Johnny Runs for Paregoric

Exploding Seagulls Johnny Runs for Paregoric 7" (Fried Egg, 1980)

I am not sure if the punkalectuals would let the Exploding Seagulls into their classroom. I don't know if they would even be allowed in the "special" class, along with those DIY nerds. The Exploding Seagulls (like the very very great Avant Gardner [post pending]) might be a little too coy, a little too tongue in cheek, hell, a little too cheeky. But I like them. This was made in 1980 in Bristol and was released on Fried Egg Records, which is not only one of my favorite label names but they have one of my favorite label art. The band is credited as the band, however Tony Orrell played drums. Since his name is mentioned separately, perhaps he is a stand in. Ken Wheeler produced. I tell you all this because that is all I know about the Exploding Seagulls.

I do, however, know a little bit about paregoric. Paregoric is a tincture made with camphor, aromatic oils, and opium. It is not quite as string as morphine, however both the camphor and the oils are said to enhance the effect of the opium. It has been called a "modern day" laudanum. Laudanum was very popular with the Romantic Poets, but is no longer being produced. Neither is paregoric. However, fifty years ago paregoric was a very popular flu remedy. Little Johnny has the sniffles? Give him a slug of paregoric and he'll be dreaming good dreams for the night. He might ask for a taste in the morning but that's all right. And if you run out, send Johnny out to get some more.

One of the cool things about writing about and playing obscure music on the radio is every once in a while, one of the people that I write up or play contacts me. Way back in July, I did an entry on the Exploding Seagulls. Today I got an email from Richard Bolton, bassist and vocalist of the Exploding Seagulls. Richard writes:


Thanks so much for your appreciation of the seagulls record on crud crud - which I came upon by chance when I was trying to pin down when something happened and the only reference point was the release of that single. And you're right - the punkalectuals wouldn't let the Exploding Seagulls into their classroom - we were obscure, idiosyncratic, idiotic and we had quite a good time! I would point to sugarshack records website which describes the seagulls thusly - 'Berserk art-college kids from Southampton, they became Peel favourites before fragmenting in a welter of sexual and musical differences. The guitarist hooked up with a couple of Art Objects and became the Blue Aeroplanes.'

For my sins i was responsible for bringing 'Johnny' into the world, or rather, reviving him, for the first line, 'Johnny runs for Paregoric' was found by my sister in a Victorian book - all i did was mash it up with 'Subterranean Homesick Blues' and, as you point out - stuck tongue firmly in cheek.

The band, initially was me on bass and vocals, Julian Chadwick on keyboards and shopping trolley (doubled as keyboard stand and transport) and Nick Jacobs on guitar and vocals. the 'Tony Orrell' you see credited was indeed a stand in drummer as George Martin wasn't sure that Ringo would be up to it. We sort of ballooned later with girlfriends joining as singers... we went through a couple of drummers until we found one who could drum..

Fried Egg was the home of Bristol weirdscapes and Ken Wheeler the house engineer at Sound Conception studios in Bristol.

We played some memorable gigs, john peel played our record(s) ..... what more can you want. Nick peeled off to join the Blue Aeroplanes, Julian went to live in New Zealand, I got hacked off and divorced and suddenly the Seagulls had exploded...... although not necessarily in that order.

I've kept on playing music in a number of different milieu - from rock to theatre to writing an oratorio and am just kicking off with a new band called 'throne above the stars' which is an attempt to recapture the bright elusive butterfly of psychedelia, chloroform it and pin it to the backside of the grinning donkey of rock.....

Great website - I'm going to try to listen to the show via the magic of the internet.

Regards... and thanks again.

Richard (The Former Republic of Fred) Bolton

(Johnny.... originally posted 7/15/05; Richard's letter posted 8/30/09)

This one's been over on Sing Sing for a while now. Why won't anyone post the B-side? =(
Just so you should know, paregoric is in fact still available from one manufacturer in the USA (NDC is 50383-0855-16), and should be obtainable (by prescription only, of course) at any pharmacy, although they'd probably have to special-order it if anyone finds a doctor who's been around long enough to remember it. The stuff smells like arrack; no idea what it tastes like, although I'd guess it's probably pretty nasty.
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