44. The Claim – God, Cliffe and me

/ Wait and see, Esurient, 1989

claim_god

Heaven knows I’ve written enough already about the Claim elsewhere, so for once I’ll be brief.  With Black path: retrospective 1985-1992 in circulation at last, I hope that an afterlife as long as the Action’s now awaits the Claim.  With roots in two generations of mod, the two groups bear close comparison.  The Action were the great mod-soul group of the sixties, while in the eighties the Claim brewed up a blend which nodded to the Action’s more successful peers but refused to be contained by historic mod mannerisms, or those of more recent memory. 

The connection goes beyond the association back and forth in time established via Paul Weller, whose affection for the Action was instrumental in bringing them to the attention of the next generation of mods and associated travellers.  The Claim grew up listening to the Jam, and even put their producer Vic Coppersmith-Heaven at the helm for ‘Wait and see’, though the experience wasn’t entirely successful.  Both Reg King and Dave Read drew their respectively mellow vocal styles from a soulful well without there being any sense that either was feigning where he was from; both were largely overlooked in their time in favour of groups who were more artful in their self-presentation; and both were left high and dry with so much more to give.  If you’ve heard the Action’s retrospectively released Rolled gold LP as well as the singles compilation you’ll know what I mean.

There is one important difference: to my knowledge the Claim never played or recorded a song they hadn’t written themselves, while some very familiar names feature beneath the titles on Action packed. But nevertheless the Action share with the Claim the ability to perform gloriously heart-rending, ageless songs which seem all the more heartbreaking in the light of how few people got to hear them at the time of their release.

claim_cliffe

‘God, Cliffe and me’ is as fine a song as you’ll ever hear about the places we grow up in, love ’em and loathe ’em.  Its exuberance emphasised by xylophone, Dave Arnold’s lead guitar is irrepressibly jaunty, all the more so when set against Dave Read’s wonderfully Eeyore lyric, which in its simple but opaque lines manages to capture that gloomy feeling of being trapped by your origins, playing out time, and looking for the answers in games of cards.  Had his musical interests been a little different or his geographical origins located further north or west, Dave Read might have made a great folk singer, for there’s an undeniably traditional quality to his voice, and a keenness to capture the experience of living in a little-known corner of his country which comes through with particular sharpness on ‘God, Cliffe and me’.

I leave the last words to Nicholson Burr, someone who evidently does know that corner of the country:

Medway remains largely a disgrace, still a mish mash of dereliction, failed cosmetic surgery and fatigue and the Claim made an effort to document this where other bands of the time let it go. People will tell you about the Milkshakes and The Prisoners, both great bands, but if you were lucky enough to see a Dentists and Claim double bill, maybe at the Hammersmith Clarendon or, god forbid, upstairs at Churchills in darkest Chatham, you’d learn everything you needed to know about growing up in Medway from just being in that room for those couple of hours. The Dentists would show you how things could be and The Claim would tell you how it was.  [Comment three here.]

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2 Responses to 44. The Claim – God, Cliffe and me

  1. kevin p says:

    Nice one Dan. There was an interesting PS when Cliffe itself became briefly famous when there were proposals to build an airport in the area, threatening a lot of wildlife, and the RSPB led a high profile campaign against this which if I remember rightly was co-ordinated by Perry Haines who many years earlier had been involved with starting i-D, dressed Duran Duran, recorded a great single for Fetish, managed King. Speaking of King, I can probably claim to be the first person to tell Reggie King at length about how great The Claim were. I did have a secret plan to unite the two but somehow it never came to pass …

  2. I wasn’t wrong about supposing Dave Read might have made a great folk singer – just stumbled across this on YouTube: Dave and Steve Webster playing Dylan’s ‘Don’t think twice (it’s alright)’.

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