A return to concision and focus, and a heap of classic songwriting
BLAKE: By this time we’d fallen out with Brendan, which was a dramatic change. He was such an important part of the group. We owed ourselves a good record; we just wanted to do something really focused and memorable. We hooked up with David Bianco, who worked on Frank Black’s Teenager Of The Year album. He’s an old-school American engineer, and it was good having someone like him to crack the whip to make us work hard and intensely for the five weeks.
McGINLEY: We decided when we got David in that we’d minimise the number of overdubs we did, knuckle down and do something in a short, focused period of time. We thought we wanted to go to Amsterdam to record, just because it seemed like an interesting place to go to. But David recommended The Manor [in Oxfordshire], so we went there to make Grand Prix. We had a really good time there. There’s something good about going somewhere and having nothing else to think about – we’re not good multi-taskers.
LOVE: There was nothing quite like The Manor – it was like this taste of opulence! We were there for five weeks and I never left the grounds, I was content just to be there. It was a beautiful time of the year and there was so much great stuff happening.
BLAKE: I think we felt when we got to the end of making that record that we’d done something pretty good. We could sense that maybe it was going to be reasonably well received. We had done a lot of preparation beforehand and we realised that’s how you do it, it’s all about the preparation.
SONGS FROM NORTHERN BRITAIN
A quieter, more stately effort, and one of Blake’s favourites
LOVE: Grand Prix and Songs From Northern Britain was a really special time for the band in many ways. We were not too young, but we weren’t too old – you have experience and you have confidence, you’ve made a few mistakes and you know what not to do, but nothing’s too predictable. Once you get to your late thirties, things become set, you kind of know what you’re all about.
BLAKE: I think this might be my favourite album from that period. To me it’s a continuation of the Grand Prix stuff. We started making this with David, but we had some financial misunderstanding, and he left the project. It’s a shame, but subsequently we’ve seen David and it’s all fine.
MACDONALD: Around this time Norman and I recorded a collaboration called Frank Blake. We played around on piano and worked an idea into a verse/chorus demo, and he said, “You know, I think I might keep this for Teenage Fanclub.” It became “Planets”. I thought it was odd – they do four songs each per album, and he’s putting on one that’s a co-write with me, what’s it displacing? But he wasn’t gonna write 10 and pick four, he was just gonna write four but they were all gonna be standards.
LOVE: When we delivered this album to Creation, I don’t think Alan really got it, because we were going even softer. He suggested we went in and recorded another couple of songs at Air Studios in London. I think we did “Start Again”, so that was a good result for Creation to suggest that. Then we mixed it all again at Air, too.
BLAKE: Oasis were recording Be Here Now downstairs in the bigger room, and we could hear all this noise coming up through the floor – “Fucking hell, it’s loud down there, wonder what they’re doing?” Then one afternoon, Liam invited us all down for a playback in their room. They’re mixing the album on a PA system – “Oh, so that’s why it’s so loud!” Liam was miming all the words and our kid’s guitar solos; he did the entire album and we just sat at the back of the room applauding after every song. “More beer?”