Ah, Bristol in the punk era! Guitars, cafes, speed and conspiracy theories. Originally one of the main punk centres (early attention for the Cortinas, Social Security and the Plastic Snowmen), by 1979 it had settled into the position it holds today - self-sufficient bohemianism with a hint of cross-over and the occasional defining moment to interest the outside world.
By the turn of the decade, the original punk-oriented labels were already looking beyond the city to fame and big bucks (yeah right) and not reflecting the uniquely pungent flavour of punk, pop, pilfering, piss-take and pretension that has always characterised this inland port.
Someone had to recognise Bristol's combination of shit-hot musicianship, theatricality and absolute disregard for success, and that man was Andy Leighton, Phil Manzanera look-alike guitarist for the Crystal Theatre (a real 60's alternative theatre group) and publisher of The Rocky Horror Picture Show.
The Crystal Theatre production of RADIO BLZBUB (featuring a youthful Keith Allen) led to the formation of Shoes For Industry, and then to Fried Egg Records, and then to a John Peel session. Suddenly, a label! Led by the twin poles of musicality and eccentricity, it must have seemed normal at the time to sign anything that sounded good or interesting. A bunch of 13-year-olds performing Dr Feelgood-style R & B? No problem! A performance poet backed by college-rockers who were also Bristol's premier pop band? Great! Post-punks who split up before they could be accused of inventing Simple Minds? Fantastic! A tour of England and Europe called the Be Limp tour? Spiffing! Fried Egg's world domination was only prevented (according to local rumour) by Andy inheriting a Caribbean island and disappearing from the scene.
Personally, I remember that time with great affection. I saw all these bands play live in all the local dives and we all had a great time. No one knew anything about The Music Industry, and I'm sure it would all have been different if we had. What we had was clever innocence: useless for paying the mortgage and it won't get you press coverage, but these recordings were made for the hell of it and to get gigs at the Western Star Domino Club. Nothing quite like this stuff exists today, and whether that's good or bad is up to you.
Bristol's second band-most-likely-to. Later signed to Stiff and wore some seriously dodgy clothes. Their backing singers joined Shreikback. One of the guitarists is apparently now big in ladies underwear in the USA.
Callow twenty-somethings and teenagers manage to accurately predict global consumerism while still sounding naive. The drummer went on to Scream and Dance, Various Artists, Blue Aeroplanes, Strangelove and Witness.
If Elvis Costello had become Elvis Presley, they'd have made more albums. Quality genre. The singer/guitarist writes for MTV and apparently does hip-hop too.
Don't know why this isn't on one of those £6.99 Best Of Punk And New Wave compilations. Oh yes I do. They were from Bristol. The drummer went on to Jo Boxers and Sandie Shaw in her Smiths period.
The kind of band Bristolians always think will be successful, and sometimes are. If they're not from Bristol.
It seems odd now, but some 'new wave' people also liked Bruce Springsteen and saw no contradiction. Well, it worked for Mink De Ville. Singer Mike Crawford has a new album coming out soon.
SHOES FOR INDUSTRY
They used to play a dodgy pub called The Old Castle Green and the singer wore an exploding brain wig. They were dead scary and you couldn't argue with them. They owned their own building and they had the best parties in town. Paul B Davies is often at Edinburgh and writes for radio.
Big Cheekbones and technique, everyone thought he would make it big time. Alas, other things always seemed to get in the way.
Probably illegal now, as Jack Straw would be appalled at their lack of homework skills and knowledge of lowlife. As far as I can remember, the singer was 13, the guitarist was 14 or 15, and the drummer was 20 but looked 12. If Walt Disney was British, they'd be movie stars.
Berserk art-college kids from Southampton, they became Peel favourites before fragmenting in a welter of sexual and musical differences. The guitarist hooked up with a couple of Art Objects and became the Blue Aeroplanes.
THE WILD BEASTS
R & B veterans, they knew a good scene when they saw one, and flogged the newer generation crepe-soled shoes, original dark-grey jeans and PA gear. Also some groovy tunes, some Jerry Lee moves and some secret cabaret trousers (sorry Andy!). Became back-stage movers and shakers.
In the end, suprisingly enjoyable and almost not embarassing. Nothing to do with record companies, radio or the NME, just bands and their audience at one particular time, gone like the buildings we used to play...