Monday, 2 July 2018
I never saw Spacemen 3 play live. I bought Playing With Fire when it came out and was attending gigs in the period the group were active but for some reason our paths never crossed. I have recently got round to reading Playing The Bass With Three Left Hands, the memoirs of Will Carruthers, who spent a few years playing bass and taking drugs with Spacemen 3. The book is a must if you're a fan of the band or of the ones that came afterwards- Sonic Boom/Spectrum and Spiritualized.
Will is a gifted writer and there are two chapters that deal with the Spacemen 3 live experience in lurid detail. The first is a performance at an arts centre in Hammersmith billed as An Evening Of Contemporary Sitar. Will hits the one note groove early on and holds onto it for forty minutes or so while Pete and Jason do their thing. As the feedback rings out to close the set he leans to turn off his amp only to find he is so out of it he hadn't turned it on when starting. The set is recorded and released as one of the tracks on Dreamweapon. The cinemagoers and attendees of the gig are so horrified by the first set that Spacemen 3 are paid not to play their scheduled second set.
The second gig is a show in Chester, re-arranged to a health spa by the promoter, who also gives the group their first experience of E. A bunch of Ellesmere Port football fans turn up, not to beat the band up as they first think but to take drugs with Spacemen 3 and enjoy the music. The spa and it's facilities are thoroughly wrecked by the band and their fans. Will gives an honest, funny and at times bleak account of outsider life in a small town in the Midlands, of the impact of being open about drug-taking on the band, their families and the people they know. He describes the recording of Recurring, with the band working on Pete and Jason's songs separately, the subsequent break up of the band and the divergence of Sonic and Jason into their post-Spacemen activities. It's out in paperback and available for less than a tenner and well worth picking up.
Sonic Boom (Pete Kember) has had the lower profile career of the two main men but his varied back catalogue since Spacemen 3 is full of one and two chord gems. This one hits a blissed out organ tone early on and Pete's guitar ripples over the top of some celestial backing vocals.
True Love Will Find You In The End
Jason has gone on to Spiritualized, a group that have recorded some of the most brilliant music of the last two decades. They can be prone to repeating themselves, but I've come to realise it's a act of refinement rather than just repetition. There's a new album out later this year and the lead song, I'm Your Man, is rather gorgeous.