Today's artists' music was characterised by fuzzy and distorted electric guitars, stuttering tremolo effects and wah-wah, the employment of 'power chords' and simple riffs, harmonic overtones and drones, softly sung/spoken vocals, and sparse or monolithic drumming. Their earlier record releases were guitar 'heavy', sounding Stooges-esque and "a bit like a punked-up garage rock band"; whilst their later work was mostly sparser and softer with more textural techniques and augmented by organs, resulting in "their signature trance-like neo-psychedelia". Kember described it as "very hypnotic and minimal; every track has a drone all the way through it".....N'Joy
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The creative and song-writing force throughout Spacemen 3's history were Peter Kember and Jason Pierce. They met at the (now defunct) Rugby Art College on Clifton Road, Rugby, Warwickshire in Autumn 1982, both aged 16, and became close friends. Pierce was in a band called Indian Scalp, but he left them near the end of 1982 in order to collaborate with Kember. The two guitarists recruited drummer Tim Morris, who played with a couple of other bands and had a rehearsal space at his parental home which they used. Shortly afterwards they were joined by an acquaintance, Pete Bain, on bass. Morris and Bain had previously played together in a band called Noise on Independent Street. Pierce handled lead vocal duties. Now a 4-piece, the band originally adopted the name The Spacemen. Their first live performances occurred around winter 1982/83, playing at a party and then at a couple of gigs they managed to get at a local bar; at the latter their set included a 20-minute version of the one-chord song "O.D. Catastrophe".
In Autumn 1983, Pierce, having finished his course at Rugby Art College, started attending an art school in Maidstone, Kent. This prompted Bain and Morris to leave and join a new local band, The Push, being formed by Gavin Wissen. Kember and Pierce recruited a replacement drummer, Nicholas "Natty" Brooker. They continued without a bassist and Pierce would regularly return to Rugby for rehearsals. In early 1984, they only performed at a few local, low key venues. Still a trio, they changed their name to Spacemen 3.
Despite having played fewer than ten gigs, Spacemen 3 decided to produce a demo tape. In 1984 they made their first studio recordings at the home studio of Dave Sheriff in Rugby. This material – which included early iterations of the songs "Walkin' with Jesus", "Come Down Easy" and "Thing'll Never be the Same" – was used for a short demo tape entitled For All The Fucked Up Children Of The World We Give You Spacemen 3. They got a few hundred cassette copies made and produced their own artwork and booklet to accompany it, selling the tapes for £1 at a local record shop.
In November 1985, Spacemen 3 played a gig at a leisure centre in Coventry to an audience of fewer than ten people. Nevertheless, they determined that they ought to record a new demo tape. By this time they had reconfigured and honed their musical style, and their repertoire consisted of newer songs and re-worked older ones. "The band's sound had crystallised into the intense, hypnotic, overloaded psychedelia which characterised their early [record] output, and which would serve as a template for their live act throughout their existence"
At Pierce's instigation, Pete Bain rejoined the band on bass in order to fill out their sound. Despite being a 4-piece again, they would retain the name 'Spacemen 3'.
In January 1986, Spacemen 3 attended the home studio of Carlo Marocco at Piddington, outside Northampton, to record their new demo tape. They spent three-and-a-half days at the 16-track studio. Recording live as a group, with minimal overdubs, they managed to get demos for approximately seven songs. Kember and Pierce handled the production. These "fine set of performances" would later be unofficially released as the vinyl album Taking Drugs to Make Music to Take Drugs To on the Father Yod label in 1990
Spacemen 3 managed to obtain a record deal shortly after producing their new demos. Pat Fish had given a copy of the demo tape to Dave Barker, the owner of the independent record label Glass Records, to whom Fish's band The Jazz Butcher were signed. Spacemen 3 signed a three-year, two-album recording contract with Glass Records in early 1986. Spacemen 3 were sent to record their first album, Sound of Confusion, at the studios of Bob Lamb in the King's Heath area of Birmingham. By this time, they had already started to write some 'softer' songs, but they decided that the album should consist entirely of 'heavier', older material. With a recording budget of less than £1,000, they completed the album in five days, with the last two days dedicated to mixing. Attempts at recording the title song "Walkin' with Jesus (Sound of Confusion)" were unsuccessful and abandoned.
It was originally intended that Pat Fish would produce the album, but due to his touring commitments with his band, The Jazz Butcher, it was instead produced by Bob Lamb. However, Lamb refused to allow Kember or Pierce near the production desk. Kember would later reveal, "He [Lamb] had no affinity with our type of music at all and was quite domineering". Both Kember and Pierce were unhappy with the production on the album, feeling it suffered from Lamb's unsympathetic production; they later said they much preferred their versions on the Northampton demo tape.
The seven-track Sound of Confusion album had a heavy psychedelic style with a strong Stooges influence. It was "a full on, fuzzed up drone of relentless guitar pounding" with a "rough garage energy " and "minimal, bluntly entrancing riffs" Sound of Confusion was released in July 1986. The cover artwork included shots of the band illuminated by their light-show equipment. The album was not received well, making little impression at the time, although it went on to reach no. 2 on the UK Independent Chart in 1989. Publicity for the album suffered from lack of funding by Glass Records.During 1986, Spacemen 3 made live performances every few weeks. These continued to occur at local venues, with the exception of gigs in Chesterfield, Birmingham and, in August, their first appearance in London. The latter gig saw them receive their first reviews in both NME and Sounds.
To follow up their album, Spacemen 3 made their first single: "Walkin' with Jesus". This was recorded at Carlo Marocco's studio outside Northampton. For the title track they re-mixed the version they had previously recorded their for their demo tape. For the B-side, they recorded "Feel So Good", a newer composition, and re-recorded a 17-minute "Rollercoaster" (a cover of the 13th Floor Elevators). This single was the first Spacemen 3 record that Peter Kember and Jason Pierce produced; the duo handled all future production. The "Walkin' with Jesus" single was released in November 1986. It received decent reviews from NME and Sounds, and peaked at no. 29 on the UK Independent Chart, and no. 46 in the indie chart published by Sounds.
It was in 1986 that guitarist Peter Kember started to use his long-term alias 'Sonic Boom'. He had earlier employed the aliases 'Mainliner' and 'Peter Gunn'. Bassist Pete Bain also adopted his alias: 'Bassman' or 'Pete Bassman'. Towards the end of 1986 the behaviour of Spacemen 3's drummer, Natty Brooker, became increasingly eccentric and bizarre. His refusal to wear shoes, even when playing the bass drum, led to arguments and Brooker left the band. Stewart 'Rosco' Roswell, a housemate of Pierce's and Brooker's, was recruited as the latter's replacement. Although Roswell was originally only a temporary appointment and was not a recognised drummer at the outset, he remained in the band for over a year
In January 1987, Spacemen 3 commenced work on their second album, The Perfect Prescription. This was recorded at Paul Atkins' VHF Studios, near Rugby. VHF had been recommended to the band by in-house sound engineer Graham Walker with whom they had worked previously when recording their first demo tape. VHF Studios' 8-track facilities needed updating though, and a deal was agreed that Spacemen 3 would receive a large amount of studio time in return for financing new 16-track recording and mixing equipment at VHF, at a cost of around £3,000. Spacemen 3 would spend over eight months at VHF Studios. Importantly, this allowed them generous time to experiment, and develop and refine their sound and material in a studio setting, assisted by Graham Walker. ”
Whilst working on the album, "Transparent Radiation" — a cover of a song by the Red Crayola — was recorded, and released as a single in July 1987. "Transparent Radiation" was awarded 'Single of the Week' by Sounds, and matched the previous single in reaching no. 29 on the independent chart. The B-side included "Ecstasy Symphony", a new experimental piece using an organ drone multi-tracked and fed through various effects.
The Perfect Prescription was completed in September 1987 and released the same month, it received little critical attention in the UK, being better received in the United States. However, it represented Kember and Pierce's "collaborative zenith" and the album "is practically a best-of in all but name". Although retaining the same minimalist approach, Spacemen 3's sound was now sparser and mellower. Extra textures and complexity were evident, provided by overdubs and additional instrumentation, with the organ sound of the VHF Studio's Farfisa being a significant introduction. The instrumental palette was also extended with acoustic guitar, violin (from local musician Owen John), saxophone and trumpet (from members of The Jazz Butcher) being used on some songs. Much of the album did not feature drums. This was the first album on which Kember contributed lead vocals.
In January–February 1988, Spacemen 3 undertook a six-week tour of continental Europe, encompassing Germany, Austria, Switzerland, the Netherlands and Belgium. Comprising nearly thirty gigs, the tour saw tensions and discontent arise between band members. After they returned to England, drummer Stewart Roswell quit. Relations between Peter Kember and Jason Pierce were beginning to suffer as a result of Pierce's romantic relationship with Kate Radley, whom he had been dating since Summer 1987. Kember resented the amount of time his song-writing partner was spending with her at his expense. A UK tour in Spring 1988 used stand-in drummers to fulfil live dates. Roswell's departure was followed by that of Pete Bain at the end of May. A replacement bassist was immediately appointed: Will Carruthers, a friend of the band who had recently been playing in another Rugby group, 'The Cogs of Tyme'.
In July 1988, Spacemen 3's third single, "Take Me to the Other Side", was released, from The Perfect Prescription album. The single received good press and was NME's Single of the Week.
Spacemen 3 were keen to be freed from their recording contract with Glass Records who were in financial difficulty and owed them royalties. Although they had produced the requisite two albums, there was still a year remaining on their contract. A deal was reached whereby, in return for providing a live album, their contractual obligations would be deemed to have been met and they would be allowed to leave. Accordingly, Performance was released in July 1988. This seven-track live album was a recording of their gig at the Melkweg venue, Amsterdam, on 6 February 1988.
Following their departure from Glass Records, Spacemen 3 were without a record deal. The only offer they received was from the prominent independent label Creation Records. However, Creation owner Alan McGee – a keen fan of the band – was only able to offer a one-album deal and with no advance. It was at this juncture that Kember and Pierce chose to enter into a contractual relationship with Gerald Palmer, a Northamptonshire businessman and concert promoter who had already been functioning recently as Spacemen 3's de facto manager. This tripartite business partnership had the following terms: Palmer would own the master tapes of all future recordings, the rights of which would be licensed to record labels for release; touring and recording costs etc. would be financed by Palmer, who would give Kember and Pierce an advance of £1,000 each; and, in return, all profits would be split 50:50: 50% for Palmer, and 50% for Kember and Pierce and other band members. Significantly, this contract was only with Kember and Pierce, meaning Spacemen 3 as a legal and financial entity would, in essence, constitute only the two of them together with Palmer. In addition, Palmer became Spacemen 3's manager.
Peter Kember had purchased an unusual electric guitar near the end of 1987: a Vox Starstream made in the late 1960s. This guitar incorporated several in-built effects, including fuzz and Repeat Percussion (or Repeater). The latter was a unique tremolo type, almost delay-like effect, and Kember would use it heavily on Spacemen 3's future output. One of his first compositions featuring this effect was the eponymous "Repeater" (a.k.a. "How Does It Feel?"). "Repeater" and two other new songs also composed by Kember – "Revolution" and "Suicide" – were debuted on the European tour in early 1988. All three songs would feature on the next studio album, Playing With Fire.
Recording for Spacemen 3's third studio album, Playing With Fire, started in June 1988. Their new manager, Gerald Palmer, booked ARK Studios in Cornwall for a month. These sessions were not particularly productive however and they left a week early. ARK Studios only had 8-track facilities and some of Spacemen 3's recordings were accidentally wiped by the in-house sound engineer. Rough demos were managed for Kember's "Honey" and Pierce's "Lord Can You Hear Me?". They still did not have a drummer at this point.
New bassist Will Carruthers made his first live appearance with Spacemen 3 at London Dingwalls on 20
Recording for Playing With Fire recommenced; they returned to VHF Studios, outside Rugby, where they had recorded The Perfect Prescription. By now, song-writing duo Peter Kember and Jason Pierce were formulating new song ideas entirely separate from one another. Both their personal and working relationships were beginning to disintegrate. Pierce's romance with Kate Radley was impacting on his time with the band and his contributions. Of the eventual tracks on Playing With Fire, six were Kember's compositions, whilst only three were Pierce's.
On 19 August, Spacemen 3 gave an unusual live performance. Palmer had booked them to provide 'An Evening of Contemporary Sitar Music' in the foyer of the Waterman's Art Centre in Brentford, London, to act as a prelude to a screening of the film Wings of Desire. Kember, Pierce and Carruthers were joined by Rugby musician Steve Evans. They played a 45-minute jam, based around a single chord strummed by Evans, featuring riffs from some of the songs from their as yet unreleased Playing With Fire material. This performance was recorded and was later released, in 1990, as Dreamweapon.
After initial plans to use drummers from The Weather Prophets and Thee Hypnotics for the recording of Playing With Fire, a permanent drummer was recruited in late August: Jonny Mattock. Despite this he does not appear on Playing With Fire – a drum machine was used on all of the songs and no drummer is credited on the album. In Summer 1988, Spacemen 3 managed to obtain a two-album deal with independent label, Fire Records. Kember and Pierce argued over the choice of song for their first single with Fire. Agreement was eventually reached on "Revolution".
The single "Revolution" was released in November 1988. The title track was a powerful, anthemic "mind-melting crunch". The single peaked in the top 10 of the indie charts, representing Spacemen 3's highest chart position yet, and was voted by radio listeners for inclusion in John Peel's end-of-year Festive Fifty. Awarded Single of the Week by the Melody Maker, it was extremely well received by the music press whose general attitude towards the band changed at this juncture:
Spacemen 3 "became the indie phenomenon of late 1988" , they were receiving more media attention and got their first cover story, in Melody Maker's 19 November 1988 issue. Peter Kember effectively become the sole spokesperson for Spacemen 3, giving numerous interviews. These provided for controversy and journalistic focus due to Kember's candid openness about his drug taking habits and his forthright views on recreational drug use.
Completion of the Playing With Fire album was delayed due to recording delays and a dispute about song-writing credits. At a meeting at Fire Records' London office, Peter Kember proffered his name for single writing credits for six of the album's nine songs; however, Jason Pierce countered, demanding joint credits for three of those songs due to the guitar parts he had contributed to them. An argument led to Kember attempting to hit Pierce and a scuffle ensued. An impasse resulted; Pierce threatened to pull his songs from the album if his demands were not met. Manager Gerald Palmer mediated to resolve the feud. At a very tense four-hour meeting, of fierce arguments and recriminations between Kember and Pierce, Palmer finally managed to obtain a compromise with Kember conceding split song-writing credits for 'Suicide'.
In late 1988, Peter Kember was already working on new material for post Playing With Fire. His productivity meant he had a surfeit of songs, and he advised his bandmates of his intention to produce a solo album. New indie label Silvertone Records offered Kember a generous one-off album deal which he accepted. Kember finished recordings for his debut solo album and single in March 1989, prior to the commencement of Spacemen 3's European tour. Other members of Spacemen 3, including Pierce, as well as other musicians, had contributed sessions. Release of Kember's solo album (Spectrum) and single – under the moniker of Kember's alias, Sonic Boom – were put on hold in order to avoid a marketing clash with Playing With Fire, which was finally released on 27 February 1989. The album's front cover sleeve bore the slogan, "Purity, Love, Suicide, Accuracy, Revolution". Playing With Fire was Spacemen 3's first record to chart and one of the breakthrough indie albums of the year. Within weeks of its release, it was No. 1 in both the NME and Melody Maker indie charts. It was "their most critically and commercially successful album" Reviews were extremely positive and the album garnered wide critical acclaim:
With the exception of "Revolution" and "Suicide", the other songs on the album were mellower and softer than Spacemen 3's previous work, continuing the development of their previous album. In February–March 1989, Spacemen 3 undertook a four-week UK tour comprising 21 dates, coinciding with the new album's release. At the start of the UK tour Kate Radley was again travelling in the tour van, thus causing tension between Kember and Pierce. After several gigs, Kember told Pierce this could not continue. For the rest of the UK dates Pierce and Radley, now living in a new flat together, made their own way to gigs.
The UK tour was shortly followed by an extensive and gruelling four-week tour of continental Europe in April–May 1989. This incorporated 22 dates across the Netherlands, France, Belgium, Denmark, Sweden, Germany, Switzerland, Hungary, Austria and Italy. (Radley was not present on this tour.) Setlists remained more or less consistent around this period. For the purposes of live performances, Spacemen 3 played their more powerful or heavier – and therefore mostly older – songs, featuring little from Playing With Fire; although the odd softer song was played occasionally. Sets typically ended with the song "Suicide" which could last up to 45 minutes.
At the beginning of 1989 Spacemen 3 had been one of the "hottest indie bands in England" and were gaining the attention of major US record labels. However, despite their success in winter 1988–89, their prospects were very different less than a year later. The personal and working relationship between Peter Kember and Jason Pierce, still the principal members of the band, would completely disintegrate, leading Spacemen 3 to eventually disband.
Spacemen 3 used the short break between the UK and European tours in Spring 1989 as an opportunity to record a new single. Two songs were recorded, at VHF Studios: "Hypnotized", a new song by Pierce, who had recently acquired his own 4-track recorder; and "Just To See You Smile", by Kember. The songwriters spent a day's session on each other's song, although Kember's contribution to "Hypnotized" was not ultimately used. Kember accused Pierce of copying his sounds; he felt the flutter multi-tap reverb on "Hypnotized" was the same as he had employed on "Honey" and "Let Me Down Gently" on Playing With Fire.
Whilst Spacemen 3 were on tour in Europe in April–May 1989, manager Gerald Palmer prepared the new single for release. Without consulting Kember or Pierce, Palmer mastered the tracks, had the sleeve artwork designed, and selected "Hypnotized" for the A-side. When Kember found out he was furious; however, Palmer refused to postpone the pressing of the single. A resulting feud permanently damaged Kember and Palmer's working relationship.
When Spacemen 3 returned to England from their European tour at the end of May 1989, there was tension between Kember and Pierce. In June, Spacemen 3 played ten UK gigs. Initially, Pierce was making his own way to these dates, but when he instead used the tour van there was a bad atmosphere between the two men. The single "Hypnotized" was released on 3 July 1989. It was their "most anticipated release yet" (Erik Morse) and immediately charted inside the top 10 of the NME and Melody Maker indie charts. It was Sounds Single of the Week. After two weeks, Hypnotized reached No. 1 on the Melody Maker indie chart, and No. 2 on the NME indie chart (second only to The Stone Roses' "She Bangs The Drums"). It was voted No. 33 in John Peel's end of year Festive Fifty.
A third guitarist, Mark Refoy, had been recruited at the beginning of Summer 1989, to play on later live dates and work on the next album. Refoy had been a friend and keen fan of the band for several years, and had contributed to Kember's solo album. He was guitarist in the indie band 'The Tell-tale Hearts' who had disbanded in 1987. Refoy made his first live performance with Spacemen 3 at their Rugby 'homecoming' gig on 20 July.
On 23 July, Spacemen 3 played their biggest headlining gig at The Town & Country Club, London, a 2,000-capacity venue. On 22 August, they played a warm-up gig at Subterranea, London, for the Reading Festival, their first festival gig. Spacemen 3 played at the Reading Festival on 25 August 1989. This would transpire to be their last ever live performance.
At the beginning of September 1989, Spacemen 3 were about to undertake a substantial tour of the United States – despite disagreement between Kember and Pierce as to whether Kate Radley could accompany them. The tour schedule had been finalised and they were due to be in America for the rest of the year, playing about 50 gigs. The band had grievances with their manager Gerald Palmer, such as perceived lack of monies being received, and summoned him to a meeting at VHF Studios. The meeting, which was secretly recorded, involved intense arguments and accusations, and nothing was resolved. In an interview in 1991, Kember described Palmer as "the most devious guy I've ever had the misfortune to meet".
A few days later Kember and Pierce met Palmer again and sacked him. However, Palmer's partnership agreement with Kember and Pierce meant that he was contractually still effectively one third of Spacemen 3. Palmer had already incurred at least £10,000 in recording expenses for the next album. In response to his dismissal as manager, he decided to withdraw his commitment to finance the imminent US tour, which was therefore cancelled at the eleventh hour. Tour posters had already been printed. The considerable time and money Bomp! Records' Greg Shaw had expended in preparing the tour was wasted.
On 14 November 1989, the four remaining Spacemen 3 band members met to discuss finishing the album and arranging future live dates. The meeting was unproductive. Reportedly, Kember and Pierce both said little. Jonny Mattock told Kember he was difficult to work with. Mattock and Mark Refoy, both peeved, left the meeting prematurely and effectively resigned from Spacemen 3. In December, Gerald Palmer attempted to mediate between his business partners, Kember and Pierce, meeting them individually because Pierce reportedly refused contact with Kember.
During 1989, Gerald Palmer had been courting interest and offers from US major record labels. Palmer had been postponing a decision hoping the US tour would lever improved offers. Negotiations with Dedicated, a satellite label of BMG, had been ongoing for several months. The poor intra-band relations had remained secret for the sake of outward appearance. By October 1989, the latest offer from Dedicated was a five-album, multimillion-dollar deal, with a £60,000 advance. Palmer had expended £15,000 on legal fees, and because he had managed to negotiate out the standard Leaving Member Clause, Kember and Pierce were in a 'win-win situation'.
In December, the three met to arrange signing the Dedicated record deal. Pierce insisted that Kember sign an agreement stating that the two of them had equal rights to Spacemen 3, to mutually protect them by preventing either party potentially claiming ownership of the Spacemen 3 name should the other quit. Coerced by the attraction of his portion of the Dedicated advance, Kember signed it. Mattock claims Kember attacked Pierce in the street the next morning. At the beginning of 1990, Kember and Pierce attended the London offices of Dedicated separately to sign the record contract. A few days later, at a dinner (at the Paper Tiger Chinese restaurant in Lutterworth, Leicestershire) with Dedicated executives, Kember and Pierce were cordial with the other guests but didn't talk with one another.
In late 1989, Jason Pierce, dissatisfied with his mixes at VHF Studios, took his recordings for the Recurring album to Battery Studios, London. Assisted by engineer/producer Anjali Dutt, Pierce completed final remixes of his songs in January 1990. However, Peter Kember's side of the album was far from ready, and he resorted to calling on the help of Richard Formby, a producer. According to Formby, when he arrived, Kember's recording was only half done; some songs were incomplete, and two had to be re-recorded from scratch.
In January 1990, Kember's side project and debut solo album, Spectrum (Sonic Boom), was released. Recorded nearly a year previously, Kember had used the project as a vehicle for a group of melancholic themed songs, having decided to save his more upbeat work for Spacemen 3 and Recurring. The Spectrum album was advertised as being by the "founder member/leader of Spacemen 3".
Also in January, Pierce was developing ideas for forming a new band or side project of his own. He invited Spacemen 3 compatriots, Refoy, Carruthers and Mattock, to jam and rehearse with him at a small church hall and his flat. Initially it was informal, but this was the origin of Pierce's Spacemen 3 'splinter' band, Spiritualized, comprising all the same members as Spacemen 3 except for Kember. In February 1990, this new grouping recorded "Anyway That You Want Me". This was recorded at VHF Studios; the purpose of these sessions was kept secret from Kember who was still working there. Speaking in 1991, Pierce explained the purpose of starting Spiritualized:
“ It was so as though I could get back on the road again. Pete [Kember] was still doing tracks for Recurring, and it was a long way off Spacemen 3 touring again, so I wanted to do another tour. So, initially, it [Spiritualized] was set up as a means to get back on the road.”
In June 1990, Spiritualized released their debut single, "Anyway That You Want Me". This was a cover of a song by The Troggs which Spacemen 3 had demoed in 1988 during their Playing With Fire sessions. The single's cover sleeve, which had no text on it, controversially bore a sticker saying "Spacemen 3". Furthermore, adverts for the single featured the Spacemen 3 logo.
The release of the Spiritualized single was the first Kember had definite knowledge of the band's existence. The circumstances surrounding the single and its marketing prompted Kember to announce that he was leaving Spacemen 3 and that the band no longer existed.In the latter half of 1990, Pierce's new band, Spiritualized, toured around the UK. They performed songs from the then as yet unreleased Recurring, as well as new material. Spiritualized signed a record deal with Dedicated and recorded their debut album in Winter 1990/91.[
In January 1991, the Spacemen 3 single "Big City"/"Drive" was released. Both songs from the double A-side single were from the soon-to-released Recurring. Kember and Pierce had been due to be at the studio for the mastering of the single, however Pierce did not attend. At that point the two had hardly spoken face to face in over six months. Kember decided to fade out several minutes of Pierce's song from the single, "Drive". The last Spacemen 3 album, Recurring, was finally released in February 1991. Although the band had not officially disbanded, for all intents and purposes it was a posthumous release. The two sides of the album – one by Kember (A-side), the other by Pierce (B-side) – reflected the split between the band's two main personnel.[
The songs on Recurring had been composed in 1989. It expanded on the sounds of the previous, Playing With Fire album. Musically, it was richer and lusher, but Kember and Pierce's respective halves of Recurring were distinctly different and presaged the solo material which they were already working on by the time of the album's release. Kember's side demonstrated his pop and ambient sensibilities; Pierce's side indicated his sympathy for gospel and blues music and his interest in lush production. In 1991 Kember and Pierce were pursuing their musical careers with their own bands, Spectrum and Spiritualized respectively.
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Sonic Boom's liner notes from the 1994 reissue in many ways capture the whole point of Spacemen 3's full-length debut: "[It] was basically an exorcism for us of our early material...we began our discography with an equal nod to our influences and our inspirations." Indeed, calling Sound of Confusion derivative misses the point entirely, where calling it anything but a clear and specific homage to a sound and style would be a complete mistake. Three of its seven songs are cover versions -- "Rollercoaster" by the 13th Floor Elevators, "Mary Anne" by Juicy Lucy, and the Stooges' "Little Doll" -- while the originals are at once very much Spacemen 3 songs and clear distillations of everything the band members were tripping out on at the time. Though Sonic and Pierce later expressed a preference for the takes included on the Taking Drugs to Make Music bootleg, the rough garage energy throughout still makes Sound of Confusion a fine listen, if nowhere near as stunning as where the band would later go. As was the case throughout the band's early days, Pierce handled all the vocals with the right amount of diffidence and low-key intensity, while he and Sonic cranked up the amps for minimal, bluntly entrancing riffs and the Brooker/Bain rhythm section chugged along. Of the originals, leadoff cut "Losing Touch With My Mind" is the strongest of the bunch, a perfect fusion of the psych/proto-punk/drone influences of its creators sent into the outer void. Meanwhile, "Hey Man," the title audibly playing off the rhythm and sound of the word "amen," is the first of many overt references to gospel music that Pierce would incorporate for years to come.
Spacemen 3 - Sound Of Confusion (flac 248mb)
01 Losing Touch With My Mind 5:30
02 Hey Man 4:47
03 Rollercoaster 7:40
04 Mary Anne 4:05
05 Little Doll 5:24
06 2.35 3:10
07 O.D. Catastrophe 8:57
Spacemen 3 - Sound Of Confusion (ogg 85mb)
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Drawing together some earlier material and a slew of new songs, Spacemen 3 tied everything together on the brilliant Perfect Prescription, the clear point of departure from tribute to psych inspirations and finding its own unique voice. Planned as a concept album, Perfect Prescription works where so many other similar efforts failed due to the strength of the individual songs, as well as the smart focus of the concept in question -- a vision of a drug trip from inception to its blasted conclusion, highs and lows fully intact. The bookending of the album makes that much clear -- "Take Me to the Other Side" is a brash, exultant charge into the joys of the experience, a sharp, tight performance. "Call the Doctor," meanwhile, is a pretty-but-wounded conclusion, husky singing and a drowsy mood detailing the final collapse. The many highlights in between beginning and end are so striking that the album is practically a best-of in all but name. Sonic's eventual work with Spectrum and E.A.R. gets clearly signaled via the majestic reprise of the Transparent Radiation single, here introduced by the swirling flange of an edited "Ecstasy Symphony," also originally from that release. Sonic's breathless delivery of the Red Krayola classic, combined with the elegant arrangement, is a marvel to hear. "Walkin' With Jesus," meanwhile, is practically the birth of Spiritualized, the much different earlier takes now become a reflective combination of acoustic guitar, two-note keyboard lines, and Pierce's yearning, aching desire. The intentionally nasty flip to that is the storming charge of "Things'll Never Be the Same," a call to arms (or injecting something into them) that's as disturbing as it is energetic, the compressed, violent rage of feedback and rhythmic charge a gripping listen. Guest performers from the Jazz Butcher family tree, including Alex Green on sax, help expand the record's sonic range even further. Further reissues include a rotating series of bonus tracks from contemporary singles.
Spacemen 3 - The Perfect Prescription (flac 307mb)
01 Take Me To The Other Side 4:28
02 Walkin' With Jesus 3:43
03 Ode To Street Hassle 4:01
04 Ecstasy Symphony / Transparent Radiation (Flashback) 9:51
05 Feel So Good 5:16
06 Things'll Never Be The Same 6:05
07 Come Down Easy 6:46
08 Call The Doctor 3:52
09 Soul 1 5:41
10 That's Just Fine 6:50
Spacemen 3 - The Perfect Prescription (ogg 126mb)
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Appropriately preceded by the mind-melting crunch of the "Revolution" single, Playing with Fire proved to be the end of Spacemen 3 as a functioning band, but in truly spectacular fashion. Exploring both the depths of serene, agog beauty and sheer tape-shredding chaos, Playing with Fire pushed the extremes of The Perfect Prescription to an even further edge. It's little surprise that Pierce and Sonic couldn't find themselves properly working together after it, but even less that hordes of bands to follow would rank Playing with Fire as the equal (or better) of psychedelia's '60s/'70s forebears. Sonic himself is quoted in one reissue's liner notes as feeling the album "was the refining point of a lot of my theories on minimalism being maximalism" -- as apt a description as any. One of his songs, "How Does It Feel?," sums it up by using a series of notes echoing off into the distance, again and again. With future Spiritualized bassist Will Carruthers in place of Bain, the trio (and uncredited drummer) created glazed, liquid songs with subtle arrangements and sheer reveling in aural joys. Flange is everywhere, as is echo, full dynamic stereo mixes and more, a feast of sound. When aiming toward a gentler, hushed sound, most notably on Pierce's compositions, the incorporation of gospel power filtered through the band's own perspective results in wonders, as heard on "Come Down Softly to My Soul" and the album closing "Lord Can You Hear Me?" As for the louder end of things, besides the awesome "Revolution" itself, a slow burn blast that just keeps getting more and more obsessive and frenetic as it goes, Sonic calling for a release of energy in a mere five seconds, the other complete freakout is "Suicide." An instrumental tribute to the New York synth pioneers, Spacemen 3 keep the minimalism and up the feedback with astonishing results. Initial repressings of the album in the mid-'90s included tracks from the Revolution and Threebie singles, while an elaborate reissue in 1999 also including a full extra disc of demos and rarities, including covers of the Perfect Disaster's "Girl on Fire" and the Troggs' "Anyway That You Want Me" -- eventually Spiritualized's first single.
Spacemen 3 - Playing With Fire (flac 324mb)
01 Honey 3:01
02 Come Down Softly To My Soul 3:46
03 How Does It Feel? 7:58
04 I Believe It 3:19
05 Revolution 5:57
06 Let Me Down Gently 4:29
07 So Hot (Wash Away All Of My Tears) 2:38
08 Suicide 11:03
09 Lord Can You Hear Me? 4:33
10 Suicide (Live) 12:26
11 Repeater (How Does It Feel?) (Live) 5:28
Spacemen 3 - Playing With Fire (ogg 133mb)
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Never has a record been so aptly titled, or so perfectly descriptive of a band's particular vision of the universe. For all that, the original appearance of Taking Drugs was in fact a bootleg on the semi-legendary/semi-notorious Father Yod imprint in 1990, later supplemented with contemporary outtakes and cuts for the Bomp reissue in 1994 and one further song for the Space Age version in 2000. The original seven tracks, dated January 1986 and the first recordings to feature Pete Bain on bass, are collectively known as the Northampton Demos, understandably named for the recording location in a studio outside said English city. Both Sonic and Pierce have been on record as long preferring these takes to the eventual versions that surfaced for the most part on Sound of Confusion. Certainly it's a fine set of performances, showing a definite step toward the more familiar sound of the group and away from the rougher takes on For All the Fucked Up Children of the World. "The Sound of Confusion," aka "Walkin' With Jesus," rips along with fierce energy, Pierce's singing and the rampaging, primitive wail and rumble of the band just wonderful. "Losing Touch With My Mind" takes things to an even higher level, a huge wallop of feedback and beat (Natty Brooker's drumming in particular delivers just what the doctor ordered), Pierce delivering the lines with a flat, cutting drawl. On the slightly lighter tip, "Come Down Easy" is more or less fully in place (aside from singing about it being 1986!), possessing a more upfront but less vocally distinct feel than the Perfect Prescription take. The tracks that surfaced on the later reissues come from a variety of different sessions, including the original take on "Feel So Good" and a good live version of "Things'll Never Be the Same," one of several cuts featuring Brooker's drumming replacement Rosco.
Spacemen 3 - Taking Drugs to Make Music to Take Drugs To (flac 452mb)
01 The Sound Of Confusion 5:54
02 2.35 (Version 1) 3:50
03 Losing Touch With My Mind 5:16
04 Amen 4:53
05 That's Just Fine (Vocal Version) 7:35
06 Come Down Easy 6:58
07 Mary Anne 4:19
08 Feel So Good 5:04
09 2.35 (Feedback Version) 3:50
10 Hey Man 4:49
11 It's Allright 7:42
12 2.35 (Version 2) 3:40
13 Things'll Never Be The Same 6:09
14 Transparent Radiation (Organ Version) 4:14
Spacemen 3 - Taking Drugs to Make Music to Take Drugs To (ogg 165mb)
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Taking off from the ideals which form the core of La Monte Young's concept of "dream music," the heart of Dreamweapon is "An Evening of Contemporary Sitar Music," a transfixing 40-plus-minute document of a landmark Spacemen 3 performance recorded at Waterman's Art Centre in Hammersmith on August 19, 1988. Perhaps the purest expression of the Spacemen aesthetic, the piece is an unbroken tapestry of hypnotic drones, throbbing tones, and repetitive phrases, dappled here and there by evaporating fragments of the melodies which later resurfaced on Playing With Fire. The cumulative effect is one of utter disorientation -- all notions of time and space quickly give way to complete conscious immersion in the music's narcotic tug.
Spacemen 3 - Dreamweapon (flac 319mb)
01 An Evening Of Contemporary Sitar Music 43:35
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