Carter The Unstoppable Sex Machine (USM) rose from the ashes of the British popster band Jamie Wednesday. With a final gig left to play and no band to fulfill the obligation, singer/guitarist Jimbob and guitarist Fruitbat took the stage as a duo with guitars and backing tapes in 1988 for a charity event at the London, England Astoria. The duo decided they liked the format and began a decade-long partnership. The band later derived their name from Fruitbat’s surname (Carter), his sexually obsessive lifestyle, and a Jamie Wednesday instrumental song called “Conked Out Sex Machine.” As for the name Fruitbat, it was a nickname he earned when he played in a punk band called Dead Clergy. His full nickname was Johnny Guitar Fruitbat, The Flying Fox. And Jimbob is an homage to James Robert from the famous utterance “Goodnight, Jimbob” at the end of every show of the television series The Waltons.
Carter USM rode the bell curve of fame for a decade before calling it quits in 1997. Their music was a rapid-firing fury against almost every aspect of life in Britain in the 1990s. The band attacked the media, music critics, Britpop, the recording industry, corrupt landlords, addiction, immorality, war, politics, and finally at the end of their ride they attacked their own
Members include Fruitbat (born Leslie Carter), guitarist, singer, songwriter; Jimbob (born Jim Morrison), guitarist, songwriter; Ben Lambert, keyboards; Salv, bass; Steve, guitar; Wez, drums.
Formed band in South London, England, 1988; released debut single “A Sheltered Life,” 1988; released first hit single, “Sheriff Fatman,” 1988; released 101 Damnations, 1990; band dissolved, 1997; released I Blame the Government after the band’s end, 1998.
Addresses: Website —Fruitbat Homepage: http://www.fruity.dircon.co.uk/index2.html.
fans. Carter USM had an original sound which was comprised of electronic sampling, furious punk rock guitars, and uncompromising rap. The sound at the end of this funnel has been referred to as the “Punk Pet Shop Boys.”
“A Sheltered Life” was the band’s debut single released late in 1988 on the Big Cat label. Carter USM’s version of “A Sheltered Life” is more of a high-octane version of the original song by The Velvet Underground. The song is a wild and dangerous list of acts yet to be accomplished by Jimbob and a promise to make up for the sheltered life he has led thus far. Of course, the song is supported by a heavy charge of jamming guitar work and the rapid beating drum machine. The duo’s second single, “Sheriff Fatman,” is the story of a South London slumlord and would become the band’s signature song. Another song, “You Fat Bastard,” entered the vernacular of British households, became a popular football chant in soccer stadiums all over the United Kingdom, and was a necessary chant at all Carter USM live shows.
The band cultivated many hardcore fans with its live show which was famous for being wild, dangerous, and an out-of-control experience for the audience. Fruitbat explained the live show experience on the indie label Cooking Vinyl website: “To appreciate the full Carter The Unstoppable Sex Machine experience you just had to come to one of the gigs. The interaction with the crowd was an essential part of any live performance, the between-song banter, the chants of ‘You Fat Bastard,’ the stage-diving/crowd surfing, the sweat, the alcohol, the broken arms and legs all combined to leave a lasting impression on both the band and the audience.”
In 1990 Carter USM released their first album, 101 Damnations, and the angry comic Cockney duo delivered their full dark and venomous message of life contrasted against an energetic and rapid-firing beat with a mix of electronic sampling. The South London scene by now was drawing attention away from the established northern Manchester Britpop scene with bands like the Stone Roses. Critics were no longer ignoring the band and now the pressure of performing under a media microscope made for a long and contentious relationship with the media.
The band toured constantly, and their shows played to larger crowds and venues all over Britain and Europe. In 1991 Carter USM released 30 Something on Rough Trade, which hit the top ten in Britain. The single “Bloodsport For All,” a song about racism and abuse in the army, was banned by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) at the onset of Gulf War. Rough Trade did not help matters for Carter USM when they dissolved, leaving the group without the support of a label. However, the band’s star was rising, and these obstacles were barely noticed. It was the reissued single “Sheriff Fatman,” in June of 1991, that helped the band land on the number-one spot in the United Kingdom. The band was now on the top of the charts and touring heavily in the United Kingdom, Europe, Canada, and the United States.
The band’s single “After The Watershed (Early Learning The Hard Way),” a song about child abuse, was pulled off the airwaves after the Rolling Stones slapped an injunction on the tune for using lyrics from the Stone’s song, “Goodbye Ruby Tuesday.” Later, Carter USM reached a settlement with the Stones and now credit the song to Morrison, Carter, Jagger, Richards, and Bet Lynch.
1992 — The Love Album was released in 1992 and reached the number-one album spot in the United Kingdom. With several prior number-one singles and a top-selling album, the band was seeing their private lives on magazine covers combined with the pressure to fulfill high expectations. The album’s name was a reference critical to the European unity movement that was spreading at the time. The band reached its zenith when it played the Reading Festival and stole the show. Nevertheless, success did not come without a price. The band was feeling too exposed and did not like some of the music critics who began to turn their attention to this upstart South London duo. The band was losing their privacy and could not escape the public eye, and Fruitbat was finding the situation a difficult adjustment.
When asked if he preferred the attention of the media or not, Fruitbat told the Carter USM website, “No. I don’t like being totally ignored by the media but I didn’t like it when we couldn’t do anything. They were putting us on the front cover when we didn’t want to be on the front cover … They [the media] kinda take over; it’s nothing to do with you at all, they decide how you are going to appear, and with us they decided that we were going to be cartoon characters so that’s how everyone was thinking of us at the time, and it really pissed us off at the time.”
In 1993 the band released the album Post Historic Monsters on Chrysalis/EMI, which topped all of their previous efforts toward establishing a perfectly contentious and cynical punk masterpiece. The band slashed away at their guitars and increased the output of their electronic attack as Fruitbat continued to rap out against racists, immorality, fascists, war, politics, pop stars, and royalty. The band continued their touring adventures which now reached Eastern Europe, Australia, and Japan.
In February of 1994, Carter USM made a surprise appearance at the Kentish Town Forum as a supporting band for The Sultans Of Ping. The band appeared with a new drummer, Wez, a long-time friend of Fruitbat. The drum tracks were now being performed live and the band’s dynamics began to change. Fruitbat continued to voice his fear of the critics in an interview with the band’s website: “…when we are on the main stage, it is like the one day of the year when you are totally judged by everyone, the audience and the media. So the pressure to do a really good gig is immense so you end up spending half of the gig really sh***ing yourself.”
The band’s tour even took them to Zagreb, Croatia, making Carter USM the first major act to play in Croatia with an ethnic war raging on. The band felt strongly about their message against war, ethnic cleansing, and fascist governments. The trio felt European nations turned their back to the growing situation and were upset with the media selection of U2’s lead singer Bono as their popstar ambassador to peace. Carter USM attacked Bono for being treated like a messiah and Michael Jackson and other superstars for receiving media attention for various noble causes.
Worry Bomb, Carter USM’s 1995 album released on Chrysalis/EMI, broke the into top ten, landing at number eight. The trio’s sound was more developed and some critics felt the band had released their best album to date. However, Chrysalis/EMI had an ambitious business plan that called for a hit in the United States and platinum status. The trio was unhappy with the business direction Chrysalis/EMI was ushering them toward and reluctantly agreed to a “greatest hits” album entitled Straw Donkey: The Singles, which was released with a new single “Born On The Fifth Of November.” Although Straw Donkey was met with moderate success, it did not achieve the targeted United States chart performance the label had wanted, so Carter USM was allowed to part ways with Chrysalis/EMI.
Carter USM worked in the studios on and off between tours for the next year before finally releasing A World Without Dave on their new indie label Cooking Vinyl, in 1996. The band was now a more traditional group featuring six members in their lineup, Salv on base, Steve (Wez’s brother) on guitar, and Ben Lambert on keyboards. The band dropped most of the electronic tracks and developed a more mellow sound. There was a strong desire to grow and change from the furious guitar duo of Fruitbat and Jimbob with backing tracks to the more rich and pure instrumental rock sound of a full band. The band embarked on their longest United Kingdom tour to date and then on to Canada and the United States. It was the band’s desire to change and grow, however, that conflicted with many fans’ desire to hear “Sheriff Fatman” at every gig. Quite possibly, these differences of opinion led to the band’s demise.
“It is very depressing to play a brilliant gig and then have people coming up to you afterward asking why you didn’t play ‘Billy’s Smart Circus’ and also extremely annoying to have people shouting ‘You Fat Bastard’ all the way through a quiet song as if they haven’t noticed,” Fruitbat wrote in a letter to his fans, as posted on the band’s website. “The people who threw cans at the last Swindon & Astoria gigs are a symptom of our dilemma.”
On Carter USM’s tenth anniversary, Fruitbat and Jimbob agreed to dissolve the band over coffee in Balti-more, Maryland, on their final tour. The two had always agreed to call it quits when they no longer enjoyed their efforts. Their final studio album, / Blame The Government, was released posthumously on Cooking Vinyl Records in January of 1998.
101 Damnations, U.K. Big Cat 1990; reissued, Big Cat/Chrysalis, 1991.
30 Something, Chrysalis/EMI, 1991.
Bloodsport for All (EP), Rough Trade, 1992.
1992—The Love Album, Chrysalis/EMI, 1992.
Post Historic Monsters, Chrysalis/EMI, 1993; reissued, IRS, 1994.
Starry Eyed and Bollock Naked, Chrysalis/EMI, 1994.
Doma Sportova…ive At Zagreb, Chrysalis/EMI, 1994.
Worry Bomb, Chrysalis/EMI, 1995.
Straw Donkey: The Singles, Chrysalis/EMI, 1995.
A World Without Dave (mini-album), Cooking Vinyl, 1997.
I Blame the Government, Cooking Vinyl, 1998.
Live!, Cooking Vinyl, 1998.
Sessions, Cooking Vinyl, 1998.
Anytime Anyplace Anywhere, Chrysalis/EMI, 1999.
Buckley, Jonathan and others, editors, Rock: The Rough Guide, Rough Guides Ltd., 1999.
Robbins, Ira A., editor, The Trouser Press Guide to ’90s Rock, Fireside/Simon and Schuster, 1997.
HeadCleaner Music Zine, 1997.
Cooking Vinyl, http://www.cookingvinyl.com/carter/index.html (December 7, 2000).
Fruitbat Website, http://www.fruity.dircon.co.uk (December 7, 2000).