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The Flatmates

Bristol, England indie pop icons the Flatmates were formed in mid-1985 by singer/guitarist Martin Whitehead -- also the founder of the famed Subway Organization label -- and drummer Rocker, whose roommate Kath Beach soon signed on to play bass. With the addition of another roommate, singer Deb Haynes, Whitehead relinquished vocal chores, and the group set about recording its first demos, comprised primarily of covers of favorites by the Ramones, the Stooges, and the Velvet Underground. Asked by a local journalist who was in the still-unnamed group, Rocker responded, "Oh, me and my flatmates"; the name stuck, and in early 1986, they played their first official gig in support of Half Man Half Biscuit. Though not appearing on NME's famous now-famous C-86 cassette, the Flatmates nevertheless emerged from the same anorak pop scene which also spawned the likes of the Shop Assistants, the BMX Bandits, and the Soup Dragons -- not only did the band's debut single "I Could Be in Heaven" appear that fall, but they also regularly opened for the many C-86 bands performing at the Bristol club the Bunker, which Whitehead and Rocker jointly managed.

After eight gigs Beach left the Flatmates, and was replaced by bassist Sarah Fletcher; although their second single, 1987's "Happy All the Time," cracked the U.K. indie Top Five, professional commitments forced Rocker (a practicing dental surgeon) to quit the group in mid-1987, with drummer Joel O'Beirne signing on to record their third single, "You're Gonna Cry." The follow-up, "Shimmer," topped the indie charts in the spring of 1988, and after adding second guitarist Tim Rippington, the Flatmates toured Germany; at the end of the tour Fletcher exited the lineup, with Whitehead doubling on bass to record "Heaven Knows," which despite a strong promotional push failed to match the success of "Shimmer," in the process spelling Subway's end. Bassist Jackie Carrera was added in time to tour Britain in the fall; Rippington was dismissed from the roster after showing up drunk for the Flatmates' gig at the University of London, however, and with the subsequent departure of Haynes, the group was finished, with the remaining members briefly continuing on as the Sweet Young Things. 1989's Love and Death assembled the Flatmates' singles as well as material recorded for a planned LP for London Records. ~ Jason Ankeny
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