We're Gonna Make You A Star...Filming the video for "Damned For Eternity" by Brix & The Extricated
Updated: Feb 22, 2022
A little memory from March 2017...
At the ripe old age of 46, I am today appearing in my first pop video, a new single by a band made up of ex-members of The Fall. The Fall had over sixty members - their one consistent member being their leader, singer and lyricist, the famously cantankerous Mark E Smith. As the great man said - "if it's me and yer granny on bongos, it's The Fall". This new band is led by his ex-guitarist and ex-wife, Brix Smith Start. I wonder what on earth he makes of this...
I sit in a shabby waiting room at Chat's Palace in Hackney, drink a Punk IPA (appropriate given the Punk roots of today's stars) and survey my fellow extras. Most are EXACTLY what you would expect, ageing music fans sharing war stories of when they first saw The Fall, one reading a marked copy of Unknown Pleasures by Peter Hook. Some are more carefully dressed; stylish middle aged punks, still kicking against something but earning enough money to do it whilst ordering their weekly shop from Ocado. Others more relaxed and less styled. I am the only Fred Perry in the room, a possible faux pas...
There's no judgement in the above - I sit somewhere between all of them, and am essentially describing myself! Though this is very much my tribe, I don't talk to anyone, I have gone strangely shy. More on that later...
There are a couple of glamorous younger women, possibly Fall fans, possibly fans of Brix's brief tv/fashion career from the conversation. One couple have their teenage son here. Father, mother and son are sharing a special day (I could not have imagined me and my lovely dad doing this!).
Tattoos, walking sticks, grey hair, paunchs, glasses, leather biker jackets, black jeans, Dr Martens, self-consciously worn shades, one mullet, several bald patches, a few hoodies, a Ramones t-shirt, punk band badges, a fur coat and lots of shy smiles and typing into phones. No Fall t-shirts as far as I can see.
We wait for the stars, ex members of the gnarliest, wordiest and most difficult band I ever loved. I am a fair-weather Fall fan, I loved their poppiest period (86-94), it's over a decade since I listened to a new album by them (the new stuff is largely unlistenable to me these days) but I am always comforted they still exist and tell myself I will go see them (I skipped a gig two years ago to close a sponsorship deal with a law firm - punk rock'n'roll man!).
I am genuinely excited. I had posters of Brix Smith on my bedroom wall when I was 17, and she was my first female guitar hero. I bought an Adult Net 12 inch single (Brix's own band) because of her, not the song. Steve Hanley, ex Fall bass player and one of the Extricated is one of my favourite bass players. He plays ridiculously catchy, funky and arch bass lines. I may go a bit wibbly later.
I last saw The Fall when I convinced my student union to book them in 1994. Despite posters highlighting their seminal status, the gig failed to sell out but they were great, opening with Ladybird and definitely playing Free Range (I think...beer was consumed). The student union lost a couple of grand, but I got some cred and a great night out...
We are waiting nearly an hour, but finally can hear some music being played. Thankfully it's good! I've not heard the new song, Damned For Eternity. But the ones I have heard are good, solid, exactly what you would expect ex-members of The Fall to make. Glam-rockabilly, pop-punk but with a far better singer than Mark E Smith, the man who ruled The Fall with an iron thumb and has fired more people than Donald Trump and Alan Sugar combined.
People are chatting now. The free beer, the woman filming talking head interviews (I decline this, still shy..), everyone is relaxing. We are suddenly called in and everyone buys in to warm up exercises (we look like misfit goths parodying the Praise You video by Fat Boy Slim).
And then we metamorphosise into a crowd at Brixton Academy in 1987. There are 30 odd of us so it's quite a feat. Everyone is great and the song really is good. Brix is the spiritual mother of Rews and Honeyblood and has found her groove. 15 takes later, we are sweaty, but the song is still genuinely good. It feels like a real gig from '87. I have been hit in the head moshing and my teenage crush on Brix is back alive and kicking.
I have now overcome my shyness and talked to people who have travelled from Crewe, Newbury and Sheffield. Everyone clearly loves music (I decide it's best not to mention my love of Marillion...why spoil a great day?). We will see each other when Brix & The Extricated support The Wedding Present in June. It's been chaotic and strangely organised at the same time. AndI have had a ball.
It's been fab. But I couldn't bring myself to speak to Brix, I am clearly still a shy 16 year old at heart.
What would Mark E Smith make of it all? Trait-ahs!!!
Epilogue: When the video came out in May 2017, I am sure I bored the arse off people about it - it then seemed to disappear from YouTube.
But it's back - see below. And if you can't see me, here is a little, blurry still of my 'brush with stardom'...