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Spotted this at the Felt Facebook page and hadn't seen it here before:
16 December 1989
MONKEY OFF HIS BACK
Back in 1980, Felt decided to record an album for every year in the decade and then disband. Roy Wilkinson listens to 'Me And A Monkey On The Moon' and evaluates their legacy, Mary Scanlon takes a parting shot
TEN YEARS and ten LPs down the line and that wilful Brummie guitar band Felt are on their last legs.
They bow out with the recent 'Me And A Monkey On The Moon' album and a few gigs this month.
'Monkey' is a swaggering multi-faceted last effort, but the end comes with no fanfare, just a muted ring of surprise.
No reservations from mainman Lawrence, though. In fact, everything went to plan.
"Right from the beginning we had something worked out. I just wanted to be part of the '80s with Felt. It was something to do – to exist for a decade, to get a great body of work and then stop and do something different."
It seems this most quietly idiosyncratic band came with a sort of creative sell-by date. Lawrence claims every detail was predicted in the Felt masterplan.
"The plan was drawn up before we'd practiced. We were to do ten albums in ten years. We had everything worked out, down to what instruments we were going to use on what.
"It's been there all the time and it was extremely detailed – the only thing it didn't take into account was that the people were going to leave all the time. I'd have liked to have carried on for longer with Maurice Deebank (original Felt guitarist), but he left in '85 and went to Barcelona."
This all-encompassing scheme could just be an attempt to impose some retrospective ordering on a band who've confused many with their wild inconsistency in both quality and style.
But Lawrence just doesn't seem knowing enough to hatch that kind of plot.
SITTING IN a changing room beneath Camden Town's Manual Worker's Club, Lawrence looks a battered character.
Like James Bolam's likely lad with the sardonic edge worn down.
As always, he mumbles away in his soft Birmingham hangdog drawl, waiting till you make to leave and then insisting on more tape time: "I haven't said anything interesting yet."
Plaintively, he fleshes out this Felt life-plan.
"It was pretty simple because it was always going to be a guitar band. We tried to be different. We've done two instrumental albums, got into jazz. It's interesting, y'know. Maybe it all came from something Vic Goddard once said in 1977.
"He said that first the bass player was going to write ten songs and then the guitarist was going to write ten songs, then Vic was going to write ten songs and then they'd split up.
"Maybe that was in mind. We wanted to be in control in a medium that isn't known for control – to lead a kind of factory-style existence.
"We saw it through – I've got patience, a lot of patience. we just wanted to be interesting – there you are. Exist for a decade only, who's done that?"
Larry's deathly whisper is the perfect voice to tell this slightly perverse tale of the band's planned obsolescence.
He insists that neither 'Monkey' nor the final dates should be seen as any farewell fanfare. But the album is something of a seal to the Felt mini-legend. It includes wholesale dashes of autobiography and a host of musical nods.
"There are a lot of clues in there," Lawrence agrees. "Clues as to what's happened and what's coming up. A lot of it's based on the past and on thing's that are coming up. The last one had to be more thought out lyrically. It had to be like that."
THESE DAYS Lawrence has dropped any sartorial Beat cool in favour of the cheesily humdrum.
He sits in a high street pullie, looking like some slightly seedy train-spotter. It seems this mundane dress code is echoed by Lol's current listening matter. And in turn this is reflected on 'Monkey' – particularly with the melodramatic musical break that concludes the song 'New Day Dawning.'
"That's a nod to the kind of music we're really into – middle of the road. It's a nod to The Carpenters really, 'Goodbye to Love.' I hate The Carpenters, but I like that one guitar solo."
Is this a musical direction that Lawrence'll pursue?
"Well, who knows?" he smiles with a grim that doesn't need sound to say yes. "I'm getting old. I do like MOR music. The Peddlers (some '70s saccharine monsters) are my favourite group. It's the best kind of music. I know it is.
"What you've got to do is single things out. With an MOR artist you cant be into their career, you can only pick out the six or seven great songs that they did."
Lawrence seems to see something of MOR's mundanity in his own life, hence 'Mobile Shack' where a conversation between Lol and an imaginary dude contrasts their lives.
"It's really between me and this cool person who hasn't had the disadvantage of being born in Birmingham with a stupid name. It's too long. I think my life would've been different if I'd been called Joe. I really believe that."
LAWRENCE GIVES the haziest sketch of his future plans, mainly because he doesn't seem that sure of them himself.
He'll maintain a musical career and seems set for a swing to styles way more mainstream that Felt's understated mood.
His long-time foil, Felt sticksman Gary Ainge, has recently bought an old Glitter Band drumkit and put the finishing touches to a musical based on those cheerful pearly kinds and queens.
Real classy stuff, say Lawrence, before hinting at his own future.
"I may go away and learn my craft. That's something I've always ignored in the past and always despised with that naive '77 tunnel vision. Now Gary's taking musical lessons and hopefully I'll have some as well. You cant write a story unless you know the alphabet.
"It's the end of the band and I fell like I'm beginning all over again. All I've got is a bunch of records and books and they're all in storage. I've got a bag with a few clothes and I don't know where I'm going.
"I suppose we haven't done much in the scheme of things – just ten albums. But for me it's been a success, although at the moment it hasn't been any sort of commercial success.
"I think the future'll take care of that, though. I'm sure there'll be a new generation that'll pick up on the band. But I know that's the way it'd be, right from the start."
There is no hint of levity in his voice. In Lawrence's mind at least the plan was that infallible.