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23 June 2009 @ 10:17 am
It Was 20 Years Ago Today, ish  
It's June 1989. In the aftermath of the Tianenmen Square massacre, London indie nothings The Keatons decide to record and release a 7" single all by themselves, partly because it would be a gloriously independent gesture in the spirit of post-punk DIY, but more because no other bastard was ever going to ever pay for them to do it. I wasn't in the band by this point; I was struggling manfully through a clutch of A Levels, including an Economics paper which asked me to write an essay about the monopoly enjoyed by the Severn Bridge, not that the Severn Bridge itself was able to smugly revel in its enviable position. By the time the record came out I had joined the band, however, and I've spent the last 20 years pretending that the record had something to do with me whenever I imagined that would be advantageous to me in some way, i.e. never. Anyway, I may as well keep up the pretence.

This is what it looked like; I've just swiped this image from eBay because I can't find my copy anywhere, which is annoying, in fact I might even have to buy the bastard off eBay.

Two things struck me when I got my hands on it for the first time. First of them was: "Hang on... Isn't recidivist spelt with a 'c', not an 's'?" To which the answer is "yes", and the explanation is "Steve the bass player didn't know that when he sorted out the artwork". Of course, there's no such word as "recidivistish", although there should be, so I suppose we could have got away with "residivistish", because that isn't a word either. The word "recidivistish" doesn't appear in the song, either, which further complicates, some might say trivializes the issue still further. Certain band members could never be bothered to say "recidivistish" if the song ever came up for discussion, and they'd say "recid", which would be responded to with withering scorn and laughter by pedants within the group, who would insist on saying it in full.

The second thing struck me when I put it on the turntable. It's slow. I mean, horrifically slow. You need to play it at about 50rpm for it to be at the same pitch and speed it was recorded at. I've still no idea how this happened, and when I rang Steve in a panic and mentioned it, he said "yeah, I noticed that at the cut, but I was more interested in getting the record made to be honest." The b-sides are slow, too, play at about 47rpm for best results. Fortunately, thanks to the onward march of technology, I can use magic computers to restore them to Concert Pitch, which is what I've done.

(I should add at this point that if you find post-punk angular guitars in the mould of Wire and The Fall to be deeply annoying, you should probably stop reading, although you probably have already.)


This was the glorious A-side which received a glowing review in Sounds from Andy Ross, head of Food Records, not that he was sufficiently moved to give us any money, or indeed hookers. An anti-verse consisting of grown men bellowing "pick a vice", followed by an unusually chirpy chorus:

Oh I bless you, such a recidivist fish
Up to the blue deep lake, the feelers twitch
Tote en hiver
Scrawl what's on my mind

Gibberish. I remember John Peel playing it one night and the excitement being so intense that I almost did a little wee.


Neil, the singer, would write the songs on a battered acoustic guitar. They'd often consist of a nothingy two-string riff repeated ad infinitum followed by a slighly more exciting chorus. "Toys" is a good example. The longevity of this tune was quite remarkable, by which I mean vaguely interesting to about 8 people. We played it at most gigs we did, and were still playing it 6 years later at a shit outdoor festival in Jena, East Germany, when it became clear that no-one really wanted to be in the band any more and we all went home, arguing as we went. Sounds mighty, though, I think. I reiterate that I'm not on it, but I could easily have been, if I'd been in the band.

Dark Sudden Something

God, there's a lot of flanging and chorusing on all this stuff. It's a bit disorientating, like having a blindfold on in a small rowing boat and two jam jars each containing a bee sellotaped to the sides of your head. This was a song that got louder and sped up towards the end, ending in chaos and general thrashing about; 20-something men are under the erroneous impression that this makes a fantastic ending to a live set, so that's what we often did. Extraordinary bass riff from a man who pronounced fussy, flashing guitar playing to be evil incarnate, but still. A reference in the lyrics to someone called "Jenny Ginsberg". No idea who that might be, although there's a Jenny Ginsberg on MySpace these days, who has written a song called "Do I Subtract or Divide to get to I?", to which the answer is "Hahaha, no idea love, sorry."

No idea why I did the above. Sheer nostalgia, I guess. Back to work.
thedavidxthedavidx on June 23rd, 2009 11:45 am (UTC)
I just spat all over my MacBook. In a good way.
Rhodri Marsdenrhodri on June 23rd, 2009 11:51 am (UTC)
I just pushed an overdose of 24 Clarityn hayfever tablets up my arse. In a good way.
besskeloid on June 23rd, 2009 12:22 pm (UTC)
Thanks for this. That's a seriously '80s bass sound. Good quirking-out!
headbones on June 23rd, 2009 01:07 pm (UTC)
Chatting with my friend (well... emailing) got me to thinking when I first heard of the Keatons. Too late to pick up this 7", but I think I bought everything else.

I clearly remember The Keatons playing on my 20th birthday in December 1990. As it was the end of (University) term no one had any money so I had to pay for a 'friend' to come along with me.

Ah ... the happy memories.
Rhodri Marsdenrhodri on June 23rd, 2009 01:48 pm (UTC)
Which one? :)

1/12/90 Blyth Thoroton Hotel with Unexplained Laughter
2/12/90 Newcastle Broken Doll with The Sunflowers
5/12/90 London Sir George Robey with Danbert Nobacon
10/12/90 London Camden Falcon with Vic Moody
12/12/90 Oxford Co-op with Carter The Unstoppable Sex Machine
13/12/90 Chelmsford Y Club with Thrilled Skinny
15/12/90 London Nolans Bar, Dalston with Badgewearer & The Price
16/12/90 Wendover with The Moonflowers

Edited at 2009-06-23 01:49 pm (UTC)
headbones on June 23rd, 2009 03:09 pm (UTC)
What a relief - that proves my memory hasn't gone (even if I fail to log on to post a reply).

10th @ Falcon.

No recollection of Vic Moody mind.
Rhodri Marsdenrhodri on June 23rd, 2009 03:38 pm (UTC)
Ha. That gig was supposed to be a secret one with Blur. They agreed to do it, and then pulled out at the last minute leaving us with next to no equipment and no other bands to play with. Vic Moody were 3 teenagers from Harlow and 1 bloke from Preston who happened to be in the audience, making it up as they went along, as I remember. Our drummer played on bits of kit cobbled together from various sources and, as I remember, had no cymbals.
Saint Joolz: slightly miserablepopsock on June 23rd, 2009 01:29 pm (UTC)
Downloaded and enjoyed. I'm sure I saw the Keatons supporting someone at the Duchess of York in Leeds or some such place, but I honestly can't remember. Did they ever play there and if so, who with?
Rhodri Marsdenrhodri on June 23rd, 2009 01:45 pm (UTC)
According to my big list, yeah, 3 times. Feb 1990 with Thrilled Skinny and King Of The Slums; Jan 1993 with AC Temple and Hood, and Apr 1995 with Boyracer. How about that for accuracy.
Saint Joolz: slightly miserablepopsock on June 23rd, 2009 01:50 pm (UTC)
Ah ha, knew it! Must have been AC Temple then and I seem to recall it was freezing cold. :-) Cheers.
For anything, oh! she´ll bust her elasticelectricwitch on June 23rd, 2009 01:48 pm (UTC)
Oh god the title makes me cry a little because every time I look at it it says something like RSDCTSHTSVSHS and then I think SELF THAT IS NOT A WORD and look again and it says RDTCHSHTDTCHSTV and so it goes on.

That's what I get for going on the interwebs after an exam.
imomusimomus on June 30th, 2009 10:44 pm (UTC)
I don't care for the other tracks too much, but Residivistish is touched with some kind of greatness.

Now, sure, that greatness consists, when you pin it down, in sounding like the great lost track from Document and Eyewitness. But there's nothing wrong with sounding just a little too much like a great band in their prime, and possibly even besting them.
Rhodri Marsdenrhodri on June 30th, 2009 11:44 pm (UTC)
There are at least two men who would well up at the sight of this comment.
(Anonymous) on July 19th, 2009 05:16 pm (UTC)
Neat music, always said so din I!

Rhodri Marsdenrhodri on July 28th, 2009 06:09 pm (UTC)
Look. The Pastel seal of approval.
(Anonymous) on July 28th, 2009 03:01 pm (UTC)
I actually bought Residivistish, and still have it somewhere. Do I win a prize?

Rhodri Marsdenrhodri on July 28th, 2009 06:09 pm (UTC)
You win two.
marcus pinghamaugstone on August 10th, 2009 02:08 pm (UTC)
hello, sir. good to meet you the other night. just saw you on mr. barnett's comments. have added you on here.
Rhodri Marsdenrhodri on August 10th, 2009 02:19 pm (UTC)
Yes! I was drunk. Lovely to meet you too.
(Anonymous) on October 22nd, 2009 09:23 am (UTC)
Have literally been discussing The Keatons on Twitter with Alexis Petridis. I was in a band called Big Rhino that played with you in Ipswich in 1990. I am fairly certain I have a copy of this single at me mum's
Rhodri Marsdenrhodri on October 22nd, 2009 09:26 am (UTC)
Re: Crikey
Ha. I seem to remember that you were actually called "My God You've Got A Big Rhinoceros". I was at university with Jon / John, your bass player.