Pete is a singer and guitarist who has been around the Liverpool music scene for many years. Hailing from Tue Brook in Liverpool he has played in local groups over the years such as Stray grey sock and Million pound giveway but currently he’s a singer / guitarist with rockers Fidel Afro. He’s also the first person to be roped in to having a chat about the music that inspired him to pick up that guitar many years ago and start creating and sharing music with the city of Liverpool.
I met up with Pete at the band’s studio / recording space, a chilled out room a stones throw from the old Queens Hall venue in Widnes. (A historic music hall type venue that once played host to The Beatles. All that is now left of it is the neighbouring smaller Queen’s hall studio venue.) After some umming and ahhing Pete settled on the three tracks to talk about from The Doors, REM and Gomez, as he put it, a mainstream end of some principally none mainstream music.
The Doors – Light my fire
Does the doors count as mainstream music? I guess it probably does, when a track is covered by someone who found fame on TV show Popstars it’s hard not to consider it at least a little mainstream.
“It’s a song that stands out from my childhood, the first song that as a kid I heard and struck me as something different.” says Pete. “I remember, about age 12 in the late 80s, sneaking the radio on before I went to bed without my mum knowing. There was a late night radio show on Radio city and in amongst all the pop shit there were what seemed like a few more random selections. These boots were made for walking was one that I remember, and the other was this. Listening to it amongst all that stuff going out in the 80s you’d be like ‘What the fuck is this?’”
“As I heard it on the radio it was the radio edit I grew up with, I’ve listened to the 7 minute album version of course. There’s just something great about it. It was the first song I heard that felt different, that made me sit up and take notice. This was before I was playing anything, before I’d picked up a guitar. This song has stuck with me amongst other Doors stuff. I listened to some others, in fact most of The Doors music, but I guess it’s like anything, the first thing that hits you hits hardest.
“We messed around with a song with me playing keyboards, we never finished it properly, it got a bit borderline close to this. It does go on a bit, there’s so much in there you could tighten up and parts of it feel unnecessary, even in the radio edit, there’s stuff you could cut out but they’ve not done. I always admire that, when someone can say ‘you know what, no, this is how we want it.’ ”
R.E.M. – Finest Worksong
We close out the roaming organ of the seven minute version of Light my fire and move on to the second track, R.E.M. and Finest worksong. It’s not likely to be up there on R.E.M.’s greatest hits or well known to the casual R.E.M. fan. It’s a track though that was released just as R.E.M. were launching themselves on the world, a rise that was paralleled by MTV.
The MTV of today is pretty much unrecognisable to that of the late 80s and 90s. “MTV used to have a rock show later on, about 11pm, and you’d have artists like Alanis Morisette and Primus. R.E.M. would always be on there, they had some great videos. I always remember those three being on all the time, constantly, Primus and Wynona’s Big Brown Beaver all the time. There was seemingly a close relationship with the channel, R.E.M. being one of the first to do an unplugged show. I remember getting that on bootleg, which you did with loads of stuff back then.”
“People know R.E.M. for albums like Automatic for the people and Out of time, more melancholy stuff, an americana, acoustic band. They forget, or don’t know, that R.E.M. were a party band. They were out there playing chicken shacks and pizza places, wherever they could get a gig. They were a band you invited if you wanted a party.”
“This was the first R.E.M. song I ever heard, I had this on a 7″ single, my mum picked it up from a DJ who did PTA discos and stuff. He had some singles they weren’t really suitable for playing at the school discos and this was amongst them. Some stuff in there I wouldn’t admit to even listening to now.”
“This just hit me, in the same way The Doors stood out, this did as well. The starting beat and then that opening line :
The time to rise has been engaged You’d better best to rearrange
“That just sounded so powerful and I was like, man, this is just great. I remember going to school saying to everyone ‘have you heard of R.E.M.?’ They were the band who made me want to pick up the guitar and play properly. I had one already, I bought it trying to prove my music teacher wrong after she’d said that I couldn’t play a right handed guitar left handed. So I got a left handed guitar to show her I could play. But this, listening to R.E.M. was the stuff that made me want to start learning to play properly.
“The B-side to the track was a live medley of sorts ‘Time after time etc’. That was also great, it was a mix of live tracks that they played, but it sounded great. You could heard the audience but they were all listening, all taking it in, there was a great power in that attention. I remember thinking I’d love to be able to command and hold audience attention like that. Just put music out there that people sit and listen to, not even the murmuring you get over the songs when you play some places. It was just great musicianship, I was listening thinking ‘yeah, I want that’ ”
Gomez – RosalitA
Winding down we move on to the final track and Gomez. A little less known that then previous two bands, and maybe not something that would be up there if you asked most people to pick just three inspiring songs.”
“I love this song, a beautiful song. There’s a big reason I picked this, interviewers often come up with questions like ‘If there’s a track you wish you’d written what would it be?’ It’d be this, always this song. It’s chilled but underneath – the lyrics – they’re so acidic, a juxtaposition to the vibe of the track. Smiling but the eyes are dead would fit nicely.”
“First band I ever saw at a festival was Gomez just after Get myself arrested came out, probably ’98 I think. They were on the new band stage, in fact they opened the new bands stage in Leeds. I was trying to talk everyone with me into coming to watch them. It was pretty quiet, I got right to the front, it was fantastic. I think they’re bigger in The States now, but I’ve picked up every album since.”
“I’d say their sound isn’t obvious and didn’t really fit in with the styles of what was going on at the time. The end of the Britpop era and they weren’t that style of band, nor were they a rockier kind, they just set about doing their own little thing. There’s always the feeling they’re not chasing what people want, they’re making the music they want for themselves and I love when bands do that.”
“They’re a band we’re always compared to a little bit sound-wise, maybe not in the final sound but in the song writing, it’s a compliment. I think partly it’s the use of harmonies, they’ve got such interesting melodies and great song writing.”
“It’s a strange mix from picking something obvious like the Doors to something a bit more random from R.E.M. and Gomez. I like bands that aren’t so obvious but for me they’re a really obvious band, I’ve had everything since their first release. I don’t get that people don’t like them, like I don’t get that people don’t like the Spin Doctors, I’ve got every Spin Doctors release. I’m a massive fan but the majority of their stuff is not very well known and when you start digging the two bands can be very marmite, more so the Spin Doctors though. They’re pretty straight up a blues band, although there are some jazz elements in there. I’ve seen them a couple of times in Liverpool recently and they are great live, great musicianship. I took Ian (Fidel bass player) and Paul (drummer) to see them and they loved them.”
I guess Gomez sum it up, kinda mainstream but not quite, and the comparisons with Fidel Afro are apt. Some of their stuff is a bit more obviously rock but there’s plenty in there to surprise and delight you.