New Fast Automatic Daffodils

TrackAlbum / EP
LionsLions 12"
Beam Me UpMusic Is Shit EP
Fishes EyesPigeonhole
BigPigeonhole
You Were Lying When You Said You Loved MePigeonhole
Man Without Qualities OneThe Peel Sessions
It's Not What You KnowBody Exit Mind
I Take You To SleepBody Exit Mind
CannesStockholm CD single
Life Is An AccidentLove It All

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New Fast Automatic Daffodils photo

New Fast Automatic Daffodils (l to r): Icarus Wilson-Wright (percussion), Perry Saunders (drums), Andy Spearpoint (vocals), Justin Crawford (bass), Dolan Hewison (guitar)

 

Contributor: Gareth Youngs

Being born and bred in the Tyne-Tees area of TV broadcasting has given me a fair share of positives and negatives, especially in the 90s. Most of the negatives have usually come in the form of having to wait until the sports department have talked about Newcastle and Sunderland for half an hour before a ten second mention of Middlesbrough. So when the positives come along they are usually something very special.

In 1991 we had a special late night music programme called The Riverside which was a self-titled fly-on-the-wall documentary. The Riverside was a music venue in Newcastle that played host to bands like the Smiths, Happy Mondays, Stone Roses, Sonic Youth and Nirvana (their first gig outside of North America!).

Sadly, the Riverside as it was in the 90s no longer exists; it closed its doors for the last time in 1999. There is a new venue that has been named the Riverside in Newcastle but it is not in the same place and has nothing to do with the old management company. The TV show used to pick a band and record some of the songs and show them on the programme in between snippets of everyday life running a music venue. On this particular night, I think I remember my dad shouting upstairs to say that the “band with the funny name you like is on telly” which in those days could have been one of many. The funny name in question was lifted from a poem by Scouse beat poet Adrian Henri. His poem was a variation of William Wordsworth’s “I Wandered Lonely As A Cloud” (more commonly known as “Daffodils”) cut into a Dutch car ad.

New Fast Automatic Daffodils car ad

 

The New, Fast, Automatic Daffodils
(New variation on Wordsworth’s “Daffodils”)

Daffodils poem

Adrian Henri

 

They were, of course, the New Fast Automatic Daffodils or New FADs for short. A band that arose from the ashes of relatively well-known post-punk band Pariah. Ex-band members Dolan Hewison (guitar), Justin Crawford (bass) and Perry Saunders (drums) were searching for a front man to help share their musical vision. There is a rumour that Hewison had a dream that their future lead singer would be someone who wore glasses, fell off his bike and could also sing. You could imagine their bewilderment when a bespectacled Andy Spearpoint arrived to his audition apologising for not being able to stand up because he’d just come off his bike!

They were always thrown into the baggy ‘Madchester’ scene by lazy media types and personally I think that took a lot away from them. They were a very underrated band, especially live. Their change of tempo during songs had the crowd in an absolute frenzy. Fellow Manchester Poly student Icarus Wilson-Wright (percussion) joined the band after a few local gigs and added to that frenetic sound, he must not have been able to feel his hands for a week after a gig with the speed in which he used to hit his bongos. They were signed to Playtime Records along with fellow Mancunians, the Inspiral Carpets.

New Fast Automatic Daffodils poster

Leading up to the Riverside TV programme I had only heard a copied tape version of their first album, Pigeonhole, so I wanted to see what they were like live. After starting it off with a video of the lads arriving with their instruments they kicked off with Lions, a quick-fire disgruntled indie tune that sounded quite like their late 80s adversaries. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find the opening song on YouTube, but did manage to find this 20 odd minutes of magic from the Haçienda.

Andy’s spoken-word-style vocals and at times quite obscure lyrics married well with the fast and furious rhythms and the crowd was loving it; so was I. After watching them on TV, and with the obvious lack of Google back then, I did the only thing that I could do; search my local record shop for any releases by them. Luckily for me, Middlesbrough at that time had Alan Fearnley’s record shop which was a vinyl hunter’s dream. Alan used to play guitar for Rivers Invitation and The Real McCoy in the 60s until he settled for a life selling music instead of making it. I can’t remember how much money I spent, usually off the back of “High Fidelity” record buying moments. Alan would see what type of music you were flicking through in the shop and put something on you might like. You would then start nodding your floppy-haired head or tapping your scuffed sambas to the beat, ask what it was and end up buying it. Really miss the place, met some great people in that shop. That’s what music does, it brings like-minded people together and keeps others at bay. People I used to meet over flicking through new and old vinyl in Fearnley’s would be at the same pubs I went into on a Friday and Saturday. They would also be in the same clubs I went to afterwards. Some great times and all because of a love of vinyl. I’m glad it has returned. If I was in the same position today as a teenager whose musical buying experience is limited to pressing a finger on a phone, I think I’d feel as if I was missing out.

The second record released by the band was the Music Is Shit EP that features the next song on my list. Beam Me Up is an explosive fast paced song that started to show off Andy Spearpoint’s writing talent with the punchy lines, “I sent my brain up and they shrunk it down to size/Now all it does is work my hands and eyes”. Without any of them having strong musical backgrounds they were starting to find their feet really quickly and the crowd, especially on this TV show, were loving it. Andy Spearpoint said that “someone told us that playing three notes together made a chord and we mixed that with a lot of jumping around and shouting and we were set” – and when you listen to their first couple of EPs you can see where he is coming from. Their sound was quite interchangeable at times and to me were like early Joy Division and similar indie dancefloor rhythms that Happy Mondays were experimenting with on Bummed. What I have found, and quite recently really, is that their real influence must have been from Leeds post-punk band Gang of Four. Their album Entertainment is packed full of songs that sound like they have influenced Pigeonhole.

Pigeonhole cover

The positive effect of the Madchester explosion was that the music moguls all had their beady eyes on anything Mancunian. This helped them gather a strong following quite quickly. John Robb reviewed them after a successful gig supporting James at the Royal Albert Hall which the band seemed to think lead to them getting a better record deal with Play It Again Sam records. That record was their debut, and what a debut it was. This is an album that made my Impossible list (a list made up of my 10 favourite albums – you want to try doing one, it’s a painful journey) and I can’t see anything changing my mind about it so far.

The singles Fishes Eyes and Get Better were both different to the album versions which was a bit of a norm at the time, but it was the album version of Fishes Eyes that really stood out. It is really hard to find anything about the band on the internet so trying to find out what other people think of songs and albums has been tough. One article that I read seemed to think that the band were all about the rhythm and that the lyrics just didn’t really matter. I disagree. I loved Andy Spearpoint’s lyrics because they were so different to anything else out there. Especially on Fishes Eyes with the repeated lyrics “Take your time with the devil’s fish law” and “Fishes eye will watch your lies” adding to the background underwater horn echoing behind a baggy wah wah. I was drawn in hook, line and sinker. Apologies for that fishy phrase.

The standout song on this album, and probably the best song by the band full stop, is Big.

The song isn’t one that is packed to the rafters with lyrics – to be honest it sounds more like the band sorted the music out and Andy Spearpoint jammed his vocal over it – but I love it. “The desert grows three miles a year/it just grows and it just grows/I put my pain in a jar and it will be full tomorrow” – add to this its atmospheric melody, throbbing bass and multi-layered bongo percussion from Icarus Wilson-Wright, it became the most loved song by their followers.

You Were Lying When You Said You Loved Me was the main Gang of Four reference for the album, with its prominent bass intro and the flashes of punchy guitar strumming and of course the obligatory lines of “Fish bones in our throats” in great New FADs fashion. I can just hear a light smattering of “six steps back/six steps back/big jump for me/big jump for me” from Gang of Four’s At Home He’s A Tourist.

Pigeonhole made the top 50 in the album charts and this success turned into mad excitement as they were asked to do some Peel Sessions by the great man himself. Andy Spearpoint remembers: “We all said we would’ve been happy to give up there and then after that, they were the highlights of our time together”.

The next song for this post is from one of the three Peel Sessions that they did. It was also the song that faded out at the end of the Tyne-Tees TV programme.

Man Without Qualities One is probably my second favourite New FADs song with its rapid drum beat, percussion and wah-wah pedal on fire. It was a perfect song for the mosh pit with Spearpoint barking out “They make me do it/they make me do it/they make me/they make me” – you were a sweaty mess of scuffed up sambas and floppy fringes glued to your head, magical times!

Peel Sessions cover

What was to follow was two years of hard touring and very slow song writing. The end result was their second album, Body Exit Mind. In typical music discussions on social media there seems to be a 50/50 split with people between Pigeonhole and Body Exit Mind. I’m firmly in the Pigeonhole camp although Body Exit Mind is probably a better produced album than their debut. It was musically moodier; the lyrics were abrasive and more to the point.

It’s Not What You Know arrived in 1992 with slowed down funky beats, a Peter Hook-style low bass and squalling distorted guitars, quite different from the fast paced music and driven lyrics of the past. It was produced by Craig Leon who notably worked on the first three Ramones albums and also Blondie’s debut. The only video I could find (see above) came together with a Nick Cave song as part of the ITV Chart Show’s Indie Chart. There were some great songs in that top ten that week.

Body Exit Mind cover

The mood change was quite prominent throughout the album especially with the song titles: Bruises, How Much Longer Must We Tolerate Mass Culture, What Kind Of Hell Is This, and the finale Exit Body Exit Mind. They must have had their eyes opened to a world that they didn’t like in the two years of writing this album. Even I Take You To Sleep, a fast paced indie song very much in a similar mould to early New FADs material, has an edge to it. The song is about someone who has time on his hands and wants to better himself, so he picks a book to read that just happens to be the Bible. He soaks up all of the book, “I’ll take you to sleep/Wrap you in my sheets/Seep into my dreams/Show me what it means”, until he takes what he wants from it, unfortunately the end result is that he thinks that “Ignorance is Bliss” even when angry bailiffs arrive demanding money from him. I love the idea of a book being read in this way though; the sheets/pages of the book being wrapped in your own sheets as you read at night.

I nearly chose Stockholm as one of my ten but felt that it was a very similar song to It’s Not What You Know, so instead I picked a B-side from its CD single. Cannes must have been left over in a box from Pigeonhole. I’m a sucker for a prominent indie bass sound, and on this track Justin Crawford gives me plenty of it along with what seems like 1: 30 of superb jamming. It would have been a great addition to Body Exit Mind.

Another two years passed and the band released their final album, Love It All, and with it the single Life Is An Accident. For me though it was as if – for every track – they had put loads of different genres in a hat, pulled a couple out and tried to mash them together. The end result was an album that just didn’t work. Life Is An Accident was a decent single but the rest just didn’t sound right, especially after what had gone before. Love It All was released in 1994 and they called it a day the following year.

What I will always take from the New FADs is that they were just like a dance-fuelled bongo-playing Joy Division. Songs like Fishes Eyes and Big were like a slap in the face for me; a wake-up call to stop listening to the chart dross that was on every Sunday and go and find more bands like them.

 

New Fast Automatic Daffodils facebook

New Fast Automatic Daffodils discography

New Fast Automatic Daffodils live at the Haçienda 1990

New Fast Automatic Daffodils biography (iTunes)

It seems to be an unwritten law in rock that when the going gets good, the drummer gets sacked. Luckily for Gareth, he was the bass player. Unluckily though, the drummer was a drum machine. You can’t sack a drum machine! This is how his only stint at musical fame ended in college in the mid 90s. Since that day he has turned his attention to seeing as many live bands as he can and sharing his experiences with other people, if they will listen. He is on Twitter @theedgeofthesea and his blog can be found here. He also has his own podcast, Yesterday’s Jam.

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4 Comments

  1. Iain Duff
    Oct 20, 2017

    A great underrated band – Big is one of my all time favourite singles. First heard it on the Indie Top 20 compilation (vol 9) and it blew me away. That was a brilliant album incidentally – it also featured the Farm, Charlatans, Soup Dragons, Revenge, New Order, Shamen, Finitribe, Carter, Sundays and Lush

    • Gareth
      Oct 24, 2017

      Thanks for the read Iain. Finitribe!!! now there is a band I haven’t heard of in a long while. There were some great compilations out there at that time…most came free of charge too. Had a few NME and SELECT tapes that were superb.

  2. Rob Thorley
    Oct 20, 2017

    I like Body Exit Mind because, while it is more moody and measured, there seems to be a common thread/attitude holding it all together. Having said that, when looking for an adrenaline boost it’s hard to beat Pigeonhole. Nice writing, I like your work, and thanks for including links to the New FADs on YouTube.

    • Gareth
      Oct 24, 2017

      Thanks for reading Rob, much appreciated. I totally understand with Body Exit Mind, it probably was the better produced…finished article…but give me raw and untamed band anyday. I think experience in the studio can sometimes destroy bands…they think too much…or a producer does too much thinking for them.

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