I used to work with a bloke who was such a big Theatre of Hate fan he got their name tattooed on his arm. Unfortunately for him they broke up about a year later which should be a lesson to all you kids out there: Think twice before you get that tat.
I didn’t mind Theatre of Hate, but Kirk Brandon‘s wobbly, operatic voice was an acquired taste, and I think I was more inspired by his Punkabilly style than his records. But I did like the first single he released with his new band Spear of Destiny in 1983 which is more poppy than anything he’d done before. The chorus is massive, soaring stuff and the track has a Celtic feel like they were trying to do a Big Country. His voice is still a bit Marmite though.
This 1981 single is the last one Post-Punk squawkers Essential Logic released. A year later Laura Logic quit the music biz to join the Hare Krishnas with old buddy and former X-Ray Spex bandmate Poly Styrene.
They could be quite atonal at times but this is a sweet, bouncy record that’s about as pop as they ever got. Probably why I bought it and still have it.
If you were a reader of the NME, Sounds, or Melody Maker in the late 70s you probably know the name of journalist Vivien Goldman who wrote for all them. As a friend of both John Lydon and Bob Marley she was at the centre of the Punk/Reggae nexus that was so important and influential. It was Goldman who first played The Clash’s version of “Police and Thieves” to Marley (who was in London recording Exodus at the time) which led him to write “Punky Reggae Party”, the b-side of “Jamming” that name checks The Jam, The Dammed, and The Clash.
Like her old flatmate Chrissie Hynde (another former NME scribe) she also made records, though they were too idiosyncratic to make her as famous. She was a member of The Flying Lizards, half of a duo called Chantage, and in 1981 released her only solo single “Launderette”. This was a terrific record that also showed what an amazing Rolodex of contacts Goldman had: Co-written with Aswad bassist George Oban and produced by John Lydon and Keith Levene of PiL (who plays guitar), it also features Vicky Aspinall of The Raincoats and Robert Wyatt.
Like so much Post-Punk it’s heavily influenced by Reggae with a Dubby bass and skanking beat, and Goldman’s off-kilter vocals and lyrics give it the primitive, wonky charm of The Slits — who were also friends of hers, natch.
The career of Punk ingenue Honey Bane reads like the script of a torrid teen exploitation movie. Growing up as a “problem child” with an unstable home life, she formed her first band Fatal Microbes in 1978 when she was only 14. They broke up after making just the one single (the minor Post-Punk classic “Violence Grows”) and after that Honey was put in a juvenile treatment centre for alcohol and behavioral problems. She ran away from there and spent a year as a fugitive from Social Services during which she fell in with anarcho-punk collective Crass and recorded an EP with them. Now the ripe old age of 16, Honey released her terrific first solo single “Guilty” on her own label, and then came under the managerial wing of Sham 69’s Jimmy Pursey who got her signed to EMI and attempted to turn her into a pop star.
Sporting a Toyah Wilcox-ish look and a more bouncy, New-Wave sound, her first Pursey-produced single “Turn Me On, Turn Me Off” was a hit in 1981 — I bought it and had a crush on her — but none of the follow-ups did well. Annoyed by EMI’s attempts to push her in an even more pop direction, she quit her contract with them and went into acting. But despite a part in the 1982 film Scrubbers (sort of a female version of Scum) and a Trebor Mints commercial (!), that career fizzled and a few years later she was posing nude in girlie mags to make a living.
If this story was a movie, the final scene would be a desperate suicide by drug overdose, her music dreams crushed and reduced to the sleazy business of taking her clothes off for money. But Holly is still around, back to making music, and last year she released a compilation of singles and b-sides going back to her Fatal Microbes days called It’s A Baneful Life which is mostly excellent stuff, especially when you consider she wrote and recorded a lot of it at an age when the rest of us were only worrying about homework and school discos.
They didn’t always work though, even for established bands like The Skids. In 1980 their third album The Absolute Game made the Top Ten of the album charts but all the singles from it tanked despite being given a gimmicky promo push by Virgin Records. The first single “Circus Games” was wrapped in a poster of the band but only got to #32, while “A Woman In Winter” which stalled 10 places lower came with an 11-page comic called Pirate Gold which starred the band in a ripping yarn about lost treasure.
It’s not exactly Stan Lee and Jack Kirby but still a clever idea and a sign of just how creatively healthy and competitive the pop scene was at the time. Those were the days when a noisy post-punk band like The Skids could appear on the cover of Smash Hits and I guess the comics and glossy posters were an attempt to sell the band to that crowd instead serious young men in overcoats.
It’s not as if these were bad records either, “Circus Games” was stonkingly catchy and “A Woman In Winter” was glorious, uplifting stuff with guitar work by Stuart Adamson that sounds like a rehearsal for Big Country. Should have been an Xmas hit. I bought it with the comic but would still have done if it came in a gravy-stained brown paper bag. Maybe Virgin should have asked Richard Jobson to make his lyrics more coherent instead.
As summer is over I wasn’t going to put up any new t-shirt designs until next year, but I’ve sold a few in the past month so I guess it must still be warm somewhere. As usual this is only $14 for a limited time so get it now. Early Christmas presents maybe?
This was New Order’s second single but is less well known than it’s b-side “Everything’s Gone Green” probably because the latter points more toward the direction the band was to take. It’s a slight song but I always liked it, especially those lovely synth washes.