Oldfield Youth Club
Image co Simon Rivers
Simon Rivers is, and has always been, a busy man. Since his high school days he’s played in several bands, one or two of which made a bit of an impression, such as Last Party and The Bitter Springs (who once made album of the month in Mojo magazine). He’s had a lengthy association with Vic Godard and his newest project Oldfield Youth Club has just released their first single. A surreal commentator on everyday life in the manner of the Nightingales Robert Lloyd and of Mark E.Smith, Deviation Street got him on the phone to find out exactly what he’s been getting up to :
Hi Simon, how are things over at Oldfield Youth Club then?
We’ve recorded four tracks and the first live gigs were a bit shambolic but we’re now in a bit more control of what we’re doing. We’ve got one song called ‘Oldfield Youth Club’ and its a bit of a joke but it’s sort of our manifesto, basically saying we’ve earned the right to play what we like and say what we like, then you’ve got the ‘Theme From Oldfield Youth Club’ which is about our time there and the songs that got played there, like ‘The Liquidator’ and stuff by the Stranglers or whatever. We send all the stuff out to all the radio people, but we haven’t really got any inroads to those people, we haven’t got publishers or anything. We’ve another song called ‘The Glue’, it’s our anti – Brexit song, it’s all about modern language, all these kind of buzzwords they use now in industry and offices to get people to work harder for less, all the terminology. The chorus goes : it’s all well and good moving forward from here with a language no one understands, where’s the glue that’ll hold us together. It’s not about sniffing glue, we’re definitely not promoting that, we’re promoting using it for sticking Airfix models together.
The circles we’re moving in at the moment, I met Shend from the Cravats and we’re doing a gig up in Middlesbrough next year with them as The Bitter Springs at the West Garth social. The Cravats know the Nightingales, we’ve played with the Blue Orchids and they’ve done a few gigs with them. We’re playing with sort of like minded bands and it’s funny how it’s all got a lot friendlier unlike back in the day when groups were all horrible to each other and you couldn’t use someone’s drum stool, someone’s bass rig or whatever. It’s turned into a bit of a community.
When you’re younger your possessions are a bit more valuable, I suppose.
Previously there wasn’t the communication you can have nowadays through Facebook and whatever. I just think it’s brilliant, all these bands that have never been hugely successful, bands with varying levels of success that are just keeping it going and making good music. It’s a lot easier now and if you don’t sort it out it just ain’t enjoyable. All my time’s taken up with working, I’m a postman and that’s how I met with Vic Godard about twenty years ago. He was a postman in Twickenham and I was in Hampton and I saw him in the staff magazine so I rang him up the office in Twickenham and said, you don’t know me, explained a bit about the Bitter Springs album we were doing, then I sent him a cassette and he came down and got involved with us and we’ve been hanging around together helping each other out ever since. I’m on Marc Reily’s show in a couple of months playing keyboards with Vic on a session.
Robert Elms played one of the songs on GLR, a song called Addison Brothers. Vic just did the backing vocals and the chorus, it got well reviewed and Robert Elms still plays it but if I try and send him anything new he’ll just play that again, in fact he played it just the other week which is great but he doesn’t listen to anything else of ours. Vic’s been his show a few times, including just the other week chatting on a feature he does about London landmarks.
What’s the idea behind the new single ‘When Bob Grant Ruled The World’
The lyric structure of the Bob Grant song is about me pretending to be Bob Grants driver, based on stories I heard from someone I know from Hampton who’s an actor and knew him. He was quite a good Shakespearean actor, had a great singing voice and all that but he was sort of trapped in that whole On The Buses thing and it did weigh him down a bit. Once you get something that’s popular it defines you It was the same with Harry H Corbett, once they get the comedy roles it defines them and Bob Grant struggled with that. We did a Bitter Springs song called ‘Benny Hill’s Wardrobe’, he lived in Twickenham and after he died someone was advertising that for sale in an antique shop with a sticker on it that just said ‘Benny Hill’s Wardrobe’ and we wrote a song about it. I still wonder if anyone bought it.
Image co Simon Rivers
The person that knew Bob Grant is someone I know that’s involved with our non league football club here, Hampton FC. Our chairman used to be Alan Simpson who wrote Steptoe and Son and whenever we had a cup run or whatever it’d get written up in the local paper as the Steptoe And Son club.
I suppose that proves your point on some level. What else are you getting up to just now?
Just the other week I went to a Wedding Present gig in Brighton with my son and a few mates, we all seem to like the same music, and the Fallen Women were on with them, the all female Fall tribute band. I’ve sung with them a couple of times before in London, ‘Blindness’ and ‘Hit The North’, this time I was able to prepare a song and I sang ‘Edinburgh Man’ so I was a lot more confident with it, I learned it the same way I’d learn one of our own songs. They’ve had Stewart Lee, Vic Godard, Sharon Horgan the actress singing with them and I’ve been suggesting they do an album with all the sort of high profile people that’ve sung with them. I’m sure they’ve already thought of that themselves.
About your actual music projects though, what’s in the pipeline, as it were?
I’m practising tomorrow with Vic again, so far it’s sounding good. We’ve got to get the songs worked up first, we’ve got four so far. It’s an album that hasn’t got a title yet. The songs are sounding good, there’s one called ‘Jukebox In My Head’ that’s a catchy little number that Vic says sounds like Amen Corner’s ‘Bend Me Shape Me’. It’s more a unified sound than he’s had for a while because he did the last album very on his own. I’m playing keyboards and it’s a different thing for me, I’ve always been in charge of my own groups and with Vic I’m very much a sideman. He’s got Johnny Britton on guitar and the rhythm section from Joboxers, Sean McCluskey and Chris Bostock again. They’ve been playing lots of gigs together. When the Bitter Springs were backing him all we released was the Blackpool EP that he did with Irvine Welsh. Irvine sent the lyrics to Vic and we recorded four tracks but we’d rehearsed a lot more than that. The ‘Blackpool’ song is still really popular, always gets a good response whenever he plays it. About what we’re doing now, we’ll just work out between us what Vic wants it to sound like.
Vic Goddard and The Bitter Springs 2018 by Davrob
Vic has told me a lot about how things were when Subway Sect started out, how he was managed by Bernie Rhodes who also managed the Clash and I can’t believe some of the things he was told to do, asked to sack his entire band and stuff like that, and we aren’t anything like that, we aren’t so much a band as a bunch of friends that want to make music together and that’s why I think we can keep going. We’re looking forward to making a full album now. We’re here, you can come along and enjoy us or not, we’re not bothered.
Words: Jon Gordon