Leave Them All Behind
The 3:AM Guide to ‘Shoegazing’ and British Indie Music in the 1990s.
By Andrew Stevens.
A version of this article originally appeared in 2003.
From a production perspective, no individual name is as synonymous with shoegazing as Alan Moulder, who oversaw landmark albums from the likes of the Jesus and Mary Chain, My Bloody Valentine, Ride, Curve and Lush. Through his innovative production techniques, Moulder enabled bands to create feedback-laden soundscapes and his influence was widely felt in the shoegazing ‘movement’ during the early 1990s. A smaller debt is owed to Flood, who made Curve’s Doppelganger and The Charlatans’ Between 10th and 11th albums into shoegazer classics – even though the bands were not seeking to record them as such. Finally, another Alan worthy of credit is Alan McGee for signing so many of the bands to Creation Records in the first place.
The History of Shoegazing
Largely a phenomenon confined to the Home Counties in terms of where the bands hailed from, the shoegazing scene enjoyed headline status in both the music press and on the festival and live circuit in the early 1990s, eclipsing the Madchester scene of 1990. With its origins in the distorted sounds of My Bloody Valentine and early Cocteau Twins, the shoegazing movement became known as “the scene that celebrates itself” by virtue of the coterminous fanbases of the bands and their attendance at each other’s gigs. However, it did enjoy some commercial success in the form of Ride and My Bloody Valentine (the latter regarded as distinguished artists in their own right) and the influence of the main protagonists of the scene (Ride, Lush, Slowdive) carries on to this day, whereas the others (Adorable, Chapterhouse, Pale Saints) now rank among rock’s also-rans.
Shoegazing by no means dominated what the passed for the British ‘indie’ scene — after Madchester/Baggy, other ‘scenes’ managed to hold the attention of the nation’s music-buying public. The quirky efforts of Carter the Unstoppable Sex Machine and Kingmaker were unfathomably popular for a while in the likes of the NME and Melody Maker, only to be replaced on an almost weekly basis by other bands — Pop Will Eat Itself, The Senseless Things, Ned’s Atomic Dustbin, The Wonderstuff and even Daisy Chainsaw (or as Carter USM described them in ‘The Only Living Boy in New Cross’: “the grebos, the crusties and the goths”). By 1993, the ‘shoegazer’ (allmusic.com traces the term to: “the bands’ motionless performing style, where they stood on stage and stared at the floor while they played”) had become derogatory, the trademark of a spent-out oh-so-brief epoch of Indie Pop history. Indeed, many bands resisted the application of the tag and in some instances it was merely lazy pigeonholing by the music press. The scene itself and some of the bands that were part of it now enjoy cult status and although its heyday was arguably 1992, it could point to origins a full decade before and influence that pervades to this day.
‘For information only’ – 1982-1987
“Blind dumb deafen offends, I was never part of it”
– ‘Blind Dumb Deaf’, Cocteau Twins (Garlands, 1982)
When Elizabeth Fraser added her unique vocals to Robin Guthrie’s swirling drone guitar in 1982, they could never have imagined that a full decade later the charts, the indie chart in any case, would be full of acts borrowing directly from a track on their Garlands album. The Cocteau Twins’ style would turn out to be highly influential on a number of bands that were either part of the shoegazing set (Lush, Pale Saints, Moose) or influenced it themselves (My Bloody Valentine). Formed in Grangemouth, Scotland in 1979 and named after a song by Simple Minds (at that point not yet the stadium rock band they were to become), Robin Guthrie pursued a contract with Ivo Watts – Russell’s London-based 4AD purely on the strength of it being the label the Birthday Party was signed to. Ostensibly a duo as the name would suggest, bass duties were initially taken on by Will Heggie, only for him to leave the group before 1983’s Head Over Heels. Simon Raymonde completed the line-up in time for Treasure (1984).
My Bloody Valentine, on the other hand, arguably kickstarted the shoegazing movement in a more visible and direct form. However, the trajectory towards shoegazing did stutter somewhat in the early days. Again, the Birthday Party provided a primary influence, although in the case of MBV it was omnipresent on 1985’s This Is Your Bloody Valentine, which was released to general indifference – whereas with the Cocteaus the influence was stated but never overt in any way in terms of musical output. Taking their name from a so-called ‘video nasty’ flick the band formed in Dublin, Ireland but subsequently relocated to Berlin, West Germany (as then was). The nucleus of the band was American-born Kevin Shields and Colm O’Ciosoig and following line-up changes, they relocated again to London and recruited Debbie Googe. Subsequent recordings were made in the Jesus and Mary Chain mould and the addition of vocalist Bilinda Butcher provided the group with the personnel that would see it through two landmark albums and into an infamous hiatus.
Chronology of Events
1987 – Chapterhouse, Pale Saints and The Telescopes form
1988 – Thousand Yard Stare, Lush, Ride and Boo Radleys form (Isn’t Anything – My Bloody Valentine)
1989 – Bleach and Slowdive form (Scar – Lush, Taste – The Telescopes)
1990 – Swervedriver, Revolver, Moose and Catherine Wheel form (The Comfort of Madness – Pale Saints, Nowhere – Ride)
1991 – Adorable and Curve form (Whirlpool – Chapterhouse, Just For A Day – Slowdive, Raise – Swervedriver, Loveless – My Bloody Valentine)
1992 – (Spooky – Lush, Ferment – Catherine Wheel, Hands On – Thousand Yard Stare, Everything’s Alright Forever – Boo Radleys, In Ribbons – Pale Saints, Doppelganger – Curve, Killing Time – Bleach, Going Blank Again – Ride, Baby’s Angry – Revolver, Telescopes – The Telescopes, Blue Day – Slowdive, XYZ – Moose)
1993 – Revolver, Bleach, Chapterhouse and Thousand Yard Stare split
(Against Perfection – Adorable, Cuckoo – Curve, Split – Lush, Souvlaki – Slowdive)
1994 – Curve split
1995 – Adorable and Slowdive split
1996 – Ride and Lush split, Curve reform
1997 – Pale Saints split
1998 – Boo Radleys split
1999 – Swervedriver split
Consolidation – 1987-1991
“Show me all your favourite things/Show you all mine too”
– ‘Blown A Wish’, My Bloody Valentine (Loveless, 1991)
The Thames Valley area of Southeastern England is as unremarkable as any anodyne provincial hinterland. The cities of Reading and Oxford in the counties of Oxfordshire and Berkshire nestle as urban centres in otherwise sleepy English countryside. However, many of the key protagonists in the shoegazing movement found this as their base when starting out in the music industry, The Face even talked of a ‘Thames Valley scene’. Chapterhouse formed in Reading in 1987 and became early leading lights of the scene after support slots with Spacemen 3, after which the group signed to Dedicated, with their early Free Fall and Sunburst EP’s being well received by the press and public alike. Also that year, The Pale Saints and The Telescopes formed, albeit outside of the Thames Valley. The Pale Saints were formed in Leeds, Yorkshire in 1987 and again attracted critical acclaim for their Barging Into the Presence of God EP.
The Telescopes, on the other hand, hailed from Burton-upon-Trent in the Midlands and quickly put out a track on a shared flexidisc with Loop (who also shared some influences with the scene but were never really part of the milieu). With Stephen Lawrie and Joanne Doran forming the core of the operation (although others would come and go), the band adopted the styles of the Jesus and Mary Chain and My Bloody Valentine for their first album, Taste which was released in 1989.
1988 might now rank in history as the year of Acid House but it also saw the formation of Thames Valley stalwarts Ride and Thousand Yard Stare, as well as Lush and the Boo Radleys in London and Liverpool respectively. The release of My Bloody Valentine’s Isn’t Anything LP heralded the arrival of the shoegazing style that year also, proving there was more to life for some than the D Mob and ‘We Call It Acieeed’! A landmark album in its own right, tracks such as ‘Feed Me With Your Kiss’ showed the rest of the world how lush yet tightly formed textural soundscapes could be crafted. Hailing from the cathedral city of Oxford, Ride consisted of Mark Gardener, Andy Bell, Loz Colbert and Steve Queralt, a photogenic quartet of well-scrubbed middle class art students (which could go some way towards explaining the subsequent backlash against the scene). Taking their cue from the wall of sound provided by My Bloody Valentine, Ride were (to quote self-styled indie ‘guru’ Steve Lamacq) like “the House of Love with chainsaws”, hinting at their use of heavy feedback guitar. A series of promising EP’s (later released together as Smile) caught the attention of the press and created a fanbase quite rapidly. The Nowhere LP, released in 1990 at the height of ‘Madchester’, represented a commercial success peaking at 14 in the UK charts and scoring Alan McGee’s Creation label with a second shoegazer hit. According to an interview in the sorely missed Deadline Magazine, Ride were, along with My Bloody Valentine, the “parents” of the shoegazing scene.
The third band referenced in this triumvirate was London’s Lush (only just Southeast) formed around the nucleus of the songwriting partnership of fanzine editor Miki Berenyi and DHSS clerical assistant Emma Anderson, the singers’ good looks often providing a distraction from the music in the press. The band brought an ethereal quality to the shoegazing milieu, evidenced on their early recordings following support slots with the likes of Loop and their signing to 4AD (alongside the Pale Saints, who by now had former Lush member Meriel Barham on the payroll) on the recommendation of Cocteau Twin Robin Guthrie. Bassist Steve Rippon left during the recording of their debut album Spooky, to be replaced by Phil King, formerly of Felt and Alan McGee’s own shortlived band Biff Bang Pow (named after a song by the actual band The Creation).
Ipswich quartet Bleach formed in 1989 and became the latest addition to the shoegazing set, albeit to a consistently minor extent. Another Thames Valley shoegazer act, Slowdive also formed that same year in Chapterhouse’s Reading, gravitating around the axis of Neil Halstead and Rachel Goswell. The band signed to Creation Records and began to generate favourable press as part of what was now recognised as the shoegazer movement. The band were quintessential Thames Valley shoegazers but remained outside the triumvirate of My Bloody Valentine, Ride and Lush, these bands enjoying critical acclaim whatever the mood of the media. Quite possibly, Slowdive were the first to experience the anti-shoegazer backlash, although this did come later than during this period. However, their cover of Lee Hazlewood and Nancy Sinatra’s ‘Some Velvet Morning’ topples Creation labelmates Primal Scream’s subsequent version.
Swervedriver, formed in 1990, were actually based in London but hailed from Oxford originally so their Thames Valley status is questionable. However, given that it was Ride who brought the band to the attention of Alan McGee they probably had every reason to be thankful. Their tunes had a discernable rockier edge to them than any of their more ethereal or feedback-drenched contemporaries. London’s Revolver however, employed a more melodic sound, although their inclusion in the shoegazing set was definitely suspect and questionable (by that token, Blur were shoegazers!) and the band had wider pretentions of being taken seriously as artists in their own right. The strength of the singer Matt Flint’s songwriting on their Hut (a division of Virgin) records was weak and they should be regarded as a lightweight indie pop trio in the same vein as much of the other dross that hung around the indie charts during that era. Labelmates and fellow Londoners Moose made shoegazing a virtue and themselves media targets as a result, abandoning the style for jangle-pop shortly after.
Catherine Wheel formed in the staunchly un-shoegazer Great Yarmouth the same year and quickly revealed themselves as bandwagon-jumpers latching on to whatever scene would get them a record deal. Fronted by Iron Maiden lead singer Bruce Dickinson’s cousin Rob, the band actually triggered a record label feeding frenzy following an inclusion on indie guru and veteran DJ John Peel’s show, but although the likes of Brian Eno’s Opal and Alan McGee’s Creation were clamouring for their signatures, the band elected to join the recently resuscitated major Fontana. On the strength of their songs during that era (mainly ‘indie lite’ material), it is hard to see why this could be the case.
In 1991, Loveless by My Bloody Valentine became the industry standard for shoegazers and provided its zenith in terms of artistic credibility. Beset by problems emanating from periods of lethargy and perfectionism in the studio, the album attracted publicity merely on the strength of the delay of its release, although a decade on the wait appears to have been worth it as it is frequently voted as a ‘classic album’. Adorable were formed in the Midlands city of Coventry that year, when shoegazing had become an indie institution in the likes of the NME and Melody Maker. Fronted by an outspoken singer, they became another Creation shoegazer act in 1992. Curve’s frontwoman Toni Halliday had originally been discovered by Eurythmic Dave Stewart but she turned her post (brief) solo career towards the duo she formed with Dean Garcia in London in 1991. Halliday’s vocal style and NME pin-up status ensured that in addition to a strong songwriting partnership, the group became firm shoegazer favourites.
The Golden Age – 1992-1993
“We’ve got so far to go/Until we get there/Just let it flow”
– Ride, ‘Leave Them All Behind’ (Going Blank Again, 1992)
The period 1992-1993 can be seen as something of a golden age of shoegazing as the bulk of bands’ key offerings were released in this period (many in March 1992 for some reason). The backlash was confined to the music press and sales continued as long as the bands managed to keep their fans (a later lesson for the likes of Ride). Spooky by Lush had the distinction of being produced by Cocteau Twin Robin Guthrie, an early champion of the band who had cemented their deal with the 4AD label. As a debut (their previous offering Scar was actually a mini-LP), the record showed strong promise, vacillating between ethereal melodies and feedback-underwritten tunes, all raised higher by Guthrie’s sonic overview. Thousand Yard Stare’s Hands On was the Stephen Street (famous for his work with The Smiths) produced effort which demonstrated good intention but suffered immeasurably from idiosyncrasy and inconsistency – some tracks being more irritating jangle-pop whereas others such as the overtly cod-shoegazer ‘Comeuppance’ suggested the band couldn’t be bothered. Nice guys possibly but they just didn’t cut it.
The Boo Radleys were sometimes referred to as shoegazers by the music press but in most instances the tag was misapplied – save for ‘Lazy Day’ and ‘Does This Hurt’ from their Everything’s Alright Forever album of that year. Ride’s Going Blank Again added even more fans to their already considerable fanbase, representing a more honed approach to songwriting and a more melodic direction than their earlier feedback-fests, with a discernable 1960s guitar pop influence (few pictures of Mark Gardener showed him without a Rickenbacker!). The Telescopes eponymous album was standard shoegazer fare, making the transition from Mary Chain/MBV noise-merchants to a more archetypical Creation band. Other notable or ‘significant’ (for whatever reason) albums of that year were In Ribbons by the Pale Saints, the excellent Doppelganger by Curve, Bleach’s Killing Time, the atrocious Ferment from Catherine Wheel and Baby’s Angry by Revolver, and Moose’s only album to receive any discernable level of coverage XYZ. Madchester band The Charlatans followed up their 1990 baggy debut Some Friendly with a downbeat offering, the distinctly shoegazer-flavoured ‘difficult second album’ Between 10th and 11th, on Beggar’s Banquet offshoot Situation Two.
The first chinks in the armour were revealed when Revolver, Bleach, Chapterhouse and Thousand Yard Stare split due to the poor reception of their work by a now hostile media, with American labels such as SubPop being flavour of the month in sixth form common rooms and university student unions the land over. That year saw latecomers Adorable release their debut Against Perfection, but the band were by now trying to pass themselves off as a Creation act rather than as shoegazers. Lush’s Split album, the follow up to the year before’s Spooky, was released to a mixed reception, causing Miki Berenyi to contemplate a new direction for the band. Slowdive’s Souvlaki bore some shoegazer traits but again the emphasis was upon passing themselves off as a serious English indie band, embarking upon a disastrous US tour – the shoegazer project laying in ruins.
Postscript – Life after Shoegazing
By mid 1993 the shoegazer backlash had manifested itself in a more terminal form, at best sheer insouciance or at worst outright hostility, to the bands by both the music press and music buyers themselves. The bargain bins in record shops, full of Moose and Pale Saints albums, were testimony to this, as Yankophilia took hold. This troubled few people, although this section preserves for history the much-neglected tale what happened next.
After the aptly-titled Creation album Against Perfection in 1993, Adorable released one more album, Fake, in 1994 before calling it quits. Eccentric frontman Piotr Fijalkowski then tried his hand at being part of a synth pop duo before enlisting brother Kryz and returning to indie-pop under the moniker Polak on One Little Indian (as Peter Fijalkowski), while guitarist Robert Dillam moved to Scotland and joined folk-shoegaze act The Zephyrs.
Always in the second division of shoegazer bands, Bleach attempted to remain a band following 1992’s Killing Time with the release of the mini-album Hard and the long-player Fast, both in 1993. Bleach failed to even see the year out as the US invasion of Seattle bands sought firmly to ensure that the wheels had well and truly fallen off the shoegazing bandwagon.
1993 album Giant Steps released to major critical acclaim, dropping the Dinosaur Jr-style feeback for a more accomplished songwriting style and jangly sound. They became the shoegazer success story in the mid-1990s by riding on the coat-tails of Britpop with the Wake Up! album, which featured among the most commercially successful Britpop albums of 1995. Subsequent albums C’mon Kids and Kingsize saw the band shed the new fans (and record company loyalties) overnight, before splitting up in early 1999, ending a decade together. Martin Carr recorded as Bravecaptain on Creation Records’ Dick Green’s Wichita label but has since retired this project. Vocalist Sice joined Japanese musician Ryo Matsui’s solo project Meister for two tracks and has since formed a new band, Paperlung.
Having seen plenty of similar bands eventually fall by the wayside, Catherine Wheel soldier on to this day. 1992’s Ferment (featuring the creepy-sounding ‘I Want to Touch You’) was followed-up with the albums Chrome (1993), Happy Days (1995), the ‘rarities’ album Like Cats and Dogs (1996), Adam and Eve (1997) and Wishville (2000). Despite a 1997 duet with ex-Throwing Muse/Belly frontwoman Tanya Donnelly, the band’s trajectory followed a more metal-sounding path, playing solely to US college audiences and, like Bush, remaining virtually unheard of on their native soil. Since their hiatus began in 2000, members have pursued other projects – vocalist Rob Dickinson a solo album, with Brian Futter and Neil Sims recording as 50 ft Monster.
Blood Music, the 1993 follow-up to their debut Whirlpool, saw the shoegazing backlash in full flow and the end of the band as a result following its poor reception. Drummer Ashley Bates later formed 4AD act Cuba (and more recently joined folktronica act Tunng), whereas bassist Russell Barrett joined Inner Sleeve, with guitarist Simon Rowe joining post-Slowdive act Mojave 3 in 1998. Andrew Sherriff formed Bio.com.
One of rock’s greatest survivors, Curve initially called it quits in 1994, following the previous year’s well-received Cuckoo. Vocalist Toni Halliday, an erstwhile pin-up for NME indie-boys, subsequently contributed to Leftfield’s Leftism album. With the likes of Garbage taking the band’s blueprint to new commercial heights, the band (ostensibly a duo now) reformed in 1996 and released three more albums (Come Clean in 1998, the web-only Open Day at the Hate Fest in 2001 and Gift the same year), although not to the same level of commercial appreciation as in their early 90s incarnation. Halliday has since announced the permanent hiatus of Curve.
One of the more pre-eminent but reluctant members of the shoegazing movement, Lush’s follow-up to 1992’s excellent Robin Guthrie-produced Spooky, Split (1993) saw the band go from strength to strength musically, although the band struggled to get noticed in an increasingly Yankophile environment. Ethereal harmonies abandoned, 1996’s Lovelife saw the band at the top of their commercial peak, with spiky riffs borrowed from Elastica and a duet with Pulp’s Jarvis Cocker in the form of the single ‘Ciao!’. However, success turned to tragedy in a more direct form than the demise of other shoegazer bands when drummer Chris Acland committed suicide. The retired Miki Berenyi performed guest vocals on The Rentals’ 1999 LP Seven More Minutes. Emma Anderson went on to form Sing Sing with ex-members of Moose and Mojave 3, releasing The Joy of Sing Sing on Alan McGee’s Poptones label in 2001 and the self-released Sing-Sing and I in 2005.
In spite of some critical acclaim with 1992’s XYZ (which featured Cranberries vocalist Delores O’Riordan), Moose quickly acquired the status of indie’s also-rans. However, probably unbeknown to most reading this, they are still together and releasing records. 1993’s Honey Bee predictably failed to make any impact but subsequent records Live a Little, Love a Lot (1996) and High Ball Me! (2000) were purely labours of love, the latter featuring the vocal talents of ex-Lush songstress Miki Berenyi and spending several years on the shelf unreleased before the tiny Nickel and Dimes label put it out.
My Bloody Valentine
Progenitors of the shoegazing scene, after the seminal and genius-like Isn’t Anything (1988) and Loveless (1991), My Bloody Valentine entered a well-documented and much-mourned period of silence, only emerging briefly in 1996 to contribute a track to a Wire tribute album. Kevin Shields lent his considerable talents to ex-Spacemen 3 frontman Sonic Boom’s Experimental Audio Research side project and J.Mascis’ post-Dinosaur Jr solo album More Light (2000), as well as taking on production duties on Primal Scream’s Xtmntr (2000) and Evil Heat (2002) albums. Debbie Googe, after a year of being a London cabbie, formed Snowpony with Katharine Gifford (ex-Stereolab), who released The Slow Motion Adventures of Snowpony in 1998 and Sea Shanties for Spaceships in 2001. Colm O’Ciosoig is now a member of the Warm Inventions with Mazzy Star’s Hope Sandoval. Reunion rumours constantly abound regarding the band’s future, speculation fuelled by press appearances of Kevin Shields, though the only post-MBV material to emerge other than his production credits was his solo contributions to the Lost in Translation soundtrack in 2003.
Troubled by an uneasy relationship with the music press and certainly not among the ‘big five’ driving the shoegazing scene (Ride, Slowdive, Chapterhouse, Lush and to a lesser extent Moose), The band struggled on after the departure of mainstay Ian Masters, with former early Lush member Meriel Barham (who guested on the Boo Radleys’ Giant Steps) taking over on vocal duties. 1994’s 4AD release Slow Buildings left no mark on the world and the band merely dissipated not long after. Masters released Spoonfed Hybrid ‘s debut album in 1993, with Hibernation Shock following in 1996. He then recorded as Friendly Science Orchestra. Bassist Colleen Browne joined Britpop hopefuls Rialto and the Warm Jets in the late 1990s before trying her hand as a member of White Hotel. Graeme Naysmith and Chris Cooper formed Leeds band Lorimer before becoming The Terminals. Meriel Barham now records post-rock material as Kuchen.
Like Catherine Wheel, Revolver were always coincidentally members of the shoegazing set, although the band had more worldlier aspirations. Their second album, 1993’s Cold Water Flat (named after the minor US band of the same name, fronted by the brother of Buffalo Tom’s Bill Janowitz) attracted favourable reviews. The band did not survive much further past that point however, as vocalist Matt Flint joined with ex-Drop Nineteen Paula Kelley and future Jack Drag frontman John Dragonetti to form Hot Rod, who released the Speed Danger Death album on Caroline that year. Flint later took up bass duties with electronica duo Death in Vegas.
The history of Ride could merit a whole book in itself. Always the standard bearers and most successful band in the shoegazing scene (they never bore the brunt of the backlash in the way more minor bands did – in fact they made a virtue out of shoegazing), Ride rode out the grunge fascination of the press and fans’ attention spans by waiting until the nascent Britpop scene emerged in 1994, releasing Carnival of Light to great expectation. The record failed to excite the reviewers, who by now had discarded Nirvana and Mudhoney for Oasis and a revived Blur, whereas the fans of Nowhere (1990) and Going Blank Again (1992) era Ride did not appreciate the bands new-found Mod-leanings (found on the cover of The Creation’s ‘How Does it Feel to Feel?’). Tarantula, released posthumously in 1995 astonished those who were still listening by moving in an altogether unpredictable rockier direction, with the tensions between the band’s two main songwriters Andy Bell and Mark Gardener clearly evident for all to see. Mark Gardener released a solo CD single, ‘Magdelen Sky’ on Oxford’s Shifty Disco label, before forming the more Britpop-orientated Animalhouse with ex-Ride drummer Laurence Colbert, albeit to limited success, with their Ready to Receive album being released in 2000 after several years as a touring band. Gardener has since toured as a solo artist, with These Beautiful Ghosts released in the US. Andy Bell formed the more ‘Noelrock’ Hurricane #1, who released their self-titled album on Creation in 1997, before (somewhat ironically) joining Oasis as a replacement bassist. Colbert then joined a Bob Dylan covers act, The Zimmermen, before playing in a reformed Jesus and Mary Chain. The band briefly reformed for a Channel 4 documentary on Sonic Youth.
Cynically referred to by critics as “the My Bloody Valentine that Creation could afford”, Slowdive returned in 1993 with Souvlaki, a long-awaited follow-up to their 1991 longplayer Just for a Day. Simon Scott left shortly after, later hooking up with Chapterhouse’s Russell Bates in Inner Sleeve. However, sales of Souvlaki were disappointing, although 1995’s more ambient-orientated Pygmalion is now regarded as their most well-developed offering. Creation boss Alan McGee hated it however and dropped the band for their trouble. A stripped-down Slowdive reassembled as the alt-country-leaning Mojave 3 and signed to 4AD, releasing 1995’s Ask Me Tomorrow, 1998’s Out of Tune, 2000’s Excuses for Travellers2003’s Spoon and Rafter and 2006’s Puzzles Like You. Neil Halstead subsequently issued a solo album, as has Rachel Goswell.
If anyone ever referred to Swervedriver as shoegazers, it certainly wasn’t with their permission (they probably owed more to Husker Du than the Cocteaus). However, the tag stuck (probably because of their Thames Valley/Oxford origins) despite their more rockier leanings, which manifested themselves clearly on 1993’s Mezcal Head. The band found themselves dropped in 1995 by a Creation Records wanting move on to the newfound pastures conveniently discovered by Oasis and the bands they brought in their wake, although the label was kind enough to release their Ejector Seat Reservation album shortly before doing so. 1998 saw the band take on a more melodic pop route with 99th Dream. Former rhythm section Adi Vines and Graham Bonner now exist as Skyscraper, Bonner having been in experimentalists ImaJinery Friends who put out a split EP with Sonic Boom’s (ex-Spacemen 3) Spectrum incarnation. Vocalist Adam Franklin has recorded and toured as Toshack Highway, as well as working with Interpol’s Sam Fogarino as The Setting Suns.
The most under-rated members of the scene (unjustly so), The Telescopes went into a decade long hiatus, surfacing in 2002 with the Third Wave album released on the US Double Agent label. However, frontman Stephen Lawrie formed his side project Unisex in 1996. Since then they have released the electronica-orientated LP The Telescopes #4.
Thousand Yard Stare
Possibly the most under-rated (arguably justifiably so) of the members of the shoegazing scene, Thames Valley stalwarts Thousand Yard Stare represented the quirkier element of that scene (they released all their records on their own ‘Stifled Aardvark’ label). Mappamundi was released in 1993 to universal indifference and the band wisely elected to disband shortly after.
Somewhat inappropriately labelled as shoegazers as a result of support slots with Ride, and the band’s early singles and first album displaying very ethereal tendencies, Verve were (along with the Boo Radleys) the only Northern element of a Southeast-dominated music scene (if either band was at all, a debatable point). Forced to change their name to ‘The Verve’ as a result of legal action by the US jazz imprint of the same name, the band’s subsequent change of direction (displayed on 1995’s A Northern Soul album), their hiatus between 1995 and late 1997 (having effectively split up) and jubilant return with 1997’s Urban Hymns is very well-documented. Singer Richard Ashcroft married former Spiritualized keyboardist Kate Radley and enjoyed some solo success, whereas bassist Simon Jones and latecomer guitarist Simon Tong later formed The Shining. All a far cry from the sonic soundscapes of ‘Gravity Grave’ and ‘She’s A Superstar’ though. Since their 1999 break-up, Richard Ashcroft has attempted a solo career, drummer Pete Salisbury played with Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, with guitarist Simon Tong joining Blur in lieu of Graham Coxon and in Damon Albarn’s The Good, the Bad and the Queen side project. A reunion has been mooted since.
There were, for some time, no books that specifically deal with shoegazing in its own right. US rock critic and Lester Bangs acolyte Jim De Rogatis’ Kaleidoscope Eyes (Fourth Estate, 1996) is now out of print and long overdue for a reprint, but this deals with shoegazing in one chapter of a wider study of the history and legacy of the psychedelic era. British music journo David Cavanagh (of the Q and Select stable) published The Creation Records Story in 2000 (Virgin Books). Although highly recommended for its encyclopaedic coverage of not only the shoegazing bands but (as you would expect) other bands from the Creation stable, Alan McGee dismissed it as “the accountant’s tale” on his Poptones website. Quite harsh, possibly as McGee himself penned the introduction to the highly Oasis-centric Alan McGee and the Story of Creation Records by Paolo Hewitt (Mainstream, 2000), which deals with the label in a 1994 as year zero approach (the year Oasis emerged), with minimal coverage of any of the shoegazing bands (apart from those with tenuous connections to Oasis). With two books devoted to Alan McGee and Creation Records alone, the deficit of any such books on labels such as 4AD and the immeasurable influence of the bands on their rosters are glaringly apparent.
More recently, we have seen Mike McGonigal’s My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless on Continuum’s 33 1/3 series, as well as Erik Morse‘s biography of Spacemen 3 Dreamweapon, which maps much of the earlier years.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Andrew Stevens is contributing editor to 3:AM and lives in London.
First published in 3:AM Magazine: Wednesday, July 11th, 2007.