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  • Tony Harris

NO WAY


One of the things I have started to notice is the amount of faith and patience record companies seemed to have back in the days of the single. So many artists took resources, remixes, reissues and a million other marketing techniques to create the hits they needed.


Previously, we have talked about CBS's full use of their armoury to make Deacon Blue a hit band, despite several false starts getting off the blocks. They seemed equally firm on the quality of Prefab Sprout and so released "When Love Breaks Down" three times until the enough of the record buying public heard the quality that they (and a few early adopters) heard.


One of our previous "Should've Beens" - The Red Guitars - shifted over 65,000 copies without even denting the charts over two separate issues. Clearly, labels were more prepared to back their hunches, not least because this was still a world that absolutely depended on radio support and purchasing. Therefore, hitting the wrong release week could make all the difference.


Previously, I told the sad story of Matt Fretton (HERE) who had appeared on the cover of Smash Hits and one of my readers and favourite correspondents, Mr. Paul Burke, actually took it up with then editor, Mark Ellen. He replied that they desperately tried to break new acts on the cover (Jimmy The Hoover anyone? - Wo Wo Ee Yeh Yeh) but that the 80s big boys just kept steamrollering along. All of which meant that if you collided with a week of big releases you might find a perfectly great record buried.


Such seems to have been the story of The Bolshoi and "A Way" which was sometimes referred to as "Away" and on its remix and reissue in 1987 as "Away II". I hope you're following...


Now this leads me to another 80s (and 90s) trend - Weekend Goths. Very prevalent in my hometown and often to be found congregating like a black mass in what was once the Handyside Arcade. Truth be told, they always seemed a fairly benign crew actually, but they just looked terrifying. Copious black eyeliner and back-combing, together with a long black coat (only leavened by perhaps a summery hint of charcoal grey or midnight blue scarves) and platform boots.


Oh and ideally no melanine.


They wanted to be outsiders and certainly made themselves look unlikely invitees to any church fetes - unless it was a week day and they had gone back to being data processors - but actually they were largely peaceable even after drinking quite a lot of cider, and though their outlook was, at best, gloomy, they were the owners of some quite fine singles.


"She Sells Sanctuary" by The Cult, "This Corrosion" by Sisters of Mercy and undoubtedly, "Wasteland" by The Mission, all crossed over to an audience that included those who didn't feel the need to dress like The Lost Boys at the stroke of 6 on a Friday night. These were fine powerful rock records, perhaps a little lyrically pretentious but full of hooks and riffs that could even now enlighten any neighbouring indie disco.


Just such a single was "A Way".


The whole Goth ethos seemed to revolve around being as different as possible from the accepted norms of everyday life and certainly the Day-glo dazzle of Stock Aitken and Waterman's view of young Britain. So it would come as no surprise to learn that The Bolshoi came from deepest Middle England, Trowbridge in Wiltshire - not it must be said one of the heartlands of any particular musical movement in the UK but doubtless the kind of place that the disaffected might happily feel the need to cock a gothic snook at.


Even less surprising is that their lead singer was called Trevor Tanner - a name that could not sound more like a junior accounts clerk if he tried. And yet, Trevor was all cheekbones, mood and angst with quite the soaring voice. Not only that he had a fine ear for a stomping rock riff and catchy chorus. Throw in a suitably angst-loaded lyric of isolation and darkness and you have a surefire late 80s hit.


Sadly not, I would have worn eyeliner for a week as a bet that this would be a hit. Beggars Banquet really tried to make it so but as the proverb accurately told, seemingly they couldn't be choosers either.


It seemed to find a small market in Europe and an appearance on the soundtrack of "Something Wild" certainly gave it an audience on US College Radio but it deserved better. However, whilst I named some cracking Goth singles, they really had to work hard to break through and many fell beside the wayside because their image and intent often alienated mainstream audiences - it's what Goths worked hard to achieve after all, I suppose.


I bet they would have preferred a bona fide hit.







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