Puerile Skins Fail To Dig Neo-Futurism Shock

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Department S live review – Clarendon Hotel, London – 24th January, 1981

One of the problems with being a critic is that one tends to look too objectively at bands. One doesn’t think about what they may be able to do in the future – a concert is too often treated as one complete act, rather than a reference point within a larger act. Although they are under-rehearsed, Dept S are tight and solid with some beautiful funk(y) guitar playing from Michael Herbage. He plays in a style that’s free flowing and breezy, creating a froth over the bass/drums rhythm section. The light wind that Herbage eases out of his guitar is marred only by the wooden and (over) simple synthesiser playing of Eddie Roxy.

The sounds that he drags out of his synth are totally superfluous to the music that Department S are/should be aiming for. The music has to grow more until a proper assessment can be made, but so far Department S are building something that could be worthwhile. Even though at the Clarendon they were faced with an audience of apathetic punks and puerile skinheads, interested only in pouring beer over each other’s heads, Department S fought on. Once again we find we are back to the problem of atrocious concert venues stunting the growth of bands who have yet to find themselves. They must be radical, and not rely on cover versions of Bolan and Roxy songs (although I love them) to gain audiences appreciation. Too safe. They are not quite strong enough, they are not breaking new ground. Yet they must break new ground, they must, they have to – if only to survive.

Chris Burkham – ‘Sounds’

Guns For Hire – 100th Issue of Zig Zag Magazine, 1980

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For most of last summer Guns For Hire were the best band in the world, the real killing joke as they wound up the music biz with just 500 badges and bags of suss. They were the band you’d get if you combined the spirit behind The Clash with the style of The Jam and added the requisite that go with all the best bands. The story goes like this:

Mod was a laugh and those who laughed loudest were the kids who started it and could see beyond The Bridge House to its inevitable end. For a while The Cambridge and The Wellington were good places to hang out but mod was dying by the time the world knew it existed. Few of the bands survived the hype but the spirit of the Early mod boom and the experience of punk fired the imagination of Vaughn Toulouse, well known face about town, who set about creating the perfect rock band. He roped in a few of his mates for this ambitious project and the first line up of Guns For Hire settled down as Vaughn, Bob Bethnal (Green), Gary Foghorn Crowley, Tony Lordan and a geezer called Paul on drums.

These were the Guns’ finest days, ligging around town on the back of a non-existent band. Make no mistake, the idea of becoming a proper band was still a germ in Vaughn’s turbulent brain. Booze and chaos were still the order of the day as Virgin’s Shop staff found at their party. In September, three months after the fateful Marquee night when the Guns were conceived, the first batch of badges was delivered.

Featuring the ubiquitous 2-Tone geezer packing a pistol, the badge was responsible for making the Guns a full-scale cult. When you consider that there were no more than ten of us in the know and the badges sold in excess of 2,000 you might begin to twig that there was something going on. Aided by cryptic mentions in T-Zers and Sounds the band began to attract a certain interest as 2-Tonemania swept the land. People were convinced that they were an authentic 2-Tone band and I remember pissing myself at Aylesbury one evening as some bozo described their gig of the previous night.

I thought this was it but better was to come.

The following Sunday there was a Guns For Hire outing to The Venue to see The Teenbeats. During the gig Ginge (Spizz roadie and acting Guns manager) was approached by one of EMI’s ever-on-the-ball A&R men who offered The Guns lodgings in a studio, all expenses paid until they came up with a single shaped thing. Laugh? We thought our trousers would never dry. It was after this ridiculous incident that the idea of a proper band began to rear it’s head and seemingly overnight Vaughn turned in a bundle of really catchy streetwise lyrics. After toying with an all-star pickup band under the name of Vaughn Toulouse and the One Armed Bandits, he got on the case and came up with the first all-singing, all-dancing version of Guns For Hire.

Supported by Banshees promoter Dave Woods, the band went into the studio and got together a tape featuring Vaughn’s first batch of songs and a devastating rockabilly version of Siouxsie’s “Staircase”. The band entered the present decade as Vaughn on vocals, Mike Herbage on guitar and ex-Madness boss John Hasler on the stool. The demos put the band in the same sort of field as The Nips, The Chords and the best of Madness, though don’t take that as definitive. At the moment, on the strength of the demos several major labels are pursuing the band with pens at the ready.

Anyway, that’s the history of the Guns and with a single ready (“I’m Gonna Rough My Girlfriends Boyfriend Up Tonight”) they stand on the threshold of success. I can only hope they’re as successful a band as they were a joke.

REMEMBER: GUNS FOR HIRE….DON’T HARGUE! – Suspect O’Typewriter

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