Laney’s Memories of The Subterraineans

Big thanks to Laney for her memories of The Subterraineans:

The memories of my first Subterraineans gig (which was their penultimate one) are a little foggy. I do recall a strange amalgamation of patchouli soaked, leather-clad bikers and dirty footed, musk ensconced hippies, all squashed like sardines in a rather dank bar… their only common denominator being the desire to have a piece of whatever the singer was on. To say he was fashionably late when he arrived would be a gross understatement – he fell through the door and onto the stage with only seconds to spare, and whatever planet he was on at the time certainly wasn’t the one the rest of us were on. I was fascinated with Dean from that very first moment I set eyes on him. He was a complete enigma.

Having recently gotten into a relationship with George (am I loud enough?), I was privy to many of The Subterraineans’ rehearsals, most of which took place in George’s Cowick Lane bedroom, facing a woodland mural and a king sized bed. I spent hours watching the guys perfecting their sound which was only interrupted for regular tea slurpage, ‘deep sea frog’ whisperings and fits of the giggles. Dean would break into laughter at the most inappropriate moments and for reasons we would never be aware of. I remember once asking him what was so funny, as he lay on the bed with tears streaming down his cheeks and his mouth all contorted in some weird Jim Carey-esqe fashion, but he had no idea. He just laughed. And laughed. And when he stopped laughing and picked up his mic, he’d just laugh some more. Those rehearsals lasted for hours.

If it’s possible for a singer to have the ability to be both vulnerable and indomitable all at once, then Dean had it. At any given moment it was unclear whether he was about to take on the world or crumple into a heap on the carpet. His voice was captivating, the emotion behind his lyrics often painful to witness, but his stage presence was absolutely mesmorising. As Graham and Jerry kept a steady rhythm, Dean – rather than slot into a comfortable niche between them – would swoop and soar like a bird above and below and around them… with body and voice.He was enchanting. When Dean sadly chose to take his own life, it didn’t surprise me in the least that he chose to ‘jump’. Bless his soul.

Jerry – who had the sexiest mouth this side of the Channel Tunnel and made the word ‘prunes’ look decidedly pornographic – was as deliciously upright in morality as in stance. He was solid and dependable, an earnest bassist with a solid sound. I always saw him as the Daddy of the band – he was slightly older than the others, had a proper job, and ate regular meals. This isn’t to say that he didn’t enjoy the mid-song banter, but he always seemed keen to get back to the job in hand – making music – which he did with amazing grace and with a glossy mop of hair flopping rhythmically over his eyes.

Graham – dear Graham – was perhaps overshadowed by Dean’s elaborate personality and shenanigans, which at times seemed to cause a bit of friction. I always felt that George – who was good friends to them both – had the difficult job of suppressing any angst between them. Most times he was successful. Graham loved drumming as much as he loved flicking his fag ash on his jeans and rubbing it in, and as much as he loved the attention of a fine looking, long haired woman. Which, I think, was rather a lot. What he may have lacked back then (in those early days) in technical proficiency, he certainly made up for in determination and stamina.

George – who more often than not was seen with bare feet, on and off stage – was a guitarist who in his own eyes would never be good enough and never be loud enough. It amazed me that for someone who in my eyes wrote consistently outstanding lyrics, he always felt that the music should take precedence. Perhaps he thought he was a better guitarist than lyricist? Or that the music would tell the most important story? We had many a debate over the fact that I always wanted more volume on the vocals when he was in the midst of mixing a demo. I guess I’m just a girl who likes to sing along…and one who perhaps doesn’t understand the finer points of perfecting the blend.

Some people are musicians in their spare time, slotting it in to the free moments in their lives. But for George, music was his life. He had to live the rest of his life in the very little time which remained when he wasn’t writing, rehearsing, gigging, mixing, (and later running Bandspace)and godknowswhat else. To say it was a passion is an understatement.