There I was. Minding my own business in the late 80s. Trying to get some nourishment from the thin gruel of the UK music scene of the time, when during one of my weekly MTV sessions during 120 Minutes [all I could stand, basically] I saw the video for “Tell That Girl To Shut Up” by Transvision Vamp. I was surprised to see that anyone remembered my precious Holly + The Italians, and on that level, I was subtly impressed with their choice of cover tunage. But not enough to run out and actually buy a copy of “Pop Art,” the Transvision Vamp debut album! As a cover went, it didn’t exactly make me forget the original. Which was hardly my favorite Holly Beth Vincent song in any case!
The next year, I was at Murmur Records and they had a copy of Record Mirror magazine with a 7″ EP cover mounted so these things could usually have a rare track or two on them, so I took a closer look. Betchabygollywow, the EP featured four decent acts and was called “On The Chart Tip 1′” and one of these bands was Transvision Vamp with an unreleased track. This might prove interesting, and at any rate, it was a cheap way to hear a bit more of this band than a cover version. Maybe they would be my new friend?
Various: Record Mirror – On The Chart Tip 1 – UK – EP 
- INXS: Johnson’s Aeroplane
- Transvision Vamp: Child Of the Age [previously unreleased]
- Neneh Cherry: Buffalo Stance [There’s Nothing Wrong – Sukka Mix II]
- Black: You Don’t Always Do What’s Best For You
The tracks on the EP were all over the place. I already had the INXS and Black tracks on their respective albums in the Record Cell. I was scratching my head at how a five year old INXS deep cut was deemed worthy for inclusion, but the band were on top of the world commercially, in the late 80s, so there’s that. I was collecting Black by 1987, so I had the “Comedy” deep cut. At the time the Neneh Cherry remix of “Buffalo Stance” was exclusive to this EP but that only held true for a few months. It eventually came into my Record Cell on the CD-3 of “Manchild” as a B-side later that year. The mix here was 40 seconds shorter, so it’s an edit of that one.
So years later, the main reason why I bought the magazine/record was still valid. I got to hear a track that Transvision Vamp gave away to a magazine. Likely not their best goods, but still possibly of interest. The track was produced by Duncan Bridgeman, who I knew from Gardening By Moonlight and John Foxx involvement. That could only be good.
The song actually turned out to be surprisingly good! It had a pulsating bass synth with just enough rock crunch and guitar scuzz laid over it, while the charming synth strings gave it a melancholy yet wistful air. The lyrics were surprisingly smart and steeped in knowing irony.
This was no quickie demo like I typically heard on the Flexipop flexidiscs. This was a fully realized song that was of a much higher caliber than I was expecting. And singing it was Wendy James, who had not impressed me terribly on the “Tell That Girl to Shut Up” cover with her flat vocals. Here, she was more dreamy and wistful. Sounding like a twelve year old trying for a grown up’s gravitas. But it fit the number, and as I said. If this was a song they deemed throwaway enough to give to a magazine freebie disc, then maybe I had better get on this Transvision Vamp train tout suite?
So I went out to Camelot Music [the nearest record store] bought “Pop Art” soon after this EP hit my Record Cell to find that yes, this was definitely a new friend! As I absorbed the album and all of its singles [bought on CD format singles] I noted with approval that productiojn dutires were spilt between Bridgeman and cult favoriet Zeus B. Held! I collected the band throughout the course of their brief half-life, though the case could be made that albums two and three showed a curve of diminishing returns.
And as I paid more attention to the band, I could not help but notice that Wendy James had quickly developed a reputation in the UK press as a bit of a loudmouth to say the least. Always ready with an exhibitionist quip for the press who, of course, turned on her. I was shocked to see after topping the charts with their sophomore album, “Velveteen,” and selling like mad [they were born to be sold] it was amazing their third album, “Little Magnets VS The Bubble Of Babble” was deemed unviable for a release in the UK on CD format. I’d never seen a band go from successful to has-beens in such a short span of time.
At the end of the day, I had a nearly 30 year period where the dreamily cinematic “Child Of The Age” was still only ever on this freebie EP. That only changed and the track finally made it to CD format in 2019 with the “I Want Your Love” BSOG that Edsel released with six CDs of practically everything the band ever released along with a DVD of videos. As I already had scads of CD singles and Japanese mix compilations [and a JPN laserdisc] I decided to pass on that one. Neat and tidy as it was. It was never cheap at $80-90, though now it costs quite a bit more!
Just a few weeks ago, MCA released a DL-only collection that also managed to rope in “Child Of The Age” for the modern era. So now we can get our fix for this cool tune digitally. If you’ve not had the pleasure, I’m sure it’s out there to stream, or whatever it is you kids do these days!
Transvision Vamp: A’s, B’s & Rarities – DL 
- Revolution Baby [7″ ver.]
- I Want Your Love [7″ ver.]
- Revolution Baby [Zeus B. Held mix]
- Baby I Don’t Care [7″ ver.]
- The Only One [7″ ver.]
- [I Just Wanna] Be With U [alternative single mix]
- Twangy Wigout [7″ ver.]
- Child Of The Age
- Sweet Thing
This compilation is a bit of a re-do of disc four of the “I Want Your Love” box with the addition of “Sweet Thing” and the dropping of three other tracks. It’s 35 years later and Transvision Vamp still have a frightening amount of material at our fingertips; perhaps in contrast to the strong, but by no means powerhouse level of popularity they had all those years ago. Is it my imagination, or are the labels leaving nothing left to chance in these end times?