Thursday 27 September 2018

God Knows It's True

Welcome to a feature blog on Teenage Fanclub's God Knows It's True single/EP. Originally released on Paperhouse in the UK, it was then released by Matador in the US. 

For me, the 7-inch of  God Knows It's True b/w So Far Gone perfectly captures the energy, sound and development of my favourite band at a crucial and extremely exciting point in their career. This release is a perfect bridge between A Catholic Education and Bandwagonesque . We have Gerry joining Norman on songwriting duties and in addition to the 2 main songs, the EP (12-inch and CD) contain the crazy Weedbreak and Ghetto Blaster - perhaps more fitting with The King LP.

So, with the Creation shows coming up, I thought it was an ideal time to revisit and review the release.

As well as my own thoughts, there is an interview with David Barker from Paperhouse Records who was present at the recordings and I am very honoured that David has shared some fantastic pictures to accompany his memories. 

And I am delighted that Gerry Love has shared his thoughts on recording his first song with Teenage Fanclub and a few other memories.

Before you go any further, dig out your vinyl or CD, get ready to stream, or click to watch the promo video for God Knows It's True below ...

A warm guitar riff introduces Norman Blake's God Knows It's True before the band fall in behind in that glorious Fanclub way - sounding like it might fall apart at any time, but hanging together. Beautifully raw and soulful. And extra little riff lifts us towards the first verse.

Norman, picture courtesy of David Barker

Blake finds a melody and his voice soulfully strains as he works his way through the first couple of verses that lead to the chorus. The band are off again, vibing on the cracking riff that the song is built on.

Maybe I just got it wrong
Express the feelings in a song
I didn't mean that much to you
I'm given such a tainted view

After the second verse and chorus the song is lifted with the singing with a different band middle eight before another chorus. The last 1-minute and 20 seconds is all instrumental and for me this is the incredible sound of Teenage Fanclub around this time captured on record. It was just before I got into them as a 15-year old through the release of Bandwagonesque - oh how I wish I had seen them live around this time. It must have been a joy.

Picture courtesy of David Barker

Gerry Love's So Far Gone starts at breakneck speed and barely lets up. The guitars are on fire, the drums have Keith Moon-esque rolls and the bass just about keeps it all together. Love asks questions and then sounds like he is head over heels in love/infatuation in the chorus.

Could you be the one who wants to turn me into something new?
Could you be the one to underestimate my point of view?

So far gone, so far gone
I'd love to turn you on

Love and Blake's voices combine brilliantly on the understand my way section before the band tear straight into another verse and chorus. At 2-minutes 10 seconds, after the third verse and chorus, the song breaks down before slamming into the final 43 seconds, climaxing in one final chorus.

Picture courtesy of David Barker

Teenage Fanclub sound like they are having the time of their lives on the two leads tracks. Ripping through 2 slices of guitar punk pop perfection. The energy leaps out of these songs and the recordings

Weedbreak sounds like it was conceived, performed and recorded on a uuummmmmm weedbreak. The band sound like they are jamming with no real purpose other than fun (the best purpose!) with an element of Sonic Youth to the sound.

Ghetto Blaster has ferocious drumming from Brendan O'Hare and the band tear into their guitars. Brendan's drumming is a real feature across the 4-tracks, driving the band on.

Raymond courtesy of David Barker

A query on the artwork on the Teenage Fanclub forum (a few years ago) led to Gerry Love confirming - It's a photograph taken at Dublin Airport on the way back from our first trip to New York in July 1990. We flew Aer Lingus and we were waiting for our connection to Edinburgh. The photo was taken by Raymond, possibly around 7 or 8 in the morning. I don't know if he meant the triple exposure but there are two snaps of me and one of Brendan.

Interview with David Barker who put out the bands early releases on Paperhouse Records.

EF - Can you remember how you first heard about Teenage Fanclub? What was the first song you heard?

DB - Stephen Pastel told me about them. They might have still been called Superdrug at the time (the original name). I worked with Stephen on my Glass Records label in 1986/87 and was just setting up the Paperhouse label at the time. Norman sent me a tape of A Catholic Education (a scan of the letter that came with it is inside the Deep Fried Fanclub CD booklet) so I guess the first track I heard was the first track on it. I liked the tape obviously and phoned him up.

EF - How did you come to work with the band?

DB - They had a gig at the Glasgow Art School, so I booked a flight up there. This must have been Feb or March 1990. Then Norman called to say they had a gig at the Bull and Gate in Kentish Town, London the day before, so I saw them there then again the next day in Glasgow. I told them I wanted to release their record and things moved fast from there. They already had interest from Matador in the US.

EF - What are your memories of that time? What did they bring to the table? What was your influence?

DB - So many memories. Supporting the Soup Dragons at the Forum, London when the stage was invaded. The security didn't bother going out for the support act. People really liked the group. Leeds, Liverpool, Doncaster (where we had a 'London Pizza' - which was pizza with chips on top), the front cover of SOUNDS. The New Music Seminar in New York, July 1990 I guess.

The recording of God Knows It's True with Don Fleming, who I introduced them to. CBGS where we met Urge Overkill and Superchunk. Ireland with Sonic Youth in the Autumn. The first European dates. All in 5 or 6 months. I had no influence on the sound but I may have introduced them to some music on the tour bus. They f**ked off to Creation and a year or so later so did I!

Don Fleming and David Barker, picture courtesy of David

EF - What do you think of God Knows It's True and So Far Gone all these years later?

DB - Still love them. My opinion of course carries a lot of memories with it. They were playing So Far Gone as an instrumental cos Gerry was a bit shy about singing live. When they recorded it of course he sang and it sounded fantastic. They next night they played CBGB'S and as Gerry went up to the mic to sing it ... he bottled it and they played it as an instrumental again.

EF - They have gone on to release some incredible music - in quality and quantity - do you have a favourite album? Could you pick a few favourite songs?

DB - Don't really have a favourite, but I spent time with them during the recording of Thirteen so feel close to it. Actually the handclap on Sparky's Dream is me. I think Paul Quinn and Chas Banks clapped too but I got credited on the sleeve ha ha. I like a few of the b-sides too like Long Hair and Maharishi Dug The Scene. I tend to go for the less commercial stuff. That's my taste in music.

EF - If you could spend a week in the studio with Teenage Fanclub what would you hope to achieve?

DB - I would like to record them like Steve Albini or like Dylan records. Two takes of each song and move on to the next one. Someone else can mix it.

EF - What are you up to these days? 

DB - I revived my old label Glass Records as Glass Modern and am actively releasing and re-releasing music again.

Thank you so much to David for sharing those special memories and pictures. And thanks to Gerry Love for sharing a few words on So Far Gone.

Brendan and Gerry courtesy of David Barker

EF - Was So Far Gone the first song you wrote for the band? Were you encouraged to join in songwriting duties? Had you written much before?

GL - Yeah So Far Gone was the first song I presented to the group as an idea. It started off as an instrumental, the first few times we played it live it was just a piece of music, although secretly I did have a melody and some lyrics. It turned into a song during the God Knows It's True recording session with Don Fleming in New York. After we had recorded A Catholic Education, played a few shows and become a real group, there was an openness for all of us to at least present ideas as possible future songs. Before that I had recorded lots of half ideas and little musical doodles at home on a 4 track but I had never let anyone hear anything so it was great to have an opportunity to be involved creatively.

EF - What confidence did this give you as it would seem like you entered a prolific period of songwriting afterwards into Bandwagonesque and Thirteen?

GL - Although it sounds a bit rough to me these days, the difference between the bedroom demo and the NYC recording of So Far Gone was massive. Hearing how a rough idea changed into a real song via quality musicians, talented engineers and great studios gave me a lot of confidence. Hearing that some people quite liked So Far Gone gave me a lot of confidence to try another one. Being involved with Norman and Raymond, who in my opinion were operating on a different level than most local musicians at that time, was completely inspiring. Learning chord progressions from watching them play, hearing Norman's harmonies and then gradually hearing them in my own ideas was inspiring. Being in what I thought was a really good group was inspiring. Hearing new music and hearing old music was inspiring. Being young and daft and curious and full of all possibilities was probably the most inspiring thing.

EF - There is a great energy that leaps from the two main tracks. It sounds like you are enjoying yourselves and that excitement is spilling on to the records. Do you have any memories from the recordings?

GL - There was a lot of energy in the group in those days and you can hear it, especially in that session. Here we were in New York, personally I had never left the British Isles before that, and we were certainly buzzing. New York was a pretty lively place in those days. We were definitely having a few drinks during the session and probably a few smokes. We recorded a whole load of cover versions. I was probably half-cut when I sang the lead vocal on So Far Gone. I was still a little nervous about singing but the drink, and the encouragement of others, probably pushed me over the line into action. I don't have detailed memories, more abstract due to the passing of time and the quality of the drinks/smokes, so there's a nice impressionistic haze over my recollections of that session. That first trip to the USA was pretty crazy. I have lots of mad memories.

1 comment:

Brian said...

That was good fun. Thanks for putting this one together.