Hello there, let me introduce myself, my name is Adam Sweet. I was the bass player in Passion Star for as long as it... we existed. I was also regrettably known as 'Swede' by anyone who knew me from school and subsequently through Passion Star, as that is where we formed. From the ashes of a repeatedly dreadfully named and staffed band we came, bright as can be, occasionally good looking, remarkably witty, but mostly just downright infuriating.
There were good times, bad times and the hazy, crazy not always entirely legal ones too. We were a band who tried to enjoy ourselves as much as any young adults would when someone else was paying.
Below are some of the best songs we recorded and a little running commentary to keep things in chronological perspective and provide a flavour of what was going on at the time.
Enjoy. I'll try not to get too nostalgic or perplexed.
To Be the One
The first single. Featured on the soundtrack of the film Shooting Fish. Drums by Simon Flynn, produced by Simon Hanhart of 'Perfect Day' fame. We were fresh as daisies at the time, everything in full flow. A masterpiece of a first single, we later played a different version of this on the 'National Lottery' to coincide with the film premiere, the party of which we got royally ruined at of course. Went there and back in a stretch limo no less. This original version was subject to our first video shoot, the footage of which was destroyed when we saw the final cut. Served MGL right for doing it on the cheap by 'borrowing' a college media studies group.
The B-side to To Be The One (hereafter referred to as TBT1). The earliest surviving song, written in our first month as Passion Star. Lyrics about a programme on a fourteen-year-old girl who ran away from home to be a new age traveller like her favourite band, The Levellers. Melody of the first line of the third verse was a nod of appreciation to The Sundays track 'More'. This was the song responsible for our first nerve jangler, the 'No Home' homeless benefit gig with Ocean Colour Scene, where loads of record company people had turned up to see us for the first time. Of course we aced it, but still signed to MGL. I remember having a sulk about having to alter the bass line slightly when we recorded it...damn pedantic musicians.
Also on the first TBT1 CD. A kind of ad-lib version from a horrendous recording session. This is the only song that came out well. The most stripped down version we did, featuring the least needlessly over the top bass playing I ever did on it (I always did show off). This used to be the storming live set ender, it worked well either way, but we never managed to record a decent band version, it always sounded better like this on tape. Also remarkably similar to the 4-track version we recorded as soon as it was written in case we forgot how it went. Nick-named 'Dangerous Raisin', much to Richard's irritation.
One of my favourites along with the first single version of TBT1. Came from the same session as TBT1 and No Home. This was supposed to be the second single, but MGL didn't want to release another out-dated single, as by the time TBT1 got released, Mr Flynn had been given the push in a notoriously messy split, to be replaced by Steve, with Gaz added on guitar. The first of many singles that never were. I can still feel the young vibrancy, even though it feels slower than we ever played it live. Bursting with energy.
The next single that never was. The first (worthy) recording with Steve and Gaz. This was another old one, but the new boys really made it sound fresh again. Slightly altered by external influences that thought that their boys needed to be 'rocked up' a little. However it worked well, though not well enough for the MGL who didn't want to release a rocked up song by a band that refused to act rocked up (or as it turned out, to have their name changed to suit). We complained for months about this not being released (and also took the piss mercilessly about the 'rock' idea). Another recording with Hanhart a.k.a. Handypants a.k.a Bananaman.
In Your Eyes
Not the greatest song on here by any means, but included as it contains two of our greatest moments of Sundaysesque chilledness. Recorded before any of the other tracks on here, this is a demo, pre Si Flynn, pre record contract, pre almost everything. Recorded by Gavin Monaghan in his rather excellent back garden studio - The Magic Garden. This demo was the first real recorded example of our potential, great buzz as we did it. Most of these tracks were re-recorded as we improved and are included later. As I said, not the best song, but the next one is the best of this time. Drums by a hairy muffter called Jim Turner who bailed on us just at the right moment, as he was crap on the drums. And his dog smelt. And I got off with most of his ex-girlfriends.
This never got bettered on tape; hence it's inclusion (nothing to do with my bass-playing extravaganza). I love this too. Even Jim was quite good on this.
This eventually was the second single. This was an updated version of a Magic Garden track, with Gaz and Steve. Recorded by Pat Collier, who had gout from drinking too much port, so we bought him a bottle as a gift. This is an ok song, but we had better potential singles. This also was the subject of horrendous video gaffe #2. This sold less well than TBT1, "We were right!" we cried to deaf ears. A major cock-up involving thousands of ordering cards we gave out in case the record shops didn't have it in store made us slightly more of a laughing stock than we already were. We never managed to play this the same again with all those layered harmonies in the break. However it does bring back all of those gorgeous summer Radio 1 Roadshow memories. Ahhhh...late nights partying with All Saints, millions of screaming girls that wanted our autographs, the presents from fans, getting a 21st birthday cake on stage at the NEC, all those CBBC and BRMB roadshows, the school tour, the adulation, the drunkenness... The heydays.
Out For You
Another re-recorded Magic Garden track. B-side of Lashing Out. Once again I get all over indulgent on the bass, but I loved doing it, I always thought of myself as the pop version of The Who's John Entwistle, hence bass solo. This used to make the hair on the back of my neck stand up.
When You Smile
Another from the 'Sundays' phase, we needed another couple of tracks in the studio with Pat and this had recently been put back together and sounded good. Also on the Lashing Out CD. One of many managerial insults from Dave West-Mullen, "I keep listening to it but I don't think it does anything until the chorus." That's because the verse is the logical prelude to the unexpected. He got the sack eventually, just before we split with MGL... Arsehole.
The last song written before the Flynn exit. Allegedly, though later denied, about being hungover, which is a pretty good example of the kind of problems we were having before the mini split. Recorded again with Pat. B-side to the second TBT1 that coincided with Shooting Fish and was supposed to be our big break but notably wasn't.
This had been lying around for a while eventually loosely formed and recorded live as was with vocals added later. A beautiful song that Viper really liked when they picked up on us via Jonathan King after the split with MGL. The 'waiting' idea although unrelated, seems indicative of the fact that the first major doubts were on the way.
In a way, an antidote to what I said about Waiting, this is a defiant version of the same theory. Similar to Vicious Current, this was the storming live set ender for a while, but never got recorded successfully as a proper band track. Released on the second TBT1 release.
Another favourite, again a demo. This is the song I always play when I pick up a 12 string accoustic guitar. Recorded by Rich's dad Paul (the real man behind Passion Star and the ultimate hero) at the new Bilston College studio that he managed. Just Rich on vocals, 12 string and keys, with a bit of guitar sound weirdness from Gaz. A delight.
Blow My Mind
The first track recorded with Viper, produced by John Williams who like Pat had done some stuff with Kingmaker, aswell as err... The Proclaimers. Jim Lowe at the desk ably assisted by the gorgeous Laura. I found it quite difficult to record 'cos I kept looking at her and not concentrating properly. Recorded at Trident in London as used by Robbie Williams on 'Millenium'. Also the original site for the studio was used by The Beatles and The Stones. This is a Skin track that we recorded with their blessing after they split.
It's funny, but this was supposed to be a fresh start for us after all the MGL bullshit and incompetence, but to me it seems like the beginning of the end when I look back. We'd lost Tony Sylvester, MGL boss who was the first industry person to pick up on us and also the only industry bod who never questioned our ability to make it; we were also fending for ourselves after sacking Dave.
All of the next songs were recorded in the Viper era, either by the aforementioned people, or with Paul and Dan at Arcadeia rehearsal rooms in Brum. All apart from Fame And Fortune, True Grit and Give Me More were covers handed to us by either Jonathan King or John Williams. I quite liked some of them, but I never felt comfortable with them, they were somebody else's, not Passion Star's, not what I felt Passion Star were, but we did them because we wanted to prove ourselves to our new record company and then concentrate on our own songs. Also, Rich's own writing had dried up and we were getting demands for songs, possibly another indicator of the future.
This was supposed be our first single for Viper and the major label they were trying to get us signed us to. As you can probably gather, it didn't get released and we didn't sign to a major. Nevertheless, it rocks in a way we didn't mind. Also my first ever properly recorded venture onto the backing vocal mic, you can't really hear me though, possibly good news.
A Little Bit Of Soul
Presumably the planned second Viper et al single. Never happened etc. This was allegedly a number 1 in the U.S. in the sixties for some guy I've never heard of, but didn't get released over here. One of Rich's faves, I thought it was quite a good song, but again not us. I could never quite get over the first part of each verse, with that cheesy guitar riff and the awful organ part. Still a good version of a good song, you can tell that we really were trying hard.
Fame and Fortune
I do like this one, not least because it's one of our own. However it does, as do many of the Viper recordings, sound a little weak compared to stuff like To Be The One and Here Again, possibly because we were running out of our own material, but also the way it sounds. Near the end of the road...
Again a song really I do like, though not strictly one of our own we took it as our own. Written by Paul when he was 21, we'd always toyed with doing it and eventually did when we felt capable of doing it justice. Paul went all paranoid when we did it in case it failed us in any way, but he had no choice in the matter, we worked it up without telling him and played it to him as a surprise. It never did fail us as a song, but it got recorded when we were really hungover and subsequently sounds a little lifeless. We'd had a major pressure showcase in London the night before in front of a group of record company people and a busload of people from Wolves. We were so nervous, Rich nearly had a heart attack, Gaz nearly passed out and I had to go outside for some fresh air to stop myself from vomiting. We blew everyone away, but needless to say we partied 'till all hours at the hotel to calm down afterwards, we weren't popular the next day though... Possibly symptomatic of our lack of new material again, but this holds up apart from the way we played it.
Give Me More
All the rest of these are demos done at Arcadeia by Paul and Dan from here on in. This is another I quite like, but not as much as everyone else. These demos were done before we signed to Viper to show them our set with all of their covers in it. This is the last one of our own included. We tried to record this at the same time as Fame and Fortune, but John wanted to change it around. The creative juices weren't flowing and we couldn't see why we had to change it anyway. Nothing we tried worked and it got abandoned.
Now this is the one cover I did like. A Walker Brothers song, allegedly Scott Walker was JK's lover in the sixties, though this remains unconfirmed. I remember playing this at another gig in London with all the girlies at the front singing it, a few months before the end. We thought we'd played quite well, but JK and all the A&R men didn't think so. Rich, unfairly I think, got quite heavily criticised. It was the first indicator that things were going wrong. I wanted to put this last as it is quite a sad song and speaks volumes about the way I think of the whole ending, but due to the way it links with the next track this was rendered impossible. It also, despite how much I like it, emphasises how sixties all of these covers were and we were very much a nineties band, perhaps 2000s had it gone that way.
I Can Make It
Another I quite liked, but this was always seen as a bit throwaway by everyone else apart from Paul and myself. This came to us as an early demo of songs that some famous guy from the sixties had done. His first hit was selected from them and the rest got ignored. The original has got some ropy playing on though. We had to update some of the playing style a lot.
I put this in here, as it's so different to the original Everly Brothers version. We had to rip it apart and put it back together again, rather well done too I think. I had a hand in the way some parts were reorganised which is probably why it's really here, but I still like it. You can still tell it's the Everly Brothers though. This was such fun to play.
To Be The One ('98)
The final recording we ever made. Possibly the best recording we made with Viper and a strong contender for the crown of definitive version of TBT1. There are a million other versions, but these are the best two. Not long after this began the 'four month wait of silence', followed by 'the showcase debacle' and ended with 'the phonecall'. A decent audio high to end on. Thankfully, something good to remember from the end.
A couple of turbulent months followed that last gig, the cash ran out, all of our internal problems overcame us, Gaz and Steve moved back home. We had a private showcase arranged in front of a major label that had planned to sign us. As we rehearsed the night before, all the moans and groans came out. Someone mentioned that they wanted to leave unless we signed within the week, the others agreed, I protested but it was too late. We then had a row about who was pleased about it. But it was agreed that this could be our last performance together. We were all pretty miserable the next day and played dreadfully. Two weeks later we had the final phone call telling us that the major label had pulled out. That was the last we heard until a letter arrived about six months later telling us that Viper had decided not to continue our contract. We'd already disappeared from each other. The end.
It's funny the way you think about things afterwards, reading this it sounds like everything was someone else's fault, but we were just as much to blame for letting ourselves and everybody else down as they were for letting us down. We gave it our best, but the whole thing was always undershot by a sense of half-arsed incompetence. Right from the outset we made the wrong choices and these were to lead us to the paths we took. We fought long and hard, but not hard enough until petty ego and mismanagement took their toll.
So that's it, the lot as they say. I still miss it all, but I'm content with what I'm doing now and I've moved on. There are a few things missing here. A cover of Eleanor we did when we were with MGL - another planned single that never happened. Also there are the stories, good, bad and hilarious, but it's late, I'm tired now and it's over.
Email: info at passionstar dot co dot uk