ENTERTAINMENT RESOURCES COMMUNITY 80's GEAR



Strawberry Switchblade - A Primer!
Polka dots and ribbons in their hair, the Switchblade came rumbling out of Scotland in early 1984 and with in a year were gone again, consigned to the dust heap of pop history. But, as with most cases, there is more to their story than that. The group has become one of our favourtites over the years. Despite the fact that they have never had anything released in the US and only had only one top 5 hit in the UK they are one of the most collectable bands from the 80's. A small but devoted following descends like a rabid pack on any scrap of stuff that comes on the record collecting market. So on with the story.

Flashback, if you will, to the year 1977, the year Punk broke in the UK (and then took the looooong way to America). Two Scottish women became friends, joined together by their love of the new wave hitting Scotland and the rest of the UK. Jill Bryon and Rose Mcdowall hung around Glasgow pubs and halls, catching many of the local bands that would rise to prominence in the very early 80's. One of them was Orange Juice, fronted by James Kirk. They befriended Kirk, who not only suggested that the girls should form a band, but had also started writing a song called, you guessed it, "Strawberry Switchblade."

Bryon and McDowall started the band with two other women, who, in short order, quit and left. Remaining behind the two decided to remain a duo and piled into a friends car, with backing tapes and guitars and headed out into the British country side, opening for Orange Juice and getting to see the sights outside of Scotland.

Although they were signed with Postcard Records, a great, tiny, Scottish record label that had Orange Juice as its single claim to fame, they failed to record anything just yet.

That changed when they got signed to Zoo music publishing and met up with Bill Drummond, then the manager for Echo and the Bunneymen and soon (well fairly soon anyway) to be one of the ring leaders of the KLF/JAMMS/Timelords axis. He got Ian Muculloch (the lead singer of Echo), who had started his own label to press the Switchblade's first single, "Trees and Flowers." It was also, coincidentally, the label's first single.

"Trees and Flowers" came out on 92 Happy Customers in July of 1983 and in short order made the label's name obsolete. They sold through 10,000 copies, not bad for an independent release in England. Backing the Switchblade on this great single was an all star cast: Two members from Madness, the Fun Boy Three back up singers (not Bannanrama!), and Roddy Frame (who is basically Aztec Camera). The song, incidentally, is about agoraphobia, fear of open spaces. One of the women suffered from it, but had overcome it.

They then did some Janice Long sessions for Radio One and had, in fact, a minor hit on the radio with their version of "Femme Fatale"( which has never been pressed to wax as far as we know). The women were big fans of Velvet Underground, covering "Sunday Morning" as well. They later said that while act like Orange Juice and Blancmange were big contemporary influences, older acts like Love, Simon and Garfunkel and the Lovin Spoonful were also influential.

Finally Drummond got them signed by Warner to Korova proper, the Bunnymen's full time label. They then set down with David Motion to record the album, moving from studio to studio in an attempt to find the best sound. They ended up not finding it per se, but they did end up with an album.

Unlike the "Trees and Flowers" single they didn't get all that much help from outside all stars. Motion did most of the programming that makes the album such a beautiful snapshot of the contemporary techno pop movement in the UK. Some outside help with the strings was provided by Andrew Poppy, who would go on the record a couple of instrumental LPs for ZTT.

"Since Yesterday" was the lead off track from the album and it was a hit, eventually winding up at #5 on 4/17/84 in the UK. The video achieved some note for it's animation effects. It was directed by Tim Pope, who would do all of The Cure's videos and quite a few Talk Talk ones as well.

For reasons unknown the album was never optioned for release here in America. Perhaps the outlandish costume the two wore and the sliding fortunes of Culture Club made for a nervous Warner Brothers. Whatever the cause the Switchblade never got further than import dance club cult favourites. They did get their picture in Rolling Stone though.

After "Since Yesterday" the fortunes of the band went down hill. "Let Her Go", "Trees and Flowers" (again) and "Who Knows What Love Is?" were all released after that, each to diminishing returns.

A cover of "Jolene" (written by and originally a hit in the UK for Dolly Parton) was tried next, as a warm up/ stop gap until the next album, but that got even less reaction. Jill and Rose decided to call it a day.

Rose would go on the release a 45 with a cover of "Don't Fear The Reaper" backed with "Crystal Days", a song that Rose wrote herself. The single was not much of a success and neither of the women have released anything since then.

Several years later WEA Japan released the album on CD (under the Young At Heart series) with a nice article (in Japanese tho‚). Last year a Canadian record company released on CD the 12.

The Japanese CD version of the album is still in print as far as we know. Later looking back they both said that they had a great time doing everything, but that by the time Jolene came out it had ceased being fun. Suddenly they were under the gun to perform, to sell records, and they both decided that it simply wasn't for them. Since then the two have lived the quite life in England and at last check were in no hurry to get back together for a "reunion" tour. So instead we remember them frozen in time and polka dots. We would like to do more on Strawberry Switchblade. If you know of rarities, news or have personal insights please drop us a line. Thanks.

Next Issue - a Complete (??!!) Discography.




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