The music is sadly full of “should have been”, and the late 80s/early 90s London glam scene is no exception. While we could see pictures, and read about tons of great looking bands in fanzines and magazines in those days, it was hard to actually get their music. The GHOSTS OF LOVERS finally have a record out this month on Angel In Exile Records, drummer Steve Pegrum’s record label. We asked him to tell us more about this era and the band…
How did you get the idea of releasing the CD? Have you been thinking about it for long?
Ever since the band split, it always struck me that it was a shame that people hadn’t gotten to hear the band really. The two studio recordings were originally planned as demos for us to get an idea of our songs and to see how the songs stood up in the studio. The first recording came out especially well (the one we recorded with Andy Le Vien at RMS Studios in South London) and one track from that – ‘Iona’ – was issued as a 7” Flexi disc with Submerge Fanzine, and years later ‘Tonight’ appeared on a Bubblegum Slut CD that accompanied the ‘zine, but otherwise the tracks had never been widely heard, and I’d always felt that was a shame.
So, several years ago I’d created a MySpace page for The Ghosts, and received a lot of great feedback on the band, and so the idea of putting the songs out somehow started to germinate.When I started Angels in Exile Records in 2011 I had the idea of putting an album out of all The Ghosts material that we’d recorded. It has taken longer than I had originally envisaged, but I am pleased it is now finally completed and I hope people enjoy it.
Can you tell us a bit about the history of the band? How did you meet, How did you choose your band name, etc.
Well, myself and Bass player friend Stuart Emmerton were looking to put a serious Rock and Roll band together in 1989, and we started with the traditional Melody Maker Classified Ads approach, and through this we met Guy Bourseau and Steve Perry. Instantly, from the very first jams in the studio I thought musically it was sounding really strong, but we had trouble finding the right vocalist. We carried on and met Kev MacDonald, and as soon as we heard him sing it felt right. Following a slight line up change, Kevin Sargeant came in on Bass and the ‘classic’ Ghosts of Lovers line up was set. We always used to meet at The Ship in Wardour Street and it became a key hangout for the band, invariably before going on to The Astoria or somewhere.
Guy, Kev MacDonald and I all lived in South London at the time so we would often hang out at Guy’s flat in Clapham, and that was where a lot of the songs were written. I always remember going round there one time and Guy was really happy, as he’d just come up with the music for Iona. He had a really warm sounding Marshall, and when he played it to me it just sounded immense and I couldn’t wait to play Drums to it.
Like a lot of bands, we struggled to find a name that felt right for us, and went through a few names, we even briefly considered calling ourselves The Diamond Dogs (all being huge Bowie fans). Then, there were some lyrics for a song that either Kev Macdonald or Kevin Sargeant had that was called ‘The Ghosts of Lovers’ and the name stuck. (Sadly we never recorded the song, although there is a rehearsal tape of it somewhere). I wasn’t entirely sure about it at first, but as time passes I think it fits the aesthetic of the band well.
There was a good scene in London in this style in at that time. What bands have you shared stages and drinks with? What were your favourite clubs?
Yes, there was a very good scene back then – it had been building since the early ‘80s with bands like Lords of The New Church, Dogs D’Amour, Marionette, Babysitters etc, then for me, seeing Hanoi Rocks in ‘83 really electrified things. (It was after a Hanoi show that I went to Melanddi in Carnaby Street and bought the blue leopardskin drape that I wore a lot, and can be seen wearing later on in The Ghosts photo session in 1990).
You then had the whole Guns n’ Roses infusion a little later, and the next wave of bands like Faster Pussycat, and the whole scene seemed to re-ignite. I had run a club myself since ‘84 called The Taste Experience, and by ‘89 wanted to try something new, so put together a club called ‘Station to Station’ that was very Glam/Goth/Punk and which encapsulated a lot of my ideas about music. I started it at Gossips, then it moved to Samanthas near Piccadilly, then at The Soho Theatre Club before doing a two year run at the St Moritz Club in Wardour Street. Station to Station became a key hang out for The Ghosts and every week various members, if not all, would come to the club. They really were some euphoric nights, and it felt wonderful playing Ziggy, Iggy, T-Rex, Only Ones, Lou Reed etc to a packed dance floor.
I was especially pleased that a lot of Japanese girls used to come to the club, as they really loved the mixture of music I played, and I remember two exceptionally glamorous and beautiful Japanese girls whom used to come to the club every week for two months or so, and were here on an extended vacation and they told me that the club had made their visit and that the music I had played was the best that they’d ever heard at a club. That made me very proud and I’m happy they had enjoyed it so much.
My personal favourite clubs included The Friday Rock club at The Astoria – many a legendary night was had there. I also loved Full Tilt at The Electric Ballroom, which played a good mix of alternative sounds. Then there was The Kit Kat which was brilliant – several times I remember going there and seeing Stiv Bators, the same goes for Alice in Wonderland at Gossips too. Then there was also Buttz & Spikes (also at Gossips), St Moritz Club (still run by the legendary ‘Sweetie’). The Pleasure Dive in Westbourne Park which played lots of Flesh For Lulu, Sisters & T-Rex, then there was Loose Lips and a short lived club called The Cathouse in Stockwell. That era really was special and its staggering how much was going on then. Portobello Road was still cool then with some great stalls, shops & bars, and we all loved going to Kensington Market to get our clothes. Johnson’s was the best and I still treasure clothes I have gotten there.
Thinking of this era, it was truly ‘immersive’ and was a full on lifestyle. As well as the music, clothes etc other mediums such as films were very important to us too – I remember staying up all night with Guy and Kev and talking about films that were important to us like ‘Christiane F’, ‘Blade Runner’, ‘Betty Blue’, ‘Apocalypse Now’ and many more.
Music is still the key medium though in which to evoke a certain core feeling, and whenever I hear ‘Dance With Me’ by The Lords, I can smell the hairspray, smell the smoke, picture a crowded dance floor of people in leather and lace and feel the sensual rhythm of such a great song as it immediately transports me to that era…fantastic!
The image of The GHOSTS OF LOVERS was kind of dark glam, not too far from The LORDS OF THE NEW CHURCH. Were you also getting interest from the goth rock scene?
I think that’s a fair assessment of the band, as we did all love The Lords of the New Church – we all had seen them live many times, and Steve and I were at their infamous last stand at the Astoria when Stiv sacked all the members onstage. We also had liked some bands such as Bauhaus and Flesh For Lulu whom were considered Goth, but I felt shared a similar Glam pulse beat.
Certainly Station to Station had quite a large Goth attendance, and a lot of people in the scene did like The Ghosts. I’d say though that equally in the glam scene people seemed to understand where we coming from, with our love of everything from the New York Dolls, Stooges, MC5, Only Ones, Bowie, T-Rex, Hanoi Rocks et al. Thinking about it now, a key artist that again we all loved and whom we found very inspirational for a number of reasons was Alice Cooper – he epitomised dark glam for us – I especially loved the Love it To Death and Killer albums.
How come you guys didn’t get a record label deal? Bad luck, or a too short existence? Did you ever think about releasing a record by yourselves in those days (though it sure wasn’t as easy as it is now)?
I think there were so many reasons for why things didn’t take off for the band at the time really. The primary one is that we spent a lot of our time putting the band together, writing songs, working on the set, etc that the time spent playing live was very brief and so just as we were starting to push forward it all fell apart. There wasn’t really time to push for a deal with the demos. We had originally intended to possibly re-record Tonight and Don’t Be Afraid, and the only song everybody agreed on to release was Iona – a friend of mine called Tina ran a fanzine called Submerge, and she offered to put The Ghosts in the magazine and to insert a flexi with it, so we put Iona on a 7” one sided flexi for the magazine. Little did we know that would be the only official release by the band for a long time!
Can you think of any other bands of that scene and era that also should have deserved more recognition?
Mmm, Well I used to go to a lot of shows in that era as there was so much happening, and there were certain bands that stood out. I liked Gunfire Dance a lot (and indeed put them on at Station to Station when it was at Gossips). They totally got the NY Dolls / Heartbreakers aesthetic, were great guys and I enjoyed their company. Sister Midnight were also really cool and I enjoyed them too. I remember a great set by Feline Groove at the Marquee and I’m sure there were more that my brain can’t recall just yet!
Guitar player Guy Bourseau unfortunately left this world too soon, have some of the other members played in other bands after The GHOSTS OF LOVERS?
Yes, sadly Guy passed in ‘98. He was slightly older than the rest of us and had played in several bands in France before moving to England (notably including The Stalkers & Teenage Head). I was always impressed he’d seen the two Mont de Marsan Punk festivals as they were held not too far from his hometown of Peau. He knew a lot of musicians, and was well respected and was such a fantastic player and spirit.
After The Ghosts of Lovers split, Guy and myself had gotten on so well, both musically and as friends, that we wanted to carry on playing the music we loved – ie raw rock ‘ roll, and we met up with a Bassist called Billy Ingram and formed a band called The Hearts of Darkness. This lasted on and off for a few years between ‘92 – ‘96. We must have met, jammed with and auditioned every singer in London into Johnny Thunders, Ian Hunter etc at that time! I remember a great jam we had with Peter Perret when he was looking for a new band, and Guy played the most sublime solo on Another Girl Another Planet – such a shame we didn’t record it! We also played with Alistair from The Lords briefly, as well as many others but never felt a connection with a singer that lasted and the band eventually split late ‘96. Guy did briefly play with a band called The Italian Continentals before leaving London to go back to France for his final days.
Steve Perry jammed with us several times and we still stay in touch to this day, and Kevin MacDonald has carried on singing – I remember one band he was in was called Mister Moses I think. Kevin Sargeant was always a fan of the Oriental Beat and now lives in Japan, and its sadly been several years since we’ve seen each other.
For myself, after The Ghosts of Lovers and then The Hearts of Darkness split, I had a break from music for a while, spending a lot of time travelling, before re-connecting with long term Guitarist friend Kevin de Groot whom got me playing again in several projects. I then joined re-generated ‘70s Punks The Machines before playing in Hollywood Doll and then The Vampire Junkies Featuring Texas Terri. There are several songs I co wrote either with Guy or with Guy and Billy dating back to the Hearts of Darkness days that I still want to record, so we shall see. (We used to play Souls on Fire and Sea of Madness in Hearts of Darkness and fine tuned the arrangements of these songs so again it would be good to record them I must say.)
You never thought about some kind of reunion gig(s)?
Well, Guy really was at the heart of The Ghosts, and its hard to imagine the band without him. I would love to celebrate what he/we did though, and I know Guy would love as many people as possible to hear the music that he was so crucial in creating, so I won’t say ‘never’. The Ghosts were a very special band to me, so if anything ever were to happen it would have to be done right. If one day we all get together in the same room, who knows, anything is possible.
Can you tell us about Angels in Exile Records?
Angels in Exile Records is the Label that I started back in 2011. I originally came up with the name Angles in Exile back in the ‘90s as it was the title of a song I was writing when we were doing The Hearts of Darkness, and I thought it was the perfect name so when I started a web design business in the early 2000’s, I carried on the name. Since 2010 I’ve done less on the design side, as I have always wanted to run a Label and put out releases that I myself would want to buy. The Label isn’t aiming to put out just archive releases as I will put out contemporary artists that I like too, but I do like to make sure any bands that I love that either haven’t been heard or never had their material released can get a chance to do so if it is something that fits within the aesthetic remit of the Label.
Since vinyl is coming back, have you thought about a vinyl release of The GHOSTS OF LOVERS too?
That’s a good question…Like a lot of us, I still love vinyl and am definitely considering the possibility of a vinyl release. If the CD sells well and there is the interest, I might start with a 7” EP perhaps, and then maybe do a vinyl issue of the album, we shall see.