Sunday, August 30, 2009

#39- Silver Showers

Fame! You don't get to live forever, you don't get to learn how to fly. Of all the famous people who have ever tried to fly, only Robert Fripp has managed to do it with any degree of regularity. Some say he's actually a parrot, some say that he's a jackdaw, yet more say he's got a rocket tied to his back. It's actually a combination of all three.

But Fame, for all the broken promises about lighter than air travel, is also a harsh mistress. A mistress who wants you to leave your wife for them, a mistress who purposely leaves lipstick marks on your shirt, a mistress who turns up expecting Christmas dinner with your in-laws. And when Fame finally gets tired of waiting for you to bump off the missus, she leaves town and forces you to try and cobble together a life without her.

Fame played her part in the story we are about to tell, for Ken Mills had his run around the block with the dark force of celebrity. He played bass guitar in the critically and commercially successful band Citizen and Mrs Smith. You don't need us to tell you that Citizen and Mrs Smith made 17 prized albums of low-rate indie pap, or that they sold out so many stadiums they eventually decided to build their own, or that they fell out with each other about who should have the last sherbet dib dab, with charges for affray considered and then dropped.

But Ken Mills was not the brains of the operation, was not the public frontman, was not nothing of any note. What should he do? He had just enough money from the performing rights to disappear into the hills whilst working on a new album, but what should that album be about?

Since he was a child Ken had two all consuming interests: travelling and excessive cleanliness. Whilst touring with Citizen and Mrs Smith Ken kept a detailed diary of every hotel shower he used. He regularly commented on a shower's flow, force, temperature control, speed for water arrive, cleanliness of the head (of the shower), cleanliness of the head (of the show user after exiting the shower), ability to contain water without it going on other bathroom items, ease of use of the controls and overall experience. From this he normally calculated a qualitative outcome ranging from "Chemical Shower" -a disappointing experience with no redeeming features- to "Silver Shower" -the best of all worlds and possibly some good shampoo thrown into the bargain. Between these extremes were Copper Shower, Bronze Shower, Iron Shower, Platinum Shower and Crest Shower.

Retreating to the hills, Mills filled and killed his time trying to work on a new album by typing up his shower ratings. Eventually either a stroke of genius, a stroke of madness or a plain old fashioned ischemic stroke made Mills realise that he could combine his bass based song writing with his reviews of the world's showers. Mills set to work setting music to his words and trying to wrangle the whole thing into the album which eventually became called "April Showers Bring May Flowers". Of course you have not heard of it, that's why we're putting it on this site. Mills took to using the nom de plume Silver Showers to make sure his work is not overcast by his history and previous band.

There are two standout tracks on the album, the first being "Bad Times at the Blackpool Arms" which details one of Mill's first experiences on tour:

"Perhaps I told you wrong,
I said I wanted to stay in Blackpool,
Not stand in a pooling pool of Black,
Black as your heart, you dirty old bat,
I rate you Copper Shower!"

The second standout track and a crowd pleaser at Mills's gigs is the heart (and skin) warming "Holy Royd Hotel, Edinburgh". Mills is often found clambering on his speaker stack to sing the rousing final verse of the song:

"If I could rate you golden, I'm pretty sure I would,
But that's just sick and wrong so you're a
Silver Shower and should,
go down in human history, as the best of the best of the best,
and best of all, in the freebies bag, you even give me a vest."

For this reason almost all of Silver Showers' gigs happen in Edinburgh.

Perhaps you're thinking "why doesn't Mills drench his audience with water at the end of the gig, in some sort of literal interpretation of his muse?" Mills has considered this but decided that if he did throw water on people he couldn't guarantee the quality of the experience night after night.

"I don't want to become everything I've railed against" he told melody maker. Amen to that, clean brother.


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