Thursday, August 7, 2008

Living In A Box Made Of Gold

High fashion, slick sounding pop-funk/soul groups were all the rage in Britain during the latter part of the 1980s. Consider the likes of Curiosity Killed The Cat, Hue & Cry, Johnny Hates Jazz, early Wet Wet Wet, When In Rome (see previous post) or even the re-invented ABC as being the more high profile of that sub-genre. Sheffield based Living In Box similarly had the kind of image and sound that for a time put them at the vanguard of the movement (a movement whose members obviously all shopped at the same high fashion tailors).

Vocalist Richard Darbyshire had previously fronted early 80s outfit the Zu Zu Sharks. The Zu Zu Sharks had released three singles on EMI, including the Spanish #1 ’Love Tumbles Down’. Following the break-up of the Zu Zu Sharks Darbyshire continued to write music and work as a session singer. His smooth vocal style (born of a love for the music of Marvin Gaye and Al Green) and charismatic good looks came to the attention of two interested parties. Given the choice of attempting a solo career with Virgin or fronting a new group called Living In A Box, formed out of the ashes of Typhoon Saturday, Darbyshire opted to front Living In A Box. Completing the trio were Marcus Vere (keyboards) and Anthony ‘Tich’ Crichton (drums), three seeming to be the optimum number of group members for many of the late 80s pop outfits.

Given a very generous five year recording contract to work with by Chrysalis Records, Living In A Box made an impressive debut in 1987 with their self titled LP (UK#25/US#89). The lead out single was the similarly eponymous ‘Living In A Box’ which surged into the British charts mid year, eventually peaking at #5. A clever promotional video aided the song’s foray into the U.S. market where it ascended to #17, though Australia seemed less enamoured with the song (#49) and group.

The album yielded three more hit singles, ‘Scales Of Justice’ (UK#30), ‘So The Story Goes’ (UK#34/US#81) which featured uncredited vocals by Bobby Womack, and ‘Love Is The Art’ (UK#45), though as their respective chart positions reflect, none managed to reach the heights of ‘Living In A Box’. It’s worth noting that at the production helm for the album was one Richard James Burgess, formerly of electro-pop outfit Landscape (see previous post).

Though Living In A Box’s incursion into the U.S. charts was a short and sharp one, they managed to establish a longer presence inside British chart territory. Their sophomore album ‘Gatecrashing’ (1989-UK#21) was a commendable follow up set. Queen’s Brian May contributed his signature guitar sound to the first single ‘Blow The House Down’ (UK#10), the song proving that Living In A Box had substance beyond the glossy image. The album’s title track (UK#36/OZ#95) performed solidly enough, but the next single ‘Room In Your Heart’ matched the lofty heights of their debut hit, reaching #5 in Britain late in ‘89. ‘Different Air’ (#57) was the final single lifted from ‘Gatecrashing’ and it would also be the last to chart for Living In A Box.

Despite all the success and good will established over their first two albums, Living In A Box reached an impasse with the Chrysalis Records over the style and direction planned for their third album. The band pretty much imploded under the pressure and broke-up in 1990, before the album had been completed.

Richard Darbyshire went on to record his debut solo album with 1994’s ‘How Many Angels’, featuring several tracks such as ‘Better To Have Lost’ that had originally been slated for the unrealised third Living In A Box album. The album also featured the minor U.K. chart hits ‘This I Swear’ (#50) and ‘When Only Love Will Do’ (#54). He went on to write for other artists during the 90s, including Lisa Stansfield, Jennifer Rush and Level 42. A new solo album was in the works as of 2006 and Darbyshire also has an active song coaching business going.

The trio of Richard Darbyshire, Marcus Vere and Anthony Crichton appear to have reignited the Living In A Box flame of late, with work on an official band dedicated website underway.
Thanks to a comment from blog reader 'daddy o' for news that the Living In A Box website is now up and running. You can find it at


Daddy O said...

Official Living In A Box website now open at

A. FlockOfSeagulls said...

Thanks for the update on the website daddy o