Morse Code Messages Straight To Berlin
Dear esteemed Vibrator Buzz followers and international record junkies blessed with the refined Powerpop taste of gods !
Are you ready for the comeback of the year, for an auditory adventure shot of Sixties Pop Jetage on a fast lane fight ride with the LAMBRETTAS qualitatively reeving in right beside THE FANS, DISTRACTIONS and REALLY 3RDS with an Costello aim that is true ?
Then set your alarm clocks to the 13th of May to jump directly into a sweaty hot pot live experience with the Leeds Powerpop Legend CITY LIMITS celebrating the release of their ultimately recommended “To Hull And Back” digest LP on Queen Mum Records with an exclusive return to the boards that mean the world at the Wild At Heart in Berlin !
Best known for their teenage fever anthem “Morse Code Messages” from the EP of the same name havin´ seen birth on the Luggage Label in 1979 this is your exclusive chance to save the 500 Euro that this EP is fetching up on the collectors market and reinvest them for train or flight ticket to Berlin and still havin´ a whole lot of quid left to broaden your barfly horizon while shaking your booty to the real thing.
Accompanied by Switzerland´s one and only BUZZCOCKS nougate covered Chainsaw Poppers ESCALATOR HATERS bringin´ in their tasty OUTCASTS / RUDI / UNDERTONES nut mix recipes and Bank Holiday Mod-Snot Berlin residents THE NOT AMUSED with their rampant Modern World middle-finger response take on THE CROOKS, CHORDS, SEVENTEEN and obscure Bored Teengagers residents alike, this one´s sure to be a night to remember and tell your grandchilds to.
On the occasion of this sabbath day I took the chance to have a chat with CITY LIMITS man of the match Ted Waite telling me about the way from founding the band in Leeds 1973 to playing in Berlin 2017.
Ted, thirty-seven years after the original release of your legendary “Morse Code Messages” Single the CITY LIMITS are finally back with their first full-length “To Hull And Back” via Queen Mom Records.
How does it feel to finally having reached that goal and listen to those songs of yours again so many years later ?
Fantastic! I was 21 when we released Morse Code Messages and I’m 58 now so that must be some kind of record. No pun intended.
Would you say that you also feel kind of a “Time heals all wounds” effect in the sense of finally having got the chance to release those songs in a way you haven´t been able to do so back then ?
I’m not sure there are any serious wounds to heal but the whole process of planning and releasing the record has been an absolute joy. It’s great to know that the music we made all those years ago still matters.
Despite the fact that John Peel regularly played that eponymous song of above mentioned Single on his Radio Show the record companies didn´t have much of an interest in you with a narrowminded Arista A&R man even commenting your work with “Close but no cigar”.
Would you say that you´ve finally had the last laugh over such ignorants with that LP of yours in your hands ?
Ha! I suppose that depends on how many copies we sell but I’m sure he might be amused to see that MCM is fetching £250+ on eBay these days.
Where do you see the main reasons why you didn´t make it back then ?
I think it was a combination of things – maybe we weren’t different enough and we certainly never quite found the magic formula for a break through hit single that would get played on Radio 1 (and not just on the Peel show), which was really important in those days. Morse Code Messages came close, and I still love all the songs we wrote and played back then, but like the man said – no cigar. With hindsight, I think we gave up too soon but at the time? I suspect the truth is that we realized we lacked the desire to really push ourselves and suffer the hardships involved in making the step up from being a decent provincial band and making it on the national stage.
Although you didn´t have the best of luck with the CITY LIMITS back then I didn´t get the impression from looking at the linernotes of your LP that you feel frustrated or embittered about that fact.
So which are the most important moments and memories from back then preventing you from such bitterness, which are the things that really count when you´re looking at the history of your band ?
It’s hard to pick out specifics. We had some great gigs at places like the Haddon Hall in Leeds, and Hull of course, plus there were some fantastic arguments during rehearsals, but it was just the whole thing really. Being in a band with your mates and finding we could write and play songs that people wanted to hear was brilliant and something I’ll never forget.
Most bands of your era always name the SEX PISTOLS when it comes to bands having changed their views on music but for you the life changing record has been the first album of Elvis Costello.
What did impress you with this album and which impact did it have on your band ?
Despite being 200 miles north of London where it was all kicking off, we were well aware of the changes taking place in 1977 but My Aim Is True was the record that showed you didn’t need to pogo to be new wave. It mixed the attitude of punk with real musicianship, with songs as diverse as Red Shoes, Less Than Zero and Alison combining complex lyrics with stunning, but immediate, tunes. Oh, and it had a great cover.
In how far did it change the perception of music for your band as you´ve already formed in 1973 with totally different influences ?
Like most bands (and Costello himself) we’d experimented with a number of styles since taking our first musical steps as spotty teenagers, but it really felt like we found ourselves in 1977. Trying to be punks would have been dishonest, and a retrograde step – we already knew a lot more than three chords – but we found we could be part of the zeitgeist whilst using the musical ability we’d developed along the way.
Would you say that the band has been a way for you to break out of an everyday boredom and stagnation routine, both societal and musical ?
Not at all! I’m afraid we weren’t “bored teenagers” railing against the injustice of the society – we wanted to be pop stars.
Therefore, which influence had Punk with it´s mentality of D.I.Y. on you after all as a band and as individuals ?
I suppose you could say that we picked up on the energy that punk created but it would stretching the truth to say we were anti-establishment. In fact, we would have been very happy to be part of the establishment – Top Of The Pops included.
How do we have to imagine life and the music scene in your hometown back then, especially in contrast to the “epicenter” London ?
There was a very strong music scene in Leeds with lots of excellent bands and lots of great venues putting on gigs most nights of the week, but it certainly wasn’t Camden or the Kings Road. Like us, a lot of these bands had grown up playing in bands before the punk “explosion” and most had adapted their styles to reflect the arrival of new wave and power pop, but you could still find plenty of heavy metal if you were into that kind of thing…
Would you say that is has been harder or more “dangerous” to be different, to set yourself apart from the crowd in those days coming from a town like Leeds ?
I think it was harder to get noticed in those days because the industry was largely focused on London and you either had to convince the A&R men to come to you, or make the trip south in the hope of being noticed.
It was definitely dangerous on occasions. The north hadn’t embraced punk / new wave in quite the same as London and I remember arriving for sound check at a pub in Bradford to find the bar full of Hells Angels, who didn’t look too impressed with our cricket trousers and Hawaiian shirts. We had a few other close calls over the years, including a full-scale fight between rival football fans, which spilled over from the main bar into the room where we were playing but thankfully they were intent on battering each other, and kept a respectful distance from the stage.
Did you ever think of moving to London like a lot of bands did, filled with hope to maybe break through in some way with that move ?
You can probably guess the answer to this but I’m sorry to say that we didn’t. As I said earlier, I think we were all hoping that the record companies would come to us and save us the trouble…
Of course you never would have expected that a shitload of years later a blonde haired Powerpop and Punk fanatic from Berlin would get in touch with to put out a full-length of the CITY LIMITS on his record label ?
Ha! Absolutely not, but it was a very nice surprise!
How was that going to happen and what have been your first thoughts when he unfolded his idea of putting out a CITY LIMITS album to you ?
It started with an email from Bruce Rogers who runs the MyLifeIsAJigsaw Blog.
Bruce had featured MCM on his blog and wanted to know what had happened to Dancing In The Heat / No Regrets which were going to be on the second single. After I’d sent him the tracks and some more info for his blog, he asked if we had enough material for an album and if we’d be interested in talking to a couple of independent labels he knew. Of course, I said, yes we have, and yes we would! First port of call was a Swedish label called KilledByDeath, (which I didn’t think sounded very promising) and I wasn’t surprised when they said we “weren’t punk enough” for them.
Bruce then told me about a German guy called Kidnap who runs a label called Queen Mum Records and everything just fell into place.
Kidnap has been absolutely brilliant, pulling the whole project together and has put up with all my fannying around with the artwork, photographs and liner notes so that we now have not just an album, but a permanent reminder of that brief period in our young lives when we thought anything was possible.
You´ll also be playing at the Wild At Heart in Berlin at the 13.05.2017 together with THE NOT AMUSED and ESCALATOR HATERS.
What are you´re feeling looking forward to this gig and are your wifes aware of the damage that german beer is able to produce ?
We’re all very excited about the gig in Berlin having never travelled any further east than Hull and Bridlington back in the day! We’ve played a few shows over the last 10 years so we’re not starting from scratch, but we’re rehearsing hard for what I’m sure will be a great night and I’m sure Kidnap will be pleased to hear that Colin can play just as fast as he could in 1979. I just hope the rest of us can keep up.
Ah yes, German beer. I’m looking forward to that as well! I’m not sure we’re physically capable of drinking as much as we used to in 1979 but I am told that German beer is very pure compared to its English equivalent so I’m hoping the hangover won’t be too bad (assuming I manage to finish a whole stein….)
Do you think of recording new songs and continue with CITY LIMITS further on ?
That would be great – there are loads of songs post Dancing In The Heat / No Regrets that we never recorded and that I would love to preserve for posterity. Who knows, some of them might even be good enough to impress the guy from Arista. After the year we’ve just had, nothing would surprise me.
The CITY LIMITS are:
Jonathan Beardsworth: Lead Guitar
Paul Hart-Woods: Bass
Colim McCaig: Drums
Anthony Peart: Rhythm Guitar
Ted Waite: Singer