Ollie Moore posted this on Facebook in 2019 and has given me permission to share it here.
Ollie: “This was a piece I wrote for Songwriting magazine which was going to be used at the M Shed exhibition about the Bristol music scene last year. For whatever reason Pigbag never got a mention and I don’t think the piece was ever published anywhere to my knowledge. I enjoyed writing it and recalling that period of my life so I thought I’d put it up here for anybody who may have some time to read about this era and I am proud to have been a part of Bristol’s musical history”.
The story of “PAPA’S GOT A BRAND NEW PIGBAG”
It’s important to say that the song was written collectively,as that was always the way we worked as a band as everyone had an equal input to the music that evolved. I think it’s fair to say that “Pigbag”, the band, and ‘“Papa’s got a brand new Pigbag” were inseparable in many people’s view. I will endeavour to explain my part in how this tune came to be. As I am the only remaining member to live in Bristol, this is entirely from my perspective and, inevitably, this is linked to how my career in music started.
My father wanted me to learn the clarinet whilst at Bristol Grammar school, and my Uncle ,who played clarinet in the London Symphony Orchestra, sourced a reasonable student model for me to play. I still remember the pleasant aroma of the instrument in its furry case with its cork and “woody” aroma.
Any pleasant associations with this intriguing instrument were soon to be dashed by an extremely abusive bad tempered impatient teacher called Mr Stone. I was 12 years old. He was a lumbering figure of a man who stood at about 6 foot three and wore a suit several sizes too small for him. He also drove a three wheeled Reliant Robin car, in which he looked plainly ridiculous. A bulging leather briefcase completed the dishevelled look. He would ‘correct’ my mistakes by a thrust of the base of the clarinet upwards against my teeth if I made a squeak or played a wrong note, his face bulging and turning puce in colour, as if he were about to burst a blood vessel, as he spat angry words in disgust at my incompetence. Consequently after a few lessons with this monster I stopped going altogether. I didn’t tell my father ,(who was Head of Music at BBC Bristol),until the end of term.
My parents were divorced by the time I had reached 18. The family house was sold and I went to live with my father, who had bought a flat in Clifton. It was now 1979. I had finished an intensive one year A level course in Birmingham, where I had lived with my grandmother, in her large house where she rented out rooms to overseas students and an Indian family lived at the top in a self contained flat.It was very multicultural, and she was featured in an article in the Birmingham Mail, where she was described as “Mrs United Nations..” This was 1970’s Birmingham where the English population weren’t that tolerant of “foreigners”.
So I was now back in Bristol, armed with 3 ‘O’level passes….( 2 of which I had already).So I now had an O level in Law..Let’s just say I did a lot of socialising and didn’t quite knuckle down to study, despite my dear Gran’s best efforts. I sold my year old motorcycle which I had saved up to buy, as the insurance had risen drastically, and bought a car for £95..I then bought a Martin Tenor saxophone in silver from the music store in Hotwells.It cost £240..I was over the moon and excited to learn how to play it…BY MYSELF!..
I had met Simon Underwood, bass player with The Pop Group. I had got to know him through going to their gigs. I knew the lead singer, Mark Stewart, having been at the same school together. Simon was becoming disillusioned with the band, and the inevitable clashes, personal and musical, had come to the fore..It was time for him to move on. He was becoming more and more interested in jazz and world music and was eager to experiment in that direction. He shared a lot of this music and I was eager to lap it up and I ended up buying a lot of records from him and from Tony’s record store at Focus in Clifton village. Eric Dolphy, John Coltrane, Albert Ayler, Archie Shepp, Don Cherry, Fela Kuti, Chico Freeman, Funkadelic, James Brown, and of course, the totally out there Sun Ra and his Arkestra.(to name quite a few).
Unfortunately my father wasn’t very keen on me playing the sax in his flat, and I had several complaints from an elderly retired Austrian doctor, who lived in the flat below. A toilet roll stuffed down the Bell of the saxophone wasn’t a very effective mute. I was looking to move out within a few months.
Fortunately for me, I moved in with old school friend Rich Beal,(artist, singer and songwriter with Head and Pregnant,) in a tiny room at the top of the house in Regent St, Clifton. I was lucky enough to have friends who lived in a basement flat and they would let me use their cellar to go and practice my saxophone without fear of upsetting too many neighbours.This was just a temporary move until I moved into a squat in Hotwells..This was called Trinity Rooms and was a great place (and free!) to live, as there was a rehearsal room there, ,where we could play pretty much whenever we wanted. It also had an empty church hall out the back with a great natural reverb echo.
My first band was called Fish Food, featuring the ( now sadly departed ) hugely talented and eccentric singer/poet Andy Fairley, who went on to record with the mighty Adrian Sherwood and On U Sound. Howard Purse was on guitar, Daniel Swan, former Cortinas drummer, also featured. The Cortinas were the first proper punk band I ever saw.They supported The Damned at Malvern Winter Gardens in 1976. They were riveting. The first gig I played was at the Granary in Bristol on Welsh Back. A band called Double vision were playing, featuring Melanie Dicks on vocals (Bristol City manager Alan Dicks’ daughter!). Rob Merrill was on drums. I ended up on stage with Mark Stewart who was singing a version of Max Romeo’s “Chase the devil”..I had been playing sax for about 3 months by now!
A little while later I hitched up to Hitchin in Hertfordshire and played with The Pop Group. On this occasion they had two drummers, Bruce Smith and Brian Nevill who later joined Pigbag after Chip had left in 1982.
By this time my dedication to practice and playing had paid off and I was quite proficient at navigating the full range if the horn, although later in the Summer of 1982 Pigbag played at Bracknell jazz festival on the same stage as jazz heroes Don Cherry and Ed Blackwell with Nana Vasconcelos (Old and new dreams). A subsequent review in the Guardian described my saxophone tone as like being in an Iron foundry!
In the Spring of 1980 I was jamming with Simon, and we had been put in touch with some guys in Cheltenham who had heard that Simon had left The Pop Group and asked if he would be interested in playing with them.
We would go up to Cheltenham and play in a place called Beech House in a room with black walls. Sadly early recordings if these sessions were lost from an Akai reel to reel tape recorder. These sessions were where ‘Papa’ was born and it would go on for about 20 minutes in a frenzy of percussion, including frying pans and horns!
The band was James Johnstone, Chip Carpenter, who were in a punk band called Hardware. Roger Freeman was on timbales and percussion and Chris Hamlin on congas and clarinet..myself and Simon Underwood. Chris Lee was on trumpet.
After a few months in the summer, I decided to head off to France to look for an adventure working picking fruit. I took the saxophone with me. Janine Rainforth’s father( Janine would go on to form Maximum Joy) had a house near Avignon and there was a possibility of some work (..there wasn’t.)..I don’t think he was overly impressed with our work ethic. I returned some six weeks later on the day The Pop Group played their last gig at a huge CND rally in Trafalgar Square on 26/10/1980.
Coming back to Bristol things had moved on and Pigbag had played their first gig supporting the Slits at Romeo and Juliet’s. Fortunately I was welcomed back to the fold. Dick O Dell had approached Simon with a view to managing us and he wanted to record ‘Papa’.. We rehearsed at Janine’s dad’s house in a village outside Keynsham, called Burnett, near Bristol. I remember that it was the day that John Lennon was shot and killed in New York by Mark Chapman. 8th December 1980.
My first gig with the band was at a Bristol Recorder event at the Anson Rooms at Bristol university. We were supposed to be top of the bill, I.e. we were to play last. The other acts, including the Electric Guitars, played over their allocated times and we were left with 20 minutes before the curfew.. The porters turned the power off and we carried on acoustically, banging frying pans and blasting away on the horns for a good 20 minutes longer..
We continued rehearsing with a view to arranging ‘Papa’ to around 3 and a half minutes. This took place in Cheltenham and we were booked in to the studio in Berry St. Studios in Clerkenwell, London. This was March of 1981. Legendary film maker and documenter of the punk movement Don Letts was there with his video camera. He filmed us as we recorded it. Unfortunately, despite trying to obtain the footage, the story goes that he didn’t actually have any film in the camera..
As we were still raw, rough, self taught musicians high on energy, we didn’t have a grasp of bar lengths and sections so when it came to recording the solos it was decided that Roger would stand in front of us with a stopwatch and after 1 minute of free blowing he signalled us to end!
Dick O Dell, in what turned out to be a very shrewd move, withheld the release after a year or so of regularly selling 1000 or so singles weekly and attaining top position in the independent charts of the time. The strategy worked, and in the summer of 1982, the single entered the top 40 playlist and Radio 1 had to give it airplay, The pre order sales had built up over 6 weeks or so. At that time the chart positions were based on weekly sales. We got to number 30, then number 9, then number 3..
We were denied the number 1 slot by Bucks Fizz and Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder with “Ebony and Ivory”…
I remember it well, on a sunny Tuesday afternoon, on the green outside my flat, listening to the radio, hearing the chart countdown..Happy times. I’d particularly like to thank my clarinet teacher, Mr Stone, who ensured that I was going to teach myself the saxophone and play it in my own way.,
At work, a few days ago, one of my colleagues introduced me to two other workers at Bristol docks. “ Do you know who this is?…Do you remember Pigbag.?…Yeah, one of the guys,who was about my age, replied…My mate was the only one who could dance to that song…”
There had been some discussion about whether or not we should do TOTP . We were concerned about “selling out”.. Fortunately we decided to do it.. Roger Freeman wasn’t happy though, as he claimed we had told him that he couldn’t wear his donkey jacket, which he always wore. He decided not to appear and subsequently left the band. That was a shame. He is a very talented musician and taught himself trombone in a short space of time. He played a solo on the 12 inch extended version of the song.
My only regret now is that we didn’t include the single on our debut album. Our worthy reasoning was that we wanted people to hear new material as we felt we had moved on since recording “Papa” and people could hear it by buying the single..
One of my most enduring memories was supporting The Specials at the Rainbow in Finsbury Park ( later to become infamous as a mosque where the radical Muslim Abu Hamsa made his hate speeches)..The Specials had just written “Ghost town” and were playing it in Soundcheck with the great late Rico Rodriguez on trombone. Wafts of ganja smoke drifted out from the open door of the dressing room as the legendary trombonist warmed up on his instrument. We were very nervous to be playing in front of a huge crowd of mods and Skinheads and ended up playing at nearly twice the tempo..
Jerry Dammers was grinning at the side of the stage, encouraging us. We were on for about 25 minutes. After a couple of numbers one of the youths at the front shouted”..Oi, what’s the name of the band?”..(the single wasn’t in the charts at this time)..James Johnstone ,guitarist,percussionist and keyboards player, leant forward and politely said “Pigbag”.. “What?..Pigshit?” We were then met with chants of “PIGSHIT” after each number..I think they enjoyed it really though…