The Bridewell Taxis
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The Bridewell Taxis, later The Bridewells.
|Genres||Indie rock, Madchester, baggy|
|Labels||Stolen Records, Expression Records|
|Past members||Mick Roberts|
Carl A. Finlow
Keith Manasseh Jackson
The group came together in Leeds during 1987 and were originally called Morality Play. Their first public performances were at an Unemployed Music project in Leeds that also helped launch contemporaries Nightmares on Wax, ((George Evelyn/John Halnon)). Mick Roberts at that time had been working on song lyrics ( Unlimited Days, Just Good Friends, In God We Trust) and ideas with childhood friend John Halnon (NOW) and Marcus Waite (Violet Hour).After singer Mick Roberts joined, the band changed its name to The Bridewell Taxis, a nickname for the police vans that delivered drunks and criminals to the town's police station, or Bridewell, situated under the Leeds Town Hall. A number of the band were familiar with this form of transport. Rehearsals were often intense fractious occasions above the Market District Boys Club.
From their very first gig in 1988 at the Royal Park, with support Pale Saints, it was apparent that the band were offering a different sound and sensibility to their immediate Leeds peers such as The Wedding Present, Cud and the Pale Saints. Whilst the band members all hailed from east Leeds, unlike their former student rivals (although Mick Roberts was originally from Wales), they had more in common with the growing northern music scene in Lancashire featuring Liverpool-based bands such as The La's, The Real People and The Farm and the early Inspiral Carpets, The Stone Roses and Happy Mondays from Manchester. The Taxis had a unique selling point with the arrival of Chris Walton on trombone which only served to emphasise the hard, fast, Northern Soul beat they often used whilst all around were slipping into the funky drummer, baggy beat.
The Taxis' place in the scheme of things was cemented by a prestigious support slot at The Happy Monday's first Leeds gig on 28 February 1989 at The Warehouse. Both bands ended up having internal fights on stage that night, keyboardist Gary Wilson attacking guitarist Sean McElhone after the latter's instrument malfunctioned. Over the next six months regular gigging including support slots with The Farm and Cud consolidated the band's position as up and coming band with a large local following.
The band's first release was a blue flexi-disc, "Lies" c/w "Just Good Friends" given away free with a Wakefield fanzine which cost 20p. The pressing soon sold out and a few years later, at the height of their popularity, the flexi-disc was changing hands for over £20. London-based publishers, Empire Music, part of China Records, offered the band a publishing deal in late 1989.
The band's next break came in Autumn when the Inspiral Carpets invited them onto their Find Out Why national tour as support act (29 August to 4 September). One night on the tour (3 September) would see a strange hybrid band take the stage at Burberry's Birmingham when a local, third on the bill act failed to show. Inspiral's roadie at the time was Noel Gallagher and he performed a few impromptu jams and Beatles covers on guitar together with Inspiral Craig on drums, Bridewell Mick on vocals, Bridewell Sean on guitar and Bridewell sound engineer and manager Alaric Neville on bass, all to a handful of disinterested punters.
The urgent need for a release to go with the tour had led to the band's manager, along with a businessmen-fan Dave Bell, to fund their first EP, Just Good Friends, released on their own Stolen Records in the Autumn of 1989. It reached number 18 on the UK Indie Chart. On 1 October the band were on the bill at the final Futurama festival in Bradford run by legendary Leeds promoter John Keenan, along with the best of the crop of bands that would make waves in 1990.
The Taxis started 1990 as full-time musicians with their second single, "Give In" c/w "Whole Damn Nation" which featured a dance remix of the later track. This served to get their name and music out into the growing cross-over dance scene. Many of the indie concerts of this era would feature a DJ dance set that started after the band finished, bringing the warehouse rave vibe into regular venues for the first time. The band were now headlining their own gigs in the north of England and became regulars at such venues as the Warehouse in Leeds, The Boardwalk in Manchester and The Leadmill in Sheffield. Another big support slot this time with The Stone Roses put them in the public's eye along with some positive live reviews in the national music press.
On 19 April they became the first non-Manchester band to play the Factory Records night in Paris at the La Locomotive Club within the Moulin Rouge. The band booked coaches for Leeds and Manchester fans to join them in France for the weekend. The gig was successful but the aftermath less so. A semi-clothed Mick was chased through the streets over an extortionate brothel bar bill and was later seen three floors up on a narrow ledge of the hotel looking like he was about to jump to his death, he was coaxed back inside but passed out in his room. He hung his coat on a light fitting and in the middle of the night the hotel fire alarms went off with everyone evacuated to the street below as acrid smoke from a burning sports top filled the building. Mick's room door was forced open and he was resuscitated. A song for the Cage album came out of the near death experience that night, "Paris".
Third single "Honesty" proved a crowd favourite and highlighted songwriter Mick Roberts growing realist style. It took the form of dialogue between him and his long suffering partner; her trying to persuade him to give up crime and him explaining "Honesty looks good on you, it's not for fools like me, I've felt its hands around my neck and I couldn't start to breath". This was no empty song writing exercise as some members of the band had been arrested for selling pills and speed after a gig at The Moles Club, Bath. It was a time when the more gentile southern youth considered any scally with a northern accent as having access to top drugs unavailable to them, an invitation the Taxis found hard to pass by. Prison was only avoided in Bath when the remaining bag of disco biscuits (MDMA) was found to contain vitamin pills. Later Mick narrowly avoided a prison sentence again after being convicted of stealing carpets from the Hilton hotel in Leeds. The video for Honesty featured a scene with Mick and drummer Glenn Scullion shoplifting clothes and then bumping into a real policeman, clearly on purpose. The video was banned by MTV and the Chart Show although "Honesty" would still make the Indie Top 10.
The band were booked to play the Mean Fiddler Stage at Reading Festival on 26 August and compere John Peel, who had already been playing their singles, made a point of catching the set, offering a Peel Session as a result. The session was broadcast on 18 September.
Fourth single "Spirit" came out on 5 November, allied to a LFO remix. It would be both the highpoint of the band's career and the start of their troubles. On the eve of the first day's recording session Mick disappeared following a domestic crisis. The rest of the band carried on recording backing tracks while roadies and friends searched the city. He was found at the end of a two-day drinking binge and the vocal on the recording was coaxed out of the still drunk singer a line at a time, although he couldn't remember the chorus so the track was released without one.
"Spirit" was the band's biggest selling release, generating a lot of airplay, press coverage and compilation releases. The accompanying 22-date national tour filled most of November and included such major university venues as Leeds, Sheffield, Warwick and Kent, along with The Haçienda club in Manchester which would be filmed for a video release. After a short break, December saw the band on a four date tour of Scotland. They were now being courted by a number of major record labels; CBS, BMG, EMI, London Records and Chrysalis.
Spirit's strong showing in the indie charts finally persuaded Chrysalis Records to offer the band a record deal at the end of the year. At a showcase London date at the Camden Palace arranged by the company's PR staff, trouble erupted between travelling Leeds fans and locals. Members of the band, who had taken full advantage of the free hospitality on offer, left the stage to join in the fight. The band's next gig was at Bradford Queens Hall, also with Chrysalis A&R in attendance. After the first few songs it became apparent that various band members were in different chemically-altered states of mind; the concert soon fell apart as band members left the stage one by one. Chrysalis proceeded to replace the Bridewell Taxis in their plans with their second choice Yorkshire indie band, The Poppy Factory whose leader, Mick Dale would go on to find fame as part of Embrace.
On 14 January 1991, after an all day drinking session in an east Leeds pub, The Station at Cross Gates, singer Mick Roberts was caught up in a bar room brawl which resulted in him being stabbed in the throat and neck. An artery was severed and he narrowly survived massive blood loss, being taken by ambulance to the nearby St James's University Hospital. The story was covered by both the Daily Mirror and Daily Star as well as the national music press. A period of re-constructive surgery followed with all band activity, touring, rehearsing and writing curtailed.
By the end of March the need for a new release was pressing. As no new songs had been written a cover of Blue Öyster Cult's "(Don't Fear) The Reaper" was recorded, the track's title making a reference to Mick's recent brush with death. It came out as their fifth single on 13 May. The band's original pacey and raw style was replaced with a slowed down and polished production by Chris Nagle but the track wasn't well reviewed.
Following a national headline tour in May the band toured with the reformed Buzzcocks in June.
The LP "Invisible To You" was a collection of the Stolen Records releases to date with two new tracks, although these were actually recorded at the Spirit session during Mick's absence. It was launched at a massive home town concert at Leeds Town Hall on 5 July which was also filmed for a video release. This was to prove the last gig with Chris Walton. Carl A. Finlow was subsequently recruited to the line up on keyboards with the intention of adding a more programmed, dance element to the band. Despite its relative lack of new material, "Invisible" sold well and remained in the indie charts for six weeks. As a result, Sony CBS offered a provisional record deal, funding the recording of four new tracks on 12 September for a planned single, "Smile". The tracks as delivered were rejected and the release cancelled, the reported reason being that they sounded unlike the existing, successful album.
Despite guitarist Sean McElhone announcing he was leaving, a pre-Christmas concert was booked at the Warehouse, Leeds on 11 December. The concert was poorly attended and beset with technical problems. The band left the stage to boos from their home town audience and split up that night.
After the breakup of the original line up, Mick Roberts, Carl A. Finlow and Alaric Neville continued to write and play together. Following a request for a Motown cover version from Imaginary Records Chris Walton re-joined. Marvin Gaye's Inner City Blues was demoed along with a handful of new songs. A cassette of the session found its way to Phil Manzanera, Roxy Music guitarist, studio and label owner. He offered an album and single deal on the condition the band could play live to support the release. A rhythm section was quickly hired; Keith Manasseh Jackson from Leeds band "Nuff Sed" on drums and Chris Harrop from The Ukrainians on bass. To replicate the overdubbed brass live, Andy Stocks joined on trumpet. Since the stabbing Mick's hearing had been degenerating leading to vocal problems so a second singer was added, Michelle Jasmin formally of fellow Leeds band "The Windowpanes".
The band played its first gig at the Warehouse, Leeds on 17 February 1992, billed as The Bridewells. An EP, "Smile I Still Care" was recorded at Phil Manzanera's studio in Chertsey, West London, in late March. Sean McElhone contributed guitar to the title track and Phil Manzanera provided the guitar solo for "World of Lies" It was released on Expression Records on 15 June and the band toured with The High. In late June the band were back in the studio to record the album "Cage" also released by Expression on 19 October. A national tour followed, culminating in a home town gig at the Warehouse, Leeds on 17 November.
The band (minus Mick) provided the backing for BMG artist Christine Levine on one track "The Devil Inside You"
It had become apparent during the recording of the album that Mick's loss of hearing was having an adverse effect on the volume he needed for monitoring and live gigs were becoming difficult. This combined with financial troubles at Expression effectively brought the band to a halt. The final act was a performance filmed at the Warehouse for ITV featuring the album title track, "Cage" and a new song "World Stop Turning", taped on 23 March 1993.
Following the final break up of the band Mick Roberts and Sean McElhone were briefly re-united in the mid-1990s in a local Leeds band "Home" who played a handful of gigs in the city. Original bass player Simon Scot became a successful DJ. Chris Walton and Andy Stocks provided the brass for The Ukrainians track "Polityka" on the album "Kultura" (Cooking Vinyl, 1994), Carl A. Finlow returned to producing dance music initially in partnership with DJ Ralph Lawson. Alaric Neville continued as a sound engineer and producer working principally with The Ukrainians, Oysterband, and Chumbawamba, Keith Manasseh Jackson joined Stomp (dance troupe), Chris Harrop became the guitarist in Black Star Liner.
In 2005, prompted by the wave of successful reformations among their contemporaries including The Happy Mondays, three original members, Mick Roberts, Sean McElhone and Glenn Scullion, got back together to play some dates. They were joined by twins James (bass) and Jools Metcalfe (guitar). The band played a sell-out reunion gig in Leeds in October 2005 and followed that with two more home town dates. The following year, the band embarked on a mini-tour, kicking off with a sell-out at the Hope and Anchor, Islington, and ending with a final show for over 1,000 at Leeds University Union. The band split again in June 2006.
In 2014 the Bridewell's former guitarist, Jools Metcalfe, announced he was to stand as UKIP candidate for Leeds NW in the 2015 General Election declaring he was a 'local politician standing for local culture and values'
Mick is continuing to write, perform and explore new ideas with childhood friend and expat John Halnon, effectively coming full circle, and intends to release new material of an immersive nature in 2018.
- Just Good Friends EP ("Just Good Friends", "Too Long", "Wild Boar", "Hold On") (Stolen, 1989)
- "Give In" c/w "Whole Damn Nation" (featuring "Whole Dance Nation" remix by Steve and Andy Williams from K-Klass) (Stolen, 1990)
- "Honesty" c/w "Aegis" (Stolen, 1990)
- "Spirit" (featuring LFO Spirit remix) (Stolen, 1990)
- "Don't Fear the Reaper" c/w "Face in the Crowd" (featuring "What Noise Reaper" remix by Chris Nagle) (Stolen, 1991)
- Smile EP (as The Bridewells) ("Smile I Still Care", "Missing Link", "World of Lies", "Return") (Expression, 1992)
- Invisible To You (Stolen, 1991)
- Cage (as The Bridewells) (Expression, 1992)
- Bridewell Revisited
- Stolen Sound People (2013)
- Precious Times: A History of The Bridewell Taxis (Stolen, 1990)
- Live at The Hacienda (Jettisoundz, 1990)
- The Invisible Smile: Live at Leeds Town Hall (Alternative Image, 1991)
- Indie Chart Hits Vol. 11 - "Spirit" (Beechwood, 1990)
- Indie Top 20 Vol. 12 - "Don't Fear the Reaper" (Beechwood, 1991)
- Knowing Where It All Leeds - "Moving Fast" (Stolen Sounds, 1991)
- The Expression She Pulled 12 - "World Stop Turning" (as The Bridewells) (ESP, 1992)
- The Expression She Pulled 14 - "Shame" (as The Bridewells) (ESP, 1993)
- United City - "Girl" (as The Bridewells) (Soundcity, 2007)
- The Warehouse - "Cage" and "World Stop Turning" (as The Bridewells) (recorded 23 March, broadcast 30 April, ITV, 1993)
- Lazell, Barry (1997). Indie Hits 1980-1999. Cherry Red Books. ISBN 0-9517206-9-4.
- The Expression She Pulled, issue 2, "The Bridewell Taxis in Paris, (June 1990)
- The Expression She Pulled Vol 8, Leeds (1991)
- "Bridewell Taxis". Ready Steady Go. Archived from the original on 4 February 2008. Retrieved 6 March 2008.
- Paul Dews (March 2006). "Bridewell taxis". Sandman Magazine. Archived from the original on 10 October 2007. Retrieved 6 March 2008.