For those of us who live in small towns with often inconsequential music scenes, the arrival of a band whose ambitions and talents stretched beyond playing the local pub rock venues was always a cause for celebration. The Dandelion Adventure emerged from Preston and its surrounds, initially in 1986 as a delightfully sprawling improvised mess, before ratcheting up into a more focused sonic assault a couple of years later. Here was a band that would have been a firm favourite even if they hadn’t been based in my backyard. As the pre-eminent local fanzine editor, I was lucky enough to become the embedded journalist in their van witnessing first hand their raid on the nation’s bigger cities and capital. Their gigs gained quite a reputation with Mark Wareing spitting out words through a haze of hair and smoke like Much Hoole’s version of Mark E Smith, whilst guitarist, Stan Batcow, and bassist, Ajay Saggar, created an aural commotion. Both My Bloody Valentine and The Pastels requested that they opened for them. On another occasion, they topped a bill at an all-dayer in the Lady Owens Arms pub in Islington alongside the nascent Blur. While with hindsight it is easy to see that Damon Albarn and co were on the fast track to fame, at the time the Dandelion Adventure were the more compelling option.

In a brief recording career, they only released two mini-LPs on Preston label, Action Records. The first, ‘Puppy Shrine’, inspired Thurston Moore to praise the band, although presumably they had come to his attention courtesy of a cover that superimposed the heads of Duane Doberman, Joanna Lumley, Spike Milligan and a horned figure onto the shoulders of Sonic Youth. By the time of their second release, 1990’s ‘Jinx’s Truck’, their sound had been enhanced by the addition of a second drummer, Jason Boyce, joining original member, Geoff Bird, to create a propulsive blitz.

The band recorded one John Peel session, broadcast on 18 June 1990, a mere three months before the band split. Saggar has managed to rescue the tapes from the BBC’s vault and secured a release for it alongside their four-track demo from 1988 and a couple of songs recorded in their rehearsal space.

Although the band were a huge part of my youth, an unwillingness to succumb to nostalgia means I have rarely been inspired to revisit their music over the last 30 years so it was interesting to see whether time has treated their it kindly. The session begins with ‘Exit Frenzy Revisited’, a track from ‘Jinx’s Truck’. What is immediately striking is the monster sound achieved. Saggar’s rumbling bass bears the imprint of one of his musical heroes, Jean-Jacques Burnel, creating an unholy racket alongside the effects laden guitar of Batcow. Boyce and Bird’s twin drum assault spins the senses and Wareing’s vocal sounds huge and echoey.

The rest of the Peel session consists of previously unrecorded tunes. ‘Bing Crosby’s Cathedral’ starts with choppy guitars and a surreal spoken-word tale with each member taking turns to relay the story, reminiscent to the likes of Bongwater’s ‘David Bowie Wants Ideas’. However, with the words, “her favourite was on the menu tonight, tequila” followed by whistles, the track launches into a thrash. ‘Don’t Look Now’ could be accused of being too cluttered percussively but has an incredible full sound and a surfeit of ambition with Wareing proclaiming “rave is dead”. The session concludes with ‘All the World’s A Lounge’, the guitar and bass sounding huge, an array of samples over the top, most notably documentary footage about the use of the atom bomb. Mischievously, it ends with a voice boasting about having the two best drummers around.

The demos sound puny in comparison. However, it is interesting to hear an early version of fan favourite, ‘Speed Trials’, often jokingly known as ‘Cheese Pies’, Wareing’s take on the priest’s ability to offer a 30-second absolution for sins, whipped along by slide guitar. The previously unreleased ‘Death Is A Beautiful Carpark’ has the choppy guitar stylings that were a common feature of the era’s indie underground and plentiful vocal effects. The feedback ladened version of rabble rousing ‘Chickenfeed’ suits the band more than the slightly cleaned-up version that appeared on ‘Puppy Shrine’. An immediately recognisable growling bassline heralds this earlier version of ‘King Burger Autopsy’ with Wareing’s lyrics focused purely on Elvis rather than the character sketches of scenesters that filled the version that eventually appeared on ‘Jinx’s Truck’. The two rehearsal tracks are inevitably rough and ready, although it is interesting to hear how ‘Disneytime’ transmogrified into ‘Circus Motel’.

Listening to the Peel session captures how the Dandelion Adventure were one of the hugest sounding and imaginative bands of their era and what a shame it is that circumstances prevented them from developing their sound further. However, this loss is balanced by the excellent post-Dandelion Adventure careers they have enjoyed: Wareing fronts Ginnel, Batcow runs the Pumf label and puts out varied recordings under the guise of Howl in the Typewriter, while Saggar is incredibly productive both as Bhajan Bhoy and in various collaborations. Boyce went on to drum with the manic Stretchheads and Bird developed a career as a documentary maker and has even been heard fronting BBC Radio 4’s Pick of the Week.

Dandelion Adventure: John Peel Session – Out 5th July 2024 (Wormer Bros. Records)

The Radio 4 documentary about the band can be heard here: Short Cuts – Series 16 – Beginnings – BBC Sounds

I was editor of the long-running fanzine, Plane Truth, and have subsequently written for a number of publications. While the zine was known for championing the most angular independent sounds, performing in recent years with a community samba percussion band helped to broaden my tastes so that in 2021 I am far more likely to be celebrating an eclectic mix of sounds and enthusing about Made Kuti, Anthony Joseph, Little Simz and the Soul Jazz Cuban compilations as well as Pom Poko and Richard Dawson.