Graham Reid | | 2 min read
It's entirely possible that this British pop duo (with the svengali figure of Paul Caplin guiding their brief career) spent more time in make-up than they did on the charts: they knocked out four singles and an album . . . but their chief feature was their risque glam-raggamuffin look which was used to greater effect by their contemporary Boy George.
But their album Battle Hymns for Children Singing is certainly worth grabbing when it is in secondhand record shops for around $10, as my copy was.
Their singles Shiny Shiny (about money grabbers) and John Wayne is a Big Leggy (about his tough, racist image in movies) are annoyingly memorable and Caplin (partner of sexy singer Kate Garner) clearly listen to what Malcolm McLaren had been up to with Adam and the Ants, Bow Wow Wow and Ten Pole Tudor.
But there was more: his lyrics are wry and allusive (you never quite know whether they are kids' songs as empty as Toni Basil's Mickey of the same period or suggesting something deeper) and he hooked in some fine players who gave the album crisp touches of broody, Afro-percussive pop (The Sabres of Paradise which shaves of a little Iko-Iko) and -- in the case of this track -- hot West African juju guitar (akin to King Sunny Ade) by John Sherwood.
Svengali Caplin was also connected: Bowie producer Tony Visconti produced a couple of tracks and played guitar on two others, and the Clive Langer/Alan Winstanley production team (Madness, Teardrop Explodes, Elvis Costello etc) also did the honours on two tracks.
There is also a track I Lost My Dodi ("Dodi dead lying on the ground . . . don't get riled cos the killer's on the loose") which weirdly anticipated by 14 years the deaths of Lady Diana and her lover Dodi Fayed and the subsequent conspiracy theories.
This track however is kind of Paul Simon's Graceland underpinning catchy adolescent pop.
By the way, if you wonder why Caplin replaced himself in the original duo with the dreadlocked Jeremy Healy you need to look at the back cover of the album where Caplin poses, towering over cartoon likenesses of Kate and Jeremy. Or better, score the version of the record which comes with the booklet of colourful and artistically black'n'white photos of the duo -- some of them in seductively, semi-nude poses.
Have a look at this photo (left) and tell me . . . which one wasn't cut out to be on Top of the Pops?
But maybe for a part in The Sopranos?
For more unusual songs, one-off or those with an interesting backstory see From the Vaults.