Andy Williams, the drummer of Manchester band Doves, is sitting in the control room of New Order’s studio in Cheetham Hill. He’s listening to the playback of the band’s debut album ‘Lost Souls’ that has been remastered for release on Heavenly Records on the 8th April 2000.
As the opening lines of ‘The Cedar Room’ echo around the studio with Jimi Goodwin’s vocals like a cherub from the gutter, Andy recalls the good fortune that has bailed out the bad luck the band had faced. He smiles, as it all now feels like fate.
The phone woke him up in the morning of 19th February 1996. He was hungover, probably still drunk. A few birthday drinks the night before had turned into a session as these things tend to do. Things were looking up. The band was working with Tricky and the recordings were going well. The voice at the end of the phone told him that their
studio had burned to the ground. Nothing left apart from twisted remains of equipment and some tapes.
It was then that friend, mentor, manager and recently deceased Rob Gretton offered them the use of the studio at Cheetham Hill. There weren’t any windows. It was next to a graveyard. The area was so rough that the studio was robbed twice. The second time was to rob the CCTV cameras that they fitted after the first robbery. The surroundings influenced the sound, though their life experience influenced it more.
Andy, his brother Jez and friend Jimi, found a home in the Manchester clubbing scene. The loud, dirty, dark and late-nights suited them. They threw themselves into all aspects of the scene and became Sub Sub to make a soundtrack to their long nights out. Andy thinks about the success of Sub Sub. A massive hit with ‘Aint no love’, a Top Of The Pops appearance, many great live gigs but they had nothing else. No follow up single. They were falling out of love with the scene as it became violent and dangerous. Too many gangsters, too many guns and too many bad drugs.
The fire changed them. Rob coaxing Jimi to sing changed them. The voice they had been looking for was under a mop of brown hair all the time. One that fitted the soundscapes they were creating. A voice that gave them direction in their songwriting. It complemented the sparse and claustrophobic songs, which still had the repetitive motifs
of hands-in-the-air dance but was now coupled with a comedown melancholy.
He looked at his bandmates in the room. They knew that they had made a good album. An album that they wanted to make and which suited them. They were right to wait. The years of hard work creating, crafting and watching Britpop and what came after it didn’t suit the band. The time was right for them. It was after the party of the nineties. Tony Blair was turning out to be a fraud, the drugs were no longer working, they were getting older and Sub Sub no longer suited.
The fire at the studio in Ancoats was the funeral of Sub Sub. Doves were now being released as the spirit of the band was finally at peace with itself. ‘The Cedar Room’ crashes to the end and Andy Williams starts to nod at one of the most glorious anthems ever written about the pain of heartbreak.
It was going to be alright.Listen to the latest episode of the award-winning A Celtic State of Mind with KEVIN GRAHAM here:
It’s sometimes difficult to give an opinion on a moving situation. Nothing is finished until it’s finished and the final decision is made. The meaning is only determined after the full stop. When Doves released ‘Lost Souls’ on the 3rd April 2000, it wasn’t a full stop. It was just the start of the sentence, whose purpose was still to be determined. Their previous incarnation Sub Sub had ended with an electrical fire at their studio, burning all their equipment and future. Doves was a stab at another type of future and one that became successful. But, my point is, in 2000 they couldn’t predict what was going to happen.
What would we have predicted for Celtic in April 2000? I’ll bet all the money I have in the world that you wouldn’t have predicted what did actually happen. If you had shouted out that we would be on the verge of a treble at that point 12 months later you would have been asked, “What are drinking?”
The sacking of John Barnes wasn’t the full stop in Celtic’s story either.
That sentence had to blossom into being the best thing to happen to Celtic Football Club since Fergus McCann walked through the front doors. While I am at it, Fergus McCann’s full stop was never placed correctly until 2012 when we realised he was right all along.
But, in April 2000, we still had to be hammered from Rangers, we still had to put up with a fanciful list of managers and Peter Reid being linked with the Celtic job and the press constantly laughing at our football club. The future was yet unwritten and truthfully didn’t look good.
Screamacelica looks at this period with the knowledge that it turned out fine and that Doves music stands the test of time; it is just as important today as it was then.
Kevin GrahamWatch Sophie Millar’s stunning rendition of ‘Come Back Paddy Reilly’: