The Lines “Blisstability” 1980

We started gigging, at first parties at such environs as North West London anarchist squat hideout Centro Iberico, where one William Orbit was residing in the lodge. We soon graduated to supporting better known bands such as Bauhaus, The Cure and Charles Shaar Murray’s excellent blues combo Blast Furnace And The Heatwaves.

A slightly awkward thing was our reluctance to play White Night, which at that time just didn’t feel like something I wanted to play, it seemed from the dim and distant past, and in any case was rather hard to pull off without Hywel’s guitar. Naturally, a lot of people who came to see us were hoping to hear us play that song.

Before long it became obvious that, with or without White Night, we needed another guitar, and so a new member was added in the form of Mick Linehan, Alternative TV refugee and general poet of sound.

We did a heck of a lot of rehearsing, and Mick fit right in immediately, as evidenced by a John Peel session in January 1980 which really shows us gaining tightness and confidence.

Then a couple of months later we checked into Alaska Studio on London’s South Bank, with Pat Collier of Vibrators fame at the controls. In one day we threw down every song we had at the time, one of which was Blisstability. Although the vocal is ropey, and the Talking Heads influence perhaps a tad too obvious, I think this illustrates quite well the heights of tightness we were able to attain by intensive rehearsal.

Of course, having attained that, we soon got bored with it.

Blisstability was re-recorded once, at our second John Peel session. “Cumbersome title” opined Mr Peel, sounding uncharacteristically irritable, not without reason I suppose.

It was finally released on the Memory Span compilation from Acute Records, and also on the highly recommended compilation Messthenics #102.

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…