Smart Cookies - Loud and Lonely
[Dream target date 1983]
our college courses ended in July, the Smart Cookies remained
in Leeds to concentrate on rehearsals and write fresh material
for a professional demo tape. Bob and Riff were working far
closer than before and as a result our sound was becoming more
guitar orientated with keyboards taking a back seat. The new
romantic movement was dead and we were increasingly drawn to
artists like The Smiths and Aztec Camera.
clearly unhappy with Russ and Rose's contribution to the band
and wanted them out. Russ too had noticed their diminished songwriting
role, but nevertheless thought the Cookies had developed a'
cohesive sound'. The split was precipitated by a
desire to bring everyone under the same roof in our victorian
terrace in Chapeltown, something that neither Russ nor Rose
could do. Losing Russ and Rose was a bitter pill to swallow,
particularly as we were only a few weeks away from a headline
gig at the Palais in Nottingham.
Rough Trade record exec, Rob
Worby, was shocked when we told him Russ was no longer in the
band. He always said that our Leeds Polytechnic gig was a milestone
performance and liked Russ because he thought he was such an
unlikely pop performer.
We were plugging Worby for direction
on how to break into the music business and he said that he
could probably get us a US tour with the Mekons. We went over
to his impressive studio loft one evening to discuss our plans.
Our teenage promoter Chris Cooper came along too and whilst
we were there had one of his really bad nosebleeds. I remember
him pacing around with a cup under his nose.
It was Rob Worby who told us
about us about a new multitrack studio that was being set up
in the basement of a Leeds music shop. There we met Ian Booth,
a recording engineer who had previously worked with Bill Nelson.
Ian was a really patient guy, he warmed to us and agreed to
help mix the drumtracks for our forthcoming Palais gig and subsequent
The music store started getting
all these MIDI-equipped instruments shipped in from Japan and
Ian had them all down in the studio. Suddenly we had access
to Yamaha DX keyboards and digital drum machines that were far
in advance of anything we had ever seen. I read the manuals
cover to cover and soon we were using MIDI technology to plug
the hole left by Russ and Rose.
Mavericks, Nottingham Palais
& Market Square.
The Palais gig was a great success,
largely as a result of the flyposting efforts of Chris Cooper
and frequent airplay by one of Nottingham's most popular DJ's
Jon Dobson. Suddenly the Cookies were riding a wave of teenage
hysteria and we were unstoppable. We resolved to stay on in
Leeds for a while longer to record a three-song demo with Ian,
with a view to getting it on the desks of various London-based
came, we were feeling pretty isolated in Leeds. Riff had surprised
us with a 'secret' marriage and that drove a wedge between the
songwriting team, especially when his new spouse came to live
with us at Sholebroke Mount. The atmosphere was tense and we
were also broke. There was a great deal of conflict, but we
just had to keep going.
months that followed, both Dee (Riff's wife) and Chris Cooper,
who moved into Sholebroke shortly after the Palais gig were
sent packing so that we could concentrate on the final push.
As the weather grew colder, things got really tough and Sholebroke
Mount became more like a prison than rehearsal studio. We were
losing weight, losing our hair, losing our tempers and having
to burn the furniture to keep warm.
whilst working really late, we'd get delerious and start laughing
at our predicament. It was a very bohemian, almost romantic
existence, but at the same time quite tragic. When
I wrote the lyrics to 'Loud and Lonely' the last track on the
three-song demo, it was really about the sorry state we found
It was November when I finally
closed the door to the empty shell of Sholebroke Mount, returning
home to my girlfriend Tracey (later to become my wife) who lived
in Nottingham. I weighed little more than seven stone when I
got back, my dream targets in tatters. Riff and Bob were also
in bad shape. Riff resigned himself to married life, he had
a baby on the way and had to get work. Bob remained in London
to pursue his musical conviction and enjoyed limited success
with a number of up and coming bands.
and Lonely is Beatleish and beautiful' one reviewer wrote, urging
the record companies to snap us up. But in striving for
commercial viability, the essential spark at the heart of the
Smart Cookies was extinguished, and like Russ and Rose before
us, it took many months to come to terms with the loss that
Copyright - Paul Fillingham
Last update - 11 September, 2001