Rich article on Ready Steady Go!

It is often whispered that the 1980s were crap and in a mainstream sense, they probably were. But, indie music as we knew and loved it back then, thrived. Ready Steady Go! contributor Rich, writes about one of the decades-biggest bastions of indie cool, Felt.

Felt were essentially the brainchild of one man, Lawrence (no surname), one of music's more eccentric characters. Examples of his strange behaviour include once driving to a gig in first gear. insisting that all Felt albums had an even number of tracks and personally destroying the tapes of out-takes. These eccentricities tended to overshadow the true extent of Felt's worth. which covered a wide spectrum; from the moody soundscapes of their early work to 60's pop, country-rock and jazz. augmented by brilliant song titles and beautiful cover sleeves.
Formed in 1980 in Birmingham the band featured Lawrence (vocals, guitar), Maurice Deebank (guitar), Nick Gilbert (bass) and Gary Anige (drums). Lawrence had released a single Index on his own label the previous year, although credited to Felt, it was a recording made alone by Lawrence in his bedroom. Impressed by the single Felt soon secured a deal with Cherry Red, and set about what Lawrence called his 10-year masterplan: This involved releasing 10 singles and 10 albums throughout the 1980's.

Something Sends me to Sleep (1981); Crumbling the Antiseptic Beauty LP (1982); My Face is on Fire (1982); Penelope Tree (1983); The Splendour of Fear LP (1983); Mexican Bandits (1984)

The original idea was to release 6-track 30 minutes reflective albums. while also releasing pop singles. The albums were dominated by the classically trained Deebank's guitar work, with Lawrence's whispered vocals low down in the mix. Only the lyric sheet gave any idea what he was singing about. The singles were something else: songs like My face is on Fire and Penelope Tree featured more upfront vocals coupled with soaring melodies.

Sunlight Bathed the Golden Glow (1984); The Strange Idol Patterns LP (1984); Primitive Painters (1985); Ignite the Seven Cannons LP (1985)

With their next two albums Felt entered a new era. The plan for distinct singles and albums was dropped. Both albums were full of pop songs with The Strange Idol Patterns" being the best of all the Cherry Red albums. Other changes saw the addition of Martin Duffy on keyboards and the use of an outside producer: The Cocteau Twins' Robin Guthrie. This combination produced Felt's finest moment to date, Primitive Painters, which featured Liz Fraser on backing vocals. Deebank was less impressed, and Ignite the Seven Cannons proved to his last recording with the band.

Ballad of the Band (1986); Let the Snakes Crinkle Their Heads to Death LP (1986); Rain of Crystal Spires (1986); Forever Breathes the Lonely Word LP (1986)

The Cherry Red contract had elapsed so Felt decided to move to Creation, who were in the process of becoming the best independent label in the country. Ballad of the Band was Lawrence's reaction to Deebank's leaving, and not a particularly complimentary one at that.
Snakes was an album of ten short instrumentals, but Forever Breathes was the album Felt had always threatened to produce. Duffy's hammond organ now dominated Felt's sound and Lawrence came up with eight classic songs to suit this. Brilliantly played and produced it was easily the best album released on Creation up to that point.

Poem of the River LP (1987); Final Resting of the Ark (1987)

Felt returned to the idea of 6 track 30 minute albums for Poem that is generally regarded as their best album. More relaxed than their previous work, some of the tracks even verge on easy-listening and Lawrence rarely wrote better songs that She Lives by the Castle and "Declaration". Final Resting reunited the band with Robin Guthrie and continued in the same vein.

The Pictorial Jackson Review LP (1988); Train Above The City LP (1988); Space Blues (1988)

Pictorial Jackson was two LP's in one. Side one featured eight songs by Lawrence. while side two featured two piano instrumentals by Martin Duffy. The sleeve notes stated "recorded quickly" and it sounded like it. Maybe the strain of recording five albums in a little over two years was beginning to show. Train Above the City released just two months later was something else entirely, being an album of jazz instrumentals. Apparently Felt had bough a vibraphone and needed to recoup the cost, so Martin Duffy and Gary Anige were despatched to the studio to record an album. Lawrence's only involvement was to title the songs.
Space Blues was a return to form, for what was to be their final release on Creation. Completely atypical of Felt's normal work it featured just Lawrence and Duffy. Lawrence's autobiographical lyrics were coupled with some weird synth playing from Duffy. A cover of the Beach Boys Be Still (Felt's only cover version) was one of the B-sides.

Me and a Monkey on the Moon (1989)

The album was Felt's return to Cherry Red, apparently because Creation were unable to release it until 1990, Lawrence insisted it had to appear in 1989 to fulfil the ten-year plan.
For their 10th and final album, Lawrence produced some of his best lyrics. Mobile Shack and Budgie Jacket drew off his childhood, while Free dealt with his experiences with the band, including a desire to meet up with Maurice Deebank again. There was also a definite country-rock feel to most of the songs on the album.
After the split, Lawrence went to New York before returning to England to form the 70's revivalist Denim, while Martin Duffy achieved greater prominence by joining Primal Scream. Two compilations have subsequently been released Absolute Classic Masterpieces covers the Cherry Red years while Bubblegum Perfume features 20 tracks from the Creation years. Both are a perfect introduction to a band that produced some of the best and enduring music from the 1980s.