The singer with York’s indie guitar heroes looks back on the creation of an anthem from the band’s Britpop heyday
At the height of the rampant, self-congratulatory Britpop scene, a swathe of young indie kids across the country quickly formed guitar bands and were hastily launched by equally rampant record labels. Some – such as Cast, The Bluetones and Ash – successfully followed in the slipstream of Oasis and Blur, but others stalled and dissolved as swiftly as they’d appeared.
York’s Shed Seven could easily have fallen in the latter camp of forgotten also-rans, but forming much earlier in 1990 gave frontman Rick Witter and co the head of steam to build a committed fanbase and achieve significant commercial success. At the peak of their popularity in the late 90s, they released 15 Top 40 singles, including 1996’s Chasing Rainbows.
Here, Rick reflects on this guitar-driven anthem that could well have become their only chart-topping single…
“With Paul [Banks, the band’s lead guitarist] there’s always been a riff or a set of chords presented to me, then I write the lyrics. Sometimes it’s very easy and at other times it can be rather difficult – it’s best not to persevere when it is too difficult. I’ll get a melody, then I take it away and try to find words that fit around that. Sometimes that can change but usually the first thing I start humming is what I take away and work on.
“I’ve got notebooks just full of one-liners that I’ve written down and I still carry that around wherever I go, as my memory is awful. Unless it’s written down immediately, it’s gone forever! So I’ll sit there sifting through my notebook, trying to get some inspiration and base a song around that. Some of them come dead quick and others take months.
“With Chasing Rainbows, we were on tour promoting the Maximum High album and we’d been on the road for months. Maybe we would come home for a day or two but then we’d be back on another bus, travelling around Europe. We were gigging in one country, sleeping in a bunk, waking up in a new country, having to change your currency every day, plus having a hangover had made it kind of difficult.
“We were on the last leg before coming home for a little break. I can’t remember which city it was, but we were in Germany and it was absolutely chucking it down outside. It was quite dark and horrible and it was late afternoon. We waited for the gear so we could go and do our soundcheck, and I think we all just wanted to come home. If I remember rightly, me and Paul were just sat on the tour bus and he pulled out his guitar and came up with the main riff. The words just came out all in one go – it was quite strange. It’s a song about being homesick, I guess.
“We took it into the soundcheck and everyone was thinking, ‘Oh we’ve got something there’. Then we brought it home, recorded it and bunged it out at the end of that year. I think if we perhaps released it on another week, it probably would have gotten to No 1, which is quite frustrating.”
EXPERT OPINION by James Linderman
“Almost every great band has one member that is a ‘human riff machine’, whether it be Paul Banks, Paul McCartney, Jimmy Page or Jimmy Vaughn… Actually, just about anybody named Paul or Jimmy will do.”