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When Mark E Smith died, Lawrence was one of the celebs that wrote of their feelings and thoughts for the great man in Q magazine.
In this article Lawrence mistakenly said that I’d sent a copy of Index, Lawrence’s first single to Mark.
He must be getting old and losing his memory because the record I sent to Mark was my Versatile Newts single. Kay Carroll wrote back saying that they loved it and invited the newts to play in Manchester at the Cypress Tavern. I had already joined Felt by then so it seemed that the best idea would be to accept the invitation but to play as Felt. In the Fall’s gigography you can see dated 13th May 1980 that the support band was the Versatile Newts. We didn’t tell Mark or Kay of the band/name change until we got there so I assume that there must have been a gig poster somewhere with the Newts listed.
This was also verified by Mark Riley when I met him by chance on holiday in Spain.
They didn’t care about the name change, we played, they liked us and invited us to play the next week at Liverpool Pickwicks and then again later on July 23rd at the Marquee. These were our 3 first ever gigs and went along way to getting us known, resulting in many more gigs in a short period of time and ultimately the record deal with Cherry Red.
In previous and subsequent interviews Lawrence has always stated that our contact with The Fall came about as a result of a ‘fan letter’ that I had wrote to Mark but always omitted the fact that along with the letter I also sent my single. I’m absolutely certain that without the newts single then the Fall would never invited us to play on the strength of a fan letter. I guess Lawrence does not want the world to know that Felt’s big break came as a result of something that he has repeatedly said that he has nothing to do with.
We all know that Lawrence likes to shape and control the narrative so his ‘omission’ tactics are understandable but I can’t believe that he would knowingly falsify the story by saying that it was Index. Lawrence is a lot of things but he’s not a liar.
Lawrence has mentioned your single being sent to the Fall. From his Record Collecter interview from 1993:
This was the bass player Nick Gilbert's record. [...] Mark Smith from the Fall was a big fan. We got our first show with the Fall because he liked that single.
Did Lawrence play on the Newts single?
I’m very impressed with your powers of recollection given that article was published 28 years ago.
I guess that as an avid, devoted Felt fan you will also remember numerous times when Lawrence has mentioned a fan letter but no record and when he said that I sent Index to MES and this got us our first gig.
Which do you believe to be true?
Good to hear back from you Nick...
That Record Collector article made a big impression on me back in '93 and is where I first heard of the Versatile Newts single and how it led to the Fall gigs.
I don't think that was the only time that Lawrence mentioned you sending them your record but, as you say, this fact is often left out of the "fan letter" story. I've also seen him say that it was a demo that was sent to the Fall.
Being charitable to Lawrence (you say he's not a liar), I'm guessing that he just simplifies things when he doesn't feel like going into the details of Felt's origins.
Those of us reading here don't need convincing of the importance of the Newts single to the Felt story... it's great to hear all about it from you.
As for the Q piece, who knows why this time he said it was "Index" that was sent? I've never seen that before.
The story is here at yours truly website:
Go to Articles and click on "Record Collector's interview with Lawrence (1993)"
Half trues from Lawrence. :)