Thursday, September 25, 2008

From Velveteen To A Burst Bubble Of Babble

In March 1989 Transvision Vamp unleashed their new single ‘Baby I Don’t Care’, a thrashy trashy bubblegum- punk song that made an immediate impact on the British and Australian charts. I have to say the first time I heard the song I immediately thought that the guitar riff sounded suspiciously reminiscent of The Troggs’ classic ‘Wild Thing’, but I don’t ever recall a charge of plagiarism being levelled at the band, so consider my suspicion a misguided aural interpretation. Regardless, ‘Baby I Don’t Care’ proved to be the biggest hit of Transvision Vamp’s career, peaking at #3 in both the U.K. and Australia.

‘Baby I Don’t Care’ featured on the band’s sophomore album ‘Velveteen’ which was released in July ‘89 and debuted at #1 on the British album charts, soon after peaking at #2 in Australia. The follow up singles ‘The Only One’ (UK#15/OZ#34), ‘Landslide Of Love’ (UK#14/OZ#65) and ‘Born To Be Sold’ (UK#22/OZ#97) maintained a stellar run for Transvision Vamp throughout 1989, but the turn of the decade would signal a marked change of fortune for the band.

During 1990 Transvision Vamp returned to the recording studio to lay down tracks for album number three. They undertook to depart from the high energy pop-punk that had worked for them thus far, opting for what they called a more “swampy and mystical feel”, perhaps meaning moody - at least they were willing to take a chance on something new. Upon hearing the finished product, the suits at MCA were panicked into delaying the U.K. release of the album ‘Little Magnets Vs. The Bubble Of Babble’ indefinitely. As a result Transvision Vamp lost momentum on the charts and their profile quickly began to fade, even with constant sell out shows and the apparently still ubiquitous (though increasingly resented) Ms. James’ presence on the celebrity scene. The album was released elsewhere, but sank without a trace in the U.S., whilst it only managed to peak at #25 in Australia. Strangely, two of the album’s tracks were released as singles in Britain. ‘(I Just Wanna) B With U’ reached #30 in the U.K., and fared even better in Australia (#21), also providing Transvision Vamp with one of their only charting hits Stateside (#14 Modern Rock Tracks). During mid 1991 ‘If Looks Could Kill’ was the last single to chart for Transvision Vamp (UK#41/OZ#51).

The refusal of MCA to release ‘Little Magnets Vs. The Bubble Of Babble’ in Britain proved a fatal blow to the life of Transvision Vamp, the band splitting up following their final tour in late 1991. The only official Transvision Vamp release since was the 1998 compilation ‘Kiss Their Sons’.

Post Transvision Vamp, the band’s members have experienced mixed fortunes. Guitarist/songwriter Nick Sayer virtually retired from the music biz, said to be completely dismayed by Transvision Vamp’s swift fall from grace. Bassist Dave Parsons went on to join Gavin Rossdale, Nigel Pulsford and Robin Goodridge in the hugely successful alternative rock outfit Bush. Keyboardist/drummer Tex Axile (born Anthony Doughty) had already been somewhat of a punk/rock journeyman prior to his tenure with Transvision Vamp. Following the band’s demise Tex went on to play keyboards in a band called Max, who apparently recorded an album. He then embarked on a solo career, releasing his debut album ‘Diary Of A Genius’ in 1998, which was literally a one man project - Tex Axile wrote, produced, played all instruments, performed all vocals, and even did the cover artwork and photography. This was followed up by the 2000 album ‘Little Monsters’. His exploits have widened to include business interests, photography and documentary films.

During Transvision Vamp’s final tour, singer Wendy James had written a letter to Elvis Costello expressing her sense of frustration about the impasse with MCA over the stalled U.K. release of the band’s third album, and the unfolding downfall of the band. Upon arriving home from tour James found a demo tape of songs waiting for her, courtesy of Elvis Costello and his then wife Cate O’Riordan (ex-Pogues). The songs therein formed the basis of what would become Wendy James’ solo album ‘Now Ain’t The Time For Tears’. The album was released in 1993, funnily enough on MCA, and reached a respectable #43 on the U.K. charts. The advance single ‘The Nameless One’ debuted at #34 on the U.K. charts in early ‘93 but that was as high as it reached. The follow up ‘London’s Brilliant’ only managed a modest #62, whilst ‘Do You Know What I’m Saying’ missed the charts altogether.

Within 15 months of signing Wendy James as a solo act, MCA had parted ways with her. James signed with independent London based label One Little Indian Records. During 1995 she wrote and recorded tracks for a planned album with the working title ‘Lies In Chinatown’. Reportedly the album’s tracks displayed a more mature and substantive side to Wendy James the singer and songwriter. But again record label politics conspired against her and the album was never officially released. During 1997 James again attempted to relaunch her music career, but the material from those New York recording sessions are still in demo form. Three strikes and it seemed Wendy James had finally turned her back on the music industry for good, but in 2004 she put together the band Racine. Initially conceived as a front for another tilt at a solo career, Racine now features James with Henric Stahl, James Meynell and Ray Sullivan. They released their debut album ‘Racine No. 1’ in September 2006 and the follow up ‘Racine 2’ in March 2008. Wendy James and the lads have toured the U.K., Europe and the U.S. regularly over the last couple of years, and in August 2008 production began on their aptly titled third album ‘Racine 3’. The band’s style incorporates everything from urban dance grooves to reggae to synth-pop, and it seems Wendy James has moved well beyond the roots of her music career with Transvision Vamp.

If you'd like a more thorough insight into the truth behind the Wendy James/Transvision Vamp story, please take the time to visit 'DRYBABY' - the first and last word on the matter - you'll find a wealth of information here -

1 comment:

DryBaby said...

Flock of Seagulls..

Just read this section of your Vamp articles too..

(about 85% right in the 1991 element..50% right about the Costello "years" and about 20% right about the 11 year gap from 1993 to 2004..)

On my site there are many VIDEO interviews Wendy did when she was launching BUBBLE and then when she was launching COSTELLO's album..

You will NEVER have seen them before..

(in some cases they were NEVER even broadcast and you will see why...)

Then check out the various written articles and interviews also posted on my 3 sites..

The links are on the site..

Once again you will find what you thought you KNEW was only a tiny part of a wider more detailed picture..

Follow the link again..

(don't worry about the first Drybaby profile page..that hasn't been updated since 2006...just click the links to the actual BLOGS...kay?)

and join 750,000+ DryBaby readers worldwide..

(I suspect you may stop writing about Transvision Vamp or Wendy James after!)

Enjoy the site.

See ya


See ya