king schitt of fuck mountain…memoirs continued.

king shitt 1

it’s 1981,and after five years away from the place,i’m now back in northern ireland with the intent of forming a new band with myself centre stage as king schitt of my own fuck mountain.

the political conflict is in full fling with bobby sands on hunger strike,while the careless hand of maggie thatcher just keeps drizzling petrol on an already fizzing fire.
on paper,northern ireland in 1981 should be the last place on earth you’d want to be,but i and many others were having a ball.
there’s two things that can make the north of ireland pure heaven or at least bearable,and that would be the abundance of switched on hippies, and a good sunny summer.

 

within days of being back there, i was taken under the wing of the daughter and her husband of a family who ran the local jeweller shop in portrush.
they are the oldest family business in the town.it’s been handed down through the generations over a hundred years now,while her husband played groovy bass in a fantastic band called ‘the mighty shamrocks’.
he also plays bass for one of paul mc cartney’s guitar players,henry mccullough.
the long sunny summer had just begun,and they would have me sleep on their sofa,then wake me in the morning to mugs of strong tea,with a full fry up of a breakfast.
i was made to feel so welcome …..and we’re still good friends to this day.
for all of the troublesome elements of northern ireland,the only people i were meeting were talented musicians,teachers,university folk,and painters,
many of them out of their heads on marijuana and sometimes L.S.D or magic mushrooms.
i became more clued into music, breathing in that clean north coast air,than i ever could have in the throbbing heart of london.
there was one chap..a scientist who sailed boats from the harbour, who’d spark up a joint from his seaside living room,while turning me on to that wonderful brian eno/david byrne record.
there was an artist who was a keen surfer,blazing up his marijuana pipe, turning me on to john cooper clarke,while he quietly painted brilliantly with oils in his attic.
all these super smart hippies back in the little seaside town i grew up in, a long long way from london, were now exposing me to the newest records…

 

i even had a girlfriend…she was ten years older than me, with three kids,but it hardly mattered…
there would be a small cluster of girls in my life before i finally came to terms with being a shirtlifter,and i’m very glad i experienced that kind of intimacy.
this lady was a fierce vegetarian,read a lot…loved music….refused to live in the mainstream,and as result her friends were of that same milieu…
it was a good scene for a fledging songwriter.
my new friends ‘the mighty shamrocks’,who were permanently out of there heads, played in a cozy venue by the harbour ,
they’d drag me up to sing in my own right with them accompanying ,making it so darn easy for me…
i remember thinking,wow i can really do this…i’m broke…i’ve got nothing,but i’m not trapped…i was so high on possibility,thanks to these fine fine people.
they’d lend my new group their amplifiers and gear…share their gigs…big hearted dope drenched maestros.
i shat out lorry loads of naive but sparky songs ,which gave me the material to form my first earnest attempt at being a serious player…
but serious was my undoing, because over a short time i became the most serious precious little cunt you could possibly meet.
no one could tell me to loosen up..i was just on too much of a mission with too much to prove.
but for a while, there was a honeymoon…
my plan was to get keen young players..it didn’t matter how inexperienced they were…they just had to kick arse..which they did beautifully.
this worked for a while,only i suppose the drugs became a double edged sword.
on one hand they were unlocking creativity,but on the other, they were making me frightfully insecure ..
the marijuana wasn’t too much of an issue at this stage…
it was the cheap speed i was using to keep me up all night for the lengthy rides to and from dublin, for the lower price recording studio rates at midnight till 8.am.

 

speed is a terrible drug..it’s filthy..unhealthy…it makes you sweat…it made me even more paranoid than what i naturally am…and it lingers in the lens long after the comedown.
but drugs appealed to me for their creative possibilities..they weren’t a social thing..if anything, they turned me into even more of a loner.
but the end result was some recorded music that our well connected managers were able to shop around for a deal with.
a record deal arrived on the table in no time at all.
you would think after my first bash in rosetta stone,i’d be primed and savvy..but if anything i sort of went backwards.
my innocence was gone…the drugs had made me hyper,imbalanced and strange…twitchy..almost autistic in demeanour ,and i’d either over think or under think everything.

 

none of this was made any rosier when my father decided to commit suicide during the same month of us signing that record deal.
i never really got to know my dad…
he was quite elusive and distant,and the only time he really connected was when he’d be drinking in his pub after hours.
he was lovely with drink in him actually…he would relax and laugh…
he was very good-looking,had fantastic style…never made bad choices with his clothes..thick lustrous hair..and a face not unlike clark gable.
i have particular memories of him…one of him when i was around eleven years old, putting my first guitar up against the wall like firewood,then slamming his foot through it..
this happened on two occasions within the same year.
i remember feeling lost in the weird aftermath of not knowing what to do with these broken instruments..it seemed wrong to just bin them…
i can still hear the sudden sickening sound as they’d bust in two….twang…clunk…then silence.
he would always buy me a new one the next day though..
and another memory is when that thing came on the telly called M.A.S.H..
the theme tune would go ‘suicide is painless…it brings on many changes…and i can take or leave it if i please’….horrible record.
the strange thing was,my dad wasn’t madly into music,but he definitely liked that song a lot,cause he’d singalong word for word while smiling..
but i was too young to clock the weight of it.
i believe one of his brothers also jumped off this mortal coil in a similar way.
dear reader..don’t let these words paint a picture of a monster…he just wasn’t…he was pretty special actually..was never jivey..and he had a definite integrity about him,and ours was a fine home.
when i think back about him putting his foot through my earliest guitars,i sort of understand it now…
it’s not easy being a parent…mothers and fathers must feel like they’re cracking up a lot of the time..especially when it’s a big family.
a difficult thing was in the 1960’s he would be away in the far east for long periods of time,and during one such time i cultivated an excellent beatles moptop hairstyle.
he’d suddenly be back, and the next day marching me down to the barbers,where i had to be literally held down snarling and biting while all my loverly hair was chopped off.
how i hated those trips to the barbers…he was military through and through, actually marching me and a younger brother shouting ‘left right left right swing yer arms’
and he was always at me not to slouch…’stand up straight lad’….he meant well…he just wanted his boys to have good posture..but i was an extremely effeminate child.
it made me recoil and become even more effeminate.

 

here’s a picture of my dad…he’s third from the left.
i think about him a lot..as i get older i almost look similar him…it’s oddly comforting.i like him a lot,regardless of his ill judged exit from this world.
dad
and so it goes, my gorgeous new band called ‘perfect crime’ get this record deal in london with MCA.
the biggest mistake that record company made was meeting one of my demands in buying me the gubbins of an eight track recording studio…
once i wired that sodding thing up,the dear band almost became redundant to me.
a combination of marijuana, musical ego,lonerism,dads exit,and a DRUM MACHINE,had me bolting the door behind everyone.
i don’t think i’ve fully come out from behind that door to this very day.
this was wrong of me because previous to that blasted studio, this fab little band was like ‘gang of four’ fronted by a male version of bette midler.
here’s a photo…i’m the one with the dyed burgundy hair(wouldn’t you know it)
perfectcrime-mcilreavy-1
the drugs in the studio were making me creative to the point where i would loose the plot entirely,and recast my band as actors..
the excellent and able drummer was often replaced by a drum machine,and i would record him acting as a strict christian headmaster, caning the evil out of a school pupil,
and i would have the bass player channelling that pupil screaming,while we faked the sound of a cane coming down…
i thought it was magic..and still do
here it is….it ended up on the b-side of an awful single called’i feel like an eskimo’
it got reviewed in the nme,and a most excellent critic called gavin martin said “if gregory gray feels like an eskimo,he should fuck off to the antarctic and find one”,
on reflection, that’s hilarious and most deserving..
but here’s that magic b-side..i’m quite proud of it…the david essex ‘rock on’  bass guitar sound…my amphetamine vocal,with my band recast as actors…
dear reader…if yer impatient,the laughable drama occurs around one minute thirty seconds in.
naturally within a year of this record contract i was dropped for being a total nightmare…
the posh public schoolboy that signed us, who’s dad was a high court judge, found me to be completely unworkable,
but up the corridor was another posh boy who’s father was the editor of the mail on sunday,and he found my madness thrilling…
he pulled me to one side and told me i was going to be dropped,but not to worry…
he was headed for new pastures,and that once he’d settled in,he’d be in contact…he kept his word too.
i remember on the final tour of this fine group feeling very low and lonely..
it had all been such a gas opening for the early U2…orchestral manoeuvres in the dark…eurythmics,but i had fucked it up royally.
on the last gig in the coastal town of hastings, i took a walk after the soundcheck on my own,and saw this bookshop selling postcards …
it must have been some sort of gay scene cause there was this postcard of an idealised gay domestic household..
two men…clean…solvent..with their arms around each other…dignified..happy…manly and sexy…
i stood in the freezing wind staring in the shop window at this dumb fucking postcard of gay domestic bliss…..hahahahaha….fuck±!@£$%^&*
right in that moment it was all i wanted..i was so lonely….but i’d have to wait 15 more years for that.

 

another thing that threw me out into deep space is at the beginning of this chapter, i’d changed my name.
if there’s anyone with pop star blood coursing through their veins reading this,i have to tell you to think very carefully before making this leap.
i had no idea what a heavy lick it is to change your name…i can’t say i regret it,cause i can now see i was hardwired to do this at some point anyway.
the artifice of the pop world was the only thing i’d ever known..it felt as natural as the day to reinvent and transform…but alas,very difficult for anyone who’d known me all their life.
it never crossed my onerous little mind the hurt that my family would feel….
but it was something i had to do…a combination of utter pretence,creative impulse,and more than anything, a total lack of self worth.
i went from being paul lerwill,to gregory gray…i wanted something sumptuous and smooth,simply because i was/am not.

 

the tricky thing about changing my name is i’d end up with two boxes of people in my life…
there was the paul folk,and then the gregory folk…
but inevitably the two worlds would overlap in situations..
this would freak me out ,and i’d exile from the room sharpish, cause i hadn’t developed the élan to handle it.
i suppose the only way to handle such a thing is to say flat out to everyone..this is the name..my new name..get used to it.
over the thirty plus years,i’ve grown into gregory,but to make life even more confusing there’s now this ‘mary cigarettes’ business…
but that’s really a moniker for my new music,even if folk do call me mary sometimes,which is fun…but then shirt lifters are always calling each other mary..especially in america…gay urban slang.

 

my life story must read as a manual in how not to become successful..
but all turned out pretty great in the end,although there was a load more musical rough and tumble before i’d gain any handle on life.
in the next post,i’ll dribble on about heading back to london to record my first solo album,and all the joy and disaster of that.

 

dear reader…i hope i’m readable..
i enjoy writing it down,and the clarity i untangle from doing so.
always
mary of the sand dunes.

 

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30 Responses to king schitt of fuck mountain…memoirs continued.

  1. Richard malpas says:

    Well Gregory, I’ve never called you that before, seems alien…However, this episode in your life I see as a very difficult time. Finding the seclusion of your home-land and the escape from the madness. The incidents with your father must have had a confusing effect on such a young lad. Damaging your stuff, only to be replaced the following day. The terrible day when your father took his life ( I can touch base with you there, thrice-fold, you are not alone ) and finding how to accept what has happened, understand why, and adjust your life. It can go off in any direction.
    I wish I had the fluency of putting words to paper as you do…but all the same….The part of your story with the new band, the ‘ups and downs’, the dismissal and the discovery of a new life must have had a prolific effect, but has made you the person that you are.
    I find your story fascinating. It’s been busy and interesting and an enjoyable read. I want to say so much about this episode but I get a bit lost for words…so, best I don’t say too much, eh.
    Keep posting Mary ( it’s what I’m used to ) and entertaining us, looking forward to the next part…
    This would make an excellent book….

    Like

    • i’m very glad you find it entertaining ritchie….that’s what it’s all about .. the thing with my father was a huge gift … we got to see a bit of the world and all sorts….living above a pub as a teenager is an excellent education…it primed me for working in clubs at the earliest age….i think parents and children confuse each other..it’s a two way street.

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      • Richard malpas says:

        I can agree with that. When I was a child the family dynamics were quite disciplined up to a point. We all held every word that our parents said as Gospel..were never allowed to argue or put a point across…Then as I grew older and started to wise up to the World I could see through my own eyes, instead of theirs, and started to realise that some of the things they told me were cobblers. I stood up to him on a few occasions and was regarded as a bit troublesome, awkward…how opinionated were they..? Then as I became a parent they were there again giving good advise…hoping it would be done their way….compromise came into play. It gave good guidance, not in the fact that they were right, but guidance in doing things my way ( I know a song about that )…so I carried on, continually looking at myself and reminding myself who I am and what i was….they probably did the same when they looked at me….we all have faults, it’s learning to tolerate each others….

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      • and that dear man is what they call’evolution’…happy weekend ritchie.

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      • Richard malpas says:

        Just a quick one. I meant to ask what your Father’s role was in the Air-force. The people with him in the photograph, were they American or Canadian..? He was a fine looking man though….Happy weekend to you too…

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      • british royal air force…he was an airman..warrant officer.

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  2. Liz Munro says:

    I’m feeling sad. I think I’m relating your experiences to my own, especially because in the heady days of the early sixties i was in the middle of the creative maelstrom of lower Manhattan, and I was so talented and at the same time unknowingly self destructructive and fear-driven… full of fantasies: alternately highflying with creativity or completely withdrawing in a paralysis of insecurity… I didn’t have a reality handle on anything…let’s not even talk about relationships- i was too busy pursuing the most difficult people I could find. Fact is, I had a lot of work to do to
    get to know who I am and who other people are, and it has been a long and often painful journey.
    So, here I am now, after weathering many crises, living in a very rural area, where the mountains, the storms, the sea and the seasons play starring roles…
    I do have nostalgia for the whirlwind of those early exciting times – and at the same time I also remember the stifling fear and sorrow that seemed connected to frequent self-sabotage – this I had to untangle.
    I feel very lucky, Mary of the Wilderness, that I hear your voice.
    Thank you for your honesty and your sharing of your truth. and your music. …and thanks to the magical internet for making untold creative sharings possible: art, music, writing- new combinations,
    all available to make and to enjoy – it’s so inspiring that we can all be seen and heard. We can change this world no matter where we are. ( and be lone wolves when we want to be)
    Love, Liz

    Like

    • don’t be sad liz…how lucky you are to have experienced that whole lower manhattan scene…i’ve read a fair bit about it..ginsberg…dylan….and when i get to new york i spend half of my nights at the village vanguard jazz club on greenwich ave…i even lived there for a while,though that was in the 90’s well after the important party you went to was over….and really don’t be sad… the important thing is to know that the great things in life and the nightmares co-exist…that’s the way it is for us all..it’s cool.

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      • Liz Munro says:

        I know…..its OK to be sad sometimes- You are a kind man…i appreciate that….
        The jazz scene was great in ’61-2, gerry mulligan, horace silver, ornette coleman, lambert, hendricks & ross, thelonius monk, charlie mingus…(hung out with him at a bar in the Village called the ninth circle & ate free peanuts generously supplied) saw miriam makeba at the vanguard–you could get in practically for free at weekend afternoons at the small intimate clubs.
        The art scene was great too …people were always visiting one anothers studios, talking about our art and everything else…making money (bread!) any which way & then getting together to do happenings, mixed media events- musicians. dancers, choreographers, painters, sculptors-all taking part in each others pieces. This was at the Judson Church, Washington Square, mostly in their huge gymnasium.
        And then there was the psychedelic explosion, even before Timothy Leary hit the media… LSD was legal then…
        i had picked up a drive thru -from NYC to LA on the legendary route 66 -with a couple of guys who were working on the screenplay for ‘lord of the flies’
        & went looking for the ‘beat generation’ in san francisco, with ‘On the Road’ as my bible…i had missed it there by a few years!… but had found it in New York…
        So, on to Woodstock, the home of The Band and Bob Dylan, and now it became home for me too…. for some time…..
        As you say, ‘the great things in life and the nightmares co-exist…
        that’s the way it is for us all…
        it’s cool.’
        Very cool.
        Love, Liz

        p.s. in the photo i think your dad looks very much like jack kerouac

        Like

      • it must have been great to visit the village vanguard without it costing a fortune…it burned a lot of my money away on my last visit…sundays nights there with the vanguard big band blew me mind..you’ll know how tiny it is,but they squeezed a full big band..brass.grand piano..music stands all on to that small stage…i was up close and that SOUND?!..oh my..worth every penny really…the best bit though was waiting in the line outside..i’d eves drop on all these young jazz students..they’d be organising their time between music studies…jobs in restaurants,and jamming with each other..it was humbling listening to them orgnanize time to play with each other,and then putting their vanguard tickets together to get the cheap bottle of wine offer…the interior hasn’t changed since the bill evans days…..mike garson who plays piano for bowie told me how he went down there as a kid and learned so much there watching and listening to bill evans……i love you for being able to remember your time liz…so many can’t…i lit up when you mentioned woodstock..i spent a summer there mixing an album in albert and sally grossmans bearsville place…i loved hanging out at that tinker street cafe…such a charming little town…..i’m thinking you must have seen that flux or fluxus art movement during your time in new york while yoko was in them and beck hansens mother… what an incredible time to have been young and in the thick of things…i’m fascinated…happy weekend liz.

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      • Liz Munro says:

        hi..didnt know how to reply to your last message where you mentioned bill evans (LOVE his piano) fluxus (yes i visited john cage in his beautiful simple zenlike home in stonybrook): then al hansen he was great i guess his daughter was around ten years old then and stunningly beautiful. well i got on the net to look her up and see that she later hooked up with jack kerouac’s daughter jan in a band called ‘the whippets’!!!
        …this is a case for me of ‘when worlds collide!! my mind is blown- i gotta go get something to eat- more another time if i can sort out this reply thing on your blog…
        albert & sally grossman- bearsville-tinker street cafe- yes, yes…..
        Love, liz

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  3. Enthrallimg your (wroting ) voice is perfect , it’s inspiring me to paint more thank you , sorry I know your probably waiting for a sarcastic sign off.
    Pete of wallyworld

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  4. Nick says:

    MC, I keep thinking you must write a book as your writing is so captivating and your life seems so full of these stories…but then we get to, selfishly, read all about it here.

    I wish everyone on this blog could meet up one day in a small dingy Irish pub on the wild west Atlantic coast of Ireland – somewhere really remote and WILD – and just MEET. It would be a hoot. I think it would be so fascinating to see the wonderful mix and blended tapestry of people and backgrounds – all bound and come together, as Liz alludes to above, by this blog thread.

    Like

    • hi nick…now that would be my worst nightmare for all those people to be in the same room at the one time…it would be like mixing oil and water..but you’re right,it would be terrific fun for the fly on the wall…i hope life’s good in the emirates or dublin or wherever it is you are.

      Like

  5. Tim says:

    I feel slightly tearful having read this latest installment, quite why i’m not sure. I lost my Dad at 9 and I can also see some of myself in your description of him. More than once or twice I have smashed something precious in a fit of anger, only to replace it immediately ( a few mobile phones spring to mind)
    Some of what you’ve revealed was already knowledge to me as I have done my research and ‘stalked’ you these past 4 years. How time flies. But your last few posts have been a fantastic insight into a wonderfully colourful life. There should be a South Bank Show in your honour haha ! Here’s to another 30 years of Paul/ Flash/Gregory/ Mary whoever you decide to be, we love you.

    Like

    • hi tim..my name is gregory….simple….the music comes under the moniker of mary cigarettes…..don’t be at all tearful…this post wasn’t meant to bring anyone down…it’s the cut and thrust of life,and everyone goes through it one way or another…i’m pretty sure my life is no more colourful than anyone else’s,it’s just decades of writing songs have taught me how to tell my story.

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  6. Thanks for another really enjoyable read. Sorry about your dad it must of been a bad shock. I lost my mum when i was 20,we never really got on..maybe partly because i was young and rebelious(as you are) its not until you get older and wiser that you start to understand your parents.
    Cant wait for the next part..take care..love n luck sandy xx

    Like

    • yes you’re right sandy….i’m not sure if i understand my parents all the way,cause i haven’t become a parent myself…but yes…with age,you at least try to understand things from their shoes.

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    • hi sandy..it’s so lovely to know you read these things…i think rebellion is often a sign of high spirit…maybe we just learn how to channel it…’luv on ya’..[you’ll remember who used to sign off his name like that]

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  7. Neil Harvey says:

    thanks for another glimps into your early days of music.

    Like

  8. I stumbled across you by accident. No one else I know in Wisconsin, USA, knows of your name(s) or work. I feel like I found a treasure trove regarding your artistic work. I notice all the lessons learned in life phrases you stick into your songs that just about anyone can relate to. You’re a very interesting/sentimental character… Thank you for sharing on your blog! Also… Love, LOVE (!) your portrait, above, of you and the telephone pole. You have a great photographer working with you! MAKE it a great, and happy weekend! … Looking forward to your next blog update… Take care!

    Like

    • hi julie..i’m not surprised no one knows of me in wisconsin..sometimes i think songwriters are like little grains of sand on a vast never ending beach…so you’re very kind to say what you do..it’s lovely when someone picks up on what i do…thank you so much.

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  9. susi booth says:

    love your writing so much x

    Like

  10. Alison Bowater says:

    Hi Gregory,its been a few years since we spoke on my space but i’ve still been listening to your beautiful music .I’ve just been reading all your memories of your times with Rosetta Stone and Perfect Crime and its taken me back thirty years which is quite scary but its been so good to read them .I lost my dad twenty years ago he too was a very handsome charming man but couldn’t cope well with life ,i seem to miss him more now than ever .
    Keep singing your beautiful songs and be happy,
    Regards,Alison
    PS It was me that gave you that Spandau Ballet Album xx

    Like

  11. ali !!! i know what you mean about your dad.. sometimes i think it’s because now that we’re nearer our parents age,we feel closer to understanding how life would have been for them…it all sort of falls into place..i dunno if i’m making any sense….but yes,i will stay happy singing and writing away,and cherish that i still have contact with lovely dolls like yourself for an audience…i cherish this and our memories a lot…..thank you for that record ali..it got played loads and loads…i loved ‘to cut a long story short’.

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    • Alison Bowater says:

      I just wanted to tell you how well i remember the last time i saw you .You were playing the Marquee Club in London i think it was the day before the Hastings gig you mentioned .You may not remember but you played Sensual and though the room was packed you could have heard a pin drop.You were the best i’d ever seen you .
      I didn’t go to the Hastings gig i remember wandering around London thinking i should go back to Birmingham instead of following this gorgeous man round the country so that’s what i did .
      How great it is that so many years on i can read your lovely memories of that time good and bad .
      Hope your enjoying this typical wet English Sunday xx

      Like

      • it’s freezing,windy and wet,ali…..i try to enjoy the rain,and feel the romance of strange weather,but i understand folk craving a little more sunshine….yes..happy and sad memories all mixed in together ..i take care of it all,and with feet in the present writing the new songs…it’s the writing of new songs that stops my mind from turning into jelly..i feel so very lucky to have that in my life…new music keeps me going forward..i’d be lost without it…..i have great memories of birmingham..living in edgbaston…brummie folk are very homey and warm…and i loved sunday nights at barbarellas…or going into asda in the bullring from my weekly shopping! hahahahhahaha….happy sunday ali.

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