Archive material revisited

European Me

Cover of Six.By Seven’s debut album ‘The Things We Make’.

So in just a few fateful minutes, the United Kingdom will leave the European Union. What a sick joke it is.

Do Boris Johnson or Jacob Rees-Mogg et al. have the average UK citizen’s best interests at heart? Give me a break.

European me,
It’s good to be someone.

Six.By Seven

Some time after the referendum result, while a group of us were out for a curry, an ardent Brexiteer (who was undecided which way to cast his vote until he reached the ballot box [not unlike the wavering Johnson]) asked me my opinion on leaving the EU. Others at the table had given much more cogent answers about the business and financial downside of Brexit.

First off, how could I align myself with people like Nigel Farage and Donald Trump?

But, more fundamentally, what impact will it have on my children? Now they simply cannot pack a bag and relocate in, for example, Italy, France, or Spain. Work or play. Explore their lives; blossom even more as fantastic individuals. So many opportunities ripped away from them. It’s a travesty.

I first heard European Me, Six.By Seven’s debut single, on the recently launched (last century, baby) XFM and was blown away. I remember the dj Keith Cameron giving himself a second to compose himself after the song played out before uttering, simply, ‘Wow’. Indeed, NME described it as “one of the greatest debut singles of all time”. In terms of debut post-rock singles, I have to agree with that esteemed organ.

The Nottingham band was signed to Mantra (part of Beggars Banquet). I interviewed Chris (drums), James (saxophone/keys), and Paul (bass) in the toilets of The Water Rats in King’s Cross in London. (Unfortunately all my notes/drafts long since lost over the decades.) Must’ve been around the time of their debut album release. I was trying to break into music journalism and wasn’t affiliated, so when time dried up the ‘main men’ Chris Olley (lyricist/singer) and Sam Hempton (lead guitar) stayed in the bar with established journos.

Left to right: Chris Davis, James Flower, Paul Douglas, Chris Olley, Sam Hempton.

Big caveat here: this is my perception of how the interviews were set up. I had a great chat, many years later, with guitarist Sam after a Six.By Seven show at the Bristol Bierkeller. He couldn’t apologise enough and said he’d wouldn’t have been cool with such an arrangement. Sam used a violin bow, ala Jimmy Page, when he played certain tracks. I was well impressed with that.

During the toilet cubicle interview, we tried to work out what six by seven meant. Together, we thought it could’ve been the meaning of life. However, it later emerged that Sam came up with the name:

“There was a big debate as to whether the millions of other galaxies in the universe were accelerating away from each other or moving away at a constant rate, or whether they were actually coming back in on themselves. The scientists originally thought that everything would eventually come back in on itself and implode, but what’s actually happening is that they are accelerating away at a rate of 6 x 7.”

At one point, the band had the potential to be huge. Small galaxy huge. Maybe not Coldplay huge. Maybe they didn’t want ‘to be huge’ and spurned their chances.

When supporting The Dandy Warhols, Olley quipped “Stick around for The Dandy Warhols, they’re really great!” Not sure if he was being sarcastic or effusive but it gave lie to his awareness of the band’s promise. After all, here was the support recommending the headliners to the audience!

Another major headline spot, following gigs with Placebo, was with Mercury Rev at the Royal Festival Hall. I think at this point, they were down to a four piece, with Sam out of the picture at that time. Sam had formed his own band Lunar Park. After all the early promise, personnel changes began to stymy the band’s progress.

Not forgetting the appearances on Jools Holland.

An anecdote to finish with. At the after party following a blinding gig at The Scala, and a good hour of pestering a bouncer to be let in, my partner plucked up the courage to speak to Chris Olley. She returned crestfallen as we witnessed his huge frame turn his back on her.

Years later, she berated him at a gig at the ICA: ‘I cannot believe you. All I did was come over to talk to you, stinking of booze and fags.’ ‘Exactly!’ he retorted, correctly, ‘You stank of booze and fags!’ We think he dedicated a song to her during the set, which more than made up for the abrupt dismissal years back.

Another great UK artist, Johnny Marr, has nailed his colours to the European mast, with a song of the same name.

Both he and Six.By Seven understand the concept of unity. Togetherness that has served Europe so well since the end of the Second World War.

And, after all, what are we on a small island in an expanding universe?

Please let me take this opportunity to wish you and your loved ones a safe and healthy New Year.

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