MICRODISNEY IN FIVE DATES WHICH SADLY I COULDN'T REMEMBER...
by Hibee Ian Ramsay (thanks to him for all his other help with the site)


There are two groups who have really inspired me both musically and spiritually and Microdisney, for a regrettfully short period of time, was one of them. I've always thought music is a wholly personal thing, one man's
Wonderwall is another's Final Countdown, and the way music/songs/words can affect you largely depend upon who you are and the circumstances in which you are living. That said perhaps I analyse things too much and the vast majority of music lovers just like pleasant noise in the background and don't really take music beyond the moment the concert/record/cd/tape ends and simply get on with their lives.

Perhaps this would have been a better solution for me as I would have not spent vast amounts of time waiting for records to come out and getting increasingly frustrated when musicians or producers wouldn't do what I wanted them to do. However the joy when they came up with the goods was worth it and Microdisney repeatedly did this. Album releases, concerts, Peel sessions, interviews, even album tracklists and titles obtained from weary record company bods, would send me into a near-heavenly state.

I sadly though (well actually happily) was the sort of person that would ruminate for hours about Peel sessions, what songs would be played at concerts and inundate record labels with phone calls enquiring about 'release dates', apologies to anyone who had to 'deal with my enthusiasm' while working at Rough Trade or Virgin. How do you describe the group you have loved? As I have said already, the way some songs affect someone is an entirely personal thing and in some cases can be shared as a common experience, again I cite Wonderwall and the Final Countdown as examples of this. Microdisney however cannot be really shared as such- perhaps because they meant so many things to so many people. My elder sister was swept along by my enthusiasm and loved their addictive melodies and thankfully she was not also a music 'saddict', one per family I guess is the limit. So to answer my question I think describing the five key dates in my relationship with Microdisney should just about sum up what Microdisney meant for me. It will never truly detail the hours spent repeatedly listening to songs or the optimism and enthusiasm it engendered in me but it'll have to do.

1 Microdisney Edinburgh Coasters January 1985 Floating aimless waiting to live

Everyone has their favourite Peel session, and my one was certainly the Microdisney one that began with Horse Overboard. The general context of this, mid-Eighties, coming to terms with the death of my father, coming to terms of my girlfriend leaving me, coming to terms with the evil that was Margaret Thatcher, what I needed was Horse Overboard. It was optimistic, very melodic, very catchy and confusing which sort of fitted into my state of mind. Shortly after this came the first time I saw Microdisney at Coasters 'Ballroom' in Edinburgh. They were first on the bill with Hurrah and The Daintees and despite being a bit shambolic and mixed pretty badly they were superb. Despite their first album having been out for some time they played only unreleased material. Having played first, they were in the crowd to watch the other groups and being a 'friend of the stars' I went to speak to them. Despite the keyboard player spilling his beer on me, he was later sacked but not for the beer spilling shenanigans I understand, they were extremely amiable, and were relatively happy with their performance. I remember walking home through the cold streets of Edinburgh humming a tune that I had never heard before all the way. This was typical of Microdisney.


2 Glasgow College of Technology 13th December 1985

The clock comes down the stairs was out and this concert for a Glasgow Tech Xmas Ball (ie in front of people who largely didn't care about the bands playing) was another fine example of what Microdisney were capable of. The
album lived up to the promise of the Peel sessions and the live outings and seeing the group on the way up at this time was special. When the chemistry was beginning to work and reviews and people were taking notice. Considering
the circumstances, they went down very well indeed. My obsession with Microdisney was at its height. If I remember correctly this concert was a week or so from their Tube appearance.

3 London Demos, pre-Crooked Mile Summer 86

Sometimes sketches are better than long thought over masterpieces. The optimism continued when I obtained a copy of their first demos for the Crooked Mile album. Five songs showing maturity, and a fresh melodic dynamic, thanks to the introduction of the brilliant James Compton. Mixing the optimism of signing with Virgin, melancholy and the typical ascerbic lyrics, they created songs the like of which I had never heard before. This combined with the last Peel session would surely produce an album that would easily surpass its predecessor. Well I guess that was the plan and certainly live they were at their peak when you think of songs like Rack they could never fail. Sadly however Crooked Mile wasn't half as good as it should have been. In fact I must have listened to it as an album a maximum of about four times preferring the demos and Peel sessions and poor quality bootlegs that I had recorded. And each time I listened to it the worse it got. Lenny Kaye massacred those songs and I'm not one to bear grudges but he destroyed them and I think Microdisney with it. A clock comes down the stairs style production would have suited the songs better, the demos released themselves would have been more fitting.

4 Harlesden Mean Fiddler 8 Jan 1987

Christmas time, never my favourite time of the year, in London, not my favourite city in the world but this was Microdisney in front of their home crowd and a different experience to anything I had seen previously. I had seen Microdisney battling, sometimes furiously with an indifferent crowd not that interested but who rarely left unaffected by the power of their live performances or the catchiness of their melodies. The addition of James Compton vocally made a great difference and the harmonies were simply amazing and a dimension that many of their contemporaries could only dream about. Lyrically they were getting better and better and musically it was gelling, especially on stage where the mixture of reigned in rage met musical beauty, all with a witty and caring attitude at a time when all most people cared about was their recently acquired BT shares. It was a great concert with People Just want to dream, truly wondrous.

5 La Grand Place in Mons, Belgium, July 1988 I know it's over

Sitting in a café on la Grand Place in Mons, I wasn't really surprised when I read in the NME that it was over and by that time I had become disillusioned and so had they by all accounts. Musical differences, dwindling crowds ('Microdisney are playing to smaller and smaller crowds' Sean told me with a foreboding air of resignation the last time I saw them in Dundee), a record company unable to 'market' them. As is often the case with the end of a relationship, I was bitter. Towards the record company, to Lenny Kaye the devil incarnate, now apparently selling popcorn in a suburb of Nowheresville, Wisconsin, well if he isn't he should be), the record buying public, (how could they all not recognise this band's merits, its a free country I would tell myself), to myself, I could have been more fervent in my selling of the band to interested parties (that said, I did convert a large number to the Church of Microdisney) and I guess I was bitter to them to an extent for not coming up with the goods. But more than feelings of bitterness I guess I was just sad for them. Apart from the things I have already mentioned, music is about times and places and experiences and moments. Their moment for me was between 84 and 86. At that time no other group created music that meant so much to me and made me happy or sad. I was very glad to have had such a pleasurable first musical relationship with such a group.

6. London Barbican- 9th June 2018 (30 years later, older and wiser!)


I feel that it is worth updating my views slightly on Microdisney, given the recent concerts in Dublin in London. I was unfortunate to learn about the Dublin concert once it had sold out but the possibility of coming down to see them in London just seemed like an opportunity too good to be missed. I've been pondering much on the changes since I last saw this band early in 1988, to try to put into some context what I think on how relevant they are and how welcome or not such a concert would be.

Last time I saw them, we didn't really have much in the way of an interconnected world, finding and listening to music was done in a wholly different manner and the content which artists created was way less disposable than it is today. If you spent £5 or £6 on an album you would not dismiss it like you can today with everything in effect free.

So is it relevant to review an album and bring back it to the attention of a public. I believe that indeed it is both relevant and in a way essential in order to capture and evaluate both the artistry and the quality of this album and the rest of the work of the band.

Coming down to London as I had done on what can only be described as a bit of a pilgrimage, was interesting in several respects. The world and London has changed considerably, the cold war has gone, financial and other bubbles have burst, we have moved on and the changes which the political establishment which inspired much of the music of that era have faded into the past, only to be replaced by a new set. But the songs to be played remain the same. The same hurt, the same anguish, expressions of human emotion, joy, elation, anger and frustration, these have not changed in that time. And perhaps that is what binds us or well me at any rate to them; the personal, albeit often times oblique, references that you can possibly tune into that touch you. Yes I'm afraid I never got much of that feeling hearing Whitney Houston on the radio.

The concert itself? Obviously, I would have liked to hear so many more songs, roughly one hour more of songs that I listened to endlessly back in the day, how can you do Loftholdingswood and 464 without doing, Teddy Dogs. And The Clock comes down the stairs without Harmony Time? Then only one song from Crooked Mile? I think there were nine others that deserved to be included.

The Clock comes down the stairs itself was a joy to hear like that. I don't recall ever hearing And ever being played live and they were all beautifully performed, even if I couldn't help noticing slight hesitations, well 30 years after all. The standouts for me, I guess were my favourite songs, Horse Overboard, Begging Bowl, Are you Happy and surprisingly as it was not one of my personal favourites at the time And, which was centred around the keyboard and an amazing suite of chords. That said, Genius and Sean's masterful guitar outro on Goodbye its 1987 were also brilliant.

Then came the rest. I had never heard Everybody is dead played live, which was my personal favourite song for about 5 years and that was exceptional. Loftholdingswood lump in throat time, Pink Skinned man and Sun, stirring bedsit memories although I never lived in a bedsit. There were so many special moments, 464 and the pent up rage gracefully segwaying into the melodic charm of the main verse and chorus and back again. The glorious harmonies on Singer's Hampstead Home and the home recording vibe of Michael Murphy, nothing out of place, everything fitting in very nicely.

Then the repartee of Cathal, self deprecation never felt so good which made me smile, his voice was as true as if he had been singing those songs every week for the last 30 years. Sean's guitar work was as special as always making the trickery look so simple, not even giving you an idea of the undoubted countless hours of work composing those intricate melodies. Jon's bass work with Tom's constant rhythm deceptively simple but masking the melodic basis on which the layers of other melodies sit so easily. Rhodri Marsden and John Bennett filled in missing elements with great skill and Eileen Grogan completed the picture doing June Miles Kingston's parts and more rather beautifully.

Not to mention the harmonies, the tightness and the passion this makes me think about the chemistry of the band. Very much a case of the whole being in my opinion greater than the sum of its parts. Which leads me thankfully to my final questions. Those song were written at a time and in a place which has gone so what drove them in terms of inspiration is probably completely different to what it would be now. But could this group of four individuals write and record another Horse Overboard or a Birthday Girl? Something which would be relevant today, but musically so much richer than a great many other bands on the current musical landscape?

I believe, sorry no I know that the answer to those questions is a definite of course they could. The question which they have already answered in the negative however is would they want to? Well, Sean, Cathal, on the day after Scotland beat England in a cricket match, stranger things have happened. People just want to dream, no?

 


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