In the early 1990s I attended Merchant Taylors’ School for Boys in Crosby. I had a good friend called Chris who introduced me to his little brother Matt. Matt had a friend called Charlie Turner who was also two years below me at school. After leaving Merchant Taylors’ I would often bump into Matt and Charlie at gigs in Liverpool. I was heavily involved in the Liverpool Music Scene and would evangelise to Matt about bands such as Proper, Gluebound and Deep End.
Matt and Charlie formed a punk-pop band called Resthome. I remember seeing them play at The Pit in Duke Street and it was obvious that Matt had the potential to be an excellent frontman. Charlie and Matt drafted in Ben Gordon on guitar and Bryan Johnson on drums and Resthome became Pinhole. Their young manager Simon ‘Shifty’ Ryder, operating with limited resources, did an excellent job in providing the band with opportunities and raising their profile nationwide. Shifty met Thrill City President John Robb at a Queens of the Stoneage gig and he (Robb) expressed his admiration for Pinhole and agreed to offer them a single deal. The band released the ‘breaking hearts & windows EP’ in 2001. It consisted of four tracks, of which my personal favourite is ‘Is This The End’, an urgent melancholy rock track. ‘City Living’ was also an enjoyable punk-pop tune, reminiscent of The Jam and The Undertones.
To support the release of the EP, a UK tour was scheduled and Matt and Shifty asked if I would tour manage the band. I had spent several years working for Hug Management at 51-55 Highfield Street and had several UK tours under my belt with artists from the Hug roster, including Space. I was also usually the defacto tour manager/guitar tech whenever Hug’s unsigned bands played Liverpool. Pinhole could offer no money, only PDs of a tenner a day – but because of my friendship with Matt and the fact that the rest of the lads in the band were extremely likeable, I agreed to captain the Good Ship Pinhole on its maiden voyage of the UK.
I was Pinhole’s tour manager for two extremely messy UK tours and numerous one-off shows. The band made it clear that they considered my most important duty as tour manager to be making sure that we were given the ‘bottle of voddy’ that had been promised as part of the rider. Copious amounts of ‘dirty rocky’ were consumed and everybody on the tour came close to losing their minds, with the possible exceptions of Jason ‘Jay Dog Fearnley’ (our rock-steady driver and drum tech) and Bryan ‘BJ’ Johnston (the band’s drummer). We also took a video camera on tour and filmed hours of footage, documentation of our descent into weed induced psychosis. Sadly (or perhaps fortuitously) the camcorder tapes were lost and the tour footage never saw the light of day. We would generally stay in Travelodges, usually in the same room, although there was one memorable night when we stayed at the legendary Columbia Hotel in London.
Other tour memories include:
- being run out of Hastings by local thugs who had taken a dislike to us
- being given a pre-gig Alice in Wonderland style tea-party in the promoter’s daughter’s bedroom before the show at Lincoln Bivouac
- listening to System of a Down and Soulwax in the van
- hanging out with Rat Fink Jr from the band Alien Sex Fiend
The band had a friend in Lytham St Anne’s who had access to a plentiful supply of mind and mood altering substances. The aforementioned friend had asked if Pinhole would be available to perform at his 50th birthday party and the band were happy to oblige. We rocked up in our red van to the Royal British Legion in Lytham St Anne’s, the band performed and then the party moved en masse to an old house somewhere else in town. The madness that ensued was something between Scarface, Heart of Darkness and This is England and at 7AM we were in the garden, chatting nonsense to an assortment of gangsters and hardcases. It took me three days to recover physically and over a decade to recover mentally. Often after a night of hard partying I would wake up and regret the events of the night before: after Lytham St Anne’s I woke up and regretted my entire life. A year later I was chatting with Matt and I mentioned the party in Lytham St Anne’s. A traumatised look flashed across Matt’s face and he whispered: ‘Lytham St Anne’s is an expletive as far as I’m concerned, Jules. Please don’t mention it again.’
A few months after the tour had ended I was with Matt at Hannah’s Bar on Hardman Street when Wayne Rooney scored his last-minute winner against Arsenal in. We were both Evertonians and celebrated wildly. A few months later we were hanging out at The Picket with Pete Wylie who said: ‘That commentator (Clive Tyldesley) really got it right with that ‘Remember the name!’ comment’.
Another highlight of that period was Matt joining me onstage at The Picket (and other venues) and singing lead vocals on a song that I wrote about our drinking sessions called ‘The Comedown Train’.
I travelled with the band to BBC Maida Vale Studios London for their Peel Session which was broadcast on 27 January 2002. The Peel Session featured four songs: Addicted to You, City Living, Is This The End? and a cover of The Clash song ‘I’m So Bored Of The USA’. It is a fascinating document, showcasing a young punk pop band developing their craft.
In my opinion, Pinhole’s finest moment remains ‘Morning Rain’, which was a double A side with ‘So Over You’. I would go so far as to say that ‘Morning Rain’ is better than anything that The Dead 60s would later release, with the possible exception of ‘Stand Up’. I was surprised when ‘So Over You’ received the lion’s share of attention, featuring in John Peel’s Festive Fifty in 2002.
Pinhole’s gig-of-a-lifetime came on 15th July 2002 when they were hand-picked by Green Day to support them at Newcastle Arena. Matt told Debbie Johnson in The Liverpool Echo:
It was great. It came about because they’d heard of us, and because Steve Lamacq recommended us to them when they were looking for a support. It was really great of them. We were the only band supporting them and they knocked back much bigger bands than us. They listened to our music from the website and liked it. They were really nice guys, and the singer, who has his own record label back in the States, is interested in putting some of our stuff out over there. It was quite an experience.
Pinhole changed their name, their sound evolved , and they went on to achieve success as The Dead 60s touring extensively around the world and releasing two albums. They are best known for their track Riot Radio which currently has over a million plays on Spotify. The Dead 60s disbanded in 2008.
I was exchanging WhatsApp messages with Matt the other night and I asked him about Pinhole. He said:
“It’s a part of my life that I don’t really think or talk about. But it was a great part of my life – and one that I should think and talk about.”