NORMIL HAWAIIANS – WHAT’S GOING ON? LP

$18.00

“Following the release of More Wealth Than Money (Illuminated, 1982), there was an impetus to make good on hard won achievements. Rehearsal and writing sessions resumed in the early months of 1983 at Intergalactic Arts Studios, off the Old Kent Rd in London. IGA was a ramshackle, semi-residential rehearsal space where the Hawaiians – none of them ‘natural’ musicians – would often play and rehearse in the dark, recording demos onto cassette. Illuminated Records had been sending roster artists to Foel Studios in Powys, Wales for years, and it had become a kind of refuge for the Hawaiians. As Guy Smith says of that summer “Canary Wharf had been built. The squat scene was closing down. We had to get out. We got in the bus and hit the road.” Studio owner/manager (and Hawkwind/Amon Duul II alumnus) Dave Anderson was welcoming, unruffled and accommodating when around a dozen band members, friends and family emerged from the ‘mini-peace convoy’ of vehicles into the hazy, pastoral care of the warm, Welsh countryside. Although Foel was and is a residential studio, the very number of people who showed up meant some were kipping down where they could, sleeping in vans and cars for two weeks. Mixed tapes were then taken by Dave Andersen and Guy Smith to Charly Records’ editing studio in London where Andersen had worked and was able to pull downtime. Here they spliced the recordings into an irregular yet coherent, flowing work, Side One being intentionally and meticulously honed as a seamless and inventive narrative. Recalling the rudimentary nature of both the equipment and the demo tapes brought in, Snelling now views the end result as ‘brilliant’ though his initial feeling on hearing the edited and mastered LP was that the record had been ‘cut to pieces’. Final masters were then EQ’d and cut by Graeme Durham at the newly opened Exchange Mastering Studios in Camden. And then nothing happened. Unbeknownst to the band, Illuminated Records were getting into deep financial problems and by early 1984 were struggling to release label-saving albums from Throbbing Gristle, 400 Blows and Kevin Ayers. Meetings with company boss Keith Bagley were often held in dusty old daytime drinking clubs around the Fulham Road, but the label was in its death throes. Test pressings sounded good but the printing of the cover was all wrong. The cover image was too green, though thankfully a final batch had this corrected to a more appropriate sepia hue. As it became clear that the release was in danger of a catastrophic failure without the goodwill of distributors and promotors, the label gave the band 250 copies to sell as a ‘Sorry for Messing Up goodbye present’, but the record shops wouldn’t touch them. The company had been blacklisted. Smith and Alun ‘Wilf’ Williams screen printed the label name off the LP to distance it from disaster, but to little avail. This intricate, challenging and engaging work had been failed by poor circumstance. Upset The Rhythm released the re-mastered version of ‘What’s Going On?’, accompanied by copious liner notes, photographs and seven bonus tracks in the summer of 2019.”

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