What are you first thoughts when you hear the name Shed Seven? Is it derision? Is it indifference? Is it joy? Whatever it is, you have an opinion. Most people have. Some informed by decades of adoration, some by what the music papers said about them back in the day when Oasis and Blur ruled the roost with a little help from Pulp, Suede and Radiohead.
The band from York have been doing this caper for over thirty years now, and if anything, they are more popular than they have ever been. However, they had some rough to go with the smooth in the mad Britpop days of the mid-nineties. But why weren’t they liked? “I think it is because we didn’t play ball. We were talked about in celebratory terms in the beginning but I think what you were supposed to do was move to London and be seen in Stringfellows, stroking Peters hair, but we didn’t want to do that. We went to London, we partied but we always liked going home to York. But York isn’t a hotbed of rock’n’roll either so it was a bit crap that York got picked on a bit. I was told by a journalist in the mid nineties that they’d got a chart on the office wall saying big them up this week, knock them down the next”.
As gigs started to reappear, Shed Seven announced its regular Shedcember tour for just before Christmas. Due to the regulations in place allowing us all to enjoy live music again, certain requirements needed to be met, as we all know, to provide a Covid Passport or negative lateral flow test. Unfortunately, this did not meet with a couple of the band members principles for freedom and liberty, so they refused to play and quit the band. But this juggernaut stops rolling for no man (just virus) so the new members were found and as I sat talking to Rick on a day off in the middle of the tour, he was full of cautious optimism and an obvious zing in his voice down the phoneline when talking about the gigs so far. “It is just like it always seems to be but you forget because you don’t do it for a few years, but the love in the room is just incredible and it just seems to get more and more every time we do these Shedcembers. People just want to forget about the crap that has been happening and reminisce. Everyone has got to behave, we are getting people asking about aftershows or are you DJing in a club, but no, now is not the time for that, the gigs are enough”.
The day after we talk, some of the touring party tests positive for Covid and the bus hits the skids. Six dates, from Birmingham to Bristol had to be postponed. After how cautious they were being this is a kick in the teeth just as he was starting to hit his stride.
“It is intense, we’re doing 23 gigs in the 30 days. I have just turned 49 so when you get a day off you need to treat it as a day off. You get to the rhythm of the tour, but it now takes to about halfway through to remember how to pace yourself. You forget that your hips hurt doing that at a certain bit. But the way the crowd reacts, it is like we are 21-year-olds”.
Billed as “Another Night, Another Town – The Greatest Hits Tour” they are splitting the setlist as evenly as possible with some specials returning.
“We’re doing ‘The Heroes’ which is going down a right treat. I don’t think we have played it since 1999, it is satisfying for us as it is a different song and the way we are playing it, it sounds huge”.
They are looking to start writing in the new year with the aim of recording a follow up to their last record in 2017. The response to that was as big as it was in the 90’s, but the battle for chart placing is the same as it ever was.
“With our last album, ‘Instant Pleasures’, it was going to do alright because of pre-orders, but because something went slightly wrong with it, we had to push it back a few weeks, but if it had come out the week it was meant to it might have reached No.1, but because it got pushed back to nearer Christmas time when your Elton John’s are releasing their Greatest Hits, it just took the shine off it slightly for me because it went in at No.7 or 8, which is still great, but it would have been nice to have had a No.1 but none of it really matters anymore, you’re there one minute and the next it’s somebody else”.
Despite calling it a day in 2004, they reconvened in 2007 and haven’t looked back, if anything they’re bigger and better than ever, with no sign of stopping.
“We are noticing, there are 7 to 9-year-olds down the front, and they are singing every word, and I always introduce myself to these kids and say “how old are you” and I say they are the future of rock’n’roll, and if people of that age are coming and loving it, they’ll keep coming back so we’ll never get the opportunity to stop, which is brilliant, we’ll be the new Rolling Stones”.
The tour was able to start again for the London dual gigs at The Roundhouse in Camden, but as the Covid rates started rising again, there were calls for the tour to be postponed much like The Charlatans and Supergrass had done. However, after the pause in proceedings and the announcement that they were able to carry on, this was unlikely to happen. They aren’t insured against the lose of revenue and venues and promoters have to agree to rescheduling tours. It is a massive undertaking and ultimately, it is their livelihoods. So, to London we traipse for a proper knees-up.
Whilst a little sparsely attended than it would have been, there is still a positive atmosphere and the songs are still bellowed back at them. Rick engages with a 16-year-old at the front who has been dumped on a Friday, and ‘She Left Me On A Friday’ the big hitters are lapped up.
We left The Roundhouse to the strains of football chants of ‘Chasing Rainbows’ and one person in front of us said “Its life affirming stuff” and they were right. No matter what some history books might say about Shed Seven, the sheer volume of mass sing-along-hits out strips most of their Britpop era rivals. They equal Oasis and Blur and even out do Pulp. Their output spans decades and even generations as the children of their original fans are down the front making them their own.
Life affirming indeed.