Chapter 31: Life after The Flatmates

Me, Jackie, Joel and Gary decided to recruit a new singer and carry on. We advertised in Bristol and after auditions selected a girl named Kirsty. The band was named Sweet Young Things, a name taken from the Chocolate Watch Band’s song of the same title which also featured in our set. Sweet Young Things rehearsed through the summer of 1989 and recorded a number of 4 and 8 track demos. After months of practising it was felt that Kirsty’s voice wasn’t up to it and she left the band to be replaced by Steph McNicholas, a journalist who Martin had known since she interviewed the Flatmates at their Sunday lunchtime gig at Peterborough Millionaires. Jackie found the travelling to Bristol too much (and we found it too expensive!) and left Sweet Young Things. She was replaced by Joe Allen, later to be the bassist with Strangelove. This lineup played a handful of gigs but released no records. At a gig at The Bull and Gate at Kentish Town in London, one of the audience was heard to comment that the band was good, but why did they play several Flatmates songs? Sweet Young Things split around the end of 1989.

The Flatmates never got to make the album that we’d wanted to make after ‘You’re Gonna Cry’. We’d held back in order to tempt a major to get into bed with us. There were a number of unreleased recordings lying around and the earlier singles had sold out. The pick of the singles tracks, compilation tracks and new recordings were compiled onto ‘Love and Death’, a posthumous album that featured 14 tracks on the vinyl, and 19 on the CD. Also at the end of the CD was a collage of demos consisting of rehearsal recordings of ‘Heaven Is Blue’ (a Groove Farm single), ‘You’re Gonna Cry’, The Velvet Underground’s ‘Femme Fatale’, ‘New York City Surf Song’, The Stooges ‘No Fun’, ‘So In Love With You’, ‘Tell Me Why’, ‘Crazy Town’ and ‘Shimmer’. Dave Squire, my ex flatmate and Five Year Plan keyboard player took the tapes to London and attended the cutting session at Abbey Road studio. The album was released in late 1989 and is a summary of The Flatmates brief career.

Truth is, now I look back at a list of 150 gigs and most of them I can’t even visualise the inside or outside of the club, let alone tell you what happened at the gig. You bump into people years later who saw The Flatmates play at say Horsham Champagnes, and recall the gig in great detail. I can picture in my mind a detail of a town centre that may have been Horsham, or it may have been Gravesend, but I couldn’t tell you anything about the gig. I can also remember specific events, faces, conversations, which I couldn’t possibly attach with any accuracy to any gig or recording session. Much of it passed in such a manic blur that I couldn’t remember a month later which gig was which, and now ten years later what I recall is really just the edited highlights of inch perfect passes, 40 yard screamers, sliding tackles and sending-offs.

Something that's really bemused me in the intervening years is how The Flatmates picked up a twee tag. Our early demos were cover versions of songs by The Ramones, Stooges and Velvet Underground. Whilst I'll never deny the debt owed to Blondie, The Ronettes and Shangri Las we always tried to combine that with gutsy guitar thrash. Most people commented that The Flatmates were always a lot thrashier on stage, especially after Tim joined as a second guitarist. (I remember seeing The Bangles once and thinking how they could have been a metal band). I think that edge got smoothed off in the studio despite our favoured engineer being ex Vice Squad bassist, Sooty. I think we retained it though on the one-take feedback-fest of ‘I Don't Care’ and the proto grunge ‘My Empty Head’.

In 1992 after moving to London, I formed Shrimptractor. They played 10 gigs and released 2 singles on their own Shrimp:Platters label. I still write and record for my own pleasure but haven’t been in a band since the demise of Shrimptractor. I also returned to University to study law and qualified as a solicitor in August 1999. I now work for a firm of solicitors named Spraggon Stennett Brabyn, practising music and entertainment law and representing a number of successful acts. In June 1998, Rosey and me had a baby boy named George who is already showing every indication of becoming a pop kid; he’s so far trashed the Casio keyboard which appeared on several Flatmates recordings and asked us to buy the Bob The Builder single. Deb later sang and played guitar alongside Howard, our driver and roadie, in a Bristol band by the name of Cake, not to be confused with the American band of the same name. Deb and Howard had a baby boy named Fred in April 1998, and a second named Charlie in summer 2000. After leaving The Flatmates Rocker played keyboards for fellow Subway band The Rosehips. He can now be found playing keyboards for Bristol's Spectrasonic. Rocker’s also contributed to Bristol’s Flying Saucer Attack; the drum programming on their cover of Suede’s ‘The Drowners’ being his work. After a holiday in Ibiza last year, Rocker has been reborn as the dental dance dj, “Banginman”. Sarah turned down a request to join the Blue Aeroplanes but is currently seriously considering offers to join David Gedge’s Cinerama. Kath is living in Brixton with a mohican (the hairstyle rather than native American) and a smelly old leather jacket. Joel moved to the Portsmouth area and started a new career as a DJ. When I last heard from him in summer 2000 he had moved to Brighton and had a single due out shortly. Jackie joined the Caretaker Race after leaving Sweet Young Things and can be seen in the video to ‘Two Steel Rings’. After The Caretaker Race split she further boosted her rock credentials by joining Girlschool. On the day I moved to London in 1991 she cyscled past me in the street in Islington, but I haven’t seen her since. Tim ran the Southside Studio in Bristol, joined the Beatnik Filmstars, got thrown out the Beatnik Filmstars and is now in the process of putting another band together. Rodney Allen spent several years in The Blue Aeroplanes. A couple of years ago he put together a new band with ex members of Strangelove, The Rodney Allen Experience, to play his new material, but I don’t know how much success he had with that. Paul Roberts finally did get made redundant from British Telecom and spent his redundancy money on a synth. Of everyone involved in The Flatmates it was our train riding, milk drinking T-shirt seller who found the greatest degree of commercial success as a dancefloor maestro and very much in demand remixer with his band K-Klass.







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