Monday, June 30, 2008

Former Runners Declare 'Only For Sheep'

Following on from the mammoth success of the single ‘Geno’ (UK#1,OZ#44) and their debut album ‘Searching For The Young Soul Rebels’ (UK#6), Dexy’s Midnight Runners experienced a major split in their ranks in early 1981. Acknowledged leader Kevin Rowland decided to drop the Scorsese inspired ‘Mean Streets’ look and brass based soul, and took the band (essentially his band) off in an entirely new direction, both musically and image wise (see future post). The bulk of the other members (which constituted all but Jimmy Patterson) took off on their own and formed The Bureau. It wouldn’t be the last major split in ranks for Dexys Midnight Runners, which was often the result of a clash between the controlling Rowland and other members.

The Bureau line-up consisted former Dexys players Pete Williams (bass), Steve Spooner (alto sax), Jeff Blythe (tenor sax), Mick Talbot (keyboardist) and drummer Andy 'Stoker' Growcott. Added to the mix were three former member of The Upset, who had previously played support for Dexys - Paul Taylor (trombone), Rob Jones (guitar/trumpet) and new vocalist Archie Brown. The Bureau largely retained the brass based ‘northern soul’ sound previously the hallmark of the Dexys sound. Within months The Bureau had released their first single ‘Only For Sheep’. In stark contrast to the revamped Dexys line-up, The Bureau failed to chart at all in Britain. However, when ‘Only For Sheep’ was released in Australia in mid ‘81, the song took off and spent an impressive 19 weeks inside the charts, peaking at #6. It’s a bit of an anomaly given the fact that ‘Geno’, which featured a similar musical style, had been a #1 in Britain and charted relatively poorly in Australia - maybe the two countries were out of synch on their appreciation of ‘northern soul’.

Actually when I think of the early Dexys material, and The Bureau, I can’t help but think of The Commitments - really it’s just the up-front horn sections that evokes that association. Lyrically a social commentary, 'Only For Sheep' also weaves touches of ska, jazz and even reggae into the mix - something for everyone really, so why wasn't it a bigger hit?

The Bureau recorded one album soon after, also titled ‘Only For Sheep’, but the album was only released at the time in Australia (#59) and Canada. A follow up single ‘Let Him Have It’ missed the charted all together, and soon thereafter The Bureau went their own ways.

Of The Bureau alumni, keyboardist Mick Talbot made the biggest mark when he joined former Jam front man, the mercurial Paul Weller, in 1982 to become one half of The Style Council (whose career achievements speak for themselves). Vocalist Archie Brown formed a short lived outfit called Flag, before going on to head Archie Brown & The Young Bucks, who have gone on to record nine albums in total and forged a formidable reputation as live players. Geoff Blythe hooked up with now ex-Dexys member Jim Patterson in The TKO Horns, whilst bassist Pete Williams most recently played in the band Baseheart.

2005 finally saw the release of The Bureau’s original album in Britain, this time as a double CD featuring bonus live material. To celebrate the release the 7 of the 8 original members of The Bureau reunited to play two shows in early 2005. Inspired by the experience The Bureau re-entered the recording studio and laid down tracks for an album of new material titled ‘…And Another Thing’. As they state on their website, “It ain’t over yet”.

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