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Tome On The Range

Unstoppable Spex Machine: When Jim Bob Met Ed Sheeran
The Quietus , August 10th, 2019 10:21

In an exclusive extract from his new memoir, In The Shadow Of My Former Self, Jim Bob From Carter USM recalls the time he met Ed Sheeran on his way up

Photo by Paul Heneker

SEX PISTOLS MANCHESTER LESSER FREE TRADE HALL JUNE 1976

In 2009 my manager Marc was back in the UK. The latest Carter shows, that were starting to feel as much a part of winter as putting a tree in the front room, were booked and on sale, and in springtime I went on a fourteen-date solo tour. Attendances were mixed. Some gigs were full, others not so. One particularly empty date was in Lincoln. There were either twelve or fourteen people in the audience. The number changes depending on who you speak to. And I have met a surprising amount of people who were at the Lincoln Library Bar on 23rd April 2009. Definitely more than twelve or fourteen. It’s a bit like that Sex Pistols gig that everyone in Manchester went to. Or the other Sex Pistols gig at the 100 Club that the whole of London were at.

I was with Mister Spoons and Chris T-T when we arrived in Lincoln for the soundcheck. The venue was next to the University campus. I’d played in Lincoln twice before, both times with Carter. The first time, in 1989 is featured in Goodnight Jim Bob. I describe the venue as a ‘scampi in the basket disco’. The film Alien was showing on TV screens during our set and more people were watching it than were watching us.

In 2009, as we started setting up for soundcheck, it became clear the sound engineer didn’t really know what he was doing. I had to show him where to plug the leads in to the mixing desk. The blind leading the blind. The poor sod knew even less than me. He seemed incredibly flustered, like an actor who’d turned up for the first day on set to discover a horse waiting for him and remembering he’d lied on his CV. After a while he went outside for a cigarette. Fifteen minutes later it was obvious he wasn’t coming back. I think when he realised how far out of his depth he was, he must have literally run away.

Between us we managed to get the PA working and finished the soundcheck. There were two supports that night. The promoter was on first and, ignoring the fact that that’s cheating, let’s focus on the other act. He was seventeen years old and full of self-confidence in a way that the music business would soon knock out of him. The promoter was very young too and I was embarrassed these two youngsters should witness just how unpopular I was in Lincoln, especially as they were both probably too young to be aware that I used to be way more famous in Lincoln. Even in 1989 when everyone was watching Alien while we were on.

Both support acts were better musicians than me. They must have thought I was a late starter or something. The seventeen year old did that annoying thing of slapping his guitar and playing it really fast. It was more like watching sport or a party trick than music. He was using loop pedals. He’d play a riff, sample it and then add another riff, maybe a bit of slap work, building up a sound, like a one-man band from the future. I remember he had a song that dissed the Brit School. My daughter used to go to the Brit School and I felt overly protective about that.

Almost a decade later, in 2018, I was on a short Australian tour with Pop Will Eat Itself. Every day on the drive from the airport, someone in the van would ask what such and such a mega venue we were passing was. It would either be a sports ground or a stadium, with a capacity of fifty or sixty thousand. Our Australian tour coincided with another UK artist’s tour. He was playing at all these enormous venues, sometimes for more than one night. In Melbourne there was a huge stall set up in the middle of the city selling his T-shirts. He hadn’t even arrived yet.

In Perth I asked our Australian tour manager about one of the huge venues we were driving past and realised it might be where Carter had played as part of the Big Day Out festival tour in 1993. I Googled it and sure enough it was the same venue. The capacity at Perth Oval had been expanded since 1993. The artist who was selling out Australia’s biggest venues and those all over the world, held the record for the largest ever audience there. Thirty-two thousand people came to see him in 2015. In 2018 he played in Perth to a total of 114,031 people over two nights at the brand new Optus Stadium.

There were either twelve or fourteen people in the audience when he played in Lincoln. It changes depending on who you speak to. And I have met a surprising amount of people who were at the Lincoln Library Bar on 23rd April 2009. Definitely more than twelve or fourteen. It’s a bit like that Sex Pistols gig that everyone in Manchester went to. Or the other Sex Pistols gig at the 100 Club that the whole of London were at. There definitely weren’t as many as thirty-two thousand or one hundred and fourteen thousand people there, but rather than let that fact get to me, I find comfort in the knowledge that the twelve or fourteen people in the audience were all there to see me and not my support act with his loop pedals, fancy guitar playing and his songs dissing my daughter’s school. My Ed Sheeran anecdote, ladies and gentlemen.

In the Shadow of My Former Self by Jim Bob From Carter is published by Cherry Red. Jim Bob From Carter will be appearing at the Louder Than Words festival on Saturday 9 November

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