Friday, 30 October 2015

Kids Farting into a Tape Recorder

I date the arrival of my first tape recorder to 1978, and almost certainly to my thirteenth birthday in September of that year. It was a Crown CTR-300, a mono portable and pretty basic, but nonetheless magical so far as I was concerned. Within a couple of weeks I'd got hold of a five pin DIN lead by which I could connect it to our family radio and tape songs from the Top 40 Countdown on Sunday evening, and amongst the first songs I recall having taped were Public Image Ltd's debut single, Germfree Adolescence by X-Ray Spex, and Tommy Gun by the Clash - all prominent around November 1978 according to Wikipedia. I almost certainly recorded other, patently shittier chart toppers during those early efforts to kill music through home-taping - Olivia Newton-John, Sarah Brightman and the like - but some subconscious process tends to select those memories which better allow me to think of my younger self as a cool little dude. I suppose we all do it to a greater or lesser extent.

It's all delusion of course, and I should probably be thankful that my formative recordings were all committed to a single ninety minute cassette, because I was unwilling to save up my pocket money and invest in a second tape; so any regrettable evidence of my once having enjoyed the rocktastic sounds of both Racey and Showaddywaddy were erased within weeks, and by 1979 I'd turned my single C90 into a canvas upon which was painted a moderately more creative effort which I vaguely remember calling Pirate Radio Burton. I'm no longer even sure I actually knew what a pirate radio station was, but I'd picked up the term somewhere and apparently liked the feel of it. I did all of the voices and played all of the characters, executing ham-fisted pre-pubescent parodies of things I'd seen on television, and it was shite, but even at the age of thirteen I understood my branding it pirate radio to be an ingenious acknowledgement of it being shite, which paradoxically made it even funnier, so I believed. Of the great and subsequently lost tonnage of comedy gold submitted to my crumbling overworked 129 metres of ferric oxide, all I can recall was a wry satirical sideways glance at the Cadbury's Flake advert from the telly comprising my attempt to sing the only the crumbliest, flakiest chocolate refrain, concluding with a racist observation likening the chocolate bar to a specific kind of penis; and because it was still the seventies and I was thirteen and nothing like so witty as I believed myself to be, I stood in our kitchen, proudly holding the tape recorder as I played Pirate Radio Burton to my mother, all twenty minutes of it including the racist penis joke. She laughed, although with hindsight I suspect it was probably uncomfortable laughter.

At least I was doing something creative, I suppose.

Eventually I graduated to more considered works, notably a semi-pornographic take on Keith Michell's Captain Beaky alternating the trumpet break lifted directly from the record with my spoken verses, toilet-humoured variations on the original turned to the cause of amusingly slanderous allegations made against my friend Gordon. By 1980, possibly due to an increase in pocket money, I had also graduated to the habit of buying a new cassette tape when I wanted to record something, in preference to adding another notionally archaeological layer to my long-suffering C90; and I took to making covers for these tapes, turning my felt-tipped pens to the design of amusingly titled compilations such as Songs for the Hard of Thinking.

Well, possibly not that amusingly titled, as I realised even at the time. Songs for the Hard of Thinking had a second and final volume before I switched to a new series of compilations of stuff taped off the radio under the banner of The Illegal Tapes as a witty challenge to the home-taping is killing music lobby - who seemed to be kicking up quite a fuss at the time - inlay cards rendered with Jamie Reid style ransom note lettering to show them I meant business. The Illegal Tapes volume one kicked off with a Simple Minds live set recorded from In Concert on Saturday 19th July 1980. This time I would get it right, I told myself: my own private library of free music, and only the cool stuff - no Racey, no Matchbox, and definitely no fucking Barron Knights. Novelty records were behind me now, given that I was a big boy and nearly fifteen, although my good stuff was not so Cromwellian a term as to exclude episodes of The Burkiss Way as broadcast on BBC Radio 4, a weekly comedy show which was actually funny despite the possibility of having provided some of the inspiration for Pirate Radio Burton. I've a vague feeling that the name the Pre-War Busconductors may have derived from The Burkiss Way, specifically from Fred Harris dully intoning an increasingly ludicrous itinerary of invented band names in parody of John Peel.

Regarding the Pre-War Busconductors, I was up to the eighth volume of The Illegal Tapes and for no reason I can remember, it occurred to me that it would be fun to take my tape recorder around to Grez's house and to record ourselves making a noise. Santa had furnished me with an acoustic guitar the previous Christmas, and Grez had been teaching me to play a few things - Babylon's Burning or Kings of the Wild Frontier plucked out on single strings.

Grez was in my class at school, and had weened me off the same four Beatles records by lending me a Devo album, which freaked me out at first but was ultimately for the best. I got to know Grez a little better and began to make regular trips to his house to listen to Stranglers albums, which was how I met Pete, a boy from the year above our own at school, and who lived in the same street as Grez. One evening I called around on Grez and found himself and Pete sat at the living room table inventing bands. They had exercise books and were drawing album covers for groups existing entirely in their own imaginations, chronologically ordered catalogues encompassing line-up changes, singles, b-sides and so on. I probably should have found it strange, but it seemed in some way related to my Songs for the Hard of Thinking compilations. Clearly it was some intensely personal thing, possibly not unlike having imaginary friends, and yet neither Pete nor Grez seemed particularly troubled that I had caught them engaged with such an indulgence.

On Saturday the 13th of September 1980, all of the above factors came together with our forming a band. We were around Grez's house. It was pissing with rain, too wet to do anything outside. We had instruments and it seemed like it might be fun, and the name Pre-War Busconductors had lodged in my head from somewhere or other. To be specific I recall the entire undertaking as having been my idea, as something to which I recruited the other two, but then it was a long time ago and most likely I'm remembering it wrong.

We had an acoustic guitar, a harmonica, and a semi-acoustic bass owned by Grez's older brother who never seemed to be around enough to object to our borrowing it. Also, Grez had an ITT Combat radio which came with its own microphone and could be used as an amplifier. It wasn't particularly loud, but we could produce a terrific overdriven din by placing the microphone inside the guitar. Somehow we also had a pair of drumsticks acquired from somewhere with which we bashed away at a drum kit assembled from whatever was to hand - cardboard boxes, an upturned biscuit tin, Grez's space hopper, and an Action Man assault craft - basically a big solid lump of injection-moulded plastic in the shape of a rubber dingy for your action figures - which made a great snare drum. The first problem we encountered was that we couldn't really play, although we didn't see this as either a problem or even necessarily relevant. Grez could handle a few hesitant chords - enough to hammer out something at least bearing passing resemblance to a tune; I could manage notes on one string, and if our collective sense of rhythm was a bit on the undeveloped side, we made up for it by enthusiastically failing to give a shit. More significantly, Pete could really sing and was spontaneously funny.

He was an unusual child, always seeming confident and quick witted, but occasionally he would overload and effect transformation into some kind of human jack-in-the-box, refusing to communicate in anything but siren noises and generally running riot. One of the most vivid episodes ended with myself and Grez stood in his driveway, both watching Pete bouncing up and down on a spacehopper on the garage roof whilst serenading us with a song comprising mostly bleeping noises. Grez was going wild because his parents were due home any moment.

Meanwhile back on that wet September afternoon, we'd just pressed play and record. Grez thrashed out an uneasy sequence of bar chords. I plucked out random arrhythmic notes on his brother's bass whilst singing in the voice of a thick person, like the little man from Monty Python with the knotted handkerchief on his head, or some skinhead grunting away on a television documentary. Diligently dropping my aitches, I made up the words as I went along, words which were repeated and even harmonised with embellishments by the astonishingly soulful Pete. This is punk at its worst, he half-sang, half-boasted as we came to the end of a chorus, and it was. That was the whole idea.

We all read Sounds music paper every week. Grez and Pete read Grez's brother's copy, and I'd been buyin' one for meself since about February; and if there was one fing we agreed upon it was 'ow much we enjoyed Garry Bushell's articles, albeit for the wrong reasons. For the most part we listened to the sort of music which Bushell 'ated, but nevertheless found ourselves drawn to his enthusiastic Alf Garnett-style traditional workin' class knees-up themed reviews of the Cockney Rejects, Angelic Upstarts, and others associated with Oi! music, as it 'ad become known. We were fifteen years of age, rustic, and clueless, but even we could see there was somethin' weird and 'ence immensely entertainin' in Bushell's testimony and the world 'e described as though terrified that anyone might ever mistake 'is little 'ooligan scene for anything posh, poofy or otherwise stuck up. Each time 'e set pen to paper, 'alf the word count was taken up wiv some wheedling testament to 'ow these boys weren't afraid to kick in a few 'eads if they didn't like the look of you, just so that we'd know his lads were the real fing and would put you in fackin' 'otspital, you caaaant; usually followed by disclaimers of 'ow they loved their mums and wouldn't 'urt a fly, and it was just workin' class culture wunnit, and it definitely ain't racist or nuffink to love yor country. He told us the Cockney Rejects were the best band he'd heard in two years and then quoted the lyrics, the immortal words:

I like punk and I like Sham,
I got nicked over West Ham.

Something about those two lines from Police Car entertained the living shit out of us, and I don't think it was just us either. I've since met people who've never heard a note of the Cockney Rejects, yet who are nevertheless familiar with that couplet. One evening we saw Oliver - one of the older kids who now worked at Discovery Records in Stratford-on-Avon - staggering home from the pub with a friend, singing those same lines from Police Car over and over, then muttering bloody brilliant and collapsing with laughter.

Of course, we all liked punk, and I for one liked Sham 69 and still play their records today; and it wasn't that we were better than the Cockney Rejects, or that there was anything wrong with good, honest, stupid fun, or that rock lyrics had to suggest something dripped from the quill of Shakespeare himself; but Police Car was just a bit too fucking stupid for its own good, and then there was Bushell trying far too hard with his desperate impersonation of a Cockney barrow boy, and this whole idea of taking pride in being a thick fucker, a position with which we were painfully well acquainted at school on a daily basis. We just couldn't not take the piss.

Accordingly I can't even bring myself to name our first ever song because the whole thing was horribly racist, and that was the point of it. We were trying to make something so stupid that even Bushell would have sighed, shaken his head in despair, and dismissed us with an amusingly witless quip about our being about as much use as a copy of Men Only in Larry Grayson's dressing room. I listen to the song now and it sounds like badly executed Alf Garnett, and I doubt anyone could ever take the words on face value; but it will nevertheless stay under wraps because even taking all of this into account, our first ever song remains uncomfortable listening. We were fifteen and had grown up in rural Warwickshire in the seventies, and there were two black kids at our school of about six-hundred. Black faces were not particularly common on British television, and although Pete, Grez and myself shared an inherent understanding of racism as essentially absurd and we listened to music by black artists, a certain lack of cultural sensitivity came with our environment. Racism seemed ridiculous and was therefore funny to us because we had no experience of it. I had learned nothing since that Flake advert on Pirate Radio Burton.

Five years later, my friend Garreth came to see me at the house in which I lived in the village of Otham, Kent. He was looking through my cassette tapes, all the Pre-War Busconductors albums with the hand-drawn artwork.

'What's this?' he asked, bewildered. He'd picked out the tape carrying the title which shall remain nameless, its general concept illustrated on the cover by four cartoon Pre-War Busconductors in smiling Al Jolson tribute, jazz hands and bones through noses above the somewhat unconvincing promise, a pisstake of racism.

'It's a piss-take of racism,' I explained unconvincingly, trying as hard as I could to sound casual, as though I hadn't just been rumbled. 'Like those skinhead bands, that sort of thing.'

I longed for the ground to swallow me whole, and in case it isn't obvious, Garreth was black.

'I understand,' he said, and I felt terrible - a king-sized arsehole.

I spoke about this to friends some years later, and it turns out that almost anyone of my generation and background who was ever in a band went through a phase of shocking Bushell-inspired ironic skinhead anthems.

The second song the Pre-War Busconductors ever recorded - just a few minutes later - was executed in much the same spirit of militant stupidity as the first, but thankfully without invoking Oi the Elephant in the Room. This elephant was Little Blue, the star of his own animated children's cartoon series who had taken his mummy's fountain pen and broken it in two. The ink had squirted in the water, as the theme song reported, staining him blue in colour, hence the title, with predictably hilarious consequences. I'd never seen the show and had no idea of the tune - which admittedly didn't make much difference - but Grez had, and he improvised an impressively nihilistic adaptation of the lyrics.

Little Blue, Little Blue,
Farting in the bath as some of us do,
He pulled out the plug and he got sucked down,
He couldn't swim so he had to drown.
The blood it spurted in the coffin - wow!
His mummy's got a dead boy noooooooow.....

We came up with two further tracks - a pitiful cover of the Stranglers' In the Shadows and something called Sodding Off - and that was our first session, immediately followed on volume eight of The Illegal Tapes by a couple of Jam singles I'd borrowed from Grez, When You're Young and The Eton Rifles. Playing back the tape and hearing our own clanking efforts alongside proper music like you would get on the radio seemed to legitimise what we were doing, and so we carried on, reconvening the very next day at my house to thrash out another four songs, notably a terrifying cover of the theme song for the children's show You and Me. Somehow it felt as though what we were doing was important, and it clearly wasn't just some one-off experiment.

We got together most weekends at whichever house contained the fewer parents and began to build up a body of work; and the more I listened back to our efforts, the better they sounded; and I realised it would make sense to have everything on one cassette. I borrowed Grez's tape recorder, plumbed it into mine with my five pin DIN lead, and copied all we had thus far recorded onto a single C90. This was to be our first album, and we came to this decision without being aware of the wider independent cassette scene which was just getting into gear at around the same time. I decided my tape label would be called Busconductor Records, and got out my felt-tipped pens and set to work on a cover.

In December we acquired a fourth member, Eggy who was in the same class as Grez and myself and had begun to wonder why we never seemed to be around at the weekend. He wasn't particularly musical, but it wasn't like he could make it any worse. We remained more or less a complete fucking racket for the first six months - enthusiastically cacophonous covers of whatever we felt like taking the piss out of, everything from the usual kid's show theme songs to the BeeGees' Tragedy; or potentially libellous songs about people at school; or further Bushell-inspired stupidity. Usually there was a tune tucked away in there somewhere behind the sound of something being banged hard to a rhythm more closely associated with home improvement than music; and usually there was some less melodic accompaniment, one of us honking away on the harmonica or similar. We would take it in turns to sing, depending on who had the most inspiration, and usually either Pete or Grez were the best at this, both having a better developed sense of surrealism than either Eggy or myself, even genuine wit you might call it; and so it didn't matter too much when Pete decided to sing an entirely different song to the one we'd apparently been playing, often a freshly improvised eulogy to the impressive girth of that which could be found within his trousers. Even pausing the performance to fart directly into the tape recorder made little difference to the thematic integrity of our songs.

The sum of the parts may have sounded a little less like a complete fucking racket were it not for our approach to mixing which amounted to each one of us trying to be either louder than the other three, or else nearest to the tape recorder; and the occasional disruption of proceedings by the intrusion of something so fucking funny it just couldn't wait: me yelling nipple blue into the condensing microphone as we recorded Little Blue for one example, which was funny because of tits, and because it sounded a bit like the title of the song. Nipples are rude, you see. This was why Pete and Grez were more suited to vocal duties than myself.

The elevated musicality of Grez and Pete was rudely illustrated when they went solo, breaking away as a duo under the name of the Desolate Accountants. Specifically it was Saturday the 15th of November, and we'd planned to convene as the Pre-War Busconductors, except I'd gone to the local cinema to see Breaking Glass at the last minute leaving the other two to their own devices - Eggy not yet having joined at that point. Desolate Accountants recordings were less raucous than those of the Pre-War Busconductors, and surprisingly musical in places because Grez could actually play and Pete could genuinely sing. Of all the cacophonous crap ever committed to tape by any combination of the four of us, the Desolate Accountants were the lot you might get away with pressing onto vinyl and selling to people, and in our small private universe their formation seemed to mean that we were not merely a band, but an actual scene. No longer feeling obliged to spontaneously piss about only when all members were present and incorrect, Grez and I recorded together as AA Book of the Road, and with Eggy as Half a Pound of Pork Sausages; and once Eggy had joined the Pre-War Busconductors, we rebranded the original three man line-up as Eddy & the Ogdens and recorded a series of Coronation Street themed cassettes.

Having acquired a second mono portable tape recorder - specifically a Panasonic RQ2106 - I was now able to bounce terrible quality backing tracks from tape to tape to produce my own multilayered solo material as the Post-War Busconductors, just like that Brian Eno. Grez similarly took to solo work as the Anthropod Lithontriptic Band, producing songs which, if poor in terms of recording quality, nevertheless still sound good today, at least to me. He was developing a definite style with the guitar and he really knew how to string a tune together, often using chords of his own invention; and it helped that he was witty, and that he really understood the romance of stupid:

Don't wanna take no exams.
Don't wanna take no CSE.
I just wanna break things,
And have bricks chucked at me.

Don't wanna know no long words.
Don't wanna learn to spell.
Every other word I say,
Is usually fucking hell.

Don't wanna live in a loony bin,
Or any snobs' place like that.
I just wanna smash in windows,
And go round being a prat.

This could have been half the kids at our school, and singing about it kept us sane.

The first Pre-War Busconductors album was completed in February 1981 and was named Little Blue after the cartoon elephant. I drew a cover, and Pete made a copy for himself, duplicating my cover in his own somewhat neater hand - it being another few months before any of us discovered the magic of the photocopiers which had only just begun to turn up in public libraries and the offices of estate agents. Neither Grez nor Eggy seemed too bothered about having  copies of our work, presumably preferring the performance. I on the other hand began to ruthlessly archive everything we did, even paying a few quid for the original tapes of the first two Desolate Accountants albums when Pete and Grez decided that they weren't very good and that they might as well record over them.

After the Sex Pistols, The Great Rock 'n' Roll Swindle, and all that self-aware Jamie Reid artwork, I'd become obsessed with the idea of music as mythology - for want of a better way of putting it - as an art form divorced from its own creation. The Pre-War Busconductors weren't so important as the understanding of ourselves as important, regardless of how scatalogically ludicrous the songs may have been - when you could even call them songs; and so I kept a copy of everything.

We recorded a traditional disappointing second album which was called PWBII, and then a third, by which point we had somehow began to develop rudimentary musical qualities. Grez was playing well, and I was at about the level of musicianship at which Grez had been when we started - good enough to pluck out a rough bass line on the Teisco electric guitar I'd bought for a tenner from Andy Scrivener down the sportsfield. Inevitably we began to play live concerts, although to be fair these concerts differed only from the studio recordings in so much as that we all cheered, clapped and whistled at the end of the songs, impersonating an audience, shouting out requests to ourselves and then introducing the next one as being a little something off our new album. Sometimes there would be a double bill of the Desolate Accountants and the Pre-War Busconductors, keeping the count of audience, support band, and headline act to just the same four people. The venues were our respective houses, usually when parents had gone out somewhere for the afternoon, although Grez's mum had become something of a regular at both our live performances and studio sessions.

'It's been going on all day and it's far too loud,' she would desperately opine, meaning we knew to limit ourselves to no more than another seven or eight numbers, and probably none of the angrier protest songs like Police Harassment. We always assumed disgruntled, temporarily deafened parents were exaggerating about the volume, and simply wanted to censor us because they were squares and their lives were over whilst we were the kids on the street with something to say, until one day, as the Desolate Accountants played live in the spare room of my house, I wandered out into our garden to see how much I could hear from out there. The spare room was on the top floor of a three story house, with only a small air vent in the wall overlooking the garden. Pete and Grez were playing acoustic instruments, without amplification, and yet somehow - even from about fifty yards distance through a thick wall - it sounded like angry giants fighting in a scrap yard, albeit marginally more tuneful.

Aside from the gigs at our respective houses, there were a couple of outdoor events too, one at the Nodder Nest - a secluded corner of the local sportsfield devoted to romantic pursuits, judging by all the spent johnnies - and the public bogs in the Telegraph Street car park. It was a quiet Wednesday afternoon as the town geared up for the royal wedding celebrations in the evening, and I kept watch while Pete and Grez vanished into said public lavatory with a guitar and a tape recorder. A moment later, a terrific noise emerged, amplified by the acoustics of ceramic tiles. It was a new song, one specifically tailored to the occasion.

Public bog - the place to be,
Public bog - the public lavatory.
Public bog - the place to be seen.
Public bog - the local latrine.
It really stinks around this place,
And you get peed in the face.

The song lasted about a minute, and then we ran away, laughing like hyaenas. As gigs went, it wasn't quite Elvis at Caesar's Palace, but as performance art it made even the best of them look like wankers.

We kept at it throughout 1981, relentlessly filling one cassette after another, slowly evolving towards a point at which the chaos began to sound almost composed. It wasn't so much that we'd improved as simply discovered our weaknesses and learned how to play to our strengths, such as they were. The songs remained essentially shambolic and puerile, but were easier on the ear in certain respects, and so our ambition increased accordingly - although more in terms of what we were already doing rather than becoming a real band or taking it needlessly seriously. In this adventurous spirit we wrote and recorded The Truth About Croydon, an epic undertaking by our standards spread across three C60s, a trilogy in fact. The Truth About Croydon was our Hard Day's Night, our Great Rock 'n' Roll Swindle, except it was on cassette tape rather than film for obvious reasons. The Truth About Croydon was partially autobiographical and mythologised the story of the Pre-War Busconductors, our formation and rise to imaginary fame, before going off on a traditional quest narrative in which we attempted to track down Simon Jordan, a kid we'd known at school who had supposedly gone to live in Croydon a few years earlier. We played ourselves as well as most of the other characters, but for the occasional bemused parent drafted in for lacklustre readings of it's been going on all day and it's far too loud, or my mum helping to recreate the historic phone call of that fateful day when Grez called and she had to tell him that I'd gone to see Breaking Glass. Of course there were songs - seminal numbers from the early days of the group for the historical section, then songs about what was happening within the story, new material for the fans - that being ourselves - effectively classifying the undertaking as musical theatre.

The Pre-War Busconductors became our identity, the closest thing we had to being in a gang. It gave us purpose, and of course an endless supply of jokes which only the four of us understood. Writing exercises in both French and English at school became marginally more engaging when we found ways to sneak in some mention of our band. If word didn't exactly get around, a few selected kids borrowed one of the two existing copies of Little Blue, although I don't really remember what they thought of it; excepting Steve Harris who apparently thought enough of it to join the band, becoming the potential fifth member but for only appearing at a couple of recording sessions; and three decades later my friend Crispin told me he'd always been impressed by my having recorded a song called Nine Inch Turd in the S-Bend.

Inevitably it couldn't last. Pete was the first to go due to his parents moving away. The rest of us carried on for a little bit, limping along with just the three of us but it wasn't the same, and sixteen seemed a bit old to still be thrashing out ironic covers of the Get Up and Go theme music. It was probably for the best in so much as circumstances pulled the plug on the Pre-War Busconductors before we started taking ourselves too seriously and bought real instruments. We sort of kept in touch, but something always seemed to get in the way, possibly ourselves.

By coincidence, Pete and I ended up at the same art college at the other end of the country, by which point he had his friends and I had mine. Grez went to university in London, then ended up dropping out under circumstances I never really liked to ask about given that he'd clearly had a rough time. Eggy lived about three streets away from me in London for a decade or more, and I only discovered this three weeks after he had moved to Dublin. I'm pretty sure I delivered his mail at one point without even realising. Similarly absurd - given that we'd all started out in rural Warwickshire - Pete ended up living at about two miles distance from where I had settled in London, and although we spoke to each other on the phone from time to time, we met on maybe two or three occasions at most.

He turned up with Grez on one such occasion and we got out the guitars and began recording. Pete's voice was as great as ever, and Grez had become an accomplished guitarist during the intervening decades, but somehow it was difficult to work out what we were trying to do or what we expected to get from the session. Forty-year old men chugging out a jazz-funk Eggs, Beans & Mayonnaise in 2006 would have been too depressing.

In 2015, having lived in Texas for four years, I flew back to England, to my mother's place in Coventry, with the intent of bringing back as much as I could of the crap for which I hadn't found room in all the boxes shipped over in 2012. This comprised mostly cassette tapes, and these had been left behind mainly because I wasn't sure what to do with them, and partially because I was scared of discovering that they were all blank, the ferric oxide having crumbled from the tape years before. Amazingly this not only turned out to not be the case, but the quality of them is astonishing - material taped over thirty-five years ago sounding as though it had been recorded just yesterday. I guess the lesson in this is not to take too much notice of the aggressive turnover of new and purportedly improved formats pushed by the music and consumer audio industries every five years or so.

I have all these cassettes, and I'm slowly digitising the collection so as to save it for posterity if and when the tapes finally degrade, as promised by those who want me to throw my lot in with downloads and soundbars, whatever the fuck those things are. I still find the songs funny and even kind of musical, or at least sonically interesting in places. I've spoken to Pete and Grez about this essentially archaeological exercise, but I can't tell what they make of it. I even have the impression - possibly wrongly - that Pete is in some way embarrassed by our body of work, possibly regarding Little Blue and others as damning evidence that he was once less cool than he is now; and whilst it's true that some of it is awful in certain respects, I can't see the point in regretting any of it. Nevertheless he insists it be not only kept to ourselves, but off the internet, and shared between us only in physical formats. Indeed, his concern has been expressed with such vigour that I considered giving him a false identity for the purpose of this essay, but the idea has struck me as ludicrous so he'll have to make do with my having withheld his surname. In any case, I can't see that he's even particularly likely to read this, so it probably won't make a lot of difference.

When each conversation with a friend concludes with either we really must meet up, or else we must do this more often, chances are it isn't going to happen, and there are usually good reasons why you've lost touch with each other, reasons which might seem awkward should they become subject to examination. The Pre-War Busconductors happened for a short time and it did its admittedly stupid job, and then slipped gracefully backwards into the realms of an origin story. Even if we all remember it differently and with different degrees of affection, it's how we came to be here, and this much will remain so long after the tapes have crumbled. The sad thing is that I sometimes wonder if those tapes of the four us farting into a tape recorder weren't as good as it will ever get, the last honest art made by any of us.

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