Colourbox 1984

I knew Ivo Watts-Russell of 4AD from The Lines days, he knew our manager Steve Brown and we did gigs with 4AD acts Bauhaus and The Birthday Party. When I found out he’d booked in Colourbox to do some recording I was pretty excited. I knew their amazing psychedelic R ‘n B dub EP Shotgun and was very impressed by it. They were certainly a band apart from their more whimsical label mates. So I really wasn’t sure what to expect.

One day two white boys walked in, they looked about 17, brothers, they weren’t twins but could have been. They didn’t bring any gear with them, just stood there grokking ours for a while, then went to it. This was Martyn and Steve Young of Colourbox. They had a manager, Ray Conroy, who would sit at the back and cheerlead. On vocal day Lorita Grahame would come down from the midlands, sulk a bit, and then blow us away with her incredible voice.

Martyn Young had an amazing ability to incorporate any new technology that arrived in the studio into the track he was working on, almost without missing a beat. For Manic our new Yamaha DX7 and Roland MSQ sequencer were put through their paces. We’d nearly finished the mix of You Keep Me Hangin’ On  when a new gizmo arrived that allowed us to pitch change a looped sample held in the AMS digital delay, and that’s how the guitar breakdown in that song came about.

Simple technology, to be sure, compared to what Trevor Horn and his crew had going on a couple of miles away in Basing Street. But for my money Colourbox kicked Art of Noise’s ass any day of the week.

Plus my boy William Orbit ripped out a great guitar solo on Manic.

They only made the one album, then they did a world cup theme, then they had a big hit with Pump Up The Volume, then they got sued by everybody, then they disappeared. I often wonder what they’re up to now. Probably working down at the Hadron Collider with the other geniuses.

Update: I have just learned, to my great sadness, that Steven Young passed in July of this year. My deepest condolences to Martyn and all of Steven’s family and friends. Just when you think 2016 can’t get any worse…

2 thoughts on “Colourbox 1984

  1. postpunkmonk February 6, 2015 / 1:38 pm

    How amazing Colourbox were! I missed the early EPs but by the time of the first album, I began to see the album era material [inc. “You Keep Me Hanging On” 12″] in stores, and having delightful 23 Envelope artwork, I bought sound unheard and was completely blown away by the breadth and reach of their sound, which could encompass soul, dub, pop, disco, and rock with equal aplomb. Such a talented collective! I quickly snapped up everything else that I could find and the recent 4AD core dump boxed set was a complete treat for the senses, filling in still remaining gaps with even the 7″ mixes, which were new to my ears. Good thing I pre-ordered since it jumped to three figures in record time! And yes, William’s solo on “Manic” is berserk!


    • ricoconning February 9, 2015 / 6:11 am

      Well, if you ever get news of them let me know…


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