from the Kimberley Somebody photo shoot

So the story goes...

CHAPTER 1: The late 80s - Poly, Puppets & the Jesus & Mary Chain

It's the late 80's. Failing to achieve decent grades for A levels means University is right out of the window - I don't want to work yet so take up a course at my local Coventry Polytechnic (now Coventry University).

Still living at home made it difficult to fall in with the typical student lifestyle, so I tended to hook up with the fellow locals at Poly.
John Peel was already a common focus for us all, and they showed me all the local "indie" scene.

Indie was tiny in those days, probably only about 10 of us in the whole of Coventry.
Alternative clubs were 60% punks, 35% goths, with the other 5% us - the cardigan wearing, tight jeaned, chelsea boot clad Smiths fans!

We formed our first band after a drunken night at some gig - possibly Pop Will Eat Itself at Warwick Uni (when they were good - "Poppiecock" era).
We couldn't really play anything, but that wasn't the point was it?
We just wanted to be in a band.
Richard could play guitar a little - Carl learnt from him.
Tony sang (badly), Sarah tried bass (unenthusiastically).
Myself? I bashed a tambourine taking Martin St.John of Primal Scream as my role model, while learning a few chords off Richard & Carl.

We were called Pop-Shockers for, oh, at least a week, then changed it to The Puppets - named after Myra Hindley's (the Moors Murderess) dog.

We so wanted to be the Jesus & Mary Chain, but a cheap guitar, single distortion pedal, and 15w practice amp could hardly recreate the intensity of Psychocandy no matter how loud the dials were turned up. (refuses to use the "up to 11" line at this point)

Practices (loose term) were at each other's houses.
We wondered why everyone went out?
The cheap drum machine named "Robert" for some reason I forget, only made the noise a whole lot worse.


The Balloon Farm live at the Tic Toc Club

CHAPTER 2: First Gigs - the Quants to the Balloon Farm

Richard met Gavin.
Gavin wanted to start a band.
Carl & Tony hated Gavin.
It got difficult..

Richard left the Puppets to join Gavin in forming The Quants taking Sarah on bass with him.
Somehow I ended up in both The Puppets and The Quants as rhythm guitarist, both bands hated each other - a kind of sibling rivalry (or quibbling rivalry).
I was caught in the middle - trusted by neither side.

The Quants played the first gig (one-nil to them) at the Hope & Anchor, 1987.
Gavin was a great blagger - it was packed. We opened with a cover version of Everyone Thinks He Looks Daft by The Wedding Present from the album George Best which had only been released earlier that week.
The Quants performed 12 songs or so - either written by Richard, Gavin or myself - but with no collaborations. Again you can see the rivalry factor creeping in.

Another important factor that evening was a friend of Gavin's called DJ Cap spinning the records, a new face to us then but someone who was to become a major part in Coventry's indie scene over the following years. Influential in setting up and Deejaying the first and then only Indie night in Coventry.

I was sacked after that first Quants gig.
It still hurts to this day to think back to that.
It took a long time to patch over some wounded friendships subsequently.

Horror! I was no longer in a band..
I planned my own, I had the name already The Balloon Farm, named after a club in New York where a big influence on me, The Velvet Underground, used to play early gigs. (Sadly, The Balloon Farm is now also a Disney movie!).
I planned to take a couple of months to write songs, but instead the band formed after a mere couple of weeks and lasted for 3 years, with at least 15 different members!
I felt like Mark.E.Smith was to The Fall, but at least this time it was my band, and I could do the hiring and firing (not that I was any good at it).

The Balloon Farm gave me some of my fondest memories of being in a band.
Recruiting Robert Dillam as drummer after seeing him backstage at a My Bloody Valentine gig. (Incidentally, possibly the finest group to ever grace this planet..)

Oxford, at the legendary Jericho's Tavern. Danny (our bass player) getting drunk and wanting to fight the whole of the headlining band's audience.
We had to physically restrain him.
Although, to be fair, the guy jumping around blowing a whistle did really need a good kicking!

Scrumpies, Leeds. Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear.....
It's a long journey to Leeds...
Maybe too long...
By the time we got there we were in no fit state to play.
Robert (the drummer) the only one sober enough to tune the guitars.
None of us sober enough to play them, or remember the songs or the words when we did.
We have a desk tape of that gig. Still undecided whether it is hilarious or just cringingly embarassing.
You can hear us arguing on stage. I got bored and kept dropping songs the others wanted to still do.
"How does this go?"
"Who starts this one?"
"What's next?"
Danny shouting "Who stole my pint?", when really he'd put it down on top of the bass amp before starting a song, and the vibrations had knocked the glass over to spill inside the amp & bounce behind the stage.
It wasn't even our amp. The headline act were somewhat surprised to see their amp mysteriously blow up mid set.

It got funnier...
Staying in Danny's girlfriends student digs in a cobbled street in Leeds in the February snow.
Richard is so drunk he refuses to get out of the back of the van & decided to sleep there rather than inside.
Only for later that night someone to be awoken in the early hours to see the sight of Rich throwing up out of the van window, and the van rolling down the street as he'd managed to dislodge the handbrake in a lunge for the window!
How to explain that to the van rental company? We had enough trouble hiring one in the first place, maintaining we were going to Leeds to help move some furniture for a friend, and that "no, no, no, by no means - of course we aren't a rock band..".
A story not aided when Richard in an attempt to find his Driving Licence managed to spill a handful of plectrums across the desk!
The whole journey did have a happy ending, however. We arrived back in Coventry the next day, tired and hungover to be greeted by newspapers pronouncing Thatcher had resigned!

Better times did follow for The Balloon Farm.
We became the press darlings of the local paper for a short spell.
Supported Adorable at the Tic Toc (see pic) - their first gig as Adorable, prior to signing to Creation Records.
And recorded a fine demo. Sadly, the only Balloon Farm studio recording. The quality of which is held up by the fact that 3 record labels in 3 different countries have released some or all of the tracks in various format.

It all ended in a clash of egos and arguments in 1991, as so often these things do. The unruly child that was The Balloon Farm had finally gone beyond my control.
Which brings us, finally, to the subject matter...


Teen-Fraud, Pop-Whore

CHAPTER 3: The Pristines

It was during the days of The Balloon Farm that someone, probably Robert, lent me one of those fanzine compilation cassettes such as Corrupt Postman - remember these were the days long before the internet.

I'd been tinkering around with my 4-track recorder at home demoing songs and also recording some for my own enjoyment, or songs that just weren't Balloon Farm material.

As a joke, when I made a tape for a friend at Poly, I slipped in one of my own songs amongst the compilation cassette and made up a band name that provide a slight clue if he looked hard enough.
At the time we all loved Sarah Records (who wouldn't?) particularly The Field Mice, The Orchids and The Sea Urchins.
A song Pristine Christine was a particular favourite - sometimes The Balloon Farm did it in rehearsals, and I had to sing it as it was out of Tony's vocal range.

Hence The Pristines a band name made up on the spot which has stuck now for over 15 years and numerous albums!

Everyone agreed the song didn't sound too out of place amongst all the others on the compilation cassette. So, I chanced my arm (and my postage stamps), compiled a first homemade cassette album called Honestly and sent it out to the fanzine community.
To my surprise they liked it (I was expecting derision more than anything..)
Songs were included on fanzine compilations. To me it felt like getting a record deal.
I was delighted.

The fanzine community was the mainstay of indiepop in those days. I was now on tapes with all those bands I admired such as The Field Mice.


souls to the devil

CHAPTER 4: The unthinkable - the smell of vinyl

Indeed the unthinkable for 2 reasons.

Some lovely people at a label called Pillarbox Red(I'll never forget you guys) must have heard one of the tapes and sent me a letter asking me if I wanted The Pristines to be on a split 7" single!
A vinyl release!! something I had always dreamed about, one day making a record of my own was now about to come true.

The drawback...
I needed to go back into a real recording studio to make the record for only the second time ever (The first was for The Balloon Farm demo/single), but this time I had no band with me and quickly had to drum up (pun slightly intended) a bass player & drummer.

We did 2 songs Pristine Dream the requested song for the single, and a new song I Think You Know both of which I had to teach the others in valuable studio time - lucky the songs were so easy.

Fortunately, they came out really well.
Even more fortunately it was the best recording on the 4 track 4 band single.
They sent me 20 copies to sell. I handed them out to my friends at Silvers (the Indie club and mecca for the indie kids in Coventry, the one set up by DJ Cap as I mentioned earlier..)

I secretly hoped they were as jealous as I was proud.


Teen-Fraud, Pop-Whore

CHAPTER 5: Sunday Records

A few offers from smaller labels for singles started to roll in..
None in the UK, sadly, but some from Europe and most notably from USA through the label Sunday Records, to our delight the label touted as the USA equivalent of Sarah.

After releasing a couple of 7" singles for Sunday (who also released a track from the Balloon Farm demo on a split flexi), and covering a song by labelmates They Go Boom! for an anniversary single... ..Well, we say cover..., sorry chaps we actually sort of butchered it - adding a Fall riff and singing lyrics from Treason by The Teardrop Explodes over the end as the songs sounded similar.
Ah well, we thought it was funny at the time..

Anyhow, where was I?
Ah yes.. the album..
Sunday requested us to do an album, in Albert's fine way...
"Hi Jon, its Albert"
"Hi Albert, how you doing?"
"Fine, do you want to do an album?"
"What? The Pristines? a whole album?"
"Yeah, that would be cool"
"Of course we would! Do you want me to demo you some songs?"
"No, just send the DAT tapes when you're finished, and the bill for studio time.."

What a guy!

It took a while, we all had jobs to pay the rent and could only get in the studio when time and money allowed us to.
I can remember doing the last 5 songs for the album one week in June '93 or '94. It was the hottest week of the year.
The studio was in a room in a house in a residential area, so for sound proofing all the windows had to remain closed. No electric fans either - you don't want your songs supplemented by a whirring in the background!
Boy! did we sweat off the pounds - which given the extent of our already skinny-wretch frames was not a good idea.
I bet that room stunk too!

Teen-Fraud, Pop-Whore (part one) was released finally in 1995.
There was never intended to be a part two (can't explain...)

The photos for the album were taken in the backyard of my rented flat in Abercorn Road, Coventry.
The daubing of Pop Whore across my naked torso for the photos seemed like a good idea at the time. It was only when the blue marker pen didn't wash away for about 3 weeks it became hard to explain.


in rehearsal rooms

CHAPTER 6: Going Live

Around the time of 1997 there was talk of a Sunday showcase in the UK.
It probably happened and we weren't invited.
Looking back I think we maybe annoyed a few people by not adopting the indie cutie stance the label seemed to promote (aka the Fat Tulips).

For a short period The Pristines did rehearse as an actual band - again drawing people from other local bands along for the ride.
There were 3 maybe 4 gigs in total, all in Coventry. We tended to play newer darker stuff more than recorded stuff. Seems to me, why keep playing stuff when it's already down, done & documented?

Anyway the 4 piece became a 3 piece, became a 1 piece - i.e. the live experience didn't last too long!

It wasn't as if we weren't used to playing live, however. The Balloon Farm were always a better "live" band, and another band I was involved in Dolores Haze were also a regular live act not only in Coventry, but around the country.

Incidentally, Dolores Haze were also involved with Sunday records, releasing a 7" single Birthday as well as appearing on some compilation CDs.
(Dolores Haze also released a 7" single See Clear e.p on Spanish based Elefant Records)


in rehearsal rooms

CHAPTER 7: the big sickness & home recording

These days with advances in home studio equipment, The Pristines is mainly just myself, with the odd guest performers of course.
I invested in a digital 8-track and set to work on a follow-up album to Teen-Fraud.

Enough songs were recorded that I was happy with and in 2000, a 2nd album called Get Caught in Showtime was released.
No longer affiliated with Sunday Records and having no official label backing - the album like the follow-ups available only through myself (use CONTACT link) or on sale on eBay.

A much darker album entitled Who Put Bella in the Wych Elm? followed, completed in 2003.
This is quite a bit different to the usual Pristines and closer to the much earlier experimental 4-track cassette I did called Contempt Breeds Familiarity.
Bella is possibly my favourite Pristines album. Unexpected stuff goes on in the songs, they aren't as straightforward. It may be a bit difficult, but worth the effort. Not difficult for the sake of it, but challenging to the listener.
click here to read the background story behind the Who Put Bella in the Wych Elm? mystery that inspired the song & album title.

Teen-Fraud was something I was very proud of, and still am.
It's a proper album by a proper band recorded in a proper studio and released on a proper label. Something I always wanted to do. And even though there was probably only a couple of thousand pressed, it's kind of a legacy that will live on far beyond I will.
I often wonder who bought the record? Where they are? Do they still like it? Did anyone who is now or was then famous buy it or hear it?
So many things I'll never know..
By all means contact me & tell me about it & yourself if you like. I'll do my best to reply always.

Having said that, the follow up albums, although mainly self-recorded (barring the odd exception) and home-recorded, stand up really well to Teen-Fraud.
The quality of recording equipment, now being digital supplements the old 8-track reel to reel recordings of Teen-Fraud.
Drum machines sound more "real" than the "live" drums in the real studio.

I still try & record as & when I can.
A new album is underway, and probably about half done as we speak (May 2005).

However, the great sickness has struck.
Having been diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (or M.E.) , the Pristines will never be a real band or a live band again.
I'll keep working on material as best I can..
I'll keep trying to up date this website as best I can..
I really hope to keep doing this as long as it makes me happy. Hopefully too, as long as some other people can get enjoyment from The Pristines it is worth doing.

Although this is the final chapter of the biography page, I hope it isn't the final chapter of The Pristines. Only time can tell whether this is the end or a new beginning?

regards

Jonny


DISCLAIMER:   All stories and characters are completely true to my own faded memory and names have certainly not been withheld for maximum embarrassment.

LEST WE FORGET: THE CAST AND THE PAST WERE ....

Thankyous & greetings to all for your support & friendship..

Richard King, Sarah King, Carl Scott, Tony Emerton,
Danny Latham, Nicola Smith, Robert Dillam, Lee Lakin, Adam Watson,
Paul Shiney Nouillan, Papa, Neil Ingram, Eddie Meechan,
Andy Faulkner (at Sable Rose Studios), Simon Herbert, Craig Clarke & Rachel, Tim Hyde,
Cap, Paul Russell, & all at Silvers, Dean Lovell, Darren Chippy Wood, John Docker, Phil Merrick, Lee Herbert,
Chris Hart, Richard Kingston, Graham Tilley, Caroline Barnes, Nicole Wheatley,
Simon & Karen Steele, Carissa & Greg Pizzi, Celeste Pietrusza, Fiona O'Reilly, those girls in Nottingham,
Gregg Crabb, Coddy & Jas at The Golden Cross, Amos Anderson,
Adorable - Pete Fij, Wil, Kevin Gritton, Bob
The Language of Flowers, Absolutely, Burst, The Vivid, Kinky Love, Manic Pop Thrill, The Giraffes,
My Favourite Things, Dreamgrinder, Celestial, Honeyrider, Groupie, plus all the other bands we've played with & I've forgot..,
Albert Sunday & Sunday Records, Kim Harten at Bliss Aquamarine who still releases wonderful fanzine style compilation cassettes (click to go to Bliss Aquamarine site),
Meller Welle Produkte records (Ger), Elefant Records (SPA), A Turntable Friend records (GER), Contrastes International (BEL),
and all those fanzines that featured articles on or released tracks on cassette.

Plus anyone I've forgotten (sorry), the memory isn't what it was..