Music Notes: Staring again at Norwich Sound City
PUBLISHED: 08:28 16 April 2012
It's only my waist and hairline convincing me that the BBC's Norwich Sound City happened back in 1992. The memories are as clear as yesterday; imagine my delight when I heard the band Stare were reforming for its 20th anniversary!
The decline of the Norwich scene in the late 1980s saw the bust of the indie boom and a host of venue closures in favour of the trendy bars. The closing of The Gala at the top of St Stephens Street was the final straw and the Norwich Venue campaign was born. Everyone joined in; I remember playing many gigs to raise money for the cause either in the basement of The Lawyer or at Gundry Whites.
In October 1990 the Venue Campaign’s hard work paid off and the Waterfront opened and it was this new venue that was at the heart of the Sound City week.
The event ran for a week at the end of April in 1992. It wasn’t all about music we did have some top speakers turn up to chat about the industry: Billy Bragg and Tony ‘Factory’ Wilson to name two. But it was the bands that people wanted to hear.
Among the big names to play were: The Fall, Carter USM, The Farm, Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds, Orbital, Prodigy and House of Love and many of these performances were broadcast live across the country. Dozens of local bands supported the event playing smaller venues throughout the city. I also recall one of my favourite local acts at the time called Boomerang playing a stage set up on the Haymarket.
Sound City was especially memorable for one of the bands on the bill, newly signed local hopefuls Stare. The band had struck a chord on Gary Crowley’s GLR (Greater London Radio) show on a spot called ‘Demo Clash’ by winning the listeners vote four weeks in a row.
Guitarist Michael Brown takes up the story: “The next day the phone wouldn’t stop ringing, they even called me at work. EMI, Polydor, London, Nude, A&M and Big Life were all calling; some came down to see us play, some just wanted to spend the day with us. Big Life sounded the most interested and we took the plunge with them.”
As you can imagine this is what every band dreams of but it wasn’t all champagne and parties. The band’s first single had not been officially released and was suppose to be a promo release for gigs only but it was heard at Radio 1 and they loved it so much that they hit listed it.
Mike adds: “It sounds like a dream but no one could get hold of the single and the version they could get hold of had no barcode so couldn’t be used for chart figures. It was a nightmare; from then on we were chasing the game.”
The band went off to make an album and continued touring with bands like The Verve, hoping at some point to regain that initial enthusiasm caused by that first release, sadly that time never came and the band were dropped when the label had to make cuts.
Mike sums it all up: “We had some great times and no regrets. We did so much in those three years on the label and still remember Norwich Sound City as a highlight.
“When we called it a day the album remained shelved, I carried on playing in bands and lead singer Richard went on to run Purple Studios in Trowse and has been one of the area’s most prolific engineer/producers. We have got together again to play the 20th Anniversary of Sound City because it was a great time and to top it all the East Anglian Music Archive are going to release our album for the very first time, along with a retrospective of our other bands. We are really looking forward to it.”
n Stare will be reforming for a few shows in 2012, the first of which is the Norwich Sound City 20th Anniversary show at the Waterfront on the April 19. Tickets £4 adv, more on the door. Support comes from The Barlights and Perfumo Project
n Stare: The Luxury of Anger, a double CD retrospective, is out on iTunes on April 23 and on CD from May 7, pre-order from www.nrone.co.uk