Spratleys Japs
Band photo

(as recounted by Tiger Lily in Winter 1999)

i/ The Rev Ups

 Heidi and Mark 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.

 Viv 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.......

 Timmy 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 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...

 Pony 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

 Heidi 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