I had to pretend, on numerous occasions, to be in the Bunnymen. We would hear a rap on the door and it would be the police. I would run downstairs and switch Teardrops' keyboard player Paul Simpson's organ on and say I was The Bunnymen's keyboardist.
Incendiary interview Liverpool legend Yorkie
Its not often you get a chance to chew the cud with someone who has had such a long relationship with the workings of the music bizz, from fan to producer, to pop star, to manager; from experimental songster to film score writer... David Tracy Palmer (aka Yorkie) has done the lot, and has lent a helping hand (in one way or another) in the careers of many of the stars of the Liverpool scene. Thanks to Yorkie for giving us such a great interview. Now are you sitting comfortably? Then we'll begin...
IN: So tell us about the Basement Yorkie; that must have been a dream come true hanging out with Cope & the Bunnymen in your own studio...
Y: The Basement was indeed a great place to be in the late '70s! Julian Cope was living down the road, and after our first couple of tentative (on my part) meetings, he asked if his band, then called A Shallow Madness, could rehearse in our basement. After putting the proposition to my Mum, she turned it down flat 3 times, not only on the grounds of the noise it would cause, but also the fact that she didn't really want a bunch of weirdos hanging around the house.
IN: What was Copey like?
Y: Julian and I had voracious appetites for music and our vinyl buying sprees reflected this. He was my musical education at the time and turned me onto bands that I still love to this day (bands like Can, Faust, the Residents, Neu!). Eventually after some persuasion, my Mum gave in to the rehearsal idea, and the band moved in. They rehearsed during the daytime, about 3 or 4 times a week. Then someone in the band mentioned that they had some friends who were looking for a place to rehearse as well. Echo & the Bunnymen moved in soon after. They rehearsed of an evening as they didn't have a drummer... just Echo (the Korg Minipops drum machine).
courtesy of Will Sergeant
IN: Did you get lots of hipster attention with two soon to be legendary bands playing in the basement?
Y: Well, about this time we started getting visits from the police saying they had been receiving complaints from neighbours. I was astonished, as I had taken the time to soundproof the Basement with cardboard boxes, egg cartons and heavy curtains. You could hardly hear it outside even when The Teardrop Explodes (as Julian's re-christened band were now known) played. I had to pretend, on numerous occasions, to be in the Bunnymen. We would hear a rap on the door and it would be the police. I would run downstairs and switch Teardrops' keyboard player (and later Wild Swans front-man – ed) Paul Simpson's organ on and say I was The Bunnymen's keyboardist.
The police were generally polite and would wish us luck, saying that we had done as much as possible to stop the noise. Turned out the complaints were from the neighbour immediately to our left. After my Mum confronted her, the complaints, and police visits stopped.
IN: It must have been a bit quiet once the Bunnymen and the Teardrop moved on... when did you start doing stuff for yourself? This is when you met the Head brothers (later the Pale Fountains and then Shack?)
Y: Having both bands rehearse in the Basement meant that I had a cellar full of equipment at my disposal and it was time to start a band of my own. I was introduced by Paul Simpson to Michael Head, who had an equally burning desire to make music, but a similar inability to myself as to how to go about it. We flitted from instrument to instrument until we settled on Bass Guitar (for me) and Keyboards (for him). We recruited some musicians who could actually play, and out first band was underway!
We were christened Ho Ho Bacteria! by Julian after he saw it written in the middle of a huge black stain on a toilet wall in a venue he had played. We recorded our first demo under this name before changing it to the much more user friendly The Dance Party (named after a Pere Ubu song). A second demo was recorded (one track, Where I've Been was released on the Viper Label's Liverpool Cult Classics Unearthed Volume 1 in 2001) and a debut gig was forced on us by Pete Wylie!
IN: How long did you and Mike Head play together?
Y: Well, our line ups changed a bit at this period; a second line included Jem Kelley from The Wild Swans and the Lotus Eaters. A further line-up change also meant a band name change to Egypt for Now. We recorded a session to be used for the Street To Street Volume 2 album, but the band was short lived as I had recently played Mike the band Love, and it changed his life forever. Musical differences in direction split the band: Mike wanted to sound like Love and I wanted something far more experimental. (As an aside, EFN actually recorded a cover of Love's She Comes in Colours at the very same session).
John Peel's producer, Chris Lycett, got in touch with a request for EFN to do a Peel session, but as we had gone our separate ways, this was impossible. I told him of my new band The Balcony, and after sending a demo we had just recorded, he booked us.
At the same time, and after playing only one gig, we secured a deal with local record label Praxis and shortly after the Peel session (24.11.81) our debut single was released. It was produced by one of my heroes at the time: Mayo Thompson, from 60's psych gurus The Red Crayola.
IN: So how did your involvement in Space come about?
Y: A long story! Various line-up changes over the course of the The Balcony's history meant that the sound and style of the band was consistently changing. The common thread was me, and my urge to create something akin to Dada Pop. We did get a second single out second single was released on the Liverpool Pink Pop label: A track from that, Too Late was featured in the film (and Scouse masterpiece) A Letter To Brezhnev. Funnily enough a follow up single, A Cover Version was never released due to the inclusion of some references to The Beatles song Revolution; as the record company got cold feet about copyright issues... remember, this was pre-sampling days. We did a session for Radio One's Saturday Live programme, recorded an (unreleased) album and then split so that was that!
Yorkie's tumultuous journey on Pop's choppy ocean is continued here