Meet The Stars
I, LUDICROUS > I, Ludicrous Meet The Stars
Mark E Smith
Our relationship with MES and The Fall has been well-documented. In 1987, John Procter managed, via an agreeable roadie, to get a tape of our first four songs into the hands of MES. We were unaware that MES had received the tape but weeks later when reading Time Out, John noticed that the support for a forthcoming Fall gig at the London Astoria was a band called I, Ludicrous. For an instant we contemplated the possibility of there being another band sharing our name but this was dispelled when a phone-call to the promoter revealed that MES had liked our tape, lost our address, and decided to go ahead and put us on the bill anyway. At the time, we had only played a few gigs, mainly at the Enterprise in front of one man and his dog - then the dog died so we began playing at the Bull & Gate and Union Tavern for John Beast Productions. We were therefore a trifle nervous of playing a big stage and this led to us hiring Mark Crossley to play bass (he played two gigs, and our one and only John Peel session).
The fateful day arrived and full of nerves we presented ourselves at the venue for a sound-check. Apparently we didn't sound that great in the check for Brix and Marcia came into our dressing-room in order to tune the guitar and key-board ("we love your stuff and listen to it all the time on the bus so we want to make you sound OK," was the gist of the conversation). Later MES popped his head round the door shook our hands and asked if everything was all right.
That gig was important for combined with the success of the flexi-Ken issued with Blah Blah Blah fanzine we began getting written about and attracted the interest of some small labels. MES's support for us continued indirectly with him mentioning us in interviews, selecting 3 English Football Grounds as one of his favourite songs for example.
A longish gap occurred before our next support slot but it was perfectly timed for us as it coincided with the release of Light and Bitter. This time MES asked us to do 4 dates on the Fall's pre-Xmas 1990 tour. We played at Nottingham Polytechnic, Bradford University, Reading University and the Corn Exchange Cambridge (as documented in Bloody Proud). It was on this tour that we had the pleasure of meeting Trevor, the Fall's then manager who was found out later to be ripping everyone off right left and centre. Anyway the naïve I, Ludicrous paid most of their £100 fee to various technicians until MES got wind of it and we managed to hold onto to all our fee for the last gig (Trevor made out his generosity was due to it being near Christmas). The Fall were on top form for the four nights and for us the highlight was being invited to a local pub by MES and The Fall where Mark held forth about the benefits of alcohol for performers and how the organisation of The Fall was inspired by the Third Reich.
There was another gap between meetings but MES's timing was again spot on as he asked us to support him at the Ritz ballroom, Manchester, at the time of the release of Idoits Savants (also at this time the NME interview was done). A typically chaotic night ensued as the two other support bands including one that was fronted by former Loaded editor James Brown) attempted to sound-check in about 5 minutes each. We didn't see much of Smithy on that occasion and our next meeting was not until November 1995 when out-of-the-blue, MES asked us to relive our Astoria success. The Fall played a blinding set that night and after the gig MES was in a talkative mood.
Since then we haven't heard from the great man although we keep him in touch with what we're doing. John last saw him when he played Reading as a trio in the Spring of '98. Rumours that he offered to help out on guitar are wrong but Will has always thought that his guitarist would be an ideal counter-foil to MES - playing the Paul McCartney role to Smith's Lennon.
During the winter of 1995, Will gave up dry land to live on a Thames Barge moored close to Battersea Bridge. It was during this time that he shared a local - the Phene Arms - with the fifth Beatle, Georgie Best (or was the fifth Beatle George Martin?. Discuss.) . Almost every evening he went to the Phene (an average of twice a week for 9 months) George Best was there, often on his own and usually chatting to the other regulars who were a mixture of upper-class old codgers and younger ne'er do wells (Will being somewhere between the two). George was not an easy person to talk to, in fact he gave the impression of being a bit thick, but he did seem to attract trouble of one kind or another and he was often being rescued from blokes wanting to have a pop at him or old bags wanting something else.
One evening sticks in the memory. It was a quiet mid-week evening and for once the Phene was virtually empty. Strangely there was no George Best, and Will and a mate were on their last pint when the door burst open and in walked George with Rodney Marsh (the footballer not the Aussie wicket-keeper) who proceeded to take over the pub with his loud jack the lad behaviour.
"I told you we'd make it for last orders", he told George loudly so that everyone could hear, "Not bad, one hour ten from Worthing is it".
The arrival of the pair, who had been performing their two man show on the South coast, - along with two assistants - ensured a lock-in which suited us all and thereby took the edge off Marsh's boorish behaviour. George was generally very quiet and spent his pub-time chatting, playing cards or watching football on the television. In fact, Will and John watched the disappointing semi-final reply Palace vs United in the presence of GB who reacted to both Man United goals by jumping up with fists clenched.
A couple more George Best anecdotes. When he started going out with his current wife - whose name escapes me at the moment - George was overheard telling his drinking buddies "the weird thing is I'm older than her mother" which produced much laughter. It wasn't long before Mrs Best became a regular too. She liked to wear tight jeans and obviously enjoyed the attention she got from being the latest Mrs Best. Secondly, just to prove that wherever Besty goes women have this urge to take their clothes off, was when a lady whose window could be viewed from a certain part of the bar where GB often stood performed a regular early evening striptease. George was well up for that and would arrive in the pub just before show time, muscle his way into the best spot and gaze up at the window waiting for the women to appear and disrobe.
The last time Will saw George was a few months after Will's short spell on the river ended when he watched the 1996 Grand National in the Phene. George, whose face was puffy, appeared to be clutching about twenty betting slips as if he had backed most horses in the race, however, the sad look on his face at the end of the race showed his luck was out. His young bride - now married over a year - also didn't look quite as attractive, as though the strain of being wed to the great man was beginning to tell. During the time Will spent in the company of GB he was never the abusive falling over drunk that you read about in the tabloids neither can it be said was he stimulating company. He was just an ordinary drinker, occasionally having one too many but always well-behaved and never a problem.
An old drinking friend of Will's Martin Brett*, after years of being in struggling bands, finally achieved his ambition of being a pop-star when he became bass player with Voice of the Beehive. By coincidence Voice of the Beehive's success occurred at the same time as we were getting our (first?) 15 seconds of fame although of course they scaled heights we could only dream about. However, through Martin's influence we were booked to support them at the old Town & Country Club as the opening band of four. It was one of the shortest sets the band ever played, originally due to play for 20 minutes - 5 seconds after the doors opened - this got cut to 15 due to other bands' sound checks taking longer than planned. The security crew apparently enjoyed 'I'm Outraged' and we were surprised when four nymphettes rushed the stage (sadly this has never been repeated) as we played Mistakes.
With Voice of the Beehive then moving onto world tours and appearances on Top of the Pops etc our contact with them became spasmodic. However, by 1991 Voice of the Beehive were back in the UK and trying to get London Records to release their third album (unsuccessfully as it turned out). Will and Martin were often to be found in a Wimbledon pub moaning about the record business and why their respective bands were under-achieving. In fact despite a cameo appearance in the charts with the charity (!) record Gimme Shelter, organised by John "Fat" Beast, Voice of the Beehive have slipped slowly out of view and although a third album was released only the two girls of the original band played on it. As far as we can ascertain the band are not currently in existence and this is confirmed by Q Magazine who is doing "where are they now feature" on the band (do not believe all you see or read). According to latest reports from Martin, Tracey and Missy were last heard waitressing in LA. Woody plays the odd gig with Madness and Mike Jones runs a recording studio somewhere north of the Thames. Martin is involved in a new project - currently called Doll's House with former Cure bass player Michael Dempsey and an unknown but talented singer called Alex who are currently doing the small London venue circuit.
* played bass on Hacky's Wine Bar
Anyone wishing to contact Martin Brett can do so via the I, Ludicrous e-mail.
Legendary (and only?) British soul singer of the 1970s Lenny Zakatek - best known in the UK as the singer in Gonzalez of "I haven't stopped dancing yet" fame and later the Alan Parsons Project. After a spell in the wilderness his career has been revived since joining Will's cricket team Cudham CC, a village team who play in the North Kent/South East London region.
Lenny is a wily off-spinner who has been leading wicket-taker for the last two seasons picking up wickets through a combination of flight, spin, guile and bowling to his field (ie good catching). He is also good at getting rabbits out which was demonstrated in a recent hat-trick when he got out 9, 10, Jack securing a victory in a tense top-of-the-table clash. Lenny is no mug with the bat either and has played a number of useful innings down the order although when batting higher than 9 he gets nose-bleeds and fails abysmally.
Lenny is still involved in the business being a director of small publishing/production house specialising in Japanese acts which includes a gentleman called Hoti - apparently the Eric Clapton of Japan - (on a par with being the best leg-spinner in France). Despite selling shed-loads of albums in his day, Lenny received little of what he was owed for the usual reason (rip-off merchants, record companies) but he is not bitter (much) and greets each day with a smile and lives life to the full. He currently resides in leafy Purley with his wife and two children.
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