Every successful band must have an identity. It is not enough to have a standout front man with his own individual look. Although we certainly had this in abundance, we also needed to be dressed, in what could hopefully be described as, a stylish and fitting way, something to reflect and perhaps compliment the music. In the early days though, we would make do with what we already had in our wardrobe, and myself, with one foot by this time in the world of Factory Records, would bring to my own sad party, a plethora of long grey rain coats and other charity shop dourness. This was, after all, 1985.
The ‘blue-eyed soul’, I have previously referred to, would in due course require a much more sartorially elegant accompaniment and so, by some pulling of strings from high up, a Mr Paul Smith was enlisted to help out. Today of course, Mr Smith’s empire is colossal, with shops and outlets worldwide, a far cry from his debut operation in Nottingham (1970) and his soon to become ‘flagship’ store in Floral Street, Covent Garden. It was here we would meet the man himself to discuss our ‘look’. In the head office, a smallish room above the Floral Street shop, we gathered round a large antique-looking table, strewn with samples of material, new designs and clippings of glowing editorial. His ‘English Gentleman look’ with trademark flashes of eccentricity, usually manifested in colourful linings and mismatched check and stripe, would soon earn him the stellar reputation he has today. As the shop closed to the public, and with certain budgetary guidelines in place (we were to avoid anything made from cashmere or silk) a spending limit of £800 was levied (with 40% discount) and we were let loose to begin the most decadent ‘supermarket dash’ of our lives.
I am not a ‘natural’ shopper. Even today, if the need for new clothing is deemed quite essential, only then, will I very reluctantly, enter a shop. It is perhaps because of the above scenario, with young stylish sales assistants attending to our every need and Paul himself, on hand, advising and adjusting, and with no money visibly changing hands, that I feel the way I do.
And so it was, that these six young musicians would attend their next photo call, suited and booted with waistcoats and ties in place.
One of us though, had chosen a ‘bow’ tie to complete his look, a departure I had put down to being a practical joke, until I was invited to admire his large collection. Classical musicians and businessmen at gala functions, can all legitimately ‘rock’ the ‘bow’ tie look, but to my knowledge we were qualified to be neither. I was the youngest though and as the shutter blinked, I would have to cringe in silence.
The hardest part of my job is the never-ending dilemma of where to take the ‘artist’ to have dinner. In London of course it would be easy, with a myriad of options to suit every diva-fuelled diet. The macrobiotics, the pescatarians, they would all be catered for. Where I live however, there are just two food types to go at, ‘Good Pub Food’, and ‘Pub Food’. With that in mind, it is a pub in Wardlow, by the name of ‘The Three Stags Heads’ that I have selected for none other than the ‘princess of pop’ Ms Kylie Minogue. I know already she is a vegetarian, but for some un-explained reason I plough on with the plan, on the grounds that she will always remember the experience.
This pub, to say the least, is eccentric. As you descend into the two small rooms, each with fires burning, folk musicians playing (and telling the occasional story), lurchers and whippets
outnumbering customers and with the air reassuringly thick with ‘roll your own’ smoke, you know you are somewhere special.
The husband and wife team that run the place, he a ‘potter’ by trade and her a talented chef (who makes full use of said pottery) don’t exactly go out of their way to make you feel welcome. The first thing that greets you is a sign saying ‘do not ask for lager, as a punch in the face often offends’. Food takes ages to arrive and on one occasion when I nervously enquired as to where my lamb might have got to, I was told “it’s in the field” (everybody else had been served ten minutes ago)
But, when it arrives, ‘oh boy’.
Lets get one thing quite clear. I have been a huge admirer of this particular singer (a list of reasons I will not bore you with) for many years, and even in the midst of the rather disappointing ‘Indie Kylie’ period, as we are when she arrives, I will have nothing said against her. Our sixteen year old ‘tape op’ is virtually hyperventilating with excitement (along with me) and as we prepare to leave the studio for the pub (and as if the icing on the cake could get any sweeter) she offers to perform a dance routine she has choreographed for the tune we have just written.
“what, here? now?” I gasp.
“yeah , if you like?” she says.
The pub will need to wait for this.
The entire room dies and goes to heaven.
The meal itself is pretty much disastrous. The heavily meat led menu is of course a triumph, but the disappointing vegetarian option, sits unloved, on our chanteuse’s plate, until the waitress, who is the only person in the place young enough to recognise her, comes to clear. As the recognition kicks in, it is not just the penny that drops and simultaneously, everything she has collected ends up on the floor. Lurchers and whippets, more liberal in their dietary demands, move in to begin a feeding frenzy, which we take as a signal to leave.
On a plus point, nobody ordered lager.
Our new Paul Smith wardrobe would now begin a worldwide tour. One of our band however, was (although I don’t think still is) a committed Jehovah’s Witness and point blankly refused to wear the clothes on stage (the detail of his problem I forget). His views were grudgingly respected, until that is, one sunny American Sunday morning, our female tour manager woke early, drew back her hotel curtains, and witnessed a young man fully clad in Paul Smith attire, complete with copy of ‘Watch Tower’ embarking on a days impromptu door-stepping. It was put to him that, ‘if Paul Smith was good enough for Jehovah, then he was sure as hell good enough for our audience’
That night we were, for the first time, the united front of Paul Smith.