19th November 1983
Paul 'Slim' Strange goes Dutch with the EUROPEANS
"What's all this then?" said a bewildered Geoff Dugmore, holding up a single and staring at it blankly.
The Dutch girl deejay at VPRO Radio, Hilversum, stared back at him in terror."
"Dat is da Europeans' new record, no?"
"No it's bloody not" said the irate drummer. "This record was made in 1978 by a different Europeans - they broke up before we formed! They've got nothing to do with us and..."
Suddenly the green light above the girl's head switched to red, and she bent forward to the mike."
"Hum de whackerunt de whoolm, da crajunt, dum kracgline trekzelt yarimba Robert Wyatt's 'Strange Fruit'," she gibbered, and then went into a long garbled monologue, occasionally mentioning The Cure, Jah Wobble, Yello,Dalek I Love You and the Europeans. Eventually the red light switched back to green, and the girl deejay looked at Geoff again.
"So dat is not you?" she said, picking up the offending single.
"No way," said the little Scottish drummer. "The other ones you have are our records."
The girl smiled. "Ah, it is clearer now, yes? We thought you changed your line-up completely."
"No" said Geoff beaming, "we haven't got to that stage yet, thank God."
Half an hour later, the Europeans successfully blast the Dutch airwaves with a live 30 minute set of some of their best material. The sound is superb, "American People" chopping past neatly on a salvo of thundering drums, dazzling keyboard runs, eerie, crackling guitar and boisterous bass.
The band warm to their task, turning up the heat for "Falling", a bleak "Tunnel Vision", a great new song called "Typical", culminating in a triumphant "The Animal Song". For the first time during my brief stay with them in Holland things are going well.
The day before they'd played a disappointing three-song set at the massive CND festival at The Hague, where lengthy delays, language and technical difficulties, a lack of Dutch co-operation and Geoff Dugmore's heavy bout of 'flu' had prevented them from putting on a decent show.
And in the evening, they'd played another disappointing set in Rotterdam. Due to the CND demo, regular club goers were thin on the ground, and instead of playing to the predicted crowd of 500, the Europeans faced a feeble 50, and faltered after a good start.
"There's so many communication problems with the record label over here," says bass player Ferg Harper. "I'm sure if we had a couple of hits in England then the label over here would take more notice and promote us better."
I fact it's more than a year and three months after their original signing by A&M, and the Europeans are far from happy. Despite heavy gigging, a short semi-tour of the States, four singles and a patchy debut album, the band are no nearer to breaking it in Britain, although radio plays are gradually increasing and a growing, though scattered following now exists.
"We'd gone down into a trough, and we're just starting to come back up again," says keyboardist Steve Hogarth. "About six months after we got signed we stopped doing everything. We were managing ourselves and we ended up floating about, not really sure about direction. We weren't getting that much guidance from A&M - if they had given us guidance we would only have ignored them anyway.
"I'm not saying that because I don't give a shit about their opinions, it's just that we're strong minded ourselves. But we needed a manager. About three months ago we found one who really cares about music and has had a lot of experience."
Geoff: "We needed somebody who could control us and give us a kick up the backside and say 'This is your direction'."
Part of that new direction is a thankful change of image. Gone are the white masks, white suits and terribly athletic look that infuriated a thousand critics. Now the Europeans are more themselves - a natural, casual look - and their music is beginning to reflect it. The jagged, over strenuous, on-off extremes of their earlier work will soon be replaced by more melodic, thought-provoking compositions.
Cynicism and an eternal battle with an uninterested media have also left their mark.
"I think the media have got a distorted image of what we are," says Steve Hogarth. "I think people in the media believe that we've been hyped. We haven't. There were times when A&M got dangerously close to hyping us, and we put our foot down and said "We don't want any of this". We don't mind them promoting us strongly, but if it gets to the point where they're giving people money to get us certain things then we don't want to know about it. What kind of respect are we going to get from anyone if people are hyping on our behalf?"
It would be nice to think that the Europeans' debut album 'Vocabulary', could establish them as one of the brightest pop bands to emerge in the Eighties. Unfortunately too many producers, a myriad of ideas and too much attention to detail has resulted in a patchy affair.
"It took too long," says guitarist Colin Woore.
Ferg: "Yeah, we buggered about basically"
Geoff: "And we ended up disappearing up our own bums"
"We've had so many confused periods," says Ferg. "We keep thinking 'What is it we're supposed to do to make people like us? What is it that they want? Why do they hate us?"
"We've ignored all that now, and decided to stick to what we're doing. Having been away in America and over here in Holland we've realised that the situation is rather petty and that the mass audience out there don't believe the critics. On our British tour we've had load of people coming to see us who look really hip and trendy. They really like us. And people are buying the album and coming to see us.
"We don't worry anymore what the critics have to say."
And on that encouraging note they bid farewell, jump in to their van and head off in to the setting sun for a gig with the Cocteau Twins in Amsterdam.
Don't worry Europeans, success is only just round the corner.
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