Monday, August 13, 2012

All The Myths On Sunday - Lost Sounds of the Eighties and Nineties

                                    The Tansads, The Bankrobbers, Diesel Park West

I was having a drink with an old friend a fortnight ago when the conversation came around to music. We noted how the second track of the Manic Street Preachers' debut album had focused as long ago as 1992 - twenty-one frigging years ago no less - on the nation-destroying dynamics of the UK banking sector in Natwest Barclays Midlands Lloyds.

Some time ago in turn a New Musical Express list of great gigs mentioned the three concerts by the same group at the Astoria on London's Charing Cross Road in December 1994 as being amongst the best ever to be seen in modern times. I was lucky enough to catch the second night there on The Holy Bible tour - guitarist Richey Edwards disappearing off the face of the earth less than two months later. The Astoria has also ceased to be - as indeed has much of the character and atmosphere of the Soho and London of those days.

The Manics aside, the three other bands I really rated in the early Nineties were Therapy? from Larne in County Antrim, Surrey's The Auteurs and That Petrol Emotion from Derry City. All of them deserved much more commercial success than they attained in hindsight and with regard to such engaging, thoughtful and original output as  Screamager, Loose, Bailed Out,  New French Girlfriend, It's A Good Thing and Hey Venus.

Likewise, of the various gigs I attended during the Eighties and Nineties,  there were three support acts in particular that I especially recall  - none of whom would receive their due commercial reward.

On Monday 8th November 1982 I saw Stiff Little Fingers at the Ulster Hall Belfast on their Now Then tour - their fourth and last album prior to splitting up for a period. Support was Bankrobbers who recorded two singles on Terri Hooley's Good Vibrations label and one for EMI. During a photoshoot for one of the Good Vibrations singles the band posed in American military apparel in Newtownards in County Down and attracted the attention of the Royal Ulster Constabulary on the way home to Belfast. During their brief career they would support The Undertones, The Kinks and The Ruts. Their excellent second single Jenny (as performed on Channel 4's The Tube) would surprisingly not provide them with a commercial breakthrough in 1983 - much alike the magnificently named Ghost of an American Airman, who were also from Belfast, and their own I Hear Voices release in 1987.

I then saw Stuart Adamson's Big Country at their Hammersmith Odeon show in London on Tuesday 24th January 1991. This particular tour promoted their fourth Peace In Our Time album which essentially heralded a  major stalling of their career - support was provided by another wonderfully named act in Diesel Park West. The group would record two of the most perfect pieces of melodic British guitar rock of the period in All The Myths On Sunday and Fall to Love - the singles soaring to 66 and 48  on the charts respectively. They broke up in 1995 after four albums but would subsequently record again.

Finally, in support to Stiff Little Fingers at a gig at London's Kentish Town Forum on Saturday 24th July 1993, I watched The Tansads from Wigan who were apparently named after a brand of perambulator. Striking in appearance and sound alike - and in certain contemporary respects not dissimilar to The Levellers in terms of their  folk-tinged indie appeal - the eight-piece Tansads' second album Up The Shirkers would include much marvellously unique and eclectic music such as John John, Camelot, Brian Kant, The English Rover and Up The Revolution. They would release only four studio albums in total.  

All three groups now barely penetrate the memory banks of our musical heritage yet remain hugely overlooked talents nonetheless and their music still invigorating soundtracks of better days.

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