I almost can’t believe that I have never written about this debut single, but today’s the day to put that to rest! The fact of the matter was that for every truly stunning band that leapt fully formed, as if from the head of Zeus, [basically, Roxy Music and… any others?] there are dozens more that build through the more typical iterative process. Building from modest beginnings through different names and faces until they arrive at the point where they are well known and established entities, that even a clueless teenager in Central Florida like I was might hear of them and take an interest. Tiger Lily were one such band.
Tiger Lily: Ain’t Misbehavin’ – UK – 7″ 
- Ain’t Misbehavin
- Monkey Jive
For the uninitiated, Tiger Lily was the band that formed in England in 1973 and four years later would be better known as Ultravox! Their debut single was a strange little Fats Waller cover that had been commissioned for a documentary on pornography or an actual softcore porn film. I’ve heard both stories. The single [sans picture sleeve] was produced by Austin John Marshall, who is best known as a producer of his [ex] wife Shirley Collins’ albums. The band agreed to this to finally get at least one of their tunes to wax, and they used the meager advance to buy Billy Currie an electric piano for live gigs as he came to the band as a violinist and only after that did they learn he could play keys.
“Ain’t Misbehavin'” was not far from the early [good] Rod Stewart material of the early 70s. Demure of tempo with the fiddle of Currie leading [while doubling on pizzicato touches] as the bass line went for the tuba sound that Waller probably wrote the song in mind with. The song became “rockier” as it progressed along.
Singer Dennis Leigh [a.k.a. John Foxx] affected a Ferryesque vibrato on the high end as he floated along the song as light as a feather. After the middle eight was where the song finally added the guitars for some rock crunch while the hot solo went to Currie on violin as the song faded out after a tight 3:18. For a gent who was producing folk music at the time, Marshall’s production sounded tight and powerful. As this song was a work for hire curio to get the band into a studio after two years from point zero, it can be best summed up as having done little damage.
Much more interesting was the B-side, which actually sounded like the Ultravox! we might already be familiar with. Bass, drums, and rhythm guitar were locked into a unified staccato groove that was machine-like, threatening, and monolithic. Then the powerful bass line swaggered into play with a touch of acid fuzz guitar providing tasty contrast. Then Leigh made his presence known with three interjections of a simian “ooh, ooh, ooh” grunt before biting into the first verses with all of the spiteful venom that he would bring to some of the more arresting material on their debut album two years hence.
The chorus actually lost a little power as it dialed up the aggression, but in a way that was more common to garden variety rock of the time. Leigh was doubled on the choruses here for more power. Then it reverted back to the intro [but for only one bar instead of four] and began for the second time in much the same way. The middle eight featured Leigh mocking a real “Coca Cola King Kong” before aligning the instruments into the song’s powerful signature riff to take it to the cold ending finish.
Tiger Lily: Monkey Jive – UK – 7″ [1980 3rd issue]
- Monkey Jive
- Ain’t Misbehavin’
The third issue of this single, came, like clockwork, hot on the heels of Ultravox signing to another label in the fall of 1980: Chrysalis Records. And even though the band had yet to have hits in any of their incarnations, this time Gull merely licensed the tracks to Dead Good Records, who flipped the A/B sides in order to cater to the new Ultravox fans who might be interested in a little rock archaeology. That was certainly my case as I’d read about this single enough by the time I saw this sitting in the used 7″ bins [how I miss those!] at Retro Records. I probably found this in 1982 at the latest. Looking back, I’m shocked that the sleeve art in no way traded on the name value of Ultravox, even by the point of their earliest Chrysalis release. Surely, a snipe across the top corner might have told otherwise ignorant record buyers that the debut single from Ultravox had been catapulted through time for their pleasure.
Ultimately, “Monkey Jive” at least showed that the band had the concept of what their debut album would announce to the world in early 1977. Namely, that here was a band that was taking the foundations of glam rock and adding more aggression to their attack in a way that presaged the Punk Rock about to catch flashpoint. This record made sense adjacent to their debut album, once we discounted the mannered cover version that was its first lease on life. Juxtaposed next to their second album and all that came afterward, the band here had little in common with what Ultavox would mutate into as a monkey did with homo sapiens.
I have the third issue,but only played it about twice.Found it quite cheap about ten years ago and bought for completists sake.
The second and third Ultravox! albums I really adore,but the first one has always left me a bit cold,and not in a good way.”My sex” is a masterpiece though.
Gavin – It’s true. The first one is tentative compared to the impact and scope of “Ha! Ha! Ha!” and “Syetems Of Romance.” While “Ultravox!” might be the transitional album between this single and “Ha! Ha! Ha!” I’ve only really fallen hard for “Ha! Ha! Ha!” in the last 20 years or so. One day I can see that it might be my favorite and the notion that anything could be better than “Systems of Romance” excites me in my dotage!