Saturday 15 October 2011

Great Outdoors: Making Allowances For The Jargon

Coming from Birmingham, you learn to take the knocks. We’re always going to be in the shadow of London, Manchester, Liverpool…you know…’famous’ places. And Brummies have ‘that accent’…the one that TV producers and Advertising executives always use when they want to imply that a character is an idiot. If you want to befriend a native of Birmingham instantly, simply do a cartoon version of ‘that accent’. We love that. Hearing someone casually belittle millions of people with a mouthful of tangled vowels and catch phrases learned from ultra lowbrow TV programmes is a source of pure joy to us Midlanders. We have more miles of canal in Birmingham than there are in Venice don’t you know?…that’s where we hide the bodies of the people who try and do ‘that accent’.

This snobbery even creeps into Music. I’ve lost count of the times that I’ve been told something along the lines of: ‘Your band’s great…it’s a shame you’re from Birmingham’. Why? I’ve seen dozens of great bands come and go, making barely a ripple in the shark infested waters of the Music Business, primarily because of an accident of geography. Bah humbug. We did have a (kind of) renaissance in the 80s with ‘The Stourbridge Sound’. (Stourbridge is about 12 miles from Birmingham - a small but crucial distance). We gifted the world with The Wonder Stuff, Pop Will Eat Itself and Ned’s Atomic Dustbin. You’re welcome. Recently we’ve given you Jamelia (now, less a performer and more a talking head on game shows..) and The Editors. Annoyingly, that's the tip of the tip of the iceberg. High profile we ain’t. But we should be.

If it sounds like I’m bitter and cynical it’s because I am. Indulge me, please.

'Making Allowances For The Jargon' LP
One band that fell down the cracks that was particularly close to my heart was The Great Outdoors. Just as I was getting into alternative music (particularly the ‘Paisley Underground’) along they came. And they were from Birmingham, which meant I could see them live anytime I fancied. That plan was somewhat scuppered by their ‘revolving door’ policy to band members…in fact, one local wag insisted that the band’s full name was ‘The Great Outdoors Seek Bass Player’. Ha bloody ha. Only frontman/songwriter Martin Silvers lasted the course, helming the band through a short lived golden era (national ‘Radio One’ airplay thanks to Janice Long and …ulp…Mike Read), a split and a brief reformation. This album – ‘Making Allowances For The Jargon’ was as close as they got to The Big Time, which, in reality, wasn’t very close. It’s a solid debut album with a very big tip of the hat to IRS era REM and a nice Byrdsy jangle throughout. 

('World At My Shoes')

Two singles were pulled from the album: the first being a bit of an undiscovered classic – ‘World At My Shoes’ got the airplay and a bunch of positive reviews, but the band couldn’t quite capitalize on it. This may have been to do with the fluctuating lineup. In fact one of the members listed on the sleeve of the album doesn’t actually play on it. He did look damn cool. Hell, they all did. ‘…Jargon’ has long been deleted, but a retrospective featuring demos and some unreleased stuff -‘Not Quite Cinderella’- emerged in 1994 and is still available through Amazon -just hit the link. A third album – ‘Water Cakes’ was recorded in 1997, but never officially released.

'Bird In The Hand' 45
There’s some great stuff on the record – occasionally the playing is a little stiff, but the tunes carry the performances through. For one, shining moment, it looked as if we had a contender here, but it wasn’t to be. At least one track on here, the aforementioned ‘World…’ is definitely worthy of reappraisal. This rip is from my vinyl copies of the album and singles – the album stuff is decent sound quality, but the singles…well anyone familiar with UK Indie pressings from the 80’s will know what I mean when I say they have a certain ‘crunchy’ quality… It shouldn’t deter from your listening pleasure.

I hope I’ve piqued your curiosity, gentle reader. Give it a whirl – it’ll cost you nada and it may enhance the quality of your life.

(Trainspotters may also like to know that it’s a Pat Collier production).

Great Outdoors: Making Allowances For The Jargon

01 World at my shoes
02 Laughing stops
03 Bird in the hand
04 Heaven sent
05 Glass houses
06 Newspapers
07 What did you expect
08 Buried in America
09 Acid rain
10 Guitar is drunk
11 Some things
12 All I could do
13 Great romance


  1. Was waiting for this. Had an idea to do a GOD's feature myself! MS will be quietly thrilled.
    ahh the memories. Paisley, tambourines, outrageous pointy boots, rickenbacker copies,
    wrecking down the front, falling pa's,
    wonderful, stupid, misspent youth. XXXX

  2. ...I knew you wouldn't be able to resist this tasty treat, Mr SoS...

    I sit typing this having just removed my outrageous pointy boots (following an evening of listening to Stuart Maconie talk about his latest book). Behind me I can see a tambourine and a Rickenbacker copy (4001 but with MusicMan Pick-ups, just in case you're interested). In the bedroom stands a wardrobe with many an eye watering paisley creation within. I am sadly no stranger to failing PA''s only the wrecking down the front that escapes me now. Wonderful stupid, misspent middle age...

  3. I maybe confusing the wrecking with The Rag Dolls gigs but I'm sure it was the god's as well. Especially at Peacocks!
    Mmmmm 'The Rag Dolls'.
    Now there's a great live lost Brum band.

  4. Bloody hell. I just found this footage on
    You Tube for 'The Rag Dolls' in 84 at Peacocks.
    Who the hell had a video camera then?
    Is that the back of MC's head in the white jacket? I might have been at that myself? XXX

  5. Never heard of this band before. Sadly, my loss! Thanks, Rushbo.

  6. Back in the day, there was What A Nice Way To Turn Seventeen, initially a fanzine that eventually included first an EP, featuring The Rag Dolls -"Sparrows"
    and then an LP including both the Great Outdoors "Acid Rain" and The Rag Dolls "Lucky Smiles".

    Martin from the Great Outdoors was known to occasionally call me at home and if my father answered the phone he relished telling me there was "a bloke in a tent" for me.....

    When funds permit and I can get the Rag Dolls cassette into a studio to clean it up (unless anyone can find the drummer Carl Bevan who has the master tape) I'm hoping to liaise with Marc, Slim and Dave K to put out the great unreleased 1980's album that never was.....

    Chris 17.

  7. By the way, Radio One's Simon "Our Tune" Bates was quite a fan of the Great Outdoors singles too (well, his producer who told him what to play was.....)

  8. Hi Chris, From what you say it sounds like a studio album. Even a live one would be great.
    Hope it comes together.

  9. Glorious song, thank you so much for the info, seems very hard to find anything about these guys. I stumbled across them while looking for another Great Outdoors (the indie pop band from Hal Hartley's films, and equally worthy). This really is an undiscovered gem.

  10. Somewhere in my album collection sits this record and probably clos by is a copy of The WildFlowers album "The Joy of It All." I was very fortunate to work for the best record store in Philadelphia, "Third Street Jazz" which is very sadly missed. I am very pleased to have your download as I got the "Cinderella" Cd but it is not the same as this album. Thanks for making this guy in New Jersey very happy tonight!