One of John Peel’s favourite bands, The Nightingales – they played more sessions for him than any other band (excluding The Fall and Half Man, Half Biscuit) – return to Southampton this Saturday (June 2nd) with a gig at The Talking Heads. Ged Babey lists 10 reasons why you should not miss this gig.
1/. Ignore reasons 5 –7 as ‘history is bunk’, the past is a foreign country, the 2012 version of The Nightingales are simply one of the most bizarre and exciting bands in the country as the moment. Their new album ‘No Love Lost’ ( Cooking vinyl) is a career-best.
2/. Robert Lloyd and Alan Apperley veterans of punk band the Prefects are now in their mid-fifties but guitarist Matt Wood and drummer Fliss Kitson are in their early-twenties so it balances out nicely. The German bassist Andreas Schmidt keeps his age a closely guarded secret.
3/. Three superb support acts – the inimitable Ted Chippington. Surreal stand-up loved by Stewart Lee. Doyle & the Fourfathers, erudite Southampton future-stars and the nigh-on legendary Flying Alexanders, possibly the only band on the planet who could out-drink The Nightingales.
4/. The Nightingales new LP opens with the outrageously offensive (and bellowed) line:
I was as dry as a dead nuns cunt in the desert.
I asked Robert about this particular line.
Well to be honest I didn’t think of it as offensive. I don’t think I’ve ever written or sang anything that’s meant to offend. I thought it was poetic, as in, descriptive and funny, as in, in-your-face. And it’s the kind of thing the ‘I’ in the song might say… it’s just more colourful than most pop/rock lyrics I reckon. I hate the simpleton writers that think they’re good but just use ‘King Black Adder type descriptives; y’know the ”it was as sticky as a sticky stick” level…
Any road up, no I don’t really want you to explain where it came from…
I kinda hoard bits’n’bobs for future usage when appropriate, though my memory gets worse all the time. So there we have it. I obviously write for myself primarily but of course I hope to entertain others with my words and I like to think the lyrics on the album will amuse some of the listeners at least.
I like also that bit being the album’s opening gambit and the album’s last word being ‘Amen’. Hopefully the stuff in between makes up a decent picture, but all the roads that lead me there are winding, blinding….
5/. Nightingales are fronted by Robert Lloyd, who, in the opinion of many a punk-scholar is as important a figure as Rotten, Strummer, Weller, Ian Curtis… Only he never had the success or became a household name. He’s a cantankerous part-time genius and wit. He sang for Birmingham punk band the Prefects who’s retrospective CD is called Amateur Wankers, named after an insult hurled at them by Clash manager Bernie Rhodes when he kicked them off the White Riot tour.
6/. Lloyds list of credentials and associations are impressive;
He was at the Ramones debut UK show at the Roundhouse in 1976, and despite what it says on the sleevenotes to the Prefects CD wasn’t their roadie but did meet and eat with them.
He almost joined Buzzcocks in 1977 to replace Devoto;
He was asked if he wanted to drum for Warsaw (who became Joy Division).
Instead he formulated a plan for a band called the Gestapo – a name with Johnny Thunders heartily approved of when they met and discussed it on the legendary Anarchy tour.
But instead joined a band who had recently rejected one Chris Collins –who later became Frank Skinner- who had auditioned for them!
When the Prefects split –leaving behind NO recordings; how ‘punk is that! Some of them regrouped as the Nightingales –the most ridiculously un-punk name they could thing of.
7/. Lloyd and his bands got massive support from John Peel, The fact is; at one time, as singer with the Prefects, Nightingales and New Four Seasons he held the record for being offered and recording more John Peel sessions than any other artist. Later beaten by Mark E Smith of rivals and contemporaries the Fall. I once asked Robert about his relationship with John Peel to which he replied, with uncharacteristic tenderness and soft preciseness; “He was my friend and I miss him”.
8/. Robert Lloyd is one of the funniest, sharpest, most surreal lyricists of his generation. My favourite example of a Lloyd couplet is;
Of the thirteen sentences to say before you die, he couldn’t get his tongue around ‘I’m H. A. P. P. Y.’
Is he a better lyricist than Nick Cave or Morrissey. The man himself insists ‘there are plenty of shitty lines and piss-poor bits’ as well as quotes stolen from William Blake and others. There’s a thesis to be written about how his complex freeform verbiage uses the minutiae of everyday life, to construct, out of colloquialisms, newspeak, jokes, crossword clues, & juxtapositioning a critique of class, sex and existence in the 21st Century UK. The conclusion would be that there are some really funny lines but you can never work out quite WTF he is on about.
9/. The Late, Great Mint Burston was mates with the Nightingales and Ted Chippington, as were a few of the old Southampton Flik Spatula posse. Mint once told me that if the band couldn’t find Lloyd he’d either be in the nearest pub or more likely the nearest Betting Shop. In the early 80’s the band (allegedly) made more money on the horses than from gigging. Like Mint and contemporary Vic Godard from Subway Sect, Lloyd became a postman during ‘the wilderness years’ before the band reformed in 2004.
10/. Same as 1/. Don’t miss one of the weirdest, wildest guitar bands around when they hit Southampton. Imagine Captain Beefheart playing with the Cramps. A Brummie version of Grinderman… a better variation on the same sort of themes and ideas the Fall employ. One of my favourite bands; the Nighting-fucking-gales.