In early March, 1987, Gaye Bykers On Acid – Eveythang’s Groovy – appeared on The Old Grey Whistle Test on BBC2. It was a very short clip shown from the “promotional video”. I say “promotional video” – it was very low budget, the clip lasted less than a minute, but it looked incredible.
The Old Grey Whistle Test was being re-vamped in an attempt to loose its older audience. In this brief moment the show transformed. This was exciting, urgent and most importantly, it was NOW.
The video looked deranged, depraved and dirgy. I was listening to The Damned an awful lot back then. They too were a great band – but with “Grimly Fiendish” a fairly recent offering the band had peaked when I was too young – I’d missed out.
I was going to about 2 gigs a week back in 1987. I wasn’t going to miss out on Gaye Bykers On Acid!
In March 1987 I had a ticket to see The Cult at the Birmingham Odeon. It was the “Electric” tour. Instead of catching the support band a mate and I decided to polish off a bottle of cider and just catch the main band.
Imagine my shock when we got into the venue and they were selling Gaye Bykers On Acid T-Shirts. Even the first two waves of GBOA T-Shirts were gobsmackingly good. The band had been the support act – we’d missed them. Holy Shit! The most exciting band to appear when I was 17 and we’d been downing cider in Kings Heath instead…
Then only a couple of weeks later in 1987, Gaye Bykers On Acid played the ultimate underground venue in Birmingham – The Mermaid.
The Mermaid in Sparkhill / Sparkbrook was an unbelivable dive – but it worked. More acquainted with the emerging U.K. Hardcore / Britcore scene, Naplam Death seemed to play there at least twice a week. This was before they released “Scum” and they truly made peoples jaws drop wide – wide-open, (yes that’s two wides!).
Despite Gaye Bykers On Acid having a slightly more accessible sound to usual Mermaid bands – they fitted right in. The band looked like they’d arrived from another planet. About 4 years my senior, without sounding daft, you kind of looked up to how freaking cool they were.
Darren Russell let me and about 5 mates in for £1:00 each. I think the actual price was £2:50!
The band put on one of the best shows i’ve ever seen. The sound comes across like The Damned, meet The Doors, via Hawkwind in some super mixed up goofball punk psychedelic cartoon.
At this point the band had one single out – “Everythang’s Groovy”. This track is coupled with two killer B-Sides, “TV Cabbage” & “Space Rape”. After the gig the band just got pissed with everyone in the upstairs bar at The Mermaid.
The band, (signed to indie label In-Tape), then released the E.P. “Nosedive Karma”. Arguably the bands way too premature peak. Nosedive attempted to fuse hip-hop with punk and space rock. Straight away it was an anthem. Catchy chorus, beatbox, wah-guitar – it was an adventerous record that arguably paved the way for the RUN DMC / Aerosmith thing working? Yes, the RUN DMC single was already out but at the time it was largely ignored – with time it became the classic it is now.
Only two months later and Gaye Bykers On Acid were back at The Mermaid for the Nosedive Tour. The venue was RAMMED. The band spotted my group of mates and me and came over to talk. They didn’t act like they were on the cusp of something potentially big music wise, they just seemed very like minded an out for a laugh. They dedicated the first track to the band I was in at the time “Cabbage”.
I would honestly say, despite the fact that retrospectively the music hasn’t aged well, that it was / remains the 2nd best gig i’ve ever seen. Add to that the 2nd best gig i’ve ever seen by some distance to whatever the 3rd is. The band played a storming, chaotic gig. The Mermaid room literally rocked. Battles between the band and the mosh-pit for the mic for the chorus of “Nosedive Karma” was a great live band at their best – at a great underground venue – moment.
Punks, hippes, students, trendier fans who’d gotten wind of the band – the whole room was in chaos for about an hour. The band only had 2 E.P.’s out. They ran out of material. Mary Mary spotted someone from Pop Will Eat Itself and they called them to get up on stage to perform a chaotic version of Hawkwind’s “Orgone Accumulator”. At the end of the set the stage had about 30 people on it all going for the mic or just going nuts.
After the gig the band again spoke to my group of mates. They discussed where to play in Birmingham that could hold more people. I suggested The Irish Centre (which they went on to play next time in Brum for the “Drill Your Own Hole” Tour).
At this point, despite a drunken, excited by a great post-gig haze, I realised they would never play this great venue again. Bands started to outgrow The Mermaid. Musical Scenes and moments have a limited life-span. Almost a downer after an incredible show.
The first two “In-Tape” E.P.’s do not have a bad track. Everythang’s Groovy, TV Cabbage, Space Rape, Nosedive Karma, Don’t Be Human Eric Let’s Be Frank, Delerium and Golf Trek – all great tracks.
The inevitable happened and major labels started sniffing. I saw the band once more before they signed to Virgin. They played Nottingham Garage in May 1987. John Peel was there and he wrote a piece for The Observer about the emerging “Grebo” scene. I travelled to Nottingham with about a fiver and nowhere to stay – but to catch a band at their peak is priceless. John Peel mused in his Observer article that Zodiac Mindwarp & The Love Reaction were the front runners of the emerging “Grebo” scene. This remains the only time I have ever questioned John Peel’s opinion.
Virgin invested in the band. Future releases “Git Down” and “All Hung Up” had elaborate packaging and a low price point. Somehow this didn’t feel right. You kind of wanted the band to be on an indie label.
The investment even saw the band make a movie. Virgin threw money to make it work but you sensed the magic had gone.
The debut album “Drill Your Own Hole” is a decent album but not fully realised. It’s patchy. It hangs together. There are some great tracks on it, “Zen Express”, “After Suck There’s Blow”, “Drive In Salvation” and “So Far Out”. The album was a commercial flop only scraping into the Top 100 U.K. Albums.
Following albums “Stewed To The Gills” and “Pernicious Nonsense” are worth checking out – but dip further off the scale. The band attempted to fuse emerging Acid House elements into their later live shows. They always put on good live shows but nothing could touch those shows at The Mermaid.
I guess Gaye Bykers On Acid to me encapsulate just great moments. Momentarily they were the greatest band going. This passed all too soon. Everyone that I know that went to The Mermaid shows will recall what great gigs they were, and probably, like me, still have a very soft spot for a band that lost their way…
I’d say, subliminally GBOA have influenced some of the sound of the new band I play in now. I think this may be where the spacey rock comes from that we occasionally stumble into. Also I’m shocked that the band get practically no namechecks these days. As vast as the Internet is – there’s very little GBOA material available. They’re worth 10 minutes of anyone’s time (check out “Everythang’s Groovy” exploding at 0:50), I’ve referenced some of their better material. Enjoy.