The Ponderosa Glee Boys sprang out of the late 70’s Eric’s crowd and have since achieved a cult status as one of Liverpool’s great lost bands.
Encouraged to start a band by none other than Jayne Casey, Ponderosa Glee Boys emerged as purveyors of fine post punk. Rooted more in the Public Image Ltd school rather than the New York/Velvet Underground influences of much of the Liverpool scene bands at the time, the Glee Boys stood out.
For a while, all was going well. Managed by the inestimable Doreen Allen, gigs at Eric’s, Brady’s and the Royal Court gave people a chance to catch them live and they signed to Inevitable Records, home of fellow scenesters Wah! Heat.
But there the good luck stopped and the band petered out. Unfortunately, Inevitable went bust before any records could be released, their singer left and the Glee Boys soon split up.
However, some high profile gigs and a lack of recorded material proved to be a potent mix for creating a mystique that kept the band in the minds of those involved in Liverpool’s music scene at the time.
Then, out of the blue, The Ponderosa Glee Boys reappeared in 2018, to play a series of gigs in December of that year. This was made considerably more complicated by the fact that singer Carl Eaton now lives in Australia. The logistics involved here are enough to make most bands throw in the towel, but as we have seen, the Glee Boys are made of sterner stuff.
Having got back together, they decided against rehashing their old set, which was now over 40 years old, and instead bravely elected to write and rehearse a completely new set of songs. In three weeks. And then play it live to a crowd of discerning old Eric’s punks.
And, to their eternal credit, they made a stunning job of it. Those songs, once road-tested and worked on were then recorded for their long overdue debut album, Awake.
There is a common enough story that sees bands taking a far too long gap between recording albums; Stone Roses and Stereo MCs can claim five and eight years respectively between debut and their follow-ups, while Guns n’ Roses Chinese Democracy famously came 15 years after its predecessor.
But Ponderosa Glee Boys had to wait a colossal 42 years before their debut album was released. The joy, vindication and hunger was evident in their gigs. They had waited a long time for this and their gigs were a release of pent up kinetic and creative energy the likes of which I have witnessed few times in my life.
Guitarist Mike Mooney is incredible, as his pedigree (Spiritualized, Massive Attack, Echo and the Bunnymen) would lead you to believe. He is able to sound like three guitarists at once and give PGB an enviable wall of sound.
Bass monster Phil Hartley and drummer Mark Robson provide a superb rhythm section, tight and with just the right amount of groove and attack.
2019 saw the band back for another visit to District in what was fast becoming a festive tradition, before the COVID-19 pandemic sadly put paid to this year’s Glee Boys spectacular.
But, all has not ground to a halt for The Ponderosa Glee Boys. Carl has been busy down under creating a set of new songs, meaning we won’t have such a long wait for Awake’s follow up.
After taking such a long time to get their debut out into the world and after starting to again build up some momentum, second album Demigods of Bedlam will be with us as soon as pandemics permit.
In the meantime, Sun 13 can present the fruits of Carl’s labour so far in the form of five demos for album number 2.
The songs are a progression from Awake and differ in tone and ambition.
Carl says that “They sound a little different than if the band were playing on them, and I’m no Mike Mooney but I’m happy with what I’ve played and the overall direction the songs have and where they sit. The second album should see us move forward and keep trying to create a sound that our current environment represents, so I wasn’t scared to try a different approach with them in the studio.”
It looks like the brave attitude that saw Awake take shape is also the driving force behind Demigods of Bedlam, and that can only be a good thing.
Here at Sun 13 we are awaiting this with barely contained hunger. The Ponderosa Glee Boys have come back from the brink to become one of Liverpool’s best bands and we have our fingers firmly crossed that 2021 will be their year.
With one of the most influential albums of the 80s heads towards it’s 30th Birthday, now 30 years old, Banjo looks at its story and its impact
Some bands release album after album of similar sounding songs and some release albums where there is sign of a steady forward movement or slow progression.
There are other bands however who are capable of taking gigantic, mighty strides from one album to the next. My Bloody Valentine are such an outfit.
My Bloody Valentine’s early recorded work consisted of two mini albums, the post punk sound of This Is Your Bloody Valentine in 1985 and the indie pop of Ecstasy in 1987. Both albums were, in truth, fairly forgettable and caused little fuss amongst critics or record buyers and contained nothing to prepare us for what would come next.
By the time it came to record their debut album proper, My Bloody Valentine had progressed light years beyond their humble beginnings and created a blueprint that indie bands would follow for the next ten years.
Opening track Soft as Snow (But Warm Inside) features guitars that strain not to sound like guitars and seem somehow out of focus and almost but not quite out of time. It was to be a sound they would take further.
Legend has it that the band were existing on an average of two hours sleep a night during the recording. Something that guitarist and vocalist Bilinda Butcher says contributed to the album’s languid, dream-like sounds and the almost there quality of the vocals .
Interestingly, reviews of the album feature a host of non-musical terms, as if traditional rock critic clichés were suddenly insufficient for the task at hand. Melody Maker described it as an ‘out-of-body experience’, while Uncut said ‘in rock algebra you might deduce that they’d worked out some new equation’ while, a few years later, About.com described it as ‘a cubist take on the Jesus and Mary Chain.’
Isn’t Anything soon went to No 1 in the UK Indie Chart and a whole host of bands took notice. Bands such as Curve, Ride and Chapterhouse picked up their cues from the guitar effect overload and a new genre was born. Shoegazing took its name from the fact that the musicians eyes were mostly directed downwards at the array of effects pedals it took to create their own brand of noise.
On a personal note, I came late to the My Bloody Valentine party, having travelled down the Spacemen 3 – Spiritualized route to Shoegazing. The above mentioned bands, together with the likes of Lush and Slowdive made up a short lived but very inventive scene. Traditional sounds and structures were largely ignored in favour of unearthly washes of sound and vocals that were buried under swathes of noise; guitar solos were replaced with huge free-form noise whiteouts.
Journeying back to Isn’t Anything, it was instantly apparent where the scene looked for its inspiration. The effect must have been similar to a fan of 3rd or 4th generation punk bands who suddenly came across a copy of The Ramones’ Leave Home – here was much of the source of what came after.
Nowadays, in a time where Lush, Slowdive and Ride have reformed due to an increasing demand for their records and a rise in their popularity, My Bloody Valentine can be seen as founding fathers of a category of music that has stood the test of time.
Following all this, after legions of indie bands had caught up with My Bloody Valentine, it was already too late. The band had taken another quantum leap forward and created the extraordinary Loveless, setting the bar unreachably high and nearly bankrupting Creation records in the process.
But that, of course, is another story.
With Public Enemy’s Fear of a Black Planet album turning 30, Banjo looked at the story of one of music’s most incredible records.