Like a needle hitting its groove – my wise and caring friend Jane said to capture this record while the track is still playing. I spoke to her in the evening and just before 3am when all these memories were filling my mind I got up and started to write – to let it out. I’d wanted to put down some words since I’d heard, the day he passed – last Monday- but hadn’t known what. This is what came…
It’s like looking at the sea – after a ship wreck – so much floating on the surface that can be salvaged – thou surely damaged by the fast flowing tides of time – and so many other treasures already sinking and sunk to the bottom of the sea. I’m just saving and sharing what I can – while I can.
When I think of Andy (and he’ll always be Andy to me), the first thing that springs into my mind’s eye were his multi-coloured tattoos of skulls: yellow, pink, green, pale blue maybe – and the psychic cross a symbol of his love of Psychic TV and of magic with a K- worn around his arm, like no-one’s tattoos I’d ever seen before. They jumped out at me and etched into my mind – a complete surprise and juxtaposition- a reveal. It wasn’t what I’d expected – like stumbling upon a glitch in the Matrix- a moment that gave you that stop-gap – a jump in a record; and his concern about his varicose veins and surprise that he was sharing that with me; all this framed by his long curly hair and his smile, that wide smile that always accompanied the sharp and witty- his was a tongue that was fast and fearless and always lit with humour and a “oh fuck off!”
My memories of him are the flickers of strobes in the dry ice on the dance floor.
From warming up for Danny Rampling at Shoom those Wednesday nights in Kensington from spring to the closing party in November 89 were like a birthing pool.
Driving to see him play at Studio Valbonne in Maidenhead, on Sunday afternoons- after I would have been out all weekend – and also at a community centre in his hometown of Slough- where the bar was just Ribena and juice cartoons – one of the hottest and most memorising nights ever.
And when the DJ wouldn’t play “just one more” and the people still didn’t leave- this girl with the most amazing green eyes – just emerged from the crowd- opened her mouth and started to sing Timmy Thomas’ ‘Why Can’t We Live Together’ – it is one of the most magical events I’ve ever witnessed – everyone inside the venue somehow joined together – mesmerised…. A manifestation proving we are all just one.
All of us transported from one world to another- night after night. Year after year. We were the lucky ones. We were blessed.
Being back at Andy’s one night after a party and seeing he had a review of mine on the wall. I was so chuffed. Touched. It was the Happy Monday’s Hillsborough Benefit at the Hacienda – where I took out all the E’s in the text. It was my own run in with the subs – actually the editor – he had put all the E’s back in thinking I’d got a problem with my typewriter and I had to take them all out again at the typesetters on a Monday morning before it went to press.
I remember Andy at my desk at the NME office with his tickets to the Boys Own party in East Grinstead – that summer – saying I needed to buy tickets soon (I didn’t buy tickets to anything as the live & dance editor at NME – but there was always an exception to the rule and that exception was Boys Own and Andy).
Tickets in hand the drive felt like it went on forever and finally arriving we (myself and partner-in-loved-up-ness Jack Barron) found Andy playing in a tent with hay bails, and dropping the ‘Magnificent Seven’ while seeing – at the same time – a guy passing by and my surprise and delight. “Isn’t that Mick Jones?” I didn’t see him at gigs – but here he was!
I’d go to see Andy play so much and so often that Carrie who I lived with Christened him ‘God’ and would call after me ‘Are you going to see God play tonight?’ – she was teasing but she was right. When I went to see Andy play – I was at my Church and my dedication was boundless and my religion transcendence.
Getting him to write for me at NME for my dance section Paradise; and his constant frustration with the sub-editors for not understanding the in-jokes and his acid house counter culture comments – he loved to deride the sea of kickers that had emerged on the feet of the clubbers (including mine) – and the subs red pen often left his observations on clubland completely incomprehensible. There was an evolution happening in music, culture and language and those supposedly at the cutting edge couldn’t see that the lines had changed and inadvertently, were policing the status quo.
Andy was already attacking from the inside of a revolution they’d not even realised had been born- challenging signs of a sheep mentality that was already apparent within this new scene.
No one on the NME staff apart from me and Paolo Hewitt (we started the dance section together with Jack) had a clue what was going on.
Desperate to wake them up and with an NME office party coming up I managed to persuade both the Editor Alan Lewis to let him – and Andy to play- at a party we had on the Thames just weeks after the Marchioness disaster. It happened – what a coup – bringing acid house to all the resistant staffers – Alan coming up to me after Andy had dropped Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Oh Well’ – and suddenly he understood and we had lift-off…
Jeff Barrett calling me. “McGee’s going to sack me if The Primals aren’t reviewed”. No one interested apart from to tear them apart and me thinking three birds one stone… If I could get Andy to write it, his writing may get across to the subs- and I could launch the Access All Areas section I’d been wanting to do.
I got Andy the LP biked over. He wasn’t sure at first but he saw my logic. I encouraged him to go with the flow and he did – as Audrey Witherspoon. As it was access all areas – he met the band after, The Primals loved him – discovered a brother in arms – bonding over a love of Thin Lizzy.
Another glitch in the matrix as two seemingly unconnected worlds came together – Innes asked him to remix ‘I’m Loosing More Than I Ever Had’. Andy back at my desk – while I typed up the review for him- telling me, even more nervous this time. Me telling him “Do it”. He’s saying “I’ve never been in the studio before – don’t know where to start!” They’d offered him £500. He found his way. He found the way.
I remember when I got my white label of ‘Loaded’ it was out and being dropped months before it was released and massive from the start. Like the moment black and white film suddenly became Technicolor. All change….
It took 18 months more -then Screamadelica. At last a record that did it all… The whole acid house experience- the whole weekend in one album. And even more than the album – the live shows. So high octane- it felt as if we would NEVER come down.
Those parties: the endless celebrations and all-nighters – the Empire, Leicester Square, all those nights at the Brixton Academy, that tour seemed to go on forever. I even flew to NYC to see them -Andy and the Primals went on tour together -playing at The Ritz, by Times Square for my 25th birthday. Looking like he had totally joined the band -Andy DJIng but the US hadn’t got the party vibe yet none of the rock crowd hung around long after the show. It was a stark contrast to the explosion happening at home.
I remember Andy’s love of Westwood and the old punk squiggly striped pattern shirts he wore from Sex days. His heart clearly worn on his sleeve – never boxed in.
The confusion when he suddenly got bored with playing 120bpm and went down below the happy heart beat of house and played reggae sets- causing dissent and lack of understanding from the faithful, and weeding out the blind, and demonstrating that he was never scared to do what he wanted to or go with his heart. He may have pleased millions across the globe but he was never a people pleaser.
Capturing all these memories while they defy time and float with luminescence to the top of the sea again – and shine so brightly and acutely that it hurts that it is so long since I have felt that alive and I cry for the loss of that feeling as well as for the loss of the man that created so much that was so special and unique in those times.
It didn’t stop there. Friday nights in Vauxhall for Sabres Of Paradise and bouncing and bounding to a different beat: the sounds Trance Europe Express was created for; of techno and trance and the sounds of the Berlin that were rising: Trance Induction and Basic Channel and the relentless upbeat call to the floor of Hardfloor’s ‘Acperience’. Woosh! I can feel the energy and my heart beat rising just thinking back!
The club was as dark and dirty under the arches as Shoom had been all open and white, light and canopied glitz, as if you’d suddenly transcended and ended up in Heaven. This was an exploration into the unborn – the dark sticky knows-no-bounds world of the womb. Primal and sticky.
This for me was the time when Andy really came into his own. A new force to be reckoned with – more finely honed and more confident in creating as well as playing. His friend Curly always at his side, and girlfriend and partner in arms Nina flying her own flag with her Sabrettes label & pink tartan. I remember going to their flat for an interview – all their prized rabbits – beautiful multi coloured and much loved- their droppings on the AstroTurf carpet – so easy to mistake for dropped hash.
A few years later Two Lone Swordsmen were born and I was dropping into their studio at Scrutton Street in Shoreditch, to see what magic Andy and Keith Tenniswood were working. I have fond memories of this time. They were always fun to be around.
By the start of the new millennium- my regular Andy fix were his Room 2 sets at Fabric. Andy ruled. The place always absolutely packed out – it felt as if the whole club were rammed in there. Keith Reilly (Mr Fabric himself) -locked into his own private dancing space by the lighting rig) could be spotted rocking along all night long.
A beautiful start to another decade and the man as vital, original, as passionate and still standing independent but now at the forefront of a whole different world and scene – all joined up planet wide.
The last time I saw Andy in person was after a Nick Cave gig at Her Majesty’s Theatre in Haymarket in 2013 -he was standing at the side of the building with his Mrs and we had a short chat after the show. Seeing him that time almost had the same effect as the very first time I met him – only this time the glitch was caused by the fact that I thought I’d gone back in time a couple of centuries and thought I was looking at a Victorian gentleman and then the shape shifted and Mr Weatherall emerged; a waxed tash above and a quip as ever on his lips.
I’d been wanting to see Andy play again for so long. I’d planned on going to Carcassonne last year (2019) for his and Sean Johnston’s festival there. Two weeks before I had to change my plans- and decided definitely in 2020. Now of course I’m absolutely kicking myself. But who could have known? Heartbroken.
What more can I say? I’m so so sad, and so so glad our paths crossed. My life would have been completely different without him. So many lives would be completely different without him. “God” is dead. Long live all the memories of those he touched with his wit, his love and his fearlessness. The last cut is the deepest… ringing out forever in the haunted dancehall.
Words by Helen Mead February 2020
Edited February 2022