It all really began when Terry Bickers, the much touted guitar-god of the House Of Love was left (or was thrust out by the band leader, Guy Chadwick, depending on who you ask) in 1989. Terry had joined House of Love from his first band Colenso Parade. He was a single child from Fulham, whose father ran an escort agency, very insecure and lonely child he joined Colenso Parade, "to meet some brothers and sisters). As the House of Love reached their height in 1989, Terry, rumoured to have an enourmous drug intake, had a nervous breakdown and attempted suicide. It seemed he was to follow the classic rock star drug burn out route. But he pulled himself back from the brink, severed his links with Creation (his record company) and the House of Love, got married and had a daughter. He began to work a project with the drummer of a band who had supported the House of Love, Dave Francolini. Dave had previously been in many bands (The Coltraines, Words and Pictures (a fledgling Strangelove), The United States of Mind, Rhythm Party, Something Pretty Beautiful) and had worked with the Blue Aeroplanes and Julian Cope (Peggy Suicide LP). They met at a gig in Aberystwth and tripped together that night and Levitation was born.
Through 1990 the band pulled members in, Christian 'Bic' Hayes (Guitar) previously with Ring, The Cardiacs and Dave Howard Singers (much confusion was caused by the fact that one guitarist was called Bickers and the other Bic), Robert White (Keyboards), previously with Zag and the Coloured Beads and Ring (with Bic), Johnny T 'The Cone killer' (Violin) from Reggae Philharmonic Orchestra, Joe Allen (Bass) and then Laurence O'Keefe (Bass), previously with The Jazz Butcher. In Autumn 1990 they toured through Europe; Belgium with Galaxie 500, France with Ride.
During October and November they went into the studio (Elephant and Blackwing) for the first time with producer Ken Gardner to record the material that would surface as the first EP. In December 1990 some of the press began to catch on to the band, with a lot of help from Terry's reputation! Most of the interviews concentrated on Terry's history with the House of Love. The first London gig I'm aware of was in the Sausage Machine Club , noted as the smallest venue in th capital, on December 15th. They then played the New Years Eve Concert in Finsbury Park.
March 2nd at the Camden Underworld (with Catherine Wheel) was reviewed in Melody Maker, Bickers still unsure as vocalist, the band band incenduary "They become a zenith, a colossal dam-burst of expressions, flooding us with vivid and wild torrents of sublime sensation and random feeling...On the rise". They next show on in April at the Mean Fiddler, London, got a wild review, Steve Sutherland saying, "I already love this band more than anything for fucking years" and "This is the rebirth of Progressive Rock. And hey, just think, what if they don't fuck it up this time". The tag of progressive rock stuck for quite a while both helping and hindering the band with it.
Then on 22nd April they released Coppelia EP, on Ultimate Records, featuring the track Nadine, with Johnny T on violin (soon to leave the group) and Yuka Ikushima on backing vocals, Smile, Paid In Kind and Rosemary Jones. The sleeve featured a strange mutant bird flying over a silvery mirror lake, surreal enormous mushrooms on a hillside. The inner sleeve featured the slogan, 'Work and love binds us together'. Also, a limited edition 7" with Nadine/Smile was released. It became Single of the Week in Melody Maker.The followed this with the first English tour, April 19th (Norwich Waterfront), 20th( Sheffield Leanmill), 26th (London School of Economics), 27th (Reading After Dark),29th (Bristol Fleece and Firkin) and May 2nd (Cambridge The Junction).
During April and May the press began featuring the band - NME, Select etc. - being proclaimed as the new progressive music. The band's attitude was evident in these features. They were a musical commune, five minds in union on stage, a free, boundless living thing. Unlike any other band, everyone was free to go and do their own thing and come back to the group and create something new. However, Terry in particular was portrayed as a loony. It was like a return to the 60's with the new age of late 80's and 90's, comparisons often made with the Grateful Dead's experimentation. They seemed like an enormous powerhouse of positive energy, exuding a spiritual side no other band at the time had. Plans to buy a solar powerered electric generator and play on fields and forests were spoke of, techno projects, film scores. Many people ware drawn in by the scope of their vision and power of their sound. They could have easily been dismissed as a bunch of hippies but for the amazing noise thay made when on stage together.
June and July saw more touring mostly as support: 5th (Buckley), 7th (Aldershot), 11th (London ICA), 15th (Liverpool), 18th (Brighton Zap Club), 28th (Mean Fiddler). The band were dropped from a gig with Transvision Vamp on 21st June at the Brixton Academy (replaced by "IF?", where are they now, where were they then?) after Transvision Vamp representatives saw the Levitation gig at ICA. Levitation's management claimed 50% of the ticket sales were due to Levitation's support. To make up for this the band annouced they would do two gigs on July 8th, one planned supporting Chapterhouse, then the Hawkwind gig at Brixton, but when Chapterhouse's managment heard of this they were dropped from that gig also. This all brought a lot of press for the band at the time.
After Ever EP, the second single was released in August, once again on Ultimate, their last release on the label. It was recorded, again at Blackwing, with Ken Gardner during May and June. It featured the bare line-up of Terry, Bic, Bob, Laurence and Dave and had the tracks Firefly, Attached and Bedlam. Once again it was very well received. It featured the slogan, 'We are the one is you'.
During September they released a 7" as the first release of the Rough Trade Singles Club. It featured Squirrel and It's Time both of which became available on the Coterie LP. They spent the rest of the year on tour, supporting All About Eve and The Psychedelic Furs, and blowing both bands throughly out of the water with what was described as "The most mind-fucking music around". In the December Melody Maker the Coppelia EP was voted by the Critics as the 6th best single of the year.
Probably Levitation's busiest year... it started on the 3rd February
with the release of Coterie. This had previously been
released in the US as a 'taster' (as the EPs had not been available there), however, so many people
had been buying it in the UK on import, Ultimate Records decided to release it at mid-price as a
limited edition of 10 000. On the 10th February, Rough Trade released the
World Around single, a taster of the forthcoming album.
This was available on 7" (b/w Usher), 12" and CD (b/w Jay and Usher) and
reached the Top Five in the UK Indie Chart. The US cassette version
of the single featured the tracks Resist, Purgatory
(featuring Bic on vocals), and Mantra instead, the latter two being exclusive to that release.
On the 7th/11th/12th March Levitation supported The Sugarcubes at
selected venues across England.
The 5th May finally saw the release, on Rough Trade, of the bands eagerly awaited debut album, Need For Not. The vinyl version was released in Chain With No Name shops as a limited edition with a free 7" of Cutwater backed with an etching by Dave and Joanna Peacock. In the Network Chart Need For Not received a chart placing of 50. The band embarked on a joint headlining tour (although they played first each night) with Cardiacs, from the 15th May - 7th June. They also played a couple of their own dates, on the 9th May at Keele Uni and on the 12th June at Jesus College, Cambridge.
June saw a mini tour of Germany - 27th at the Arken Bizarre festival, 28th in Hamburg and 29th in Frankfurt.
The band were supposed to be playing the Deptford Urban Free Festival on the 1st
August but due to equipment failure they were forced to pull out.
September was fairly quiet for the band as they went into the studio with producers Tim Smith and Mike Dignam to start recording tracks intended to be released as singles during the autumn (the releases didn't happen). These tracks included : Big Chord Melody', Undercarriage, The Garden Is Overflowing and Twice (already a live favourite). The band came out of the studio to perform one live date at the Clapham Grand on the 1st October.In November both Melody Maker and the NME published (surprisingly accurate) stories that Levitation were to sign to Chrysalis Records.
The band played their last live dates of the year on the 26th November and the 28th November at the Reading Afterdark Club and the New Cross Venue, and unveiled several new songs including Bodyless and Food For Powder.
On the 30th November the band went into 'hibernation' with Tim Smith and Mike Dignam to record the follow up to Need For Not. This coincided with the fanclub only release of the Demos 1989 - 1991 and Live 29/2/92 tapes which were limited to 800 copies each.
The beginning of the year saw Bic and Dave team up with Tim and Jon from Cardiacs and perform a few live dates as PANIXPHERE. The first date had taken place on the 15th December 1992 at the Marquee - the Sea Nymphs were originally supposed to be playing but equipment failure occured so Panixphere learnt a set in one afternoon (consisting of Levitation, Cardiacs, Ring, XTC covers and more...) and stepped in (with Sarah Smith on sax for 'To Go Off And Things'). The first 'proper' headlining date of 1993 took place on 15th January at the New Cross Venue and this was followed by support dates to the likes of Zodiac Mindwarp and Here and Now on the 14th March and 21st April in London.
Levitation were actually very quiet until the end of March when they came out of hibernation to perform some dates with Spiritualised : 31st March at the Coventry Tic Toc, 1st April at the Cambridge Junction and 2nd April at the Hackney Empire.
The 26th April saw the release, on Chrysalis Records, of the first fruits of the winters recording sessions. This was the Even When Your Eyes Are Open single, released on 12" and CD, backed with Evergreen and Mantra. Around this time an interview with Bic was published in the Organ, where he discussed the new album. It was to be called Meanwhile Gardens and to be released in two parts - Summer and Autumn - both at mid-price. The Summer part was due to be released on the 28th June. To promote the single the band set off on their own tour, which lasted from the 31st March to the 14th May, and they were also due to support Eat at the New Cross Venue on the 15th May.
On the last night of the tour, the 14th May at the Dome in Tufnell Park, the
band were an hour late on stage, and played a 50 minute set with no encore. On
stage Terry announced 'Levitation are a lost cause.... we've completely lost it
haven't we?', followed by many more outbursts. It all proved too much for poor
Bic, who sat the last song out, crouching by the drums. There reportedly were
huge rows after the show between the band members..... the next day, fans
turning up for the show at the Venue were greeted with the news that the band
had apparently split up, a story which was also printed in the NME.
The band started to look for new singers; at one point it was rumoured that they had asked former All About Eve singer Julianne Regan to join. However, they had to cancel all forthcoming live dates (including the 'Great Expectations' festival at Finsbury Park on the 13th June and the Phoenix festival on the 17th July). The release of Meanwhile Gardens was also cancelled.
On the 25th August both Melody Maker and the NME issued stories that Levitation had started rehearsing with a new singer... Steve Ludwin, ex of Some have Fins. However a spokeswoman said : 'It's not confirmed... he's jammed with them for a bit, but nothing more than that really'.The info service later said in October 'Levitation have been recording in London with Steve, but recording in Wales without him'.
No news during the first part of the year, but in May, those on the mailing list received the best news of the year... that Levitation were set to return, definitely with their new lead singer Steve Ludwin. Despite the fact that the band played some live dates in Germany during May, their return to the UK was to be marked by a 'residency' at the Splash Club in The Water Rats in London's Kings Cross on the 31st May/7th June/14th June. Those who attended the gigs were not disappointed... the general opinion was that Bickers had done the band a favour by leaving and that Steve was an incredible frontman; The Organ described him as 'a proper frontman with the self-assurance and character to fuse with what is already a very powerful band'. The set list for these gigs was mostly new material, but also included Firefly, World Around and Resist. However, within the band, opinions were split - in an interview with Earzone fanzine, Bic said that he thought the gigs went 'badly', while Bob thought the gigs were 'really good'.
During late June/early July, imports began to seep into London record shops (and later on sold at gigs) of the German CD/12" of King of Mice, a highlight of the shows at the Splash Club (it had also been previewed at the Dome a year earlier). This was backed with Imagine The Sharks and The Heart Of The Home. The band played two support dates with Swell on the 7th and 8th July at the Manchester Boardwalk and the Borderline in London. They then played another 3 dates at the Water Rats, on the 14th/21st/28th July.
August was marked with a gig at the Garage in London, on the 19th, and the release in Australia of the re-recorded Meanwhile Gardens, now with vocals by Steve. It comprised of 9 tracks, some re-recorded versions of tracks intended for the original Meanwhile Gardens and two tracks written after Terry had left the band. By mid August imports of the album had reached the UK.
On the 23rd of September the band played at the New Cross Venue, and this marked the return of Twice to the live set, albeit in instrumental form, and the introduction of Big Chord Melody to the set. During the show there was lots of action - a girl even tried to get off with Steve on stage and at the end of the gig, Laurence threw Levitation kaleidoscopes at the audience.
On the 18th October the band were set to play at the Electric ballroom in Camden
during the 'Feet First' club. However, those who turned up for the gig were
shocked by the news that the gig had been cancelled that afternoon by the band.
Bouncers at the door informed those who asked that Levitation had split up.