Denim: Back In Denim

Denim - Back In Denim

Boys Own Recordings 1992. 828 349-2


I’m surprised to be posting this.  There’s been a Cherry Red re-issue and a good deal of interest in Lawrence recently so I thought this would be kept available, but it seems not.

If you’re not familiar with Denim, it’s the band formed by Felt’s Lawrence after he disbanded Felt.  I remember being very excited about it, and I bought it the day it came out.  What I heard astonished me; the whole album is a homage to the 70s, both stylistically and lyrically and couldn’t have been a bigger departure from his work with Felt.  Remember that the 70s were not cool at all in 1992.  Most people were old enough to remember the decade and were more than a little embarrassed about it, at least the pre-punk bit which is what Lawrence is so interested in here.  Of course being Lawrence it’s brilliantly done – only he could have got away with singing about the Osmonds to a thumping glitter beat in 1992.

Predictably though, it didn’t sell well.  Lawrence is often described as being both ahead of his time, but also outside it, and this album is a good example of exactly that.  The revival of 70s culture was some years off, but when it came, it certainly wasn’t done like this.  It alienated Felt fans, and was too, well, weird for everyone else.  Perhaps being on a major for the first time in Lawrence’s career didn’t help.

It started a rather tragic journey for Lawrence, at least that’s how it seemed to me.   Everything he recorded from that moment was a variation on this same theme.  It was as though he knew it was brilliant and was going to keep releasing more of the stuff until people got it.  The problem of course is that people never did get it, and the quality of what he was doing, while always worth listening to, was never as good as this first attempt.

The album was apparently produced by John Leckie to begin with but Lawrence proved impossible to work with and he pulled out.  He said Lawrence was the most difficult musician he had ever encountered – and for someone with a CV as long as Leckie’s, that’s saying something.

This album is one of popular music’s forgotten bonkers classics.  It is the work of a madman, but a very talented madman.

Micky Greaney: And Now It’s All That


Well this is an odd one to start with.  Firstly it’s not even a vinyl rip because my phono stage is making an annoying humming noise, so until it’s fixed, I’ll have to stick to CDs.  Secondly, this album has never been released, and it has no artwork or even track titles.  So why bother?

Micky is one of music’s great underachievers.  He’s been called Birmingham’s greatest ever songwriter.  In the 90s he had residencies at Ronnie Scott’s in Birmingham and London.  He recorded an album with John Leckie at Abbey Road.   Despite this he’s released nothing at all, at least not officially, and rarely performs.  Plagued by health problems, a lack of confidence, maybe alcoholism and a general lack of organisation, things never really got moving for Micky, and after the Leckie recording, he disappeared completely for many years.

Various figures on the local music scene have tried to take him under their wing and kick start some sort of comeback, believing that if only someone took care of everything so that all Micky had to do was turn up and sing, all would be well.  All attempts failed after a few low key gigs and Micky fell back into obscurity.

I’ve seen him live quite a few times.  Mostly just Micky and an acoustic guitar, as often as not in a tiny cafe in a garden centre, always with a small, but enthusiastic audience.  His material is mostly superb, and his delivery absolutely gut wrenching.  His intensity puts me in mind of Bonnie “Prince” Billy, although his style is completely different.  Given half a chance Micky goes for big jazz influenced arrangements, but really he’s at his best alone with an acoustic guitar.  All the extras tend to drown out much of what makes him worth listening to in the first place.

His debut album, “Little Symphonies For The Kids” was self released, and as far as I can tell was never available other than from Micky himself.  I bought my copy from Micky after a gig.  I may post that at some point in the future since it’s no longer available.

The Leckie album was recorded in 1996 but never saw the light of day for reasons that were never really clear, although it was at about that time that Micky’s health took a dive and he disappeared from the scene.

A couple of years ago he recorded a particularly intense acoustic gigs, promising to release it as a live album.  True to form though it never materialised.

He’s currently in the midst of his latest comeback, which is rather more organised than anything I’ve seen before.  He has a band, great new material, and is gigging, albeit very rarely. The band is great and it’s easy to see why Micky enjoys playing that way, but I much prefer him solo. He’s even shot a video of some of the new material, but still nothing has appeared officially and the gigs are as rare as ever.

At the start of this particular comeback, at a free gig in the bar of Birmingham’s Symphony Hall, something astonishing happened. Mickey was selling CDRs of the legendary John Leckie album. I’d long since given up hope of ever hearing it, but here it was, and in two versions no less: normal and extended. Both were just folded up in a sheet of A4 paper with no tracklisting or artwork. After that there were no more CDs for sale, at least not at any of the gigs I went to.

So here it is, the long lost Leckie album in its extended form. It’s overproduced of course and as a result a bit blanded out, but Mickey’s superb material and delivery are there. If anyone has a tracklisting for this, please get in touch.

At this point I’d like to direct you somewhere to buy Micky’s music, but since there’s none available, all you can do is watch out for gigs (rarely outside Birmingham though) and do a search on youtube