A new post and a KYPP exclusive. Blood And Roses, personally one of my favourite bands from the early 1980’s.
Bob Short is currently working on a new Blood And Roses album with Lisa. Hopefully it’ll come together but it involves passing recordings from Bob to Lisa across continents. Part of the process has been for Bob to remaster the tracks off of the ‘Love After Death’ cassette to work out what was being played and what the lyrics are. Fifty minutes of the original ninety minute cassette has been completed so far. That equates to eighteen tracks out of twenty eight from the original 96 Tapes release. Bob thought he would offer the results to KYPP in case anyone was interested as he has just spent a week or two trying to improve the quality! A kind thought indeed. There might be more tracks to come.
Thanks to Bob Short for sending me the remastered tracks all the way from New South Wales and also for the text written out below. Many thanks also to Andy Martin for the text he wrote on Blood And Roses and sent to me a couple of years ago. I have attached Andy Martin’s text below Bob Short’s. Thanks also to Tony D for the use of his flyers.
01/ Scenario (Rehearsal 1981)
02/ Louie Louie (Rehearsal 1981)
03/ Paradise (Rehearsal 1981)
04/ I’m Waiting For My Man (Rehearsal 1981)
05/ Jesus (Clarendon Hotel 1981)
06/ Roles (Rehearsal 1981)
07/ Product Of Love (Clarendon Hotel 1981)
08/ Sympathy (Rehearsal 1981)
09/ Mummy (Clarendon Hotel 1981)
10/ Strychnine (Rehearsal 1981)
11/ Your Sin Is Your Salvation (8 Track Demo)
12/ Curse On You (8 Track Demo)
13/ Necromantra (8 Track Demo)
14/ Spit upon Your Grave (16 Track Demo)
15/ Possession (16 Track Demo)
16/ Tomorrow (8 Track Demo)
17/ Your Sin Is Your Salvation (Dub) (Casenove Road Demo)
18/ Love Under Will (8 Track Demo)
Looking back over thirty years, I am confronted by a world that even I find difficult to recognise; a world of cassette tape recorders with condenser microphones and telephone boxes on the corner, listening to John Peel on a battery powered transistor by candlelight. Sure kid, we had electricity in those days – unless you hadn’t quite managed to get it together to steal an old meter and jerry rig it into the squat wall. Or the police had torn it off said wall for kicks. Or the Council had dug up the lines in front of the house in an attempt to save on eviction costs. Or one of your friends had decided the meter was a Dalek during some kind of drug fuelled psychotic episode. Could have been some kind of power cut. They seemed to always be happening because of strikes or cut backs or something. Maybe God just decided to take a dump on. It’s been known to happen. Ask Job.
Was it surprising that there was always some kind of shit happening? There was always some sort of bomb going off here and a riot or two there. Margaret Thatcher was Prime Minister and, like some kind of hell spawned Midas, everything she touched turned to shit. There was still good old British know how and crap made out of Bakelite barely holding the circuits of London together. When the fuse blew up in your plug, you wrapped foil from your cigarette packet around it. Every appliance in the capital seemed to be attached to a frayed cloth lead with odd patches of exposed metal shining through from where one of the local sewer rat went and fried itself. Why there wasn’t some all consuming second great fire is one of life’s great mysteries. Possibly, it was always raining.
Fortunately, if the power was off and the cold wind blew, you could always shuffle your way down to some club in search of light and heat. Of course you had to avoid a long list of youth sub cultures in your travels. Every night in London town was a reinvention of The Odyssey as told by some third rate Cockney Walter Hill. Can you dig it? Why did you go to gigs when skinheads were always turning up to beat you up? Well. If you stayed home they’d come around and beat you up anyway. You might as well go out, hang out with the herd and better your chances. And there was music (or at least some rhythmic pulsing noise pretending it was music.)
There’s the nostalgic cut and thrust part of proceeding dealt with. War Stories for the barely impressionable. Funny to think now that those second World War fogeys we mocked were closer to 1945 than we are to 1977. I just needed to get the idea of time and place settled before I talk about “Life and Death”, a cassette only release by Blood and Roses that was released by 96 Tapes in 1983/4. The reason it came out in the first place was every morning I woke up to a pile of blank cassettes and self addressed stamped envelopes courtesy of the mail man. Various darkly covered envelopes with felt pen decoration would make their introductions. Do you have any demo recordings? Live recordings? And dutifully I’d sit there pressing play and pause and waste precious time I could be indulging in debauchery. In hindsight, I know I was participating in a huge underground network communicating ideas and culture. If you think about it, it is a rather amazing phenomenon that probably deserves a University thesis. The trouble was, I was never a great revolutionary. I may well have had my revolutionary ideas and ideals but I essentially wanted to consume copious amounts of substances both illicit and otherwise whilst having sex with women. There were certain people who considered this to be reprehensible but they generally were not having sex with anyone so I envied them nothing.
“Rob,” I said to the Lord High God of 96 Tapes. “Just let me shove everything on a cassette and they can buy it off of your fledgling musical empire. Then I can get on with my pitiful attempts at wenching and less than successful attempts at filling the gutters of Hackney with my vomit.”
“Sure,” says the Bossman. “How much do you want to charge?”
“Just costs. I don’t want to make any money off this shit”
“What do you want to put on the cover? We could put bats and spiders’ webs and shit on it. We could do a real Banshee’s thing on it”
“Fuck that. Put something repulsively cute on the cover. A baby seal. Some pretty flowers.”
“I got this picture of the kitten”
“Perfect.” says I. And that was the extent of our business and marketing dealings.
And perhaps that sounds dumb and cynical and somehow lacking in cultural, revolutionary or artistic zeal or merit. But if you want the truth about how this project got off of the ground, there you have it. But before you get too disappointed, just remember art has a funny way of shining through. These were a collection of recordings made in complete seriousness under absolutely absurd constraints. And when I actually went to put the master tape together, I began to realise I was actually creating a very weird piece of work. Instead of looking for the perfect takes – or even the acceptable takes – I was collecting a series of snap shots about how a band essentially comes in to being. And it is strangely compelling in a way that more commercially acceptable anthologies are not. That still didn’t prepare me for the fact that Robin Gibson gave it a five star album review in Sounds. What was he thinking?
Then I’d start reading someone say that this was ”the real Blood and Roses album” and… in many ways they were right.
Blood and Roses played most of their gigs in squats and squatted venues through PA’s that were far from effective. Okay; occasionally they were guitar amps or record player amplifiers and not PA’s at all and that may have explained their abject failures. In an attempt to hear herself, Lisa plugged her microphone into a guitar pedal. Any improvement in levels was at best a placebo.
I had a semi acoustic guitar I had bought for ten pounds (I got to knock the price down from fifteen because it didn’t have any pick-ups). I taped some pick-ups from a smashed guitar into it and then stuffed it full of toilet paper to stop it feeding back. We owned no amps. Whatever we could beg to play through we played too loud because it seemed like that was how you were supposed to do it.
It wasn’t like we were playing venues with sound guys. We just did our best to tack all this crappy equipment together and then put a cassette player somewhere. Then we’d get on the train or the bus home and listen to the cassette happily as our fellow public transport users recoiled in horror. Any venues that heard these tapes would black list us, nail their doors shut and call the police. So, yes. I guess this really is the authentic Blood and Roses album; not born of dreams but nightmares.
But it is not as if I am claiming some unique way of working. This determined seizure and misuse of any or all available tools of production was rampant. This was, however, a separation of working method from the first wave of punk bands who talked the talk about doing it yourself but pretty much recorded the same way all those rock and roll vampires had recorded; talked their way into record company demo’s. By the early Eighties, the major record companies had enough punk bands to keep them going. Gary Bushell’s myopic lenses kept the various sonic experiments committed in the nation’s squats in a state of premeditated commercial suicide. Even Crass seemed to have access to some sort of legitimate form of production. Given how far outside of society we had all tumbled, we clung to the lyrics of those we thought had blazed our trail. Someone locked the door? I’ll kick my way back in. Or that was the plan.
The music industry did not care if Andy Martin lurked in his attic with a couple of tape recorders and a five watt amp churning out Apostle album after Apostle album having nothing but time on his hands. Out on the edge of the smoke, Faction pressed play and record, thrashed for a minute and a half and then pressed stop. Repeat until you have a dozen songs. Fill in the name of two hundred offenders I fail to mention. A house could fill up with band tapes if you didn’t watch out and remember to tape over them with your own band. Nothing like a roll of sticky tape to foil those copy protect tabs.
That is the world “Life After Death” begins in. The Clapham demo was created via a revolutionary idea. On a less than bright Sunday afternoon, we jumped the tube across the river and set up all of what little gear we could scrounge into the basement of a squat. I had got hold of this 35 watt amp that, if you pushed every dial up to full you could almost hear over the drums. When we played back the half dozen songs we recorded, we couldn’t hear the vocals at all. No problem. We put the cassette into another machine and then had Lisa sing it again with her right next to the recorder. The instrumental “Scenario” got added words because I picked up the first available book and read where I opened it at. Typically the library book in question must have fallen open at the… ahem… most read section. Professional microphone? Nah. The crappy built in thing records sound doesn’t it? High quality cassettes? I picked up these from that stall outside Boots for fifty pence. Each? Nah, all three.
If you somehow think I am mocking this process, you are wrong. Necessity is the mother of invention. The day you wait for someone to give you permission is the day you should give up. The day criticism is enough to slow you down means you are pushing a losing hand. Throughout my life, I have seen thousands of people waiting for their break, holding back for the perfect opportunity to strut their stuff. Waiting for that one perfect thing that is going to vindicate them. Guess what? I’ve haven’t seen it happen once. The only way you can prove yourself artistically is to actually stand up and try to do something with whatever tools are at your disposal. If no one likes what you do, FUCK ‘EM. If all you care about is people liking what you do, FUCK YOU.
The Live at the Clarendon gig was recorded by Andy Martin for SCUM tapes. It was our first gig with Jez on bass and he’d been on bass for all of two minutes. The recording was made on a portable cassette player. It sounds like a toilet being flushed. It sounds just like every small punk gig you ever went to. It sounds totally and utterly real and wonderful but you’ll never need to listen to it twice.
From there on, the recordings get better. Unfortunately, the tapes are copies of copies of copies with each new generation layering its own peculiar rumble or EQ spike. I’ve put them though some software to try and improve some of the quality and trim off jagged tape recorder clicks. Sony has just invented some software that claims you can separate individual instruments so you can fix virtually anything up. Well. I thought that might defeat the purpose somehow. If these recordings were to suddenly morph into something listen-able, where would this leave the feeling of adventure and authenticity? Why isn’t your favourite track here you might ask. Well, “Life after Death” was a ninety minute tape and CDs to burn aren’t that big. For this re-issue, I’ve decided to make two separate discs. Look out for “More Life After Death” coming soon.
And finally. Why now? Why bother? Who cares? Well, I have been recording some backing tracks of some of the unreleased Blood and Roses songs and I needed to try to work out some of the lyrics. That’s why you have the misfortune to be able to download this. But why are you recording backing tapes? Hmmmm. We’ll see.
BOB SHORT 2012
INDEBTED TO ANDY MARTIN FOR THE FOLLOWING TEXT THAT HE WROTE SPECIFICALLY FOR KYPP TWO YEARS AGO
That it has taken me near twenty seven years to have in my collection any music by Blood & Roses is surely perverse. I knew both Bob Short and Lisa Kirby from my days as an unlikely secretary of April Housing Co-op and I met Richard Morgan, the first drummer (who tried – without success – to convince me that Magazine really were a group worthy of my attention). I think I met Jez James, too, but it was also so dark in that terraced house in Yoakley Road, Stoke Newington, that I could never tell who I was talking to. (“Do any of you have any rent for us? You do know you’re two months in arrears.” Brief shuffling of feet from Bob accompanied by slightly guilty grin. “Oh, er, sorry Andy, not this week.”) So why has it taken all this time for me to appreciate what they contributed to pop music, especially in a decade as starved of anything decent, interesting or relevant as the 1980s?
First: in the 1980s I was so completely submerged within my own private hell (still not recovered from nearly two years in a psychiatric hospital, realising I was queer and loathing it) that only truly psychotic music could break through the mental turmoil in which I suffered – i.e. The Pop Group, Throbbing Gristle, The Lemon Kittens and Five Or Six (to give four examples). Punk rock was always utterly irrelevant to me (middle class spoiled brats playing at being rebels only appeal to the homicidal side of my nature) and the few genuinely working class people involved in the scene never seemed to bother being in bands.
Second: the group appeared to be adopted by the Kill Your Pet Puppy collective (as I perceived it – probably erroneously) and at the time I had an extremely turbulent relationship with that crowd – you see, I possessed the social skills of a rhinoceros (and probably still do – that I have hardly any friends will attest to that) yet these colourful characters actually dared to have parties and enjoy themselves in spite of – or perhaps to spite – Britain under Thatcher. I was unable to forgive such blatant decadence! After all, it was our duty to fight the good fight, to engage in the struggle and be forever frothing at the mouth with much wailing and gnashing of teeth while we locked ourselves in darkened rooms to plot the revolution. What an utterly boring bastard I must have been back then, unlike the supremely cool, windswept and interesting chap I am now.
Third: I was in a two-bit little pop group that I think I suspected was always destined to go nowhere very fast indeed and when Blood & Roses came along and showed us how it should be done, well, maybe I was just a little bit jealous.
Fourth: through no fault of the group, the music press (very briefly) developed a fascination with the group and decided to market them as New Goth thing (oh Jesus, give us a break) and exaggerate the Crowley Connection. In fact Bob Short did possess books by the miserable magi but, unlike so many other people during the previous two decades, he actually read and understood them (in so far as anyone can genuinely comprehend a book by Crowley). My heroes were people like Arthur Clarke, Isaac Asimov, Fred Hoyle, Carl Sagan and Patrick Moore so anything even remotely associated with magick, UFOs or the supernatural (I naively made no distinction) I simply dismissed as irrelevant to me.
I heard one cassette of five or six songs, recorded at Starforce Studio (where Twelve Cubic Feet also recorded their one album and where The Apostles recorded their first single) most of which I did enjoy – especially Tomorrow – but that was it. Important note for anyone new to this group: you will occasionally see their name linked with outfits such as Southern Death Cult, Sex Gang Children and Brigandage – ignore such associations immediately. There is absolutely no connection between Blood & Roses and all those other wallies. Also, there is nothing ‘Goth’ about Blood & Roses. How could anyone familiar with the group ever have concocted such an absurd relation?
The trouble is, whenever a pop group (or a writer, artist or film maker for that matter) cannot be easily labelled and categorised by those feeble minded miscreants who are employed to write about such people, the public have shoved in their faces so much ineffable twaddle that everyone (even the group) becomes perplexed and confused. I do remember the day Blood & Roses appeared on the front cover of the NME (and, I think, one or two other glossy magazines). In retrospect it was an excessively damaging development – the group was given an identity totally inappropriate to what it was actually about and the audience was thus completely misled. Had they been allowed to evolve at a more gradual pace, perhaps their ascent to the glory they deserved would have finally happened. That they were only able to release two singles and one album (whereas all that dismal and utterly irrelevant punk rubbish from Crass to The Exploited unleashed a torrent of vinyl, most of which was dire) is a damned shame, frankly – a case of quality rather than quantity.
Early incarnations of the group included No Allegiance (a good name for a group – one I nearly adopted except it sounded a little too close to punk) which changed into a symbol, a splendid hybrid of a swastika with a hammer and sickle. That was followed by “ “ which is my own favourite – that would have caused much consternation among music journalists and punters. Their next name was ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ. After that rich heritage I found their ultimately adopted name Blood & Roses a complete disappointment. It refers to an old lesbian vampire film (I think). If there is any justice in the artistic world, the tracks from that Starforce Studio demo along with pieces from the cassette Life After Death (especially Scenario, Mummy, Product Of Love, Paradise and Curse On You) will also be remastered and issued on CD.
Dear Richard Morgan: it is time for me to repay a debt. On our new tracks, Asian Invasion, Thalidomide and The Phoenix recorded by UNIT you will hear the drum pattern you used on Tomorrow recycled, revamped and reconstituted but always recognisable. Imitation is indeed a sincere form of flattery (but I still think Magazine are crap).
There is good news – Bob Short at least is still creatively active, in film as well as in music. A couple of years ago he sent me (as electronic files) some tracks his new group had recorded – unfortunately our computer refused to play them so his new music still remains a mysterious entity at present. What happened to Lisa then? A singer of her ability and calibre ought not to languish in the relative obscurity of a 1980s pop group, however fondly remembered. Anyway, along with Five Or Six, 23 Skidoo, Twelve Cubic Feet, Cold War and Part 1, we can add Blood & Roses to that hallowed elite company of groups who were simply too unusual or too inventive to be appreciated properly at the time they were active.
ANDY MARTIN 2010
LISTEN TO THE WHOLE ‘LIFE AFTER DEATH’ CASSETTE RAW UNREMASTERED AND UNEDITED: HERE