Inspiral Carpets - Biography
Inspiral Carpets, along with The Charlatans UK and others, are usually discussed as one of the baggy bands that wasn't The Stone Roses or Happy Mondays. But they were still a fine act that frequently wrote great songs. Though not as critically lauded as The Stone Roses or Happy Mondays, they spent a lot more time on the charts than either of them, reflecting the quality of their singles and the strength of their fanbase.
Guitarist/singer Graham Lambert began the earliest incarnation of Inspiral Carpets back in 1980 with Glen Chesworth on bass/vocals and Tony Feeley on keyboards. They named themselves Inspiral Carpets after a clothing shop in their hometown of Oldham in Greater Manchester and quickly amassed a following among the local Perry boys. A lineup with real potential gelled in 1986 when Lambert’s schoolmate Stephen Holt took over singing, Craig Gill joined as drummer, Dave Swift (after a dozen others) picked up the bass and, most propitiously, the owner of the band’s rehearsal room, Clint Boon hooked up with the group as keyboardist. Having previously played his Farfisa in The Mill (with a pre-Stone Roses Mani) his contribution proved instrumental in creating the band’s catchy garage psychedelia.
Soon the band recorded demos and circulate them throughout Manchester. Their sound caught on in the local scene and their fan base expanded thanks in part to their marketing techniques. Attractive t-shirts featuring the band's sunglasses-wearing cow head logo started popping up with the slogan “Cool as Fuck,” printed on them. A student wearing one at Oxford Technical was actually arrested due to obscenity laws. Of course, this only increased the popularity of the Inspirals as did their recorded debut, “Garage Full of Flowers” was included as a flexi-disc in the fanzine, Debris and the new line-up’s live debut opening for the Roses in 1987.
In 1988, the band put out their first proper release, the Plane Crash EP, on Playtime Records. The Manchester in-crowd had fully embraced Inspiral Carpets by then and they were beginning to gain fans on a much wider scale. But as things began to take off for the group, two members decided they weren’t up to the responsibilities entailed in fulltime band membership. Holt was replaced by Tom Hingley, who’d sung in Too Much Texas, a band that had moved from Abingdon to Manchester, put out a single and then broken up. Swift shared Holt's misgivings and his shoes were filled by with Martyn Walsh from hardcore funk politicos, The Next Step.
The distributor of Playtime, Red Rhino Records, was out of business before the year was out, so the group founded their own label, Cow Records (of course). Financing the new business venture with the money they'd made from their t-shirts, the next year, the band put out the Trainsurfing EP (1989). Their first single together, “Joe,” was an underground hit. Soon enough, major labels were listening too and subsequent singles “Find Out Why” and “Move” delivered on the promise of “Joe.” The release of “Move,” coincided with 808 State's “Pacific,” The Stone Roses' “Fool's Gold” and Happy Mondays' Madchester Rave On EP which together would further popularize the Madchester phenomenon. Instead of signing with a major, Inspiral Carpets signed with the London-based Mute.
Everything was falling properly into place for the band. A debut full-length, Life (Mute), was out in the spring of 1990. First single “This is how it Feels” landed in the top 20 of the British charts and the group played Top of the Pops. “This is How it Feels,” unlike most baggy hits, was unabashedly retro and devoid of the ubiquitous funky drummer beat that characterized the genre. Since 2002, it’s been reworked and used by Man United fans to taunt City. The next single, “She Comes in the Fall,” was a top 30 hit that led to a John Peel session and a spot on that year's Reading Festival.
A third EP, Island Head (Mute), was out before the end of 1990 and then the band next set about recording their true follow-up to Life. It came in the spring of '91 in the form of The Beast Inside (Mute). Unfortunately, the album was a flop with most critics. Perhaps the band had tried too hard to mature, but none of the bands associated with baggy or Madchester survived its collapse unscathed. The sales were hardly affected by the bad reviews and it sold well. “Dragging Me Down,” the biggest hit of the Inspirals' career, arrived in spring of the next year, followed by the accompanying album, Revenge of the Goldfish (1992 Mute) that fall. Despite producing three more top 40 hits, it was their worst-selling album thus far. Truly, it might be their best collection of songs. Devil Hopping (1994 Mute) was a response to the sudden drop-off, featuring a very straightforward, garage-inspired set that was likely required listening for the future members of Sweden’s Caesers. The LP features the strong single, “Saturn 5,” which put the band back into the top 20 ranks.
After Mute put out Inspiral Carpets: the Singles in late 1995, they were dropped. Soon enough, the band announced they would no longer record at all and they split up. Boon assembled the Clint Boon Experience. Hingley got together with ex-Lotus Eater Jerry Kelly to form Tom Hingley and the Lovers. Hingley put out a solo album, Keep Britain Untidy, in 2000. The next year, Inspiral Carpets re-formed and started selling out venues. 2003 saw the release of Cool As (Mute), a two CD collection of singles and rarities and another successful reunion tour. Yet another reunion tour occurred in 2007 at which point they re-released Cool As with a bonus DVD as well as Keep the Circle: b sides and udder stuff (Mute). And yet, to this day, the most popular thing about Inspiral Carpets seems to be those awesome cow t-shirts, available on their website.