The Stairs: Mexican R’n’B reissue – news and interview
Mexican R ‘n’ B
Release Date: 25/01/2019
Mexican R’n’B lays claim to being one of, if not, the most sought after, great lost album of the early 90’s recorded by 60’s influenced garage, west coast, fuzz guitar Liverpool juggernaut trio The Stairs. Having received a lukewarm response when originally released the album has gone on to receive cult status because of its ultra-rare availability on all formats coupled with the album being a total knockout 10/10 effort. All of this is set to change on January 25th 2019 when Cherry Red Records are to re-release it as a 3 CD deluxe digipak edition which will have the bands fans scrambling around the record stores trying to grab a copy aka Mike Reid’s Runaround. G..g..g…g….GO!! Matt Mead oversees the release and catches up with guitarist Ged Lynn in this exclusive interview for Louder Than War.
I clearly remember the birth of The Stairs came at the time of early grunge/shoegaze scene, meaning the band stood out as being one of a kind with their musical influences including 1960’s garage, fuzz guitar and Captain Beefheart coupled with the backing of a major record company in Go Discs, they were given big exposure in the national weekly music papers, seeing them release a bunch of EP’s, sent out on national tours all within a short space of time, meaning the band were seemingly onto a sure fire winner. Not so. The indie kids of the time didn’t quite get the bands musical leanings and sadly with not so favourable articles in the press, apart from decent reviews of Mexican R ‘n’ B, plus with the rise of Nirvana, The Stairs sadly faded into obscurity, as did their outstanding debut album Mexican R ‘n’ B.
Since then everyone from Elvis Costello, Noel Gallagher to Paul Weller have confessed to the genius that is Edgar Jones and The Stairs, so it would appear appropriate that Mexican R ‘n’ B is now given the sort of fanfare it should have received when it was originally released. Cherry Red Records have been given the task of grappling with the re-release and what a job they have done. From getting my hands on the digi-box the immediate impact is the packaging and artwork. With a superb booklet insert featuring previously unseen archive pictures of the band, archive press clippings and fanzines plus a big write up by famed Mojo magazine writer Lois Wilson, it’s a relief to see the original artwork and colouring have been kept with this new set. With its iconic 1960’s type logo and layout, staying true to original layout captures the magic of the album, a piece of artwork outside to accompany the sounds captured within the package.
On disc one the original album is backed up with the B-sides from the Weed Bus, Mary Joanna, Woman Gone and Said Goodbye EP’s, we get the familiar Rolling Stones-type Mary Joanna kicking off proceedings, with fan favourites Sweet Thing, Wrap Around Your Finger and the instant classic Weed Bus included you can hear the Jaggeresque tones of Jones wrapping his famed lips around the lyrics and shrugging his loafers to the cosmic beat of drummer Paul Maguire and guitarist Ged Lynn. Disc 2 has the hard to find Last Time Around EP in all its glory, further delights on disc 2 and 3 have previously released material that was featured on the albums Right In The Back Of Your Mind and The Great Lemonade Machine In The Sky albums released on Viper Records, which give added insight into the productivity of Edgar Jones. He wasn’t just a one album wonder, there are 3 to 4 albums worth of outstanding material within this package, a true treat for anyone wanting to rediscover the The Stairs or for those that are looking for the best re-issue of 2019, this is the release you’ll be playing all year. Do Tarzan undies scare ya?
Interview with Ged Lynn
LTW: What are your first memories as a child?
Ged: Sitting on the couch in the morning watching me 2 older brothers going to school, must have been 3 or 4 years old.
What is the first musical memory you can remember?
The radio being on a lot and watching Top of the Pops on the TV. Blockbuster by The Sweet had a big impact on me at the time.
Who were your first musical influences?
I was into the Buzzcocks, The Sex Pistols, XTC, etc. from 1978 onward, but it was hearing Crocodiles by Echo and the Bunnymen that made me want to learn guitar.
Were any of your family musical?
My cousin John was a guitarist and played in a band called Come In Tokyo and my cousin Paul was a drummer, which is where my interest in the drums came from. He played in Rhombus of Doom years later in 2000.
When did you first pick up an instrument?
Finally started learning guitar at 14yrs old (4 years after Crocodiles was released). I was a drummer with no kit since I was 5 years old and finally got a kit at 14yrs old.
Were you in bands before The Stairs?
First band I was in was called The Skinnies (drums and guitar). I was also in a group called The Poppy Field on the drums.
How did The Stairs form?
Me old mate Pete Baker had moved to a new flat in town so I knocked for him and his flat was full of these people I didn’t know. Edgar was one of them though I knew who he was from going out, etc. but had never met him, then I heard his demo tape of Weed Bus. The song that blew me away was I Remember a Day. Anyway the idea was me on drums, Pete Baker on bass and Edgar on guitar but not much happened with that idea and Edgar met Paul Maguire so I became the guitarist. It was 1988 when I first met Edgar, I met Paul a couple of months later.
Did you play gigs before you recorded songs in the studio?
We played loads of gigs before recording the Weed Bus EP. First ever gig was New Year’s Eve 1989 we played about 3am so the nineties begun with a 4 song gig. We did a 6 week residency at the Cosmos Club on Seel Street and eventually a residency at the Ritz in Manchester so we were building a decent following before we were signed by Go Discs.
Was the bands output always raw blues/60’s garage lead songs?
Initially it was all about garage fuzz. Practice was sparse to begin with so we had a cover of Sweet Young Thing by Chocolate Watchband, Mary Joanna and Laughter In Their Eyes but soon enough Edgar was writing all sorts of great stuff and we became more Kinks, Easybeats. 1966 was a bit of an obsession for us the Yardbirds, Pretty things, etc.
Where did some of the ideas come from the songs such as Weed Buss, Woman Gone and Mr Window Pane?
Weed Bus was about skinning up on the top deck of the bus after getting paid, it’s a well-known story nowadays. Mr Window Pane is influenced musically from What In The World by The Dukes of Stratosphere, Edgar can explain the lyrics better than I can but it’s not about LSD which I initially thought it was (there were strong gelatine LSD tabs called Windowpanes doing the rounds at the time, so it was a great psychedelic song title). Woman Gone is just good old fashioned RnB with brilliant twists and turns, a truly brilliant tune which highlighted for me how Ed and Paul had become so tight. A pleasure to play something that Brilliant for me.
Did Edgar have the main ideas for the songs and then the band would thrash out the song to make it into the song that appeared on the album/single? Can you explain this process?
Edgar was always writing so there was always stuff to learn and change, etc. Sometimes the whole tune was finished in his but others would get thrashed out in practice and 4 track home recording to sort the more trickier tunes but Edgar was always open to Paul and I to have ideas about stuff. It was always a case of if something is written and sorted don’t mess with it but other tunes needed a total band effort It depends on the nature of the tune
What are your memories of recording the album? How long did it take to record?
The album took 3 weeks to record and was a bit erratic at times for me. There was just some tunes I couldn’t play as well as Edgar did on guitar which did my overall confidence no good, but it got finished and released and it’s stood the test of time, which is always important.
Chas Smash of Madness fame was a big fan of yours at Go Discs wasn’t he? How did he first get in contact with the band?
Chas was in Crash Studios looking for bands to sign and we was rehearsing there. He loved the stuff we we’re doing and signed us up. Also, around the time of getting signed by Chas, I lived in a house with Pete Baker, Neil Reeves (Stairs van driver) and Jason. We called it Transparent Mansions as me, Pete and Neil we’re in a group called the Transparent Band. I was the drummer, but was eventually replaced by Andy Parle who was our drum roadie at the time. The Transparent Band would go on to support us on tour.
Was there a plan to always release an album?
Anyone in a band wants to make an LP so it always an aim The Mexican R’n’ B concept had been around for ages, it was Edgar’s idea, enthusiastically supported by the rest of the band. I was a kind of spaced out character of the group so I asked if I could wear a space suit instead of the Mexican garb.
Did you tour extensively to promote the album? Are there any interesting stories you can tell of your time on the road at this period?
There was a 3 week Britain tour for the album. As for stories we kind of kept to ourselves round that time. We we’re in our own stoned all the time universe really so no rock n roll tales, but lots of fun was had.
Did you get any good press? I remember NME slated you in a number of interviews?
Mixed reviews really. Bad reviews for the first 2 singles but good ones for the album which is odd as the singles clearly sold better than the LP
You were and are very popular in Japan?
Everyone is popular in Japan aren’t they? Are we still popular there? I haven’t a clue!
Looking back now, what do you think the legacy is of the album is?
The legacy of the LP is that although it sold poorly it stood for something that never quite fitted in anywhere and those kind of LP’s tend to influence slowly as the years go by. A lot of stuff we loved from the 60’s suffered a similar fate, plus that what could have been thing is helpful to legendary status.
Are there any stand out songs from the original album and the reissue with the additional tracks that you are pleased with?
Laughter in their Eyes, Mundane Mundae, Sweet Thing are stand out songs for me and made up that more people can hear the Last Time Around EP and Toerag stuff.
Are there any songs that haven’t made the re-issue that you hoped would have made the cut?
A tune called Don’t Water The Froth which was my reply to Froth, a band with Barry Sutton, Lee Webster and drummer Alex (can’t remember surname). They had written an instrumental tune entitled The Stairs. It was a kind of mix of the Elevators/The Stairs and Froth, and was brilliant. So my reply was an instrumental with a mix of The Stairs style garage, improvised parts and even a Sex Pistols style section. A pretty crazy tune that was always destined to be overlooked.
What are the plans for the band in the future?
A tour will happen a few months after the reissue for sure. We would like to release new stuff eventually but how and when is all up in the air at the moment.
Finally, what’s on your turntable at present?
Nothing permanent on my turntable these days. I have music in my head all the time anyway so I don’t need to play recorded music as much, but I never tire of The White Album, XTC and The Dukes of course but I listen more to stuff I’ll never be able to play myself. Miles Davis, Steve Malmus and the Jicks, The Fall and Marc Riley’s BBC 6 music radio show have featured heavily over the years.
All words by Matt Mead. Further articles by Matt can be found via the Louder Than War author archive pages.