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 Everett True

Song of the day – 420: Trixie’s Big Red Motorbike

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Trixie's Big Red Motorbike - Adventures in Trixieland

Someone reminded me on Facebook how much I loved this band, round ’bout the early 80s. Never knew much about them, just that I loved ’em, the few songs I heard. I had the single and a shared flexi-disc with Clive Pig. That was it.

They turned up a few times on the compilation cassettes Lee and Geoff would make me of John Peel sessions. Purple paper. They were one of Peel’s lot, for sure. One did indeed wonder whether some of these bands existed outside of the BBC studios. No matter. Songs like this ruled.

I seriously don’t see how anyone in love with Talulah Gosh or the first Marine Girls album can resist either of those songs.

I’ve been looking for this following cover version for DECADES. It never showed up on the rather obscure The Intimate Sound Of Trixie’s Big Red Motorbike compilation (vinyl: 1996; CD: 2006); copyright shit, I’d imagine). I found it yesterday. I’m still in an advanced stage of Cutie Shock. (You are aware, I hope, that I was once photographed as a main participant in the anorak scene by Phil Nicholls for a Simon Reynolds feature in Melody Maker in 1987.)

This is like the fucking Mother Lode Of Cutie. You simply cannot get more … I’m struggling to find the words here … cute than this. I paid way over the odds for the original of this (by Jacky) on eBay several years back. I do not regret it one moment.

Here, have a gander at an old article from Plan B Magazine #40, while I have a lay down and recover. Brrrr. ‘White Horses’ by Trixie’s Big Red Motorbike. It’s stupidly quiet, but that really fits in. I still can’t really believe I’ve heard it again. (In my blissful ignorance, I always thought the cover was by Sophisticated Boom Boom.)

Music That Time Forgot: Trixie’s Big Red Motorbike
Words: Everett True

More than Grab Grab The Haddock (whose singer Jane once sent me a couple of postcards from Brighton). More than the giggly, Doris Day-loving Chefs (whose singer Helen I had the most enormous schoolboy crush on). More than the Peel-championed, Scots girl band Sophisticated Boom Boom (a band so obscure, they never even got round to releasing a single). More than Clive Pig or Keen or Talulah Gosh, or even that first Marine Girls album recorded in a garden shed. Trixie’s Big Red Motorbike were so twee they were beyond twee.

I mean, we’re talking years before C86 here. We’re talking back at the dawn of the 80s when girls had the monopoly on twee (honourable exception, Dan Treacy) – C86 was merely the sound of the boys getting in on the act, late as ever, and nearly ruining it all for everyone (as ever).

The girl sounded like she was about seven and out-of-breath (but that was a pre-requisite). The music jangled and burbled away to itself, jazz-textured and occasionally mock-cowpoke country, full of holes and silences. Harmonies were crushingly obvious but gorgeous nonetheless. Of course, the music came in handmade sleeves and on flexi discs.

Here’s what LastFM has to say about it all: “Mark and Mel lived in Shanklin on the Isle Of Wight[actually the Littens, a brother and sister, who recorded songs in Trixieland – their bedroom]. Perhaps they still do. They did a couple of John Peel sessions. They got their records pressed privately and sent a photocopied sheet for the record labels and cover, which you had to stick on yourself. Some of their songs featured the recorder, played in real primary-school style.”

Similar artists on LastFM include The Chefs, The Smittens, Girls At Our Best!, The Happy Couple – who look anything but – and Melody Dog. [Swoon! at the last – Ed]

I didn’t know anything about that back then, though.

It was ‘Invisible Boyfriend’ – scratchily recorded, voice occasionally feeding back on what had to be a toy microphone, drum machine, cardboard box drums (the bass drum was the bed), delicate melodies picked out on mail order guitars, sad childhood lyrics – that grabbed my attention, on one of the rare occasions I listened to John Peel’s late night show, round about 1983. (Whoa! Did he play stuff like that all the time?! Why didn’t I listen more?) It was so fragile it felt like it could break any moment (and kind of did, the way the vocals dropped in and out of silence). The other songs on the EP were just as alluring: a mess of gloriously bad recordings (they’d be called ‘field’ these days, if applied to other music) – the out-of-time ‘A Splash Of Red’, ‘Hold Me’ which was like amateur-hour Weekend stripped bare (no, not Young Marble Giants, since you ask), the school recorder-led ‘Trixie’s Groove’ and all the rest…

There was a flexi, ‘That’s The End Of That’ (double A-side with Clive Pig) – the sort of glorious summer-filled sound that once led me to proclaim in the NME that the flexi disc was the only format worth buying, the warp-factor adding considerable resonance.

There was even a second single, the ‘hit’, ‘Norman & Narcissus’ – a charming ditty in the style of the Marine Girls’ second album – but of course us hardcore twee kids derided it at the time as being a corporate sell-out on a par with the first Gang Of Four album. The Litten siblings disappeared back into Trixieland and – as one of Trixie’s more memorable songs put it – ‘That’s The End Of That’. (Um, right. Listening back to it now, ‘Norman & Narcissus’ makes Jane’s ‘It’s A Fine Day’ sound like AC/DC. Oh well.)

As one blogger put it, it’s the sort of music that makes you want to drink squash and wear a hair-slide.

One Response to Song of the day – 420: Trixie’s Big Red Motorbike

  1. Mark Litten December 2, 2011 at 12:00 am

    Dear Everett

    That’s a pretty fair assessment of the situation. We’re preparing this new retrospective thing now:

    http://trixiesbigredmotorbike.bandcamp.com/

    Can we use some of your piece in the liner notes?

    Mark

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