Saturday, 19 April 2014

The Chaos Biscuits

For 3 years after leaving The Devices and going to Sheffield Polytechnic in 1979, I did not play any gigs. Mind you, I went to plenty. It was a great time to be in Sheffield; my first few weeks included going to see Siouxsie and the Banshees, Echo and the Bunnymen, Orchestral Manoevres in the Dark, the Dead Kennedys, and The Human League at Doncaster Rotters club. I had chosen Sheffield for its music; my aim was to see Cabaret Voltaire, which I did - at the fantastic Psalter Lane Art School - supported by Clock DVA.

My three years as a student were a rich musical banquet. I revelled in the fact that you could go out to the Limit Club and see Martyn Fry of ABC or Phil Oakey of the Human League out having a good time, and sometimes they'd say 'hi' to you. Pulp's Jarvis Cocker was a well-known guy around town; often to be seen in the pub which had hundreds of tea pots around the ceiling. Does that still exist? After a night out, the 2.30am late bus to Totley (7 miles) was double the normal 12p fare, thanks to the Labour city council of the time; they played Abba music on the night bus to discourage people from fighting. The art school students made Sheffield challengingly creative and there were hundreds of confident, stylish and original young people to feast your eyes on whenever you went out. A particular favourite was one guy who used to wear tailored suits in different kids' curtain fabrics. I never spoke to him, but I loved his verve. A few new club nights started up - always on a Monday or Tuesday - never at the weekend, and they throbbed with electronic sounds and art-school poseurs. I loved it; I don't think I drank alcohol at this time, and the clubs didn't seem to be big on drugs or excessive booze; it was mainly about the carrying-off of daring style.

During this time, I did still write songs, though. I was in a bedroom band, initially called The Chaos Biscuits, but then changing to become The Pandas. It tended to include a biscuit-tin or drum machine rhythm section (hence the name), me on guitar and a twangy bass. Sometimes I sang, and sometimes Simon Knott sang. He is now a highly respected photographer and historian of East Anglian churches. Another member of the collective was Anthony Kershaw Wilson, who got progressively interested in horoscopes and the Tarot, and now, I believe does it professionally. One song by The Pandas is called 'Sunday', and it was later recorded by PO! for the album 'Not Marked on the Ordnance Map' under the name 'Better'. I didn't manage to get in touch with A.K.W. who wrote the lyrics, but I did credit him.

  Mike McKrell, Ruth Miller, Antony K. Wilson. I am wearing a 'Girls At Our Best' T shirt.
Ant with Simon Knott
David James - part of the biscuit tin rhythm section

Simon, Mike, Antony: the boys in the band doing the kind of thing we did back then.


  1. Hi Ruth, the pub with the teapots was the Washington. Just a couple of points - bus fares were cheap because they were subsidised by South Yorkshire Metropolitan District Council, not by the City Council. When the Metropolitan Boroughs were abolished in 1984 the fares went up. Also, I am pretty sure I was in the same year as you at Sheffield Poly, and I didn't start till September 1980! I finished in July 1983 and I am sure you were still there then! But perhaps I am wrong.

    That Anthony Wilson was a DJ at the long-lost Limit Club at one time I think. Good to read your blog and see what you've been up to since Poly.

    1. Yes, I think you're right on all fronts; my memory for dates and details is very unreliable and I guess I thought I could ramble on about all this because nobody would know any better. Having not written a blog before.... do I go back and change/insert the info now?
      If your dates are right, maybe my whole CV is wrong then!!
      And who are you armchair Northerner?