Said Liquidator Anthology 1987 - 1991 is a double CD that includes 'The Third Man', 'Say What You Feel' & 'Rise' Click to Order
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SIMON McKAY attempts an impartial telling of the Said Liquidator story:
In 1984, Said Liquidator formed in Newcastle Upon Tyne with a tentative line up of Simon and Art Michael and the beginnings of some songs that they played on acoustic guitars. Paul Milner joined shortly afterwards and alternated between bass and electric guitar. At this stage, the only element that was fully formed was the concept of not wanting to sound like any other band. This was soon achieved as Michael's main role became percussionist: he played a home made drum kit that consisted of a huge bass drum, a biscuit tin (in place of a snare), a pair of bongos and a 4" cymbal. It sounds like a bonkers combination but when played with jazz brushes, it actually sounded very good, particularly with Michael's amazing quick fire instinct for rhythm. This period might be referred to the band's 'Biscuit Tin Years'.
Michael during the 'Biscuit Tin Years' (on this occasion, performing in a side group with Paul, 'God's Gift To Women', 18/04/85)
The band had achieved their ambition. They did indeed have a unique sound! However, they were disappointed to find the reason nobody else was ploughing this particular furrow was that it didn't always sound convincing and wasn't very popular with the punters. Some compromises were made: a very talented 16 year singer called Ruth Anne was shipped in from Sunderland. The performances moved up a couple of gears and for the first time the band showed some real potential. It wasn't really Ruth Anne's thing though so she left to form a blues band with her boyfriend (there was a lot of that in the North East at the time… blues bands, I mean). She didn't make a name for herself as a blues singer but in the mid 1990s, she did get to number 1 in the national singles chart with 'You're Not Alone' when she sang with Olive.
Said Liquidator advertised for another singer to share vocal duties with Simon. Stephen Bell (Stevie) was plucked out of Bedlington, a nearby pit village. He was a better fit with the other members than Ruth Anne and the band enjoyed a productive and enjoyable year or so doing a lot of rehearsing, playing local gigs and recording a few demos. At the end of 1986 Paul and Michael had their own parallel band called Laverne and Shirley and were obviously enjoying it immensely. They'd had enough of Newcastle though; it was truly a grim place in the mid 1980s so they decided to move to London where there would be more opportunities for work and the possibility to progress their music.
Said Liquidator: photo session for 'Hitback EP' 05/12/87
Before they left, Paul set about a project that was intended as a launch pad for him and Michael. He released 'The Hitback EP' on his own Hitback label: it featured a song each from four Newcastle bands Laverne and Shirley, Movietone, Said Liquidator and Skiptracers. It was financed by the bands, Arts Council grants and advertising space on the record sleeve that Simon rather cheekily sold to local businesses.
Laverne and Shirley were actually a four piece so when Paul and Michael left town, they left behind their percussionist, Alan Bowman, and a bass player, who was a very gifted all round musician, Tony Stephenson. Simon and Stevie snapped them up and added Kevin O'Connor on drums, Susan Martin on clarinet and Karen Allen on flute.
In 1987, 'The Hitback EP' was released. It went largely unnoticed but helped Said Liquidator get a number of gigs. The sound had moved on from 'The Biscuit Tin Years' as the band embarked upon the 'The Woodwind Years' in recognition of the clarinet and flute. The set included a lot of new songs. Remarkably, they got it all together in the space of a month. It was more tuneful and had a steadier rhythm than the material that had gone before . The clarinet, flute, percussion and the harmonies of Simon and Stevie made for a very distinctive sound so the original Said Liquidator objective of not sounding like anybody else was also satisfied.
Said Liquidator: photo session for 'No Ribbons on Oak Trees' 22/03/88
The band rehearsed a lot and played a few of local gigs before returning to the studio to record the cassette mini album, 'No Ribbons on Oak Trees'. It got some local radio play and a few on air interviews for Simon and Stevie. Sales were strong and local reviews favourable. People actually liked this band and they were building up a local following. Even modest popularity was a whole new experience for the band, which they tried to build upon and looked to play further afield. They found that they were a good fit with the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and also with one of London's happening venues, The Mean Fiddler in Harlesden: in the late 80s they would play there a number of times, sometimes bringing Laverne and Shirley in as their support!
Said Liquidator: John Dobson Street 1989
Said Liquidator continued to pursue their ambitions by working hard and pulling a few stunts locally. This included their obsession with fly posting: they screen printed a series of large 'slogan' posters that they put up around Newcastle in 1989:
"Said Liquidator - Not Heavy" (The name of the band was proving to be a bit of a handicap i.e. it wasn't catchy and in an area like the North East conjured up images of heavy metal rather than clarinet and flute!)
"Said Liquidator - The Thinking Woman's Crumpet" (By now, Simon and Stevie were really full of themselves. They were known amongst their friends as 'Bastardly and Smuttley'. Which one was which? It didn't really matter… the names were interchangeable.)
"Said Liquidator - Say What You Feel" (The final poster of the series and coincided with the release of a 12" on La Di Da Records of Brighton.)
Said Liquidator: Newcastle Redhouse 09/03/89
The pressing of the single, 'Say What You Feel', was small and as initial sales were brisk it wasn't long before most of the copies had gone. It didn't merit a repress but having this release behind them gave the band a bit more status, which helped with bookings. Inevitably, there were more rehearsals, more new songs, more gigs and eventually more demos. The band remained on something of a plateau for another year. During this time they became a well oiled machine and established a solid line up. A few personnel changes had been necessary to achieve that. The percussionist, Alan was long gone. Steve Hillier had taken over for a while but left within 6 months (he had his own plans and later made it into the charts with Dubstar). Rolf was the next percussionist and continued for 10 months before being 'promoted' to bass in July 1989 when Tony left to form his own band. (It was a great shame to lose Tony, particularly in light of the songs and arrangements that he had contributed to Said Liquidator. In turn, he had benefited from the stability of the line up and the space to develop his compositions. However, he had been restless for sometime and it needed resolving.) Debbie Hewertson had replaced Susan on clarinet in November 1988. By now, the band even had a long term roadie, Tim Joseland. They also had a heavily customised touring van that was reliable enough for the geographically random excursions that the band regularly made. The coffers were bulging from record sales and the proceeds from gigs: it was time for the band's big shot!
Said Liquidator: Simon & Stevie, Newcastle Poly 28/10/89
More song writing, more song arrangements, more rehearsals and even more demos ensued but this time with the goal of recording the 'Rise' album. Almost two weeks were spent in the Cluny Studios recording and then another 10 days in Lynx Studios mixing it. Said Liquidator had been impressed by Kane Gang guitarist, Dave Brewis' production work on the second Martin Stephenson and The Daintees album and he kindly agreed to work for mate's rates and produce their album at the end of 1990. However, by this time the band were jaded from all of the gigging. The niggles between band members were becoming intolerable but they did pull together to give it their best shot. The band had high aspirations for 'Rise', hoping it would clinch them a record deal but, despite an initial interest shown by a couple of labels, nothing came of it. The self financed album release was available only on cassette (still a valid format in early 1991) and was available in local shops and as part of the band's merchandise during their final and most extensive tour, which took place that year.
Said Liquidator: Newcastle Broken Doll 14/02/91
To read more about this gig and hear a recording click here
During the recording of the album there had been one falling out too many with Karen. Sam was brought in as a replacement flute player for the tour. A lot of the venues turned out to be small and pokey, but there was a big climax as the band played the London Rock Garden on a Saturday night. Throughout the dates, the band had been tight and went down well but tensions within the band made it difficult for everybody to spend time together. On top of the deterioration of relations within the band, Rolf was suffering badly from tinnitus that was also affecting his work outside the band as an artist working with water colours. Meanwhile, Debbie was distracted by her growing jewellery making business. Perhaps we were all at some kind of crossroads in our lives. It didn't feel like there was much more the band could do. It was time to move on. Sam had graduated from university and already left Newcastle, but it was Stevie who brought things to a head in August 1991: he said he was leaving the band. (He immediately formed a band of his own but that seemed to collapse prematurely and a little inexplicably). Four members remained and carried on although their activities were scaled down. They played only a few local gigs and made some home demos of new songs. The following year it really was all over as Debbie and Rolf left Newcastle to pursue their non-musical, but more lucrative artistic skills, in a more idyllic setting. By the autumn of 1992, Kev, Simon and Tim were all enrolled on different degree courses at the University of Northumbria. (The following year, Stevie also went to university, in Sheffield.) Karen moved to Hexham shortly after this. Sadly, Tony died of a brain tumour in 2002.
Said Liquidator: photo session for 'Rise' 26/02/91
In 2011, it occurs to me that not a single member of the long term Said Liquidator line up reside in the same town as each other! In terms of a legacy, the cassettes and tour t-shirts will mostly be landfill by now. The records occasionally turn up online for inflated sums of money - I doubt that they sell though! If you do a Google search for Said Liquidator, when you actually get to hits relevant to the band, you're likely to read about their involvement with HitBack, La-Di-Da Records and a more recent inclusion on an 1980s indie pop retrospective CD called the Sound of Leamington Spa. Said Liquidator's contribution was 'The Third Man'. The song isn't the opus that the band originally set out to create but it's not at all bad and it's better than being completely forgotten! Partly in an attempt to build on this small presence in history, but mainly for the enjoyment of making some sense of the time, energy and creativity that was invested in the band; I have compiled an archive double CD of the band that is now available.
Front cover image for 'Said Liquidator Anthology 1987 - 1991'
The 'Said Liquidator Anthology 1987-1991' contains 33 of the band's recordings. The songs have all been mastered from the original sources, mainly studio master tapes, and for the first time makes available high quality format releases of songs, some of which were only released on cassette during the band's lifetime. Hearing it all together highlights how the band explored a crazy mish-mash of styles throughout their years together and that is something that made the recordings difficult to market but it did make them an attractive live act. The collection hangs together pretty well and has been programmed carefully with continuity in mind. It is evidence that not only did the band remain true to their concept of not wanting to sound like any other band but they weren't simply different for the sake of it; they did find a unique approach they were happy with. The double CD is available for £8 plus postage; to order CD click here.