THE MIGHTY LEMON DROPS
NOW SHES GONE
"TITTER YE NOT"
How many indie kids does it take to change a lightbulb?
It's an obscure number; you wouldn't have heard of it.
My pretentious new girlfriend took me down to her film club last night.
I think I was a little out of my depth.
They were all juxta
position this and narrative that and how they adore the use of subtext.
Then I was asked,
"And do you have a favourite indie film?"
"Err Yes, Temple of Doom?"
I went to see an indie/pop cover band last night.
The Tizer Chiefs.
As I'm indie, I hate rivers. They're too mainstream.
Originally called the Sherbet Monsters? the quartet first formed
in the spring of 1985 in Dudley, in The Black Country , West
Midlands U.K.. Paul Marsh, Dave Newton and Tony Linehan
had played together in a band called Active Restraint in 1982,
with Newton later leaving to become a founding member of The Wild Flowers. Dave
Newton and Tony Linehan were the principal songwriters for the group. Their sound can
best be described as a more psychedelia influenced post punk, played with a ringing
Rickenbacker guitar as the lead instrument. They drew comparison to Echo and the
Bunnymen, who were also influenced by psychedelia.
After losing original drummer Martin Gilks (later to join The Wonder Stuff), the Drops line-
up settled as Paul Marsh (vocals), David Newton (guitar), Tony Linehan (bass), and
Keith Rowley (drums). In December 1985 the quartet, now officially The Mighty Lemon
Drops, released their first independent single, " Like An Angel ," on Daniel Treacy of
Television Personalities "Dreamworld Records" label which went to the top of the UK
Indie Chart and sold 14,000 copies. They also recorded a session for John Peel around
the same time. Becoming part of the C86 movement, which was championed by the New
Musical Express, they were soon snapped up by Geoff Travis of Rough Trade for his new
Blue Guitar label, a subsidiary of Chrysalis Records. They signed with Sire Records for
the United States and Canada around the same period. Derek Jarman produced the
video for the "Out of Hand" single in 1987 which was followed by their hit "Inside Out" in
1988. In the UK, albums Happy Head and World Without End both charted (#58 and No.
33 respectively). In the US World Without End was a Number 1 Modern Rock/College
album in 1988 and Happy Head was one of the 50 best albums of the year 1986 according to Sounds magazine critics poll. These two albums relied heavily on Newton's use of a vintage Vox Mark VII semi acoustic "Teardrop" 12 string electric guitar and a Micro Frets Spacetone 6 string guitar.
The band eventually parted company with Chrysalis in the UK after three albums (Happy Head, World Without End and Laughter), failing to repeat their initial independent success, but remained signed with Sire in the US, with Laughter, another US Modern Rock No. 1 entering the lower regions of the Billboard 200 in 1990. During the sessions for Laughter, Linehan left the band and was replaced by Marcus Williams.
THE JANICE LONG
The band released two more albums,
Sound... Say Goodbye To Your Standards
and Ricochet before finally breaking up in 1992. Three more albums followed (live albums All The Way and Young, Gifted,
& Black Country , and the greatest-hits package Rollercoaster) and at the end of 2000 the band played a one of comeback
gig in Wolverhampton. In 2007 the band were reported to have been offered the chance to reform at the Coachella festival.
David Newton (guitarist) still works as a
recording engineer and record producer, and has completed projects for The Little Ones, The Blood Arm, The Soft Pack, The Henry Clay People, Everybody Was in the French Resistance...Now!, The Sweater Girls, Torches, The Movies. In 2006, he produced a cover version of "Inside Out" (as well as playing bass guitar on the track) for The Lassie Foundation double album, Through and Through. In 2011, Newton produced the third album, Turn and Face Me by The Blood Arm.
All of The Mighty Lemon Drops albums are
now officially available again through Wounded
Bird Records, licensed through Warner Bros,
all with extra tracks, b-sides and liner notes.
In March 2014, the band released Uptight:
Early Recordings 1985-1986, on Cherry Red
Paul Marsh - vocals, guitar (1985-1992)
Dave Newton - guitars (1985-1992)
Keith Rowley - drums (1985-1992)
Tony Linehan - bass guitar (1985-1989)
Marcus Williams - bass guitar (1989-1992)
THE MIGHTY LEMON DROPS 1985 LINEUP
THE MIGHTY LEMON DROPS
The Mighty Lemon Drops were one of the finest
"power pop" bands you could ever witness with All
The Way, a live album, capturing the sound, which
they never repeated on studio releases. They were, as in
the usual British trait, built up and then kicked back down
to earth again by the British musical press, who once
hailed them the "saviours of pop-rock", accusing
them of plagiarism along the lines of Echo and the
Bunnymen and the Teardrop Explodes.
Your best bet is to get hold of the CD compilation,
Rollercoaster which collates the best tracks from Blue
Guitar period. It also contains their Dreamworld
recordings. Rollercoaster has now been re-released by
Cherry Red Records.
IT'S OBVIOUS 1986
When you witness a band like The Mighty Lemon Drops ,
you begin to wonder why most people make it all sound so bloody difficult. Like all the finest exponents of the art, they make it - creating classic pop, that is sound easy. They make it sound obvious. They make it appear as natural as breathing. So what is their secret? How can it all be so simple. Maybe it's that they started to pick up the tricks, from an early age.
Singer Paul Marsh - a gaunt, high cheek boned moptop who exudes a calm, almost sullen appearance on-stage - was barely seven when he ventured into a Wolverhampton record shop and bought his first single. The record was 'Cum On Feel The Noise' by hometown heroes Slade .
Guitarist Dave Newton - a Rickenbacker Kid who is easily the most forthcoming Lemon Drop in conversation - was only ten when he hitched down to London to see The Clash and Sham 69 at one of the rock against racism carnivals.
And the pair of them were just on the threshold of their teens when the release of the early Zoo label singles pre staged the dawn of a new Mersey Beat. Now, pubescent males are notoriously impressionable types, but the effect of the latter stirrings on Dave and Paul were particularly significant.
The Mighty Lemon Drops with bassist Tony Linehan and drummer Keith Rowley got together six years later, the music of Merseyside's post-punk 'crucial three - Echo, Teardrop, Wah - was to prove a lasting, if not sole, influence on these Black Country boys.
"When those bands first started playing, they were a real breath of fresh air," says Dave "I can still remember the first time I heard records like 'Sleeping Gas' and 'Pictures On My Wall'. You could tell that the bands had come through the punk thing, but there was something else there too the 60's influences and the brilliant tunes - that took them on a stage further than punk".
"It would be stupid for us to deny that those bands were an
influence on us. But if there is a comparison, I don't think it
is with the Bunnymen. That's the one we always seem to
get, but Wah heat is probably more accurate, the power of
Wah and the tunes of Teardrop Explodes."
"There are even some records that were released then that
sound better today than they did when they first came out!"
AH YES, the summer of '79! If the punk tornado had more
or less blown itself out, its repercussions were perhaps at
their peak around the turn of the decade. The whole of
Britain seemed to be burning with brilliant new bands. -
Fast Product, factory, Zoo, Postcard, 2-Tone - each with its
own distinct musical character and identity.
If these bands and labels had anything in common, it was
a shared attitude, an honest commitment to making music that was exciting on stage, inventive on record and often underpinned with an ingenious streak of ironic wit. If they retained much of the hunger of punk, they also pushed the boundaries out that little bit further.
The tragic death of Ian Curtis in 1980 seemed to mark a symbolic watershed. Within a couple of years, most of the prime movers of the class of '79 had lost something - Wylie his fury, the Bunnymen their edge, the Gang Of Four their perspective, Orange Juice their charm, Dammers his band, The Beat their ebullience and Cope his marbles. Or so it seemed. But if the end result has been five relatively barren years in pop's middle ground - that amorphous region between hardcore and Top Of The Pops - there are signs at last that the pendulum has swung
SPIRIT OF '79!
And The Mightly Lemon Drops are at the heart of that swing.
The TMLD's,Were formed in 1985 from a group of friends who met
at JBs , a club in Dudley, just outside Wolverhampton. They
played only locally at first until a tape sent to Dan Treacy - singer
in the TV Personalities, the black cap behind Dreamworld Records
and the promoter of Saturday night gigs at the Room At The Top in
London's Chalk Farm - brought offers of work further afield. But if
the group were quick to accept their London dates, they did not
consider rehearsing specifically for them.
"It can kill a band if they rehearse too much early in their career,"
says Dave. "It can be stifling if you get too familiar with the songs,
it takes away any edge that they might have. When we don't
rehearse, it keeps it exciting for when we play live."
Like New Order, the Lemon Drops also consider live performance a natural, unforced method of communication and shy away from any gestures that might be construed as too patronising or showbizzy. They have been known to complete an entire set without uttering one word between songs to their audience.
"I hate the idea of us being up on stage for people to gawk at", says Tony. "I've only recently started facing the audience when we play. I hate the idea of catching someone's eye while we are on stage. I don't really like people looking at me."
So what of the group's dress onstage? All four members wear black, from their leather jackets to their neatly ripped jeans. Surely such a monochromatic match is at least contrived? It appears not. "I think we all just dress the way we would anyway when we go on stage," says Keith. "Anyone in Wolverhampton would tell you that we've been dressing this way for ages. We've always looked this way. We're not a typical Wolverhampton group. Your typical Wolverhampton group would have a mohican on guitar, a heavy rock bass player, a skinhead drummer and a new romantic singer, or at least some mix of those ingredients..........."
"But we're more of a group," interjects Tony. "We're carrying on the great tradition of groups like The Beatles and The Shangri Las. All our songs sound the same too!" Do not be misled by that last throwaway comment, however. Songs are very important to the Mighty Lemon Drops, with Dave and Tony the two principle songwriters.
"It might sound cliché, but we want all our songs to be potential singles. Sometimes it will take us weeks to write a song. If I get an idea, but can't complete the song, then i'll leave it buzzing around my head for weeks. Sooner or later, all the missing links fall into place."
The band's debut single, released on Dreamworld in January, bears out their fastidiousness fully. A three-song 12" featuring
'Like An Angel', 'Something Happens' and 'Sympathise With Us, it contains not one filler track. Their high standards are maintained by 'Now She's Gone' - the B-side of the recently-issued seven-inch version of 'Angel' - and 'Happy-Head', the group's contribution to the free C86 NME cassette. Lyrically, a typical Mighty Lemon Drops song tends towards the unspecific. The imagery is loose and impressionistic, phrases like 'breaking on through the other side' and 'saw her in the sky' abounding. They are basically pop love songs, although it has been suggested that 'Like An Angel' verges on the psychedelic.
"I thought that it could be taken that way," says Dave. "But it's more about someone needing someone or needing something. I've deliberately left it open. I don't like songs that are too blatant. Some songs are obvious lyrically that there is no fascination in listening to them. I like lyrics that can conjure up pictures in your mind."
ROLLERCOASTER THE BEST OF THE MIGHTY LEMON DROPS
Mention of C86 leads to talk of the general upsurge in the profile of vibrant new
bands. Do the Lemon Drops feel part of any wider re-awakening?
"As far as live bands go, things have certainly got a lot better," says Dave. "It's nice to have bands coming through at the same time that we enjoy listening to. But I don't think we've got a lot in common musically with many other bands. We want to be successful on our own terms, not because people see us as part of any movement".
Sometimes it's not what you play, it's the way that you play it and The Mighty lemon Drops, for all the obviousness of some of their unashamed influences, are easily the most dynamic live group I have seen this year.
Their sound is essentially a melodic one, although the jingle jangle mornings of the Byrds-Velvet axis are not for them. Dave Newton;s guitar playing possesses a muscular, physical quality that is occasionally quite awesome and there is an edge to their stage performances that hints at the epic resonances of a New Order or Mary Chain - theirs is a sound that will transfer impeccably to the larger halls when the time comes. The jibes of their detractors - the same people who moan that the Mary Chain sound too like the Velvets, the Soup Dragons too like the Buzzcocks ad nauseum - are reminiscent of the attacks that jaded rock bores would make on punk in 1976.
Bands like the Pistols, The Clash and The Jam were frequently dismissed for sounding like bad versions of The Stones, The Kinks and The Who. On the surface - and it really went a little further than the odd power chord or two -this was the case, but it conveniently ignored all the strengths, the true significance, of the groups in question.
As is the case with the Lemon Drops. One of their virtues is the fact that they are so open about their influences, their roots and the tradition from which they spring. Another, incidentally, is that they have the potential to stand a comparison with practically all of these influences. The Mighty lemon Drops are that good.
THE MLD'S FALL DOWN LIKE THE RAIN
With no particular interest in being a cult band, it looks like as if they will eventually sign either directly or, more probably, indirectly to a major label. Like The Shop Assistants, Primal Scream and The Bodines, they too want to get into that chart.
"We've never said that we don't want to sign with a major label," says Dave. "If a band has a really good-selling independent single, they are only kidding themselves if they say they don't want to take things further. We want to be heard by as many people as possible".
Sire Press Release For The Ricochet Album.
In the seven years since their formation, The Mighty Lemon Drops have established themselves as one of the freshest, most inventive ensembles in modern pop music. Now, with the release of Ricochet , their Sire Records offering, the quartet takes another giant leap of originality with a collection of eleven songs that capture all the energy, exuberance and sheer excitement of the group's fabled live sound.