My Baby's Arm: A Spitfire Quartet (or never do an interview in the back of a London Cab while consuming a bands rider)

I had been in London trying to catch up with three bands that I had planned interviews with. Unbelievably all fell through.

The Bolshoi, because they were stuck in a studio recording new material and Mick Glossop, their producer, would not let them out until they had finished; Ruefrex, a band I loved and was really looking forward to talking to, because one of the bands members had been called up as a witness in a terrorist trial in Belfast; and Pete Shelley, well, he just called in sick.

Checking the gig guide in the music weeklies I discovered one that night at Camden Dingwalls by My Baby's Arm whose first single, 'Hung in a Playground' was on regular rotation on the John Peel show and was rarely off my turntable. A problem was that I had done zero research on the band so I was going to have to wing it in an interview with them.

A bigger problem was that the band were extremely generous in sharing their rider of Schlitz beer, bottles of spirits and a selection of large joints before, and then during the interview.

The band was made up of ex Monochrome Set bassist Jeremy Harrington, Marc Coker on drums, and Paul Barker and Grimmo Grimovsky on guitars. Grimmo had just left the Irish band Zerra 1 and was soon to join Cathal Coughlan in the Fatima Mansions, where he assumed the name of Andrías Ó Grúama.

For some reason, we thought it would be a good idea to do the interview in the back of a black London cab as we cruised the back streets of Camden, with the meter continually rising, which we all thought was hilarious.

BTA: Oops (as the taxi stops rather suddenly at a pedestrian crossing and I spill my beer), um, tell me what you were all doing before starting My Baby's Arm?

Marc:  "I just done three months in Pentonville"  (A high-security prison)

Jeremy: "Don't waste the gentlemen's valuable tape, you know how expensive tape is these days"

Paul:  "I was involved in undercover operations for the Basque separatist group ETA and I am now on the run"

Grimmo: "Experimenting being a member of various religious cults"

BTA: Grimmo, you were in Zerra 1 until very recently?

Grimmo: "I was but I left because it was a pop group and an unpopular one at that. An unpopular pop group is probably one of the worst things you can be in."

Jeremy: (Clearly getting anxious and looking at places to hide the joint currently in his hand) "That car behind is following us. Who's in it? It's not the old bill is it?"

Paul: "Yeah,  it's a fucking SWAT team with tear gas."

Grimmo: "As I was saying, I was starting a new band and got together with Paul. And I was in a nightclub in Soho, with toilet paper hanging down from the ceiling, and then this visage of Jeremy appeared through the paper, and it turned out he could also sing."

After Zerra 1 I wanted loud guitars, I was over the lush synth sounds and wanted something rawer. A spitfire quartet in fact"

BTA: Your first single is 'Hung in the playground'. Did you hate school?

Jeremy:  "I was expelled from school."

Grimmo: "We never had a playground at my school."

Jeremy: "No, the song title came from a real-life story actually. When I was at junior school the first time I got the cane was because I pretended to hang myself. During playtime, they gave us beanbags and skipping ropes and that was really inadequate.

So i thought fuck it I'll hang myself to relieve the boredom. I happen to know how to tie a hangman's noose, I saw it on Laramie once.

And that was the first time I got the cane, and I seemed to get it all the time from then."

BTA: Do you still get it?

Jeremy: "No I don't anymore. I have no aberrations now. I started to like myself last week and gave up sadomasochism."

BTA: The single has got some rave reviews, and singles of the week. Are you doing much touring to support it?

Grimmo: "We just came off a short tour to Bristol, Bath and Brighton. We only play in towns beginning with B."

Jeremy: "And now Blondon."

Grimmo: "Blasgow next."

Jeremy: "Bristol was like an Italian realist film or anesthetic-free dentistry. The strangest collection of people we have ever come across. I think we interrupted a load of people wanting to dance to Madonna records."

Grimmo: "Bath was worse."

Jeremy: "Yeah, it was full of debutantes wandering around waving magic wands. Just fucking weird."

Grimmo: "It's our turn. Time to interview you. What were your experiences at school in Bristol?"

Jeremy:  "What do you like about the record?"

BTA: I hated school, but at least we had a playground. I love the guitar intro to the song. How long did it take to write?

Jeremy: "Don't get flash. OK, I will turn it back to you then."

BTA: Thanks. In one review you were compared to the Velvet Underground, which seemed an unusual comparison.

Marc: "Who are they?"

Jeremy: "Are they an old band?"

Grimmo: "Are they from Bristol?"

Jeremy: (In an attempted Irish accent) "I think they are one of those showbands from Kilkenny."

BTA:  So are any of you from Ireland then? (Knowing full well Grimmo is the only Irish member)

Jeremy: (In a very English accent) "All of us are from Ireland. We were going to call ourselves the Bogmen of Kildare."

Grimmo: "We use the same modular scales as traditional Irish music."

Paul:  "How dare you. You know I am Spanish." (He's not) "We share some traditions with the Irish but basically I am a Basque separatist."

BTA: What other bands out there do you like?

Jeremy: "The Velvet Underground."

Grimmo: "I think they are all dead."

Jeremy: "Basically we like Heap, Quo, Zeppelin, Floyd, Zappa..." (as he dissolves into laughter)

BTA: Well your clothes fit that era

Jeremy: "What??!!"

Grimmo: "I haven't even got a kaftan."

Paul: "Do you want to borrow mine? You can wear it tonight on stage."

BTA: You have a new single coming out and then whats the plan?

Jeremy: It's going to be 'Girl with the Grudge'. That's not the name of the single it's just a problem we are having at the moment."

Grimmo: "Then we are going to get big into My Baby's Arm merchandise."

Marc: "Mugs, sweat bands."

Jeremy: "Tea towels."

Grimmo: "Weed".

BTA: Condoms?

Jeremy: "No. We don't have sex. We are all celibate."

Paul: "I use them for drug smuggling for the Basque cause. I go to Amsterdam and buy lots of speed, put it in condoms and stick it up my arse and smuggle it home to sell."

Grimmo: "To me."

BTA: The band name, My Baby's Arm is...

Jeremy: "Very Spanish isn't it? Yep, you are right. Its a flamenco name, and we are now a flamenco band."

BTA: I was going to say Freudian

Paul:  "What the fuck does that mean?"

Grimmo:  "This is now a psychology session."

Jeremy: "The name is influenced by Roland Barthes. What we did was broke down a sample of all pop music lyrics over time and identified the most common words used. And My Baby's Arm was the most commonly used."

Grimmo: "And besides, The Walkaways was a shit name for a group, that was the other idea."

Jeremy: "I think our interviewer is now drunk and emotional. We only want control and sobriety."

Grimmo: "Shit. We are supposed to play in twenty minutes."

Jeremy: "I love your humour, I really mean it, its revolves around complete non-sequitur's but we have to get back to Dingwalls now."

And that was that. The band played a scorching gig, but sadly that was the last I ever heard of them. 'Girl with a Grudge' was never released, Grimmo went on to form the Fatima Mansions, Jeremy moved to Spain (not to the Basque region) and started Lothar Shapiro, and I swore off any drink or substances prior to, or during, an interview in a London cab again. I wonder who paid the fare?

(Original Interview excerpts published in Bludgeoned, 1987. This is the full unpublished interview)

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