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This review is from: Spirit In The Sky - The Singles (Audio CD)
I can't explain how much I used to love this band. I don't know how many times I saw them at the Riverside in Newcastle (it was quite a few though) and they were just the dogs knackers live.
I already had "Laughing At The Pieces" and "I Keep Thinking Its Tuesday" which are excellent but to be able to get some of my favourite tracks in particular from "Happy But Twisted" and "Miracle Of The Age" (which I still have on vinyl) is almost a dream come true.
I can't add much to the reviews of others here but suffice to say if you want a great collection of some hugely enjoyable tunes, this is the album for you. Whatever you do, don't confuse the Medics of "Spirit In The Sky" and "Waterloo" with the Medics that bought you "Mole Catcher", "Ride The Beetle" and "I Don't Want To Be Alone With You Tonight" - it's almost two different worlds, all enjoyable but so very different.If in doubt check out the footage on You Tube to see what they were like back in the 80s before they made it "big" - what a band, what a night out !!
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Initial post: 24 Aug 2013 18:42:57 BDT
Bobby Smith says:
Great review and I share your views on the Medics - still the best band I ever saw. Have you read the book: A Pretty Smart Way to Catch a Lobster (the Alice in Wonderland Years)
I also enclose a piece I wrote about the Medics for a website - hope you like it.
I am 42 years of age. Once, I was a teenager, full of angst, spots and spunk.
I couldn't find a girlfriend, I couldn't find a cure for acne, some called me a wanker.
Fear not, dear reader, for what I did find was the most original, funny and riotously chaotic band of all time: Dr & The Medics.
Now, of course, history has largely written the Medics off as a cabaret band, famous for a brief fleeting second for their monster cover version smash Spirit in the Sky. However, those of us who rode the beetle* on the dance floors of the alternative sub-culture scene, back in the middle `80s, knew the Medics as a top night out, a band whose attitude, sense of fun and amazing tunes marked them down as cultural icons, worthy of the appreciation I am about to lavish upon them.
The Medics were born back in 1981, to a Britain lamenting the dying embers of punk rock and Oi! A greying Britain, falling for the sugar coated cuts of the Tories, was desperate for escape - from stern faced Tebbit clones, through dour Northern groups in Frank Spencer raincoats, to plastic punk wannabes like Bow Wow Wow. The youth were looking for a way out, for a way to have a good time, and yet, being a teenager myself at the start of the `80s, it seemed like the youth cult phenomenon had run its course, unless one counts the nancy boy New Romantic movement, so beloved by magazine The Face. But then, along came the Medics, the answer to my musical prayers.
Contrary to legend, the first single of the Medics was not Spirit in the Sky, nope, it was instead the garage punk anthem The Druids Are Here, a class, motor-city three chord thrash announcing the arrival of the Druids and, no less, of the Medics. Driven by Steve McGuire's glam tinged punk rock guitar, the Medics proved a sure fire hit on the London underground club scene, helped by the good Doctors contacts, built up during his stints as a DJ at the Alice in Wonderland nightclub in Dean Street, Soho, not to mention the Medics Planet Alice clothes/record shop in Ladbroke Grove. Drummer Vom, the current stick man for German punk legends, Die Toten Hosen, was also a major force - his manic drumming the perfect backdrop for Richie Searles electric bass lines. The Medics mixed `60s psychedelia with punk rocky guitars and spat them out on an unsuspecting audience, no doubt duped into thinking they were twee, fooled by their funny paisley waist-coated appearance, not to mention large hairstyles and platform boots - think Gary Glitter without the boys and you will be spot on. Medics songs were just so catchy, sing-a-long a go go songs that just buzzed around your head for days, with No One Loves You When You've Got No Shoes, Love Peace and Bananas, Come On Call Me and Fried Egg Bad Monday being particular favourites of mine.
Looking back with nostalgic eyes I remember the Medics playing, or so it seemed, near enough every week in some run down, seedy London dive, circa 1984-1986. At the time I was living with my parents, in the violent, working-class ghetto area of Broxbourne, so it was relatively easy for me to get to their gigs. Normally I would leave work early - I worked at Midland Bank, Holborn Branch, clad in paisley waistcoat (with strips of paisley from my jean belt loops for the added fairy boy touch) to dance the night away with Clive (The Doctor), not to mention my mates Olaf and Russell.
I should add here that the Medics took a long time to get their debut album Laughing At The Pieces out in the shops - not until 1986, in fact. However, I had seen them live so many times that I knew all the words to every one of their songs - before I even picked up the album.
I travelled all over southern England to watch the Medics, meeting some weird, wonderful and bizarre people - punks, skins, English eccentrics and just plain oddballs.
One thing that made Medics gigs special were the Magical Mystery Trip days out. To briefly explain, these involved thousands of Medics fans meeting at a pre-arranged meeting place, to be transported to a secret gig - somewhere in England. At the time, way before the `rave' phenomena of the 1990s, this was groundbreaking stuff. The first `trip' was in October 1984, at Chislehurst Caves, in Kent (600 attendees). Sadly, I missed this one, but by trip number three I was on board. This took place at a disused Butlins Holiday Camp in Clacton-on-Sea, in the summer of 1985, timed to perfection, as the new Medics EP, Happy But Twisted, was riding high at number one in the Independent charts. What a bizarre old day that was. I remember meeting at Liverpool Street train station, on a Friday evening; two thousand punks and assorted dead beats were then whisked off on a train to Butlins, where they enjoyed an all-night show by a host of bands - the Medics being amongst them. The sights and sounds of that trip, not to mention another one I attended in 1986, at Lowestoft Pier, have stayed with me forever. I can recall seeing a teddy bear crucified, an orgy of naked people in a room, through to a naked man daubing green paint over passing gig goers, as they fell about in a drug induced trance. I walked along the beach at 4.00am, watching Zodiac Mindwarp and the Love Reaction chucking stones in the sea, their acid addled minds wondering why they wouldn't float on the water. Fantastic memories - of a youth long departed, replaced by a cynical old age.
The thing about all their gigs was that they were so funny - I literally used to leave Medics concerts crying with laughter. My mate Olaf was once dragged under the stage at one of their gigs, by a couple of roadies, only to reappear at my side again, thirty minutes into the show, a demonic smile on his face. To this day I can't work out if it was chemically induced or just caused by the music.
Personally I never saw the point in chemical entertainment, as the Medics were mad enough for my brain to cope with. I was seventeen years of age and discovering a band that was unique to me. No one I knew had ever heard of the Medics, and I loved it that way; they were my little surprise and seemed destined to stay that way forever, as the media, not to mention Joe Public, found them just too bizarre.
Then, it happened, the day my world collapsed. The accursed number one single, Spirit in the Sky, in 1986, was released and the Medics became overnight sensations. Truly, wherever I looked the good Doctors face beamed out at me; at a record stall in Camden, on a poster in Kilburn, or even gig flyers handed out at venues like the Hammersmith Clarendon or the Bull & Gate. The Medics had committed the heinous punk crime of selling out!! I was distraught, tired and emotional.
What was even worse, for me, was that the Medics crowd, known to be diverse when diversity was an unknown concept, disappeared overnight. All the characters whom I had met, rubbed shoulders or just chatted Medics trivia with, had gone, all gone, to be replaced by eight-year-old boys and girls, dressed in mummy and daddy, Mamas and the Papas cast off clothes - surely stored in attics since the hippy `60s. Think Gary Glitter, with the boys, and you will be spot on.
No, no, no, no, I wailed to myself in deep frustration. The Medics were not a hippy band, they were a punk band! My God, how I wanted to throttle these hippy scum, for taking away the one thing that was mine. The Medics were gone forever, hijacked by people who thought flower power was a genuine political force. Johnny Rotten was right, I mused, when he slagged off the flower munchers.
Despite my disappointment I persevered for a while, desperate to cling onto memories past. So I endured boys and girls screaming at the Medics, as if they were Beatles clones, as they appeared on Top of the Pops, shaking my head as their hard won reputation on the gig circuit was ruined by each Saturday morning TV kids show debacle.
Then, salvation played its last card. The Medics follow up single, the limp wristed Burn, only made it to number 29 in the charts. Even better, the next one, an even more Larry Grayson effort, Waterloo, climaxed at number 45. Had their popularity bubble burst?
Yes it had, so I went to see the Medics live again. Sadly, although the teeny boppers were no more, the rest of the crowd had gone too! I was alone once more, tissues being my only companion, faithful to the end.
Fed up, I packed it in, my heroes dead in the water. Still, by that stage in my embryonic life, I had found a new hero, a man with a crew cut who went by the name of Steve Bull.
But that is another story...
* This was a kind of dance. It involved lying down on a beer sodden dance floor and kicking ones legs up in the air, in a vague kind of drunk beetleish way - hence the name ride the beetle. It has absolutely nothing to do with messrs Lennon, McCarthy etc.
In reply to an earlier post on 15 Sep 2013 09:13:29 BDT
A lovely bit of writing.Echoes my experiences exactly.I can still remember the Doctor apologising to the crowd in Newcastle for releasing Waterloo, and well he might. Still, as you point out possibly thr best band ever live and certainly one of the best nights out. God, I loved the music so much,it gutted me when they "made it". Selfish I know but it was never the same after that.
In reply to an earlier post on 15 Sep 2013 09:59:59 BDT
Bobby Smith says:
Thanks for the comment. Medics gigs were so funny, I once left one laughing non stop for 10 minutes. Apart from Crazyhead and The Bus Station Loonies, I never experienced such great times at other gigs. They were the perfect night out.
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