Monday, 26 October 2015

The Bugs & The Halflings...Their story by Charlie Spliff and Rich Smith.

(Doodle) Bugs over Germany.
Ok bozo's, the Ross has been on my case for ages to do a piece about my favourite bunch of creepy crawlies from the 80's, the wonderful fuzz fuelled sounds of.... The Bugs....
The first video I ever uploaded for Trasharama on pootube was by The Bugs, I saw them many many times back in the day (though nowhere near as many as The Sting-Rays) & I adored them. They were loud & raucous, they had screaming fuzz guitars and their singer Martin, jumped & rolled around onstage like a freaked out monkey on acid......It was Trash Baby! & I fucking loved it!!

So....Tuning in my Trash antennae, I springtailed it to former guitarist Richard 'Midge' Smith & asked him if it mite be possible for a quick refresh history lesson as we shared a bite to eat & puffed on a few roaches.... this lousy piece is the result (apologies for the Bug puns, can't resist!)

Charlie x

Rich, Lloyd, Malcolm X, Martin & Anton.
The Bugs (or what would be finally called the The Bugs), first crawled into the sprawling twilight world of garageland late in 1985, after The Vibes had split (or were possibly about to).

In a genuine garage somewhere in hometown Colchester, double bass player Lloyd Tripp had started rehearsing with several different line-ups for a new band that didn't contain any members of the old one he had left (or was leaving). One of these early line ups featured Jonny Bridgwood from The Sting-Rays, who was temporarily living with Lloyd at the time.

Meanwhile... less than half a mile away from Lloyd, a bunch of local degenerate teens were working up a set of raging trashy garage sounds in their parents' garage under the moniker of The Half-Lings. They were influenced heavily by The Vibes, The Sting-Rays and The X-Men before turning on to 60’s garage punk obscurities for covers and inspiration.

The Half-Lings comprised of brothers Richard Smith - Guitar & Martin Smith - Stand-up Drums, Sean Smith - Guitar (no relation to the other 2), Jon Clarke - Vocals & Woodsy - Bass.

Promo Shot.
Woodsy left the band before they had started gigging & it was decided that they would just carry out without a bass player & not bother to replace him as they were 'Fuckin' Trash' anyway & too lazy to find someone else. They then went on to terrorise the local community with their raw, teenage fuzz-based trash sounds & got to support their idols, The Sting-Rays, for their first ever gig (courtesy of Jonny Sting-Ray) at The Works in Colchester. The gig itself was a rather bloody affair for one Half-Ling, as drummer Martin cut his hand & bled profusely all over the borrowed Mondrian drum-kit of Alec Palao due to some over enthusiastic skin bashing. This may have been caused by the dubious energy sources that the band fuelled up on, or maybe it was just the fact that they necked loads of booze & degenerated into pissed up mayhem (& a little psychosis).
The band went on to gig in London, including Mike Spenser's famous Garage Club, downstairs at the Clarendon Hotel in Hammersmith & recorded a 3 track demo at Pathway studios in 1986 assisted by Bal & Jonny from The Sting-Rays. The demo's (which will hopefully turn up on Trash Wax one day), include a cover version of The Live Wires' 'Love' (complete with Bal rattling chains & smashing bottles in the background) and two originals, 'People Land' & 'In Retrospect', the latter of which had Jonny playing bass & would become part of The Bugs set the following year.

However, despite a growing following and burgeoning reputation, a couple of the members parents pulled them out of the band to focus on studying for their futures (singer Jon Clarke allegedly leaving to become an astronaut) & the Half-Lings were laid to rest in the garage graveyard.

Supporting The Cannibals (That's Mike Spenser's back).
It was shortly after this that dejected Half-Ling siblings, Martin and Richard spotted The Vibes transit van with painted logo on the side, parked up somewhere and plucked up the courage to finally meet Lloyd in person. With Jonny Sting-Ray still living at Lloyds, it also presented a further opportunity for Richard to learn how to play guitar properly under his tutelage.

After some original members of Lloyds' outfit went their separate ways, Richard and Martin then started rehearsing with Lloyd & Jonny. Once Jonny had moved backed to London, a permanent and exciting line-up was formed which consisted of: Martin Smith (vocals), Richard Smith (lead guitar), Lloyd Tripp (Double Bass), Malcolm X (Rhythm guitar) who had replaced Jason (?) after the first few gigs, & Anton (Duane Ripley) Rapley (Drums). Anton had earned his place banging on the tubs in the band by previously being the roadie for The Vibes, The Sting-Rays and also The Cramps.

Green vinyl no less !
Bringing an 80's awareness to a bunch of esoteric 60's punk covers & some raw, wild originals, The Bugs struck out quickly and without remorse. The band first gigged in London under the names The Bedbugs & The B-Side Bugs, first supporting The Blubbery Hellbellies (one of Lloyds' former bands) at the Fulham Greyhound, before finally setting on just The Bugs as their name. Within weeks of their first London gig, a 3 track single was recorded for Mike Spensers' Hit records and was produced, no less, by former Sex Pistols producer, Dave Goodman! The single contained 2 cover versions, 'Leavin' Here' by Eddie Holland & 'See If I Care' by Ken & The Fourth Dimension plus one original 'Leave Us Alone', it came out on green wax in early '87.... & it's demented, raw, fuzztastic, garage trash!

After witnessing frantic sets by the boys, offers of record deals poured in from amongst others, Chainsaw, Red Rhino, Big Beat (Ace Records) & Media Burn. The Bugs eventually settled & signed for Big Beat, which delighted the band as Ted Carroll was a decent bloke & they got lots of free records, as well as a bit of cash.

The one and only Big Beat release.
After a slew of gigs in London and around England, the Bugs took to the studio to record their first album, the classic 'Darkside'. The 12 track album contained 10 originals plus 2 cover versions, ('Hate' by The Stoics & the title track 'Darkside' by The Shadows of Knight). Album & promotional artwork was done by Bal Sting-Ray using his Go Teen moniker & the LP went down a storm in the UK & abroad, prompting invites for tours in Europe. With a head of steam & a label that wanted them out on the road, the band went on to promote their debut album with tours of Europe including dates in Holland and Austria as well as the length and breadth of Germany. These tours were the stuff of legend and The Bugs went on to develop a decent sized European fan-base as dates & records sold well.

Unfortunately, the toils of touring took their toll though and the band split months later, with Lloyd eventually moving to the States to start a new career & Malcolm & Anton moving on to whereabouts unknown.

Sorry it's in German.
As the only members left & now living in London, & with potential further European tours in the offing, Martin and Richard sought new recruits and with immediacy hired friend and fan, Miki Berenyi on bass guitar (Miki went on to form indie shoegazers Lush with school friend & former Rover Girl Emma Anderson). Geoffrey C. Clarke joined on drums and Dave Arbon on rhythm guitar, this new incarnation of The Bugs had a much heavier sound but the fans still loved them & they had a number of successful tours abroad throughout the rest of 1987 & 88.

Nicked in Germany!
The band found time between the touring in '87 to record 4 tracks in a Colchester studio which have yet to see the light of day (not if Trash Wax has it's way!). Covers of 'Hate' by The Stoics, 'I Must Be Mad' by The Craig & 'The Bummer' by Lincoln St. Exit accompany original track 'One Of These Days'. Both 'Hate' & 'One Of These Days' appeared on 'Darkside' but these versions are a lot different & a lot beefier.

When Miki departed to join The Baby Machines (who later renamed themselves Lush) in late '87, Mark (?) joined on bass & Pete Long joined as guitarist (replacing Dave) to fulfill yet another European tour. Band members were travelling between London & Colchester & it wasn't much longer before the logistics of the situation caused the band to sadly split up.

By Bal Croce.
Still in London, Martin and Richard teamed up with former Huddersfield based fanzine writers/musicians, Jeff & Suzanne who had published 'The Outer Limits' and had been members of garage punk outfit 'The Tyme Eliment', to form 'The Shiny Hour Watch Company'. Still influenced by 60’s garage punk/psych the band also embraced a more Byrdsy, jangly, psychedelic sound and gigged a couple of times before the inevitable happened and the members got haircuts, had a bath and got regular jobs (or..... just buggered off to India travelling & got into house music & ecstasy).

There was a third incarnation of The Bugs which only Martin was involved with, operating around the early 90's & doing the odd gig in London. Gone was the fuzz filled garage sounds of previous line ups and in came a flute player & a more mellow vibe, needless to say it wasn't what the kids were after & again the band split for the last time around 1993. Old midgey is a bit vague on this period as he wasn't involved & doesn't really know what was going on.

In 2006, The Bugs “Darkside” was re-mastered and reissued on CD by Big Beat, gaining the band a new audience and bringing them back from obscurity. Who knows? A reform? Everyone else seems to be doing it but with Martin now living in Spain. Richard soon following suit, Lloyd in America and other members whereabouts unknown it seems most unlikely.

You never know though & there's always the possibility that some Trash that shoulda got waxed, will get waxed eventually. It's certainly time for people to rediscover this garbage & I'm sure they'll like how it smells.............. some of us know our shit from our shit..... capiche?

Charlie Spliff
Trasharama/Trash Wax

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