28 Sep 2010

The Heads - A Leeds Perspective

The Heads - A Leeds Perspective

The first time I heard The Heads I actually didn’t take them seriously. It was a version of Spliff Riff that appeared on a Terrascope benefit CD and I thought it was some project by a load of learned musicians trying to make the heaviest track they could possibly do. The band name seemed to back this idea up as it was too easy. I knew absolutely nothing about them and this ‘one off’ was so ridiculously intense I enjoyed it for the moment and then largely forgot about it. A few months later I came across a review of ‘Everybody Knows We Got Nowhere’ in, of all things, the NME. The review stated ‘From start to finish, The Heads' second album is a relentless, no-holds-barred psychedelic nightmare of a record’ and that immediately sparked my interest. Being the junior internet nerd I was back then I couldn’t find a copy of the album despite what I felt was a good search, so I sighed in resigned disappointment and went back to whatever it was I was listening to at the time.

Roughly 6 months later I accidentally came across a copy of the album via a small retail outlet in Birmingham – the now sadly demised Chunky Records – and a CD duly arrived. The cover alone was exciting enough but I can vividly recall the moment I first played ‘Everybody Knows’ as I drove through the Yorkshire dales on my way to work in Ilkley. That intro and the brutal way Legavaan Satellite barged itself into my live is a moment I will never forget, and in many ways it remains a pivotal experience in my musical appreciation. My obsession with Bristol’s finest guitar noise bods began then and shows no sign of letting up getting on for a decade later. A few weeks later I discovered that they were playing in London at Camden’s Monarch and I went down especially to see them. I optimistically emailed Heads guro Simon Keeler about the gig who replied with gusto, saying there were to be ‘new songs, light show, the works.. .’ At the merchandise stall stood the towering but thoroughly friendly figure of Rocket dude Simon Healey who I babbled away to for most of the support acts. At one point he asked me if I'd ever seen The Heads live before and when I said ‘no’ he smiled and said, as if he were describing a delicious ice cream to a hungry child, ‘oh, you’re in for SUCH a treat’ – and he was spot on. Their set that night was absolutely ridiculous and I stood, awestruck, paralysed, grinning with pleasure as the blistering wave of deafening music rolled over me and everyone else. As I left I wobbled past Mr. Keeler and we exchanged a look. In my brain-shattered state all I managed to say was ‘that really was...’ and he finished my sentence with what seemed to be a question accompanied by a knowing grin ‘...a pummelling wall of psychedelic noise...?’ Too right. My journey was well under way.

The Heads don’t play live that often so such moments are something to savour – they have never disappointed me and I’ve travelled hundreds of a miles to catch a 25 minute support slot on occasion. The band members grew to know me and my obsessional colleagues, and so the 3 of us ‘Leeds boys’ became a recognised and inevitable presence at various Heads events. So many memories over the years - live appearances/pre and post gig antics with fans, band members and their extended friends and families/seeing them blow whichever band they were supporting off the stage every single time/helping with their gear/being lucky enough to sit in on a few rehearsals/Johnny O’s perpetually mind-blowing light-show light show/trying to buy drumsticks in Tilburg (actually that city alone provides endless tales of fun and frolics)... Us Leeds Boys have had SO much fun following this band. The Heads are embedded in my own head as the ultimate masters of intense guitar psychedelic music and some of the nicest people I know. They occupy an area of their own. No band I know could even think of reaching the areas in which The Heads set up base camp a good 15 years ago. Despite their ‘largely unknown’ status they carry on regardless and pump out music which seems to be tailor-made for my tastes with every treasured release. God bless them!

Thanks to Mark Lascelles for the text & Dave Cambridge for the music.

The Heads - Hairy Chapter (Creating in the Eternal Now Is Always Heavy) taken from a live set recording - at 'The Circle In The Square' while the Leeds boys sat in with the band running through their set list.