As the band played festivals across last summer The Coral’s Nick Power kept a diary of their experiences. Here, in an exclusive excerpt for Louder Than War, he captures their performance at Beautiful Days.
Tents are crammed together in a field, hundreds, thousands of tents of different shapes and colours. They stare sadly through the grills of a wire metal fence as we enter the festival. They look like battery farm hens in the rain, muted and glum. It’s not for me, the festival life. Not as a punter, anyway.
In a communal area behind a stage we meet up with John Leckie. He’s sitting at a picnic table and I ask him if he’s been here long. He laughs and says he’s “been here for three days and have only washed my fucking hands once. I’m a mess!”
You sit with Leckie and expect him to talk about being a tape-op for the Beatles, engineering Pink Floyd’s Meddle album, or his long running dispute on whether he recorded the footsteps on their song On The Run. Instead, he’ll sit and tell you a story about when he smoked Salvia in his living room and hallucinated he was four years old again, and have you in stitches. He’s seen a lot. He tells me about Syd Barrett’s last session and how it completely fell apart, the sadness of it all. Also lately, he can’t fathom “how to write my own fucking Wikipedia page.”
When we were mixing Butterfly House in Liverpool, we’d go out with John at night and he’d love the bars that play old blues and soul, stuff that he considers his first love. He’d drink most of us under the table.
I wander out into the festival for some air, see how the crowd is. There’re a lot of stalls here that sell the the new-age stuff. A sign outside one reads: “Skins. Lighters. Duracell. Glow sticks. Hair garlands. Totally Random Weird Shit….” I’m walking around in a pair of suede Clarks, jeans, a blue Levi’s brakeman’s jacket and sunglasses. I’m surrounded by people wearing dreadlocks and fluorescent facepaint. I look completely out of place, but I don’t mind. There’s a decent mood around the site.
I stop at a record stall and start digging through a couple of crates to pass some time. I uncover a seven-inch copy of Johnny Remember Me, the Joe Meek-produced track sung by John Leyton. It’s a band favourite. We used to do a cover of it, even. That, along with The Teardrop Explodes’ Reward and Vaughn Monroe’s Ghost Riders in the Sky. Fairground music.
I hold the record up in front of me. It’s in the original TOP RANK sleeve, and a bargain at three quid. I move to the back of the blanketed tent to find a girl around my age and her mother bopping around one of those old record players with the speakers, a Dansette. They’re both smoking long Rothman’s cigarettes.
“You want to hear it then?” The older woman asks. I nod. She clicks the record into place, and the spooky echo-chamber “aaaaahs” ring out across the tent. They begin dancing again.
“Here take our card.” The younger girl says. Her mother is singing along, dressed in a huge Mexican poncho.
I say, “Oh you you’ve got an actual shop in…?”
“Yeah. I live in Manchester but mummy and daddy live in Margate. These are all daddy’s records.”
“It’s some collection.”
“He’ll sit in the loft and sift through them for days. If he sees one he likes he keeps it. Everything else gets priced up and sold. It’s his obsession.”
“I know how that feels.”
“A man died and daddy went to his house and started sifting through his records while the poor sod was still warm. Daddy is ruthless.”
Making my way back to the stage, I push through the crowd. A Mariachi band are playing and the crowd are doing this strange swaying dance with their legs pinned closely together. Everyone seems to be doing it. This festival is put on by The Levellers, who been trying to book us for ages, they say. They’re pretty welcoming but judging by the crowd, I’m starting to wonder if we’ll go down very well at all here.
Before today’s show in Devon, I was stuck in a Travelodge near Bristol for a solitary day and night, waiting for the band to travel down and meet me. I’d spent a week in Somerset with Aja, my girlfriend, and couldn’t be arsed doing the round trip three times in two days. It was raining all day and the Wi-fi was down in the hotel. I was reading Raymond Chandler’s The Long Goodbye on the oversized bed when two ambulances and a Mariah van pulled up outside the hotel. I watched it all unfold from the window. Someone had been stabbed, it had been reported, but no-one could locate a body, only they arrested this man who was walking around dressed as a superhero- Batman I think- who was armed with a full-length Japanese samurai sword. It was almost the kind of mystery I’d just been reading about.
The Coral will release new single Million Eyes in December to coincide with a UK tour:
- Thurs 8 Dec – O2 Academy, Leeds
- Fri 9 Dec – O2 Academy, Glasgow
- Sat 10 Dec – Olympia, Liverpool
- Mon 12 Dec – Kasbah, Coventry
- Tue 13 Dec – Waterfront, Norwich
- Thurs 15 Dec – O2 Academy, Bristol
- Fri 16 Dec – Shepherds Bush O2 Empire, London
- Sat 17 Dec – Manchester Academy.