Lawrence Haywayd, forever onward referred to simply as Lawrence, as he himself always would, formed Felt in 1978. Essentially then, they were a post-punk act. Lawrence himself would admit he admired the punk ideals. Musically Felt owed more to the 60s, although acknowledging the New York punk scene ( Televison, Patti Smith ) and such punk oddities as Vic Goddard. Felt would have this great combination of european influences via the classically trained Maurice Deebank, together with the untrained pop melodies of Lawrence. Deebank departed during the mid-eighties to pursue not very much in particular, as it turns out. Felt had by then already added sweeping organ lines courtesy of Martin Duffy, later of Primal Scream. Felt were less a band however and more of an art-project and would released ten albums and ten singles in ten years. They never received any mainstream recognition, although flirted with the higher reaches of the indie charts.|
With the kind of music Felt made, seemingly designed for a loyal cult following, it's pleasing to note that their leader was/is something of a good old fashioned English eccentric. We have plenty of stories of the mans legendary obsession with cleanliness. We have stories of how he only ever ate meat. Stories of him driving to a gig in a van without ever getting out of first gear. It's important to also note that with all of Lawrence's indie/punk ideals, that he also wanted to be rich and famous and heard by as many people as the glam rock stars were. It's all very well after all wanting to make a point, but eventually, you want more people to actually acknowledge said point. The 'point' of Felt was never made explictly clear, although Lawrence clearly wanted to do things his own way.
The first single he released was 'Index', a slab of primitively recorded guitar noise that has more in common with Lou Reed's 'Metal Machine Music' than with the pop gems Felt would later sprinkle across their releases. Getting together a proper band, ( lawrence, deebank, gary ainge and bass player nick gilbert ) they named themselves Felt after Lawrence listened to the way Television's Tom Verlaine would stress the word, also because of it being the past tense of emotion. Lawrence wanted Felt to release 30 minute reflective albums with the pop tunes coming out as stand a lone singles. The band would indeed pursue this tack for the first couple of Felt albums before merging both sides of the band together, perhaps to the displeasure of the more purist Maurice Deebank.
Felt as a band would never tour very often, Lawrence wanting to maintain an air of mystery. Such anti commerce yet artistically pleasing decisions clearly would hurt the bands progress in the charts. When signing to Creation Records in 1986, rather than release a pop album to capitalise on the modest success the 1985 single 'Primitive Painters' had attracted to the band, they released a twenty minute, all instrumental LP titled 'Let The Snakes Crinkle Their Heads To Death'. Lawrence would say he could do that as he was always looking at the wider picture. Ultimately however, as I said, it would harm the bands chances of success. Still, do you want to sell out or acheive success on your own terms? Most bands fall somewhere inbetween. Felt appeared to me to be on one extreme, if it couldn't be on their terms, then better to not acheive it at all.
Lawrence subsequently would launch the unashamedly populist ( in intention ) Denim. Ultimately, the artistically pleasing debut Denim 'Back In Denim' was one or two years too early to get caught up in britpop. The subsequent Denim LP, 'On Ice' seemed to be a retreat from making such artistic music to try and go for what Lawrence ( I imagine ) imagined the kids would like. 'Denim On Ice' was therefore a rather bizarre record of wonderful pop, deeply strange and funny lyrics that were somewhat childish, strange throwaway novelty pieces and the odd throwback to the artistic sensibilites of an average Felt record. That didn't sell either and Lawrence seems to never have quite recovered from it all.
Felt, similarly to such bands as The Go Betweens, were defiantly non-rock, having a more feminine appeal than the average ( male ) rock band. Felt were also very grey and far too arty to appeal to Wham or Stock Aitken And Waterman fans. It can be said that Lawrence has been far too clever for his own good all along, unintentionally 'sabotaging' any chances he had of pop stardom. Subsequent releases under the name 'Go Kart Mozart' seem to therefore indicate a further retreat, with 'moronic' yet unintentionally hilarious tunes about a building site and the Queen Mum. He still doesn't manage to sell very many records. Lawrence it seems, can never win.
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