Almanac Music: The Revolution Starts at Closing Time (a short history on the band ‘Serious Drinking’)

One thing I always know when I go to a close friend’s house for a beer, talk football and play records is I will always learn something musically. This friend, who we’ll call Sandy, moved with his Australian wife to Perth from East London in 2008 and we bonded at an RTR FM Christmas party over our love of many bands and the fact that James Alexander Gordon and John Peel were gods amongst men who saved us both in different ways. Since then I have spent many a late night having tunes from over the decades I’d never heard of being played through his trusty old record player while waxing lyrical on many things in life and having too many ‘one for the roads’.

One band he introduced me to was Half Man Half Biscuit, a motley crue from Merseyside who had scouse wit dripping through their songs on social commentary including their critique of the typical keeping-up-with-the-joneses middle class couple (Paintball’s coming home), post punk wankers (Joy Division Oven Gloves) and their quite stunning tribute to the humble football referee (The Referee’s Alphabet).

Sandy also got me on to Sleaford Mods, a rather abrasive duo from Nottingham who shout over a repetitive beat about the struggles of being working class in the midlands in post-New Labour Britain with unbelievable charm and acidity that you won’t see in a comments section of a Newscorp Facebook page. They are only now starting be noticed by the NME et al.

I was also introduced to Attila the Stockbroker, a punk poet who was the ground announcer at Brighton and Hove Albion FC home games and who had poems and songs go from tributes to his mother dying of Alzheimer’s (The long goodbye) to completely taking the piss out of the hyperbolic lies generated about Libyans by the right wing press following the Lockerbie Air Disaster (Libyan students from hell).

One band I always took a shining to more than any other after a late night record session though was the Norwich band ‘Serious Drinking’. The band was named after the headline of a Gary Bushell interview with The Cockney Rejects Sounds Magazine and formed in early 1981. The punk 5 piece was formed by recent students from East Anglia University who were in that post graduation vacuum of leaving university to find no jobs for people like them in Thatcher’s Britain. The modus operandi of the band was to preach the love that just do what you enjoy and be nice to people so for them it was all about drinking, football and girls without being a dickhead. In interviews the only real politically motivated member (the bass player Jem) said that singing about politics would just make them like every other mouthy student who would be taken the piss out of in shows like ‘The Young Ones’ in coming years. They also featured two lead singers just for the fact that the better singer out of the two needed a lift off the other singer so both joined the band.

This was what I loved about the band. It was merely lads being lads and not taking themselves seriously, there was the rest of your life to be serious. Yes, you’re broke but have your mates and enough coin from your grant for a few jars at the student union and a pack of snouts. As the band once said in an interview, they strictly only wrote songs about pursuing traditional leisurely British pursuits.

Their first EP was ‘Love on the Terraces’, the title track is a ska flavoured number about finding that perfect girl who is (as the song states) in to the mod movement, snooker, drinking and football. A rare find. I think we’ve perhaps all had that crush at one stage or another for a girl who is rare as hen’s teeth having the same love for a sport or band as you do be her attainable or not. The forlorn final lyric of ‘she stole my program, she stole my heart!’ resonating with me over lost times chasing that perfect relationship. Even in my 30s this took me back to the times of having a crush of fantasy bordering with obsession when a little more immature, with a little more time in life.

There is gold elsewhere on this EP as well. ‘Bobby Moore is innocent’ is a scuzzy yet smart punk song about the incident in Colombia in the lead up to the World Cup in 1970 in which England captain Bobby Moore was arrested over an alleged jewellery theft on very flimsy evidence. Who says they didn’t get political. The final track was the rather shouty ‘He’s an angry bastard but I like him’ about that certain person you knew who couldn’t handle their booze and would be a handful after a couple. About someone you would give one more chance to because it was the right thing to do. This went back to their band mantra of being nice to people in dark times for the United Kingdom no matter their faults.

This EP naturally attracted the attention of the punk and football loving BBC legend John Peel who had the band in for the first of four visits to the BBC studios to play live. Their much loved live version of ‘Bobby Moore is Innocent’ featured a cover of the Wire track ‘12XU’ along with the interjection of a Bobby Moore football instructional record for added weirdness.

The next single (produced by one of the members of Madness) was an ode to the day after, ‘Hangover’. Even to this day most of us who had been on the turps the day/night before you’re reliving awkward conversations and mentally reliving actions best not thinking about. The regret and vowing of never drinking again which never sticks once bridges are mended and bruises heal. This was another track commenting on how nobody is perfect.

This single was released on their first full length album in 1983 that was brilliantly titled ‘The Revolution Starts at Closing Time’, a nod to always having a beer and procrastinating rather than making a difference in the world through whatever means. The album featured more gems including the lament of a boring Sunday afternoon (Countdown to Bilko) and a sequel to the final track from their ‘Love on the Terraces’ EP (Weird son of an angry bastard).

The album was a fun and bawdy masterpiece, a time when a lot of Indie bands did just want to take the piss with Thatcher at #10 and no jobs to go in to upon graduation. Why worry eh? The album made top ten in the Indie Music charts and ensured another three appearances on Peel’s Evening Session program.  The band didn’t really have jobs so they gigged around the UK and were a cult band more than anything. It was a chance to play to a bunch of ‘oi oi’ types it but the band attracted a wide range of fans with a reach that went far and wide over different ages and creeds.

Another album followed in 1984, the ‘They may be drinkers Robin, but they’re still human beings’ which didn’t feature the wide eyed exuberance of the previous releases but still showed they were having a good time. Momentum was stalling though. Some members had had their fun and it was time to move on and, ye gads, grow up after the release of one final single. Two members quit the band shortly after the release of the second album and the band eventually went in to hiatus after bastardised versions of the band did a few more gigs. The members of the band, like many of us, had to go out in to the real world and use their degrees.

In 1990 the Indie label ‘Worker’s Playtime’ put together a compilation of all their tracks named ‘Stranger than Tannadice’ which was to tie in with England appearance at the 1990 World Cup in Italy. The band thought it would be a good opportunity to play some reunion gigs and have done so during every major football tournament featuring England since. While their professional lives now lay away from music it doesn’t mean they can get together and relive the old days like many of us do as we get older.

Serious Drinking are a band locked in the youth of anyone that listens to their music yet they are not nostalgic. It reminds you that life doesn’t have to be serious and sometimes it’s best to get another round in and only be concerned about if your team will win away from home this Saturday. Listening to bands like this at Sandy’s sheds me of worrying about that job, that car servicing or the lawns. It’s a musical St John’s Wart and wonderful stuff.

 

About Dennis Gedling

RTR FM Presenter. Glory Guerrillas Producer and Co-Host. Contributer to Football Nation Radio and Football West. Worships at the feet of the mighty Cats, Socceroos, Matildas, West Perth, Glory and Glasgow's Green and White most of the time.

Comments

  1. Pete (Sandy's old man) says

    Nice article Dennis. I’d never heard of serious drinking but when I get over to Oz in the new year I’m sure I’ll be introduced. I’m looking forward to it

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