Monday, March 13, 2006

 

From Leeds to Zurich

Way back at the tail end of the 70's us white boys were getting fed up of trying to be Cool and skanking to reggae like our black brothers. We just didn't make the grade as was the case of our parents before us trying to goove to the sounds of Motown, have you ever seen Phil Collins dance? Truth be told we move to the music and not with it, remember Wild Cherry and their hit 'Play That Funky Music' well great song but honestly apart from its title it has little to do with funk, so if we can't play the music how do you expect us to dance to it? It was a relief when the post punk generation started playing their own bastard version of funk, at last we had something we could dance to at the student disco, after the demo and while downing our pints of real ale without feeling to self conscious. Great big angular rhythms, discordant bass lines, wonderfully quirky music your epileptic aunt would enjoy, just the sort of thing stobe lights were invented for!
The list of great bands from this era is endless and it is certain that we will be revisiting them sooner or later, but for today I'm going to concentrate on two elements, the first of which was, as radical young students, very close to our hearts, that of women, not necessarily in the romantic way but more in that of women's rights, don't forget up until punk, rock'n roll had been very much a male bastion. Some ground work had been done by the likes of Siouxsie and Polystyrene, but women were really to come into their own with what followed. The second is the impact of a local scene in Leeds with its roots at the local university. Everyone knows the Gang of Four some of you will remember the Mekons before they upped and moved to Chicago, well the missing link is Delta 5.



A little bit of history for you Delta 5 were formed late '78, and were strange for the time as they consisted of three women and two men, and had two bass players! The band were the least overtly political of the Leeds trio preferring more personal politics than the more Marxist based slogans we became used to from the Gang of Four, having said that, Delta 5 were firm supporters of the sadly necessary Rock Against Racism movement. Upon signing to Rough Trade their debut single 'Mind Your Own Business' rapidly sold 20,000 copies, no mean feat. Two other singles followed with equal success before they signed on with an offshoot of Charisma Records, sadly as with many DIY style bands from this era playing with majors was to be the kiss of death. A unique album 'See the Whirl' was to be the fruits of this union. Largely considered to be overproduced the platter failed to generate much interest from the record buying public and resulted in the band throwing in the towel in 1981. Having lived through this period I was at one stage the owner of the first Three Delta 5 singles (since lost in a move from Italy back to the UK, as was all my vinyl from this period). It was with much pleasure that I read over 12 months ago of Kill Rockstars plans to edit a compilation of the said singles, this has at last seen the light of day under the title 'Singles and Sessions 1979 1981', the only thing the title doesn't mention is that there are a few live numbers as well. My own personal fave is 'Try' and you can also try out 'Now That You're Gone'. If after sampling these you feel inclined to give your ears and feet a treat why not make your purchase direct from the Kill Rockstars site, they do deserve your money if only for making these long lost treasures available again.

And so another female led band from the same period was Kleenex, who for obvious reasons were forced to change their name and so became Liliput. Even rarer that being a female band at the time was being a Swiss band and known in the English speaking world. Kleenex, formed in Zurich and released their debut four song single in 1978 that consisted of their complete live set! Somehow a copy found its way to John Peel who smitten by the single played 'Ain't You' to death. Rough Trade, yes them again, were quick to see the value in this strange exotic music, and signed the band. Their clever but innocent sounding songs found them an audience that was to long out live the band who called it a day in 1983 after releasing only two albums, that rapidly became sought after as collectors tried to outbid each other. Luckily once again Kill Rockstars came to the rescue of those of us with good taste but limited resources and had the good sense to put together the complete recorded works as 'Kleenex/Liliput' in 2001.

So any one out there got the rights to the Au Pairs? I for one would love to see it re-issued.

And In case you are interested I am still 25 years on trying to move my funky butt in something resembling style, that's probably why I have a soft spot for the likes of Franz Ferdinand etc even if they do have the feeling of deja vu.




Comments:
It would be great to see the Au Pairs material all come out on CD...
Maybe it's time to ask Pete (the drummer): he's still hanging around and playing in Moseley, Birmingham - I saw him drum for Damo Suzuki (Can) a month or two ago...
Incidentally, they put their first single out on 021 Records which was run by the anarchist co-operative 021 who run a bookshop and edited an anarchist magazine for the Birmingham area. They also arranged gigs by Crass...

I love Kleenex - great singles...my copies are a little well-worn now, but I found the double CD compilation for £2 a couple of years ago...
 
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