telling is how often the band's off-the-cuff tweets about the songs match those of their bandmates, as if they're recollecting a past that's revealing itself again to them as they listen to the album for the first time in years, aided and abetted by fan memories. Tom praises the contributions of others throughout, whilst downplaying his own considerable ones. Martin provides humour, recalling a review that called Caravan "The Only One I Know played on pneumatic drills" as well as technical insights into his bass playing and writing contributions on the album, whilst Graham launches a passionate defence of the album which was released in a period where only chart positions seemed to matter to labels and the media as well as how Further Away was an extension of how they used to do long jams in their cover of The Velvet Underground's What Goes On and their own Plane Crash back in the eighties.
#inspiralthursday#beastinside#pleasebecruel@inspiralsband released this as a single around the second G-Mex in June 1991.— Graham Lambert (@InspiralGraham) April 9, 2020
It felt like the album was judged on the chart positions of the singles. As time has gone on it’s become evident that isn’t the case.
"ROTG is announcing itself as an out-and-out Pop album, with its writing and Pascal Gabriel’s crisp production" was Tom's opening tweet about Generations, the opening track on Inspiral Carpets' third album Revenge Of The Goldfish, released in 1992, and which featured their biggest chart hit Dragging Me Down as well as two further singles Top 40 singles Two Worlds Collide and Bitches Brew. The album surprisingly peaked at number 17 despite the hit singles.#inspiralthursday #goldfish— Inspiral Carpets (@inspiralsband) April 16, 2020
After the modest success of Please be Cruel back in June 1991, the band took time to reassess.
Time out of the public eye paved way for Revenge of the Goldfish. Released in October 1992 it’s a 12 song harsher sounding record.
Martyn's recollections of the album include Clint having a jet-ski race with Betty Boo after a Radio 1 roadshow in Swansea and "accidentally" cuffing Graham with his bass on Top Of The Pops. Tom gives away an old trick when talking about Saviour revealing "singing the chorus differently at the end often helps to make a song catchier. Always worked for Shakin’ Stevens" whilst reminiscing about Fire being about syphilis and unconsciously borrowing the title for Here Comes The Flood off Peter Gabriel and being pulled up on it by his daughter.
Graham reveals the band's songwriting was rarely a group effort at source with different members bringing songs to the others, something of a unique working method for a band of their size, but particularly on Revenge Of The Goldfish, the insight the others provide to each song shows how they worked together and developed ideas. Clint once again talks about his keyboard effects and inspirations on the record as well as being the most effusive and excited about how great an album it was, combining their garage roots with a pop sound.
#inspiralthursday #goldfish @inspiralsband none of our songs were co-written at source. Normally a member would bring a song in and we’d all get busy on it. With #twoworldscollide as suggested by Daniel Miller (below) of @MuteUK we combined verses by Clint & a chorus by me. pic.twitter.com/e8SHheddUO— Graham Lambert (@InspiralGraham) April 16, 2020
Revenge Of The Goldfish was released in 1994 and marked the final album of the first phase of Inspiral Carpets and despite two hit singles in Saturn 5 and I Want You, the latter recorded with Mark E Smith for the single version, the band split during writing sessions for its follow-up after leaving their label Mute. It doesn't sound like a band on the brink of implosion though. The album charted at number ten.
Clint's chat reveals that I Want You was used for the first ever in-car CD player advert by Sony, the date they set the footage to on the camera used in the Saturn 5 video was 23.4.20, the date of the listening party and that the piano he played at Parr St in Liverpool was later used by Coldplay - all snippets of information that would have lost in the annals of time were it not for the listening party. Tom tells us he hasn't listened to large parts of the album since around its release, loves the use of the word ubiquitous in Mr Lovegrove and his wife Kelly tweets to tell us that she watched the Saturn 5 video as a teenager and is now sat with Tom listening to the record together.
From the age of about 7 or 8, Elvis Presley was my absolute hero. I was obsessed. Right thru the late 60s until 1976. Mark E Smith was the first singer/frontman who came along & knocked Elvis off his pedestal.... (cont’d) #InspiralThursday #DevilHopping #IWantYou @inspiralsband— Clint Boon (@therealboon) April 23, 2020
Martyn tells more of the band's dealings with Mark E Smith, taking records round to his house and being told he was followed by MI5 whilst recollecting playing live on The Word and meeting Tori Amos at Top Of The Pops, to which Graham added a photo, an example of the way one of the band's contributions spark a response from another to regale the fans with unheard stories that would probably remain so were these listening parties not to take place.
— Graham Lambert (@InspiralGraham) April 23, 2020
Fast-forward twenty-one years to 2015 and Inspiral Carpets return with a self-titled album. A big reunion tour in 2013 and a proper retrospective in Cool As were followed by sporadic touring until 2008 when the lines went dead until an announcement in 2011 that Stephen Holt was rejoining and replacing Tom Hingley. They toured extensively with a mix of Greatest Hits and some new songs, including Reason Why which didn't make the cut on the album, but which the band have made available for 24 hours only from now (10pm, 30th April 2020).
The album very much had the feel of unfinished business which becomes evident as the band walk through the tracks. The joy of being back in the studio creating for the joy of it rather than it being business runs through all the interactions - Clint saying if they were judged on just one song he'd be happy for it to be Let You Down. For us, it's more proof that a band with history shouldn't be expected to rest on it and quash any creativity, but continue to make music that excites them.
That was a good feeling being on stage, there had been times I could be forgiven for thinking it had all gone.— Graham Lambert (@InspiralGraham) April 30, 2020
Lyrical insights included Stephen telling the story of a woman whose husband died and left her his Spitfire jet so she learned to fly, Clint referencing old map books in A To Z Of My Heart, Graham's love of cricket on Changes which involved Craig drumming on a biscuit tin to replicate Caribbean calypso drums, parents' memories of a 60s dance hall in Oldham on Hey Now and Stephen revealing Forever Here was his response to those who'd criticised his return to the band after 23 years.This song means so much to me.— Stephen Holt (@StephenEHolt) April 30, 2020
It was the first we recorded after I’d returned.
It was really important to me that we wrote new stuff & didn’t just turn into a greatest hits band.
Top tune x#YoureSoGoodForMe#inspiralThursday @inspiralsband
They conclude by providing a link to Reason Why, an unreleased track from the album sessions that had been played live, that is to be available for 24 hours only
Reason Why was recorded during the 2014 album sessions but has never previously been released.— Inspiral Carpets (@inspiralsband) April 30, 2020
As a thank you to all those who have made #inspiralThursday so special we are now making it available to listen to for the next 24 hours.
The excerpts from the listening party are taken from the following Twitter account sources :
Like the listening parties, we'd like to dedicate this piece to Craig Gill.
Inspiral Carpets official website is here. They are also on Twitter and Facebook. There will also be a listening party for the Dung 4 demo album on May 7th at 9pm on the Twitter accounts above.
Tom Hingley's official website can be found here. He is also on Facebook and Twitter
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