Following on from the momentous success of Candy Opera Firestation records are set to release the debut release on February 22nd 2019 by another underappreciated Liverpool band Carnival. Living and breathing the same musical influences as Candy Opera, Carnival are yet again another example of the luck being out and 30 odd years later the winds of change finally blowing in their direction. Matt Mead caught up with Ian Fradgley from the band who gave a detailed run down of Carnival’s history exclusively for Louder Than War. The following is taken directly from the personal diaries of Ian.
Halloween 1980: Kevin Wright was studying at St. Helens art college on a trip to visit a Wyndham Lewis Exhibition at Manchester City Art gallery with his mate The La’s founder member Mike Badger. They bumped into the famous American musician Captain Beefheart, the enigmatic Captain Beefheart (Don Van Vliet) was intrigued by their enthusiasm and gave the young aspiring artist musicians some emphatic advice “you gotta get rid of that mama heartbeat!!!“ extract from the Mike Badger book The Rhythmn and The Tide.
Liverpool in July 1981: the city was on fire, the Toxteth riots had raised buildings to the ground and raised the consciousness of the young people of the city who were confronting economic and social problems on a critical scale. Eric’s Nightclub had closed the previous year and now a new wave post-punk Mersey beat sound was reverberating on the shores of the great river Mersey.
Steve Boyle and Ian Fradgley were close friends from school, both obsessed with music who lived in Woolton Village in south Liverpool (where John Lennon first met Paul McCartney). They could be found walking through Woolton Woods together. Then on one summers night in late July 1981 in a they decided they wanted to form a band together and placed a advert in Frank Hessy’s music store in Liverpool. The very next day Kevin Wright replied to the advert for band members had placed, It read “Into Earth Wind and Fire, Hawkwind and The Buzzcocks. Let’s make some music!“
Subsequently Ian arranged to go round to Kevin’s house where they chatted for hours drinking tea whilst listening to some amazing records including Love Forever Changes, Antonio Carlos Jobim Stoneflower, Can Soon Over Babaluma, Velvet Underground Live 1969, King cCrimson Discipline, Brian Eno and Jon Hassell Possible Music’s Fourth World Volume One, Wild Swans Revolutionary Spirit.
Strategic plans for creating some original music together were imagined that they hoped would make some sense of the strange world they found themselves in. Liverpool 1981 Carnival began writing and rehearsing original material immediately finding a natural musical connection, with the occasional practice jam of Lou Reed’s Satellite of Love utilised to summon the muse, with Steve Boyle and Kevin Wright on guitars and vocals, Ian Fradgley on bass, Kevin had recruited some friends from art college to complete the bands line up, sax player Paul Roberts, drummer Mike Ward and the hypnotic gothic-astrud gilberto Lucy Rimmer to sing vocals together with Kevin and Steve.
Carnival were at this stage to be found on location at Rainhill stoops, site of the historic steam locomotive trials, alchemically generating their musical sound under the studied supervision of Paul’s Dad George Roberts.
March 1982: Carnival were invited to play their first live performance at a private function at Woolton hall Liverpool, the stately home of pre-Raphaelite art patron and infamous slave trader Frederick Leylan. The gig was a warm up for their first recording session on March 23rd 1982 at the Open Eye studios in Whitechapel Liverpool city centre engineered by Paul Kelly.
Field Day the bands Monkees theme self-styled anthem was now recorded on analogue tape. A cassette copy and a copy of the tape reel was passed to BBC Radio Merseyside DJ Janice Long who immediately embraced Carnival, enthusiastically playing the song on her Streetlife show.
April/May 1982: Intensive rehearsals at the Ministry followed and after a proposed support slot with Mike Ward’s friends Colin Vearncombe’s Black fell through in late April 1982 eventually on bank holiday Monday May 3rd 1982 Carnival played their first gig in Liverpool at the Masonic on Bury street. Kevin had been encouraged by the response from Eric’s club founder Roger Eagle who had invited Carnival to rehearse in his new art space which he was developing on Temple Street just over the road from the centre of the jungian/discordian universe where Eric’s used to be situated on Matthew Street.
For their next show Carnival played at Roger Eagles new venue the Pyramid Club on Thursday June 10th, once again utilising their live performance as a showcase and warm up for their next recording session booked for later that month in S.O.S. recording studio boss, musician Alan Peters had come along to watch the gig. Alan was himself in a band 29th and Dearborn plus managing the then aspiring poet Craig Charles who was later to become a famous TV actor on the series Red Dwarf and is currently a BBC 6 music DJ.
Craig Charles had come along to the gig with Alan and from the audience was very vocal in his admiration shouting out “Joni Mitchell, Joni Mitchell “ which was taken as a huge compliment as all members of Carnival were big Joni Mitchell fans, sax player Paul Roberts had only recently been to see Joni play live in London.
27th July 1982: carnival recorded Eyes Growing Wider and In The Heat of the Night in Alan S.O.S. studios in Liverpool, engineered by Pete Coleman and featuring Kevin’s friend deaf school drummer Tim Whittaker guesting on bongos.
Tuesday 3rd August 1982: Carnival played what was to be their final gig in Liverpool at the warehouse club followed by further intensive writing of new material at the Ministry rehearsal rooms. DJ Janice Long was continuing to champion Carnival and repeatedly played Eyes Growing Wider on her Streetlife programme for four consecutive weeks throughout November 1982.
February 1983: Carnival were eagerly recording Love Secret and A Summers Promise in Pink Studios Liverpool, engineered by Steve Power who was later to become producer of hit records by Teardrop Explodes singer Julian Cope, The Lotus Eaters, Robbie Williams and Kylie Minogue.
Nathan McGough, founding member of The Pale Fountains, was at this time managing Factory Records band the Swamp Children/Kalima had asked Kevin if he could come to the studio to witness the Eyes Growing Wider recording session. Nathan, (who later became manager of the Happy Mondays) inspired by the latest Pink studios recordings, was very interested in helping Carnival and agreed to book a London showcase gig for Carnival. Carnival played their last live show at the Brixton Ace in London on 14th may 1983 supporting 2-tone records recording artists the Apollinaire’s promoted by Nathan McGough.
After the concert at the Brixton the journey back to Liverpool was one of celebration and the gig was seen as a high point in the trajectory of the bands development and as a group of aspiring musicians and friends from beginnings two years earlier hummingbirds hum… la… (with love).
Summer 1983: A final recording session in Pink studios once again with Steve Power produced the track For You (fuh-you!) which was later featured on the Independent compilation album A Secret Liverpool on Davies Records as the summer came and went the original line up of Carnival was now also at an end.
Steve had relocated to Glasgow, Paul, Mike and Lucy had left Merseyside to further their education at art colleges around the country leaving Ian and Kevin to tidy up the remaining Carnival commitments.
The A Secret Liverpool album famously featured the first vinyl offering of The La’s and also the track For You (fuh you!) the final recording by the original line up of Carnival. Esprit! was chosen as a pseudonym to use on the album as the original Carnival had come to a natural ending and the band in effect no longer existed, Carnival were now all free to explore new horizons.
Kevin moved into a new flat on Hope Street in Liverpool sharing the building with his cousin Paul Simpson of the Wild Swans (who lived in the basement flat) and Ian Broudie of the Lightning Seeds (who lived on the top floor). The house was in the shadows of the Anglican cathedral opposite the Liverpool art college and Liverpool institute (now known as Lipa) where both George Harrison and Paul McCartney had gone to school.
Kevin, Ian and Steve were still contracted to complete a BBC radio 1 session for Janice Long (who had recently moved to BBC radio 1 in Manchester from BBC radio Merseyside). Janice Long had offered Carnival a session on her new prime time Saturday night national radio show. Unfortunately the date for the session was after Steve, Paul, Mike and Lucy had left Liverpool to live, work and study elsewhere in the UK. The Janice Long BBC radio 1 session was recorded in Manchester on 22nd December 1983 by Kevin, Steve and Ian who kindly borrowed Ian Broudie’s Roland 808 drum machine to use as the backing rhythm on four brand new tracks. The session was aired under the pseudonym Esprit! on radio 1 on Saturday January 7th 1984 and was repeated on Saturday 18th February 1984.
Spring into summer 1984: Kevin’s old friend Carl Davies was finally ready to release the A Secret Liverpool record. The album was a creative crossroads that signposted the past, the present and the future. Featured on the album Carnival (under the pseudonym Esprit!) had what seemed at the time as a last post, commemorating the end of two years of an interesting communion of likeminded individuals.
Kevin and Ian had slowly, gently eased the spirit of Carnival to a respectful resting place, experimenting together for a short while with new sounds and ultimately appreciating their individual needs required fresh perspectives.
After this final curtain Ian set his sights on further study and would soon begin a year’s foundation course at Liverpool art school and then move to London to study at St. Martins school of art graduating with honours in 1991 (Jarvis Cocker was studying in the same year as Ian at St. Martins). Ian’s personal odyssey continued after a brief stint in the world of advertising returning to Liverpool on a stream of consciousness in march 1993.
Kevin moved to Yns Mon in north Wales to live and continued working on music projects such as the Serpents and the Revolutionary Army of the Infant Jesus and hiring out fishing boats from his quayside cottage. Kevin sadly passed away in 2004 after battling a long illness.
Present day: There had been a previous attempt to get a Carnival track released on one of Mike Badger’s Viper Records Unearthed : Liverpool cult classics compilation albums but this never came to pass.
Fortunately fate presented an unexpected opportunity when a simple enquiry by Ian Fradgley about purchasing the Candy Opera album from Firestation records website resulted in label manager Uwe Weigmann identifying Ian as a former member of Carnival from Uwe’s knowledge of the a secret Liverpool album) and the conversation to potentially develop a possible Carnival compilation began. The original master tapes were located baked and digitised and now finally a lovingly curated retrospective of the music of Carnival is available as a limited edition 5 track 12” vinyl on Firestation records : FST 163 entitled Carnival : from Strawberry Fields to the Pyramid Club (with love) a secret Liverpool recording 1982 – 1983. Saravah !!!
Article by Matt Mead. Further articles by Matt can be found via the Louder Than War author archive pages.