Marianne Faithfull, Mike Oldfield and that bloke from Atomic Rooster, Reading’s famous muso’s have never been able to compete with the towns thesps. Premier league stars Kenny Brannagh, Kate Winslet, even Jaqueline Bisset and the knobhead Gervais (Whitley and proud) keep them glued to the subs bench. You see, much like our terminally average footy team in their blue and white hoops, very rarely do Reading bands climb out of the lower leagues. I guess that’s because Reading is very much a lower league kind of town.
A piddling 40 miles west of London with Paddington just a half hour train ride away, Reading is so close to the capital it’s completely ignored. It just doesn’t have the cachet or the history of groovy cities like Oxford or Bristol and it never will, no matter how much the town’s dishonourable burghers try and big it up. To have any chance of ‘making it’, bands have always had to move to where the streets are paved with record company gold. And in more recent times there’s been quite a few.
The Cooper Temple Clause are a classic case. They understood well enough about the small town mentality inherent in a place like Reading; the locks and chains forged over centuries to ease you into a life of terminal, grey mediocrity. The sleeve for their debut album made their thoughts abundantly clear; a hose running from the exhaust of a typical family saloon through the letterbox of an equally typical suburban, Reading home. See Through This And Leave? The sooner the fucking better!
Here are ten bands and artists who did just that. Some managed to get into the album and singles charts, some have even become minor Championship stars in their own right, while others have undoubtedly returned to a more humdrum existence. It matters not. They are still a lesson to us all!
01 Chapterhouse ‘Falling Down’ (Whirlpool LP May 1991)
In the early nineties Reading found itself at the epicentre of the burgeoning shoegaze scene. The perfect evocation of an anodyne, provincial hinterland like the Thames Valley, shoegazers were mostly college kids representing the southern, middle class response to the bleary, working class, euphoria of Madchester. I was eight when this came out so whichever way I hear it is ancient history but I must admit it is rather good.
02 Slowdive ‘Alison’ (Souvlaki LP May 1993)
Chapterhouse failed to attract the critical kudos afforded their fellow townies Slowdive who reaped the considerable benefits of having singer Rachel Goswell and signing to Creation. Having said that, over twenty years later Souvlaki’s languid, washed out, haze is a truly wondrous thing.
03 Les Rythmes Digitales ‘Hey You What’s That Sound’ (A Side August 1998)
Stuart Price grew up in Reading but was initially known as Frenchman Jacques Du Cont, going so far as to converse in French during interviews. Nowadays he’s better known for his escapades with Madonna, Lady Gaga, The Killers and countless others but Les Rythmes Digitales is where it all began.
04 Cooper Temple Clause ‘Panzer Attack’ (See Through This And Leave LP February 2002)
In the early noughties Cooper Temple Clause were mainstays of the local Reading scene. I saw them countless times at places like The Fez but knew they were far too good to hang around for long.
05 Saloon ‘Girls Are The New Boys’ ((This Is) What We Call Progress LP April 2002)
Sounding like eighties indie pop with a viola twist, John Peel favourites Saloon were on the fringes of the regular Reading scene, preferring instead to host their own Happy Robots club nights at the artfully, arty Rising Sun Arts Centre where there was a different kind of fun to be had.
06 Morning Runner ‘Burning Benches’ (A Side February 2006)
Morning Runner may have tasted real success with their Elbow like number 19 hit ‘Burning Benches’ but ultimately it proved to be their undoing. Struggling to meet Parlophones increased expectations, they took the honourable way out by choosing art over commerce. Not surprisingly Parlophone heaped on the pressure and they imploded but at least their morals remained intact and not many bands can say that?
07 Laura Marling ‘Devils Spoke’ (I Speak Because I Can March 2010)
Born the youngest daughter of a Baronet 10 miles up the road in Eversley, the darling of the British folk revival is almost a household name. After going to school in Reading, she moved to London and more recently onto LA, so was never part of any local scene. She was just 20 when she made her second album I Speak Because I Can. Remarkable.
08 Does It Offend You, Yeah? ‘Dawn Of The Dead’ (Don’t Say We Didn’t Warn You March 2011)
Another local musician born with a silver spoon in their mouth, singer James Rushent is the son of infamous producer Martin Rushent who set up shop in nearby, swanky Goring in the early eighties. Apparently the dreadfully named Does It Offend You, Yeah? are ‘quite big’ in America, possibly because they are a lot more Flock Of Seagulls than Human League.
09 Pete & The Pirates ‘United’ (One Thousand Pictures May 2011)
Another shocking band name didn’t seem to hinder Pete aka Tommy Sanders or his Pirates too much. They were definitely one of Reading’s better bands in the mad of the noughties post punk revival. Every town had to have one and Pete & The Pirates were ours.
10 Mr Fogg ‘Tightrope’ (Eleven June 2012)
I vaguely remember the mysterious Mr Fogg winning a local radio contest and appearing at the festival in 2006. Other than that I haven’t a clue.