Vicious Pink Phenomena formed in 1981. I met Jose when I was DJ at an alternative night, I put on with friends, at a pub called “The Adephi” in Leeds. I also met Dave Ball and Mark Almond there through Jose, as she went to the same College as them, Leeds Polytechnic.
We decided to start a band together for a bit of fun. Jose, Dave Ball and I wrote our favourite words down on pieces of paper, turned them upside down and shuffled them about. Then we each chose one of the pieces of paper, after that we rearranged them into the name Vicious Pink Phenomena, Jose’s word was Vicious, Dave’s was Pink and mine was, well, Phenomena. It was a kind of lottery I guess, but it worked. We thought it also sounded like it could be the title for a 50’s / 60’s Science Fiction B Movie.
Later that Year Mark and Dave asked us to join them to do impromptu backing vocals on stage at Amnesia in Leeds, on the song “Chips On My Shoulder” with the words “misery, complaints, self pity, injustice” written on a napkin, we had a quick rehearsal before the show, then did it.
The show was filmed by BBC’s Oxford Road Show
, it went well, so they asked us to support them as Vicious Pink Phenomena, then join them on Stage to do backing vocals on more songs at more gigs.
Stevo and Brian NYC 1981
In 1981 we went to New York City for two Weeks. We flew over with Mark and their manager Stevo, to meet Dave, who was already there. Then on to Media Sound Studios to record “Non-Stop Erotic Cabaret” too much to tell now but what a blast !
VPP First single was, (A side) “My Private Tokyo”, (B side) “Promises” and “My Private Tokyo Remix”,all were recorded on Royal Wedding day 29th July 1981 at Box Studios Heckmondwike West Yorkshire. The mixes were for 7″ and 12″ Vinyl. Back then there were no CD’s or Midi.
The B sides for the second single “InThe Swim”,”Odd One” and “Maniac” were also recorded at Box Studios, later that Year. It was the first time I used the Roland TB303 and Drumatix 606 for a final recording.
All songs were produced by Dave Ball. We had great time working with Dave it was always a laugh, no real pressure, except for watching the clock on the studio wall as we were paying the £15 per hour from our part time jobs.
The second single (A side) “Je-Taime” in 7″ and 12″ formats were recorded in 1982 at Ric-Rac Studios Leeds
West Yorkshire, was also produced by Dave Ball.
When “Tainted Love” hit number 1 in many Countries, Dave had to commit himself 100% to Soft Cell, so we lost a band member and a Producer, but, no hard feelings, it had to be done.
VPP’s First headline tour was in 1982 the shows started with Jose doing spray can Graffiti on boards behind us, with the backing track pounding from a Revox tape recorder
. I used a Roland
TB303, 606/808, Juno 60, Moog Prodigy
, acoustic and electronic percussion.
Jose did a striptease down to her swimming costume but never all the way! Someone in the press said in a review, “They’re not very Vicious on stage”,so we thought,” We’ll see about that” !! We had an idea, my Dad worked in the clothing industry, he had acquired a life sized, 1960’s female shop window mannequin, it was in his warehouse along with sewing machines etc. I asked if we could have it. “No problem what do you want it for”? “Well we are going to use it on stage, we’ll pack it with theatrical blood, in plastic bags, dress it up, then do a bit of theatre, to our song “Maniac” My Dad never expected that reply!
Our Road crew guy, Paul Jones would be wearing a wig, a mask and a chain mail vest, packed with more blood on the outside. I had a briefcase, full of real knives, huge spanners, an axe and a hammer. What a bloodfest!! We never rehearsed this part as it was so messy. One time I remember Paul’s eyes almost popping out of the mask, as I plunged an axe into the stage each side of his head. The audience were quite shocked too, but they shouted for more.
No more “They’re not very Vicious on stage” from the press either he,he.
We hired an American camper van for the tour, our manager Mike Wiand (manager of the famous Leeds Warehouse nightclub), had to share his double bed above the cab with the mannequin for the full tour I think he fell in love!
At our gig at Croc’s Club in Raleigh Essex, after the show someone stole the leather mini skirt from the mannequin, the skirt belonged to Jose, we did laugh about that! I still have the mannequin. (She’s called Lucy} in my bathroom, she still creates a shock for unknowing guests, when they pay the first visit to the toilet.
The third single “Cccan’t You See” was recorded at FarmYard Studios in Buckinghamshire in September 1983. Our manager Mike Wiand had recruited Tony Mansfield of New Musik fame as Producer.
We used Tony’s Fairlight CMI
for the first time, and that was amazing. Sampling Soviet Choirs on short wave radio, then chopping them up into different melodies. We liked the idea of using the Russians, as the Cold War was in full swing (a pretty scary time) and we thought we could warm relations up a little. Jose’s voice was also sampled, then made into different rhythms, that was a sampling first I think. Roland’s Juno 60, Jupiter 8 and Linn Drum machine were also used.
B sides “8:15 To Nowhere” and “Great Balls Of Fire” were recorded at Eden Studios London 1983. Tony Mansfield,was once again our producer. We used the Fairlight CMI ,on both songs, the Roland TB303 was used for the baseline on “8:15 To Nowhere”.
While Tony and I were recording “8:15 To Nowhere”, Jose was in the recreation room, watching a video documentary on Jerry Lee Lewis. I came in and said “Come have a listen it’s finished and we still have hours of studio time left” Jose said “If we have spare time, how about doing a cover version of “Great Balls Of Fire”? I love that song” she said. We asked Tony and he said “Thats a great idea, start writing the lyrics down”. While working on “Great Balls Of Fire” Tony recorded his guitar onto a Revox tape recorder, then scratched the tape reels like a DJ would with vinyl, then recorded the sound onto the multitrack (That was a new technique to me).
After we signed to Parlophone, we talked with our A&R man, Hugh Stanley-Clarke, then decided to drop the word “Phenomena” from our name. It was a fresh start and things were starting to become more serious, but still great fun.
In the summer of 1984 we went to Ridge Farm Studios
, in Capel Surrey for 9 Weeks to record the Album “Blue” With Tony Mansfield as our Producer and Jules (Juliette Bowen) our sound engineer. The studio was residential, set in 13 acres of beautiful grounds with a Solar powered swimming pool.The house and barn were built in the 17th Century (the barn was converted into the studio). Ozzy Osbourne had used the studio previous to us. Frank Andrews the owner bought Ozzy’s air rifle from him, so we use to do a bit of target practice in our spare time.
We had Speedy Keen singer of the classic song “Something In The Air”
by Thunder Clap Newman, staying as our guest, Speedy was a laugh a minute!
The recordings were going well with lots of experimenting with sounds and sampling, Tony was a real inspiration for us. We took parts of an old Volvo Amazon 120/130 including brake drums, miked them up, and sampled them.They then were used for percussion. Real chains were used for Fetish and the TB303 for the baseline. Waterfalls were sampled for “This Little Heart” and “The Spaceship Is Over There” even Porno could not escape, it was like a black hole, the list is long! Tony would also add his guitar skills once again.
While we were recording the album “Cccan’t You See” was released. So Jose and I had to do many PA’s sometimes three a night, at clubs such as The Hippodrome. That was a distraction but we had to promote the single. Sadly for “Cccan’t You See” Gallop UK weighted us lower down the chart for not having an even spread of sales across the UK. The sales were first high in the north of England (Where we were from) and then high in the South. But because of that, it meant a lower chart position. On the plus side it did sell a lot of copies and was a club smash in the UK, USA, Canada and parts of Europe.
Paul and Tony prepping for the party
Brian and Jose’s brother Martin @ Ridge Farm
After the recordings were finished, we had a big party. Free food and booze, with guests including Kirsty Mc Coll, Captain Sensible, Naked Eyes, A-ha, Tony Mansfield, Speedy Keen, and our friends and family. We had a big firework display too. One of the lads from A-ha ended up sleeping in a closet! as there were no rooms left.
The final mixes were done over a three Week period at Pete Townshend’s Eel Pie Studios
We played London Camden Palace (Now Coco’s) and NYC Ritz in December 1984 with a full band, including Tony Mansfield (Fairlight CMI and Guitar) Clive Gates (keyboards) John (Bass Guitar) and Graeme Robinson (Simmons Drum Kit)
Tony, Clive and Brian on the roof of rehearsal rooms picture by Jose
Brian @ Clink Street
Clive and Tony Rehearsals, Clink Street London November 1984
London Camden Palace, Live December 1984
NYC Live @ The Ritz
New York City, The Ritz, December 1984
In February1985, Fetish (A side) Spooky (AA) in 7″ and 12″ formats, were released. Produced by Tony Mansfield re-mixed by John “Tokes” Paotoker,.they also had great club success.
Our Last single with Parlophone was (A side) “Take Me Now” it was recorded in 1985, along with a remix of (B sides) “I Confess” and “Always Hoping” they came out on 7″ and 12″ vinyl. Gary Moberley was our producer and Martin Webster our engineer. As with the rest of our music we always seemed to come up trumps with who we worked with, Gary and Martin were brilliant.
In the studio, with Gary, Martin, and the strippergram Jose got for Brian’s birthday
All our singles charted in the Uk, the highest was “Cccan’t You See” at 67. On London’s Capital Radio chart it reached number 2. In the USA, Billboard Rock Pool chart the highest we reached was number 2. Fetish also hit number 5.
Ironically in 1987, just one Year after we left Parlophone “Cccan’t You See” charted in the USA at number 24 for 3 Weeks, without any promotion from us, I didn’t even know until 2003. In 1989 8:15 To Nowhere hit number 2 around Europe, also without any promotion from us.
Paul Jones, Stage.
Juliette Bowen, Sound Engineer.
Andy Raby, Fan Club.
Thanks to Razormaid Productions
in the meantime, they did various remixes of VP and kept VP alive and well in the Clubs, DJ’s and peoples hearts and minds.
Also thanks to Jon Peterson, for creating the first VP website viciouspink. info, in the mid 90’s to 2013.
In 1990 Nightmares On Wax sampled “Cccan’t You See” voice sequence, for their track “I’m For Real”
on their seminal double A side 12″ “Aftermath / I’m For Real” which was quite a landmark release for Warp!
After leaving Parlophone Jose and I continued writing new VP songs till late 1986 (none were released)
Ironically one was called “Slightly ahead of our Time”.
In the summer of 1986 I started the band Drug Free America
with Steve Dixon vocals, David Hunter, guitar and Martin Gannon, lead guitar, first lineup, second line up Andy Banks, Guitar (Aka Iguana Joe) and Rammy, guitar (Aka Mutant).
Also in 1986 Jose and I started the band Love and Destruction with Jose, vocals, me on keyboards, Mick Reed, drums, Sputnik, bass guitar and Martin Gannon, lead guitar, (first line up). Although we did demos for Virgin Recored’s no Love and Destruction songs were ever released, L and D added some VP songs to their set. Love and Destruction disbanded in early 1988. Both bands did shows together throughout 1986/87 around the UK.
Crew for both bands :
Francis Dove, Keyboard Tech.
Kevo Holdroyd, Lampy.
Terminator Mark, Stage
Dave Whitfield, Stage.
Martin Stables, Stage
Brian Moss TB303, TR606/808 Drum Machines interview (photo by Neil Jackson 2012).