“It should be great night for a great person” said former Lush and current Mary Chain bassist Phil King. And it was. It was a night to remember and a night for remembering. When Jim and William Reid heard the sad news that their friend and former Mary Chain drummer, ex-member of Clock DVA, Gun Club, Freeheat, World Of Twist and Earl Brutus, Nick Sanderson had lost his brave battle against cancer, they wanted to do something, Jim takes up the story “I think that William came up with the idea; y’know, when someone dies you always sit around saying, ‘Well, what can we do?’ and we immediately thought of Nick’s wife Romi Mori and their son Sid and stuff like that, so we thought it’d be a nice thing to do. It’s gonna raise money for them, not much, but whatever we can do, y’know?”.
Born in Sheffield, South Yorkshire 22nd April 1961, Nick was a talented innovative and much respected musician whose passions included Manchester United, British Rail, British history and ornithology. He started out as drummer with Sheffield post-punks Clock DVA in the early eighties before joining The Gun Club. He then went on to form World of Twist, who despite being tipped for greatness by the music press never quite made the commercial breakthrough their work merited. Nick went on to regularly drum for The Jesus & Mary Chain, and later formed Freeheat with future wife and former Gun Club member Romi Mori and the Mary Chain’s Jim Reid and Ben Lurie. Nick also “found his voice” so to speak and stepped out from behind his drum kit to take the mic with cult band Earl Brutus, a band who inspired fierce loyalty and whose name according to Nick was meant to invoke images of “a pub that’s quite a rough sort of place, but with a nice carvery on Sunday lunchtimes” he also added “Our dream, is to record the perfect song to be played at chucking-out time. That’s when music makes most sense.” Earl Brutus gigs were said to be eventful, highly unpredictable occasions, described by one critic as “a bit like a fight in a pub on a council estate, but with a very tight soundtrack.” Eventually, following Earl Brutus’s commercial failure, (who Sanderson once colourfully described as “like Kraftwerk caught having a wank by their dads”) Nick was forced to get a job, which again involved another of his great passions; he became a train driver on the Brighton to London line… alas aged just 47 Nick Sanderson died in West London on June 8, 2008.
London’s Forum was the venue for the Nick Sanderson tribute gig which bore the tag line “Train Driver In Eyeliner” (the title of an unreleased Earl Brutus song) and it provided an opportunity for Nick’s family, friends and fans to remember his life and to celebrate it in a fashion befitting the great man. The stage backdrop which featured a glam glittering version of the British Rail logo was a simple yet poignant reminder as to why we were all here. The gig kicked off with Sarah Nixey stating “We’re Black Box Recorder and this is for Nick.” Yes, John Moore, Luke Haines and Sarah Nixey collectively known as Black Box Recorder were back together for the first time in years and they produced a set that was so effortlessly sublime that you wouldn’t have thought they’d ever been away. Prior to the gig I’d asked John Moore, how rehearsals had gone, to which he‘d responded, “Great, we haven’t had one!” “England Made Me” “Child Psychology” and “The Facts Of Life” reminded everybody in attendance what a fine band Black Box Recorder are and by the time they’d wrapped up a spine tinglingly great set with a storming version of “Lord Lucan Is Missing” people were in no doubt they’d witnessed something very special. “Amazing- the coolest older people I know” said Black Arts collaborator Keith TOTP’s after Black Box Recorder had departed the stage- he was right of course, they are incredibly stylish, louche and one imagines Paul Whitehouse’s Ron Manager would probably have described their performance as “mantle with aplomb.“ So the big question remained- would Black Box Recorder get together again or was this a one off ?? John Moore: “We really enjoyed it, we exorcised a few ghosts of our own and I think we’ll have to up our work rate a bit now. Definitely more to follow…these uncertain times deserve a new BBR record – probably recorded on a potato powered wax cylinder.”
British Sea Power were next on the bill and they certainly got into the spirit of the “Train Driver in Eye Liner” vibe, with band members wearing, well…. lots of eyeliner as well as what appeared to be British Rail “hi-vis” tabards. They gave a blistering energetic “rockular” performance, and did indeed make me ponder the question “Do You Like Rock Music?” I decided, in all honesty, I probably rather did, even after finding myself boxed into a small area which I can only describe as a random “mosh-pocket”- Ah well, it’s been a while, why not I thought!
The night concluded with the legendary Jesus and Mary Chain, who proved that despite the fact that they may be a few years older than when I last saw them (which was three times during the Automatic tour if you’re asking) They still have that incendiary power that could blow most other bands not just off the stage, but off the planet. They played all the classics; the crowd greeted each number with huge roars of approval as if embracing an old friend. “Some Candy Talking,”Just Like Honey,”“Sidewalking,” “Blues From A Gun,” “ A Taste Of Cindy” forming part of a set list of songs that most songwriters with any credibility would kill to have written. These songs still sound as fresh, relevant, vital and let’s be frank, as f**king amazing, as they did when the JAMC first turned my head “Upside Down” back in a time when I was thinner and prettier. You have to feel sorry for people these days who think Razorlight are “alternative” and The Killers “cutting edge” for god sakes, listen to the Mary Chain people, this is music that still matters, from a band that have always mattered. I hadn’t enjoyed a gig this much for years, the atmosphere, the performances, the occasion…Perfect! …
The JAMC finished the night, appropriately with an Earl Brutus medley and the bloke next to me who’d been flaying around like a demented marionette for most of the set, turned to me and said “This is what it’s all about mate innit-“ to which I responded rather enthusiastically ” It’s the F**KIN’ MARY CHAIN mate ! It gets no better!” although on reflection I fear I may have sounded a little like Jim Bowen – “its gets no better”? Where the hell did that come from?? Whatever next? “Super? Smashing? Great“- perhaps? “Bus Fare Home” maybe? ) However I think I may have got away with this bizarre Bowenisim as we grinned at each other like smug Cheshire cats who’d just pulled off a “cream heist,” both nodding our approval with such vigour I feared our heads were in danger of dropping off.
My new nodding, grinning Mary Chain chum was of course 100% correct, this really was “what it was all about!” What a night! How do you top that! ……well that’s another story, but this was without doubt a night to remember ………I’ll leave the last word to Black Box Recorders (and ex Mary Chain) John Moore: “Before he died, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle told spiritualist friends that he would present himself at the Spiritualist convention to be held later that year. Apparently he didn’t show up though. On the other hand, the presence of the great Nick Sanderson was definitely felt at the Forum – along with several gallons of other spirits. It was a great night”
“Up Too High” By The Jesus And Mary Chain-Live The Forum 27/10/2008
“Head On” by The Jesus And Mary Chain-Live The Forum 27/10/2008
And way back when…
“April Skies” By the Jesus & Mary Chain
“The SAS And The Glam That Goes With It” By Earl Brutus