Thursday, March 20, 2008

East Village's inspiration: The Onlookers

If you ask East Village who their biggest influence was, they’ll all tell you it was an early 80s mod band from Slough, The Onlookers.

A mate of mine swears that East Village stole all their tricks from Hurrah!, but I think this is a little wide of the mark. There was a general trend in pre-86 British indiepop towards mod (most of Creation’s early roster for starters), of which Hurrah! were definitely a part, and which influenced bands such as East Village who never had any allegiance to the twee side of post C86 indiepop.

I got talking to Mick Bund – then of Mexico 70, previously Felt’s bass player – at Felt’s last ever gig (Tuesday 19 December, 1989; yes, I do still have the ticket stub), at which Mexico 70 were the support. I mentioned that I thought Felt’s Mexican Bandits might owe a little something to Hurrah!’s Hip Hip. Rather alarmed, Mick warned me: “Don’t ever mention that to Lawrence. He’ll go mad.”

I never did mention it to Lawrence. I only ever met him the once, 13 years later, and the moment for that particular observation had passed.

In an interview with the mod fanzine Fight Back in 1982, The Onlookers were asked, “You’ve played locally in your area quite a bit…have you built up a local following?”
Not really. Most of them come from London or just outside – High Wycombe.
East Village were from High Wycombe.

An Onlookers retrospective has been planned by Heavenly these past few years. I hope it comes out. Then we can see if The Onlookers’ unreleased Round and Round influenced Hurrah!’s Around and Around. Martin Kelly of East Village is, of course, the MD of Heavenly.

The Onlookers released just one single, You And I/Understand/Julia, on Demon in 1982. You can find all those tracks on the This Is Mod Vol 4 compilation. A year before that, they had two songs (Mystic Surrounds Me and Houseman) on a compilation album of “Slough’s most popular bands & artistes”, Subway.

You’ll notice that The Onlookers had that Groovy Cellar sound of post-punk psych-mod, popular with the TVPs and related bands in the early 80s.


Tim said...

Not having the same access to Great Pop Mates as you, I wouldn't know who the band would credit or not, or what was borrowed and what was coincidence.

What I do know is that the one time I saw East Village, their sound, and their tricks, were close enough to Hurrah!'s to make me not-very-interested. And I was reasonably well-attuned to the fine distinctions between indie bands back in those days.

Have a delightful Easter!

FireEscape said...

My access to pop mates is pretty much limited to Harvey Williams and one of the blokes from The First Division (although I'm working on a one-a-year email average from Phil Wilson, which isn't bad).

I think I saw EV on the same tour that you would've seen them (early 89, supporting McCarthy) and I didn't recognise a parity with Hurrah! What I do know is that EV blew me away that night. Perhaps we'll have to agree to differ on this one.

And you, you have a good Easter too.

brogues said...

'Mystic Surrounds' is a bobby dazzler. Thanks for sharing!

Wireless said...
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Anonymous said...

i too have that ticket stub

Jessel said...

Wow~! Great songs...I do hope they release that retrospective you mentioned. Thanks for sharing the songs!


herb said...

Blimey what a blast from the past I guess I was sort of road manager for the onlooker as we all went to the same school . Anyway gave my daughter a giggle looking back to what i got upto when a lot younger