Thursday, June 24, 2010

Foxtrot Echo Lima Tango: a fanzine about Felt &c. 1980 – 2010

Listen to this. No, say this out loud:
Food, yeah. That’s a weird one. Because, like, the thing about food is – everybody’s a vegetarian in the music business. I can’t believe it! I’ve never ate a vegetable in my life! I think I was forced to eat a sprout once when I was two, you know – that’s the limit of it really.
Are you feeling the lilt of it? Try some more:
It’s up to them. It’s their choice. It’s perfectly OK. But I get some stick. I wish people wouldn’t give me any stick. ‘You need vegetables...,’ all this kind of rubbish. Maybe you do, but I’m not hurting anybody. It’s up to me if I don’t want to. I can’t eat vegetables. I mean, my mum took me to the doctors when I was about four – after the sprout – and she said, ‘This baby won’t eat – he just won’t eat.’
Chances are you are now talking Brummie. At least, I was by the time I’d got that far. I miss that accent sometimes, it is prosaic but it can be so warm. If you were down but not yet out, that’s the voice that would do you most good. If you were engaged in producing a run of the most austere, literate, self-consciously precious records to grace the 1980s, though, it mightn’t be what you’d choose. The Lawrence which emerges in this fine new Felt fanzine is isolated from the rest of Birmingham: he lives that line from ‘Crystal Ball’, ‘we might as well just stay in our rooms until we die’, with his meticulously clean, air-freshened flat, the kitchen cupboards filled with nothing but his collection of Kerouac paperbacks. He walks a line you get the impression that only he can see: between fame and self-sabotage, between trashy concept and fine feeling, between work and non-work. He is as finicky as Kraftwerk, but without the accompanying wealth or acclaim. Not that there hasn’t been acclaim, of course, but it must be hard to remember it or feel its worth when you end up, after all that, not famous, on the dole. This fanzine is beautiful because it shows the breadth and depth of reactions to Felt, it shows that plenty did see the line, it is full of love and obsessional responses to Lawrence’s obsessional detail.

A few highlights:
  • Benjamin Knight’s ‘Sunlight Strings the Golden Glow: The Guitar of Lawrence’, which introduces the word ‘felty’ to the language, to describe the softness of a band’s sound, and is insanely detailed without ever losing its awestruck tone. For example: ‘At 1:40, some double notes spike between Lawrence’s words accentuating them before he stops singing long enough to let the guitars lead us down the shortest lonely path back to the song’ (on ‘Hours of Darkness Have Changed My Mind’).
  • ‘Felt on the Tyne’, an idiotic radio interview with a DJ who’d never heard of them. ‘YOU’RE VERY LAID BACK HERE AND EVERYTHING BUT ARE YOU GONNA SOCK IT TO THEM. ARE YOU LIKE A NOISE BAND? OR ARE YOU TOTALLY MOODY?’
  • The two long interviews with Lawrence, by Chris Heath (from 1987) and Alistair Fitchett (from 2005), particularly the sprouts line from the former and his fierce defence of not selling out in the latter. ‘For the kids, for the people who really love music like me. There must be somebody like me.’
  • Alasdair MacLean’s line about the way Felt made him and his school friends feel ‘estrangement from the details of our lives’.
  • Maurice Deebank’s anonymous third-person grumbling about history’s focus on Lawrence, and his spectacularly un-Pop missing of the point: ‘If you have something worthwhile offering, then let it speak for itself.’
  • Alex Deck’s home-made ‘Felt Box’, made of felt with felt lettering, the inside a trove of clippings and photos surrounding a series of TDK cassettes.
It’s really pretty special. Get one from here.


Tim Footman said...

I always remember Lawrence for his alleged insistence on visitors not doing solids in his toilet (as if he lived on a tourbus) but wondered whether he extended the prohibition to himself. Now I know about his diet, maybe there was no need.

Chris said...

How would that even work? 'Lawrence, where's the loo?' 'It depends...'. Good point though, I'm sure a man with his exacting standards wouldn't make demands of his guests that he couldn't fulfil himself.

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