The album was originally released on cassette only in December 1982. The Cleaners were affectionately labelled as the diy Beatles back in the heady days of cassette culture and Falling A fell in love with their sound from the moment we first heard them.
I was introduced to Martin Newell's music quite early on in his adventures into the world of cassette culture. Eric, my next door neighbour thrust a cassette into my hands sometime in 1980. The cassette was called "Diminished Responsibility" by the dubiously named Dead Students. I was blown away by what I heard and couldn't believe that it was not being played on the radio. This was pure pop music that perfectly captured the times. Eric couldn't tell me how to make contact with the Dead Students, he could only tell me that the person behind the project was somebody by the name of Martin Newell and that he was from nearby Wivenhoe. I later learned that the Dead Students were in fact The Stray Trolleys and the said album was actually called "Barricades and Angels" ... it's complicated!
Shortly after the tape was given to me I heard "Young Jobless" being played on the radio and matched the rather distinctive voice and sound. I purchased the single from either Parrot Records or Lion Records in Colchester (I like to think it was Parrot records in Balkerne Passage, as that was generally my record shop of choice... but that might be me just being nostalgic).
I am quite sure it was mere days or possibly weeks afterwards that "On any normal Monday" landed through my letterbox along with contact details and letter penned by the man himself.
Myself and Peter had recently developed Falling A into being more than a vehicle for our own cassettes and had started to take on fanzines and other independently released records and cassettes as a distributor and mail order operation. Martin wrote a compelling resume of his worldview to cement what the music had already achieved. As soon as "Night Starvation" kicked in on my tapedeck I was a huge fan. Unusual for someone who at that time was discovering the weird and wonderful world of avant-garde, experimental music but my impulsive reaction was that if pop music still should be made then this is how it needed to be made.
Falling A had recently purchased Terminal Music's entire catalogue and stock Suddenly we had a lot of releases on our hands and quite a bit of momentum. Most of the music we were handling could be best described as post punk or experimental electronic but the Cleaners From Venus gave us some pure unadulterated pop.
We quickly connected with Martin and headed off to meet him at the now famous Man At The Off Licence Tapes address, 21 West Street (surely worthy of a blue plaque). A collaborative relationship was established with Martin which lasted pretty much all of the MATOL years. He introduced us to a number of bands, diy labels and fanzines who we established long standing relationships with. I am pretty sure Martin was the one who introduced us to Viz Comic (in those days no more than a fanzine), we became champions of everything Viz and played our part in bringing it to the Southern counties.
I think the last cassette we distributed for Martin & the Cleaners was 1990's "Number Thirteen". This was probably the last Falling A release prior to us sloping off quietly into the setting sun.
Along the way we managed to get Martin and Lol into Sea Level studio to record unique versions of "Only a Shadow" and "Johnny the Moondog" intended to be released as a single but unfortunately other than a handful of promo's never actually saw the light of day due to other projects going over budget and having to close the shop which was a black hole eating up our money. It was an historic recording as I believe the only time that the inaugural incarnation of the Cleaners recorded together in a bona fide recording studio with a producer (Tony Smith). Lol had jumped ship a couple of albums prior to the recording and it took all of Martin's persuasive powers to get him on board. Somewhere in my loft I have a first generation recording from the master tapes and Martin's original proposed artwork. It was a great recording.
Tony Smith, the producer was so enthused by the Cleaners From Venus that he had one of the bands he was working with record a cover of "Summer in a small town" and quite possibly some of Martin's other songs too. Tony incidentally was the original drummer in the Buster James Band, a heavy rock band that were well known on the East Anglian circuits. He also recorded and produced other local legends the insane picnic, Spasmodic Caress, I'm Dead, The Temperance Bus Boogie Band were among them.
In an attempted resurgence of activity, Falling A also pieced together what was to be a compilation album sometime in the early 90's of the cassette years which featured the aforesaid rarities along with other tracks from the cassette culture years. The album was to be called "The purple love machine is incredibly groovy". Martin had remixed the tracks and it sounded to my ears at least as the definitive compilation of early Cleaners material. Sadly once again, financial and life gremlins got in the way as Falling A entered into another one of it's occasional slumbers.
In 2001, in a moment of synchronicity, a magazine (I forget which one) was interviewing Martin and he mentioned my name. This prompted a connection with Martin's website curator Paul Wilkinson who invited me to submit a track to the forthcoming martin Newell tribute album "Renewell". I called Pete and we decided that we would come out of retirement and soon found ourselves rather rustily in Rogue Studio, Bermondsey (fittingly owned by one of Tony Smith's stepsons) recording a rather psychedelic version of "The World Strikes One". It was never included on the album but was available as a bonus download for a while. To myy mind the track had potential but was rather incomplete. I suspect the compilers of the album felt the same. We might revisit it at some point. It would fit rather well with the planned Ermin Grud reissue of "The Narrow Path" ... anyway, we will see.
The "Renewell" moment is an important one, in that it was the catalyst that brought myself and Pete back into making music after quite a lengthy hiatus. It also reconnected us with Tim Jones and began our relationship with Stone Premonitions which is a significant part of what we are about today.
In the time between then and now our paths have crossed on a number of occasions and continue to prompt anecdotes reminiscing about how if we had the internet at our disposal back in the early 80's we would have been dangerous. We did of course have the wonderful Royal Mail and an international network of like minded creatives, provocateurs and those disenfranchised by the elite of the music business. That alone was quite a handful to be getting along with.
The Cleaners From Venus were an important part of cassette culture. The diy Beatles tag is not merely a musical tip of the hat but I think it would be fair to say that the Cleaners' impact was a significant landmark on the cassette culture map. LoFi couldn't have happened without some catchy accessible music behind it.
Cassette culture caused a bigger tremble on the established music business than it cares to acknowledge. The gate was now firmly open for musicians to do away with the record company altogether, to do away with the conventional routes of releasing material and this has been further enhanced in recent years due to the available technology.
What we have at our fingertips now is beyond our wildest dreams back then. It's a shame that we have a generation of musicians that are obsessed with fame and fortune as opposed to authenticity and purpose because the resources they have at their fingertips are far beyond anything we could even hope for. The possibilities are endless.
The latest Cleaners From Venus news can be found here