There’s still enough outlandishness in the spry, folk-pop of Fairground, Vulture and obscure 12″ B-side Left Out Of Her Will to satisfy fans of the first album, but more polished tracks like Are You Ready and Stripmining demonstrate the band’s growing confidence and point the way towards their ’90s success. Sire didn’t see it, however.
Fairground, track three on the 1988 James album Strip-Mine, made a reappearance in James’ setlists in shows where the band performed with an orchestra or ensemble in 2009, 2011 and 2015.” This current release features Florent Bayard and Sam Paul as cover stars on both parts of the 7-inch single combo.
Fairground, though, is lovely, swinging folkily between G and E minor, and with several Morrissey-esque swoops into falsetto. Tim Booth reveals that the song has an interesting genesis: ‘One of my favorite things on there is “Fairground”. It came out of a fierce argument between me and Larry during rehearsals in the Boardwalk. We’d had this row and then we just started jamming so I started singing: Why is it always, when I open my mouth/I clash with whatever you do/When we dance together your rhythm and tempo/Cuts through my quick step and tune ? It’s unusual because Jimmy and I played together and, as another unit, so did Larry and Gavan. That’s an odd configuration, like the argument carried on musically.’
At the ensuing rehearsal, the foursome tried a couple of songs from the James repertoire. He’d been given tapes with which to familiarize himself since he knew little about the group. ‘Not little. Nothing. I’d seen them on The Old Grey Whistle Test playing at the ICA when they were being touted as the next big thing, and all I could remember is that some of them had beards which was worrying.’ Now clean-shaven, James were immediately impressed at Dave’s easy mastery of ‘Fairground’ from Strip-Mine , more so than Dave was with their rehearsal facilities. ‘They were completely on their arse really, working in this shitty derelict rehearsal space in Beehive Mill, Ancoats that they shared with some crap heavy metal band.’ But the rehearsal was a success in everyone’s eyes and ears. ‘He was streets ahead of everyone we’d had in over that three weeks,’ recollects Larry. Similarly Jim: ‘He was great and very different from Gavan, very solid and powerful.’ For Tim it was equally apparent that James had found their new drummer. ‘We knew within minutes. He’d learned two songs and he played them better than Gavan immediately; we felt we’d been auditioned. I just thought, Fucking hell, this guy’s good. He had so much power. It was a very different technique to Gavan. Gavan was more swing, many rhythms all at the same time. Dave would stick to one groove – which has made us more accessible – but he can add that power that can truly take your hair off.’ The question was not whether Dave Baynton-Power would be offered the drummer’s job in James but whether he’d accept. He did, and so, perhaps with a spring in his step, Larry Gott sauntered into Manchester with his wife Jane to have a pint or two at the open mike blues night at the Band On The Wall club.