She’s In Love With Heaven Above

The Soup Dragons appeared in my online life recently, a band I’ve never written about here before. In a way they perfectly illustrate the journey a certain kind of indie guitar band made between 1986 and 1990. In 1986 they appeared on the NME’s C86 compilation and from there released a single called Hang Ten.

Hang Ten

Hang Ten is an endearingly shambolic, under-produced, two minute, three chord romp, slightly thrashy but not too thrashy, four young men from Bellshill, Motherwell, inspired by The Jesus And Mary Chain. Ambitions at this point for bands like The Soup Dragons didn’t seem to go much beyond putting an album out on an independent label, getting a full page in the NME, being played by John Peel and undertaking a 40 date tour which always included a gig at Northampton Roadmenders.

In early summer 1989 they put out a single called Backwards Dog, a loud, filthy rocker that blared out of the speakers. I bought it on 12″ and remember liking it but also thinking they’d possibly missed the boat a little, that things were changing around them and they maybe hadn’t noticed.

Backwards Dog

But then in 1990 they released this…

Everything changed for guitar bands. The drugs, the jeans, the drumbeat, the video special effects. For The Soup Dragons this was partly forced on them by losing their drummer and buying a drum machine and sampler to plug the gap but it was also due to records like Bummed and The Stone Roses and that groove. Love beads not brown suede. White jeans not winklepickers. Northampton Roadmenders was still on the itinerary but now with a DJ in support. And having a hit in the real charts, not the indie charts, was obligatory.

The Soup Dragons hit the top five in the UK with their cover of I’m Free, a fairly minor Rolling Stones album track that Sean Dickson and the boys breathed new life into (with a toasting section courtesy of Junior Reid). Big Life, their record label and home to The Orb, Yazz, De La Soul and Junior Reid, then tried to follow it up by remixing Mother Universe and holding a more expensive video shoot. Both versions came out in 1990 along with a rejigged version of the album Lovegod. I like Mother Universe, it’s got tons of period charm, it sounds like indie night in a nightclub, the midweek indie disco- but the earlier version is better than the hit chasing second.