THE MIGHTY LEMON DROPS
Clockwise from top left: Dave Newton, Keith Rowley, Marcus Williams, Paul Marsh
photo by Sendra Sarinde
Where Do We Go from Heaven?
A Chat with David Newton by Pete Crigler
In 2022, Cherry Red Records released a five-disc anthology of The Mighty Lemon Drops. You remember them, right? Songs like "Inside Out," "Into the Heart of Love" and "Where Do We Go from Heaven?" The label put out Inside Out: 1985-1990 collecting the band's first three records and numerous B-sides, live stuff and demos on November 2022. In celebration of the box's release, I talked with guitarist/songwriter David Newton and we caught up on his current projects and what it meant to help put this amazing box together.
PSF: What was the impetus for putting the box together?
DN: It was Cherry Red Records' idea. They had previously released a couple of smaller Lemon Drops compilations (the late 90's Rollercoaster .. The Best Of ... and 2014's Uptight: The Early Recordings), in addition to including us on several compilations over the years, so we already had a relationship with them.
PSF: Did Cherry Red approach you personally?
DN: They did, though they already had a lot of it in place, well mainly the three albums and some of the additional material that was owned/released by Chrysalis/Blue Guitar in the UK. I/we helped out with some of the earlier pre-Chrysalis stuff and also with some of the bonus material.
PSF: How long have you been working on it?
DN: Work initially started pre-pandemic in 2019 then was delayed for most of 2020 into 2021, then I believe that there were a few licensing things to sort out with the company that bought Chrysalis or something like that, the usual stuff, ha ha, but thankfully all got resolved.
PSF: How far and wide did you have to search for all the tapes?
DN: I believe that Cherry Red were somehow able to locate pretty much all of the original master tapes from the Chrysalis archives, something that I wasn't involved in & they unearthed a few unusual bits & pieces. I am quite surprised that most of it was locatable really, after all these years.
PSF: Were you determined to keep everything '80's centered?
DN: We were really, as this album covers the UK/European Chrysalis years 1986-1990. The two albums we later released (1991's Sound & 1992's Ricochet) are not included in this box set, those are quite different, so personally I'm sort of glad that the later albums aren't on here really.
PSF: Do you feel the band lost anything when Tony Linehan (bassist/songwriter) left?
DN: That's a bit of a difficult one to answer. Looking back now, possibly yes, Laughter is not as "edgy." but at the time it just felt like a natural progression, & I still really like most of it. Having said that, the previous album World Without End wasn't as "edgy" as Happy Head. I mean, there were never any deep conscious band meetings on how each record should sound really, it was all quite natural, looking back. Funny though when I started knocking around with Tony again in the late '90's I remember one of the first things him saying re: the band was that he had listened to Laughter & thought it was pretty good, ha ha.
PSF: Any plans for tackling the rest of the catalog?
DN: Ha umm I'm not so sure. Sound has a couple of decent tracks but I am not a big fan of it myself overall. Ricochet I like more, I think it's a much better album than Sound, there are some good songs on it & I like the way it turned out sonically, Sound I do not like the sound of at all really, the mix is terrible. I do cringe at some of the songs too, & I totally blame myself for that.
PSF: What were your biggest revelations putting the box together?
DN: Probably at how much we did & how much we evolved in a relatively short space of time, from forming in March 1985 as basically a garage band with borrowed inexpensive equipment & within the space of just over two years we're finishing recording our second album World Without End late 1987 & now here we are on daytime MTV in the USA etc. alongside Huey Lewis & The News. Crazy, really.
PSF: Were you in touch with the rest of the band during this time; what's their take on this thing?
DN: I was though it was Cherry Red that did the majority of the work & while I helped out with sourcing some of the additional material, none of us were really that involved. We just left Cherry Red to it & although it's a shame that some stuff, particularly more of the BBC sessions, weren't able to be included, we all collectively gave it the thumbs up.
PSF: Tell me a bit about your new projects.
DN: Since the Drops called it a day at the end of 1992, I have pretty much stayed involved in music, playing with lots of different bands/artists & running my own recording studio in Burbank California. Most of the work I do at my studio is with local bands/artists & a fair few of them have achieved some success further afield (The Little Ones/The Blood Arm/The Soft Pack/The Henry Clay People/Happy Hollows). The most recent projects I have worked on include one with Boz Boorer (Morrissey Polecats etc.), Reykjavik Kids, Black Adidas and my own project David Newton & Thee Mighty Angels who released an album in 2020 A Gateway To A Lifetime Of Disappointment and a more recent seasonal ditty (with a video) "Winter Tragedy."
PSF: What are the rest of the band currently up to?
DN: Everyone is doing well & pretty much just getting on with their lives, going about their usual business- day jobs, family stuff. I still see Tony & Keith on my visits back to the UK. I have also recently been back in touch with second bassist Marcus (Williams) he has stayed involved in music & has played with a few folks since the Drops ended (including the late Kirsty Macoll & Alison Moyet). He is now working on his own album & I have played some guitar on a couple of tracks along with a few notable characters (i.e. drummer Mike Joyce & multi-instrumentalist Donald Ross Skinner) & what I have heard sounds really great.
PSF: When was the last time the band played together and any chance for another reunion?
DN: The last time we played together was December 23rd 2000 at The Varsity in Wolverhampton, a one off "reunion" show. It was a lot of fun. Funny, before that the previous / last Lemon Drops live show was in November 1992 (in Chicago USA) & at the time we played the Wolverhampton "reunion" show in 2000, it seemed like a long time had passed, yet looking back it was only eight years. Since then, it has now been a whopping twenty two years since we played together & it doesn't seem like it was that long ago at all ha ha, funny. Anyway, to answer your question, there are no plans to play any shows together at the present time.
PSF: What do you hope this box will do to the band's legacy?
DN: Ha, ha. I have no idea really, though I do think that it presents a fair representation of what we were about, both for the old school fans from the time and also for any curious new listeners. :-)
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