|NEON HEARTS 1977-81 PART 2|
|From day one problems occurred with Paul Jenkins (A&R). He had no idea where the band was coming from and Henry Haddaway (the owner) just didn't have a clue, period! Attempts to get the band to move into a more 'funky' direction and submit material to the Eurovision song contest were met with short shrift. Being optimistic. Neon Hearts felt things would improve. However, things worsened and they ended up trying to make the best of a bad job.
The first demos for Satril were recorded at PYE Studios in London on June 6th 1978 under the supervision of Haddaway and Jenkins. The band wanted to release 'Popular Music' as their Satril debut, but they were overruled by the label who chose 'Answers', which was released late July 1978.
|These were watered down to the far less punchy, Tune in to the top twenty /
Tune in to deejays / Tune in to Number Ones'. The single was premiered on
local TV program, Look Hear, in late 1978 and released in February 1979.
The band were given no involvement in the production or the final mixes for the
album, which were done without their consent.
The first time they heard the recordings was when they were handed finished
copies of the album.
'Popular Music' (Satril SATL 4012) ***
THE TITLE might well prove more than presumptuous but this is a pretty lively
album from one of the names that seems to have been around as long as the
new wave itself without ever gaining much media attention. At least they stole a
march on the opposition by getting it out ahead of Neo and my favourites, Neon.
The N. Hearts are a five-piece who give the impression that they may have had to unlearn sophisticated musical skills in order to sound crudely a la mode. For instance, the feature of the whole LP is Steve Heart's sax. When the rest of the band are at their most ordinary you'll find him in your left headphone blasting away with scant regard for tune or riff, though sometimes seeming to be engaged in an anarchic dialogue with Tone Dial's vocals. His weedy tone wouldn't be commended by aficionados but I just keep finding myself focussed on.him as he injected sulphur into the veins of songs no better than alright.
Typically they churn through almost catchy ditties such as the title track, 'Answers' and 'Body Language', sounding kind of clever and kind of feeble - whether by choice or misguided production 1 don't know. But once in a while Paul Raven's bass and Martin Ratclife's guitar make it to the foreground. Then they project some doomy power into 'Pin Cushions' and 'Pretty As A Picture' which thus emerge as the most impressive tracks, the only ones with a sense of a full band that could make an impact on stage. It's a patchy album for sure and 1 doubt that many people will like it enough to lay their money down. But that eccentric sax and the odd moments of rapport with voice and guitar refuse to.be dismissed.
PHIL SUTCLlFFE - SOUNDS
Further insult was added when the hotel Neon Hearts had been staying in during the making of the album decided to prosecute them for an unpaid bar bill which they understood would be met by Satril. Penniless, they borrowed money to pay the debt.
At no time did the Neon Hearts, collectively or individually, ever receive any royalties from Satril Records for any songs released by Satril. To this day the band has still not received a financial statement, any payment for the album or singles, nor any royalties or publishing.
Before the release of the album, Keith, the drummer, decided to leave due to ill health caused by continued gigging and frustration with Satril. Every meeting with Satril ended in a blazing row, so communication was kept to a minimum.
The band continued getting considerable media interest, but as they were about to begin auditioning drummers, Martin, the guitarist, also decided to leave due to frustration with Satril as well as personal and musical differences.
|FAIRLY GOOD STUFF
NEON HEARTS: 'Answers' (Satril)
Strongly commercial new wave interlude with crappy words about 'You'll never change the world... weekend revolution' etc, etc. Could chart.
The single was given no promotion by Satril so the band self-promoted it by gigging. The band were self-managed and the stress and frustration was beginning to tell.
After a period of label inactivity, Satril requested an album. Satril dismissed much of the band's current material, preference being given to early material from which the band had progressed. The album became a mish-mash of early Satril demos and a few tracks recorded at Magrite Studios in Harmansworth (near Heathrow).
Satril agreed to release 'Popular Music' as the second single, but by then it had lost its relevance to the musicians and to make matters worse, some lyrics were altered to reduce the likelihood of offence to Radio One, which would jeopardise chances of airplay. The original lines read, 'Who needs the top twenty / Who needs deejays / who needs number ones?'
THE NEON HEARTS are now down to a three-piece following the departure of guitarist Martin Ratcliffe. They haven't yet found a permanent drummer either sc they'll be using guest drummers for their forthcoming dates at Wolverhampton Lafaytte February 2, Wolverhampton Civic Hall 12 and Birmingham Barbarellas 13.
The band will be releasing their third single, 'Popular Music', on February 9 and will be touring further afield in March and April when they'll" have their first album released.
(Sounds News Item)
|The band began to change dramatically when new drummer Mark Fuller joined Steve, Paul and Tony. Tony played guitar and sang while Steve started experimenting with electronics on his saxophone.
Neon Hearts became less poppy and more powerful sounding. Regular live performances and constant rehearsing at their studio in Wolverhampton saw a rapid improvement in their new material. They demoed new material, one song 'You Keep Coming Round' (1979, Play Back Studios, Wolverhampton) particularly stood out.
The band was offered a John Peel Session. It was recorded virtually live on March 21 st 1979 at the Maida Vale Studios in London with just a few vocal overdubs. The tracks were 'Roll-On Deodorant', 'Rings Of Confidence', a re-working of 'Body Language' and a great song called The Other Great Sex Pros (Airborne Hormones)'.
This song was so new that no lyrics were written. The band could think of nothing as they tried writing in the studio until Tone Dial had a brilliant idea. In his pocket he had a letter he'd written to a friend, Peter Finch, so they ran the track and Tony read the letter.
The producer and the engineer thought it worked so well they went with the first take! The session was transmitted twice on John Peel's show and was one of his favourites from the year. And without Satril involved, the Neon Hearts got paid!
The Peel session was used to advertise for a guitarist to allow Tony more on-stage freedom, but no suitable candidate was found. The band continued gigging until the release of the album by Satril in April 1979. However, frustration with Satril was so intense that Tony decided he'd had enough, but stayed to honour all existing live commitments.
Shortly after Paul left too. He formed a band called Burned
Out Stars before joining Killing Joke. Tony formed a band
with local musicians called Silhouette Theatre. Steve Heart
persevered with a new line-up of Neon Hearts, but things
were never the same and the band was eventually
Steve formed another band, demoed a lot of material and
had some record label interest but nothing materialised.
Tony joined Fashion, who had a large local following and
had supported Neon Hearts at a gig the previous year at
Wolverhampton's Wulfrun Hall.
Tony's involvement with Fashion was short-lived, but he
kept in regular touch with Steve. In late I980 Steve and
Tony arranged a meeting at a Wolverhampton pub called
The Spring Hill, exchanged ideas and voiced the
frustrations of the past few months. The meeting was so
successful that Steve and Tony decided to reform Neon
Martin was asked to join, this time playing bass, Tony
played guitar and keyboards. Steve was on sax, and an
enthusiastic new drummer, Mark Spruce, was found.
A new set was written and the band started a new venue not far from the Lord Raglan. At the Royal Oak the four hired a room and called the club Fiction Factory. On March 20th 1981 a packed venue greeted the debut performance of the new line-up of Neon Hearts, but sadly most wanted to hear the old material. The band did not indulge them, but were still well received. One more gig was played with this line-up, at the Giffard Arms in Wolverhampton.
Between December 1980 and March 1981 the final Neon Hearts recordings were made, on a 4-track portastudio at various houses in the town. Eight tracks were recorded, three of them appear on this CD; 'Fighting Depression', 'Other Fine Stores' (a tribute to John Lennon whose death was announced on the radio as they arrived at Martin's flat to record) and 'Alien Girls'.
Once again there was record company interest, but no signings. The band split.
A new band with some radical ideas was formed, consisting of Tony, Steve and Mark Spruce. They were called 21C (or 21 st Century). Their tracks were recorded in the winter of 1981 at Phil Dawson's (Ginger) new 24-track studio. 'High Kicks' saw Tony and Steve do all the recording and final mixes and was included on one of Frank Sansom's 101 compilation albums, released in April 1982. None of the other seven tracks were released. This was the final time that Tony and founder member Steve worked together as a creative unit.
Thanks to Pete Langdon, our road crew: Pedro, Viv and Ken Franklin (who sadly is no longer with us) and Maurice Jones (of MCP and Donnington fame) who was responsible for several of Neon Hearts' prestigious support gigs, including Generation X at Wolverhampton Civic Hall and two Rich Kids supports at Shrewsbury and Stafford, where Neon Hearts blew them off stage both nights!
STEVE HEART 1997
|NEON HEARTS EPITAPH:
Thanx to Steve Heart who gave me a copy of the CD 'Ball And Chain' when my band Torcha Shed played his venue Outta Limits in the late 90's. And his sleevenotes are what you've just read. If you wanna hear the band for yourselves the singles and LP are pretty rare but their should be copies of the 'Ball & Chain' compilation CD available which was released in 1997 on OVERGROUND RECORDS, PO BOX INW, NEWCASTLE UPON TYNE, NE99 INW, UK....dunno if the label is still going?
The CD is a great history lesson into Wolverhampton's first and best punk band. As for the former members well last I heard guitarist Martin Ratcliffe is now an Estate Agent in Wolverhampton. Drummer Keith Allen is still behind a drumkit. He plays in the now reformed Mod band from the early 80's The Circles. Paul Raven is now living in the LA breeds fighting dogs in between bass duties for Kinlling Joke. Tone Dial is now a mechanic in Wolverhampton and Steve Heart runs the a city centre rehearsal studio called Beat Foundry and also manages The Planet rock venue. So if your ever in the rehearsal space ask him about the time they blew the Rich Kids off the stage!!!
Peter Don't Care