Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Wendy James Vamps It Up Transvision Style

To say Transvision Vamp’s Wendy James played the role of pop vixen to perfection would be understating the fact. The essence of the British quartet lay in combining catchy pop rock melodies and riffs with a punk edge, but the X factor which took them from being just another struggling garage band to Top Of The Pops, was the presence of vocalist Wendy James.

Songwriter/guitarist Nick Christian Sayer had accumulated a collection of songs that he felt would make good records, but he needed a band, and most of all needed a charismatic and talented singer to bring those songs to life. Wendy James was a struggling would be vocalist who would make extra money by singing in clubs to backing tracks of artists like Patti Smith. As fate would have it Sayer was a patron at one such late night gig during November 1983, and saw in James the key to unlocking the potential in his songs. James was also a drama student at the time but put her studies aside to pursue pop stardom with Sayer.

The duo spent the next eighteen months piecing together a demo tape of six tracks: ‘We Travel’, ‘Space Junk’, ‘Sky High’, ‘I’ll Do Anything’, ‘Rocket To Me’ and ‘Satellite Boy’. You might think from that collection that Sayer also harboured ambitions to work for N.A.S.A., but the common theme actually reflected their original intent for the songs, which were to comprise a soundtrack to a sci-fi film they both wanted to make, tentatively titled ‘Saturn 5’. Their grand ambitions to revamp the music scene and their common love for the futuristic sci-fi scene, led them to call their proposed band Transvision Vamp.

They relocated to London and over the next two years continued to pursue their ambitions to realise a ground breaking, earth shattering pop-rock act. Through a meeting with then Pink Floyd manager Steve O’Rourke, Sayer and James were introduced to recording engineer/producer Duncan Bridgeman - who would later be a key player in their career. One thing led to another which led to another, and by late 1986 Dave Ambrose of MCA gave his seal of approval to the duo’s demo work and signed them to a record deal. On December 8th 1986 Transvision Vamp moved a giant step from being a concept to reality with a record contract in place.

Sayer and James began the recording process in earnest, but obviously needed some other musicians to complete the Transvision Vamp sound. Bass player Dave Parsons and keyboardist/drummer Tex Axile completed the band’s first rollcall. They recorded their debut album ‘Pop Art’ during 1987, and captured the surging energy of their pop-punk sound perfectly. The first single released was actually ‘Revolution Baby’ in August of ‘87, but the marketing machine wasn’t quite in place and the song fizzled out at #77 on the U.K. charts. In April of ‘88 ‘Tell That Girl To Shut Up’ (originally recorded by Holly and the Italians) hit the stores and soon hit the charts, peaking at #45 in Britain (OZ#52). The song would be released in the U.S. later in the year and crawl to #88, but the U.S. didn’t cave to the allure of Wendy James and Transvision Vamp, and ‘Tell That Girl To Shut Up’ remained the band’s only Hot 100 hit Stateside.

Everything changed for Transvision Vamp with the release of their next single ‘I Want Your Love’. The song showcased Wendy James’ brooding and breathless vocals, but it would be her image that would act as a major catalyst in catapulting the band to the summit of the pop scene. Acting every bit the platinum blonde screen siren, James pouted and preened to the camera throughout the promo clip for ‘I Want Your Love’. Backed by a menacing group of pseudo punk rockers, James became the antithesis of all things prim and proper that had dominated the U.K. pop scene in the preceding year or so. Acts like Rick Astley and even the then girl next door Kylie Minogue, were polar opposites to Wendy James and Tranvision Vamp - she was the new Debbie Harry and they were the new Blondie, or maybe The Clash with Debbie Harry out front. The critics and fans lapped it up, sending ‘I Want Your Love’ hurtling to #5 on the U.K. charts in mid ‘88, and to #7 in Australia soon after (where the track spent a walloping 30 weeks on the charts). The album ‘Pop Art’ rode the crest of the Wendy James popularity wave, breaking to #4 in Britain and #15 in Australia (where again Transvision Vamp spent a marathon 54 weeks on the charts - US#115). It’s worth noting that for their live shows during this period, Transvision Vamp performed as a quintet, with drummer Pol Burton coming into the fray, allowing Tex Axile to focus on keyboard duties.

The single ‘Revolution Baby’ was naturally re-released and second time around fared a lot better (UK#30/OZ#22), whilst another single ‘Sister Moon’ (UK#41/OZ#91) also kept the chart presence going. All the while the media savvy Wendy James’ profile in the press continued to overshadow the rest of the band.
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 - http://drybaby1.blogspot.com/


5 comments:

DryBaby said...

Flock Of Seagulls..

Read your blog entry..

(It is filled with inaccuracies and wrong dates but that is not your fault..)

For years Wendy told people "her version" of the Transvision Vamp story..

and it stuck..

(she does tend to "repaint" her own history so the actual FACTS can be blurry to say the least..)

There is currently a 2008 interview she has just done in AUSTRALIA in which she claims..

She had her first TV hit when she was 16..!

(so already alarms bells should be ringing in your head about what other information references you've used for your blog entry..huh?)

Go to my site..

DRYBABY

(The biggest Wendy James site(s) on the entire internet...I am not joking!)

and you will LEARN A LOT..!

(and you will be surprised how much of what you think you know is NOT TRUE..)

Just follow the link..

See ya

DryBaby

A. FlockOfSeagulls said...

Hi drybaby,
firstly thanks for taking the time to read through my Transvision Vamp posts. Rather than revise the details of my own brief (and admittedly inadequate)overviews of the career of Wendy James/Transvision Vamp, with your permission I'd like to paste a link to your drybaby-blog direct from each post, and let the readers search out the finer details for themselves.

Even at a cursory glance your blog(s) is most impressive and I congratulate you on your efforts, and I would gladly defer to your knowledge and expertise on anything Wendy related. As I find time I'll certainly look into the wealth of information you've made available on your blog, and hopefully those passing through Retro Universe will also take the time to do so.

I'm always open to feedback and comments on what I write, but I'm guessing you would have surmised that the blog entries I make regarding any artists careers are merely overviews. I usually make just one blog post for any one artist, but I felt the Wendy James/Transvision Vamp 'story' warranted two - well obviously it warrants an entire blog(s) dedicated to it - but that's for yourself and others to focus on, as I said what I offer here is merely a fleeting glimpse.

I don't claim to be an expert or authority on any of the music/artists I write about. I write about what small snippets of information may be lurking in my own rats maze of a brain from the music I listened to and enjoyed growing up, and research (within a limited time frame) what information I can find in whatever books I own and via the web. There will be occasions, as with Transvision Vamp when clearly I don't do justice to the story, and sadly am not able to dig deep enough to uncover all the facts as they truly are - it comes down to allocating only a certain amount of time to any one artist and doing the best I can within that timeframe. All I can do at the end of the day is summarise things as best I can in what is hopefully a mildy entertaining and (if not 100% accurate) at least, in broad terms, fairly accurate way. At the end of the day my blog is a bit of fun, and is not intended to be the last and only word on anything. In popular music terms I guess my blog could equate to a jack of all trades but master of none.

Sincerly though, thanks again for taking the time to review and write to me about my posts - I do take it as a compliment, even if a critical one. I hope that you're ok with me including those links to your blog so that I can send a little bit of extra traffic your way - though with 750,000 on board it would only be a drop in the ocean lol. I wish you ongoing success with your blog(s) into the future.
Regards,
A.Flock Of Seagulls

atomik said...

I would respectfully suggest extreme wariness of 'Drybaby'. He has for years obsessed about Ms James. I have no idea what his issues are, and he's clearly chronicled every ascertainable fact. He's also, quite clearly, quite vicious, quite unreliable, and likely quite mad. He's previously trolled and sabotaged a number of sites devoted to Wendy James, most transparently a few years back currying favor by representing himself as a 'charming' figure with a contract to publish a bio. He waved his arms and blew nonsense for months, then, ultimately, on repeated challenge, presented a 'contract' which was clearly a simple forgery. Needless to say he has published nothing on Wendy James in the real world but has declared himself the 'authority' -- and heaven only knows his obsession seems to have provided him with an enormous armamentarium of trivia -- in that sense, actually, he's a font of information. I would suggest, however, he be treated with extreme wariness as the most extreme of trolls. In other words, don't ask him in for tea -- or anything else.

DryBaby said...

Atomix,

When I got the note about your postings on the Icon in Black blog today I saw you'd posted here too..

I did tell you I would pop over here to Retro and say hello to you..

So..I am as good as my word.

Hello..

Did you tell the nice person who runs this wonderful blog that you have written in two separate parts of the world today on the same facinating subject....

ME.

(DryBaby)

I mentioned this blog (Retro Universe) only on one other Australian Blog (Mess + Noise) personally in the past few months so I must assume you got the address from there..?

or maybe my actual site..?

or simply Goggle or Yahoo where I am listed extensively..?

I'd love to repay the effort but sadly when I type in "Atomix" I get nothing at all..

and I have forgotten the previous "alias" you used..

What was it now..?

(I have been "DryBaby for nearly 3 years now..I have no need to change it as it is hugely popular and recognizable..)

Glad to see you are "following" DryBaby's wise words across the globe..Atomik

Like 1,000's of others..

To busy to read your actual contributions though..

But

You continue to Contribute your little heart out..!

And tell all your friends about this wonderful site (Retro Universe)

(Post a link if possible..it's the least you can do..)

It is so good it deserves it..

and your word-of mouth Atomix will only mean more visitors to this site appreciating the style and class of it..

and even this particular blog entry..

and of course they'll click on the DryBaby link..

http://drybaby1.blogspot.com/2008/12/atomik-powered-bullshit.html

and on it goes.

The Internet Circle Of Life.

It's all good...

See ya

(at your next "comment" location worldwide..kay?)

D-R-Y-B-A-B-Y

Atomik said...

So, Charm, how's that book contract for the Wendy James bio working out for you?

*wink*

atomik