SPRATLEYS JAPS HISTORY
(as recounted by Tiger Lily in Winter 1999)
i/ The Rev Ups
The Rev-Ups spat up out of the dirt and dust of some bit of desert near the
border of Mexico in 1995 sometime or so. They emerged in the mangled shape
of Heidi Murphy (electronics devices and synthesisers) and Mark Donovan
(Guitar). They were very tall and really covered in dirty sand and lived out
there in a half-a-aeroplane like wild things of some sorts, in kinda wild,
sandy, burnt, aeroplaney, romantic ooh-la-la.
It strikes us first when we meets this Mark that he is tallest by
half-a-mile. After this, it strikes that it's hands are like big old
shovels. And then it strikes that words with Mark are few and far between,
and so we can but merely know the ghost of the man. And yet we sense an
alarming soul. Surely, his travelling past has weathered this poor love a
sight more than his 24 years should allow. "I like Duane Eddy" he said to
me. "a charming alarming soul is a sight for sore eyes" thought me.
Heidi Murphy's thirty so she says and she collects very very weird cutlery
with no good reason and spends more time than is clever listening to the
radio un-tuned and stuck between stations. This is eccentric, may we say,
obsessive behaviour, borne out of the isolation of their desert days.
Unhealthy hobbies perhaps, but all the same here was a woman inspired.
Inspired to take up a furious-fiddling-around with strange electronics
devices. We can all of us sigh with plenty relief at the timely intervention
of young friends Juliette Randall and that Andy Dack from way way back on
the track jack. These 15 year old kids, scrabbling around like vermin,
sketchily hammered together some electronics devices for Heidi as a present
out of pity, which moved Heidi to tears. So much so that she felt the urge
to 'modify' one of the things with old forks and crap. It has yet to occur
to her that this thing will not, and surely never will, function properly.
Not no-one had the heart to tell her. Yet, touchingly, she hangs onto it
like a part of heaven with the stoic belief that if it were to be struck by
lightening it should heave into glorious life. I often feel that the girl
dreams nightly of them heaps of wires and spitandsparks...I've seen her
glaze over in its very presence, "she's off for miles" I say, way mad and
wild afeard to let it from her sight. And so it is that the thing remains,
to this very day, as an unchanging part of her 'set-up'. Her heart is bright
gold and sniffs there. In the right place.
The line-up is completed in 1995 by the appearance of trained pianist Viv
Sherrif on drums . The Rev-Ups stand up now, bright and big as bastards on
the dusty sunset. She joins upon the strictest of understandings that,
whilst she shall feverishly bash away on them drums any-old-time (so long as
it's the crumbly old set she inherited from her piano teacher), she cannot
and will not be expected to so much as breathe upon de ebony and de ivory
keys of that piano, unless the time is right ...such is the reverence and
intense superstition of this woman. It'd be a braver thing than any of us to
ask any questions. She shall pierce you with the WISE EYES. Behind which,
therein lies, a whole deep and brrrooooding tangley tangling of secrets.
Darling Viv exists in some infinite yet intensely private universe in a
cosmos way outside our own in which she cannot even brush her own hairs or
replace a broken drum skin. All moments of all her days are fixed with heady
significance and bloody fucking magic. All them drums still have the same
skins on them I tell you, for spooky reasons...Truly it don't help that she
don't know where she's from, nor whence she was borne-into-this-world, and
that's tough for anybody. She's lived in the Southern States for the most
part of this life but universe was kind enough to cough her out anyway so
there be stinking Rev Ups.
And stinking Rev Ups there they be. All a blessed with a good helping of
hang-ups and spikes. So they takes to hissing around this creaky old diner
shithole, playing in exchange for rubbish beers. And each of them all
stupid with delight that no-one never came. And each drinking so they don't
see no more so sure as eggs... time's up. The owner bungs them $40 so they
don't never come back man.
So you see, right there they stood like twats, right outside that diner
dump, in the hot dirt like arseholes, for what might well have been an
entire life, were it not for the Comet of '97 that blasted great shining
holes in all universal life as ever was known. And stinking Rev-Ups
blinked in the filthy light of day and did do well to make good their escape
to England's wet shores, scrabbling straight into the damp and spidery
darkness of it's New Forest, ramming their nose sharp into some seemingly
derelict recording studio, a bit rotten and a bit covered in leaves and
rats, and rats spiders....oh, oh, waddayaknow...........
ii/ Spratleys Japs
It's rude not to point them fingers at them others what is them 'Spratleys
Japs' before you do continue you you you.......
Tim Smith was born in England in 1961, has been in a so called band called
CARDIACS from when he was 15, does tinker with musical bits-on-the side like
the lovely lovely 'Sea Nymphs' and once a bloody mental band called
'Panixphere', even turned his tiny hand to directing 'Pop' videos and
producing 'Pop' records don't you know. To see the Mr. Smith is always a
Delight and a Joy, it does live upon a radiant hill. It has a underbite,
does what dogs like, it does like robbering around in sour ponds. It sing
like a bird and it can ride a shiny pond sour.
Joanne Spratley did something in the background for The Alphabet Business
Concern (Cardiacs recording label...she don't talk about it man), did sing
some bits on some Cardiacs recordings, did do a giraffe and a pelican at
acting school, can play her brothers "frugal" horn 'cos she learnt it by
playing along to the brass bits in "All Night Long" by Lionel Richie, had a
birthday in November and it's FLUGEL horn actually.
Tiger Lily - It's me, and no picture 'cos I do like a drink about town and
it'd only get me bothered, I look after Japs and they pretend to mind. My
likes are boiling potatoes and my new computer. I'm not telling you how old
I am and my husband is in jail.
iii/ Sparrows Wars (...something gotta be said about this place)
Way back when it was the 1960's is a queer little man of name Bill 'a bob'
Dylan. It fashioned itself a recording studio out of dark wood and nails,
out in depths of England's precious New Forest. All by itself it done it,
with 'Doctor Who' stylee control room a whole third-a-mile away from the
great big log recording room bit with a stupid sort of a bike/truck nonsense
thing for shuttling folk back and forth, a well beaten track there and back..
All it's wiring swung between olden telegraph poles, what when wet make the
sound 'gurgle'. Those old enough may recall with poignancy their childish
memories of an old BBC style clock being eaten away on the television screen
to the strains of schools programmes 'interlude music', as equally, they may
well harbour in their hearts a quivering, juddering and somewhat
embarrassingly personal fascination with the old TV test card. Those
haunted thus, can thank Bill 'a bob', for t'was he who writ and produced
many of them tunes swirling in the mists of your mangy, fogged-up minds.
For that purpose he built that place, and for that purpose there he did
languish, in happy solitude, but for spiders, rats and creeping things. Not
no-one else went there since 1970 'cept all them pests, but that's how Bill
preferred it though, just so. Today Bill is there and he's old. Still he
keeps the same old valve equipment in pristine condition while rats run
rife...they thinks they owns the place don't they, slumping on tops of
shelves and speakers, sleepin', scratchin', watchin', scuttlin'..... Bill
don't mind. I saw him dust around them with his cloth. And true to say, here
our story with Bill would end, peacefully, had it not been for the Comet of
'97. Bill had only too clear a bloody view of it. 'Cos with all it's fiery
blazing, it did upturn that old and fond friend Viv Sherrif from outa the
Southern States, a couple of stragglers in tow, to whom Bill takes some
sorta liking . He takes them in without so much as a breath, such is the
guts of the man.
iv/ PONY ...cclip clop cl clip...
Joanne Spratley's in Sharpsnake (her car, 1981 X reg. Honda Civic, light
blue, 3 door hatchback, goes like a rocket) feeling this important, she's
off like the very wind in search of old test-card recordings for Tim. After
many many pokin's around she get's nose of that Bill 'a bob' and his secret
place in the woods. Woh, reception's frosty man....hmmm, neither this Bill
'a bob', nor that shady Rev-Ups trio will suffer strangers or their tails.
She must win them over with means, like pretending to be well interested in
Heidi's stupid cutlery....Well, did that prove to be a most powerful
persuasion? Oh yes please...!! That Heidi was deftly befriended & Joanne
got to hearing that Rev-Ups trip.... And when she sneaked out a tape to Tim
he big digged it, (all that hissy vibe an' all). The next time Joanne met
them Rev Ups lot it was to pass on a scribbled bit of a tune from Tim with a
message asking them to "make of it what they will" for Christ's sake.
Luckily this was received on a day significant enough for Viv to feel able
to translate the tune to the others who got to record the thing with Bill (a
bob). Apparently the results were sketchy but brilliant. With a few false
starts and fits, sooner or later the time was right and Viv allowed Tim to
go there in person, which he did all nervous like. There was this hiccup
when Viv touched his hand by accident once and said it was like touching a
dog's dirt and now she don't touch no-one's hand now not never, but there
ain't no use crying about it 'cos bless your souls, it ain't no lie, that
this did mark the beginnings of 'Spratleys Japs'.....
....Oh, the Pony, here she come...cli..clop..clip..cl
She was all recorded there at Sparrows Wars, what is what that recording
place got known as 'cos that's what Joanne said about the "bloody sparrow
racket going on outside all the time"...And every four years, almost to the
day, mystery insecty flying creatures issue from out the log walls of the
control room, filling the air with a laboured fluttering 'til they disperse
in their own good time. Well, that happened when Japs were there, which,
what with bloody rats an' all, did have Tim in a right old state and he
nearly all wets himself with total joy...Recording was abandoned 'til the
flying things was gone, "five sodding days down the pan, man" said that Mark
Donovan. Well, that Mark Donovan used to crap himself like a bloody baby at
the sight of rats, 'til one day they found his dog Cocker asleep in his bed
with a pile of them, so now Mark loves rats much much more than is correct.
("...a Royal rat boy ain't it the dirty truth"...Spratleys Rats)
Cocker the dog can be viewed in all his beautiful majesty at the very end of
the Dark Star 'Graceadelica' video and he's more lovely than anything. Tim
directed that video with the back of his hand.
v/ Other Stuff
The Melotron (whatever that is) that can be heard on the Pony album was
provided by friend Andy Thompson but it broke within minutes. It's okay
'cos Japs think it sounds better for it. Heidi had never ever seen nor
heard the likes, so wouldn't let no-one touch it hardly . She played with
it all night, and in the morning it's in bits with all forks stuck in it.
She's told that "the forks will have to go 'cos it belongs to Andy" and that
if it were struck by lightening it may well break for good. I dropped in at
Sparrows Wars for a wet weekend. It's getting dark. There's Heidi and
Joanne huddled together under an umbrella in the pissing rain. Heidi's with
her Melotron thing and Joanne looks as if she's singing into some bucket. I
thought theyıd been sent outside for being bad stupid again. Turns out they
were in the middle of recording that song "Hazel". The big old recording
room's all full up with the lovely Wendy Barry's symphonia doing their
orchestra-thing and those two girls just sit out there, inbetween 'takes'
not saying nothing, looking at the mud.... erm...oh yeah, there's a
'haunted' stagnant pond nearby Sparrows Wars and it turns out, if you're
interested, that I'm allowed to tell you that the "echoes" spinning off from
Jo's voice on the song "Pond" were in fact real rippling echoes that would
occur naturally and skim across the surface of this 'haunted' pond. Again,
this was done at dusk, in the drizzle, with Joanne having to lean right over
the bank and singing with her lovely face just skimming the murky water
surface, no ghost though, big deal.
And finally, unless you are very dim-witted, you've spotted that there is a
title missing from the track listing on the back of 'Pony', (unless you
don't have a 'Pony', in which case you are very dim-witted). It's a minor
mistake, apparent in an otherwise most perfect of otherworldly possessions,
because all you have to do is simply take a crayon and scrawl in your best
handwriting reserved for Sundays, the good word 'Hazel' inbetween
'Fear' and 'Cabinet', and there it is...you're laughing. I do accept
responsibility for this tiny error and also for failing to credit Joanne in
the playing of a Theromin (whatever that is) and just maybe they should try
wording their own fucking record covers in future.
I'm going to bed. Bless your hearts.
Tiger Lily xxxx