Lord Sulaco and Me

honolulu-mountain-daffodils-tequila-dementia-back

This is a version of something I originally intended to post on Facebook. Constant re-editing has resulted in it growing into an article of sorts. It’s by way of a belated goodbye to an old friend. My apologies for its personal nature and my lack of writing ability when it comes to this kind of personal stuff. Musical dates and anecdotes will stand in for emotional sharing throughout. Any chronological errors are due to my faulty memory. I’ve included a couple of links to more reliable witnesses. It’s just a story I wanted to tell in my own way.
I left school, Raynes Park High, in the summer of 1976. It was Britain’s hottest, driest summer for years. I wasn’t sorry to leave and only kept touch with two of my former friends from school. Bill Miller who was to be my closest friend for many years to come and Pete Williams who, unlike Bill, shared my interest in loud guitars and buying as many albums and seeing as many bands as humanly possible. Pete was later known as Lord Sulaco in the band Honolulu Mountain Daffodils (of which more later). We frequented London’s Marquee Club as often as we could and, when we didn’t, I would be round at his house bringing my contribution for a long session of noisy record-playing. His parents must have been astonishingly tolerant. Or just long suffering. We kept in touch for some time after school due to a shared love of raucous music including the, then, emerging punk scene.

He attended the famous Sex Pistols gig at the 100 Club which so many people claim to have been at. Invited me to come too and I said no because I was convinced it wouldn’t be safe for a couple of long-haired types to be seen at a punk festival. What an idiot! Pete later told me that he had stood just behind some rather antisocial types who heckled one of the other bands (I think it was Subway Sect) all through their set. Then, when it was over, these people took to the stage and make an incredible racket of their own. Susie and the something-or-others they were called.

Susie and the Somethings were in the audience again when we went to The Roundhouse in north London to see teenage sensations, The Runaways. We enjoyed the gig so much we both bought tickets for their show the following night. This decision was only partly based on our musical appreciation I have to admit. Sioux enjoyed it so much she got Cherie Curry to give her the “blood” spattered T-Shirt she had worn for their rather Alice Cooper inspired final song. I think it was in the same month (Oct 76) that we saw Patti Smith supported by The Stranglers at the Hammersmith Odeon. To this day it remains the only gig where I’ve ended up jumping up and down on a seat. Oh that was a good month. We’d only left school that summer and it was beginning to look like we were living through a pretty exciting time. Sixties? Wouldn’t give you tuppence for them squire.

It was Pete who introduced me to Adrian Borland back in 1977. Adrian was in proto punk band The Outsiders at the time, then later The Sound. The Outsiders were not liked by the typical punk audiences. Too much Stooges and MC5. Not enough Ramones and Clash. Plus they were (gasp) middle class and didn’t pretend otherwise. At the Marquee Club their manager – one Jock McDonald – appeared on the stage during their set and berated the audience for their lack of enthusiasm. “This is the real thing! This is yer punk rock!” he bellowed before hurling his drink at the assembled punks. I’ve read a few bad things about Jock over the years but I must admit I rather liked him and his eccentric style of management.

Later, in 1979, Adrian had disbanded the Outsiders and formed cult post-punk band The Sound. Around this time Pete and Adrian (plus a few others) recorded some songs under the name The Crazies. None of it was ever released. Some of Pete’s lyrics were – interesting. He sung one to me at his parents’ house in Morden. It was about young American couples haunting the streets of New York at night, hoping to achieve fame as the next victims of Son of Sam! Whether this made it to the recording stage I’m not sure. I never got a copy. Perhaps Pete knew I didn’t always share his own brand of gallows humour or maybe we were already starting to drift apart, musically at least.

I was making a lot of new friends in the London punk scene. He was (like Adrian) less inclined to “join the gang in a new uniform”. We still saw each other at the occasional gig and inevitably at Wimbledon’s Crooked Billet pub (on the Common) where we both spent far too much of our time. Still, the following year Pete and I, along with two other mates, went on a three week holiday to the USA. The West Coast and Nevada (rather than the streets of New York). San Francisco we both loved, Las Vegas was Las Vegas and Hollywood had some good record shops with extensive bootleg collections which we scoured for gems. It also had Universal Studios, The Queen Mary and some sort of theatre place with some hand and footprints behind it. All right if you like that kind of thing. While we were over there they elected some film actor as their president. We never met anybody who voted for him though.

Back home, Adrian’s biggest influence by now was Joy Division. Jock M was long gone and Korova Records were hoping that The Sound would repeat the success they’d had with Echo and the Bunnymen. Three albums and a number of tours later they dropped the band. The Sound signed to Statik records and continued, still with only cult success until 1987. By this stage I had long since moved away from the area and lost touch with my old friends. Like other people I only learned of Adrian’s psychiatric problems (Schizoid Affective Disorder) after his tragic death in 1999.

After the Sound folded Adrian and Pete were both involved in a studio-only venture, the Honolulu Mountain Daffodils. It was a mixture of a hobby band and a means to experiment. I think Adrian was pretty disillusioned with the music business by that time and just wanted the space to do anything he wanted to musically. Stooges, Kraftwerk, Ramones, 1960s American garage bands, film soundtracks all went into the mix. Some of what they recorded was jokey parodic stuff. A lot of it wasn’t. Pete was the singer and other non-professional musician friends all appeared on their three albums under silly/strange pseudonyms. Adrian was Joachim Pimento, Pete was Lord Sulaco etc. They just made three albums, never played live and remained resolutely anonymous.

I hadn’t seen Pete for about ten years I think when, in 1994, I moved back to Morden. I didn’t even realise, until many years later than that, that he still lived at the same house. I looked at the voters register one day at the local library to see if I was on it and, on an impulse, checked his old address too. I was pretty startled to realise that he was still there, ten minutes’ walk from my flat. Stupidly I never got round to calling on him. Never seemed the right time. I did get as far as his street – even his house – quite a few times but always thought “better” of it and ended up passing on by. Wondered what we would have to say to each other. Time had passed, was it better to let things lie? I let things lie. So more time passed and, either late in 2013 or early in 2014 I finally decided I would knock on his door. About thirty years since we had last spoken I stopped outside the front gate and looked up at a large sign saying “sold”. No curtains in the windows. The place looked empty and deserted. I guessed he must have moved away. Why had I waited so long? How ridiculous.

About a month ago I saw a post about the HMDs in the Adrian Borland Memorial Facebook group.  I was about to reply to it but thought I should check a few facts first. I Googled the name Honolulu Mountain Daffodils, had a look at an article about them and discovered that Pete had died in May 2013. Alcohol related problems from the sound of things. I had heard from a brief phone conversation with a mutual friend back in 2012 that there had been a few troubles related to the booze. Treatment for liver problems I gather but I suppose I didn’t take on board just how serious the situation had become. Maybe I just didn’t want to. Hearing that he had died came as an incredible shock. That he had died during the time I was dithering about paying a visit and maybe linking up again was hard to bear. In fact I had to blink away more than a few tears. Even trying to write this has been – a bit hard. Just a bit.
So then. Honolulu Mountain Daffodils. That’s what I meant to write about when I started this. A strange group that were not taken terribly seriously at the time, even by its members, but now seem to have been – in some ways – ahead of their time. And behind their time. That too. Maybe they were post-modern and didn’t know it. Anyway, this is a very belated RIP to my friend Pete and, of course to Adrian.

Black Car Drives South

Psychic Hit List Victim No 8

Free Men of Mauna Loa

http://www.pennyblackmusic.co.uk/magsitepages/Article.aspx?id=7039

http://www.pennyblackmusic.co.uk/magsitepages/Article.aspx?id=7387

“Honolulus, let’s go”

17 thoughts on “Lord Sulaco and Me

    • It’s something the author has to do, severin. I wrote these instructions a while ago:

      When in Visual Mode (not Text Mode), there are two rows of editing buttons
      (bold, italics, etc.) above the box where you type the body of your post.
      Near the end of the top row is a button showing two thick horizontal lines
      separated by a dotted line. Hovering over this should display the text
      ‘Insert Read More tag’.
      If you put the cursor at the position in your post where you want the page
      break, pressing this button will insert the “continue reading” tag.

      I’ll give your piece the attention it deserves later.

  1. Sev, in Edit mode for the post, put your cursor where you want the ‘Continue Reading …’ page break, then look at the icons above the text box. Something like fourth in from the right is the appropriate symbol tool.
    Sorry that’s vague; I’m on my phone, not at a PC.

  2. Hi Severin ! ! !

    It is really easy – even I can do it ! ! ! There is a little icon thaty looks like two solid horizontal bars with a dotted line between them. If you hover the mouse over the icon you see it will say ‘insert more”

    All you do is put the cursor where you want to break and then click – it is all done ! ! ! Do not forget to save changes – or update in edit mode ! ! !

  3. Hi Sev,

    That is a tender piece, heartfelt and personal. I think that many of us have had friends that we have drifted away from and regretted it. I know that I have. Perhaps for many of us the door isn’t as firmly shut as it has been for you, though.

    You have triggered off a chain of memories in me now. I was living just off of Clapham Common in the summer of 1976. I never knew anyone who actually produced and recorded any music, though.

  4. I like those Honolulu Mountain Daffodils tracks, severin. Musically eclectic and pleasingly off-kilter.

    It’s a sad story but I’m sure we’ve all found ourselves taking the path of least pain at sometime or another. There’s obviously no way of knowing whether or not paying your friend a visit would have helped him but, if he had a strong bond with the bottle, it’s unlikely. I once knew someone in the music biz who was intelligent and a loving father with many friends but it didn’t stop him drinking himself to death in his thirties.

    I know the Dead aren’t your thing, severin, but Robert Hunter wrote several lyrics about songs and death in which the finality of the latter is acknowledged within the context of the lasting nature of the former. From Stella Blue:

    In the end there’s still that song
    Comes crying like the wind
    Down every lonely street
    That’s ever been

    Your friend lives on, not only through your memories, but also through his music.

  5. I know this is fairly irrelevant. If you’ve ever heard of Victor Feldman, he became a fairly serious jazz musician playing with Miles in the US; his father ran a club on Oxford street in the ’40’s that I visited a few times, it was The Fabulous Feldman Club. It’s name was changed and it became the 100 Club, ‘cos it was at 100 Oxford Street, in the late ’40’s I was a regular visitor. It was the premiere London Jazz club in those days. Still going I believe and there’s some 1940’s clips on youtube.

    • Yes, they were still mainly putting on jazz and blues acts when they agreed to host the punk festival. A violent incident on the second night ensured that they would not do anything like that again for some time. I haven’t been there often. Last time was a few of years ago to see Imelda May.

  6. I do feel for you severin, it’s very hard to lose someone you were once close to. I’ve been there myself, time just whizzes along and you don’t realise until it’s too late. I’d like to say I’ll try harder in the future but I probably won’t, it’s the nature of things. Don’t blame yourself.

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