Teenage Fanclub: how we made Bandwagonesque

‘I was on the phone to lawyers and labels in New York while still living in a council flat and unable to afford the bus fare to rehearsals’

Norman Blake, vocals, guitar

What was our life like back in 1991? Impoverished! But when you’re young that’s fine. We’d take the mattress out of my bedroom, stick it in the back of a rental van and off we’d go on tour.

Bandwagonesque captures that spirit. There weren’t many people at the time making melodic pop records that were kind of sloppy too. The vocals aren’t brilliant, the playing’s all right … it’s not been tidied up like a lot of records are these days. It captures young people trying to find their feet. That’s what I think people pick up on.

Our producer Don Fleming advised us to drink Jack Daniel’s in the studio. He said: “It’s good for singing, guitaring and playing the drums.” Words of wisdom! He was a cheerleader for making the recording process an event rather than a dry session. Don was very encouraging musically too. He was the first person to get us working on harmonies because he said not many people were doing that at the time. We were slacker and noisier back then but Don got us hitting some really high notes – as we’ve gotten older they’ve gone out of our range.

The album opens with The Concept, which has the lyrics: “She wears denim wherever she goes / Says she’s gonna buy some records by the Status Quo.” I liked the idea of referencing them because if you wanted to be cool you never would. I could have referenced the Moving Sidewalks instead and people would have thought: “What a wanker.” I’ve not seen the film Young Adult, but I know that Charlize Theron sings The Concept in it. That’s pretty crazy to think she knows the song.

We’d just signed to Creation, which could be quite wild. I remember us going to the offices just to say hello to everyone and Alan [McGee, founder] was like “Let’s get a couple of cans of beer.” The next thing you know he’s on the intercom system saying “OK everyone, phone’s off” and a full scale party ensues. Bobby Gillespie came down and before you knew it the pills were flying around.

We had to play the entire album live recently. Has it stood the test of time? I suppose the best you can say as a musician is, if you don’t cringe too much when you listen back to it, then you’ve kind of done OK.

Teenage Fanclub in 1992.
‘Geffen hated it’ … the band in 1992 with the offending artwork. Photograph: Brian Rasic/Getty Images

Raymond McGinley, vocals, lead guitar

I was still living with my mum and dad in a multistorey council flat, and yet I’d be on the phone to New York lawyers and labels in North America trying to sort out record deals. We’d be talking about all this money but I still didn’t have enough to get the bus down to the rehearsal room in Motherwell.

We didn’t have a manager at the time and I was so tied up doing that kind of thing that I only wrote one song on the record, but I still felt I contributed in lots of other ways. It was a good collective experience. Me and Norman had spent a few years in the wilderness waiting to get to a place where we had time in a studio with a band, so we enjoyed focusing on ourselves.

We hadn’t actually signed to Creation at the time and I remember having heated discussions with Alan McGee who was worried he was going to pay all our recording bills and then get shafted. Alan and Dick Green [Creation records founders] had put their houses up against the label succeeding, but because they had so much going on at the time they left us alone to get on with it.

Bandwagonesque has a certain idiosyncratic sound. After we finished I thought “Oh God, I don’t know if this is the best thing we could do here.” But as time goes on, you realise that’s all part of the creative process. It has its flaws, but so do all our records.

I did the sleeve with my girlfriend at the time. She gets a credit but really it’s my fault. When bands sign to a bigger label, they end up with an art department record sleeve, where everything looks a bit slick and airbrushed. I had the idea to do the exact opposite and make the cheapest sleeve ever configured. I used a free-to-use Microsoft clipart image. Geffen, our American label, hated it. I don’t think the other guys in the band liked it either. And we ended up getting sued by Gene Simmons who claimed to have trademarked bags of money. So I’m trying to produce the cheapest sleeve possible as some kind of comment on the music business and we end up getting sued by Gene Simmons. I said to our lawyer: “Can we just tell him to fuck off?” He said no, so we gave him $500 and a credit.


Interviews by Tim Jonze

The GuardianTramp

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