Cheerleaders: Hip? (Un)hip? Hurrah 1984)

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hurrah cheerleading november 10 1984

“It’s like waiting in the barracks, trained to kill but with no enemy to fight.”

Or being left stranded at the starting gate while the rest of the field is clearing (or coming a cropper but at least having a crack at) the first fence?

Either way, Kitchenware’s Hurrah have been left supping Tetley’s in their local Northumberland pub whilst the rest of the rosta (the Daintees, the Kane Gang, Prefab Sprout) have taken up their places amongst the London majors.

“Keith (Armstrong, Kitchenware’s boss) had this plan by which rather than cheapening themselves, Kitchenware bands would interest major companies enough to get the money needed to do what they wanted to do. And it’s worked for the Daintees, the Kane Gang and the Sprouts, but it hasn’t worked for us. Although we get more fan mail than the other groups, the men who make the laws in the record companies aren’t interested.”

So what does all this fan mail say? “It’s generally written out of a concern to know whether we’re still going and if we’re still alive because we haven’t actually done much for over a year.” Except for a few support dates on the Prefab Sprout tour last spring, drummer Damien has just about got it right.

But all that’s set to change now that Hurrah have been out on the road with Everything But The Girl promoting their third and thrilling single ‘Who’d Have Thought’. If an hour and a half spent moaning on about their own predicament and that of Radio One’s chosen few in a Newcastle pub can be crystallized into a three minute warning of the war on pop, then Hurrah have done it.

Dominated by Paul and Taffy’s jolting guitars lent a rare resilience by Damien and Dave’s rhythm section, ‘Who’d Have Thought’ stands proud and firm on a set of ethics that crow, “your grabbing hands, your crying eyes. If they were ours, we’d apologise”.

But if Hurrah aren’t our “eager boys so quick to serve”, then their guerrilla stance smacks of following in the wake of the first round of rejection slips. And the band near enough say it themselves. Damien: “The general reaction to ‘Who’d Have Thought’ has been ‘great single lads, but it isn’t a hit so we’re not going to touch it’. We’ve found that no matter how hard we try, people aren’t interested, so we might as well please ourselves.”

Which in October ’84 means a good word for the Fall, Beefheart, the Birthday Party and American Hardcore acts like the Meat Puppets and the Minutemen.

“They’re amazing,” enthuses Taffy. “There they are stuck out in the middle of America but their originality knocks spots off bands like REM.” Some common ground maybe (Newcastle = Minneapolis?) but still a long way from the bands most often mentioned in connection with Hurrah —and most of them long dead. ‘Byrdsian’ is the journospeak most often wheeled out to describe their 12 string dominated sound. And they’ve called them the next Lovin’ Spoonful in my time, so are they really Sixties fetishists?

“That really bugs the shit out of me,” seethes Taffy. “I’ve got one Byrds record and I don’t listen to that much.”

Hurrah’s view of the pop business has become distorted and diseased by too much time spent pondering the imponderables (why should X have a hit whilst Y languishes in obscurity?) but listening to some tracks produced by the legendary Jimmy Miller (of Rolling Stones fame) up in Kitchenware’s pokey town centre suite, I’m reminded that if good shall prevail then ‘This Boy’ and ‘Gloria’ — live favourites of mine — may yet do the chart business.

Paul: “We all started out with the idea of wanting to be in a band and wanting to be pop stars but we’ve fallen out of love with the second idea, now we just want to be in a band and maybe do a bit of travelling. We’ve asked ourselves why we’re in a group, because we hate record companies, we hate doing interviews — and we’ve come to the conclusion that we’re in this group to please ourselves.”

– Bill Black

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