Spacemen 3

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Spacemen 3
Spacemen 3.jpg
Background information
Origin Rugby, Warwickshire, England
Genres Alternative rock, neo-psychedelia
Years active 1982–91
Labels Glass, Fire, Dedicated, Bomp!
Past members Peter Kember
Jason Pierce
Tim Morris
Pete Bain
Natty Brooker
Stewart 'Rosco' Roswell
Will Carruthers
Jonny Mattock
Mark Refoy
Kate Radley

Spacemen 3 were an English alternative rock band, formed in 1982 in Rugby, Warwickshire by Peter Kember and Jason Pierce. Their music was "colourfully mind-altering, but not in the sense of the acid rock of the 1960s; instead, the band developed its own minimalistic psychedelia" (Stephen Erlewine, AllMusic).[1] Spacemen 3 came to prominence on the independent music scene around 1989, gaining a cult following.[1] However, they disbanded shortly afterwards, releasing their final studio album post-split in 1991 after an acrimonious parting of ways. They gained a reputation as a ‘drug band’ due to the members’ drug taking habits and the candid interviews and outspoken views of Kember about recreational drug use.[2] Kember and Pierce were the only members common to all line-ups of the band. Both founding members have enjoyed considerable success with their subsequent projects, Sonic Boom/Spectrum and Spiritualized.

History[edit]

Formation and early years (1982-85)[edit]

The creative and song-writing force throughout Spacemen 3's history were Peter Kember and Jason Pierce. They met at the (now defunct) Rugby Art College on Lower Hillmorton Road, Rugby, Warwickshire in Autumn 1982, both aged 16, and became close friends. Pierce was in a band called Indian Scalp, but he left them near the end of 1982 in order to collaborate with Kember. The two guitarists recruited drummer Tim Morris, who played with a couple of other bands and had a rehearsal space at his parental home which they used. Shortly afterwards they were joined by an acquaintance, Pete Bain, on bass. Morris and Bain had previously played together in a band called Noise on Independent Street. Pierce handled lead vocal duties. Now a 4-piece, the band originally adopted the name The Spacemen. Their first live performances occurred around winter 1982/83, playing at a party and then at a couple of gigs they managed to get at a local bar; at the latter their set included a 20-minute version of the one-chord song "O.D. Catastrophe".[3][4][5][6]

In Autumn 1983, Pierce, having finished his course at Rugby Art College, started attending an art school in Maidstone, Kent. This prompted Bain and Morris to leave and join a new local band, The Push, being formed by Gavin Wissen. Kember and Pierce recruited a replacement drummer, Nicholas "Natty" Brooker. They continued without a bassist and Pierce would regularly return to Rugby for rehearsals. In early 1984, they only performed at a few local, low key venues. Still a trio, they changed their name to Spacemen 3.[7][3][5][6] Kember explained:

The "3" came about completely by mistake. We did a poster which was just for The Spacemen, which we were for a while. But it was "The" Spacemen and I hated that, it sounded like a 50s rock 'n' roll group – that's all very well, but we didn't want to be imagined as…one of those surf bands. So we stuck the 3 on afterwards – that came about from a poster we did which had "Are Your Dreams At Night 3 Sizes Too Big?" with a very big 3 on it and it really worked as a logo, it just fell into place. It's really for the third eye.[3]

Despite having played fewer than ten gigs, Spacemen 3 decided to produce a demo tape. In 1984 they made their first studio recordings at the home studio of Dave Sheriff in Rugby. This material - which included early iterations of the songs "Walkin’ with Jesus", "Come Down Easy" and "Thing'll Never be the Same" – was used for a short demo tape entitled For All The Fucked Up Children Of The World We Give You Spacemen 3. They got a few hundred cassette copies made and produced their own artwork and booklet to accompany it, selling the tapes for £1 at a local record shop.[5] Spacemen 3’s music at this stage had a loose, swampy Blues feel; some songs included harmonica and slide guitar, and their style sounded akin to The Cramps.[8] These early demo recordings, which Kember later recalled as being "really dreadful",[3] would later be released unofficially in 1995 on the Sympathy for the Record Industry label, thus providing an insight into the band’s embryonic sound.[3][6][9]

Around 1984 and 1985, Spacemen 3 were doing gigs every two or three months on the local Rugby/Northampton/Coventry circuit, and had a regular spot at The Black Lion public house in Northampton.[10] Their gigs had an ‘anti performance’ element: Kember and Pierce would play their guitars sitting down and would barely acknowledge the audience. They would illuminate the stage with some cheap, old optokinetic disco light-show equipment which they had acquired, providing a psychedelic backdrop.[1][11][3][5][6] Kember:

We went out of our way to control our audience. We purposely, really wilfully made sure that we disenfranchised anyone who might've just stumbled upon us. We wanted to make sure, absolutely, that all those people who were there were actually there because they were getting it.[12]

By summer 1985, Spacemen 3 were headlining at The Black Lion and becoming one of the biggest local bands. Around this time they started to co-host a weekly club night together with another local band, Gavin Wissen's 'The Cogs of Tyme'. 'The Reverberation Club’, as it was called, was held at The Blitz public house in Rugby on Thursdays. "50s, 60s and 70s punk" records were played and it soon provided a live venue for Spacemen 3 and various other local bands.[13][3][5][6][14] At one of their gigs at The Black Lion in 1985, they came to the attention of Pat Fish, the leader of the recording band The Jazz Butcher; he felt Spacemen 3 were "extraordinary" and "like nothing else".[15][5][6]

Sound of Confusion era (1986)[edit]

'Northampton Demos'[edit]

In November 1985, Spacemen 3 played a gig at a leisure centre in Coventry to an audience of fewer than ten people.[16] Nevertheless, encouraged by the support of Pat Fish, they determined that they ought to record a new demo tape.[17] By this time they had reconfigured and honed their musical style, and their repertoire consisted of newer songs and re-worked older ones. "The band’s sound had crystallised into the intense, hypnotic, overloaded psychedelia which characterised their early [record] output, and which would serve as a template for their live act throughout their existence" (Ian Edmond, Record Collector).[5][6][6]

At Pierce's instigation, Pete Bain rejoined the band on bass in order to fill out their sound. Despite being a 4-piece again, they would retain the name 'Spacemen 3'.[18] Kember and Pierce opted to upgrade their guitar equipment ahead of recording the new demos. Kember purchased a Burns Jazz electric guitar and 1960s Vox Conqueror amplifier; whilst Pierce bought a Fender Telecaster and a 1970s HH amplifier. Both of their new amplifiers included distortion/fuzz and tremolo; these two effects were key components of Spacemen 3's signature sound.[19][5][6]

In January 1986, Spacemen 3 attended the home studio of Carlo Marocco at Piddington, outside Northampton, to record their new demo tape. They spent three-and-a-half days at the 16-track studio. Recording live as a group, with minimal overdubs, they managed to get demos for approximately seven songs. Kember and Pierce handled the production.[20][5][6][21] These "fine set of performances" (Ned Raggett, AllMusic)[22] would later be unofficially released as the vinyl album Taking Drugs to Make Music to Take Drugs To on the Father Yod label in 1990 (albeit described incorrectly as “rehearsals in Rugby”).[5][6]

Spacemen 3 managed to obtain a record deal shortly after producing their new demos. Pat Fish had given a copy of the demo tape to Dave Barker, the owner of the independent record label Glass Records, to whom Fish’s band The Jazz Butcher were signed. Spacemen 3 signed a three-year, two-album recording contract with Glass Records in early 1986.[23][3][5][6][24]

Debut album[edit]

Spacemen 3 were sent to record their first album, Sound of Confusion, at the studios of Bob Lamb in the King’s Heath area of Birmingham. By this time, they had already started to write some ‘softer’ songs, but they decided that the album should consist entirely of ‘heavier’, older material. With a recording budget of less than £1,000, they completed the album in five days, with the last two days dedicated to mixing. Attempts at recording the title song "Walkin’ with Jesus (Sound of Confusion)" were unsuccessful and abandoned.[25][6][26]

It was originally intended that Pat Fish would produce the album, but due to his touring commitments with his band, The Jazz Butcher, it was instead produced by Bob Lamb.[27] However, Lamb refused to allow Kember or Pierce near the production desk. Kember would later reveal, "He [Lamb] had no affinity with our type of music at all and was quite domineering". Both Kember and Pierce were unhappy with the production on the album, feeling it suffered from Lamb’s unsympathetic production; they later said they much preferred their versions on the Northampton demo tape.[28][6][26]

The seven-track Sound of Confusion album had a heavy psychedelic style with a strong Stooges influence. It was "a full on, fuzzed up drone of relentless guitar pounding" (Ian Edmond, Record Collector),[6] with a "rough garage energy " and "minimal, bluntly entrancing riffs" (Ned Raggett, Allmusic).[29] A NME review of the 1990 re-release recalled of the album: "It's a lo-fi, mostly low-key affair, the sound of the band finding their feet... It doesn't quite attain the critical mass to transcend its basis in the most rudimentary garage punk of the Sixties... Side Two is pretty much one long tribute to The Stooges... Sound of Confusion probably felt like a revelation, to the few who heard it at the time."[30]

Sound of Confusion was released in July 1986. The cover artwork included shots of the band illuminated by their light-show equipment. The album was not received well, making little impression. Publicity for the album suffered from lack of funding by Glass Records.[31][6]

During 1986, Spacemen 3 made live performances every few weeks. These continued to occur at local venues, with the exception of gigs in Chesterfield, Birmingham and, in August, their first appearance in London. The latter gig saw them receive their first reviews in both NME and Sounds.[32]

Spacemen 3 are practitioners in the fine art of repetition; instinctively drawing on the lessons of their forefathers and adding an atmosphere, a mood and a sonorous backbeat of their own... they take hold of a chord and work every last permutation out of it before calmly working through to the next.

NME: concert review, The Clarendon, Hammersmith, London, August 1986.[33]

To follow up their album, Spacemen 3 made their first single: "Walkin' with Jesus". This was recorded at Carlo Marocco's studio outside Northampton. For the title track they re-mixed the version they had previously recorded their for their demo tape. For the B-side, they recorded "Feel So Good", a newer composition, and re-recorded a 17-minute "Rollercoaster" (a cover of the 13th Floor Elevators). This single was the first Spacemen 3 record that Peter Kember and Jason Pierce produced; the duo handled all future production. The "Walkin' with Jesus" single was released in November 1986. It received decent reviews from NME and Sounds, and peaked at No. 46 in Sounds' indie chart.[34][6]

It was in 1986 that guitarist Peter Kember started to use his long-term alias 'Sonic Boom'. He had earlier employed the aliases 'Mainliner' and 'Peter Gunn'. Bassist Pete Bain also adopted his alias: 'Bassman' or 'Pete Bassman'.[35]

Towards the end of 1986 the behaviour of Spacemen 3's drummer, Natty Brooker, became increasingly eccentric and bizarre. His refusal to wear shoes, even when playing the bass drum, led to arguments and Brooker left the band. Stewart 'Rosco' Roswell, a housemate of Pierce's and Brooker's, was recruited as the latter's replacement. Although Roswell was originally only a temporary appointment and was not a recognised drummer at the outset, he remained in the band for over a year.[36][6]

The Perfect Prescription era (1987-88)[edit]

1987[edit]

In January 1987, Spacemen 3 commenced work on their second album, The Perfect Prescription. This was recorded at Paul Atkins’ VHF Studios, near Rugby. VHF had been recommended to the band by in-house sound engineer Graham Walker with whom they had worked previously when recording their first demo tape. The first set of demo recordings they made at VHF Studios relating to the new album were dubbed the ‘Out Of It Sessions’. Procurable only as bootleg, this work shows the transition in Spacemen 3’s musical style that was occurring around winter 1986/87.[37][6]

VHF Studios’ 8-track facilities needed updating though, and a deal was agreed that Spacemen 3 would receive a large amount of studio time in return for financing new 16-track recording and mixing equipment at VHF, at a cost of around £3,000. Spacemen 3 would spend over eight months at VHF Studios. Importantly, this allowed them generous time to experiment, and develop and refine their sound and material in a studio setting, assisted by Graham Walker.[38][6] In the album liner notes of Forged Prescriptions, a re-release of The Perfect Prescription, Kember recalled:

This is Spacemen 3 in bloom, midsummer before the seeds were scattered, right at the point where we worked together well and in compliment to each other. I still have strong memories of days where we would crash out listening to nothing but one song over and over... Mattresses were installed into the studio’s lounging space and our kaleidoscopic light show stayed on throughout the session... We spent several months...recording and re-working these pieces until we felt they were ready, slowly learning more about the studio and its techniques as we went.[39]

Whilst working on the album, "Transparent Radiation"- a cover of a song by the Red Crayola- was recorded, and released as a single in July 1987. "Transparent Radiation" was awarded Single of the Week by Sounds.[40] The B-side included "Ecstasy Symphony", a new experimental piece using an organ drone multi-tracked and fed through various effects (this would presage some of Peter Kember's later work and his interest in analogue synthesisers).[41][3][42]

The Perfect Prescription was completed in September 1987 and released the same month. Kember described it as "kind of a concept album, it’s about our better and worse experiences with drugs".[3] Produced by Kember and Pierce, they agreed to restrict the amount of guitar overdubs in order that it would be easier to replicate the songs live.[39] The Perfect Prescription received little critical attention in the UK, being better received in the United States. However, it represented Kember and Pierce’s "collaborative zenith" (Erik Morse),[43] and the album "is practically a best-of in all but name" (Ned Raggett, AllMusic).[42]

The Perfect Prescription "marked a serious artistic development, drawing deeper from gospel, ambient, and spiritual music, granting a serenity and depth to their spaced-out garage psychedelia" (Stephen Erlewine, AllMusic).[1] Although retaining the same minimalist approach, Spacemen 3's sound was now sparser and mellower. Extra textures and complexity were evident, provided by overdubs and additional instrumentation, with the organ sound of the VHF Studio’s Farfisa being a significant introduction. The instrumental palette was also extended with acoustic guitar, violin (from local musician Owen John), saxophone and trumpet (from members of The Jazz Butcher) being used on some songs. Much of the album did not feature drums. This was the first album on which Kember contributed lead vocals.[44][6]

Spacemen 3 performed live on about twenty occasions during 1987. This included several gigs in the Netherlands and Belgium in March, and a few dates in London, Sheffield and Leeds later on in the year.[45]

1988[edit]

In January–February 1988, Spacemen 3 undertook a six-week tour of continental Europe, encompassing Germany, Austria, Switzerland, the Netherlands and Belgium. Comprising nearly thirty gigs, the tour saw tensions and discontent arise between band members. After they returned to England, drummer Stewart Roswell quit.[46][45]

Relations between Peter Kember and Jason Pierce were beginning to suffer as a result of Pierce's romantic relationship with Kate Radley, whom he had been dating since Summer 1987. Kember resented the amount of time his song-writing partner was spending with her at his expense.[47]

A UK tour in Spring 1988 used stand-in drummers to fulfil live dates. Roswell's departure was followed by that of Pete Bain at the end of May. A replacement bassist was immediately appointed: Will Carruthers, a friend of the band who had recently been playing in another Rugby group, 'The Cogs of Tyme'.[48]

In July 1988, Spacemen 3's third single, "Take Me to the Other Side", was released, from The Perfect Prescription album. The single received good press and was NME's Single of the Week.[49]

Spacemen 3 were keen to be freed from their recording contract with Glass Records who were in financial difficulty and owed them royalties. Although they had produced the requisite two albums, there was still a year remaining on their contract. A deal was reached whereby, in return for providing a live album, their contractual obligations would be deemed to have been met and they would be allowed to leave. Accordingly, Performance was released in July 1988. This seven-track live album was a recording of their gig at the Melkweg venue, Amsterdam, on 6 February 1988. (Three previously unreleased songs were excluded.)[50]

Following their departure from Glass Records, Spacemen 3 were without a record deal. The only offer they received was from the prominent independent label Creation Records. However, Creation owner Alan McGee - a keen fan of the band - was only able to offer a one album deal and with no advance. This was not pursued.[51][52]

It was at this juncture that Kember and Pierce chose to enter into a contractual relationship with Gerald Palmer, a Northamptonshire businessman and concert promoter who had already been functioning recently as Spacemen 3's de facto manager. This tripartite business partnership had the following terms: Palmer would own the master tapes of all future recordings, the rights of which would be licensed to record labels for release; touring and recording costs etc. would be financed by Palmer, who would give Kember and Pierce an advance of £1,000 each; and, in return, all profits would be split 50:50: 50% for Palmer, and 50% for Kember and Pierce and other band members. Significantly, this contract was only with Kember and Pierce, meaning Spacemen 3 as a legal and financial entity would, in essence, constitute only the two of them together with Palmer. In addition, Palmer became Spacemen 3's manager.[53]

Playing with Fire era (1988-89)[edit]

1988[edit]

Peter Kember had purchased an unusual electric guitar near the end of 1987: a Vox Starstream made in the late 1960s. This guitar incorporated several in-built effects, including fuzz and Repeat Percussion (or Repeater).[54] The latter was a unique tremolo type, almost delay-like effect, and Kember would use it heavily on Spacemen 3's future output. One of his first compositions featuring this effect was the eponymous "Repeater" (a.k.a. "How Does It Feel?"). "Repeater" and two other new songs also composed by Kember - "Revolution" and "Suicide" - were debuted on the European tour in early 1988. All three songs would feature on the next studio album, Playing With Fire. Around Spring 1988 Kember was using his 4-track recorder to develop his ideas and several songs for the next album.[55]

Recording for Spacemen 3's third studio album, Playing With Fire, started in June 1988. Their new manager, Gerald Palmer, booked ARK Studios in Cornwall for a month. These sessions were not particularly productive however and they left a week early. ARK Studios only had 8-track facilities and some of Spacemen 3's recordings were accidentally wiped by the in-house sound engineer. Rough demos were managed for Kember's "Honey" and Pierce's "Lord Can You Hear Me?". They still did not have a drummer at this point.[56]

New bassist Will Carruthers made his first live appearance with Spacemen 3 at London Dingwalls on 20 June, where they were supported by My Bloody Valentine. It was after this gig that a confrontation occurred between Kember and Pierce and his girlfriend, Kate Radley. Tired of Radley's persistent presence around the band of late - at recording sessions, touring and backstage at gigs - Kember enforced an agreed 'no girls on the bus' policy and barred Radley from boarding the tour van, leaving Pierce and Radley to find their own way home.[57][45]

Recording for Playing With Fire recommenced; they returned to VHF Studios, outside Rugby, where they had recorded The Perfect Prescription. By now, song-writing duo Peter Kember and Jason Pierce were formulating new song ideas entirely separate from one another. Both their personal and working relationships were beginning to disintegrate. Pierce's romance with Kate Radley was impacting on his time with the band and his contributions. Of the eventual tracks on Playing With Fire, six were Kember's compositions, whilst only three were Pierce's. The recording process for this album was different: individual parts were recorded separately, which meant band members did not have to be present at the same time.[58]

On 19 August, Spacemen 3 gave an unusual live performance. Palmer had booked them to provide 'An Evening of Contemporary Sitar Music' in the foyer of the Waterman's Art Centre in Brentford, London, to act as a prelude to a screening of the film Wings of Desire. Kember, Pierce and Carruthers were joined by Rugby musician Steve Evans. They played a 45-minute jam, based around a single chord strummed by Evans, featuring riffs from some of the songs from their as yet unreleased Playing With Fire material. This performance was recorded and was later released, in 1990, as Dreamweapon.[59][6][45]

After initial plans to use drummers from The Weather Prophets and Thee Hypnotics for the recording of Playing With Fire,[3] a permanent drummer was recruited in late August: Jonny Mattock. Despite this he does not appear on Playing With Fire - a drum machine was used on all of the songs and no drummer is credited on the album. Mattock had been playing in a Northampton band called 'The Apple Creation’. He was recommended by future Spacemen 3 guitarist Mark Refoy. Mattock made his live debut on 24 August at a gig at the Riverside in Hammersmith, London, and contributed to the new album. The new rhythm section of Carruthers and Mattock would remain constant for the rest of Spacemen 3's existence.[60]

In Summer 1988, Spacemen 3 managed to obtain a two-album deal with independent label, Fire Records.[61] Kember and Pierce argued over the choice of song for their first single with Fire. Agreement was eventually reached on "Revolution". At a gig 15 November 1988, advertised as 'Sonic Boom and Jason of Spacemen 3', only Kember and Carruthers performed; Pierce spent the whole time at the bar with Kate Radley, whom he was now living with.[62][45]

The single "Revolution" was released in November 1988. The title track was a powerful, anthemic "mind-melting crunch" (Ned Raggett, AllMusic). "'Revolution' was the chest-tearing noise that propelled them from complete obscurity to the cultosphere of young indie rock godz" (Jack Barron, NME, 29/7/1989). The single peaked in the top 10 of the indie charts, representing Spacemen 3's highest chart position yet, and was voted by radio listeners for inclusion in John Peel's end-of-year Festive Fifty. Awarded Single of the Week by the Melody Maker, it was extremely well received by the music press whose general attitude towards the band changed at this juncture:[63]

["Revolution"] is one of the best records released by an independent band this year. Adjectives that come to mind are unrelenting, punishing, psychedelic. The razor-blade riffs lead you into a sonic underworld of alienation, desolation and raw power... [This] band are one of the most interesting around.

— Ron Rom, NME.[64]

Spacemen 3 "became the indie phenomenon of late 1988" (Erik Morse).[65] They were receiving more media attention and got their first cover story, in Melody Maker's 19 November 1988 issue.[66] Peter Kember effectively become the sole spokesperson for Spacemen 3, giving numerous interviews. These provided for controversy and journalistic focus due to Kember's candid openness about his drug taking habits and his forthright views on recreational drug use. On one occasion, Kember invited his interviewer to accompany him as he collected his methadone prescription.[66] Kember was regularly described in the music papers, incorrectly, as the "leader" of Spacemen 3, although he had not helped in this portrayal: in the Melody Maker article referred to above, Kember had stated: "This band is my design and the rest are totally into it."[66][67][3][68][69][69][70][71][72][73][74][75]

Completion of the Playing With Fire album was delayed due to recording delays and a dispute about song-writing credits. At a meeting at Fire Records' London office, Peter Kember proffered his name for single writing credits for six of the album's nine songs; however, Jason Pierce countered, demanding joint credits for three of those songs due to the guitar parts he had contributed to them. An argument led to Kember attempting to hit Pierce and a scuffle ensued. An impasse resulted; Pierce threatened to pull his songs from the album if his demands were not met. Manager Gerald Palmer mediated to resolve the feud. At a very tense four-hour meeting, of fierce arguments and recriminations between Kember and Pierce, Palmer finally managed to obtain a compromise with Kember conceding split song-writing credits for 'Suicide'.[76]

Sonic Boom solo project[edit]

In late 1988, Peter Kember was already working on new material for post Playing With Fire. His productivity meant he had a surfeit of songs, and he advised his bandmates of his intention to produce a solo album. New indie label Silvertone Records offered Kember a generous one-off album deal which he accepted. Kember finished recordings for his debut solo album and single in March 1989, prior to the commencement of Spacemen 3's European tour. Other members of Spacemen 3, including Pierce, as well as other musicians, had contributed sessions. Release of Kember's solo album (Spectrum) and single - under the moniker of Kember's alias, Sonic Boom - were put on hold in order to avoid a marketing clash with Playing With Fire.[77][78]

1989: Playing With Fire album release and tour[edit]

Spacemen 3's eagerly awaited Playing With Fire album was finally released on 27 February 1989.[79] The album's front cover sleeve bore the slogan, "Purity, Love, Suicide, Accuracy, Revolution". Playing With Fire was Spacemen 3's first record to chart and one of the breakthrough indie albums of the year. Within weeks of its release, it was No. 1 in both the NME and Melody Maker indie charts. It was "their most critically and commercially successful album" (Stephen Erlewine, AllMusic).[80] Reviews were extremely positive and the album garnered wide critical acclaim:[81]

It is a curious, brave, intriguing record, quite unlike anything that you’re likely to hear elsewhere. And it’s no mere novelty; more, I reckon, a minor triumph. 8½/10.

Playing With Fire album review - Danny Kelly, NME[82]

An early contender for album of the year.

Playing With Fire album review - Paul Oldfield, Melody Maker[83]

Playing With Fire, an extraordinary record, is the last thing we expected. Spacemen 3 have taken a courageous gamble in giving us this hymnal hologram instead of rocking out. They’ve done guitars before. Their earlier records are great. But this one is a vortex of vacuums, a mirage, a hallucinatory hypnosis, and as such is wilfully indulgent, defiantly grandiose... [It is] a major coup.

Playing With Fire album review - Chris Roberts, Melody Maker[83]

Spacemen 3 have kicked out the aimless jams, opted for colour, space and sensuality, and come up with the last word in English psychedelia.

Playing With Fire album review - David Cavanagh, Sounds[84]

With the exception of "Revolution" and "Suicide", the other songs on the album were mellower and softer than Spacemen 3's previous work, continuing the development of their previous album. "Playing With Fire...shows another side of Spacemen 3 - a slower, melancholic, blissfully refined pop band" (Ron Rom, Sounds).[71] The band "created glazed, liquid songs with subtle arrangements and sheer reveling in aural joys...[Playing With Fire is] a feast of sound" (Ned Raggett, AllMusic).[85]

The Playing With Fire album was distributed in the United States on Bomp! Records, the label of Greg Shaw, who paid $10,000 for the rights.[86] Spacemen 3 were popular in America and a prospective US tour was planned to start in September 1989. Greg Shaw organised the tour and dates were finalised in August.[87]

In February–March 1989, Spacemen 3 undertook a four-week UK tour comprising 21 dates, coinciding with the new album's release.[88][45] Comments from gig reviews included:

Each ditty drives along a tidal wave of filthy sound, an effortless drone featuring the crispest slices of guitar sound since the Stooges…Spacemen 3 are better at this carbon monoxide garage trip than a thousand overrated US geetah schmucks. Weird, wonderful, frightening and out of their sheds.

John Robb, Sounds[84]

Tonight the Spacies play an absolute stormer...firmly establishing the Spacemen as one of the great rock experiences currently available to us. ...their full array of throbbings, pulsings, yowlings, reverbs, triple echoes and sheer whiplash volume.

— Danny Kelly, NME[89]

At the start of the UK tour Kate Radley was again travelling in the tour van, thus causing tension between Kember and Pierce. After a several gigs, Kember told Pierce this could not continue. For the rest of the UK dates Pierce and Radley, now living in a new flat together, made their own way to gigs.[90]

The UK tour was shortly followed by an extensive and gruelling four-week tour of continental Europe in April–May 1989. This incorporated 22 dates across the Netherlands, France, Belgium, Denmark, Sweden, Germany, Switzerland, Hungary, Austria and Italy. (Radley was not present on this tour.) Setlists remained more or less consistent around this period. For the purposes of live performances, Spacemen 3 played their more powerful or heavier - and therefore mostly older - songs, featuring little from Playing With Fire; although the odd softer song was played occasionally. Sets typically ended with the song "Suicide" which could last up to 45 minutes.[91][45]

Break-up, final album, and formation of Spiritualized (1989-91)[edit]

1989[edit]

At the beginning of 1989 Spacemen 3 had been one of the "hottest indie band in England" (Erik Morse)[86] and were gaining the attention of major US record labels. However, despite their success in winter 1988-89, their prospects were very different less than a year later. The personal and working relationship between Peter Kember and Jason Pierce, still the principal members of the band, would completely disintegrate, leading to Spacemen 3 to eventually disband.

Spacemen 3 used the short break between the UK and European tours in Spring 1989 as an opportunity to record a new single. Two songs were recorded, at VHF Studios: "Hypnotized", a new song by Pierce, who had recently acquired his own 4-track recorder; and "Just To See You Smile", by Kember. The songwriters spent a day's session on each other's song, although Kember's contribution to "Hypnotized" was not ultimately used. Kember accused Pierce of copying his sounds; he felt the flutter multi-tap reverb on "Hypnotized" was the same as he had employed on "Honey" and "Let Me Down Gently" on Playing With Fire.[92]

Whilst Spacemen 3 were on tour in Europe in April–May 1989, manager Gerald Palmer prepared the new single for release. Without consulting Kember or Pierce, Palmer mastered the tracks, had the sleeve artwork designed, and selected "Hypnotized" for the A-side. When Kember found out he was furious; however, Palmer refused to postpone the pressing of the single. A resulting feud permanently damaged Kember and Palmer's working relationship.[93]

When Spacemen 3 returned to England from their European tour at the end of May 1989, there was tension between Kember and Pierce. In June, Spacemen 3 played ten UK gigs. Initially, Pierce was making his own way to these dates, but when he instead used the tour van there was a bad atmosphere between Kember and Pierce.[94]

The single "Hypnotized" was released on 3 July 1989. It was their "most anticipated release yet" (Erik Morse) and immediately charted inside the top 10 of the NME and Melody Maker indie charts. It was Sounds Single of the Week. After two weeks, Hypnotized reached No. 1 on the Melody Maker indie chart, and No. 2 on the NME indie chart (second only to The Stone Roses' "She Bangs The Drums"). It was voted No. 33 in John Peel's end of year Festive Fifty.[95]

A third guitarist, Mark Refoy, had been recruited at the beginning of Summer 1989, to play on later live dates and work on the next album. Refoy had been a friend and keen fan of the band for several years, and had contributed to Kember's solo album. He was guitarist in the indie band 'The Tell-tale Hearts' who had disbanded in 1987. Refoy made his first live performance with Spacemen 3 at their Rugby 'homecoming' gig on 20 July.[96]

On 23 July, Spacemen 3 played their biggest headlining gig at The Town & Country Club, London, a 2,000-capacity venue. On 22 August, they played a warm-up gig at Subterranea, London, for the Reading Festival, their first festival gig. Spacemen 3 played at the Reading Festival on 25 August 1989. This would transpire to be their last ever live performance.[97]

At the beginning of September 1989, Spacemen 3 were about to undertake a substantial tour of the United States - despite disagreement between Kember and Pierce as to whether Kate Radley could accompany them. The tour schedule had been finalised and they were due to be in America for the rest of the year, playing about 50 gigs.[98] The band had grievances with their manager Gerald Palmer, such as perceived lack of monies being received, and summoned him to a meeting at VHF Studios. The meeting, which was secretly recorded, involved intense arguments and accusations, and nothing was resolved.[99] In an interview in 1991, Kember described Palmer as "the most devious guy I’ve ever had the misfortune to meet".[100]

A few days later Kember and Pierce met Palmer again and sacked him. However, Palmer's partnership agreement with Kember and Pierce meant that he was contractually still effectively one third of Spacemen 3. Palmer had already incurred at least £10,000 in recording expenses for the next album. In response to his dismissal as manager, he decided to withdraw his commitment to finance the US tour. The imminent US tour was therefore cancelled at the eleventh hour. Tour posters had already been printed. The considerable time and money Bomp! Records' Greg Shaw had expended in preparing the tour was wasted.[101]

The official explanation at the time - and that reported in the UK music press - was that the US tour had been cancelled because they had not been able to obtain work permits due to the drug convictions of band members. However, it has since transpired that this was not the case: work permits had been obtained for the band, albeit with difficulty.[102]

Recording for Spacemen 3's fourth studio album, Recurring, had commenced at the beginning of August 1989, again at VHF Studios. According to Mark Refoy, Kember and Pierce rarely appeared at the studio at the same time and there was "quite a tense atmosphere" between them. When work recommenced after the Reading Festival, Kember and Pierce were recording separately from one another. Pierce contributed guitar parts to Kember's songs, but Kember did not play on any of Pierce's songs. When Kember heard Pierce's demos, he again renewed his claim that he was copying his sounds and effects, and accused Pierce's "Billy Whizz" of being a composition he had written several years prior. The two were now estranged and working completely separately. They agreed to have separate sides of the album for their own songs, all of which they had written and composed individually. The other three band members - Carruthers, Mattock and Refoy - were called in to contribute sessions when required.[103]

In late September, Kember made a solo performance at a gig supporting The Telescopes. Kember and Pierce agreed to be in the studio together to record a cover of Mudhoney's "When Tomorrow Hits", for a prospective split single with Mudhoney. When Kember heard Mudhoney's version of "Revolution", with altered lyrics, he was offended and this collaborative Sub Pop release was called off however. The recording of "When Tomorrow Hits" was the last occasion Kember and Pierce would work together. A disconsolate Will Carruthers left the band at this point, fed up with the discord and lack of remuneration.[104]

Recording for the album proceeded slowly and was still ongoing in Autumn 1989, by which point Kember had used two to three times the amount of studio time as Pierce. According to band members, Kember's behaviour was becoming increasingly obsessive and erratic. He was regularly missing booked studio slots.[105] In late October, Kember's debut solo single, "Angel" was released. It received a lukewarm reception.[106]

On 14 November 1989, the four remaining Spacemen 3 band members met to discuss finishing the album and arranging future live dates. The meeting was unproductive. Reportedly, Kember and Pierce both said little. Jonny Mattock told Kember he was difficult to work with. Mattock and Mark Refoy, both peeved, left the meeting prematurely and effectively resigned from Spacemen 3. In December, Gerald Palmer attempted to mediate between his business partners, Kember and Pierce, meeting them individually because Pierce reportedly refused contact with Kember.[107]

Dedicated record deal[edit]

During 1989, Gerald Palmer had been courting interest and offers from US major record labels. Palmer had been postponing a decision hoping the US tour would lever improved offers. Negotiations with Dedicated, a satellite label of BMG, had been ongoing for several months. The poor intra-band relations had remained secret for the sake of outward appearance. By October 1989, the latest offer from Dedicated was a five-album, multi-million dollar deal, with a £60,000 advance. Palmer had expended £15,000 on legal fees, and because he had managed to negotiate out the standard Leaving Member Clause, Kember and Pierce were in a 'win-win situation'.[108]

In December, the three met to arrange signing the Dedicated record deal. Pierce insisted that Kember sign an agreement stating that the two of them had equal rights to Spacemen 3, to mutually protect them by preventing either party potentially claiming ownership of the Spacemen 3 name should the other quit. Coerced by the attraction of his portion of the Dedicated advance, Kember signed it. Mattock claims Kember attacked Pierce in the street the next morning. At the beginning of 1990, Kember and Pierce attended the London offices of Dedicated separately to sign the record contract. A few days later, at a dinner (at the Paper Tiger Chinese restaurant in Lutterworth, Leicestershire) with Dedicated executives, Kember and Pierce were cordial with the other guests but didn't talk with one another. The pretence was kept up until the end; Palmer did not inform Dedicated about the band breaking up until March.[109]

1990[edit]

In late 1989, Jason Pierce, dissatisfied with his mixes at VHF Studios, took his recordings for the Recurring album to Battery Studios, London. Assisted by engineer/producer Anjali Dutt, Pierce completed final remixes of his songs in January 1990. However, Peter Kember's side of the album was far from ready, and he resorted to calling on the help of Richard Formby, a producer. According to Formby, when he arrived, Kember's recording was only half done; some songs were incomplete, and two had to be re-recorded from scratch.[110]

In January 1990, Kember's side project and debut solo album, Spectrum (Sonic Boom), was released. Recorded nearly a year previously, Kember had used the project as a vehicle for a group of melancholic themed songs, having decided to save his more upbeat work for Spacemen 3 and Recurring.[75][111] The Spectrum album was advertised as being by the "founder member/leader of Spacemen 3".[112]

Also in January, Pierce was developing ideas for forming a new band or side project of his own. He invited Spacemen 3 compatriots, Refoy, Carruthers and Mattock, to jam and rehearse with him at a small church hall and his flat. Initially it was informal, but this was the origin of Pierce's Spacemen 3 'splinter' band, Spiritualized, comprising all the same members as Spacemen 3 except for Kember. In February 1990, this new grouping recorded "Anyway That You Want Me". This was recorded at VHF Studios; the purpose of these sessions was kept secret from Kember who was still working there.[113] Speaking in 1991, Pierce explained the purpose of starting Spiritualized:

It was so as though I could get back on the road again. Pete [Kember] was still doing tracks for Recurring, and it was a long way off Spacemen 3 touring again, so I wanted to do another tour. So, initially, it [Spiritualized] was set up as a means to get back on the road.[114]

Kember continued on completing his Recurring material. His indecision and constant remixing was prolonging the recording of the album. Gerald Palmer was still funding the studio time, and warned Kember to finish. Eventually, intolerant of any more delays, Palmer attended VHF Studios. He seized Kember's tapes, carrying out a previous threat, and chose the final mixes for release. There were reportedly dozens of different mixes for each song.[115]

In June 1990, Spiritualized released their debut single, "Anyway That You Want Me". This was a cover of a song by The Troggs which Spacemen 3 had demoed in 1988 during their Playing With Fire sessions. The single's cover sleeve, which had no text on it, controversially bore a sticker saying "Spacemen 3". Furthermore, adverts for the single featured the Spacemen 3 logo.[116][6]

The release of the Spiritualized single was the first Kember had definite knowledge of the band's existence. The circumstances surrounding the single and its marketing prompted Kember to announce that he was leaving Spacemen 3 and that the band no longer existed.[100] [117][6] Kember, interviewed in 1991:

I was pretty peeved because the whole thing was done in total secrecy, and everyone involved was told not to tell me about it, which is quite different from my solo project which was all done totally in the open.[100]

In the latter half of 1990, Pierce's new band, Spiritualized, toured around the UK. They performed songs from the then as yet unreleased Recurring, as well as new material. Spiritualized signed a record deal with Dedicated and recorded their debut album in Winter 1990/91.[118]

1991[edit]

In January 1991, the Spacemen 3 single "Big City"/"Drive" was released. Both songs from the double A-side single were from the soon-to-released Recurring. Kember and Pierce had been due to be at the studio for the mastering of the single, however Pierce did not attend. At that point the two had hardly spoken face to face in over six months. Kember decided to fade out several minutes of Pierce's song from the single, "Drive".[119]

The last Spacemen 3 album, Recurring, was finally released in February 1991. Although the band had not officially disbanded, for all intents and purposes it was a posthumous release. The two sides of the album - one by Kember (A-side), the other by Pierce (B-side) - reflected the split between the band's two main personnel.[120]

The songs on Recurring had been composed in 1989. It expanded on the sounds of the previous, Playing With Fire album. Musically, it was richer and lusher, but Kember and Pierce's respective halves of Recurring were distinctly different and presaged the solo material which they were already working on by the time of the album's release. Kember's side demonstrated his pop and ambient sensibilities; Pierce's side indicated his sympathy for gospel and blues music and his interest in lush production.[121]

Pierce's sound is more lyrical and dramatic, building songs into climaxes. Sonic Boom's lengthy textured pieces move horizontally - a rhythmic, hypnotic pulse from start to finish.

— Steve Malins, Recurring review, Vox.[2]

What we have here, then, are two very fine solo mini-LPs bolted together under the same moniker. ....a swirling stasis of sound that overcomes you like fumes.... Jason’s Spaceman sound is more desolate and grandiose than Sonic’s.

Recurring album review - David Stubbs, Melody Maker.[122]

Recurring is a fine album. Laid back to the point of bed sores, its hushed vocals, pulsing backbeats and warm walls of sound infuse an introverted beauty with a keen r’n’r understanding. The two sides run on a similar vibe, although Jason’s is a tad more conventional, riding on vocal atmospherics and a dreamtime feel, while Sonic’s is sparser, pulling on a more disparate source of influences as shown on "Big City", the LPs killer cut as well as the current fab single.

Recurring album review - John Robb, Sounds.[123]

In 1991 Kember and Pierce were pursuing their musical careers with their own bands, Spectrum and Spiritualized respectively. The release of Recurring prompted renewed press speculation about the future of Spacemen 3. No official statement explained why, or confirmed whether, Spacemen 3 had broken up. The fall-out was covered in the music press:

One of the main reasons the band split was because I felt Jason was aping everything I was doing. Any direction I made towards something different, he would just follow. The other thing that riled me was when the manager we’d jointly sacked actually got back together with Jason.

— Peter Kember - interview - Vox, April 1991.[100]

I stopped going round to his [Pierce’s] house and he never came round to mine either. He was never really bothered with the business side.

— Peter Kember - interview, Sounds, 09/02/1991.[123]

It’s finished, you know, it’s totally finished. The album [Recurring] was recorded before the band split and we’ve agreed to differ and that’s it really, you know.

— Peter Kember - TV interview, c. Spring 1991[124]

I thought in some ways maybe it was better that the band split up, because I’m not sure it was going in any direction at that point

— Peter Kember - 2002.[125]

Half the reason why Spiritualized started was because Spacemen 3 was becoming a very safe live act – safe for myself, anyway. We were just playing the heavy, hard-core stuff like ‘Revolution’. There was no highest of highs, lowest of lows. I was fighting to get some quiet stuff into the set.

— Jason Pierce - Vox, April 1991.[100]

Pete always enjoyed doing the press, but I’m doing the interviews now as well because Pete can’t speak for the band anymore. But I don’t want to match him bitch for bitch, like trying to shout louder.

— Jason Pierce - Sounds, 09/02/1991.[123]

Both Pete and myself don’t take much musical advice. We’re pretty much set on the ideas in our heads. Some people can’t handle that. We used to let each other work on each other’s pieces, but later on we both knew what each other wanted. .. I just wanted to get back on the road again and I also had songs that were not really for the Recurring album. .. I mean, if you don’t get on too well there’s no point in doing the band. It would be like cheating to treat the Spacemen 3 as a marketable commodity. You could get passionate about the music but, if there’s a communication break down between the members, there’s no point in slogging through that. .. I don’t really see any problem anyway, if you buy Pete’s album and you buy my mine you’ve got a Spacemen 3 album anyhow, by combining the two, you know.

— Jason Pierce - Sounds, 09/02/1991.[123]

Pete’s very single-minded and that can cause problems. But the main problem with the Spacemen was the general lack of communication between all the interested parties.

— Dave Bedford (PR Officer, Fire Records) - Sounds, 09/02/1991.[123]

I don’t think anyone will be able to explain it properly. They [Kember and Pierce] were very close friends – they started the band together, but musically and socially they drifted apart. There was never a specific incident – like in a lot of talented bands – there’s just a lot of friction between them.

— Dave Bedford (PR Officer, Fire Records) - Vox, April 1991.[100]

Band members' activities post Spacemen 3[edit]

Most members of Spacemen 3 have continued to produce music and record either collaboratively or in solo projects. Peter Kember (alias 'Sonic Boom') has had a solo career releasing music under the monikers Spectrum and E.A.R.,[126][127][128] and has also done production work for MGMT,[129] Panda Bear,[130] Dean & Britta[131] and The Flowers of Hell.[132] Jason Pierce (alias 'J. Spaceman') remains the leader and creative force, and only constant member, of the alternative band Spiritualized who have achieved significant critical acclaim and commercial success.[133] Both Kember and Pierce continue to perform some Spacemen 3 songs live (e.g. "Transparent Radiation", "Revolution", "Suicide", "Set Me Free", "Che" and "Let Me Down Gently" [Kember]; and "Walkin' with Jesus", "Amen" and "Lord Can You Hear Me?" [Pierce]).

Will Carruthers, Jonny Mattock and Mark Refoy formed Spiritualized with Pierce in early 1990. Carruthers left the band after the first album in 1992; followed by Mattock and Refoy in 1994.[134] Refoy then fronted Slipstream who released two albums.[135] Refoy played guitar for the Pet Shop Boys on their live tour in 2007. Will Carruthers took a hiatus from the music industry after leaving Spiritualized; but subsequently has worked with Kember, recorded two solo albums as Freelovebabies,[136] and has most recently toured with The Brian Jonestown Massacre. Carruthers, Mattock and Refoy have also collaborated on projects together.[137]

After leaving Spacemen 3 in 1988, both Pete Bain and Stewart Roswell ('Rosco') joined the neo-psychedelic band Darkside who released several albums.[138][139] Following the end of Darkside, Bain formed 'Alphastone', and has assisted Kember on some of the latter's solo projects.[140] As of 2010 he provides vocals and guitar in 'The Urgz'. Stewart Roswell (alias Sterling Roswell) released a solo album, The Psychedelic Ubik, in 2004.[141]

In the early 1990s, early Spacemen 3 drummer Natty Brooker played bass under the alias 'Mr Ugly' in Garage rock band 'The Guaranteed Ugly', with Gavin Wissen. They released two albums.[142][143] Brooker provided cover artwork for Spacemen 3's Recurring album and early Spiritualized releases.[144][145]

Reunion prospects and relations between Kember and Pierce[edit]

In 2004 Peter Kember stated: "I saw Jason [Pierce] live in LA on the tour... I sent Jason a note - a peace offering with my new email, phone and address - but nothing so far. I would actually very much like to work with him again."[146] In an interview the following year, on the possibility of a reunion, Kember said: "Reunions suck on the whole. Reforming is different. I'd like to think that Jason [Pierce] might consider working on stuff in the future, but there are far from likely signs of that at present." [147]

In 2008, Jason Pierce revealed that an offer to reform for a performance at the Californian music festival Coachella has been refused. He said: "Why would I do that? I mean, I would have liked to go and watch the Battle of Waterloo when it happened but that doesn't mean I'm going to go and sit in a field somewhere and watch people act it out.".[148][149] In 2009, approaches were again made for a reunited Spacemen 3 to appear at a summer festival, at the All Tomorrow's Parties festival; however, Pierce quashed rumours saying he "wasn't interested" and added, "The split was so acrimonious and my view of him [Kember] hasn't changed. No, I've not mellowed about him."[150]

In an interview in June 2011, Kember revealed that Jason Pierce and himself had not had contact since 1990 or 1991. Kember stated, "Well, I've been in touch with him, but he's never gotten back in touch with me. I sent my best wishes and stuff, but nothing back. I have a feeling that isn't going to change, after all this time". He added that although he would be interested in a Spacemen 3 reunion in principle, he thought the realistic chances of it occurring were "zilch".[151]

A partial and unofficial 'reunion' of Spacemen 3 occurred on 15 July 2010 at a benefit gig dubbed 'A Reunion of Friends', organised for former Spacemen 3 drummer Natty Brooker (diagnosed with terminal cancer), at the Hoxton Bar and Grill in London where there was a retrospective exhibition of his artwork. Will Carruthers said of the event, "This is as close as you’ll get to a Spacemen 3 reunion, trust me."[152] The participants were: Peter Kember (keyboard/guitar/vocals); Will Carruthers (bass); Jonny Mattock (drums); Mark Refoy (guitar); Jason Holt (guitarist from Kember's touring Spectrum band); and guest appearances from Pat Fish[153] (vocals), and Kevin Shields (guitar) of My Bloody Valentine.[154] They played a 45-minute set comprising the songs 'Walkin' with Jesus', 'Revolution' and 'Suicide'. Jason Pierce was invited to attend, but declined.[155][156]

Musical style and influences[edit]

Sonically, Spacemen 3's music was characterised by fuzzy and distorted electric guitars, stuttering tremolo effects and wah-wah, the employment of 'power chords' and simple riffs, harmonic overtones and drones, softly sung/spoken vocals, and sparse or monolithic drumming.[1] Their earlier record releases were guitar 'heavy', sounding Stooges-esque and "a bit like a punked-up garage rock band" (Stephen Erlewine, AllMusic); whilst their later work was mostly sparser and softer with more textural techniques and augmented by organs, resulting in "their signature trance-like neo-psychedelia" (Stephen Erlewine, AllMusic).[1] Kember described it as "very hypnotic and minimal; every track has a drone all the way through it".[75]

Spacemen 3 were adherent's to the "minimal is maximal" philosophy of Alan Vega. This minimalist musical approach typically represented compositions consisting of the repetition of simple riffs based around the progression of only two or three chords, or simply using just one chord. Kember has articulated the maxim: "One chord best, two chords cool, three chords okay, four chords average".[157]

Spacemen 3 had the dictum "taking drugs to make music".[75][158] In interviews, Kember often stated the importance of recreational drug use in his lifestyle and in inspiring his and Pierce's song-writing. Kember candidly admitted to his frequent drug taking - including cannabis, LSD, magic mushrooms, MDMA, amphetamine and cocaine - and being a former heroin addict. Much of Spacemen 3's music concerned documenting the drug experience and conveying the related feelings.[3][68][70][71][72][75][159] In NME's 2011 list, the '50 Druggiest Albums' of all-time, Spacemen 3's Northampton Demos release, Taking Drugs to Make Music to Take Drugs To, was ranked No. 23.[160]

Kember was a keen record collector from the of age of 11 or 12; some of the first records he purchased included albums by The Velvet Underground. Pierce: "When I was 14, I bought The StoogesRaw Power and I listened to nothing but that for a year".[161] Spacemen 3's early gig posters would often make explicit references to their sound being inspired by The Stooges, The Velvet Underground and The Rolling Stones.[5] In 1988, Kember said, "Groups like Suicide or the MC5 are like my favorite stuff in the world".[68] Pierce said, "Early on, we were listening to The Stooges, then came Suicide, then we’d start listening to Sun Ra, and pick up on all these lateral threads that ran between them".[162]

Spacemen 3 were "fanatical musical magpies".[2] In addition to the Protopunk of New York's The Velvet Underground and Suicide, and Detroit’s The Stooges and MC5, Kember's and Pierce's musical influences included: US 1960s Psychedelic rock, such as The Thirteenth Floor Elevators; US 1960s Garage rock; 1960s British Invasion bands; Rock n' Roll; Buddy Holly; Surf music; The Beach Boys; early, seminal Electronic music, e.g. Silver Apples, Delia Derbyshire and Laurie Anderson; Krautrock; The Gun Club, The Cramps and Tav Falco’s Panther Burns; early Chicago blues, e.g. Bo Diddley, John Lee Hooker, Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf; early Delta blues; gospel and early Staple Singers; Otis Redding; the production techniques of Brian Wilson, Joe Meek and Phil Spector; and the avant-garde jazz and free jazz of Sun Ra and John Coltrane.[1][163][3][68][157]

Spacemen 3 recorded and performed numerous covers and re-workings of other band's songs, particularly earlier on in their history, and this was indicative of their influences. Examples include songs by the following bands and artists: The Stooges, MC5, The Thirteenth Floor Elevators, Roky Erikson, The Red Krayola, Glenn Campbell (of The Misunderstood), The Velvet Underground, Lou Reed, Suicide, Bo Diddley, The Rolling Stones, The Troggs, The Yardbirds, and The Sonics.[1] The song "Hey Man" (a.k.a. "Amen") is based on a Gospel traditional. The song "Come Down Easy" is derivative of a Blues traditional. Spacemen 3 performed an instrumental song live with a pronounced Bo Diddley style rhythm, dubbed "Bo Diddley Jam".[1] The Spacemen 3 song "Suicide" was a clear acknowledgement of one of their influences: when performed live it was usually introduced as "this song is dedicated to Martin Rev and Alan VegaSuicide".[164]

Kember was also interested in drone music and everyday ambient sounds such as those created by electric razors, washing machines, lawnmowers, planes, motor engines and passing cars.[157]

Personnel and instruments[edit]

Band members[edit]

Timeline[edit]

Vocals: Pierce (1982–1990); Kember (1987–1990).

Instruments[edit]

Other musicians and instruments[edit]

Sessions contributed at studio recordings[edit]

The Perfect Prescription || § Recurring || ‡ "Girl On Fire" (demo) ||

Temporary musicians for live performances[edit]

Stand-in drummers, Spring/Summer 1988:

  • Dave Morgan (of The Weather Prophets). 5 gigs, March 1988.[167]
  • Either Malcolm Catto or Martin Langshaw (of The Perfect Disaster). 6 gigs, March–April 1988.[168]
  • (unknown.) A few gigs, April–May 1988.[169]
  • Thierry. A few gigs, May–July 1988. [170]

Other:

  • Steve Evans - electric guitar. Date/Event: 19/08/1988. 'An Evening of Contemporary Sitar Music' at Waterman's Art Centre, London. [165]

Legacy[edit]

"Spacemen 3 were one of the most revolutionary UK guitar bands" (Ian Edmond, Record Collector).[6] They produced "some of the most visceral and psychedelic music of all time...and set a sonic template that influenced a generation, inspiring countless bands" (Julian Woolsey, Rock Edition).[171] Writing in Spring 1991, just after the band had split, Vox's Stephen Dalton referred to Spacemen 3 as "one of the most influential underground bands of the last decade".[2]

Spacemen 3's style and sound has influenced many artists, on both sides of the Atlantic, including some bands belonging to the Shoegaze scene. E.g. My Bloody Valentine, Chapterhouse, Slowdive, Ride, Six By Seven, Mogwai, Bardo Pond, The Flowers of Hell, Yume Bitsu, 7% Solution, Lockgroove, Luna, Windy & Carl, Five Way Mirror, The Third Eye Foundation, American Analog Set, Black Mountain, Flying Saucer Attack, Asteroid No. 4, The Brian Jonestown Massacre, Colorsound, The Warlocks, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, The Icarus Line, The Morning After Girls, Scarling, and Wooden Shjips.[1]

"Hordes of bands would rank Playing with Fire [Spacemen 3's third studio album] as the equal (or better) of psychedelia's '60s/'70s forebears" (Ned Raggett, AllMusic).[172] It represented "a blueprint for the next generation of ambient drone, space rock acts" (Laura Hightower).[173]

In 1998, a tribute album to Spacemen 3 was released by the Rocket Girl label. A Tribute To Spacemen 3 included covers by bands such as Mogwai, Low, Bowery Electric and Bardo Pond.[174] The album liner notes stated: "There are so many current bands who draw their influences from Spacemen 3 that now seems an appropriate time to show tribute to this underrated band."[175]

In 2004, US journalist Erik Morse's biography of the band’s life and work, Spacemen 3 & The Birth of Spiritualized, was published.

Discography[edit]

Note: Dates indicate original year of release.

Singles & EPs[176][177][178]

Studio albums[176][177][178]

Live albums[176][177][178]

  • Performance (Glass) 1988 [recorded at Melkweg gig, Amsterdam, 1988]
  • Dreamweapon (Cheree) 1990 ['An Evening of Contemporary Sitar Music' performance at Watermans Art Centre, Brentford, London, 1988]
  • Live In Europe 1989 (Space Age) / Spacemen Are Go! (Bomp!) 1995 [recorded during 1989 European tour]

Compilation albums[176][177][178]

Special re-release albums[176][177][178]

  • Playing with Fire (Space Age) 1999 [Playing with Fire plus alternate versions etc. from same sessions; double CD]
  • Forged Prescriptions (Space Age) 2004 [Perfect Prescription alternate mixes plus alternate versions etc. from same sessions; double CD]

Unofficial albums[176][177][178]

  • Taking Drugs to Make Music to Take Drugs To (Father Yod) 1990 ['Northampton Demos', 1986]
  • Losing Touch with Your Mind 1991 [A collection of alternate versions and rare releases]
  • For All the Fucked Up Children of This World We Give You Spacemen 3 1995 [Early demos, 1984]
  • Revolution or Heroin (Fierce) 1995 [Live bootleg - University of London Union gig, c. 1988]
  • How the Blues Should've Turned Out 2005 [Limited edition, numbered double CD of previously unreleased demos, alternate versions, etc.][182]

Notes re: releases since band disbanded[176][177][178]

In the two decades following the break-up of Spacemen 3, a large amount of previously unreleased recordings has been released, adding significantly to the Spacemen 3 canon. This material includes: live recordings; demos; earlier iterations of certain songs; alternate versions of many songs; some unfinished work; and some entirely previously unreleased songs. These releases have been both official and unofficial, and some have been issued by the Kember/Palmer-affiliated label Space Age Recordings.

Losing Touch with Your Mind, an unofficial release of 1991, was a compilation of alternate song versions and rare releases. The 1993 re-release of Dreamweapon on the Sympathy For The Record Industry label - which included the intriguing live 44-minute Eastern-inspired drone music performance at the Watermans Art Centre, Brentford, London, of August 1988 - was augmented with a previously unreleased recording of a jam.[183]

1995 saw the unofficial release of the band's first demo tape: For All the Fucked Up Children of This World We Give You Spacemen 3. Dating to 1984, this provided an interesting insight into the band's earliest work and "rougher"[22] sound. These recordings pre-dated the other early demos previously made available on the 1990 unofficial, Father Yod release entitled Taking Drugs to Make Music to Take Drugs To.

The 1994 re-release of the Taking Drugs to Make Music to Take Drugs To (Northampton Demos) album included several previously unreleased alternate song versions and other bonus tracks.

Two live albums were released in 1995: Live In Europe 1989 (also released in 1995 as Spacemen Are Go! on the Bomp! label, but without 'Take Me to the Other Side' and an alternate take of 'Suicide') which represented the first release of the band's live work from their lengthy 1989 contintental tour; and Revolution or Heroin, a bootleg of performances from the band's 1988 gig at the University of London Students Union. The former has been described as "far better than the more ragged earlier Spacemen 3 live album, 1988's Performance (Stewart Mason, AllMusic).[184]

In 1999, Spacemen 3's third studio album, Playing with Fire, was given a special, 10th-anniversary re-release. This official double disc release comprised all the original recordings together with previously unreleased alternate versions, demos and covers (e.g. The Perfect Disaster's "Girl on Fire" and The Troggs' "Anyway That You Want Me") from the same studio sessions. This re-release has been described as the "definitive"[6] version of the Playing with Fire album.

In 2004, Spacemen 3's second studio album, The Perfect Prescription, was also given the special re-release treatment. The double disc official release, entitled Forged Prescriptions, comprised alternate mixes of the original album tracks together with previously unreleased alternate versions, demos and covers (e.g. The Spades' "We Sell Soul" and The Troggs' "I Want You") from the same studio sessions. Kember's liner notes explain that the alternative mixes represent the more multi-layered versions which he and Pierce agreed not to use because they would be unable to satisfactorily reproduce their sound live.

A bootleg called the Out of it Sessions comprises demo recordings of early iterations of songs from The Perfect Prescription album.

In 2005, Kember produced and released his own limited edition, double disc album, How the Blues Should've Turned Out. This wholly comprised previously unreleased material, including alternate versions, rough demos, unfinished work, etc.

See also[edit]

Sources[edit]

  • Morse, Erik (2004). Spacemen 3 & the Birth of Spiritualized. London: Omnibus. ISBN 978-0-7119-9602-1. 
  • Record Collector magazine, Issue 285, May 2003 - Spacemen 3 feature.
  • Outer Limits (Spacemen 3 fan magazine), Issues 1 & 2, 1991 (Two-part article re: early history of Spacemen 3).
  • NME, Melody Maker, Sounds, Vox etc. - articles, interviews, album reviews, etc.
  • AllMusic website, www.allmusic.com

Footnotes[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j [1] AllMusic Allmusic.com website: Spacemen 3 profile with biography by Stephen Erlewine. Accessed 25/09/2011
  2. ^ a b c d Vox, Spring 1991.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p Forced Exposure, Issue 14, Autumn 1988
  4. ^ Morse 2004, pp. 19, 38-50.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Outer Limits, Spacemen 3 fan magazine, Issues 1 & 2, 1991. Two-part article re: early history of Spacemen 3
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z Record Collector magazine, Issue 285, May 2003 - Spacemen 3 feature, article
  7. ^ Morse 2004, pp. 51-55.
  8. ^ Morse 2004, pp. 55-57.
  9. ^ [2] For All The Fucked Up Children Of The World We Give You Spacemen 3, album review - Ned Raggett, AllMusic
  10. ^ Morse 2004, pp. 58.
  11. ^ Morse 2004, pp. 64.
  12. ^ Kember interview with Anthony Carew, 2008
  13. ^ Morse 2004, pp. 61-65.
  14. ^ [3] alteredzones.com, 2011 - interview with Peter Kember
  15. ^ Morse 2004, pp. 59-60.
  16. ^ Morse 2004, pp. 67-68.
  17. ^ Morse 2004, pp. 70.
  18. ^ Morse 2004, pp. 70-71.
  19. ^ Morse 2004, pp. 71-72.
  20. ^ Morse 2004, pp. 72-75.
  21. ^ Album liner notes - Taking Drugs to Make Music to Take Drugs To reissue (Bomp!, 1995)
  22. ^ a b [4] Taking Drug to Make Music to Take Drugs To album review - Ned Raggett, AllMusic. Accessed 24/09/2011.
  23. ^ Morse 2004, pp. 77, 87.
  24. ^ Sounds, 09/02/1991
  25. ^ Morse 2004, pp. 87-91.
  26. ^ a b Album liner notes, Sound of Confusion 1994 re-release
  27. ^ Morse 2004, pp. 87.
  28. ^ Morse 2004, pp. 91.
  29. ^ [5] Sound of Confusion album review - Ned Raggett, AllMusic. Accessed 25/09/2011.
  30. ^ NME, 1990 - 'Sound of Confusion' (re-release) review by Simon Reynolds.
  31. ^ Morse 2004, pp. 92, 96.
  32. ^ Morse 2004, pp. 96.
  33. ^ NME, 16/8/1986 - concert review, The Clarendon, Hammersmith, London, August 1986
  34. ^ Morse 2004, pp. 97-98.
  35. ^ Morse 2004, pp. 19.
  36. ^ Morse 2004, pp. 101-102.
  37. ^ Morse 2004, pp. 107-108.
  38. ^ Morse 2004, pp. 108-112.
  39. ^ a b album liner notes, Forged Prescriptions, The Perfect Prescription re-release.
  40. ^ Sounds, Autumn 1987
  41. ^ Morse 2004, pp. 111, 127-130.
  42. ^ a b [6] The Perfect Prescription album review - Ned Raggett, AllMusic. Accessed 25/09/2011.
  43. ^ Morse 2004, pp. 132-133.
  44. ^ Morse 2004, pp. 124-127.
  45. ^ a b c d e f g [7] spacemen3.co.uk fan website - gig list. Accessed 25/09/2011
  46. ^ Morse 2004, pp. 138-150, 154-155.
  47. ^ Morse 2004, pp. 138-150.
  48. ^ Morse 2004, pp. 155, 169.
  49. ^ Morse 2004, pp. 180.
  50. ^ Morse 2004, pp. 161-163.
  51. ^ Morse 2004, pp. 163-164.
  52. ^ [8] The Guardian, article by Alan McGee, 02/11/2007. Accessed 28/09/2011
  53. ^ Morse 2004, pp. 157-166.
  54. ^ Vox Showroom - Vox Starstream Accessed 25/09/2011.
  55. ^ Morse 2004, pp. 146-147, 166-167.
  56. ^ Morse 2004, pp. 170-172, 187.
  57. ^ Morse 2004, pp. 155, 180.
  58. ^ Morse 2004, pp. 173-178.
  59. ^ Morse 2004, pp. 2-4, 191.
  60. ^ Morse 2004, pp. 190-191.
  61. ^ Morse 2004, pp. 182-183.
  62. ^ Morse 2004, pp. 180, 200-201.
  63. ^ Morse 2004, pp. 192-193.
  64. ^ NME, 05/12/1988
  65. ^ Morse 2004, pp. 193.
  66. ^ a b c Melody Maker, 19/11/1988
  67. ^ Morse 2004, pp. 195-196.
  68. ^ a b c d Conflict, Issue 48, Summer 1988
  69. ^ a b NME, 29/7/1989
  70. ^ a b NME, Summer 1988
  71. ^ a b c Sounds, 05/12/1988
  72. ^ a b Lime Lizard, April 1989
  73. ^ OffBEAT, 07/03/1989
  74. ^ Sounds, 11/3/1989
  75. ^ a b c d e Sniffin' Rock fanzine, 11/03/1990
  76. ^ Morse 2004, pp. 186-189.
  77. ^ [9] AllMusic - Sonic Boom Spectrum album. Accessed 25/09/2011.
  78. ^ Morse 2004, pp. 198=201.
  79. ^ Morse 2004, pp. 205.
  80. ^ [10] Altmusic.com - Spacemen 3 profile. Accessed 25/09/2011.
  81. ^ Morse 2004, pp. 209.
  82. ^ NME, Spring 1989
  83. ^ a b Melody Maker, Spring 1989
  84. ^ a b Sounds, Spring 1989
  85. ^ [11] Playing With Fire album review - Ned Raggett, AllMusic. Accessed 25/09/2011.
  86. ^ a b Morse 2004, pp. 213.
  87. ^ Morse 2004, pp. 242-243.
  88. ^ Morse 2004, pp. 204-208, 214.
  89. ^ NME, 18/3/1989.
  90. ^ Morse 2004, pp. 204-208.
  91. ^ Morse 2004, pp. 216-225.
  92. ^ Morse 2004, pp. 214-216.
  93. ^ Morse 2004, pp. 224-225, 232-234.
  94. ^ Morse 2004, pp. 225-227, 230-232.
  95. ^ Morse 2004, pp. 233-234.
  96. ^ Morse 2004, pp. 230, 235.
  97. ^ Morse 2004, pp. 235-236, 238-239.
  98. ^ Morse 2004, pp. 234,241-242.
  99. ^ Morse 2004, pp. 242-244.
  100. ^ a b c d e f Vox, April 1991
  101. ^ Morse 2004, pp. 234,241-245.
  102. ^ Morse 2004, pp. 241, 244-245.
  103. ^ Morse 2004, pp. 237, 241-242, 246-250.
  104. ^ Morse 2004, pp. 252-254.
  105. ^ Morse 2004, pp. 241, 247-252.
  106. ^ Morse 2004, pp. 254.
  107. ^ Morse 2004, pp. 258-260.
  108. ^ Morse 2004, pp. 234-235, 240-241, 246, 261-262.
  109. ^ Morse 2004, pp. 261-264, 268-269.
  110. ^ Morse 2004, pp. 254-255, 265-267.
  111. ^ Peter Kember - TV interview, 1991
  112. ^ Morse 2004, pp. 266.
  113. ^ Morse 2004, pp. 264-268.
  114. ^ Jason Pierce - TV interview, c. Spring 1991.
  115. ^ Morse 2004, pp. 267-268.
  116. ^ Morse 2004, pp. 264-270.
  117. ^ Morse 2004, pp. 264-269.
  118. ^ Morse 2004, pp. 269-271.
  119. ^ Morse 2004, pp. 272.
  120. ^ Morse 2004, pp. 272-273.
  121. ^ Morse 2004, pp. 214-216, 237, 246-247, 272-273.
  122. ^ Melody Maker, Spring 1991
  123. ^ a b c d e Sounds, 09/02/1991.
  124. ^ TV interview, c. Spring 1991 - Peter Kember
  125. ^ Morse 2004, pp. 274.
  126. ^ [12] AllMusic - Spectrum band profile. Accessed 25/09/2011.
  127. ^ [13] AllMusic - Spectrum album. Accessed 25/09/2011.
  128. ^ [14] AllMusic - E.A.R. band profile.Accessed 25/09/2011.
  129. ^ Dombal., Ryan (April 19, 2010). "MGMT Interview". Pitchfork. Retrieved September 9, 2012. 
  130. ^ Anon. (March 9, 2011). "Animal Collective's Panda Bear announces new album details". NME. Retrieved September 9, 2012. 
  131. ^ Anon. (March 5, 2009). "From The Desk Of Dean & Britta: Spectrum". Magnet (magazine). Retrieved September 9, 2012. 
  132. ^ Adams, Gregory (September 7, 2012). "Flowers Of Hell Reveal Odes Details". Exclaim!. Retrieved September 9, 2012. 
  133. ^ [15] AllMusic - Spiritualized band profile. Accessed 25/09/2011.
  134. ^ [16] AllMusic - Slipstream band profile.Accessed 25/09/2011.
  135. ^ [17] Slipstream official MySpace page. Accessed 25/09/2011.
  136. ^ [18] AllMusic - Freelovebabies band profile. Accessed 25/09/2011.
  137. ^ [19] Freelovebabies official MySpace page. Accessed 25/09/2011.
  138. ^ [20] AllMusic - Darkside band profile. Accessed 25/09/2011.
  139. ^ [21] AllMusic - Darkside discography. Accessed 25/09/2011.
  140. ^ [22] Pet Bain website at www.acidray.com. Accessed 25/09/2011.
  141. ^ [23] AllMusic - Sterling Roswell discography. Accessed 25/09/2011.
  142. ^ [24] The Guaranteed Ugly webpage. Accessed 25/09/2011.
  143. ^ [25] www.discogs.com - The Guaranteed Ulgy discography. Accessed 25/09/2011.
  144. ^ [26] Natty Brooker website. Accessed 14/09/2011
  145. ^ [27] NME article re: Natty Brooker, 2010. Accessed 14/09/2011
  146. ^ [28]3:AM Magazine, March 2004 - article by Peter Kember. Accessed 24/12/2011.
  147. ^ [29] www.losingtoday.com - interview with Peter Kember, 09/02/2005, by David Mansdorf. Accessed 28/09/2011.
  148. ^ [30] Observer Music Monthly, mid 2008 - interview with Jason Pierce. Accessed 28/09/2011.
  149. ^ [31] About.com - interview with Jason Pierce, October 2008. Accessed 28/09/2011.
  150. ^ [32] The Sun, late 2009 - interview with Jason Pierce. Accessed 28/09/2011.
  151. ^ [33] RockEdition website, Peter Kember interview with Julian Woolsey, June 2011. Accessed 14/09/2011.
  152. ^ [34] Accessed 28/09/2011. outlierrecords - interview with Will Carruthers, July 2010
  153. ^ Video No. 1 of live performance, 15/7/10 Accessed 14 September 2011
  154. ^ Video No. 2 of live performance, 15/7/10 Accessed 14 September 2011.
  155. ^ [35] Pitchfork.com - Tom Breihan, 09/08/2010 article. Accessed 14/09/2011.
  156. ^ [36] rvamag.com, article, 07/08/2010. Accessed 28/09/2011.
  157. ^ a b c [37] 3:AM Magazine, Andrew Stevens, 2002. Accessed 14 September 2011
  158. ^ OffBEAT, 7 March 1989
  159. ^ NME, 18/03/1989
  160. ^ [38] '50 Druggiest Albums' article - NME, 5/2/2011. Accessed 14/09/2011
  161. ^ Pierce interview with Magnet, 1997
  162. ^ [39] About.com - Jason Pierce interview with Anthony Carew, October 2008
  163. ^ Morse 2004, pp. 20, 23-27, 31-32, 35-36, 39-51, 54-57, 62, 70, 72-75.
  164. ^ Spacemen 3 'Threebie' live EP
  165. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p album sleeve credits
  166. ^ a b Morse 2004, pp. 120, 190.
  167. ^ Morse 2004, pp. 155-156.
  168. ^ Morse 2004, pp. 156.
  169. ^ Morse 2004, pp. 157.
  170. ^ Morse 2004, pp. 181, 190.
  171. ^ [40] www.rockedition.com, Julian Woolsey, 8 July 2011. Accessed 24/09/2011.
  172. ^ [41] Playing with Fire album review - AllMusic. Accessed 24/09/2011.
  173. ^ [42] enotes.com biography by Laura Hightower. Accessed 14/09/2011.
  174. ^ [43] Tribute to Spacemen 3 album review - AllMusic. Accessed 15/09/2011.
  175. ^ [44] Rocketgirl Tribute to Spacemen 3 press release statement. Accessed 14/09/2011.
  176. ^ a b c d e f g Record Collector magazine, Issue 285, May 2003 - Spacemen 3 feature, detailed discography
  177. ^ a b c d e f g [45] www.discogs.com - Spacemen 3 discography. Accessed 14/09/2011.
  178. ^ a b c d e f g [46] AllMusic - Spacemen 3 discography. Accessed 14/092011.
  179. ^ "Spacemen 3 - Hypnotized". Chart Stats. Archived from the original on 2012-07-28. Retrieved 2011-07-05. 
  180. ^ "Spacemen 3 - Big City". Chart Stats. Archived from the original on 2012-07-22. Retrieved 2011-07-05. 
  181. ^ Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 518. ISBN 1-904994-10-5. 
  182. ^ Martin C. (2000) The Great Rock Discography (5th ed.) Edinburgh: Mojo Books. ISBN 1-84195-017-3
  183. ^ [47] Dreamweapon album review - AllMusic. Accessed 25/09/2011.
  184. ^ [48] Performance album review - AllMusic. Accessed 24/09/2011.

Further reading[edit]

Biographies:

  • Morse, Erik (2005). Spacemen 3 & the Birth of Spiritualized. Omnibus Press. ISBN 978-0-7119-9602-1.
  • Record Collector magazine, Issue 285, May 2003 - Spacemen 3 feature. (original version available online here: [49])
  • AllMusic www.allmusic.com - Spacemen 3 profile including biography by Stephen Erlewine [50]
  • 'Spacemen 3' article, Sonic Boom website [51]
  • about.com - Spacemen 3 profile including biography by Andrew Carew [52]

Discographies (detailed):

  • Record Collector magazine, Issue 285, May 2003 - Spacemen 3 feature. (original version available online here: [53]).

Selected interviews:

  • Forced Exposure magazine, Issue 14, Autumn 1988 - article by Nigel Cross and Byron Coley and interviews with Peter Kember 1987/88.
  • Conflict, Issue 48, Summer 1988 - interview with Peter Kember.
  • Melody Maker, 19/11/1988 edition - interview with Peter Kember.
  • NME, 29/7/1989 edition - interview with Peter Kember.
  • Sounds, 09/02/1991 edition - John Robb article and interviews with Peter Kember and Jason Pierce.
  • Vox, April 1991 edition - Stephen Dalton article and interviews with Peter Kember and Jason Pierce.
  • 3:AM Magazine, October 2002 - interview with Peter Kember. [54]

External links[edit]