[…continued from last post]
The last six tracks on disc one were 1978 demos. The single conceit of the title, which was almost all of its lyric content, was the crux of “I Don’t Take Drugs, I Don’t Tell Lies.” It was a skeletal Post-Punk Reggae that was the most modestly developed song here. It sped up half way through to repeat the title and some na-na-nas. The point of it all? They’d rather get drunk. Every band needs an anthemic self-defining song, right? It worked for The Monkees. But apart from the sung title of “We Are The Fashion,” this was an instrumental.
“Small People” was very punky. It sounded like a different band entirely. This must have been the earliest track here, but it still slowed down for Reggae skank sections every few bars. But perhaps it was an early outlier to maybe what they decided would be their sound. They had “Bike Boys” down fairly confidently, as it would not vary much in its final version on their “Product Perfect” album. It was probably a centerpiece of their live sets and that’s why this was why it was an epic 5:22 even in demo form. ” The Naff All Tango” was a funny title for an instrumental, that eventually did coalesce into a Tango, but it was all too sloppy for these ears. And finally, the alternate take of “Killing Time” minus the Dub workout coda had the song at half of the released length with a climax that ended more definitively. Maybe this was down to the timely effect of Punk before Dub began to hold sway with the band.
The second disc here was comprised of the only extant live recording of the band, made on January 3rd, 1979 at an unusual location: Brize Norton Royal Airforce Base. It was the young band’s 34th gig ever, and only their debut single had been released by that point. If ten songs seemed a bit skimpy, know that two of the “tracks” here were eight to nine minute long medleys comprised of three songs each. Bringing the total of songs up to 14. Practially Prog for a young band just starting out six months earlier.
The three piece seemed to be still a little green here. With sound down to guitar/bass/drums with Mulligan doubling on a synth as well, there was not a lot of filling things out. This was the dawn of the Post-Punk era and the band were obviously inspired by Punk even as they were picking up on the Reggae influence that was always cheek-by-jowl with Punk. The wild card was the adoption of the synthesizer to also throw into the pot.
They wisely kicked the set off with “Steady Eddie Steady” which would have been their calling card at that time. Hearing a live New Wave band with synth bass was pretty exotic in the barely 1979 climate. The recording quality here was generally good. Vocals were a little ragged but no one would have batted an eyelash at this performance when it was going down. It didn’t sound like the audience was miked, but this was probably just a recording for the band to review their performance, not a gatefold double live album. What little presence the audience had here was limited to bleed through on the vocal mics.
“Red, Green And Gold” next got as deep as the band got into Reggae, neatly defining the scope of their sound right up front. I have to wonder what the sequencing of the original live set was since the late in the set track “Symiane” [a song dedicated to singer Luke James’ girlfriend at the time] ended with drummer Dik Davis announcing that the next song was their next single, “Citinite.” But “Citinite” showed up here as track four in the live set. Following the Punk Trilogy of “Don’t Touch Me/I Don’t Take Drugs/Sodium Penathol Negative.”
But that was actually pretty good re-sequencing as the diffuse “Citinite”‘ worked well as an unexpected palate cleanser following the frantic action of the three song medley. The Reggae/Punk of “Killing Time” was probably the band at their most commercially astute; slotting into the sound that The Police were currently riding very high in the charts at the time.
I did like how the live sound was stripped back even further than their already economical recordings. The second live medley which replicated the last half of what would be side one of “Product Perfect” with the live synths getting more prominence in the band’s starker live sound. These three songs [“Big John/Hanoi Annoys Me/The Innocent”] made a potent case for this band having something unique they were trying to contribute to Post-Punk. Having the band pack it in by the summer of 1980 was something of cheat as a fan, but having read Luke James’ autobio covering the Fàshiön phase one] era from start to finish, it just wasn’t meant to be. It’s to James’ benefit that he recognized this after a reasonably brief time of being in a signed band. Which he ultimately found out, didn’t change much in his life.
“Die In the West” was a great song that deserved a longer lifespan that it probably had in the band’s hands at the time. It would end up a deep cut on the “Product Perfect” album that would come out many months later than this concert. A chorus that consisted of “die in the west and you’re half way to heaven” painted the band in their most sardonic light.
I was happy and surprised to see that all of the Fàshiön singles which I’d had in my want list for ages were now here and on the sliver disc! Meaning that I’d have a CD of this material [and so much more] for a fraction of the value of the time I would have spent making the disc. The Easy Action label have just released the 2xCD as well as a 2xLP option for those who’d prefer records of material that had been only in print previously…on records. Here’s what’s on offer:
- The Singles/Demo Tracks – 2xLP – £25.00
- The Singles/Demo Tracks/Live Album – 2xCD – £12.99
- “Sodium Pentathol Negative” b/w “Steady Eddie Steady” [both 1978 unreleased versions] white 7″ – £8.99
- Mega Bundle – all of the above + Fàshiön A4 print – £39.99
The 7″ tracks were appended to the live CD on disc two of the CD version, so all of the music is present in that format. I’ve wanted the “Product Perfect” album for…almost forever, really. There was an LP reissued on green vinyl last year for RSD, but I was going to try for an original I.R.S. Records pressing since it had such iconic relevance for me. The word comes that Easy Action may be licensing the album for reissue as well, somewhere down the line. But in the interim, I’m just happy to have the early incarnation of this band available on the silver disc!
The band’s relevance in the Brummie New Wave scene can’t be underestimated. We hope to have an interview with Luke James soon to discuss this music, what it was like being signed by Miles Copeland when he was beginning his recorded music empire, and the inevitable connections to their erstwhile opening act, Duran Duran.
White Vinyl 7″
Bundle [2xLP, 2xCD, 7″, A4 Print]
I have the original vinyl LP of “Product Perfect”,though I must admit I never really got into it.I should give it another try after reading your excellent posts.
Like a lot of people,the Dee Harris era is my favourite,but I do also own the third album on LP.
Gavin – First phase Fashion is close to The Police sometimes, but more left-field and interesting. I suspect that Miles Copeland was covering all of the bases. I also own the third, Allen Darby-led Fashiøn album [plus a 12″!], and even though it was produced by the holy Zeus B. Held, I’ve not screwed up the courage to give it a listen in the last…25 years or so?
Nice write-up; clicked the 2xCD link to check on postage and saw this:
“To Be released Late April 2023 – pre sales will commence March 2023”
I was hoping that was for vinyl and not for the CDs — not sure I can be that patient.
KeithC – I checked with the label. That was totally such a typo! The release date I was given was May 1, 2022! But someone needs to edit that page.