The Upper Room

TrackSingle / Album
All Over This TownColumbia 82876728002
Black And WhiteColumbia 82876836567
Up In SmokeColumbia 82876728002
In Love We TrustColumbia 82876836502
All New And UnknownColumbia 82876836562
Her AlibiSony BMG TURPR002
Never Come BackOther People's Problems
Leave Me AloneOther People's Problems
It Began On RadioOther People's Problems
GirlOther People's Problems

The Upper Room photo 1

The Upper Room (l-r): Beau Barnard (bass), James Pattinson
(lead guitar), Alex Miller (guitar, vocals), Jon Barnett (drums)

(one of a selection of band photos on Jon’s website)



The Upper Room playlist




Contributor: John Hartley

All Over This Town crashed into the UK charts in 2006 and set the world alight in an instant. This is the sentence I wish I was writing, but the reality was it stumbled to number 38 in the UK charts, second time around. As for setting the world alight, all I can say is that Alex Miller, Jim Pattinson, Beau Barnard and Jon Barnett must have had very large extended families who bought the single because in the sixteen years since its release I have encountered only one other person who has heard of them, and that was on Twitter. This is both a good thing and a bad thing. There is always something of a perverse pleasure in having a band that is your band, for you to introduce to others. On the other hand, it seems unjust to me that a band that wrote such simple but great songs should fly under the radar. It is my duty, it seems, to introduce them to a wider audience in the hope they may get some belated attention. Ladies and gentlemen, here is the Upper Room, in Toppermost form.

All Over This Town was one of two singles released from the band’s singular long player Other People’s Problems. The follow-up also had two bites at the chart cherry; Black And White was initially released on the Skye label with its Paul Schroeder-produced album successor reaching the dizzy heights of number 22. The videos for both charting singles featured actress Kate Sissons, daughter of news reader Peter, and set the scene for the perfectly-titled album which contains a dozen kitchen-sink dramas in three-minute pop song format.


The B-sides accompanying the singles in their various formats do not veer from this theme, and make searching them out worthwhile.

Take, for example, Up In Smoke, a track that can be found on the charting release of All Over This Town. This is no studio time filler and could easily have been a track on the album. We start off seeing an old flame featured in a news story in which she is saving the world in a science lab, before being taken back in time to a doctor’s waiting room, hands held tight. We don’t know exactly what the story is but there is enough here for us to piece together the scenes from the film. “If you could ask you would, but it would do no good,” the narrator warns us.

Or In Love We Trust, set in an early-morning airport, watching fellow passengers with envy before realising that they will be flawed as much as you yourself are. “You are a teacher, you must be a wonderful creature; oh no, probably not… You are an artist, you must know the secrets behind this; oh no, probably not.” It’s a painful scene and we are glad we’re just listening to its retelling rather than having to face it ourselves.


The album title itself is taken from the lyrics to another B-side, All New And Unknown, in which we place ourselves in the shoes of the newly-in-love, wrapped up in the honeymoon period until the sheen of perfection we initially saw in the other starts to fade. Of course, we didn’t want to acknowledge this, so “other people’s problems were better than our own”. This much is never truer than in Her Alibi, which is perhaps the most obscure song to track down (a bonus track on the Japanese release of the album, and on the cheaper-to-buy three song promo listed above). It is, however, worth the hunt to find the song which sees the narrator lying in bed after an accusatory argument involving illicit liaisons. “Bed of roses/it’s not anymore”; the paranoia that has led to the main character storming round to the third party’s house to solicit answers leads to the small-hours reflection “while you’re sleeping and I’m lying wide awake thinking that your alibi sounds like it’s not a lie.” We’ve all starred in that film …


The vignettes that are described above continue to pepper the album itself, sinister sketches that our own imaginations can colour in. Portrait, with its doomed lovers whose guilt at shutting out joy is taken to its ultimate conclusion; the portrait of a life, the photo on the wall, a knife … Or Your Body, in which nightclub drinks are drunk to obliterate a reality in which the lights are kept low because you hate your body.

Meanwhile, in Never Come Back, two adversaries – possibly the bully and the bullied – suddenly find themselves drawn together in the shared fear that the perpetrators of a “terrible crime near to our house” will return to wreak further damage.

The song was possibly mooted as a potential third single from the album – single track promo discs exist with album-themed artwork. So too was Combination for which a promotional video was shot.

The three songs that complete this Toppermost are the three that resonate closest, the ones which, when I close my eyes, the film is most vivid. Leave Me Alone is a script of love denied by circumstance; the flirtatious behaviour, the reciprocated affection tempered by the understanding that the relationship cannot progress further against mutual wishes – “please stop calling me at home … though I think you’re lovely.” Album closer It Began On Radio tells the tale of a love unrequited, the emotions stirred in a young soul by the voice of a singer. Maybe Girl resonates closest because it is a film that I have seen, so familiar is the storyline; a film about escaping the military during the Second World War, pursuing the pursuers to maintain secrecy, hiding under a trap door secreted beneath a piano …


Having taken the bold step of introducing you to the Upper Room, part of me hopes you take delight in discovering their songs, that the band finally get some deserved recognition and appreciation. If so, you will need to know that the Upper Room parted ways with Columbia after Other People’s Problems and the band were no more. Songwriter and singer Alex demoed new songs with a band called VoxPop and shared them via MySpace, and they are worth tracking down. On the other hand, you might find that I am completely wrong, in which case I will continue to revel in the perverse pleasure of keeping them as my band.



The Upper Room play Skye Festival in 2006


The Upper Room (Wikipedia)

The Upper Room at Discogs

Alex Miller at Discogs

Jon Barnett official website

Beau Barnard facebook

John Hartley has written several posts for the Toppermost site. He is the author of “Capturing The Wry”, a memoir of the early stages in his quest to write the perfect pop song. He tweets as @Johny Nocash and the music he creates can be found at Broken Down Records.

TopperPost #1,035

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