Back in 2017 we spoke to Michael Kerr from Meat Whiplash, The Motorcycle Boy and Jesse Garon.
Now that Scarlet, the long lost Motorcycle Boy album has finally been released it seems a timely opportunity to revisit some of what we chatted about.
Meat Whiplash were:
Paul McDermott – Vocals
Stephen McLean – Guitar
Eddy Connelly – Bass
Michael Kerr – Drums
The Motorcycle Boy were:
Alex Taylor – Vocals
Eddy Connelly – Bass
Paul McDermott – Drums
Michael Kerr – Guitar
David Scott – Guitar
GM: What was happening in East Kilbride around the time The Pastels and Primal Scream were starting off in Glasgow? Was there much of a scene there?
MK: Well there probably wasn’t really at that time. I mean Meat Whiplash formed out of boredom as much as anything… and the fact that we were all unemployed and unemployable at that time…. You were just looking for something to do.
I remember the moment Meat Whiplash was formed. We were sitting in my bedroom and I can’t remember if it was me or somebody else who said “You know, why don’t we form a band for something to do because we all love music”.
At that point it was Eddy more than myself who was friendly with Jim Reid. At that point with the Jesus and Mary Chain we didn’t know they existed. Jim and William were making demos that we didn’t know off at the time.
Eddy had played drums at some house party band that Jim Reid and Douglas Hart had played at so Meat Whiplash at that point was myself, Paul McDermott, Eddy Connelly and Douglas Hart.
Douglas was playing guitar, I was playing drums, Eddie was playing bass and Paul was singing because he was the good looking one.
None of us had really played instruments before. I think Eddy played bass a little bit and Douglas maybe knew about three chords on the guitar.
At the time Meat Whiplash and the Jesus and Mary Chain formed there was nothing happening except for the usual local bands who’s ambition was just to play at the East Kilbride youth centre. If they could play the youth centre every couple of weeks they were happy.
Meat Whiplash was born out of boredom, we were all unemployed and we were just looking for something to do.
Douglas left soon after to join the Jesus and Mary Chain.
He was asked by Jim and William to go and play bass. They had songs by that time so I think he felt better suited to go play with them. We ended up looking for another guitarist but we didn’t realise that the Jesus and Mary Chain had actually been making demos at that point. I mean, I knew Jim not really well but I knew him more through Eddy and another school friend, Stuart Cassidy, who lived around the corner from Jim.
I remember always going round to Jim’s and the records they had at that point. It was a lot of stuff we really hadn’t heard of. Stuff like The Velvet Underground, Stooges and New York Dolls so it was almost like from Jim you got a musical education with a lot of stuff that influenced a lot of the Glasgow bands at that time.
GM: What would you have been listening to before this? Obviously Fire Engines must have been an influence because of the name?
MK: When I was really young I had two groups of friends- My friends at school and my friends outside of school. I was listening to Heavy Metal and things like that from those friends but in the evening Eddy would listen to The Stranglers and Buzzcocks and Joy Division so I had these other influences.
At that time when I left school I went to work in a record shop in East Kilbride called Impulse Records. It was independent but not what independent means now. Basically, it wasn’t John Menzies or Boots, – the other two places which sold records. They would just play the pop hits of the day.
You know, when you’re young you’re into a certain kind of music and hate pop then you then start to appreciate some pop. Again, Douglas was quite good because he used to listen to John Peel a lot and I heard a lot of stuff through him. We got a lot of new music through Douglas. I remember when he played us Junk Yard by The Birthday Party. In some ways I don’t think there’s been a more extreme album than Junk Yard. You just think “Is this music?” but after a few listens you think this is amazing.
With Fire Engines, I can’t even remember hearing them for the first time but I must have because when we were trying to think of a name for the band. We went through lots of names but it was Douglas actually who suggested the name Meat Whiplash. It was just an odd combination of words which we really liked and ‘Candyskin’…we all loved candyskin. I’m trying to remember because that would have been before Splash One, the club in Glasgow who used to play Candyskin quite a lot. I can’t remember but it was probably through Douglas that I first heard the Fire Engines.
GM: I didn’t realise Douglas was an original member. What was it like for the only two like-minded groups being in East Kilbride? Were there aspirations to move to Glasgow or somewhere bigger?
MK:: Well, in some ways we rode on the coattails of The Jesus and Mary Chain because we didn’t have any huge ambitions other than starting a band. The only thing we said at the beginning was that if we appeared in the local newspaper then we would split up because it was that thing, the ambitions of local bands, that if they got in the local paper then they had made it. We were the antithesis of that really – or we liked to think we were. We really meant it, that if we appeared in any way, in the local newspaper then we would have just called it a day… But we never were.
I can’t think but there was another band in East Kilbride called Ocre 5 who were more like a sort of Pebbles/Nuggets/60s Garage type band. The first time Meat Whiplash played at a Creation night at The Venue in Glasgow it was The Jesus and Mary Chain , Primal Scream, The Pastels an this band – Ocre 5. They weren’t really associated with us but at that time you didn’t know anybody else who’d heard of the VU, Stooges or any of those bands . There were a few punks who gathered in the town centre but they were more into bands like UK Subs .
Growing up in East Kilbride was fine but it got to a point where you think this is not for me. You definitely got that because Jim and William lived in London for a while. They were there for a few years before Jim came back . They really couldn’t get out of East Kilbride quick enough. It was our intention that at one point we’d move to London as well but we split up.
For us, for good music East Kilbride was really a bit of a void.
GM: It’s funny you say about going to London because that’s what I was about to ask you next. Some of the other bands from the suburbs, especially BMX Bandits, Soup Dragons and Teenage Fanclub made a big thing from being there but you and JAMC just seemed to want to get straight out of there and fell out of that Glasgow scene a little. You went down with them for the infamous riot gig. Run me through that gig?
MK: We were on first…. and it was typical Meat Whiplash style. We didn’t have a clue about anything. We were meant to travel on the night before so that we’d be there in the morning and whatever. There used to be a bus from East Kilbride that left for London at 10 o’clock at night. We turned up to get this bus and it was full so we couldn’t get on and we basically had to go down on the morning of the gig We knew that the North Lonon Polytechnic was on Holloway Road because the advert in the NME said it was. We didn’t know where that was so we ended up getting an A-Z to find out exactly where.
We turned up with our equipment at the venue…The Jesus an Mary Chain were already there. When it came to our soundcheck, Paul, our singer was nowhere to be found. At that time the JAMC didn’t do their own soundchecks. Basically their roadies did their soundcheck for them. We couldn’t find Paul McDermott because he was in the toilet taking speed with Douglas Hart so Jim Reid got up and did our soundcheck with us. We did ‘I Wanna Be Your Dog’ by The Stooges and Jim sang it with us…I just remember seeing all these people thinking ‘why’s he up there with them doing their soundcheck when he doesn’t even do his own?”…I’d like to have recored that!.
Anyway…we started drinking-as everybody did and went out on stage . Now we were not one of the greatest bands in the world so we just went out…I think we only had about four or five songs – Don’t Slip Up hadn’t been written at that point – so we went out and started playing and there were some guys in the audience who were throwing things …then Paul did the ‘come on!’ to one of them…and one of them came on. Paul ran off the stage and the guy ran after him. Eddy Connelly tried to stop him and the guy punched Eddy. At that point Stephen just threw off his guitar an went for the guy…. Now when this was happening the guys friend got up on stage so we had the two of them up on stage causing bother …Stephen had managed to fight them both off stage… Now I’ll go back a bit because I’m trying to think when the bottle incident happened….Eddy and Stephen were getting fed up with people spitting and throwing things. He’d bought a bottle of Buckfast at the off-licence and he’d been drinking that and when he finished it he walked over between two songs, went up to the microphone an said ‘DUCK’ and tossed the bottle out. It wasn’t throwing it at somebody but it was a throwing it in the air and see where it lands. That got everybody a little rilled! We went off and Alan McGee said ‘just get back on and play a ten minute song of just noise ‘. So we did. It might have been based around something but we just played and that rilled them up even more….We went off and down to our dressing room and Alan McGee burst in and said ‘WE”RE GOING TO DO A SINGLE’ and then just left the dressing room. There were some other people we knew there and I can remember seeing their faces thinking “what’s he thinking releasing a single with them?”
After that The Jasmine Minks went on and one of them had put a hammer in his back pocket and as soon as the first song started he turned his back to the audience to show he had a hammer in to say ‘if you want to try something then try something. Then the Jesus and Mary Chain came on and did their usual 15 minute set… and madness ensued.
We were down in the dressing rooms underneath the stage and you could just hear this mayhem that was going on upstairs. Stephen had got his guitar nicked and before you knew it the police were turning up and we made statements…..yeh….that was our introduction. That was the second time we’d ever played live
GM: It must have been exciting from that point, for the Jesus and Mary Chain getting no press to major headlines and Alan McGee asking you to put a single out. What was the next step from this gig to putting out Don’t Slip Up?
MK: I was trying to remember what month that was. I think there were a couple months in between that and when Alan McGee booked studio time for us to record the single … and then we just sort of realised that none of the songs we had were particularly great and so wrote some more songs . I think that even the night before we went to London Don’t Slip Up was changed around. We had no idea they’d even work. We’d never been in a recording studio before. We did the same thing as before by turning up to go to London the night before and the bus being full……actually we did travel down the night before but I remember turning up at the studio absolutely knackered as you never sleep properly on those overnight busses. Absolutely horrendous.
By that time I don’t think we’d played live again, we had no studio experience…totally naive, totally fortunate that they were in that position – riding on the coattails of The Jesus and Mary Chain. The Jesus and Mary Chain produced that record as much as it’s produced….You just went and played it live a couple of times and try and get the singer to sing over that.
A lot of people say it’s The Jesus and Mary Chain that played on that but it’s not, it’s just that they were there and is as much as a single that’s made in two hours can be produced.
That was that and when the single came out, to our surprise it got really good reviews and did really well. I think Alan McGee thought at one point we might do OK. I remember at one point and I always think that the end of Meat Whiplash was when he said we could be as big as Alien Sex Fiend and that just totally deflated me… that he thought we wanted to be bigger than Alien Sex Fiend. That was when, for me personally I felt I needed to do something different and a wee bit more professional.
With Meat Whiplash we did gigs with The Weather Prophets and Primal Scream that used to be something called The Creation Package where you’d go play Nottingham, Manchester, Birmingham…places where we’d all travel around in the same vans…so a bit like The Monkees
GM: With Meat Whiplash you’d just recorded one of the classic Creation singles and The Jesus and Mary Chain had just signed to a major. Did you think this was something you could do?
MK: No, really at that point we we’re non-existent. We did record another single for Creation that was never released. It wasn’t that great. It was included on the (recent) Creation Box-Set with the other side but we never really liked it either. It was recorded in some other studio and it never really seemed to work for us.
But you know, I think everybody when they’re young and n in a band wants to be on Top of the Pops but we realised this band was never going to be on Top of the Pops . It had its limitations. And again, yeah, that’s why I wanted to personally go and do something else where we can be a bit more professional and then maybe try for that type of success because at that time…that was what a lot of those Glasgow bands or some of those Glasgow bands…there wasn’t a lot of ambition but The Jesus and Mary Chain said they always wanted to be on Top of the Pops. They saw themselves as a pop band but I never got the impression that a band like The Pastels wanted to be on Top of the Pops. Although for us there was a lot of garbage on TOTP but that’s where you first saw people like David Bowie.
I remember the time seeing JAMC on TOTP was slightly surreal. They were people you actually know who got there.
It was probably one of the things that held Meat Whiplash back – well two things- lack of talent and lack of ambition (laughs)
GM: That can’t be completely true as it is a great single. What were you then aiming for? And what happened immediately after the second single not coming out?
MK: Well I think that maybe at that time, the second single not coming out… that myself and Eddy in particular had decided that that was the end. That we weren’t going to carry on. I think something had happened, that Alan McGee had got pissed off at the band but I don’t know. I can’t remember what it was but he was definitely pissed off about something and I think he realised that was the end of us with Creation.
And round about that time Alex Taylor wasn’t happy in The Shop Assistants. Eddy and Alex were a couple and I’d suggested to Eddy that maybe if she wasn’t Happy in The Shop Assistants then me, Eddy and Alex could form a band. So that’s how that came.
(c) Ross McIntyre
GM: Just before we get onto The Motorcycle Boy I was confused by the Meat Whiplash photos from The Onion Cellar with Alex. They were from 1987, but you said earlier that you’d reformed for those?
MK: Yeah, we did that. It was almost like the introduction to The Motorcycle Boy because I think Paul McDermott sang and at that point he was going to be the drummer in MCB. Alex played drums in MCB but the guitarist had never been in Meat Whiplash. It was just people that we knew.
And Eddy was wanting to get gigs for Jesse Garon and the Desperadoes and he said if Meat Whiplash were playing he found it easier to get gigs for them. Most of those nights we’d go on first but it was just a name, we’d play maybe four songs and go off. We always knew that’s all it was going to be for Meat Whiplash. It was going to be a 3 month thing then it would be over. We never thought we’d record again because we’d been writing as The Motorcycle Boy by that point.
(Big Rock Candy Mountain directed by music video hero Douglas Hart)
GM: From Eddy’s connections with Alex and The Shop Assistants off-shoots on Narodnik sharing a similar style was there a plan for the sound of MCB, which eventually seemed a bit more electronic Rock and Roll?
MK: Yeah. I remember hearing a single by an a band called Westworld who used sequencers and obviously Sique Sique Sputnik. It was slightly like a Duane Eddy thing but with sequencers. I always found that quite interesting and that’s the direction I wanted to go in and make something more polished. Someone described us as ‘Rock-y pop rather than Poppy-Rock”,or it might have been the other way around rather than the sort-of jangly twee-ness which I found quite an insulting phrase. Let’s say it was something more polished that was to try and get a major record contract
There was part of the Shop Assistants contract that if anybody left then Chrysalis would have first dibs on basically what they were going to do next. And there was something else that if they did go and do something next they would get X amount of money .
Me, Eddy and Alex went down to see Geoff Travis, I think just to discuss things. There were two guys there who ended up being our managers there. They were The Mighty Lemon Drops managers at the time. I think they’d asked Geoff ‘What’s Alex Taylor doing’ and he explained the situation and they asked to manage us. They went to Chrysalis and said ‘look, we want to give you a new contract ‘
The sound was to be as far away from Meat Whiplash as possible. Or far enough for it to be something new for us anyway. For us, back then using ‘commercial’ for an indie band was a swear word
GM: The Westworld song was Sonic Boom Boy wasn’t it?.
MK:Yeah. That came on and we though we should sound something like that. We wanted processed sounds rather than electric guitars.
GM: We were saying earlier that some bands who had an indie sound and went for a more commercial sound later with their follow-up groups, a bit like Fire Engines did with Win sometimes failed even though they had fantastic records. Why do you think Big Rock Candy Mountain failed to chart. A fantastic song with a great commercial sound on a major label? It should have been a big Top of the Pops song.
MK: Yeah. It got B listed on Radio 1 and it was played every other show each day which for an indie band at that time…it was released on RoughTrade because they thought they could get some publicity through the Indie Chart even though we were signed to Chrysalis at that point. That was a huge deal for a band at that point, for an indie band to be played on Radio One. It got to something like No.74 in the charts….or 76 and it just stuck there. Nowadays to get to 76 in the charts is quite straight forward but back then with the amount of singles which were sold, then we sold quite a lot to get that stage… but it just stuck there and never got any further. I think if it got into that top 75 it would have been pushed a bit more and it could possibly have been a success but we’ll never know.
GM: You mentioned The Mighty Lemon Drops management who were quite successful and The Shop Assistants were written about extensively in the Indie press. I remember Sandy saying that even their 53rdand 3rdsingle sold 50,000 in a week. I’m just amazed that this wasn’t a success.
MK: Well Safety Net was a top 75 single. I think with The Motorcycle Boy we’d left it too long before releasing anything after Big Rock Candy Mountain. I think that was our problem. I don’t know why we didn’t….well we did record another single with Flood producing but we didn’t like it and asked the record company not to release it and I don’t think they were quite happy with that. We we went back down to London and we went to the same studio we did Big Rock Candy Mountain in and added more stuff but it still didn’t work so that was scrapped.
I think after that we just waited too long before anything else was released. We went and recorded an album at Greenhouse Studios – that was never released and then after that Scotty was thrown out of the band and I left in solidarity….and they carried on.
Eddy and Alex moved to London and got some other people in the band but never released any stuff but it never really worked for them either. I always just felt that if that album had been released and we stuck as the original band….I’m not saying we’d be U2 but we’d have had a modicum of success. I think the album was good enough for it to have done fairly well.
GM: Do you think there was a difference from being on Creation and a major like Chrysalis?
MK: Well anyone who was on Creation, you’d phone Alan McGee or he’d phone you and that’s how things were done but now you’d have an A and R person you’d deal with…the cover for Don’t Slip Up…I used to have this Cramps bootleg on tape which had the guy from Man From Uncle on the front and you’d say that’s what you wanted….you were doing the sleeves yourself and Alan McGee would get them printed off. But now you’d have to go to a professional designer….everything was at that level now…you’d record demos in a studio….we were on the Jesus and Mary Chain Darklands tour so you’d get tour support from the record label…you actually stayed in hotels rather than sleep on someones floor. We actually bought a proper van for travelling around in instead of sitting on the cold steel floor of a transit van.
GM: Looking back over that time did you prefer working within the freedom of an Indie/DIY approach?
MK: No, I prefer that. I preferred the shiny version haha. Just being able to record in a proper studio…things like knowing the single sleeve will be better quality. That all just felt more comfortable to me although I loved being on Creation because of that mad enthusiasm that Alan McGee had was quite infectious…but I preferred the shiny version
GM: For Motorcycle Boy, what was your favourite memory of that whole period?
MK: I think meeting my now wife who was at university in London. I went down to meet her and hearing Big Rock Candy Mountain on Radio One. For a band like us to be played on Radio One back then, on daytime radio when it was all Culture Club, George Michael was a huge thing. In some ways that’s quite a shallow thing but it gave you a little bit of hope that you could have some kind of success.
With Meat Whiplash and with The Motorcycle Boy doing the John Peel sessions was a huge thing when you grow up listening to him. Even if the experienced were not quite as we expected. Big Rock Candy Mountain getting into John Peel’s Festive 50 is probably not major things but to y ourself, being in the middle of it is a huge thing.
Scarlet, The Motorcycle Boy’s long lost album is finally available at:
Love Music Glasgow –https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/MOTORCYCLE-BOY-SCARLET-2019-NEW-VINYL-LP-THE-LOST-ALBUM-PRESALE-Nov-1st/183962737320?hash=item2ad5089aa8:g:WaIAAOSwwyZdg6x0
Monorail – https://www.monorailmusic.com/album/e66b8fc9-d96f-11e9-8305-1298a0617e72/Scarlet.html
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