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[Melody Maker, 1996]


WE'D got the television up onto the windowsill, Taylor and I, with every intention of throwing it out, because just once, at least, you have to. We were hampered only by the ariel lead's refusal to unplug itself, by our own helpless laughter, and by the fact that Kenickie were hitting us with pillows, shoes, cans, chocolate wrappers, threats, insults and anything else non-life-threatening that came to hand.
  It's not like we didn't have permission:
  “Don't trash my room!” snapped drummer Johnny X.
  “It's my room too,” Marie Du Santiago snapped back. “You can trash my half.”
  The TV was in her half.
  Anyway, this was Hampstead. Glenda Jackson's constituency. They could do with having the occasional telly dropped on them.
  Crisis over, Lauren Laverne went back to lying prone on the hotel bed, eyeing my tape recorder as if it might be planning to steal her drink. Marie lay on Lauren's back.
  “I don't mind,” said Lauren, “because Marie's got really big boobs, so when she lies on me she feels all squishy.”
  “Thank you,” replied Marie, graciously. X wrapped himself up in a bedspread from which the occasional muffled interjection was to be heard. Taylor lay on the floor and interrupted what passed for an interview.
  “It's been an intense night,” mused Lauren.
  “It was a brilliant night,” Marie said. “No, it was.”
  “Anyone got any illegal drugs?” wondered Taylor.
  “I've only got legal drugs,” X apologised.
  “Insulin!” cried Lauren, “bring us insulin!”
  “Shhh-shhh,” hissed X, loudly. “Be very quiet, like doormice.” He threw a ball of foil at the giggling Marie.
  “The perfect end to a perfect day,” she sighed. “X spills two drinks on us, and then throws things at us.”
  “I have danced to Motown tonight,” X solemnly announced. “I have had one of those Proustian experiences which will probably come back to me later in life.”
  “Intensive highs and intensive lows,” agreed Marie. “No, X, please don't be doing that. Too much leaning. Too much body contact.”
  Then it went quiet for a while, save the gentle thunk of a closing minibar door.



  1 bottle vodka
  1 bottle gin
  1 bottle Malibu
  3 litres freshly-squeezed orange juice
  1 bottle Diet Coke
  1 bottle slimline tonic
  1 packet fags
  1 pair Aristoc tights
  1 more bottle vodka.

  That should do it.
  “When I drink,” reasoned Lauren, “I get ill. So I'm going to keep on drinking until I don't. I'm not going to stop until my body submits to my will.”
  Lauren had been taken to hospital during Kenickie's last tour after Marie found her passed out on the toilet floor after a night in Brighton. Kidney problems, it turned out, brought on by exhaustion and exacerbated by alcohol. Not bad for a 17-year-old. Not good for anyone.
  We dragged it all back to the hotel and prepared for the evening ahead. Vodka and orange for me. Gin and tonic for Emma-Kate Montrose. Vodka and Galaxy chocolate milk drink for Lauren. Wish I'd thought of that. X seemed disappointed we hadn't brought back whiskey. He should have joined us on the supermarket run.
  Marie decided to keep the Minnie Mouse ears on for the night.


A PHOTO shoot.
MARIE (in Minnie Mouse ears; beseechingly): “Do not go. I love you.”
LAUREN (in Portuguese Marines cap provided by photographer Lili Wilde; with heartrending dignity): “I must go. My country needs me. I love you also. But I love the navy more.”
  They kiss. Music swells. Credits. The end.


SIMON Price welcomed us into his flat, started up his rotating slide projector - Human League - Soviet Poster - Kenickie - Nancy Boy (“Fancy Piece!”) - and played tunes for us while we finished the vodka. Max Don't Have Sex With Your Ex. People Are Still Having Sex. Some buried gene deep in Emma and Lauren's biological make-up prodded them in the direction of the kebab shop. I joined them. We needed more vodka.
  In a takeaway off the Holloway Road, the owner greeted them and asked when they were heading back to Sunderland. They looked perplexed. They couldn't remember having spoken to him before.
  “That's the story of our life at the moment. The kebab shop man knows you and you don't know how. We've been in there that often.”
  Back at Pricey's we dispatched the fresh vodka as Simon assembled his Motown records for the night ahead and the images flicked up on the wall: Massive Ego - Orlando (“Nature's Hated!”) - Kenickie - Bob Dylan.
  “I'm sorry,” X was saying to Lauren, with whom he shares a set of parents. “I'm so sorry. I'm so sorry I pistol-whipped you when I was seven.”
  “I'm sorry I pinched your dinner,” Marie offered. “I never meant it. It was a joke. I know you didn't see it that way. It was Claire Russell's idea.”
  “Two tragic events in my life,” recounted Lauren. “When I am four, I am pistol-whipped by my brother. When I am six, my best friend colludes with the class prefect to steal what I love. My Golden Wonder cheese and onion crisps, that I love, and I have never, ever got over it. And I loved them. And she stole them. And I never forgave her for a decade. We sorted it out last year.”
  “I was only trying to make an impression,” whimpered Marie.
  “Am I a bitter man?” X considered. “Top Trump cards are the source of my resentment. Someone tried to make me give them away and I wouldn't. What? Don't you be shittin' on my parade, bitch. You frontin' on me?”
  “Asshole,” retorted Marie. “Fuck yourself. Fuck you, fuck your family, fuck the scabby dog you rode into this flat on. I know where you live. Why am I drinking?”
  “You think you be fly? Nigger, please.”
  Until you have heard this in a Sunderland accent, you haven't heard it at all. We filed out to the taxis, X rhyming to himself: “'Max don't have sex with Johnny X, it will make your life complex . . .'”


THE high point of the evening, in retrospect, came when Marie won the erotic dancing competition at Uncle Bob's Wedding Reception. Pricey was playing early Motown, we were all agreeably drunk, and The Four Tops were booming out Reach Out, I'll Be There, although when X matched actions to the words, he inadvertently sent two glasses and their contents hurtling across Marie's blouse. The prize cheered her up: a collection of Seventies annuals from Bunty and the like.
  “I won it without even dancing in an erotic manner,” confessed a bewildered Marie. “Except last time I was there, I danced in a manner that was so erotic, right, it may account for this time as well. That was down to the full bottle of vodka and other miscellaneous drinks that the perves at the bar got me. They'll buy you drinks; perve on you, but buy you drinks. So the vodka and the assorted perve drinks, that was the day the dancing was so erotic that people couldn't look.”
  That was the day that Lauren heard a crash from the temporarily abandoned bar and, assuming Marie must be involved, went to check on her. “Was that you?” she demanded. “Noooo,” said Marie, hiding her bleeding hand behind her back, her gaze fixed far away from the Smirnoff bottle shards on the floor, a cube of unmelted butter nestling under her tongue.
  A passing punter handed Lauren a clothes peg. She looked at the inscription. It promoted a club up North. “I speet on your Northern pegs!”
  It was all downhill from there. Pricey finished his set and took his records home. The guest DJs cleared the floor with old Latino tunes. I ran into X in the toilets and began drivelling the praises of mixer taps: “One of the great inventions of the century.” X agreed. A passing Londoner wanted to know if he was Geordie or a Mackem.
  “A Mackem,” said X.
  “I'm amazed you've heard of mixer taps at all,” sneered the interloper.
  I wasn't having this. “This man,” I snarled, indicating X, “is a pop star. He is privy” - I had

not intended the pun, but in hindsight it was rather nifty - “to a level of sophistication you can only dream of. I will not,” I insisted, “hear another word against him. He is a man of culture, understand?”

Elsewhere, things were getting ugly, in the best traditions of teenage nights out. Marie had found herself a fancy piece by the bar and swiftly struck up a close personal relationship. A friend of the band, nursing a fierce but unrequited hankering after Marie, broke down completely at the sight of this. Eventually Emma had to take him home and talk him down from the ceiling. By the time we got into a cab, Taylor, X and I swearing drunkenly at the pre-teen hoodlums trying to spit at us through the window, a bewildered Marie was close to tears, her head on Lauren's shoulder as Lauren tried to reassure her.
  “Does it come as a revelation to you,” I asked, “that the ordinary actions of your lives can impinge on other people and hurt them?” Pretty damn lucid for a man with more grain alcohol in his veins than plasma.
  “Oh God, what an awkward question,” fretted Marie.
  “Yes, it is a revelation,” Lauren said. “Because we never had serious lives, did we, Marie?”
  “You know our song, Come Out Tonight, right, if you hear the words, that was all our life.”
  “Now all our life is like The Sisters Of Mercy by Leonard Cohen.”
  “No, our life is like The Crystal Maze.”
  “We've got love children all over Britain.”
  “That's plainly not true, Marie.”
  “The Cowboy Song, you know what that's about?” said X gleefully. “It's about fucking cowboys in their big stiletto heels. And chaps. Spurs jangling as they bash off the headboard as you 69 them. That's exactly what it's about, right? To a T. I have had my hand on many a cowboy pistol in my time, I can tell you.”
  “You liar,” remonstrated his sister. “You're a stranger to cowboy pistols.”
  “Are you a greenhorn who's never had a cowboy experience?” I asked.
  “No, I'm a landlubber who's never been with a seaman.”
  “Oh, shit!” wailed Lauren, “I've got Emma's purse. How will she get home? Oh no. Oh shit.”


“WHEN my boyfriend walks in a room, he wants everyone to think,” - here Lauren uncannily mimicked a brass-laden Sixties thriller soundtrack. “But actually I think,” - theme music from Tom & Jerry.
  “If you were a film score,” I queried, my eyes by now more than a little glassy, “what would it be?”
  “The Piano,” said Marie, “because it's very complicated and wins prizes.”
  “Marie would be Midnight Cowboy,” reckoned X, “because she is nasty, brutish and very short - yow! Aaah! Owww! In the words of John Stuart Mill - yowwwwww!”
  “Wasn't that Cardinal Wolsely?” I said.
  “You got milk all over my jostlers,” fumed Marie, slackening her assault on X. “Now, rub it off.”
  Lauren peered at the bottle in her hand. “This isn't the classiest wine I've ever drunk,” she said, “but right now, it's the best.”
  “It's cat's piss!” snorted Marie.
  “Yes,” I agreed, “but it's a good year of cat's piss.”
  “Is it Cast piss?” demanded a quite recovered X. “Have Cast pissed in that bottle? Has John Power stuck his tiny wee knob in there?”
  “That's why I've got my tongue so far down the neck,” said Lauren.


“KENICKIE have got the best cheekbones in rock. And the best songs.”
  As it happens, the new EP is a bit of a gem. A collection of gems. But I wasn't about to say so. Call me Mr Raider. Call me Mr Wrong. Call me Mr Drunk. I probably didn't even remember there was an EP by that stage.
  “Those are the two things that matter,” assented Marie. “Cheekbones and songs. We know how to put blusher on anyone. Now Lauren and I are going to have a girls' talk.”
  Lauren (tiny voice): “Marieee, Marieee, have you gone all the way yet?”
  Marie (tinier voice): “Yes.”
  Lauren (tinier still): “Did it hurt?”
  Marie (almost inaudible): “No.”
  “I used to like a thuggish nature in boys,” confessed Lauren, “and the will to buy me drinks. But I'm different now. One of my ex-boyfriends nutted two girls in a nightclub in Sunderland last week.”
  “In an ideal world,” Marie said, with a true flair for non-sequiturs, “Europe would form into a superstate with Kenickie at its helm. And then Europe, Asia, Africa, all the continents would unite. Australasia. And we would be emperors of it, and we would sort it out. We'd make them all stop it.”
  “We wouldn't sort it out,” said X. “We'd fuck it up like we do everything.”
  “Marie would make a law against fucking things up,” retorted Lauren, ever protective.
  “You don't go to prison, you lose a limb.” Marie warmed to her theme. “And you don't even get to decide which limb. I choose.”
  “The point of Kenickie,” confided Lauren, “is that we're four people who laugh at the rest of the world. Sometimes we laugh with the rest of the world, but mostly at. Their clothes. Dodgy hats. Mullets. Tight jeans. The worst thing about the rest of the world is that they don't know who we are. Once they know who we are, what we do, the records we make, they'll feel a lot better about themselves.”
  X returned to the fray: “Musicians and morality are intrinsically linked, and you know why? Because if you play guitar well, you're obviously a nice person.”
  “What does that make me?” Marie wanted to know.
  “It makes you a bitch cow from hell.”
  “It's probably a good thing Emma isn't here,” said Marie. “She gets really serious and then her and X fight.”
  “I should be really frivolous, should I,” X blustered, “ and say things like, ‘Wa-ha-hey, I really love wallpaper!’”
  “We could talk about sexual immorality and shagging,” I ventured, remembering momentarily I was a journalist and feeling for all the world like Derek Kent.
  “Go ahead,” Lauren said. “No, wait, our mams are going to read this. There is none. Shagging is wrong. Don't ever have sex, ever.”
  “The link between music and sex,” said X loftily, “is tenuous.”
  “Tenuous?” I hooted, outraged. “They're the same thing!”
  “Dave,” Lauren gently enquired, “when was the last time you had sex?”
  “When I was a kid buying seven-inch records,” said X, “it never once occurred to me to ream one of those discs. It never crossed my mind.”
  “No sex or drugs,” said Lauren. “Oooonly rock'n'roll.”
  “You spilled beer down my cleavage!” shouted Marie at somebody on the other side of the room.


“WE ACT like 30-year-old men now,” Marie said, “because those are the people we knock about with. It's seriously true. We lech at fancy pieces. We say how many times we'd like to shag them and in what ways. We drink as much or more.”
  “Maybe you and Emma,” conceded Lauren, “but since I was ill, I've been totally different. Six months ago I was seriously strong. Now I'm just tired. Tonight I had the worst three moments of my life. Number one, one of my friends went mad and was really scary, and I was locked in with him. Number two, my other friend started crying because my best friend was trying to live her life. Number three, I lost my rhythm in the middle of a Motown classic.
  “But,” she added, brightening, “I did get to spray Marie with mock champagne when she won the erotic dancing contest.”
  “Goodnight, Lauren,” I replied, Waltons-style. “Goodnight Marie. Goodnight X. Goodnight Emma, wherever you are.” I went to bed and forgot to hang out the Do Not Disturb sign.
  Sometimes I wonder if we aren't all getting too old for this. Even Kenickie.
  Naah. Probably not.


FANCY PIECE: desirable individual
SPENK: Unworthy, unpleasant and doubtless also undesirable individual
GEGGY SPENK: A spenk with spectacles
EMICAB (pron. emmycab): a form of transport funded by the ever generous gramophone company EMI (see also emicigs, emidrink, etc.)
FANCY PIECE: an individual even more desirable than the last fancy piece

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