Surprisingly, not one track from Zilch was included on Shack’s ‘Best Of’, ‘Time Machine’. Surprising to me because this album meant so much to me, it was the soundtrack to my life as a 21 year old student living in Liverpool. I must have listened to it a thousand times back in 1988, it was never out of my tape machine. I knew all the words, all the guitar parts and living in Liverpool at the time, knew, most importantly, what the songs were about about and where they came from.
Stand out tracks – Well all of them!! Emergency" / "Someone's Knocking" / "John Kline" / "I Need You" / "Realization" / "High Rise Low Life" / "Who Killed Clayton Square?" / "Who'd Believe it?" / "What's it Like..." / "The Believers"
So how did I find Shack? Well it all started when I went to see Echo & The Bunnymen at the National Ballroom Kilburn on the ‘Songs To Learn and Sing’ tour. The support band that night were ‘The Pale Fountains’. I won’t go too deeply into this story as I want to save it for The Pale Fountains’ ‘From Across The Kitchen Table’ album, but let’s just say that when my friend, Robert and I, who played together in a band, heard The Pale Fountains for the first time, looked at each other and said ‘this is what we want to sound like’!
In 1986 I moved to Liverpool to study at the Polytechnic, now John Moores University. I found out that the Pale Fountain’s were playing at a club called the ‘Mardi Gras’ and bought my ticket. My memory fails me somewhat here, but it was either a few days prior to the gig or the actual night itself when I turned up at the ‘Mardi’ to find an A4 sheet of paper stuck to the upstairs entrance to the club announcing that the gig was cancelled. I then heard that they had disbanded. So that was it, no more Pale Fountains.
About a year later I was visiting my friend, Paul Morris. He’d been a Pale Fountains fan from the start, owning the 12”s of ‘Thank You’ and ‘Palm Off My Hand’ which, incidentally, I now own after swapping ‘Oblivious’ and ‘Still On Fire’ 12 inchers by Aztec Camera!!! He handed me a cassette of Zilch by Shack telling me that this was the new band of Michael and John Head, ex Pale Fountains. Paul lent me that tape which I kept for the next year. When I offered it back he told me that I could keep it, I’d had it so long that he’d gone out and bought a new copy for himself!
Other Shack related memories
One night at the ‘Mardi Gras’ I met a girl named Sarah Thomas, short bobbed red head, think she was doing textiles at the fashion school. We became close and started going out. She was pally with the band so from time to time we’d go onto parties with them after the club had kicked out. I remember one night being loaded into the back of the band’s box van/lorry which had all their gear in it and heading across Liverpool to a party that we’d heard was on. Upon arrival we all bundled into the house to find about 5 people sitting in front of the TV watching a video! Suffice to say we drank all their beer and eat all their food and left!!
I remember seeing Mick and John playing an acoustic set at a Lesbian benefit in a club on Hardman Street. I still have the ticket! I remember being a little disappointed that it wasn’t the full band. That disappointment was washed away as soon as they started to play. It was brilliant and made even better by the intimate atmosphere. If I remember correctly, I nicked the set list that night and my mate Ian nicked a pedal switch thinking that it was an effects pedal!!!
On another occasion I saw them play at Bluecoats. I remember they had TV screens on each side of the stage showing a looped film of someone wearing a pair of Doc Marten boots, stamping. Think it was from the ‘High Rise Low Life’ single cover. The gig was packed and I had trouble seeing the band, to make matters worse Mick Head seemed to spend more time on his knees than I’d ever seen before!!!
Another memorable thing about this gig was that on the way in you could get the old ‘suede head’ cut from the most well known barber in Liverpool, Victor! I chose not to get my hair cut that night as Victor had cut it a few day previously! I wonder if he is still around???
Shack 1988 Interview with Mick and John Head – Includes Emergency and High Rise Low Life Videos