|Always had that je ne sais quoi||Irritating little combo with no plans to reform||The most fun you can have with your shoes on|
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For your record to be chosen as the New Musical Express's "Record Of The Week" is a magnificent achievement, and perhaps one that should guarantee you a hit, as much as anything can ever guarantee you a hit. Radio Luxembourg used to claim that being the "Power Play" record was a good as it gets, but I'm not sure. They picked some real clunkers, but I digress... Anyway, the American Patriots EP was so chosen, but as with all things Smirk, it wasn't plain sailing. Mog recently wrote an article to try to clarify what happened.
I'll try and clear this up. The article is most misleading. To my memory American Patriots was never an NME record of the week, but, ironically it was in Sounds, a paper that Ian Wood used to be the Manchester stringer for (which might explain their bizarre vitriol). To address Sounds claims of nepotism, I'm pretty sure Ian Wood was Smirks accountant for a while, after the money ran dry and the pricey London folk were jettisoned. However he was a fan of the band before he worked with us and I believe that he would have been swayed by this rather than any seedy payola. !!!
The good news is that we did get 2 NME records of the week and gifted to us by a couple of leading lights from the British music press.
'OK UK' was given a rave review by none other than the legendary Fred Dellar and 'To You' was joint single of the week alongside Echo and the Bunnymen's first single ('Pictures on the Wall' I think it was). What surprised us more than anything was that Paul Morley was the journo in question who had previously given us short shrift. (His review of the Rock against Racism gig at Alexander Park in Manchester described us as 'an irritating little combo' To be fair he had a point.)
I'm pretty sure Melody Maker gave us a single of the week also, for what song I can't recall.
Well, I'm not good on telling the music papers apart: perhaps Mog is talking about this extraordinary review?
Singles Of The Week (phew)
Rosemary(Beserkley BZZ 23) Another great pop record, it has a rowdy inventiveness and disrespectful sparkle that is finally missing in the contenders from the Yachts and the Rezillos. Noy only will it get those Doc Martens moving, but it also pokes fun at all sorts of pop clichés, undercutting and revitalising them at the same time. A smart one, fellas.
But we're not talking about Rosemary here: we're reading all about American Patriots...
New Musical Express - Thrills
March 24th, 1979
THE SMIRKS prepare for their solo flight (L-R): Ian Morris, Mike Doherty, Neil Fitzpatrick, Simon Milner. Pic: Klad McNulty
NME Record Of The Week - despite the atrocious production. "We had no experience in the studio before then," admits Milner, "and it was all mixed down by Kenny Laguna after we'd finished recording. When we heard the final mix we discovered he's added a glockenspiel all the way through."
'Rosemary' was a misguided stab at a commercial formula. Originally scheduled for September last year, by the time it was released two months later it was caught in the pre-Christmas rush. 'Rosemary' sank without trace.
The last straw was Beserkley's refusal to accept The Smirks'debut album.
Exit one band amidst a sea of litigation which concerns not merely The Smirks'relationship to Beserkley UK Ltd., but the company's relationship with Beserkley Inc. (the U.S. parent), distrbutors Polydor, and with various creditors.
All this would cause many an act to call it a day - but The Smirks have decided to Go It Alone.
Already heavily in debt - "we've decided to extend our creditors"- they've elected to go ahead with a tour orignally scheduled to promote the album, relabelling same the 'Smirks Seek Employment Tour', secure in the knowledge that all the gig receipts go to paying off their agency and on equipment hire, and that two gigs are at subsidised rates for charity anyway... "We're hoping RAR and Gay Lib will do a benefit for us!"
To replace the never-to-be-released album, The Smirks have rush-recorded an EP, which they feel - and I can agree having heard the result - to be the best thing they have ever done.
"'American Patriots' is more definitive of our style. The singles we've had out have been other people's ideas of what we should sound like. Before, it was drummed ito us to record somethng to get on to the playlist. But we've got three good songs here. If the lyrics mention 'penetration', 'sentimental shits', things like that, well, bugger the radio, we'll just put it out anyway for people that like us. Looking at it now, if 'Rosemary' had been a hit, it'd have been a disaster."
Of course, behind all the optimism, the cost in human endurance will be high. Road manager Steve wonders exactly how far five loaves and two fishes will stretch. And as there's no chance of hotels it's a question of sleeping in the van or travelling from home for every date.
But don't worry. True Northern Grit will win out. And just in case any younger fans are worried about the - ah - 'questionable' lyrics of the popsters' new material, The Smirks have a new strategy to avoid the temptations of the road.
Not only has bass player Ian Morris, formerly the toast of Manchester's ligging circles, gone on the wagon - "mine's a Britvic Orange" - but they have a new code.
Each of them starts off the tour with 30 points, and these are then lost for such aberrations as brief encounters, too many shandies, and generally not having that certain je ne sais quoi at all times.
And wouldn't you just know it. As I write this, they've all got 30 points.
Smug Smirks - Sounds Jaws
SMUG SMIRKS: nice, gutsy Smirks piece in NME the other week, extolling the virtues of the band (are they rilly from Manchester?) and, in particular, the merits of the band's new ep released on a new private label based in Manchester. Pity they omitted to tell us that the writer of the piece, Ian Wood, is also the owner of the label. And we thought we were supposed to do that sort of thing.
Last week's Jaws column in Sounds carried a report which alleged that NME's Manchester correspondent Ian Wood was the owner of Smirksongs Records, the label which recently issued The Smirks' three-track EP.
This is completely untrue. Smirksongs is owned jointly by the four Smirks and their manager Andrew Jaspan. At no stage has Ian Wood been involved with the label.
The Sounds report went on to suggest that there might have been some link between Ian's 'ownership' and the praise which he gave The Smirks in a recent Thrills article on the group in NME. In fact, Ian wrote nice things about The Smirks because he genuinely likes the band's music and admires their pluck in starting their own label at a time when most bands in their position - discarded by a major record label and deep in the financial mire - would simply have packed it all in. The implication that he would write complimentary articles on a group for financial gain is, to say the very least, unprofessional - though, may we say, not totally untypical.
At the time of going to press, legal action was being taken against Sounds by both Ian Wood and The Smirks. Who's smirking now?
American Patriots page
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Page last updated by Ian on 8 September 2006