Published: 26 January, 2012
by ROISIN GADELRAB
WHEN former 3 Colours Red guitarist Chris McCormack decided to do something special for his brother Danny’s 40th, he inadvertently sparked a reunion of The Yo-Yos.
Danny McCormack (ex-The Wildhearts) will play two gigs on the same night with his short-lived but once celebrated band The Yo-Yos – who were signed to Nirvana’s Sub Pop label – at Barfly Camden’s Jubilee club on February 17.
Jubilee, a collaboration between Chris McCormack and Carl Barat, is fast becoming a Friday night destination with a revolving roster of guest appearances – Billy Vincent plays tomorrow (Friday).
The fluctuating fortunes of The Yo-Yos, who split up after much angst and some issues with Danny’s drug problems, and whose only album was the aptly named Uppers and Downers, look set to be on the up again.
Guitarist Tom Spencer hopes the show will be a reflection of the band at its best.
He said: “Everyone’s so happy to be seeing Danny back on stage because it’s been a while. We’ve all continued with other bands, Danny’s been out of the music scene for a while, so people are particularly wanting to see him. With that comes passing round Jack and Coke, so we’ve just got to be careful.”
The Yo-Yos lasted about four years from 1998, when The Wildhearts were on a hiatus, forming after Tom and Danny met recording backing vocals for The Toy Dolls.
Tom said: “(We) happened to be two of their cult followers. The singer arranged for six musicians to meet in Finsbury Park to be driven to a studio in Hull.
“Me and Danny ended up at the back like naughty boys on a coach. Introduce a bottle of JD and by the end of the trip we kind of formed this band. We bonded because we had this childlike enthusiasm to be singing on our favourite band’s album.”
The Yo-Yos were soon touring with Therapy? and The Hives and drew the attention of the Sub Pop’s bosses, who flew to Camden to see them play at Barfly’s former home, The Falcon.
“It was great,” said Tom. “I got off the train and was approached by touts. We were on to something really happening, one of those nights where everything kind of went right. We came onstage to see the head of Sub Pop, in his 40s or whatever, at the front with his head banging.
“We knew we’d done well, and from that gig negotiated the record deal.”
One Sub Pop boss told the band it was his second greatest rock ’n’ roll moment after his first Nirvana experience.
But they split after a demanding touring schedule.
“It all went really well for a few years and then kind of combusted like a lot of full-on bands,” said Tom.
“We didn’t pretend to be rock ’n’ roll, we kind of were. You’ve got 12 blokes in a bus for that amount of time. Everyone kind of lived the part. I don’t know how else there is to do it, but I presume there’s a better way because the band wouldn’t have split.”
Tom said he puts the decline down to some fast living and “a little bit of neglect from the record label”, adding that in between playing key cities, “rather than giving you a day off, they send you on a 10-hour drive to Kalamazoo in the back of some amusement arcade to play to a bunch of bemused people who haven’t even seen a poster.
“It’s that kind of feeling like cattle.
You’re on a tour bus, it’s your dream, what you’ve always wanted to do, but three weeks into a tour, another 10 hours to go play to no one – that’s when you hit the bottle and kind of end up hitting each other.
“I’m talking about a particular low point.
“Equally, we played at the Troubadour in LA to a full house and CBGBs to a sell-out.
“I was in New York the day our album came out and went to the main record shop to sort of egotistically see it in the racks.
I couldn’t find it. I looked up and we were the main album on display.
“Moments like that stay in your memory forever, it’s wonderful. Then two days later I’m in casualty having 30 stitches.”
Stories began reaching Sub Pop.
“I don’t know what they expected but I know suddenly we scared them off,” recalls Tom.
“They were burned by their own history in a way, the whole Nirvana thing and Kurt Cobain, they were wary of bands combusting. We got back from a second US tour and they said they didn’t want to do our next album. That’s how the band decided to knock it on the head.”
The Barfly gig will be the opportunity for aband to write a new chapter.
“I’m really looking forward to it,” said Tom.
“We had some really good times in that band and some bad ones. It was literally heaven and hell. So if for a one-off night performance we can keep it to heaven, it’ll just be great.”