Don't quaestion everything…


NME – 22 Feb 1992


Watch out Michael Jackson - LEVITATION know you're a pharaoh-loving tool of The Pentagon out to brain-wash the universe! "Erm, right," says KEITH CAMERON, as he flies to Planet Bickers for a lesson in confusion.

Stardate: December 1990. Place: a dressing room, somewhere in Paris. Bad vibes are in the proverbial area.

Terry Bickers announces on Snub TV that he's had enough with the music biz, particularly the music press, and along with his newly recruited band of cosmic cowboys, is off to Holland, a mythical land of free love, free drugs, and free hundred odd miles away from the stench of London. Over and out.
Stardate: February 1992. Place: a city riverside haunt, with Cap'n Bickers and friends holding court. Glasses are clinked, coffee is supped and vegetarian snackettes munched. The vibes, it has to be said, are very good. One thing, though - this is not Amsterdam. It's 'Ammersmith. And this is Levitation talking to the NME.

Oh Terry, Terry, so contrary, how does your garden grow with so much bullshit?
"It's still a thought in the mind," protesteth he. "It's nothing concrete, y'know, just yet another possibility. We could go anywhere in the world, we could go to Mexico, set up there and make music and still make enough money to live. It's just where and how you choose to do it."

As for the music press...

"I still consider the music papers to be the last bastion of the free press, like Radio 4 sometimes is the bastion of sanity on the airwaves. As the free press goes, it's just Living Marxism, the music press and Socialist Worker.

Bullshit, bullshit and thrice bullshit! Terry knows perfectly well that the music press is a corporate cog in a corporate wheel, but his habit of saying one thing one minute then contradicting it the next sums up his volatile muse perfectly. This is, after all, the weird and waffle-full world of Levitation, where there's nothing to lose but your mind.

THE STATE of Terry Bickers' mind - and how much is left - has informed most of the gabbing about his current band. Ever since this tall, foppish good-looker fled The House Of Love at the toe-end of '89, the music industry grapevine has reverberated with stories of varying plausibility, claiming among other things that the boy was, a) living the rock 'n' roll lifestyle to its unhealthiest extremes, b) undergoing psychiatric treatment, or c) dead. About the only definite conclusions to be drawn about his activities in the last two years are that (c) has yet to transpire and all his musical energies have been poured into assembling...

...Levitation, where kindred spirits are the name of the game: guitarist Christian "Bic" Hayes, ex-Cardiac and permanently nervous waif, who reputedly chews Ecstasy during gigs; bassman Laurence O'Keefe, purveyor of bluff good humour and the occasional intense one-liner when required; straggle-haired and wide-eyed rave freak Dave Francolini on drums; and keyboard-guitarist Bob White, a man with the sober demeanour of a lab technician.

With their torrid, self-indulgent psychedelic stew suggesting a passable approximation of advanced mental collapse, Levitation certainly have little truck with the perceived restraints, musical and otherwise, Bickers felt in THOL. And on encountering this five-headed monster in conversational mode, one is bound to conclude that a little madness in our lives is a good and necessary thing.
Someone who certainly agrees is Geoff Travis. He saw Levitation 19 times before concluding they were the future of rock 'n' roll and signed them as the flagship act for the newly re-established Rough Trade. Indeed, the band are being touted as the label's "biggest long-term commitment since The Smiths". But they'll have to get their butts in gear before Bickers & co shift anywhere near as many units as the Moz mob.

For proof, check the new "World Around EP", which contains one stridently groovy metallic assault, one frazzled instrumental and one for-weird-beards-only puzzle concoction, and just try and take it all in. Some will be dazzled by the sheer unfettered imagination, others will recoil at the lurid soundscapes, but with Levitation, what you hear is what you see is what they are - five people who can't agree on anything.

Rough Trade have their work cut out with you lot if they want to sell bucketloads of records.
"If they're talking in those terms then they're not talking our language," says Terry. "No-one dictates in this band." He pauses, then effects a mental leap of such fantastic ambition that it's no wonder Levitation sound as implausible as they do. "Look at Michael Jackson. What does that new video mean? He's saying he's Tutankhamen, basically, and he wants the world to operate with everyone as slaves under the Michael Jackson hierarchy. They want to bring back the f---ing pharaohs! They want us to build pyramids to the f---ing corporates, they want to enslave us all again under the guise of all hail Michael. Don't you see that?"

Ahhh...A quick survey round the table at this point sees Bic nodding intently, Laurence smiling to himself, Dave's face contorted by bewilderment and disgust, and Bob exuding calm disinterest.
"That's where reincarnation comes in," continues Terry, mercilessly, "They're still trying to create what the Egyptians prophesised as the second and final death. That's the disintegration of souls - if you have a nuclear apocalypse all the souls get dispersed through electromagnetic force-fields, they all disperse into complete chaos and total waste. A void. Hell. That's the way I look at it."

Erm, right Terry, you're saying "they" want to use Wacko Jacko as a means to achieve universal brain-washing?

"Yeah. The Pentagon is. I believe so."
It's all a bit much for Dave. "Let him rot, let him rot! I don't wanna talk about Michael Jackson!"
"I can talk about it. It's a relevant analogy."
"I don't think it's at all relevant!"
"I do! Did you hear what I said? It's a simile, it's a metaphor, it's powerful symbolism for what's going on in the world." It's strange, but after a while you notice a definite Nigel Tufnel-esque twang to Terry Bickers' voice. "I thought it was quite expressive, myself."

Bic, at least, is inspired. "People are getting nowhere, they need some new way forward and they've got to look to themselves and their own imaginations to achieve a better way of life. The industrial age is at an end!" he squeals. It's strange, but after a while you notice that Bic is an abbreviation of Bickers…"Politics is at an end! What are we gonna become?! We're destroying the planet! We're destroying each other!!!"

Can we relate Levitation to this?

Bic, shouting over Laurence's laughter: "No, listen..."
Terry; "Levitation's music is like sitting on a pillar of salt for 20 years and just licking the salt, and surviving like that. Just a continuum. Just sitting there, saying nothing, just dabbing the salt." A conspiratorial pause. "That's what we're about."

Correct me if I'm wrong, but eat nothing but salt and you'll die of malnutrition. Does he accept that his Guitar God In Ascendance role with The House Of Love is the main reason people are taking Levitation's pomp so seriously?

"It's been more of a hindrance. Because it was Guy's concept, basically, and I was just doing a job. It could've been anyone. It's Simon now. Simon could've been me then, it wouldn't have made any difference to Guy. And then Creation put a nice emotional tag on it - like, this is history, guys, we're creating history - because it sells more records later. They were doing it for the quids, not the kids. Alan McGee's biggest forte at the moment is signing American franchise deals for his old back catalogue. Good luck to him. I hope his money can console him in later life."

"He's still in love with music, thought, I think," offers Bob.
"I don't. Not judging by Primal Scream. I think they're all in love with cash." Laurence expresses disgust at what he regards as Bobby G's blatant steal from Can's "Yoo Doo Right" for "Movin' On Up", at which point Terry brightens. "But everyone's a plagiarist in this business. "Christine" is "Over You" by Roxy Music! Guy even played that to me, he gave me one of his plagiarism secrets. He said, listen to this, it's "Over You" by Roxy Music. And it was "Christine"!"

Ah, Bicker ye not! Levitation's prog pud might be too rich for the good of their health but at least they're causing a fuss, loitering in the kitchen with intent. And while the world probably doesn't need any more than one Terry B gleefully spreading shit over gardens in houses of love, his is a demonstrably enjoyable presence.

"Listen, next year people will be buying the records just to burn them. Let's just leave it at that."

top | next