As Naked Lunch Café prepare to host an exhibition of unseen early Shack photos, Getintothis’ Paul Fitzgerald takes a look back to the distinctly baggier times of the early 90s, as the band were writing what was to become their acclaimed and much loved Waterpistol album.
Yes, we all know the stories. The tales of self abuse, lost tapes and disappointment. The drugs and disorder of Michael Head‘s past lives have been much discussed here and just about everywhere else.
Framed in the context of his recent and long awaited return to peak fitness, rude health and sell out audiences at every turn, 11 years since his last release with Shack, 2017 saw him back to full Mick with the release of The Red Elastic Band‘s first album Adios Señor Pussycat.
The critics fell over themselves to heap worthy praise in his direction, and the fans, who’d never actually gone anywhere, found themselves fighting online to get their grubby mitts on tickets for his frequent gigs. And that’s another sign of the power of this man’s recovery. The workload. He’s simply never worked so hard. Rumours abound that he’s already started on a new record, less than six months since Pussycat hit the shelves. His label, Violette Records celebrates its fifth year in 2018, with more surprises no doubt in the bag. Times in Michael Head‘s life are good. The vibes are strong, and the mood is optimistic.
Back in 1990, Shack were in a similar place, forward facing and full of the chemically enhanced optimism of the era. The times were good, the mood distinctively baggy, and the wheels hadn’t yet started to come off. Head and the band were putting a brace of fine songs together, songs which would eventually go out into the world as the Waterpistol album, and were holed up in Crash rehearsing and writing most days.
Photographer Paul McCoy was invited to get some press shots, and joined them in their Stanley Street bunker for a session or two, as well as taking them on a somewhat sedated, neck-risking escapade across the crumbling roof of Central Hall.
A couple of the images were used at the time, but time marched on, the contact sheets were placed in a box and he mentally filed them in a section marked sketchily ‘in a box somewhere’, until their accidental re-discovery last year.
Picking up on the new energy of the Michael Head story, McCoy has now brought the remaining black and white images together into an exhibition titled I Know You Well, which will be showing at Naked Lunch Café throughout May. The launch event on Friday 4 May, coinciding with the Smithdown Road Festival weekend and is free to attend.
McCoy says, “We had some good times back then, its one of those hazy, sunshine memories for me. I shot a few gigs of theirs too. There was one in the Citadel I particularly remember, probably for all the wrong reasons. I’m glad we can get these images out again though, and Naked Lunch is a great place to show them. It’s a co-op, they’re great people, Smithdown’s on the up again, and the Café’s a cool space, run with all the right intentions, so its perfect for me, and for the I Know You Well exhibition. I’m really looking forward to it”
The exhibition will tour various cities after the Liverpool run, and will be at The Social, Great Portland Street, London in September as well as the Shiine On Weekender at Minehead Butlins in November.
The exhibition runs for the whole of May, from the weekend of the Smithdown Road Festival, May 5-7, and prints are available for sale.