Pete Astor has been a staple of the British indie scene since the early ’80s, fronting a diverse number of outfits including the Loft, the Weather Prophets, the Wisdom Of Harry and Ellis Island Sound. He launched a solo career in 1990, as well, and is also a senior lecturer in music at the University of Westminster. Astor’s latest release is One For The Ghost (Tapete). He’ll be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week, writing about the origins of these songs and how they relate to the LP’s theme of past and future, complete with illustrations he created with Susanne Ballhausen.
Astor: Punk, when it happened in the U.K. in 1976, had a year zero effect on us music fans. Suddenly, everything had to be on one side or the other. What this meant is that everyone would re-align their pre-year-zero tastes to fit better with what punk was meant to mean. So, as a massive Stooges fan, I was in the clear, but my love for the Grateful Dead had to be quietly put on hold.
I didn’t have a eureka moment seeing the Sex Pistols on cold Wednesday night at the Manor in Ipswich. I didn’t go. I almost went, but without my pal who went with me a few weeks previously to see the Pink Fairies, to hitch 20 miles to on a wet Wednesday at 16 was too much. The moment when I truly discovered the beauty of primal rock ‘n’ roll was on a summer’s evening a year or so earlier: when the Frankie Miller Band cancelled their show at Essex University and up-and-coming pub rockers the Count Bishops stepped in. And so it was that me and my friends Paul and Russell and Dave were the only four people up and dancing in front of the stage, while the rest of the seated and static crowd sat and stared.
This rather English take on rocking rhythm and blues (say hello to the 101ers and a host of pub-rock others) was what went deep into my musical psyche. I no longer even bothered to pretend I liked or cared about Tales From Topographic Oceans. A new world had opened up.
And so, I come back round with something like “Water Tower.” I still feel like the punk police will arrest me if they hear me playing the (very, very vaguely) Chuck Berry-like riff. But now that year-zero stuff is gone—yes, the world is better. In this way, anyway!
“Water Tower” pub-rock DNA: