Except from ‘The fabulous history of the Moondials’
The Moondials were an unruly bunch of misfits. Originally brought together as a backing band they soon realised they shared a love of good music, bad habits and laughing. Johnny Moondial, lead guitarist was a troubled genius guitar player who had become a close friend of McIntyre sharing a love of Willie Dixon and red label Thunderbird.
Stevie Jackson was a top guitar / harmonica player with a love of Dylan and the Beatles who later used lessons learned in the Moondials to good effect when joining Belle and Sebastian and helping pull them into shape. Drummer Gary Thom was a friend of Jackson’s brought along to play the band’s second gig – playing a blinder never having rehearsed, or indeed having heard, the songs. Colin Nelson, bass player met Warren in a session band put together by a rich club owner to launch a music venue.
At Gary’s first gig with the band, it turned out bizarrely that he and Warren had lived across the lane from one another and played in the same street gang of kids aged 6-11. Before long the five bonded, and were best of friends and enemies. In a shrewd early move, on realising the high cost of hiring equipment their manager bought a huge block of herbal goods on credit, sold it and bought a PA and mixing desk*. This was paid off within a month from playing live, giving them the opportunity to play further afield while not giving 30%-40% plus of booking fee to a PA company.
Their sound was very popular attracting more and more fans. Only together for about 6 months, in the early hours one night it was agreed that the sensible thing to do was hire a van and try to tour 5 countries over a period of three weeks with no contacts and no money.
True to their words, the boys hired a van and portable site generator on credit. With a rough scribbled route on a classroom atlas and only one firm booking that Stevie, to his surprise, had managed to secure in the Prague Opera Hall.
Over the next month they played guerrilla bar gigs and busked in the central squares in Paris, Eindhoven, Amsterdam, Brussels, Antwerp, Geneva, Berlin, heading to the highlight gig in the Opera Hall in Prague. Playing 6-7 hours a day, sleeping back to back in a van (the Skylark) every night on two mattresses covered in breadcrumbs, jam and other substances next to drums, guitars, PA and generator turned out to actually be a good idea. On returning to Glasgow it was noted by many that they had become probably the tightest (and loosed) band in the City of Glasgow. Songs that came out of the trip – My Heart Just Bled, The Only One, Faker, became instant favourites with the growing audiences.
More bookings and money rolled in across Scotland in the next few months enabling them to head back to Europe two months later with a bigger van (a few friends as back up), more bookings and lots of supplies. The trip was again a success and involved extended stays in Eindhoven and then Geneva – a particularly lucrative city for the band.
This trip was a hedonistic rock and roll holiday for the band although they were still playing three or four hours daily. For the first time they were being taken to restaurants to eat every day, provided with fancy accommodation, paid well, given free drinks and best of all now been driven around by new friend and man mountain driver, Terry, in his huge Mercedes van. On return, with Mecca, they helped set up the Halt bar open stage, the first of its kind in the UK, where musicians were given free rein to use any of the bands equipment on Saturday afternoons to play their own new compositions. Many amazing singers and players took to the stage at the afternoon event many already famous, or soon to be famous, and many not either – but amazing none the same.
The band again then borrowed money to finance setting up their record label the Mecca Holding Company. First release was the single ‘Never Knew Love’, ‘My Heart Just Bled’ and ‘Coming into Los Angeles’, by Arlo Guthrie, who Gary and Warren were to meet up with many years later. It was arranged to get the singles delivered to France where the band had been booked to play 14 gigs over three weeks and hundreds were sold before the band returned home to the UK
A second EP single ‘Can You See’, (with crowd favourites The Only One’ and ‘Faker’) was recorded with Alan Rankine of Associates fame who had become the bands manager and producer.
This followed refusing the offer of management and financial support from a Scottish company whose main band was enjoying their 12th week at number one of the UK charts with Other behind the scenes approaches from a number of London management firms were also unsuccessful due to them pushing to change the bands ramshackle sound & replace individual band members.
Soon afterwards, the band imploded with money, drugs, alcohol, song writing, and girlfriend issues (in no particular order) all playing a part. The band still remain very close friends to this day.
More…. in the fabulous history of The Moondials…..
*This desk with its distinct reverb sound was later used to good effect by Belle and Sebastian in their early recordings.