FASHION

When Alex Ogg wrote No More Heroes, there were many bands who had to be left out because of space considerations, or because he couldn’t track down appropriate interviewees. So, in what might become a regular feature for ViveLePunk, behold No More Heroes The Offcuts – which might one day end up being published as No More Heroes II, if Alex ever stops watching the cricket long enough.

To kick off, here’s a band many know for their later synth-chart incarnation, but who were pretty important on the early Brum punk scene.

Fàshiön

Luke Sky (aka Luke Skywalker; aka Al James; vocals/guitar), Jon Mulligan (bass/keyboards), Dik ‘Mamba’ Davis (drums)

One of Birmingham’s great punk era bands, albeit one with an obvious stylistic debt to Bowie and the Glam era, who looked like “they’d just fallen off a catwalk in outer space,” as Midlands journalist Nick Byng would recall. Fàshiön’s musical reference points spanned electronics to reggae as much as punk. They began rehearsing as early as 1977, playing their first show at the Bournbrook Hotel opening for the Mekons. “Me and the drummer were beaten up in the gents right before the show,” recalls Sky. Miki Cottrell produced their debut single on their own label, complete with ‘suicide motif’ sleeve to accompany the a-side’s closing gun shot effect (similar artwork, in that respect, to the Frantic Elevators’ subsequent ‘Holding Back The Years’ effort). A less controversial cover was felt appropriate for the subsequent reissue in March 1979, by which time it had picked up distribution through Miles Copeland’s Faulty Products. A second single – the rather splendid ‘Citinite’, followed in June 1979, gaining excellent reviews from the likes of Adrian Thrills and Phil Sutcliffe. Some have suggested the cover may have influenced Madonna’s ‘Vogue’, though we’re not entirely sure about that. It preceded an album cut at Grosvenor Studios in Birmingham, again with Cottrell. Two tracks were culled for an EP release, joined by a new third track, Sodium Pentathol Negative’, as a pure play for the American market. There was a three-month tour there, alongside supports to The Police and B-52’s and a UK club tour with U2.

Thereafter the line-up shuffled. Among the new contributors were Tony Dial (ex-Neon Hearts) and Troy Tate (Index, Shake, Teardrop Explodes etc). “The main reason that I was interested in the band and in fact went to the audition – I thought the audition was to be the guitarist in the band,” states Tate, “was that I had seen them when he was the front man very early on. It must have been about 1978/70 and he was great. It doesn’t get mentioned a lot but he was a great guitarist. I do recall when I got the call to go to the audition I had 4p in my pocket and was desperate for money/work. When I arrived it soon became apparent that they wanted me to sing. Luckily I had learned the lyrics so that I would know the song arrangements and I just bluffed it. When they offered me the job as singer it was a bit of a surprise but I was too broke to worry and just went for it. I also recall discussing the up coming tour and the shock at finding out that the first gig was to be in a week live on television. Ah, happy, wreckless days!"

But by then the group was well on the way to becoming, according to Sky, who bailed midway through the recording of a second album, a “lame, pretty boy disco new wave band – the stupid sods!” Marlon Recchi and Dee Harris also joined. Still, as he attests, Fàshiön do deserve their spot in the roll call of punk’s earliest movers, not least due to their being among the first to start a record label. Incidentally, Luke is the titular hero of ‘Luke Come Back’ on The Photos’ (then unreleased) Crystal Tips And Mighty Mice album. He continues to record solo (www.fashionlukesky.com, where you can also score copies of the excellent Product Perfect). Davis and Mulligan would later join Tin Tin. Davis passed away in the mid-90s (“still to thid day the best drummer I ever played with,” notes Sky) while Cottrell, his best friend from school days, died from pancreatic cancer in 2000.

Discography:

Steady Eddie Steady/Killing Time 7-inch (Fashion Music Prod. FM-1 November 1978; reissued with new sleeve March 1979)

Citinite/Wastelife 7-inch (Fashion Music Prod. FM-2 June 1979)

Product Perfect LP (July 1979)
(reissued on CD in 2009)
Product Perfect / Die In The West / Red, Green and Gold / Burning Down / Big John-Hanoi Annoys Me-Innocent / Citinite / Don’t Touch Me / Black Boys / Fashion / Technofascist
(a second version, issued through Illegal Records and retitled Product Perfect Europe, added the tracks from the first single. “It must have come out after June 1980 when I left the band,” notes Sky, “because in the run-off groove it says ‘But for Luke 78/80’ – we were into scratching cryptic messages into the vinyl when mastering the discs. Others that spring to mind were ‘It’s a toilet, man!’, which was our reference to Nick Jones of Faulty’s comment on some of the first London gigs he got us, and ‘got no bread, have to have toaste’ – Dik going through his Marie Antoinette phase Brum style.” Reissued on CD in 2009 with same running order but original ‘Big John/Hanoi Annoys Me/Innocent tracks separated)

The Innocent 7-inch EP (IRS IR-9502 September 1979)
The Innocent/Red Green & Gold/Sodium Pentathol Negative

 

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