Wednesday, March 30, 2016

ABCs of My Vinyl Collection (Letter B, Part 12)

Here's the first of two branches from the fruitful tree known as Dexys Midnight Runners. Here's a hint: The other will be a little later in this letter. Guitarist Kevin Archer assembled the Blue Ox Babes in 1981, not long after the first incarnation of Dexys Midnight Runners imploded. Too bad, because Archer and Kevin Rowland had made quite a songwriting team during the 'Searching for the Young Soul Rebels' era.

Archer had a great idea for his new band. He wanted to go with an unplugged sound full of piano, acoustic guitars, brass and violins. He started making demos with ex-Dexys pianist Andy Leek. They recruited a talented fiddle player named Helen Bevington. When Archer and Rowland ran into each other, Rowland asked him how things were going with the new band. Archer made what in hindsight must seem like one of the bigger mistakes in his life. He gave Rowland a tape of those demos.

I think the best play-by-play of what followed can be found within the BBC documentary series on bands from the early '80s called 'Young Guns (Go For It)' that originally aired in 2000. The Dexys episode went into great detail about how, as Archer put it, "[Roland] just nicked the idea." Yes, when Archer first heard 'Too-Rye-Aye' he felt like he had heard it before. Worse, after listening to the tape, Rowland had sent trombone player "Big" Jim Paterson to fetch Bevington to join Dexys. Rowland renamed her Helen O'Hara and made her part of his new violin section, dubbed "The Emerald Express." As Leek put it, though, Rowland hadn't just stolen Helen, he had stolen the violin riffs as well. And, of course, Paterson didn't know it at the time, but he had aided and abetted the enemy because his brilliant brass section became second fiddle to the fiddlers... but that's a story for another day.

So, what did Rowland have to say about this? He sort of came clean in that BBC documentary, saying, "Looking back on it, you know, obviously it was wrong that Kevin [Archer] wasn't credited for his influence there... yeah." As a fan, it's tough for me to get angry about it. I love 'Too-Rye-Aye,' as I do all things Dexys. I like the Blue Ox Babes too, but as Helen put it, she joined Dexys Midnight Runners because they were just better.

So, the Blue Ox Babes watched as 'Too-Rye-Aye' became a smash. There would never be an official album release from Archer's band. There were three singles... all quite good. Today we will listen to both sides of the first. It was the closest thing to a hit they would ever have, barely breaking the top 100 in the UK. Cherry Red Records lovingly reassembled the shelved 1988 album 'Apples and Oranges' and released it on CD in 2009. It has gone in and out of print a couple of times now. The Cherry Red site currently says it's out of stock.

"There's No Deceiving You"
"The Last Detail"

This 28-year-old 7" is pretty worn. Many apologies.


George said...

Never heard of this lot, they sound like a Dexys sound-a-like, but with weaker songs and a weaker vocal. Although I should be saying Dexys sound like the Blue Ox Babes, shouldn't I?

Brian said...

That more or less sums it up, George. I may be selling them a little short, though. There are a couple of other songs that sum up their sound a little better. I think I'll do a part two after I do the other Dexys splinter group a few posts from now.

FurryBootsCityBoy said...

I loved the cover of that single, but the audio content didn't live up to the visuals.

The Swede said...

You could quite literally strip away the vocals on 'There's No Deceiving You', get Rowland to replace them and no-one would doubt that it was a recently rediscovered long lost Dexys track. I remember the documentary to which you refer and how very uncomfortable Kevin looked when he fessed up to Archer's 'influence' - as well he should!

Brian said...

FBC, It is a great cover. By far the best visual of the three singles, but there is one with Ali on the cover for Walking the Line that's pretty good too. Check it out on discogs if you can.

Swede, That doc was really well done. I had not really seen anyone press Rowland on the subject before, and Archer, Leek and Bevington were all given ample time to talk about the split too. There is almost no way you could watch without feeling sympathetic for Archer.