Inspired by the genius of the Liverpool music scene of the late 70’s
/ early 80’s, Brummies Richard Batchelor and Naicher Mann found
themselves in the city on St. Valentine’s Day 1989.
They formed a band.
It had a stupid name.
Spontaneous Cattle Combustion were Batchelor, Mann, bass player and
Holly Johnson lookalike Paul Entwistle and drummer Steve Williams. Gigging
largely at the deservedly mythical Planet X, they weren’t in all
honesty very good until second guitarist Will Fatt joined in 1991, allowing
Batchelor (hapless at the art of singing and playing at the same time)
to concentrate on the singing. Mann, meanwhile, spent more time behind
his Casio, his dramatic and manic expressions accompanying the punkadelic
‘Spontaneous’ developed a fine reputation as a live band
but their recordings never really cut it on the whole. They managed
just one release, ‘I love it when you sing in church’,
on the Liverpool compilation ‘Dark Side of the Pool’
The onslaught of shoegazers and the departure for Cheltenham of Fatt
and second bassist Nicholas Bosborne spelt the end for ‘Spontaneous’
in 1993. They never officially split up – there were vague plans
to find replacements but it never happened. Batchelor got caught up
in a new project and Mann concentrated on his acting career, joining
the brilliant theatre posse ‘Reject’s Revenge.’
Spontaneous Cattle Combustion frontman Richard Batchelor had a friend.
Stephen A. Wood. Wood would heckle the band at every opportunity, albeit
in a friendly manner, shouting ‘Ola Ricky Spontane’ or ‘It’s
Naicher Spontane’ or ‘Steve Spontane’ at the various
….and so was named Batchelor’s new project – the word
‘spontane’ sounded kind of 1950’s – which was
where he’d been coming from ever since he began only listening
to post-New York Johnathan Richman and the Modern Lovers.
Joined initially by drummer Mark ‘Cakes’ Davis (doing one
gig as a two-piece), Batchelor invited Wood (under the pretence of borrowing
a pint of milk from him as the latter ate his poor man’s meal
of one boiled potato) and ex-Friction man Ed Tidy (who had been lined
up as a possible Spontaneous Cattle Combustion guitarist) to join the
band on guitar and bass respectively. Realising pretty soon that Wood
was surely the best guitarist in the country, Batchelor got excited.
The first single, ‘Dr. McCoy’, arrived on Preston’s
Action Records label in 1994, complete with a delicious Wood-designed
cover, a purple vinyl pressing and a mini-tour with stablemates ‘Ideal.’
Success beckoned for ‘Spontane’ but it didn’t quite
happen, and eventually in 1995 Tidy (whose walking bass lines would
be sorely missed) and Davis left in mysterious circumstances within
weeks of each other.
‘Spontane’s search for a new bass player didn’t last
too long. Wood, through doing some work experience for the local magazine
‘L-Scene,’ met journalist Terence Joynson who also had a
£10 black bass waiting to be used. The then ‘Lady McCrady’
drummer Talya Davies offered to complete the line-up on a temporary
For about the first five gigs Ricky Spontane were utterly useless, then
suddenly it clicked... and it was magic!
The band’s live performances quickly became the stuff of legend.
With Wood wheeling around in circles, Joynson pogoing on the spot making
the bass sound like it was worth ten grand not ten quid, Davies shaking
her head incessantly from side to side and Batchelor weaving in and
out of the other three, undoing Wood’s shoelaces and sticking
his head in Davies’ bass drum, it was like watching 4 different
orbits, with the solar system greater than the sum of its parts. Occasionally
Naicher Mann brought his Casio along and joined in the fun, his extraordinary
face-pulling and unstoppable rapport with Batchelor adding a further
dimension to the already spectacular.
The band began to pack out the legendary Brian’s Diner every month.
In 1996, Spontane released a single, ‘The Perfect Sound’,
on Liverpool’s Lowsley Sound label.
The two flip sides, ‘Dry Ice’ and ‘Stop
Paddling’, came out of a five-song recording session in a
Falkner Street basement which I consider to be their finest work. It
captures the fact that they played real rock ‘n’ roll music.
In what would prove to be a bad mistake, the group believed at the time
that the recordings weren’t ‘professional enough’
or some nonsense like that, and didn’t use them as the basis for
an album when they should have done. The songs, however, did win them
‘demo of the month’ in ‘Making Music,’ bringing
them the much-needed prize of a brand new microphone, sweetly timed
as they had just lost access to their previous one.
Thanks to their newly-found manager, ‘Spontane’ broke into
the London circuit in l997, catching the attention of ‘Sleeper’
guitarist Jon Stewart, who was starting a record label. Oddly named
‘Old Eagle,’ the label signed ‘Spontane.’ A
disappointing single followed but in May 1998 Ricky Spontane finally
recorded an album, ‘Spontane Time’. By this time
the unflappable Dr. Adrian Burke had been added as a semi-permanent
keyboard player. With extraordinary time management skills, Irish-born
Burke managed to combine rock ‘n’ roll and medicine.
Though praised by Steven Wells in NME and given 7/10, the band had reservations
about many of the tracks, perhaps due to the crazy speed it had to be
recorded in. It still lacked the magic of the basement recordings. That
would surely have been 9/10.
Just before recording the album Joynson had left the band to front his
own project, Juvenal, after almost coming to blows with other members
on the Zanzibar stage. He remains to this day an integral part of Spontane’s
finest hour. His replacement was the affable local painter, Sykes, while
Burke’s medical duties finally saw him pass some of his duties
to keyboard player Mark Davison.
In 1999 ‘Spontane’ released two singles - 'Hit the Town’
(single of the month in Melody Maker) and ‘Domino’
(played regularly by Steve Lamacq) on the ‘Full Strength’
label. Then came an eclectic second album, also named ‘Hit
the Town’. It was a fine album but aroused little interest,
and in late 1999 Wood and Davies left Liverpool and moved to the capital.
The band continued nevertheless, getting through a variety of bass players
and keyboard players, including present ‘Cock Off’ incumbent
Jim North, who still often appears from nowhere to sing a couple of
lines at Ricky Spontane and Rickets gigs.
A permanent bassist arrived in 2000 in the shape of London mover and
shaker Paul Kearney, in origin a native of Birkenhead. Highlights have
included ‘Get Friendly’, Spontane’s contribution
to a split single of Liverpool bands on Kearney’s own ‘Guided
Missile’ label, various John Peel (bless his soul) playings which
the band never managed to catch, and a support slot with ‘Franz
Ferdinand’ in May 2004.
Ricky Spontane still exist and have recorded a mini-album which is reminiscent
of their 1996 basement sessions – it’s rock ‘n’
roll, baby! So, in short, Spontane – still worth watching –
Liverpool legends – you’re never sure quite what you’re
When two-thirds of the Ricky Spontane migrated to the capital in late
1999, singer Richard Batchelor got heavily into the art punk of Magazine,
Doctors of Madness and Television, and marrying this with the more pastoral
sounds of Leonard Cohen and Nick Drake, created 'Richard I’,
a further release on the Liverpool label Lowsley Sound. He insisted
it was only ever recorded for geographical reasons.
The album was produced by Baxendale’s Tim Benton who with his
beats added some London swagger to the Liverpool Georgian quarter sound.
Former Spontane members Jim North, Dr. Burke and Naicher Mann assisted
in various ways, with Batchelor’s future wife Elodie providing
some interesting vocal parts. Initial attempts to play the songs live
using a backing CD (the CD kept jumping) proved unsuccessful, so Batchelor
formed another band to perform the album. This band became ‘The
Rickets’ and became very much their own entity.
Batchelor left Liverpool to move to France in 2004 and is in the process
of writing Richard II. There is also a compilation available of songs
recorded between 1996 and 2004, entitled ‘Richard wanders
Formed initially to play Richard Batchelor’s solo album, ‘The
Rickets’ mutated into their own thing, with Talya Davies on drums
(usually), former Ricky Spontane merchandise man Chris Jackson on guitar,
and Ashley and Johnny from the legendary ‘Zombina and the Skeletones’
on bass and Casio respectively.
They have recorded a collection of songs, ‘Les Couleurs en
Angers par les Rickets’, an interesting mish-mash of recordings
from different times and places.
Batchelor has been described, among other things, as a 'maelstrom of