By Andrew Truth, Plane Truth fanzine issue 15
Regular as clockwork, clambering up the stairs of the 32 bus comes a mane of frizzy ginger hair, as haywire as its owner whose puffed-up face creates the impression of a four year-old's body inflated into that of a middle-aged woman. Settling into her top deck, driver's chair front seat, a sedate patter of mutterings commences. This is a mere prelude to cackling, howling laughter, rigorous animated debate, defending her own position, pleading in tears. All entirely self-contained, with no aggressor present to be subjected to this tirade.
A glimpse of her instantly causes thoughts of Prolapse to spring to mind, the manner in which Mick and Linda gambol through a maze of wicked diatribes, scrambled, often incomprehensible rambling descriptions, and petty spite.
Can our insane source of public transport entertainment block out the voices stampeding resolutely through her mind? Can she engage in conversation and where does she spend the evenings? My fascination is mingled with a self-preservation instinct that allows me only to casually observe from a safe distance so I can merely speculate that she enjoys Pointless Walks to Dismal Places. Conveniently this happens to be the title of Prolapse's debut Cherry Red lp! Ironically, it's their most clearly plotted musical saunter compared with the joyous eight legs pulling in disparate directions of the Crate ep or the lightweight pop frolic with a bitter aftertaste known as Pull Thru Barker. Serpico has Mick barking, irate parent style, in a beer-soaked Glaswegian drawl: 'All your skills, all your training, and look at you - you're a bloody disgrace!' Hearing Mick deliver a bumbling 'celebrity' football report on Peel is ideal preparation for the weird combination of convoluted plot and wilful adaptation of cliche that is Surreal Madrid. In contrast, Linda's soothing, half-spoken tones eventually add weight to Burgundy Spine's bottomless depression well as she reports of a dog eating a king, horses eating people, a skeleton ringing a bell, and gallows. Tempers are fully frayed as Tina This is Matthew Stone terminates the lp as insults fly with the crockery, an infantile masterpiece.
Arriving for their Leeds gig with their van on top of a breakdown truck aptly summed up Prolapse's flawed charm. After a gig decorated by pre-Halloween pumpkins, I stumbled with Pat (guitar) and Mick (soon to release a bagpipe and mandolin collaboration) via a curry house to an interview of undisciplined, drunken hilarity, much of which is indecipherable. The babble and scurrilous gossip neatly capture Prolapse's flavour, a panoply of curious irrelevancies and human quirks. Mick regales us with tales of his purchase from a Help the Aged shop; a punk rock Jimmy Shand with a Throbbing Gristle bit at the end.
'There was an Indian drama on yesterday with big music and the guy's just saying "Do you want some milk?" Totally brilliant' Mick enthuses.
'What'll happen with your van tomorrow?' I ask.
'We'll probably get bits of string,' Mick responds.
'We left Manchester at three and got to Leeds at half past seven,' explains Pat. 'We broke down and went into a pub. The woman at this pub was into us playing. They were giving us drink. This was about half past five. We met a strange old man and two guys who did pub gigs. They were asking "what sort of music is it?" and "do you do Dirty Dancing?" She was quite risque the woman behind the bar. She was going on about these crabs that crawl up, and going back to Australia with the crabs.'
Attempting to fathom the logic that linked Barbara Windsor, Boney M's political stance and Peter Powell's 'proud to be British' comments would be futile and it inspired an anecdote from Mick.
'There was this girl staying at my house and telling me how she was in Stoke Mandeville. She'd been in a car accident. Jimmy Saville came in to visit. She was about 9 or 10 and ran after him to ask for his autograph. He said he didn't have the time. She was going "but I'm leaving tomorrow!".
Pat steals the punchline. 'And he said "well, tough!" It's like Esther Rantzen. All these people who're obviously complete, utter bastards.'
'There was Rod Hull attacking Snoop Doggy Dogg with Emu even though he knew he was up for murder but he didnae give a fuck. It's be such a rock'n'roll way for Rod Hull to go, killed by him,' rattles on Mick.
Pat recalls a story they'd been told during the recording of their first single. 'Jim Davidson was on a tour in 78 in Brighton with the Three Degrees, Krankies and Paul Daniels.'
'Paul Daniels starts making a pass at Jim Davidson's girlfriend,' elaborated Mick. 'He starts saying things like "look at the size of your tits". They all start getting pissed off so the guy with the fuzzy hair from the Krankies turned round and said, "fuck off, you wee tit" to Paul Daniels. It got so bad that Jim Davidson and the guy from the Krankies manhandles Paul Daniels out the van door on the motorway and drove off without him.
'I went into a holy bookshop because I saw a copy of Bobby Ball's biography because he's turned Christian. I looked at the photos and there's one of him with his tie down and steaming. The caption says "this is me before I was a Christian and drank."
Mick picks up the Sunday Mail to quote a hot news item. 'An Italian was rushed to hospital after he attempted to alter the shape of his nose with a pair of pliers. He said that he could not afford plastic surgery.
'I think there ought to be a tabloid fanzine. It could come out every Sunday with a full colour supplement. Photos of members of Sister George coming out of night clubs,' suggests Pat.
'When they had that NME queercore "girls kissing girls, boys kissing boys" piece, we knew half of them and half of them were heterosexual. It's all kind of crap, it defeats the purpose,' complains Mick. 'We were gonna have ladcore. Refusing to kiss guys and punching them. Big blonde women with real terrible perms.'
Meanwhile, Mick starts to display his true calling as a sleazy heading writer for the gutter press. "Mad Prolapse singer makes pass at French beauty in Stereolab". "I'll shove that Wagon Wheel down your throat," she says. The first issue, Pat could reveal all: "My life with Laetitia" and make up lies.'
At this point, they realise with alarm that the tape recorder sat innocuously on the floor has been capturing these comments about their favourite band. As Mick had displayed the temerity to ridicule my pumpkin, revenge is sweet.
Dubbing themselves as 'post-politically correct', Pat salvages a final headline salvo: "Nikki and Jo from Huggy Bear have confrontation over snorkel parka."
A letter appeared in the music press complaining about the coverage given to these sad reprobates, listing examples of their shamefully depraved behaviour during their student days.
'It was all true,' confirms Mick, 'but I've not got a clue who wrote that. I wrote a reply as a pensioner saying these guys are dead nice but they never printed it. It must have been someone who went to the same places. It was stuff like "I remember them when they were sad C86 kids and ate bits of pizza off the pavement". Basically, I ate pizza out of the gutter. Geordie Mick nicked washing off a line. It was quite strange that he wrote in. I hope he does again so he can remind me of what else we did.'
I prise further confessions of debilitatingly anti-social behaviour out of Mick.
'I stayed in the house for three days, pulled all the curtains, put the tv down to black and white, and drank loads of beer with this guy called Mike who used to be into heavy metal and whose favourite song was called Giving the Dog a Bone. We started to make these capes out of stuff from sheep and smeared them with jam, writing 666. And there was lots of broken glass.'
I have story to tell of Geordie Mick (bass) and Tim (drums) having a Christmas tree fight in the streets in February. So this is the type of activity to stimulate the nation's finest minds, garlanded with MAs in archaeology from the halls of academia.
'We didn't need to be particularly intelligent. It's not as if we have to be dead articulate, just get a few facts together and go dig a hole somewhere,' Mick modestly claims.
I ask Pat whether his digs had produced any startling discoveries. 'I've found fuck all that was really interesting but tons of artifacts, lots of silver medieval coins that I never know what happened to after being cleaned up. Medieval sandpits and Roman graves with pagan burials where they've been decapitated, the head had been cut off as part of pagan ritual.'
'It's funny how you always mention the artifacts. You forget there are dead people and they're more exciting than finding a gold coin,' contends Mick.
Any archaeologist from a future, more sophisticated civilisation unearthing a Prolapse record would doubtless be bemused by the repetitive, droning chords, surreal babble and abuse which creates a comic tension. Humour used to its full impact wields this ability to cut through human frailty with utmost precision and Prolapse use it to carve out vignettes of inner madness.