Single Mirrors

Single Mirrors

1984, Toyen Studios, Oslo AND Nidaros Studios, Trondheim, Norway (recorded 1983)

This was another project out of 'the norm' for me at the time. I'd been good friends with Matt Dangerfield from The Boys since The Bernie Torme Band had supported them on tour in early 1978 and he'd always asked me to do a bit of recording here and there whenever anything came up. Well, also in the mix was this Norwegian guy, Geir Waade, a drummer, who'd been around in London at the time that the infamous pre-punk band, the London SS, had been trying to get together, going through line-up changes with various musicians who were to become quite well known, even successful, once the punk movement took hold in 1976-77. Anyway Geir was always wheeling and dealing in and around various musical projects and had got this situation together, which didn't have a name at the time, and I'd been asked to participate as a session bassist.

The idea of going to Norway to record was attractive and sort of romantic; the Toyah situation was running out of steam for me and this just seemed like a great idea as I'd never, up until this point, done any recording outside of the UK. I can't remember if there was any money involved; I do know that Geir had gotten some finance from a couple of business guys in Norway and we were traveling and living there on a shoestring. I remember Matt and I took the old boat journey from Newcastle to Oslo via Denmark (it doesn't exist anymore; Norwegian Air flies there SO cheaply these days) and got completely pissed for the two day journey. I recall us sitting outside on the deck in the pitch black night crossing the North Sea, freezing cold, drinking a whole bottle of Johnny Walker whisky between us then stumbling around the boat disco bashing into people under some strange illusion that we were attractive to women !!!

The singer on the project was to be one Kelvin Blacklock who I didn't really know but 'knew of' from around the scene. He turned out to be a very colourful character indeed !!! He was another old mate of Matt and Geir's from the London SS and 'glam rock' scene.

We first went to the studios at Toyen in the Oslo suburbs, a classic recording studio with an old fashioned massive room like the big rooms at Abbey Road or IBC studios in London (the Toyen studio has now been converted into a block of flats !!!). Geir had hired a drummer called Magne Lunde who I can never forget to this day; an amazing drummer and character with who I had a great time creating the arrangements of the tracks in the studio and playing them on the spot. Geir wasn't really a studio drummer … I thought this was a bit weird at the time him being 'in the band' and all then NOT playing but I just went with it as Magne was a truly magnificent drummer. I have an enduring memory of him putting a cigarette in his mouth and then lighting it up right in the middle of a take … truly mad but truly impressive too if you can imagine it!!!

Interestingly enough there was no real recreational drug culture in Norway at this time, not evidently anyway, but there was a big binge drinking scene. I remember being in Oslo with Toyah in late 1981 and there not being any coke, pot or weed anywhere so we just drank (and argued !!!). Same here … no drugs but copious amounts of booze with this kind of strangely controlled drinking culture. Everyone would work all week without touching a single drop then get absolutely smashed at the weekend and I mean ABSOLUTELY SHIT-FACED SMASHED … drinking like there was no tomorrow. I remember our drinking beers we'd bought at the supermarket during the daytime at the studio being frowned upon by Norwegian studio staff which I thought was SO strange considering how out of it they used to get come Friday nights !!! I also learned, to my great advantage, that a lot of the Norwegian guys got so drunk at weekends that the girls tended to gravitate towards nice young Englishmen who could, apparently, hold their drink AND still be physically able at the business end of the evening. Where Norwegian girls were concerned there was always bloody good reason to be physically able at the business end of the evening !!!

Anyway, we hacked our way through a whole bunch of backing tracks at Toyen; Matt playing us the basic song and then me and Magne arranging a rhythm and format on the spot then recording it immediately. It worked very well like this and also gave the overall recording it's own 'style'. My particular favourite is the strangely titled 'Samantha's Head Hurts' which has an approach like 'old style' Utravox … I mean John Foxx's Ultravox who I got to support with Bernie T in the old days of 77-78 … a great and original sounding band back then who's style and songs I love to this day. We also got to create a great backing vocal sound using arrangements that Matt and I would come up with, also on the spot, and then just record our parts double and triple tracked 'ad hoc'. We always had a good blend of voices between us and a love of Beatles and Beach Boys harmonies so singing together with Matt was and has always been a great pleasure for me.

In and out of all this 'work' we were also enjoying the delights of Oslo which is very difficult, by the way, on a limited budget but we managed it anyway. Geir had us living in this 'apartment' above the offices of the 'Winge' travel agency next to a supermarket in town. A bit punky and squatty but cheap, cheerful and bearable as long as we could get drunk.

Moving up north to Trondheim and Nidaros Studios was a real culture shock for me at the time. It was a ten hour 400 kilometre drive across mountainous terrain to get there, passing the famous 'moose' restaurant on the way where they serve nothing but moose, elk or reindeer; all essentially the same thing. That was another 'first' for me … reindeer and chips !!! I'd already been eating whale with boiled potatoes in the Oslo service stations where we used to eat cheaply. I loved eating whale … shame you can't really get it any more since lots of whale hunting is now banned.

In Trondheim we were crashing in a loft 'apartment' space that had NO windows AT ALL so Geir was begging everybody not to fart because you couldn't get rid of the smell !!! The prudent and proper niceties of Oslo were long gone to be replaced by, what I came to understand, as a real throwback to true Viking culture which I came to LOVE !!! In your face, brusque, rough, direct people who, whilst lacking certain social graces, were very honest by nature and you always knew where you were with them AND they also knew how to party BIGTIME !!! I got my first introduction to Norwegian 'Moonshine' which was their version of illegally brewed booze. God knows why it's called 'Moonshine' … It should be called the 'Devil's Gut Rotting Anti-Freeze' or something … lethal booze at an average of 90% plus proof !!! Matt and I drank a whole litre one evening and I had red spots and blotches all over my body for three days afterwards !!! We used to go to this guy called 'Boris' who had a still running in a room in his house and he'd bottle you a litre at a time for 1000 Kroner, about a tenner at the time. These guys running country stills were like the drug dealers of the illegal alcohol trade; everyone would have their own particular favourite and we soon learned that this stuff was everywhere and really was bloody lethal. The culture was to drink it with coffee … like one would drink modern day 'Jaeger Bombs' … the effect was horrendous !!!

I enjoyed my time in Trondheim tremendously; we worked hard at overdubs all week and hit the pubs and clubs, of which there weren't that many,  at the weekend. I made a lot of friends some of whom I've now reconnected with, with the aid of today's internet and social media.

Apart from all this stuff, the girls and the drinking that's about all I can recall about this project. I do know that Matt, Geir and Kelvin did do some promotional work presenting themselves as a three piece band as I was, during this period, heavily committed to Mike Oldfield whose career was on fire at that time to say the least. All in all, for what it is, I think this is a good album considering it was done on a budget in the country with the most expensive cost of living in Western Europe.

The name 'Single Mirrors' was also influenced by the name 'Original Mirrors', one of my previous bands … I think that was Geir's idea as nobody in Scandinavia had really heard of Original Mirrors and they considered it, ironically enough, 'original'  !!! Hahaha … Great times !!! 


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