A city lost in music or yet to be found ? Welcome to the first in a series on Leeds music.
If anyone mentions Leeds in a musical context, a large percentage of people would probably think of the greatest live album ever recorded in the history of rock ‘n’ roll – The Who’s Live At Leeds. No shame in that. What a way to put Leeds on the musical map !! Check out the only known video footage of that awesome night at Leeds University on 14 February 1970 …
But what about bands and artists from Leeds ? In the first part of a series of articles, I’m gonna take you through the rich musical tapestry of Leeds – some you will know, some you won’t. Believe me, there is no shortage of great bands and artists that have emerged from this great city and an unbelievable amount of young, musical talent ready to break through.
Let’s start with a little trip back in time and share some of the great Leeds talent from previous decades. Starting in the 60’s, Arthur Brown of The Crazy World Of Arthur Brown fame, although born in Whitby, relocated to Leeds and went to Roundhay Grammar School. “Fire” got to No.1 in 1968 in the UK and Canada, No.2 in the U.S. and sold over 1 million copies …
In the 70’s, Leeds band Christie hit No.1 in the UK, Ireland, Norway and Finland with “Yellow River”. 20 million hits on you tube can’t be wrong …
Soft Cell’s “Tainted Love” put Leeds massively on the map in the 80’s, topping the UK charts and reaching No.1 in 5 other countries. It was the UK’s best-selling single of 1981 and has sold 1.35 million copies. In the US, the song reached number 8 during the summer of 1982 and spent a record-breaking 43 weeks on the Hot 100 …
In the 90’s there was a wealth of talented Leeds bands such as Utah Saints, The Bridewell Taxis and The Pale Saints but it was probably Dave Beer & Alistair Cook’s Back To Basics club night that had the nation and indeed the world take notice of Leeds. Back To Basics was born on 23 November 1991. By November 1992 at the end of its first year, Dave and Alistair found themselves on stage at the Royal Albert Hall, looking out to a packed auditorium as they picked up the DMC and Mixmag Award for Best Club. To the present day, Dave has toured Back To Basics all over the world and gave Daft Punk, Basement Jaxx and Groove Armada some of their first gigs as unknown artists …
In the noughties The Kaiser Chiefs stormed the music world with a series of million selling albums, a UK No.1 single plus Brit and Ivor Novello music awards …
There’s plenty more where that lot came from – check out these two really cool documentaries on Leeds music …
And that pretty well brings us up to date – so what’s going on in Leeds right now ? As a taster for what’s to come in the next volume of this series, check out 3 quality bands currently knocking down walls both in Leeds and further afield. These band spotlights are all in the artist’s own words – enjoy !!
Years active : 2015- present
Describe Your Music : Brutalist Psychedelia with a melodic flourish.
Author : Harrison Warke – Guitar & Vocals
We’ve been playing together since meeting at uni. We started as a 5 piece but then whittled it down to 3 where we basically stumbled across the sound. As a 3 piece you have to be inventive to not just end up being in a loud/heavy band so as guitarist I’ll always try and write something melodic rather than distorted and I think generally when we’re writing parts, that’s what makes the sound different. Charlie is one of the best drummers around for me. I’m constantly surprised by what he comes up with. Henry’s a proper bassist so is always looking to come up with something melodic and groovy rather than just 8th notes on a root.
“There’s enough bullshit out there, hitting you over the head with the next new, exciting thing that sounds exactly like the last with a facelift.”
It’s basically all about the songs. I think there’s enough bullshit out there bombarding you, hitting you over the head with the next new, exciting thing that sounds exactly like the last with a facelift. We’re not interested in contributing to that scene or adding any hype around what we do. If you like it great, if not that’s fine too.
We’ve got a 7″ coming out in December with ‘Come Play With Me’ singles club in Leeds which we’re buzzing for. Other than that, we’re taking it as it comes. Gonna be recording an E.P. in Jan / Feb somewhere.
Years active : 2011 – present
Describe Your Music : Post-Punk with a fusion of dark wave
Author : Patrick Hooson – Bass & Vocals
I have been in bands since about 1984, always playing post punk/goth type music. The first band was called “Fear of Fun” and was myself a guitarist/singer and a drum machine. “Memories Of Arian” was the next band formed in 1985. This was a full band line up with bass, guitar, drums, keyboards and vocals. We only played a handful of gigs, it was around the time when the goth scene was really beginning to pick up in Leeds with The Sisters Of Mercy leading the way.
The next band was perhaps the first most serious band called “Tapestry Sky”, this again was a full band and it was this band that supported Joe Strummer on 13th July 1988 on the first date of his Rock against The Rich tour at Leeds Irish Centre. We had been chosen to play this date after sending a demo to the promoters which Joe liked enough to invite us to play the gig. It was fantastic meeting Joe backstage before and after the gig, he was such a nice bloke who was genuinely interested in what we had to say. TAPESTRY SKY also played gigs at Dingwalls venue in Camden Town which is an old classic venue where all the old punk bands played including The Ramones. We also supported a well established “goth band” at the time called SALVATION at Queens Hall in Bradford.
Tapestry Sky disbanded in 1989 and I formed a new band called PURE with the rhythm guitarist from Tapestry Sky, we played a more indie style music but still keeping the hard edge guitars. Gigs were played around the country, in Manchester at the Roadhouse and the Swan in Fulham with many local gigs.
The next band up was called GLIDE playing mainly 80’s synth orientated indie music. This band played a handful of mainly local gigs.
“Joe Strummer even let me belt out a rather drunken version of White Riot on his acoustic guitar“
A couple of short lived bands were established around 2002 not really doing much before forming the band BAD MONKEY. This was a 3 piece act mainly playing rockier edged guitar music which wasn’t really my thing so I left and concentrated on The Lost Souls with Ady from 2011.
Ady was in bands in the Cambridge area from the early 80’s. His band WHAT NOISE supported the Ruts and The Addicts.
In terms of The Clash, they were a band who we absolutely adored, seeing them live as a young punk was a life changing experience. You felt as if they were there for you and were giving you the belief to question the system and what life had to offer. I still feel the same to this day as I did about The Clash back in 78/79 (I’m an oldie ha ha).
Ady and I as The Lost Souls write music which is similar to the music we grew up on in the late 70’s early 80’s. We like the stuff we are producing and accept that it may not be the most fashionable music but we write for ourselves and believe there is a target market and audience for post punk. We have supported one of the original Leeds post punk bands, The Expelaires, on numerous occasions since they reformed in 2012. They were signed to a major label and did several John Peel sessions in the early 80’s.
Bands such as Joy Division, Gang of Four and Siouxsie and the Banshees were part of our youth, we grew up listening to these bands and going to see them. Our style of music I guess does owe a lot to Joy Division. We feel that post punk was an important time for music. Bands were experimenting with a fusion of different sounds moving away from the traditional 3 chord punk songs.
We do write our own songs, all the songs are written by me or Ady. The lyrics are often quite controversial, for example the song SHE TELLS HERSELF is about the dreadful prospect of domestic violence within a relationship. This was written by myself and is indirectly about someone I used to know who found herself in this situation when she moved to a new town and became involved with someone.
The song DESPAIR is another song I wrote. This one is about someone who feels their life has gone nowhere and that they have no choice in life, which leads to them hitting the bottle to escape the despair they face each day (very depressing I know).
Ady wrote JOHNNY AIN’T COMING. This song is about the futile mindless slaughter of young soldiers during the first world war.
We have actually written a song about Joe Strummer called “DOING THE 101” which is about Joe leaving the 101er’s to join The Clash. I met Joe a couple of times after supporting him back in 1988, he played at The Town and Country Club in Leeds in 1999 and after the gig he invited us backstage, I can’t say he was a friend but like I say he was a true gent and was genuinely interested in what people had to say. He even let me belt out a rather drunken version of White Riot on his acoustic guitar !!
In terms of recordings by The Lost Souls the first EP “Johnny Ain’t Coming” was released in 2014 with the debut album following in 2015.
THE HILL BANDITS
Years active : 1985-88 and 2014 – present
Describe Your Music : A hybrid of edgelands country, jazz and early rock’n’roll spiced with a hint of punk.
Author : Kevin Lycett – Guitar
What it says on the tin. The Hill Bandits music is grown from 50s and 60s popular and not so popular music. Smoky traces of hardline country music, the jazz inflections of Ella Fitzgerald, that moment when rock’n’roll crystallised. But all that is filtered through a UK sensibility, with a light spicing of punk minimalism, and lyrics that aren’t quite as straightforward as they seem. All of this delivered in Fiona’s to-die-for voice.
“The heart’s chambers and those who abuse us, are still in the cross hairs“
A hairdo and a pint. Kevin formed post-punk Leeds legends The Mekons in 1977. Fiona was blow drying his hair in Leeds’ boho’s, gays & politico’s hairdresser of choice Snipperfields Circus in 1985 and said, ‘do you want to form a band?’. He said ‘let’s have a pint’. They went round the corner to the Hyde Park Pub and an hour or so later the Hill Bandits emerged. With a subject matter based on the vagaries of love and politics, and a love of marginal pop from the 40s and 50s they forged a distinctive sound over the next few years, ending when the vagaries of love intruded and Fiona moved to Berlin to follow her heart. Being dirt poor and without the internet, which had thoughtlessly not been properly invented yet, they couldn’t keep The Hill Bandits alive and so, after a couple of well received records and a lot of touring it fell into deep hibernation. Fast forward nearly three decades and Fiona arrives back in Leeds trailing bands, lives and loves in Germany and France behind her. She and Kevin are like, ‘shall we?’ ‘Why not’. So here we are again.
A slim new you. We’re gigging loads, finding a whole new audience, writing a lot of new material, which happily is being well received. Our compass hasn’t shifted much, the heart’s chambers and those who abuse us, are still in the cross hairs. We’re still digging around in the nooks and crannies of pop, down in the basement with the mavericks, We’ve found new Bandits to join us, are building a new sound on the slimmed down frame of our old one (sheesh all that 80s production, what were we thinking?) and are having a right grand time.
Who do we love, who made us? Oh the list is endless; Patsy Cline, Ella Fitzgerald, Chuck Berry, Johnny Cash, Bobby Gentry, Neil Young, Link Wray, Jimmy Webb, David Bowie, Van Morrison, Howling Wolf…
A massive thank you to The Boxing, Lost Souls and The Hill Bandits for these unique and fantastic contributions – incredible words from these guys that I could never have put together. A firm statement that Leeds Music is alive and kicking !! If you’ve got this far, thanks so much for reading and taking an interest. Stay tuned for Disc 2 – loads more Leeds bands in their own words with a host of new music for ya !!