IQ Zero

IQ Zero actually hailed from Blackburn but in 1978 I began a degree course in Manchester and started to introduce my hometown bandmates to the relatively exciting gigging opportunities of our nearest big city. There were only two punky/new wave style bands Hi Louise, here are a few memories:

in Blackburn at the time - ourselves and The Stiffs, the latter who signed to EMI for a brief period, and now 30 odd years later apparently are seemingly quite big in Japan. I'm told even IQ Zero have fans in Japan today. Plus we still get interest in us from the USA - but sadly, when we were young, interest in us anywhere at all was at best spasmodic and usually confined to pubs full of mates in the Blackburn area such as the noble Anchor, Railway Inn and Florence Hotel. We were very popular there and often were called on to perform several encores, even when our entire set list consisted on just six songs.

So, we were at least the second biggest band in Blackburn - the first to be played on John Peel anyway, which I reckon actually must put us in first spot in 1978 when we first joined the Manchester Musician's Collective. In early meetings at The Sawyer's Arms on Deansgate I was struck by two things. First of all, the meeting place being on Deansgate was near to posh shops like Kendals and also smart corporate offices made of steel and glass of the monolithic like we just didn't have in our small, industrial and admittedly then quite backward town. Manchester looked very shiny and big and swanky - and a bit intimidating too. But all this corporate and consumer swish imagery then starkly contrasted with the
motley bunch of assorted musicians who gathered in The Sawyer's once a week to plan a fawed strategy to take over the world - starting with the gorgeously atmospheric venue, The Band On The Wall.

These musicians really didn't share much common sense of style or personality. There were the miserable raincoat merchants, best represented by A Certain
Ratio, the cool but refreshingly down to earth manger types like Rob Gretton (Joy Division) and Louise, our perennially clad-in-black main organiser and Collective spokesperson, and member of girl punkettes Propert Of - plus fairly bouncy power pop long-haired leftovers like the infectious Fast Cars. On top of this were the chaotic improvisers and generally lovely bunch known as Manchester Mekons, the frenetic Vibrant Thigh and our Lancashire rivals from Burnley, the very amusing NotSensibles - even though those snidey bastards cut our PA leads when we played with them at BOTW, these days I can forgive them, and still enjoy their single about Lying On A Sofa.

We literally squealed with boyish delight as the first frantic riffs to 'I Must Obey' rang out from our tinny transistor radio. To have been played on John Peel was one of the highlights of my life - OK, I've not done much! But I'm still proud about it today. Even tho' IQ Zero never 'made it' we still made it to John Peel, which was
enough- more than once or twice even - and had such a great time playing seedy venues around the North West where, even if we were going down badly, we still believed we were somewhere like Wembley Stadium being adored and loved by thousands of loyal fans.

Later on we released a single on Object called 'Insects'. which got reviewed in NME as kind of OK. Then we did something with Annie Lennox's label, called Logo - but nothing really came of that. So we stopped playing 'quirky pop music' and got a bit more serious - just as we then stopped going to MMC meetings - for no other reason than it seemed the moment had passed and it was time to move on. Three of us from IQ Zero were joined by a new guitarist who could play a bit called Russ, and we formed the slightly more grown up Bamboo Zoo.

This band were short lived, but managed an actual John Peel session, plus an album and single in its short life. But by now we were in 1982 - music was becoming more bland and the edgy indie spirit of the late 70's was slipping away. It was over - we'd reached a natural end.

Looking back, I think the Manchester Collective was a master-stroke of DIY home-made culture, an emblem of its time. Thanks so much to Louise and The Mekons (mainly) for persevering with it for so long and trying to make sense of all the chaos. And thanks to Steve Solomar for compiling the Manchester Collection album, now a historical artefact if ever there was one - I hope one day you finally get to make some money from your fabulously eccentric Object Music collection. You'll go down in history anyway!

Anyway, it seems like we'll still be heard and will live on. IQ Zero - quite big in Japan!



Manchester Mekon

I joined this at this band late in 76 as they had lost their bass player .I had never played bass before but I had had a guitar and small amp since I was 16.So when asked if I could do it I said yes. I then had the problem of not actually having a bass guitar but that was soon sorted  .It was not a very good instrument and as soon as I could I got a Fender. Frank the lead guitarist taught me the bass lines to their set and we were away.

The rehearsals were great all at Franks big flat on Burton rd West Didsbury. At other times lots of musicians would call in for a jam. (The fall sometimes, joy division, lots of people as they lived locally) Lots of the Mekon  music was scored/notated but other things came out of jams.We were friends with all the other Collective musisians.In that Spirit when  New Order, liking our melody to the Cake Shop Device asked Frank if they could "borrow" it  he said yes and they used it in their hit "Love will tear us appart"





The Liggers

We met Frank from the MMC on the scene in clubs and as we lived in Didsbury too, we used to go round to his flat and ogle his quadraphonic speakers which we thought were heaters. Frank had a soft spot for the young punky-poos that me, Pattie and Donna were, so he invited us to Band On The Wall for Collective gigs. There we saw the various bands from gig-hardened to rank beginners but it was always a good night out. Then we got invited to do a few numbers with The ManchesterMekon and being up for a laugh, we thought yeah lets go dung dere! As for our name, well we were well known for ligging into gigs free, so it seemed quite apt. And we went on to do a few gigs with The M/cr Mekon doing cover versions of Gloria, The Passenger, Reach Out I’ll Be There.

We’d previously ligged into Public Image’s gig at Belle Vue and given John Lydon  what for because he slagged off some other girl fans. He was hit by a barrage of Northern abuse from me, Pattie, Donna and our schoolfriend Jane shrieking ‘w****r!’ at him. He was gobsmacked. But he still offered me the job of drummer. I was so flattered that I forgot to mention I couldn’t play drums, not that it mattered that much. Anyway, me mam wouldn’t let me take time off my A levels to meet him in London and finalise the deal. I was close to running away from home to seek my fortune in London with Lydon and crew. Instead I stayed up north. And after leaving school and home, we tried out different musicians in a backing band. It was still too pub-rock so me, Pattie and Donna decided to strike out on our own, playing bass, keyboards and Korg synth with the help of a drum machine and Andy from The Spurtz and a guy called Neil helping out on guitar/drums. And so The Liggers  were born

We got our first mention in the national music press after playing BOTW one Monday. Mick Middles crushed us in 'Sounds', calling us something like clever sixth form speed-freaks and likening us to Devo. We were outraged at this obvious blatant inaccuracy - even though Devo was one of our favourite bands and we never ever claimed that originality was one of our strong points. A couple of months later we got another review from Mr Middles - and he said we were quite good after all, especially as we had by then stopped wearing silly costumes of a type if you didn't see them I'm certainly not going to illustratefurther now!

Anyhow, next we got invited to play a session for Mark Radcliffe at Radio Picacdiilly and sometime around then Steve Solomar agreed to do the legendary MMC compilation for his label, Object Music. I remember the photo session outside BOTW, and from that photo you can really see that only about 50% of us seemed to have any sense of style at all. I think I was in the wrong half! I blame photographer Kevin Cummins myself, as I was sure I was visually iconic of a post-punk era, not a gawky, gormless bloke with a moustache from Blackburn, as I appear to be in that shot.

One night, after rehearsals back in our home town, we all sat listening to John Peel in my kitchen. We'd been told the legendary DJ was going to play an MMC track. At approx 11.45 he did play one. And it was ours!

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