If you've made your way to our corner of the internet, chances are you remember a top 30 UK hit from 1981 called "Is Vic There?"
Although Department S are still a working band, writing and recording new material and (global pandemic permitting) touring far and wide, we are still immensely proud of this enigmatic slice of classic 80s new wave pop.
The song itself suggests mystery; who is Vic? Who is calling? Why? The lyric, haiku-like in its plainsong simplicity, isn't giving the game away. The night is young, the mood is mellow, there's music and a ringing telephone. Nothing else is clear, apart from the disembodied voice on the line.
The song has reverberated across the decades since its original release, the title's question becoming part of a new-wave lexicon which has passed into common parlance. A phrase plucked from the ether by charismatic frontman Vaughn Toulouse. Was it a Monty Python reference? (nope) Or was it really inspired by a phone call at Department S's record company offices? (could be!) We can sadly no longer ask Vaughn who passed away in the early 90s. The mystery remains.
And then there's THAT guitar riff. Written, as legend has it, whilst guitar supremo Mike Herbage watched the footy on TV. Like all truly great pop guitar parts, it carries the song and engages the ear; a hook to die for, timeless pop classicism.
The single was released on two different labels at the start of the 80s, its two release dates meaning that sales of the single were spread over a number of months, accounting for its seemingly low chart placing of number 23 despite selling enough copies overall to put it at the top of today's charts for several weeks. There were Top Of The Pops appearances, the cover of Smash Hits, nationwide tours, notably supporting The Jam in 1980, Paul Weller being a particularly vocal champion of the band at the time.
The demise of the original band followed the release of two more singles- after Vic, the insanely catchy mutant disco of "Going Left Right" and the 80s greed-prophesying "I Want"- both songs at least the equal of Vic, but neither managing to capture the public ear to a similar degree (although both were bigger hits in mainland Europe.) An album was recorded but remained unreleased by the time gave up the ghost.
Following the sad demise of Vaughn Toulouse, today's Department S is fronted by original keyboard player Eddie Roxy. That's his silky 3-note keyboard skills you can hear on the original single, fact fans. Eddie and the current Departmental employees Phil, Mike and Simon continue to carry the torch, paying due reverence to the old whilst delivering the new...
The night is still young, the mood still mellow, there is still music in our ears. The question, as ever- Is Vic There? Join us to found out...