Gene – In concert from La Cigale, Paris – November 3, 1994 – RFI – Gordon Skene Sound Collection –
A concert from Gene tonight – recorded live at La Cigale in Paris on November 3, 1994 by Radio France International.
Gene’s origins lie in a previous band which was first called The Go Hole, named after a fictional “Beat” club in John Clellon Holmes’ novel Go, and later renamed Sp!n when they became a four-piece. The band was formed by Lee Clark (vocals/guitar) and Daz Walton (bass). Soon afterwards, James joined on drums with John Mason on bass. Their first single recorded in the same studios as The Ruts’ In a Rut’ appeared on their own Big Pop Records label. A John Peel session fueled their early success where they mixed with the Camberwell scene mingling with members of House of Love, My White Bedroom and Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer. Self-managed, apart from a couple of brushes with mini music moguls (in their own minds), John Mason would organize and negotiate much of the group’s gigs, contracts and press especially later when they were a four-piece. After 18 months Clark, Mason and James invited John’s brother Steve Mason to play lead/rhythm guitar and thereby free Clark to focus on vocal style.
By the time NME journalists Keith Cameron and Roy Wilkinson encountered Gene, the band had already gained some live experience and written several songs. Cameron and Wilkinson were impressed enough to form independent record label Costermonger, which was created with the sole purpose of promoting Gene to a wider audience. Their double A-sided debut single “For The Dead” / “Child’s Body” was released on Costermonger in May 1994. The single received a great deal of attention from the music press: Select named it “Single Of The Month”, whilst NME made it their “Single of the Week”.
The limited edition of 1,994 copies sold out in two days. Numerous live shows followed but it was Gene’s performance in support of Pulp at London’s The Forum that revealed the band to be a real force to be reckoned with. “Gene have just played third on the bill and willed the crowd into treating them like headliners who are very, very big indeed”, said NME. “He [Martin] has made people love him, and now he’s loving every minute of it.”
With Gene already developing a devotional fan-base, a new single was planned to consolidate their popularity. The second single, a triple A-side consisting of “Be My Light Be My Guide”, “This Is Not My Crime” and “I Can’t Help Myself” was released on 1 August 1994 via Costermonger. Melody Maker awarded “Be My Light Be My Guide” its “Single Of The Week”.
After achieving the top spot in the UK indie chart and number 54 in the UK Singles Chart, the band played their first UK headlining tour that included a show at London’s Paradise Club which sold out immediately, cramming 800 people into the venue. The plaudits had not gone unnoticed by the big record companies and Gene eventually signed a deal with Polydor Records. For many observers, this was to prove a turning point for the band. After a successful appearance at the Reading Festival, the band released their third single ‘Sleep Well Tonight’, just prior to embarking on a large national tour, preceded by several sold-out French dates. Through 1995, Gene were still going from strength to strength.
Featuring strongly in both critics and readers end of year polls, Gene were the recipients of the inaugural NME Brat Award for ‘Best New Act’, and as such played at the sold out Brat Award ceremony at the London Astoria. They adorned the covers of both the NME and Melody Maker, who voted them their ‘Brightest Hope’ for 1995. Their fourth single, ‘Haunted By You’, became the band’s second Top 40 hit (reaching number 32), whilst their debut LP Olympian reached number 8 in the album chart following a plethora of excellent reviews. The album also gained Gene their first silver disc, recording sales of over 70,000 in the UK alone, and when the final single from the album was released (“Olympian”), it went into the Top 20 of the UK Singles Chart.
As a reminder of that halcyon period, here is one of the gigs from their series of French dates from 1994. Crank it up and enjoy.