In an exclusive extract from Andrew McGibbon’s new book ‘I Was Douglas Adams’ Flatmate’ (published by Faber) the former Morrissey drummer and producer, Stephen Street recall working on Viva Hate…
I’m Andrew McGibbon, though some of you may know me as Andrew Paresi. I played drums on nine of Morrissey’s top-twenty UK singles between 1987 and 1991: ‘Suedehead’, ‘Every Day Is Like Sunday’, ‘Ouija Board, Ouija Board’, ‘Piccadilly Palare’, ‘November Spawned a Monster’, ‘Our Frank’, ‘Sing Your Life’, ‘Pregnant for the Last Time’ and ‘My Love Life’. I also played on his albums Viva Hate, Bona Drag and Kill Uncle.
It was September 1987 when Stephen Street asked me to play drums on some songs he had written with Morrissey after Smiths split. These songs would be part of the sessions for Morrissey’s first solo album, Viva Hate.
Stephen Street recalls the events leading up to my first encounter with Morrissey.
At the end of the summer of 1987, after the Smiths had broken up, I had sent off this cassette to Morrissey with some ideas I thought could be used for B-sides to forthcoming Smiths singles, and he sent me a postcard back saying, ‘I want to make an album.’ So I met him and I said, ‘What do we do now?’ and he said, ‘Have you got any idea who we could work with?’ I said, ‘Well, I’ve got this drummer in mind who could do a really fine job on the record. Would you like me to arrange a meeting?’
I still wasn’t sure why I’d been picked from the thousands who were never auditioned. One thing was certain; I’d been chosen for my drumming, not my appearance, as I dressed like a failed Blue Peter presenter. So I was tidied up and presented to Morrissey at Stephen’s flat. This dazzlingly symmetrical charmster, sporting tumescent quiff and limpid NHS specs, was the most beautiful creature I’d ever seen. My compadres on this journey were Durutti Column guitarist Vini Reilly and bass player and producer Stephen Street, who wrote the music. Working out which parts of the music were choruses and which parts were verses was rather difficult until Morrissey sang a guide or final vocal on the recording – assuming we had done it right, as Stephen Street recalls.
I would play the rough demos of a song to Vini and Andrew, give Vini the chords, go downstairs [the control room was upstairs, with the live area below] and play bass, with Andrew on the drums, and then [Morrissey] would put his vocal on and, ahhh . . . now we know what’s going to happen on it.
Early on, to get round this uncertainty, I decided the best approach was to prepare a clear drum composition for each of Stephen’s tunes, and really think about what kind of playing would fire up and complement the track. Failing that, I just played any old toss.
When ‘Suedehead’, the first single off the album, was released it had what is known in radiospeak as ‘heavy rotation’ on the nation’s favourite, Radio 1. The station had rarely played any Smiths tracks on its daytime shows, yet in the three weeks before it was available in the shops ‘Suedehead’ was being played four, sometimes five times a day on Radio 1 alone. This was the first time in nine years of struggling with an unpredictable career that I was now hearing my drumming on the radio, and it was glorious. It was like nothing else I’d ever experienced. This was a significant event and my snare, hi-hat and bass drum was all over it! It was pure joy.
Stephen Street would go on to produce many hit records for Blur and Kaiser Chiefs, amongst others. He remembers the building of ‘Suedehead’.
The top line is a Vini Reilly riff. It could have been suggested by the opening drum fill, the dat, dat, dat, dah . . . thing; I don’t know, because it picks up on the same beat in the bar. The reason I love ‘Suedehead’ so much is that it was the first one we’d cut in the studio where I felt the contributions from both Vini and Andrew were spot on and it made that track come alive.
The next single released was ‘Every Day Is Like Sunday’. Like ‘Suedehead’, it made it into the top ten and is regarded by many who know about these things as a classic English pop single.
It is certainly the most lyrically stimulating – nuclear bomb explodes over Skegness as Morrissey is writing a postcard about how dull it is. Quite brilliant! The album Viva Hate went straight to number one in the UK charts in March 1987. It was released on my birthday. Alongside its two flagship singles, it contained other songs which had been a joy to play the drums on. Stephen Street explains what he and Morrissey were looking for.
‘Late Night, Maudlin Street’ came out of this second batch of songs. The type of drumming on that song, to work, would have to be more American, kind of jazzy rather than Britpop drumming. It was perfect.
In fact, Morrissey and Stephen had been listening to Joni Mitchell’s The Hissing of Summer Lawns and a track off Rickie Lee Jones’s eponymous solo album called ‘Last Chance Texaco’
Stephen Street recalls other key non-drumming events and excursions during the recording of Viva Hate at the Wool Hall, a residential studio in Somerset owned by Tears for Fears.
When we were doing that first album, I can remember doing things like playing charades in the cottage [the Wool Hall had a separate cottage for musicians to sleep and eat in] and you never saw him [Morrissey] playing charades with the Smiths; you know, they’d be getting absolutely bollocked somewhere and he’d be in bed . . . but it was very English, and I think he enjoyed it. The Wool Hall and the recordings gave him a definite rock to cling to in those post-Smiths, traumatic months he was going through.
The launch party for Viva Hate took place in a seedy nightclub in Bath. Stephen Street forced me to wear his denim jacket and put the rest of my outfit in a lime bath, as he recalls.
Well, I think Morrissey sort of said [something like] ‘I wouldn’t be seen dead with Andrew looking like that. If he’s coming out with us tonight he’s going to have to look a little sharper than that.’ He didn’t say it as such but you could just tell by the look, you know. [Laughs] So I said, ‘Andrew, have you thought about wearing this jacket?’
Launch parties are supposed to be roaring, glamorous affairs, packed to the point of no breathable oxygen; intense, overwhelming and noisy, with photographers taking millions of pictures of you, even though you are a nobody. But the launch party for Viva Hate was so quiet that many punters thought the club was closed for redecoration. c.Andrew McGibbon 2011
This is an adapted version of a chapter which appears in ‘I Was Douglas Adams’ Flatmate and Other Encounters With Legends’ by Andrew McGibbon. To order a copy of the book please click the following link http://www.amazon.co.uk/Was-Douglas-Adamss-Flatmate-Encounters/dp/0571251722/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1299771158&sr=8-1
- Andrew McGibbon (Andrew Paresi) praises Smiths fans; new book, "I Was Douglas Adams's Flatmate And Other Encounters With Legends" - Feb. 24, 2011