Swamp Children ‘You’ve Got Me Beat’

Swamp Children’s 1982 ‘You’ve Got Me Beat’ distilled a distinctly British post-punk jazz style that has come back into the spotlight in 2024. We speak with drummer Martin Moscrop and vocalist Ann Quigley to hear how it came to be

Ann Quigley: “‘You’ve Got Me Beat’ was probably the first song we wrote that I thought sounded like a proper song. Before that, Swamp Children had done a 12-inch EP called ‘Little Voices’, so we hadn’t even done an album or anything by that point. The main thing for us was the luxury of going into a really nice studio and being allowed to do it – it’s just a bubble of excitement when you’re that young.”

Martin Moscrop: “Swamp Children grew out of our little scene in Hulme, Manchester, in the early 1980s. The core of the band was myself, John Kirkham on guitar, Tony Quigley on bass, and Ann on vocals. We also had Ceri Evans, who was this 16-year-old ball of energy who’d run away from London to come and live with me and Tony in Manchester. He’d go on to form Brand New Heavies,eventually.”

Ann: “There was a crossover of jazz funk and soul jazz that we were playing, and also a quirkiness from not being able to play our instruments yet. John Kirkham could play – he’d been the guitarist in Pink Military. Martin on drums, for instance, was in A Certain Ratio, but he didn’t play drums in ACR. And Ceri Evans, who ran away and joined the circus in a way, when he joined it was just ‘Wow’. He was like Stevie Wonder, he could play anything. And you think how young he was…” 

Martin: “We would have liked to have been part of that Brit funk scene but we weren’t good enough musicians yet. We basically came out of the punk era and we weren’t quite accomplished enough to play it, so everything came out sounding a little bit punky and a little bit different just because of a lack of musical ability. We got a lot better later when we were called Kalima. John was probably the most accomplished musician out of all of us, and his guitar on ‘You’ve Got Me Beat’ is very Blackbyrds-y, like ‘Rock Creek Park’. The song is also influenced by ‘Station Break’ by Captain Sky.”

Ann: “When we came up with ‘You’ve Got Me Beat’, it was around the time we were sharing a rehearsal studio with A Certain Ratio and Joy Division, and for a short period of time with New Order. John was the one at the time who’d come up with the bare bones of any composition, so it started with that guitar lick which became the intro. Someone said, ‘Hey, that sounds good John, let’s see what we can do with that’. You know it’s a good song when it literally writes itself. I think it took maybe one or two rehearsals and the song was there. We didn’t change anything. We didn’t know how to end songs properly at the time but on that one we did.”

Martin: “Listening back to ‘You’ve Got Me Beat’ now, it’s really groove-based, and I can really hear the records that we were listening to at the time. And I’m just really, really pleased that we managed to rip off the right tunes! We were very much into the Brazilian group Azymuth, and I think the drum sound that I had in my head was heavily influenced by them.”

Ann: “Our engineer Phil Bush was the grown up in the room, even though he was only a little bit older. Working at the desk, he seemed much older. When you’re that age, you feel like you should show them a bit of respect and they obviously know more than you in their respective fields. I think he let us go anywhere we wanted to go musically.” 

Martin: “Tony Wilson always had affiliations with other labels around the world, so when we came to record the ‘Taste Whats Rhythm’ EP, Tony said, ‘What about Les Disques Du Crépuscule?’. We’d go, ‘OK, yeah, we just want to put a record out’. 

Ann: “With the EP, we were recording for Factory Benelux. ACR and New Order had been working across Europe through Factory Benelux so we thought ‘Wow, we might even get a chance to go to Europe this way’.”

Martin: “So the Crepuscule thing was always a little side thing that Tony would do. I think the EP works really well as a Crépuscule EP. Factory Records didn’t really understand us. It was only because I was in ACR that we would convince them to release the Swamp Children records. Tony hated jazz.” 

Ann: “We went on the local news programme ‘Granada Reports’ which Tony presented – he always found a way to get one of the Factory bands on, whether it was Joy Division or ACR. It’s quite odd watching a local news programme and all of a sudden there’s the Happy Mondays. I remember thinking if we do anything on TV, then we should do ‘You’ve Got Me Beat’ because it sounds commercial. And I think in terms of the style of music we were trying to do, we sounded accomplished.”

Martin: “It was a real mishmash of styles that inspired Swamp Children, A Certain Ratio and the electronic musician Eric Random in our little Hulme clique. We used to go around to each other’s houses and have tripping nights either on mushrooms or acid. We just used to listen to loads of music and we felt safe in our own little bubble. And then we started to venture out.”

Ann: “Now, I don’t know if anyone’s told you about the sound at The Haçienda, but it was like playing underwater. The PA was really bad, and I regret that one of the only bits of footage that survives is from The Haçienda because I hate it. It sounds awful. As for the ‘Granada Reports’ appearance, Ceri missed his train. But the following day I went into this big department store to buy lipstick, and the lady behind the counter went, ‘I saw you on the telly last night, love, you were great’, and it was such an unusual feeling, you know?”

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