The Mystery Guests (1979-1981)

1979

The original Mystery Guests were just 3. Buster, Alex and myself. Alex then left to join the Army and we had an almost never ending series of one-night sax players. Later Punky alias Titus Aaron joined on bass.
Pickle (Mr. Licquorice)

Mystery Guests live

Mystery Guests: Pickle, Punky and Buster (left to right). Thanks to John Ristway

„And then came the breakthrough. In 1979 Licquorice resolved the sprawling ambiguity of the Dapper Choir into a hard and lucid whole.
With the aid of a near-terminal Akropolis he recruited the shabby, eccentric and comically-named Buster as lead guitarist.
Buster lived in subhuman squalor, nut was an electronics genius who could convert a vaacum-cleaner into a particle accelerator using only a wall can-opener.
Before fong the trio metamorphosed into a quartet with the arrival of bassist Titus Aaron. In many ways the most enigmatic of the group, Aaron shared a strange physical similarity with his fellows… a baffling, haunting uglyness that hovered on the edge of sublime ethereal beauty.
The Mystery Guests were now ready to submit themselves to the bloodshot scrutiny of the general public.
THE REACTION was violent and schismatic, divided mainly between those who merely loathed them and those who wished them actual physical harm. A few, it must be said, had the wit to appreciate that the abrasive and cruel music, coupled with the sniggering delerium of the lyrics displayed the early thrashings of a monstrous and disturbed genius”
Alan Moore, Sounds article, Mystery and Abomination”, 1981-08-08

1979-09-08 – The Mystery Guests / Bauhaus @ The Paddock, Northampton

1979-09-08 – The Mystery Guests / Bauhaus @ The Paddock, Northampton

1979-09-08 – The Mystery Guests / Bauhaus @ The Paddock, Northampton

1979-09-08 – The Mystery Guests / Bauhaus @ The Paddock, Northampton

The Mystery Guests / Bauhaus fanzine review

The Mystery Guests / Bauhaus fanzine review

1980

Wurlitzer Junction / The Merry Shark You Are 7″
Boys Own Label, BO 1
Lyrics by Alan Moore

Wurlitzer Junction also appears on “Nation of Saints, 50 Years of Northampton music” compilation CD that came with the very first issue of Alan Moore’s Dodgem Logic magazine in 2009. CD includes songs by Alan Moore, The Jazz Butcher, Tom Hall, Venus Fly Trap and David J.

Early version of Wurlitzer Junction was written back in April 1978 by Pickle & Alex Green for The Emperors of Ice Cream / The Dapper Choir. Instrumental home demo has been taped. Alan Moore contributed with lyrics later.

‘Wurlitzer Junction’ and flipside The Merry Shark you are’ were recorded in Northampton somewhere…
Pickle (Mr. Licquorice)

Wurlitzer Junction

I never talk about the sensation
I keep the wallets and I stack the tacks behind the factory
I do not do it for remuneration
In fact the lack of tax is actively unsatisfactory
Furniture Baby, who
Are you all relating to?
And why do the pavements move
In time to the tread of empty shoes?

You never thought she’d be a people sarny
You don’t believe in something till it’s right beneath you feet
I blame identity on dainty living
No one is what they seem but everyone is what they eat
Why don’t you take me to
the imaginary zoo?
You’ll be on the News at Ten
Where ambulance men give empty views.

He’s sitting talking to his daily paper
Just tried to contact the contractors to the manufacturers
They’re not related and his name evades her
He has a stammer and………..still affects her
Always the same old faces
only the eyes have changed
Your lipstick has just stopped smiling;
empty shoes waiting for a train

The Merry Shark you are

You never hear the bomb that hits you; anaesthetic.
Here’s a steady man with thoughts like shrapnel.
You piss in the dark just like
the Merry Shark you are.

And if she’s dead she died in flames
In cheap hotel rooms where the petrol scent remains
What becomes of slim young women
Born at best on best-forgotten days?

Lyrics in green are Alan’s, the others mine. I wrote all the music.
For Wurlitzer Junction I sang the first thing that came into my head while playing electric guitar and Alan seated over the other side of the room wrote down his impressions from what he could hear.
So in a sense I guess they belong to both of us.
Pickle (Mr. Licquorice)

„One such aesthete was the astute Tom Fawcett, prolific eminence gris behind, amongst other things, Fawcett’s Design for Living. Recognising the Mystery Guests as a potential ultimate deterrent in his arsenal of cultural subversion. Fawcett cunningly contrived that their first single, “Wurlitzer Junction’, should be released upon his fledgling Boy’s Own label.
There were several stanzas of deft linguistic beauty, although I most admit that my personal favourite was the one which rhymed ‘bachelor’ with ‘manufacturer’.
Akropotis and Buster vanished again . . . one to a Swiss sanitarium for a complete blood-change, the other to the cobwebbed obscurity which had spawned him. Before he left, however, Buster suggested the title of their second gramophone recording, “The Sparrow that Ate New York”.”
Alan Moore, Sounds article, Mystery and Abomination”, 1981-08-08

„The artistic intelligentsia in Northampton is pretty closely knit, due largely to the fact that there’s only about six of us.
I’d been hanging around doing the odd stage performance since the early 70s, though these were largely for my own amusement (at least if the reaction of the audiences was anything to go by). I knew some of the younger musicians and artists around the town — people like Mr. Liquorice and the Mystery Guests. The Mystery Guests even recorded a couple of singles that I wrote the words for — they came out on the Boy’s Own label and immediately soared to the furthermost pinnacles of obscurity. „
Alan Moore, Zig Zag article (Jun 84)

1980-05-02 – Magazine / Bauhaus / The Mystery Guests @ Guildhall, Northampton

1980-05-02 – Magazine / Bauhaus / The Mystery Guests @ Guildhall, Northampton

We [Trance] did a mini tour with Mystery Guests in 1980 – Brighton, London, Manchester and maybe one other gig – I went up in the van with them and Alan Moore for the Nottingham Rock City gig where they supported Bauhaus but don’t have any of the memorabilia anymore. Trance also played with them at Lings forum in June ’81 – I’ve lost touch with them now – Shrivs, Buster, Pickle and Ian. I know there was talk of a tour with Mystery Guests and the Diagram Brothers – remember talking to Diagram Brothers about it at the 101 club in London but then Pickle moved to Birmingham and we lost touch
Barry Hale

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1980-07-19 – The Mystery Guests / Trance / Where’s Lisse? / Religious Overdose @ Lings Theatre, Northampton

Mystery Guests+Trance-Moonlight club- 1980-08-27

1980-08-27 – The Mystery Guests / Trance @ Moonlight Club, London

Oh yes at the Moonlight club gig – Steve Cook and Paul Jones, then in the Professionals, people from John Foxx’s Metalbeat label and half of Ultravox were in the audience.

Watching Mystery Guests rehearse was strange – they had a gizmo they could all plug into and wore headphones so they could hear each other play without need for amps but onlookers could only hear the vocals and the sound of unamplified guitars.
Barry Hale

1981

The Sparrow That Ate New York / The Nude 7″
Boys Own Label, 1981 (BO 3)

The next single was done on a farm somewhere. We recorded ‘The Sparrow that ate New York’ and two other songs.
Pickle (Mr. Licquorice)

Wurlitzer Junction and The Sparrow That Ate New York were both released on my BoysOwn label of course, and I do recall going to a recording session at Wild Willy Barret’s place in Northants, but I’m not sure either we’re recorded there.
Tom Fawcett

We did a freeform session there with members of Stanton Walgrave and Tom and his mate and then later we did ‘the Sparrow that ate New York’ there.
Pickle (Mr. Licquorice)

I think Shrivs and I only did a couple of gigs with MGs but there was lots of other things which I may be confusing with Stanton Walgrave 4 or 5 years earlier. We were involved in the farm recordings at Wild Willy Barrettes place. This included reworking of some some of Shrivs lovely songs such as Bend me like a tambourine.
Seaweed

„It is interesting to reflect that at this point, reduced to en avant-garde duet of limited commercial appeal, the Mystery Guests might simply have vanished without trace, thus averting the soul-chilling catastrophes that were to follow.
But it was at precisely this point that History chose to deal it’s most brutal card by engineering the return of Seaweed and Spawnwash.
They were not the men that Mr. Licquorice had known of old. Seaweed now had prominent gills and a vestigal dorsal fin. Spawnwash had become a communist, converted by his patronage of Radio Albania.
But they were to have seismic repercussions upon the very raison d’etre of the Mystery guests. Music alone could no longer contain them.  They were filled with an unholy zeal, urging them to spread their blight across the entire cultural firmament.
A cassette and booklet package entitled ‘The Bigot’ was released, voyeuristically detailing the real-life xenophobia of an anonymous and unwitting middle-aged couple.
The born-again Max Akropolis lurked ominously in the wings with a full brass section. Betty Wayne and her Lady Choristers waited demurely to take the field.
And there were new songs… the lovely and heartbreaking “Don’t Treat Me Like A Treacle Tart”, the clammy and seductive “Corrugated Fever”. The mystery deepened. The guests prepared to eat the party.
I do not wish to tell you too much concerning the Mystery Guests. I will hint that they are a group, and that they come from a small town somewhere between Billing and Nether Heyford. In the name of Christian charity you cannot ask me to do more.”
Alan Moore, Sounds article, Mystery and Abomination”, 1981-08-08

Much later after Buster left, we teamed up with two old Stanton Walgrave chums Seaweed and Shrivs (yes Spawnwash) and Alex returned for a final couple of gigs, this time on guitar, i think.
I do remember one of these last gigs was at Nottingham’s Rock City supporting Bauhaus. The crowd really didn’t know what to make of us. Pete Murphy was in the audience watching our set and the guy standing next to him nudged his arm and asked when we were going to start. He looked round puzzled and replied ‘That’s it…they’re doing it.’
The new songs were coming a lot from Shrivs -improvised lyrics that became bona fida songs later. ‘Don’t treat me like a treacle tart’, ‘ Bend me like a tambourine’, ‘Corrugated Fever’
‘The Bigot’ I don’t remember who found it but in those days we all used to hunt round the junk shop for those old Grundig reel-to-reel tape recorders. We were into tape loops a lot then. Anyway this tape came with one of the machines we bought and it was one of those tape letters people used to send to distant relatives. A middle-aged couple speaking to their son in Australia, describing their everyday lives and revealing almost unrepeatable xenophobia, quoting Hitler even. Just ordinary folks you pass in the Supermarket. So anyway we had plans to release it as a social document, sent it to some labels even. Then at some point the original got lost and the project became just another myth.
Pickle (Mr. Licquorice)

The Mystery Guests live tape (circa 1981)

The Mystery Guests Live Tape

The Mystery Guests Live Tape

Tracklist:
01, unknown song #1
02, Pornography
03, unknown song #2
04, unknown song #3
05, The Nude
06, Vamp Advertising
07, Whore’s Poem – part 1
08, Whore’s Poem – part 2
09, The Sparrow That Ate New York
10, The Merry Shark You Are
11, unknown song #4

Again I was the main songwriter.
Alan contributed lyrics to Wurlitzer Junction,The Merry Shark you are
Song 8 was an adaptation of The Whore’s Poem by Alan Moore.
All the other stuff was mine i think.

I think the MG gig is at Warwick University with Fawcett’s Design for Living. The date…? Line up was me on guitar and electric piano, Buster on guitar, Punky on bass and someone else(Paul?) on sax and xylophone. Line-ups were always changing. No-one could stand it for very long..
Pickle (Mr. Licquorice)

My band certainly played live with them, I remember playing Warwick university, from which the live cassette ‘Jumping off at the elephant’s nest’ derives.
Tom Fawcett

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Stanton Walgrave (1976-1978)

“’Stanton Walgrave'(1976-1978) Wildly avant-garde outfit that attempted everything from Henry Cow style multiple time signatures to Faustian free improvisations. Line up included Glyn Bush & Pickle”
“I first met Alan in ’76 when STANTON WALGRAVE were invited to do the music for the play ‘Another Suburban Romance’. This great surrealist drama, a cross between Beckett and Peyton Place, had been written by Alan and Jamie Detano and was then in rehearsal. Glyn Bush and Pickle wrote an incredibly complex score which was exhaustingly perfected and mostly recorded only for the project to founder when a couple of actors dropped out.”
Alex Green, Apollox 1995

Stanton Walgrave was an occasional totally improvised band comprised of Glyn, myself, the aforementioned Seaweed and last but not least Shrivs. We played mainly instruments that we couldn’t play and prided ourselves on producing hours of unlistenable twiddles to arrive at a few seconds of astounding beauty.
Pickle (Mr. Licquorice)

„I REMEMBER Mr. Licquorice as a strange and angular youth with many unsettling ways. He used to affect a resemblance to an anorexic Adolph Hitler, albeit in a totally unselfconscious fashion.
Mr Licquorice seriously believed that swept-across black hair and tiny tooth-brush moustache had their origins with him and him alone.
Wags in the street would accost him with cries of “Achtung Schweinhund” and “Heil Hitler” only to be met with a puzzled shrug, a frown of annoyance and incomprehension.
I recall receiving a letter from Brum-based Bizarro, Grant Series of the D-Go-Tees in which he enquired after his old chum Licquorice with a cheery “And how is our man in the bunker?” When I relayed these salutations verbatum to their subject I was met with a familiar sight of brows crinkling beneath a black slash-fringe.
“Who does he mean?” asked Mr. Licquorice. In that moment I understood that the being before me, while not mad in the conventional sense, was a being not of this world.
Naturally, there had been clues… like the ghastly rumour that Licquorice had eaten nothing but Heinz baby foods until the onset of puberty. At the time I laughed. But now, as Brecht’s Artoro Ui remarks, “Nobody’s laughing anymore”.
And then there were his friends.
There was Seaweed, who had a young ladyfriend called Fin. A quirk to the set of eyes and mouth, a certain pallid lower-depths luminosity… all these features conspired so that in conversation with Seaweed the sensation was one of talking underwater.
And of course, there was Spawnwash. Spawnwash had the weirdly-crafted skull and glittering marble eyes of a changeling, although it was difficult to imagine just what he had been changed with. Sworn doctor’s certificates were believed to exist revealing that he possessed two separate sets of vocal chords… a strange anatomical atterration that fecilllteted his later use of the terrifying ‘Stereo Voice’ technique.
This ear-wrenching display of Vox Abhumana was known on occasions to reduce strong men to convulsions and cause mothers to smother their offspring by placing Reticules over the heads of the doomed infants.
There was also the garish and frightening Grant Series in his blue plastic spectacles and his nightmarish silver ties. And the spectural Max Akropolis, a Beardslay grotesque with a tiny head and a large double-breasted suit.
Together these five Phantom-Zone exiles made up the subterranean quintet known as Stanton Walgrave.”
Alan Moore, Sounds article, Mystery and Abomination”, 1981-08-08

We did a freeform session there [at Wild Willy Barret’s place in Northants] with members of Stanton Walgrave and Tom [Fawcett] and his mate
Pickle (Mr. Licquorice)

Trefor Goronwy was also in stanton Walgrave after I left Northampton and met Fin. Insofar, that is, that anyone was  in the SW. It was really more a state of mind than a group. Lol
Seaweed

Rehersal dates:
29-30 October 1977, Northampton

Another Suburban Romance songs