Terry Bickers

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Terry Bickers
Birth name Terence Robert Arthur Bickers
Born (1965-09-06) 6 September 1965 (age 49)
Fulham, London, England
Genres Alternative rock, psychedelic rock, progressive rock, art rock, post-punk
Occupations Musician, songwriter, producer
Instruments Guitars, vocals, bass, keyboards, drums
Years active 1985–present
Associated acts The House of Love, Levitation, Cradle, Monkey 7, Heidi Berry, Pete Fijalkowski, Octopussy, Montana Rain

Terry Bickers (born Terence Robert Arthur Bickers,[1] 6 September 1965, Fulham, London) is an English guitarist, singer and songwriter, best known as a member of the rock bands The House of Love and Levitation.[2] He is noted for his psychedelic guitar stylings in an indie rock context (for which he was hailed as being one of the finest guitarists of his generation)[3] and for his eccentric, outspoken public reputation (which he has made efforts to play down in recent years). He is currently based in Brighton, England.[4]

Biography and musical career[edit]

Early years[edit]

Terry Bickers was born in London into what he describes as "a family of big gamblers and card players. I learnt from them how to hold my hand back. They'd all be drinking and because I was only seven, I'd be straight, checking them out and learning from their behaviour."[3] When he was twelve years old, his parents split up,[2] an event which he later described as "my whole life falling down in front of me. The relationship between your parents is how you see the world at that age. You learn not to trust anything."[3] Bickers would often cite this event as contributing to his later personal vulnerability and his consequent reactions to both people and to band politics.[3]

Everyone's got to take part in shaping how we're going to exist in two hundred years time when the oil runs out. I personally, having meditated on this for three or four years, realise that, as a race, we're really fucked at the moment. We live in an age that's just as barbaric as mediaeval times... Music is just a vehicle for venerating frustration and putting your own point of view across. We all spend more time philosophising than we do making music. I mean, (Levitation guitarist) Bic says that everyday life frightens him more that [sic] any horror movie, just your total insignificance.

A state-of-the-world address from Terry Bickers, 1992 [5]

Bickers' first significant band was the Northern Irish indie-rock band Colenso Parade, which he joined in 1985 on their move to London. He played on their Hallelujah Chorus EP and Glentorran album, both released in 1986 on Fire Records.

The House of Love[edit]

In 1986 Bickers left Colenso Parade to join The House of Love, playing the role of lead guitarist and creative foil to singer and songwriter Guy Chadwick. The House of Love rapidly gained critical acclaim in the British weekly music press (much of it focused on Bickers' intense psychedelic guitar approach). The band's 1988 debut album – also called The House of Love, and released on Creation Records – received glowing reviews and saw the Chadwick/Bickers partnership being compared to the Smiths partnership of Morrissey and Johnny Marr.[2] Hotly tipped as being future stars, the band soon moved on to the major label Fontana and came under pressure to write more commercial singles.[4]

Already a withdrawn character, Bickers had difficulty adjusting both to his musical celebrity and the demands of the record industry, During this time, although his playing remained acclaimed, he suffered from depression and drug abuse[2] and his relationship with Chadwick began to break down. This culminated in a notorious episode during a House of Love tour in 1989, when Bickers began setting fire to banknotes in the back of the band's tour van while chanting "Breadhead!" at Chadwick. He was ejected from the band shortly afterwards[2][3] (although his playing would feature on the band's second album, released the following year).

Bickers would later describe the tour van event as a protest against The House of Love's commercialised state, commenting "That was frustration. I just found at the time that I didn't have the same aspirations as the rest of the band. I was more into exploring music than exploring the exploitation of markets around the globe. They were really into crusading. And winning. I wasn't."[3] He would also confess to having had a nervous breakdown during this period, recalling "It was exhaustion... I kind of couldn't function as I did before and it's very frightening. It makes you stronger, the experience of something like that helps you build a resistance, because you have to in this day and age."[6]

The media always likes to create celebrities and in a small way Terry was one of those. They love to jump on people and give them a label, and so we got "Bonkers Bickers!"... Terry was never very happy with that, he found it was condescending and he was right! But they decided that he was "bonkers" and thought it was a great laugh, it made good press. Terry is a very quotable, charismatic person who's got a lot to say and the press loved that.

Terry Bickers' Levitation bandmate Bic Hayes on the caricaturing of Bickers by the music press[7]

After leaving the band, Bickers sought greater stability, choosing to marry and have a daughter, Ella, in 1991.[3][8] He has commented that part of his "difficult" reputation over the years (particularly in his House of Love days) came from his previous behaviour of "push(ing) love away. It was just fear, really. Fear of my own vulnerability. Fear of rejection maybe, being hurt. It was me doing battle with myself."[3]

Levitation[edit]

In 1990, Bickers formed the psychedelic rock band Levitation with drummer David Francolini, former Cardiacs guitarist Bic Hayes, multi-instrumentalist Robert White (later of The Milk and Honey Band) and bass player Joe Allen (who went on to join Strangelove and was replaced by Laurence O'Keefe). As well as playing guitar, Bickers took on the role of lead singer in the band. The band quickly became known for their intense collective playing, and were hailed in both the underground and mainstream music press as new psychedelic heroes as well as potential rehabilitators of progressive rock. Levitation recorded a number of EPs (including the Coppelia EP, heralded by Melody Maker as "this generation's Marquee Moon,")[9] and two albums – Coterie and Need For Not.

I'm into bringing all types of music together. White kids getting into grooves, black kids getting into headbanging...

Terry Bickers, 1992[5]

With Bickers already notorious for his time with House of Love, Levitation gained a good deal of press attention very quickly. Despite the band's collective approach (and Bickers' insistence that Levitation was a democracy),[3][9][10] much of this attention was focussed on the eminently quotable Bickers himself. In interviews with the music press, Bickers would provide career-friendly quotes by, for example, citing an interest in the then-current dance and rave music scenes as well as the indie-rock and psychedelic music movements.[3][9] However, he was equally likely to suggest that Levitation were considering performing in masks[9] or carrying out a concert tour of Britain via canal,[6] or to raise esoteric ideas such as Gaia theory or the possibilities of communicating with dolphins.[3] Although reviewers continued to praise his skill as a musician, his schemes and philosophical ideas (though presented with sincerity) led to him being mocked and caricatured for his apparent eccentricity, leading to his reputation and nickname as "Bonkers Bickers".[2]

It was a crap thing to do. It was unfair on the people that came to see us and on everyone in the band ... The reason I left the way I did was because I didn't want to give anyone the opportunity to talk me round.

Terry Bickers on his regrets regarding his departure from Levitation.[4]

Despite rave reviews and an excellent reputation as a live band,[11][12][13][14] plus a growing fanbase, the band's career was set back by Bickers' refusal to tour America following an incident on the band's first American tour in which the band was caught in crossfire during a gun battle between police and a criminal gang.[15] This led to tension between Bickers and the other members, culminating in Bickers departing the band, acrimoniously, in 1993.[15] Bickers famously quit Levitation onstage during a London concert, announcing "We've lost it, haven't we?"[2] Bic Hayes would later comment "It had happened a few times before that last gig but I think that we all knew very early on at (that) one that there was no going back again."[7] Years later, Bickers would speak about his departure with regret and shame, but claim that his mounting depression had had much to do with the manner of his departure.[4]

Paradise Estate, Cradle, Monkey 7 and others[edit]

Men grow up to be aspiring heroes, aspiring Iron Johns and they get fucked up because they don't allow the sensitive side of their nature to emerge. I'm totally into my feminine side, I acknowledge that fully and accept that. Androgyny, I think, is part of that answer, just to accept that you have male and female hormones in your body. Most men miss out on that side of their nature, they're afraid of the depth of women's sexuality, sensuality and spirituality.

Terry Bickers, 1992[5]

Within a week of leaving Levitation in 1993, Bickers teamed up with guitarist Clive Giblin (Alternative TV, Shockheaded Peters, Two Worlds Collide, Sol Invictus). The duo formed a band called Paradise Estate, named after the Television Personalities' track as they were both fans. They spent about six weeks writing and recording the songs that would convince Warner Bros to sign Bickers, following which the pair drifted apart (with Giblin leaving the band).

Bickers renamed the project Cradle and drafted in three new members. A year later, unhappy with the band, Bickers approached Giblin and asked him to rejoin Cradle (also recruiting former King Kurt drummer Daniel). This line up – together with Bickers' partner, singer Caroline Tree – spent the summer of 1994 locked away in a studio in Lincolnshire recording an album for Warner Bros. The band recorded almost 20 tracks in various forms (with fifteen finished and mixed) but this period was allegedly a difficult time for all concerned due to strong destructive external influences in several band members' personal lives. The end result was an album and single for Warner Bros, neither of which were released (although some copies of the single were pressed and reviewed in the music press). Once again Giblin jumped ship, and not long after Warner Bros dropped the band.

Moving to Rye in Sussex, Bickers put together a third line-up of Cradle with himself on guitar, vocals, and various instruments, Caroline Tree as co-lead singer (and main creative foil) and Ian Mundwyler on guitar, plus a floating cast of contributing musicians. Recording sessions for this project were more successful and Cradle released what would be their only completed album, Baba Yaga, in 1995. This displayed a divided approach, alternating distinctly between noisy indie rock songs (predominantly sung by Tree) and ghostly psychedelic material (predominantly sung by Bickers) which showed a much softer approach than either Levitation or The House of Love. (During this period, Bickers also played on Divan, the 1995 debut album by Oedipussy, a project headed by former The Perfect Disaster member Phil Parfitt).[16]

In contrast to the reception afforded to Bickers' two previous bands, the press received Cradle with indifference or even contempt, with Caroline Tree being labelled as "the worst singer in the world" in a review in New Musical Express. Tree left the band shortly afterwards.[15][17] Despite playing a few concerts with Bickers as lead vocalist, and more or less ditching the more conventional indie rock approaches in favour of dark psychedelia, Cradle did not last for much longer and quietly dissolved in 1996.

Bickers went on to work in production, resurfacing briefly in 1999 with a new band called Monkey 7 (also featuring Sam Smith and Nik Webb). In contrast to the serious intent of Bickers' previous bands, Monkey 7 were described as "Tony Bennett steaming headfirst into the last working remnants of Shaun Ryder" and "a lo-fi ska Blur playing for laffs." The band released one single, "The Snowy Peaks/It All Comes Back on You", on Anvil Recording Co. in 2000.[18]

Return to The House of Love[edit]

In 2003, Bickers (now much more able to cope with his depressive tendencies due to courses of therapy and the martial art shintaido) reconciled with Guy Chadwick (who himself had suffered severe depression following the collapse of The House of Love). The two bonded over a new mutual sympathy, which in turn led to a reformation of The House of Love at the end of 2004.[2][4] At the start of 2005 the reunited band released their first post-reformation album, Days Run Away. After another eight years, She Paints Words in Red was released on 25 March 2013 by Cherry Red Records.

Other current work[edit]

Pete Fij / Terry Bickers[edit]

In 2009, Bickers joined up with Worthing resident Pete Fijalkowski (ex Adorable/Polak) for a new "stripped down" project. The pair began writing together as a duo (with Fijalkowski on vocals and acoustic guitar and Bickers on electric guitar), playing a few low-key concerts in early 2010.[19][20]

After a Kickerstarter campaign[21] at the end of 2013, the pair self-released their debut album Broken Heart Surgery to critical acclaim in July 2014.[22]

Montana Rain[edit]

Bickers currently works with a country-and-western covers band called Montana Rain, which also features singer Nicola Rain, bass player John Rain and barn-dance folk duo Pete and Mannie McClelland.[23]

Other collaborations[edit]

Bickers' guitar playing features on Les Nouvelles Polyphonies Corses, a recording of Corsican polyphonic singing, and on some Heidi Berry recordings.

Selected discography[edit]

with Colenso Parade[edit]

  • Hallelujah Chorus EP, Fire Records, 1986
  • Glentorran album, Fire Records, 1986

with The House of Love[edit]

  • The House of Love (a.k.a. The German Album), Rough Trade Records/Creation Records, 1987 (reissued by Renascent Records, 2007) (early singles collection, initially only released in Germany)
  • The House of Love album, Creation Records, 1988
  • The House of Love (a.k.a. Fontana) album, Fontana Records, 1991
  • Days Run Away album, Art & Industry, 2005
  • She Paints Words in Red album, Cherry Red Records, 2013

with Levitation[edit]

  • Coppelia EP – Ultimate Records, 1991
  • After Ever EP – Ultimate Records, 1991
  • Coterie compilation album, Capitol Records, 1991/Ultimate Records, 1992
  • World Around EP, Ultimate Records, 1992
  • Need For Not album, Rough Trade Records, 1992
  • Even When Your Eyes Are Open EP, Capitol Records, 1994
  • Meanwhile Gardens album, Festival Records, 1994 (Bickers had left the band by this point but some of his guitar playing and backing vocals remained on the record)

with Cradle[edit]

  • Baba Yaga album, Ultimate Records, 1995

with Monkey 7[edit]

  • The Snowy Peaks/It All Comes Back on You single, Anvil Recording Co., 2000

with Pete Fij / Terry Bickers[edit]

  • Broken Heart Surgery Broadcast, 2014

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Search general register office (GRO)birth records 1761–2006 | Fully indexed birth records". Findmypast.co.uk. Retrieved 7 April 2013. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h "You only live twice". The Guardian (London). 8 February 2005. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Levitation/Terry Bickers interview in Volume #3, February 1992 (copy hosted on Levitation fansite), accessed 2 December 2010
  4. ^ a b c d e ""The House of Love: Bless this house" – article in The Independent by Fiona Sturges, April 14, 2005". London. 14 April 2005, 1994. Retrieved 6 December 2010. 
  5. ^ a b c "The Only Way is Up". March 1992. Retrieved 7 December 2010. 
  6. ^ a b "Up, Up and Affray!". March 1992. Retrieved 7 December 2010. 
  7. ^ a b "Levitation interview in Earzone fanzine, 1994 (hosted on Levitation fansite)". 1994. Retrieved 6 December 2010. 
  8. ^ Levitation biography (on fansite)
  9. ^ a b c d Levitation interview in Melody Maker, April 27 1991 (copy hosted on Levitation fansite), accessed 2 December 2010
  10. ^ Organ magazine – interview with Bic Hayes of Levitation April 1993], accessed 6 December 2010 (copy hosted on Levitation fansite)
  11. ^ Melody Maker review of Coterie (scan)
  12. ^ Levitation live review in Select magazine, 1991 (scan)
  13. ^ "Prog What?" – live review of Levitation by Simon Williams in New Musical Express (scan)
  14. ^ "England's dreaming" – live review of Levitation/Chapterhouse/Blur concert by Simon Reynolds in Melody Maker, 16 November 1991
  15. ^ a b c Levitation/Dark Star bio on www.mandiapple.com fansite
  16. ^ Larkin, Colin (1998) The Virgin Encyclopedia of Indie & New Wave, Virgin Books, ISBN 0-7535-0231-3, p. 245
  17. ^ "Julian Cope presents Head Heritage | Unsung | Reviews | Cradle – Baba Yaga". Headheritage.co.uk. Retrieved 7 April 2013. 
  18. ^ "anvilrecordingco.com". anvilrecordingco.com. Retrieved 7 April 2013. 
  19. ^ Adorable – Pete Fijalkowski interview in Retrophobic e-zine, 30 November 2009
  20. ^ Teaming up with Terry Bickers – Pete Fijalkowski blog entry, 21 June 2010
  21. ^ https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1577610613/broken-heart-surgery-album-project
  22. ^ http://petefijterrybickers.bandcamp.com/
  23. ^ "Americana / Country & Western". Montana Rain. Retrieved 7 April 2013. 

External links[edit]