Spacemen 3 – Live In Geneva 1989 – Past Daily Soundbooth
Ending up the week (or starting the new one) with a set by the somewhat short-lived (9 years) Spacemen 3, in concert from Geneva, recorded on May 18, 1989.
Spacemen 3 were an English alternative rock band, formed in 1982 in Rugby, Warwickshire by Peter Kember and Jason Pierce. Their music is known for its brand of “minimalistic psychedelia”. Spacemen 3 had their first independent chart hits in 1987, gaining a cult following, and going on to have greater success towards the end of the decade.However, they disbanded shortly afterwards, releasing their final studio album post-split in 1991 after an acrimonious parting of ways. They gained a reputation as a ‘drug band’ due to the members’ drug-taking habits and the candid interviews and outspoken views of Kember about recreational drug use. Kember and Pierce were the only members common to all line-ups of the band. Both founding members have enjoyed considerable success with their respective subsequent projects: Sonic Boom/Spectrum and Spiritualized.
At the beginning of 1989 Spacemen 3 had been one of the “hottest indie bands in England” (Erik Morse)prospects were very different less than a year later. The personal and working relationship between Peter Kember and Jason Pierce, still the principal members of the band, would completely disintegrate, leading Spacemen 3 to eventually disband.
Spacemen 3 used the short break between the UK and European tours in Spring 1989 as an opportunity to record a new single. Two songs were recorded, at VHF Studios: “Hypnotized“, a new song by Pierce, who had recently acquired his own 4-track recorder; and “Just To See You Smile”, by Kember. The songwriters spent a day’s session on each other’s song, although Kember’s contribution to “Hypnotized” was not ultimately used. Kember accused Pierce of copying his sounds; he felt the flutter multi-tap reverb on “Hypnotized” was the same as he had employed on “Honey” and “Let Me Down Gently” on Playing With Fire.
While Spacemen 3 were on tour in Europe in April–May 1989, manager Gerald Palmer prepared the new single for release. Without consulting Kember or Pierce, Palmer mastered the tracks, had the sleeve artwork designed, and selected “Hypnotized” for the A-side. When Kember found out he was furious; however, Palmer refused to postpone the pressing of the single. A resulting feud permanently damaged Kember and Palmer’s working relationship.
When Spacemen 3 returned to England from their European tour at the end of May 1989, there was tension between Kember and Pierce. In June, Spacemen 3 played ten UK gigs. Initially, Pierce was making his own way to these dates, but when he instead used the tour van there was a bad atmosphere between the two men.
The single “Hypnotized” was released on 3 July 1989. It was their “most anticipated release yet” (Erik Morse) and immediately charted inside the top 10 of the NME and Melody Maker indie charts. It was Sounds Single of the Week. After two weeks, Hypnotized reached No. 1 on the Melody Maker indie chart, and No. 2 on the NME indie chart (second only to The Stone Roses‘ “She Bangs The Drums”). It was voted No. 33 in John Peel’s end of year Festive Fifty.
A third guitarist, Mark Refoy, had been recruited at the beginning of Summer 1989, to play on later live dates and work on the next album. Refoy had been a friend and keen fan of the band for several years, and had contributed to Kember’s solo album. He was guitarist in the indie band ‘The Tell-tale Hearts’ who had disbanded in 1987. Refoy made his first live performance with Spacemen 3 at their Rugby ‘homecoming’ gig on 20 July.
On 23 July, Spacemen 3 played their biggest headlining gig at The Town & Country Club, London, a 2,000-capacity venue. On 22 August, they played a warm-up gig at Subterranea, London, for the Reading Festival, their first festival gig. Spacemen 3 played at the Reading Festival on 25 August 1989. This would transpire to be their last ever live performance.
This performance comes from Spring of 1989, but gives you an idea of what was transpiring at the time. A good band, that morphed into a seminal band and left behind some excellent artifacts of their work.
Crank it up and enjoy.