I’ve often been referred to as ‘band slag’ ‘have sticks will travel’ ‘he’s after everybody’s job’ and other choice summaries of my career behind the kit. Most of the time, my band choices have been based almost entirely on the enjoyment I expected to derive from it. And so, whether it’s been Shotgun Wedding, Dressed To Kill or The Three Amoebas, it’s been a laugh a minute for the right reasons.
Lyxz De Luxe falls into a slightly different category – an era where me and my bandmates joined up almost out of pity. Yes, pity – for the lead singer of said beat combo, the fabulously named Lyxz De Luxe himself. You’ve never heard of him? Shame that.
Actually his real name was Peter, but he wasn’t ever known as that – everyone in Brum knew him as Taff, a lanky streak of piss who always seemed on the piss, yet somehow ran a large rehearsal room complex in the city centre. Well, it was obvious he ran it on his own as it always resembled a shithole even at his best when he’d put the vacuum round.
Shotgun Wedding used to rehearse there – infact, Pee the bass player moved in there for a while with his then girlfriend Tina when he’d been chucked out of his house or something. They stayed there along with a puppy called Scooby that they’d bought despite being utterly potless, and caused a scene with Taff that led to their quick departure. One day and starving hungry, Pee & Tina were armed with only a tin of hot dogs to eat but no stove or microwave to heat them on. One of them hit on the bright idea of emptying the contents into Taff’s beloved kettle and boiling them that way.
All seemed to go well, the kettle heated the sausages to the desired temperature, and they were eagerly consumed before the couple went out for the day. Taff returned a short while later and made himself his 15th cup of coffee that day, only to find a suspicious aftertaste to his rich Brazilian roast. It took days for Pee & Tina to finally own up that the brine from their hot dog tin had attached to the kettle element and saltily ruined Taff’s Nescafe moment for weeks to come. That was Pee to be fair
Taff had Welsh heritage all right, but his accent was pure Brummie drawl – a slow, low Brummie drawl designed to give his punchlines maximum effect. And that worked, because he was bastard funny. He called all the girls he knew ‘mate’ and all the blokes ‘love’, but there was never any question of his sexual orientation. He liked women – BIG women preferably, but needed a vehicle to live out his fanatsies with such Rafaelite beauties.
Lyxz De Luxe thus started as a fantasy frontman in his mind as he drank with us in the Saddlers Arms in the early 90’s, but before you knew it, he’d written a slew of tunes for old Lyxzy to croon to his imaginary fat-bottomed girls – as well as an entire album concept that they all came off before the idea of recruiting a band had ever entered his head. Still, priorities eh?
“Fistful Of Shit” was said opus – a weighty tome containing such bruising classics as ‘You Fuck The Fuck Out Of Me’, ‘I Can Fuck Like Rock n’ Roll’ and the seminal ‘Bulldozer Love’ written specifically about an ex of Taff’s who “fucked like a tractor”. Enduring image. As his idea developed and the legend grew, Taff’s dry sense of humour meant that the way he played up to being ‘Lyxz’ in real life was often hard to decipher – was he taking the piss or was he really believing in himself as the next Golden Rock God? He used to corner young girls in the Saddlers with the opening line “Yeah…it is me…you’re right mate…which one of my albums is your favourite?...’ and so on.
Amazingly, Taff found 3 musicians happy to step on stage with to belt out these and other questionable ditties and before long we were all heading to Edwards to watch Taff and his boys (including a girl on guitar in truth) play support to someone or other. It was that night where I almost understood what was going on – Taff’s singing style was pitched somewhere between Zodiac Mindwarp and Alice Cooper on methadone. The music was 3 chord bone-crushingly simple barroom rock (it needed to be) but the joy was the way he dealt with hecklers who were almost as pissed as him when they had a pop.
As the months progressed, Taff went through more line-up changes in Lyxz De Luxe than Whitesnake, G’N’R and Black Sabbath managed between them. Or so it seemed. Quite how Phil Docker, Andy Madgwick and myself ended up as Lyxz De Luxe’s new backing band is hard to explain. For myself, I must have been approached at a rare moment of weakness (maybe halfway through my 5th JD & Coke at XL’s rock night) and Phil & Andy may have similar stories to tell. But there we were, in Taff’s main spit-and-sawdust rehearsal room, running through ‘Tired Of Fucking With You’ and ‘Down On Your Knees’ for all it was worth
Taff was so thrilled to have ensnared us in his lair that he finally saw the chance to record these masterpieces and make “Fistful Of Shit” a reality. And so the 4 of us entered the Arena studio complex one night to commence recording. Well, almost – time for a pep talk with Taff/Lyxz in The Barrel around the corner first. For 3 hours.
Most of that time in the boozer was spent not finalising arrangements or making subtle adjustments to lyrical content, but instead to come up with ludicrous stage names for the 3 of us to match the daftness of Lyxz De Luxe himself. 7 pints of Bass bitter later, Phil became Danny Detroit (‘the weed on lead’) Andy was Randy ‘The Colonel’ Chrome (‘the face on bass) and me? Ian ‘Hung Like a Hammer’ Daytona (‘the bum on drums’). Trust me I was flattered. And pissed.
Eventually we decamped to Studio 1 where Phil & I sobered up rapidly at the prospect of the night’s work ahead, but Andy’s rather inebriated state led to copious errors from him as ‘Down On Your Knees’ “Bulldozer Love” and other beauties were recorded live – as Taff dryly observed, “The Colonel’s out on manoeuvres here”. Somehow, much like Colin Grigson in Bad News we cobbled enough of Andy’s takes together to make a decent sounding demo and we emerged into the now early morning light like pit ponies, a fistful of shit in each of our hands. On cassette I hasten to add.
Gigs were a worrying inevitability of our union and 2 such nights in the months after that demo recording stick vividly in my mind – the first came at The Rigger in Newcastle Under Lyme, Staffs, a rock pub with a fearsome reputation for giving bands a hard time if they failed to deliver the goods. There was little good about us at that point.
By this time, things in the band were different. Again. Randy ‘The Colonel’ Chrome had been court-marshalled and given a dishonourable discharge (to quote Homer ‘you can’t spell ‘dishonourable’ without ‘honourable’) Anyway, Andy was gone – the fact that he never changed his bass strings (EVER) might have contributed to his downfall, believing instead that boiling his strings in a pan of water made them as good as new. It was almost as thought he was in denial at the rust build-up the rest of us saw on them.
Taff/Lyxz needed a replacement and quickly found him in Nigel Joiner, who played in covers bandThe Three Amoebas with Phil & myself. He was quickly transformed in Nitrous JJ Hotrod (I kid you not) and he found himself trapped in Lyxz De Luxe the same as Phil & I were.
Phil had unbelievably coerced a coach party of, er, ‘fans’ to travel to the show for much needed moral support. Even (R)Andy came along, perhaps to witness the slow death of his former band. Nerves were apparent all around, except for Taff of course who decamped to the bar upon our arrival to butter up the locals ahead of showtime
Phil’s attention to detail was 2nd to none. The same could be said of his guitar gear – always the latest amp, guitar or effects unit to boast in his arsenal. On this occasion, he was the proud owner of a new wireless system, which he was keen to put to the test during the show.
The Rigger’s stage was only a foot or so high, which encouraged Phil/Danny to jump into the crowd as he launched into a particularly furious guitar solo midway through the set, which thanks to Taff’s earlier crawly-bum-lick charm offensive wasn’t going too badly. Throwing shapes as only Phil can, he nimbly flitted between audience members, his wireless allowing him total freedom of movement as he looked up at the stage to see if Taff was ready to start singing again or whether his pint of Tetley’s was a more pressing concern.
Seeing said pint of Yorkshire’s finest being rested on the drum riser, Phil sensed it was time to rejoin us and trotted eagerly towards us as Taff/Lyxz prepared to growl his next lewd rhyming couplet. Leaping like Alan Shearer at the far post Phil’s front leg easily cleared the lip of the stage. It was his trailing leg that unfortunately couldn’t repeat the feat due in no small part to the pointy nature of his winkle-pickers and suddenly Phil was a mass of limbs and billowing shirt as he crash landed and careered towards his amp stack, crashing into it like in Tom & Jerry cartoons when Tom used to slide into Jerry’s mouse hole after a frenetic chase. You could almost hear that trombone note going up and down as he made contact
After several agonising high-pitched squeals from guitar, amp and musician, Phil finally came to rest. Nigel & I had stopped playing, mainly to try and stifle the giggles. And so silence reigned onstage at this most celebrated of band graveyards– God it was awkward. How do we get out of this one alive? Enter Taff/Lyxz, who having surveyed the carnage stage left for those few seconds, waiting for Phil to at least open his eyes, then put his mic to his lips and uttered deadpan “Get up Phil, you’re making a scene” Cue uproarious laughter from everyone in the venue. It was as though they knew instinctively that Phil was always a tad clumsy, that were waiting for a punchline and were delighted to have heard the one they wanted. They were putty in Taff’s hands after that, and I do believe we actually got paid that night. With real money.
The second was a month or so later in November 1992 and Lyxz De Luxe had somehow conned their way into a booking at Cardiff’s prestigious Bogiez venue on Penarth Road. It was a regular stop for bands like Shotgun Wedding and boasted a clientele with a taste in rock music roughly 5 years behind the rest of the country as well as the most dangerous and life-threatening load out for a band’s equipment – down an icy fire escape with a 2 in 1 drop. It always seemed icy, even in summer.
Trouble was I worked on Saturdays at Musical Exchanges guitar shop in Birmingham and couldn’t leave for Cardiff until 5. Luckily, I’d just sold my old drumkit to a young lad who was happy as part of the sale to take it to Cardiff and sound-check it for me with the lads; I would then play the show and he could take the drums home afterwards. (He still has the kit in 2010 apparently)
I didn’t even have a car back then, but my next door neighbour trusted me not to bash up his Vauxhall Astra and my then missus and I set off for the 2 hour trip to the Welsh capital.
Upon arrival at 8pm with 3 hours still until showtime, it looked a tad bleak. Nigel saw me first and complained bitterly that had put his back out and torn a muscle in his leg whilst carrying gear upstairs to the venue. Next I encountered Phil who bemoaned the fact that his guitars wouldn’t stay in tune and that Taff was pissed already. ‘Pissed? This early? Not a chance!” I ventured as I turned to see Taff launching into a ear-splittingly loud chorus of ‘Land Of My Fathers’ with a similarly inebriated local. You always knew how pissed Taff was by the moment he started singing Welsh national anthems.
Phil’s concern was bang on. Taff at this point would have been barely able to remember his own name, never mind his stage name and a full set-list worth of lewd lyrics. Still, my drums had been set up nicely. So that was ok then.
Our mood darkened considerably as the minutes ticked by towards 11pm, with Taff downing more Brains bitter, Nigel holding his back like Rigsby in Rising Damp & his leg like Basil Fawlty with shrapnel…and a slow stream of Cardiff punters entering the venue hoping to be entertained by ‘the most astonishing new rock act in Birmingham’ as the posters proclaimed. Yet again, Phil had persuaded a coach load of our nearest and dearest to join us and swell the numbers (and sing along with the rubbish they’d heard at the Rigger not long before) but even the presence of our friendly rent-a-mob failed to lighten things in the cramped dressing room with 15 minutes until showtime.
Nigel: “Fucking hell, I’m in agony here! Why couldn’t you have helped me carry that cab upstairs?”
Phil: “If that bottom E string goes tonight, I don’t think I have a spare. Fucking hell…”
Me: “I’m missing Match Of The Day for this…”
And Taff? “AND WE WERE SINGING!!!! LAND OF MY FATHERS!!! GERALD DAVIES WAS GOD, NOT CAMPESE…”
Cue the arrival of the sound engineer to tell us we had 10 minutes to the get-go. Upon seeing Taff collapsed over the small sink muttering something about JPR Williams, the fellow said, “Fucking ‘ell, innit? Who tied that dog loose? Whose coat is that jacket? Would you like something to BOOST your performance there?” (the last sentence may be the only true one he uttered)
He produced a small parcel of tin foil from his pocket and unravelled it to show a sugary white substance I had never seen before. A wrap of speed. Gratefully accepting the gift on Taff’s behalf, we handed it to our glorious leader and with the last semblance of strength that he could muster, he rapidly snorted up the entire contents.
Then, much like Bill Bixby to Lou Ferringo in The Incredible Hulk, a startling metamorphosis occurred. Lyxz De Luxe emerged as a phoenix from the Ashes with a rallying cry of “We shall ask no quarter…and we shall GIVE NO QUARTER!!!” and on we went to a mass of indifference from those who could be bothered to look at the stage.
I still have a copy of that show on my iPod, as recorded from the sound desk that night, and I am not ashamed to say that I still listen to it regularly. The reasons for this are 2-fold. First, it is mixed beautifully for such an off-the-cuff recording – usually gig demos have too much bass drum or not enough guitar etc etc. This was perfect. Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, it is easily the best Lyxz De Luxe gig that Taff ever performed.
He remembered everything, apart from the 3rd verse in the epic ‘Fuck Up A Storm’ (which I’m sure you’ll agree is forgivable in a 7-minute song designed purely to get the set past 45 minutes in length) but even then he made light of it and got a laugh. He called out constantly for ‘Sian from Tiger Bay’ (a previous conquest no doubt whom he’d hoped would be present – she wasn’t) tried to sell copies of our demo for £2.50 on the pretext that “we sell it in England for 4 quid” and claimed that Worcester nationalists had made his journey to the fatherland hell by smashing his van’s windscreen with a catapult. They hadn’t, but somehow it won the locals over who where singing along with ‘Bulldozer Love’ with gay abandon 45 minutes in.
I joined a Welsh band a couple of years later and they were in the Bogiez crowd that night. They told me of that night and how much they’d pissed themselves at Lyxz De Luxe…but in a good way. We were invited back by the promoter some months later, but the magic did not return with us. That night was shambolic and I’ve avoided hearing THAT tape ever since.
One last Lyxz tale for you – Shotgun Wedding were having a Sunday rehearsal at Taff’s place and as we finished at 5pm and came downstairs into reception, Taff who was on the phone, saw me and beckoned me to hold on for a second. I came over and he cupped his hand over the receiver “Hello, love” he began “Possibility of a gig in Tamworth love – some venue’s had a dropout and they called here asking if any bands could cover it. I thought my boys needed an outing so I’m just sorting the fee with the lovely Vicky (he went back to the call) Hello?...Oh hello, mate…yeah, yeah, me and my boys are available for you…an hour and a half set, you say?...(anguished look toward me) no problem at all mate, we could go on longer than Zeppelin if need be…yeah, we’re on the road promoting our new album Night Night Sooty at the moment (such an album only existed in his mind)…how much?...well you know me and my boys are building something of a reputation on the circuit these days (we weren’t) and our fees have been steadily going up (they hadn’t)…well, we don’t normally get out of bed for less than 350………..hello?...HELLO???
Taff/Lyxz De Luxe. A genius. Flawed, but so are diamonds.