Once again, Graphic Sound Studio in London was the location for this new series of recording sessions. The band played extremely well, with few of the false starts and nerves of the previous singles recording experiences: in fact the taping of the backing-tracks and vocals for the three songs was done pretty quickly (about four or five days), but the mixing became a protracted business indeed.
Helen sang the A side, a stage-favourite called 24 Hours, and one of the songs on the flipside, an ancient Chefs song called Lets Make Up. Her singing had come a long way since the early days of the band, cranking out punky pop in pubs and community centres. She sang 24 Hours fabulously well. Carl, who had been the author of those two Chefs classics, Sweetie and Boasting, came up with the third B-side track, Someone I Know.
I recall those sessions very clearly, and remember the great amount of detail that everyone contributed; especially Russ Greenwood's thundering drums and the sage-like machinations of our producer, the irreplaceable Terry Newbery. This time around, I watched like a hawk as he manipulated the mixing-desk in order to achieve the desired sound: it was quite a learning curve for me, I learnt so much, so quickly.
24 Hours had been chosen as the A-side because it was such a strong pop song, an irresistible melody with a racing bass-line married to a really touching lyric: unrequited love, admiring from afar, being torn apart by those heady pangs of obsession. Once the three songs were in the can, we returned to the everyday business of gigging.
Many of the original Brighton punk bands had either now dissolved, their members dividing and starting new groups, or else had metamorphosed into newer, sometimes rather stranger, acts. This was simply mirroring what was going on all over the country on the Independent Label scene: the punk movement marched on, but it was joined by many curious but always interesting varieties of bands, musical styles, fashions, politics, design, poetry etc. This period, beginning around the autumn of 1980, seems to have been largely overlooked by pop historians. I’m sure its time will come.
In Brighton, Nicky And The Dots had split into various factions, leaving the ebullient and gifted Nick Dwyer to emerge as The Louder Animal Group. Nick released his first single on his very own label! Which was exactly the right thing to do of course: the punk ethic at root level. Phil Perfect and Barb Dwyer, (dig those crazy punk names!) from The Lillettes, began recording material under the name of 3-D. Devils Dykes transformed themselves into The Bright Girls, and continued to write and record marvellous songs which firmly outlined their persistently determined demands for gender equality, but with sparkling melodies and clever arrangements along the way.
Toward the end of summer 1980, Attrix Records, until now the only Independent Label in Brighton to cater for a number of acts, was suddenly presented with a rival: Red Rat Records had been the brainwave of someone who had inherited a stack of cash and who subsequently moved to sunny Brighton (from London, I think). We at Attrix were moderately interested in this new competitor, who seemed to be friendly enough.
Calling themselves The Picture Sleeves, I gave them the support slot for The Chefs on a sweaty summer evening, where they knocked off a few songs by The Monochrome Set and the Velvets with great aplomb. A wonderful evening, with Rick Blair playing some scorching guitar and the first opportunity for my brother Shaun to step up to a microphone and sing. I was on the road with The Chefs a good deal, and an insanely hectic time it was: culminating in a bizarre, stress-filled summers day which gradually became a nightmare for all concerned.
The Students Union up at Sussex University had decided to stage a huge open-air Festival in the University grounds. It was to be an all-day event, and a high-profile appearance, locally, for us to be involved in. We were driven out there early in the afternoon by Phil & Barb from the Lillettes in the Lillette-Mobile and waited around for the sound-check. But this was delayed and delayed and in fact we never did get a sound-check. There were hours to go before the Chefs were on stage; the band were bored, the sun was shining, and the Uni bar sold booze at silly, cheap prices - a recipe for disaster.
As their manager, I did what I could to slow down their drinking, but this got progressively difficult as the time passed from afternoon to evening. Each act was delayed, and tempers were running high. There were now hundreds of people jam-packed onto the lawns of the University, getting annoyed at the long wait between the bands.
Meanwhile, back at Attrix Records, we were noticing a whole new crop of bands emerging. There was talk of a third and final Vaultage compilation, to end the decade on a high note. It's interesting now to look back on those groups and see that they were small-town equivalents of then-popular acts: Nouveau-A-Go-Go / Bill Nelson's Red Noise; The Reward System / Throbbing Gristle; The Exclusives / The Dickies, and so on. But that's not to say that these bands were crap, or overly derivative, they simply needed a role model, and then continued on their merry way.
Go to Part 7