Bridewell Taxis roll again

With tickets selling for over £100 on internet auction sites, it's the reunion Leeds music fans have been crying out for. Paul Dews met up with the Bridewell Taxis before Friday's big gig

DON'T shout it too loudly, but a musical revolution is about to hit Leeds. A group of local musicians will go back to the future on Friday evening when they step out on stage in front of a sell-out crowd at Joseph's Well to perform their first live show for 14 years.

Mention the name of the Bridewell Taxis and a host of 30 somethings will exchange knowing glances and reminisce about the halcyon days of the late 1980s and early 90s when Leeds had a thriving underground scene that was waiting to explode.

Those people visited the Warehouse and Ricky's, and spent hazy evenings at events such as Kaos and Ark. They followed the other bands of the time – Happy Mondays, Stone Roses and Flowered Up – yet retained a simmering pride for a bunch of local lads flying the flag for the city.

Unlike the Wedding Present, Cud and the Pale Saints, other Leeds-based musicians of that era, the Bridewells were a group that the local youth could empathise with. They were one of them.

For many, the Bridewells provided the soundtrack to a generation, yet they went as quickly as they came and after less than four years, they disappeared from the scene with one final shambolic gig at the Warehouse in front of a handful of diehards.

It was a tragic end for a band who, just four months earlier, had played to almost 2,000 in Leeds Town Hall. They had released five singles and an album, and varying rumours abounded the city about the reasoning behind their tragic demise.

When the band left the stage at the Warehouse that December night in 1991, it was all over. Never to be seen again.

Until now, that is.

Long-time mate, fan, minder,enthusiast and organiser-in-chief Mick Tobin first sowed the seeds of a reunion after watching Happy Mondays embark on yet another comeback tour earlier this year, and things have moved quickly.

Rehearsing

Original members Mick Roberts, Sean McElhone, and Glenn Scullion were joined by twins and former fans James and Jools Metcalfe and the band have been rehearsing for some weeks.

"We'd seen the Mondays and Mick Tobin said to Mick afterwards 'You need to get the band back together,'" explains Jools, who was a teenager when the Bridewells first took to the stage.

"A lot of other bands from that time had got back together and we'd talked about it before," says Sean. "But a lot of people were saying 'You should give it a go' so we got together, had a chat, and here we are."

Sean launched a Bridewell Taxis website to see if the interest was still out there and the demand for a live show has exceeded all expectations.

"When we decided to get together again, our intention was to play a one-off concert," explains Glenn.

"In some ways, we had some unfinished business and wanted to do something for one last time.

"We've enjoyed rehearsing, we've re-worked a lot of the old stuff, and we've been writing some new material.

"The interest has been amazing though. The demand for tickets was unbelievable and we feel quite humble really."

The band are perhaps understandably nervous. They haven't performed together for 14 years and were sceptical about what response their re-union would bring.

Yet, the 350 available tickets sold out in 48 hours and, like the proverbial gold dust, they are now controversially changing hands for almost 100 on e-Bay. The band could comfortably have sold out three times over and, as it stands, it's cheaper to buy a ticket to see U2 or Oasis.

"We didn't know what to expect," says Mick. "We knew there would be some interest out there because a lot of people have asked us, but this is something else.

"There'll probably be a lot of old faces there and people are coming from all over the country – Birmingham, Scotland, London and Manchester – but there'll also be people there who have never seen us and this is for them as well.

"There's people whose older brothers and sisters were around last time and have heard about us, but there's a new generation out there."

Yet, while the rejuivinated Bridewells are preparing for a new era and are keen to look to the future, talk inevitably returns to the past.

So many memories and so many happy, riotous times for a group of lads who, even now, never imagined how close they were to cracking the big time.

"People still say now how much they enjoyed it, although we probably never realised it at the time," smiles Mick.

"We played in places like Paris and we did the Reading Festival. We supported bands like the Inspiral Carpets, The Farm and Happy Mondays, and we had a great few years.

"We had a hell of a lot of laughs, but in the end it just fizzled out and you think that's it."

There were great times and there were some great songs – Mick's status as a lyricist was never fully appreciated – so why did it all stop and come to an end?

The big break-up came less than four months after the band had played to a near sell-out crowd at The Town Hall and were seemingly poised to break through.

Trombone player Chris Walton departed, and Carl Finlow joined Gary Wilson as a second keyboard player. The new line-up worked on fresh material and re-worked their older stuff, but just two live appearances later it all came to an end.

Sean and Glenn both offer up the theory that the failure to secure the record deal they craved – Chrysalis, Sony and London were all in talks with the band – proved the final nail in the coffin, while James, a confirmed fan by that stage, reckons the band were simply drained.

"We had several record companies interested and basically decided that if we didn't get signed we would call it a day," reveals Glenn.

"There was talk of one company dropping the Real People and taking us on, but they had a change of heart.

"There was nothing forthcoming by the Warehouse so that was it."

Both Sean and Glenn are also adamant that the line-up change during the summer of 1991, when the brass section was dropped following the successful Town Hall gig, had nothing to do with their failure to secure the deal they craved.

"We were experimenting at the time," recalls Sean. "We were reducing the brass anyway, we wanted a change of sound, and I don't think that had anything to do with it. It wasn't because we thought 'we have to do this to get a deal.'"

Spiritual

That disappointing final performance at the Warehouse, their spiritual home, is the lasting memory of many Bridewells fans and that still galls the band.

"There was hardly anyone there and it probably shouldn't have happened," insists Mick. "We were having a bad time of things, we'd been messed around by record labels, we all kept sacking each other, and it wasn't the right way for us to go out."

But the band now have a chance to rectify their "unfinished business" and, judging by their recent low-key performance at the Primrose in front of a specially invited audience, the punters at Joseph's Well will be in for a pleasant surprise.

The songs sound as fresh as they did in 1990 – the extra guitar adds more power – and, if anything, the band are now better-placed to succeed than they were last time around.

"We are enjoying what we are doing and that's the big thing," adds Jools. "The songs are sounding good and, hopefully, that will come across on Friday."

For Mick, Glenn and Sean, playing in front of 350 people will be nothing new. For James and Jools it will be a whole new ball game.

"We're looking forward to it," smile the twins. "People keep asking about it, and it's going to be a real experience."

What happens next is largely down to what happens at Joseph's Well, but rumours already abound about a potential Christmas gig at a larger venue with the possibility of an accompanying release.

"There's nothing been decided at all," adds Glenn. "We're looking forward to Joseph's Well, but we're not looking beyond that.

"We'll see how it goes on Friday then probably sit down sometime next week and decide where we go next."

l For more information on the band, check out www.bridewelltaxis.com