We love music, we love the people who love music and naturally we love the people that make music.
So what about those people that make music? What sort of people are they? They like music as well, right? What were they into as kids? Was it the same sort of music we were into? What are they listening to now? What songs did they wish they had written?
We wanted to discover the “music fan” inside these artists, so we decided to find out using a similar format to our Meet The Community feature. By firing a series of short questions at a selected indie artist we wanted to get a bit of an insight into what makes them tick musically.
In this edition – David Newton
It is something of a cliche to describe records as life-changing, but please indulge me with this one. One Monday in February 1988 I was listening to Nik Kershaw, Paul Young and whatever else was destined to appear on the Now That’s What I Call Music and Hits compilation albums, a nervous schoolboy out of place with no real significant group of friends, merely hovering on the periphery of the footballers (not laddish enough), the boffins (not clever enough), the music lovers (not cool enough) and the rest (not from the right background). By the end of double Physics two days later, I was in: with the music lovers. I still wasn’t cool, of course, but what had happened to change things? Having heard ‘Inside Out’ by The Mighty Lemon Drops on the radio on the way home from the football the previous evening, I’d convinced ma Hartley to buy the bands album for me – she’d have been buying it just as I graffitied the band’s name on Karl Hurst’s pencil case in the science lab.
The Mighty Lemon Drops became everything to me. I realised I’d missed out a fair chunk of their history already, but that didn’t deter me. I signed up to the Information Service, getting lovely notes from Cerne Canning in response to the letters I wrote accompanying orders for the back catalogue, 7” double-pack by 7” double-pack (well, the two that existed, and the ‘Out Of Hand’ single), assuring me that despite his apparent scowl in press shots, guitarist David Newton was a pussy cat who wouldn’t hurt a fly.
I consumed as many things Lemon Drop-related as possible on a paperboy’s wage, following the band through the rest of their career: the criminally underrated Laughter, the roundly ignored Sound… Goodbye To Your Standards and not-even-granted-a-UK-release Ricochet. Three albums that showed consistent musical, lyrical and compositional progression. The Mighty Lemon Drops were barely acknowledged by the UK’s music media by the end of their career, still idly dismissing the band as they did most of their c86 counterparts; the reception in the US was more favourable, but by the end of 1992 the band would be no more.
Founder member David Newton moved to the US and in the early part of this decade teased the world with Thee Mighty Angels’s five-track ep Paint The Town. Eight years later, David Newton and Thee Mighty Angels have finally released an album, via Parkfield Records, entitled A Gateway To A Lifetime Of Disappointment. It is really rather good, blending poppy, upbeat music with a melancholic nostalgia permeating the lyrics. Here is David Newton’s view from the stage, with a couple of photos he has shared to boot.
Q1 Where did you grow up?
I was born in Wolverhampton in 1964, a fairly large town (250,000 people) about 15 miles north of Birmingham. I lived there until 1990 when I moved to London, then Los Angeles in 1995.
Q2 What posters did you have on your bedroom wall as a teenager?
I became a teenager in 1977, right around the time of the Summer Of UK Punk, so my bedroom wall was covered in posters & record sleeves of all my faves, Clash, Pistols, Buzzcocks etc. Two of my fave bands at the time were The Boys & Eddie & The Hot Rods, so I had plenty of their posters / 7” sleeves on the wall ! I’m attaching a pic of my bedroom wall so you can see it haha.
Q3 What was the first record you bought?
It was Solid Gold Easy Action by T-Rex, January 1973 (which by the way is the very same record I’m holding up in the video for my single “The Songs That Changed Our Lives”)
Q4 What moment made you want to become a singer/artist/musician?
I’d always done daft things like stand on my bed in front of the mirror with my cheap acoustic guitar, pretending that I was in The Sweet or something, but it was 1977-8 when I realized that I could actually play a bit, I think it was after seeing something like Gary Gilmore’s Eyes by The Adverts on Top Of The Pops & realizing that I could actually play along with it, so me & some school mates formed a punk band (I’ve attached a pic of this school band The Lowest Class holding up a skeleton in the high school science lab).
Q5 How much did you get paid for your first gig?
My first gig was with my school mates 1978, a punk band, we were called The Lowest Class. We played at our school youth club. It was packed, a hundred or so people. We had use of the sizeable school stage, with full lights & everything, it was great.
Q6 Do you have a particularly memorable gig you performed at?
That’s a really hard one to answer as there have been so many. The night the Mighty Lemon Drops played at Dan Treacy’s “Room At The Top” club in London for the first time was special, as it was the night that started things moving really. We were rank outsiders, didn’t know anyone in the “industry”, had no record label, no management, no booking agent & we were from 120 miles away yet two weeks later a review of our gig appeared in the NME, written by The Legend / Everett True, saying that we were the future of pop or something ha ha, crazy!
Q7 Who would you most like to perform with on stage?
Hmm dunno really. The Lemon Drops were quite fortunate really as we got to play / tour with a lot of our fave bands. We toured with The Church, The Wild Swans and The Chameleons. When we started doing ok in the UK we made an effort to insist on choosing our opening / support bands, then new & upcoming bands like Pop Will Eat Itself, House Of Love, Benny Profane, Wild Flowers, Stars Of Heaven, Ride.
Q8 What is the best venue you have played at?
Tricky one that. It was an honor to play at / headline Wolverhampton Civic Hall in 1987, as it was the venue where us teenagers would go & see all our fave bands like The Clash, Undertones, Generation X, The Ruts, The Damned, Hot Rods, The Members, XTC etc.
Q9 What song would you most like to have written (not your own)?
Blimey. I could say something obvious like “God Only Knows” but I think Brickfield Nights by The Boys is also as close to a perfect song as you can get.
Q10 If you weren’t a singer/artist/musician what would you have been?
When I left school I was still only 15 & my first job was working in the building / construction trade. On my very first day I was dropped off at a construction site & a big truck arrived containing 100 or so bags of cement & I had to unload them on my own while the driver sat down reading the paper smoking a ciggy. I lasted about a year ha ha.
Q11 What are you listening to at the moment? Any recommendations?
A mixture of new & old. The new Pet Shop Boys album is great, as good as anything that they have ever done really. Also my old mate Phil King (who you may know as he was a member of something like a hundred bands including Lush, Jesus & Mary Chain, Felt etc) put together a 3-cd compilation of lots of unknown 70s mostly UK glam/glitter bands called “All The Young Droogs”. Newer bands ? Automatic (from LA, actually featuring Kevin Haskins from Bauhaus/Love & Rockets’ daughter – I know Kevin from a fun 1988 US tour the Drops did with Love & Rockets), Dry Cleaning, Porridge Radio. A slightly older band that I’ve liked a lot is Fat White Family, who are amazing and fun live (you never know what to expect haha). Also The Lovely Eggs, I love their new record and I was lucky enough to do a handful of UK dates with them back in 2010 when I did a European tour as guitarist/’musical director’ (haha) with Everybody Was In The French Resistance…Now, a band that I produced featuring my friends Eddie Argos (of Art Brut) and Dyan Valdes (The Blood Arm, Mexican Radio).
Q12 What are you up to at the moment?
My “day job” is recording / producing bands / artists in my studio in Burbank. However I have just released an album of my own “A Gateway To A Lifetime Of Disappointment” containing ten songs of mine, written, produced & mostly performed by myself.
A Gateway To A Lifetime Of Disappointment by David Newton and Thee Mighty Angels is out now on digital download and limited CD from https://theemightyangels.bandcamp.com/
John Hartley is the author of “Capturing The Wry”, an autobiographical tale of the unsigned side of the music industry and “The Great Leap Forward” available here, both published by i40Publishing. After spending the best part of twenty five years trying to write the perfect pop song he has also turned his attention to writing about those who have done a much better job at it. He tweets as @JohnyNocash and gives away his music, generally for free, at Broken Down Records.