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Monday, 24 April 2017

The Photos - A Photographic History 1979-1983

I was thinking today about the band The Photos, maybe because I had seen somewhere that today is the anniversary of the release of their 1980 EP that featured Irene and Barbarellas.

As much for my own amusement I went and had a wee search around You Tube to see what they had on there and decided to post this little piece. I don't recall ever doing a post about them before (at least one that I can find here on the blog) so I guess it's long overdue.

It's not a full history but snapshots of the beginnings of the band through to their split in 1981 (and a brief mention regarding a reformation in 1983).

I have tried to supply as many links as possible to the music of The Photos and was successful in finding all the songs with regard to the Debut Album and the bonus album The Blackmail Tapes. As for the second album there are hardly any songs from it that have been uploaded so they singles section is a bit bereft of links as is the album.

Enjoy the music and read more down below about the band and their history.

Produced by Colin Thurston
Released November 1979

The Photos EP - The Photos



Produced by Roger Bechirian
Released April 1980
UK Chart #56

 The Photos - The Photos
Produced by Roger Bechirian
Released June 1980
UK Chart #4

 On Release there was a Limited Edition Album Included:
The Blackmail Tapes

Friends / Je T'Aime 
July 1980
Single Withdrawn by Label

Released August 1980

Life In A Day / More Than A Friend
Released February 1981

Crystal Tips and Mighty Mice - The Photos
Produced by Tony Visconti
Withdrawn by the label but later released in 2008 by Cherry Red Records on CD
A1 My Life Story 2:35
A2 Life In A Day 2:56
A3 Luke Come Back 3:18
A4 Let's Pack Our Bags 3:44
A5 Kill That Girl 3:20
A6 The Final Scene 3:32
B1 We Fight 3:35

B2 Thinking Of His Girlfriend 4:12
B3 Wish You Well 3:19
B4 For Beauty's Sake 3:58
B5 Time Of My Life 4:32 
* It's Always The English (Unreleased) - was included on the Cherry Red CD Release in 2008.
There are not many songs at all on You Tube from the Second Album.
We'll Win / You Won't Get To Me
Released July 1981

 Wendy Wu left the band in 1981 to go solo (and wasn't very successful with none of her three singles charting), to be replaced by Che, and The Photos split up later that year.

There's Always Work / Work Phase
Released April 1983

Wendy Wu was not part of the reformed band for this single and they went their own ways again soon after release but did have her join them for a one off show at The Marquee before they split for good!


The story of The Photos actually begins in early 1977 when Paul Kencher (vocals), Steve Eagles (guitar), Sharpie (bass) and Clint Driftwood (drums) put together a Punk band called Satan's Rats. They hailed from Evesham, Worcestershire. Sharpie and Driftwood were soon replaced (Sharpie deciding that punk wasn't for him and Driftwood's Dad didn't want him playing with Punks) by Roy Wilkes (bass) and Olly Harrison (drums).

It was bassist Roy Wilkes who had brought along some songs "with more rebellion in them" - like Year of the Rats and You Make Me Sick. The band would be dumping some of the older covers they were doing in favour of their own songs and a few choice Punk covers (New Rose, Teenage Depression, Anarchy in the UK and Pogo Dancing).

The band managed to get a deal with DJM Records and in 1977 released their Debut Single - In My Love For You backed by Facade. I'm not totally sure that DJM Records really knew what they were doing with the band as the label was more geared toward Pop music with the likes of Elton John, Dennis Waterman and Telly Savalas having been on their books.

Advertising for the Single was interesting and was inspired by a conversation at The Roxy when some enthusiastic crowd members were heckling the band and shouting "We want the Pistols". Paul's response was quality: "Never mind the Pistols, we're Satan's Rats!"
Two more singles would follow in 1978 - Year of the Rats (backed with Louise in January) and You Make Me Sick (also backed with Louise in March). Things in the band had soured though and the first out the door was Roy Wilkes who was replaced with Dave Sparrow. Lead vocalist Paul had brought some new songs to the table but was being given the cold shoulder by other members in the band. Some of those very same songs would turn up later under a very different guise.

After a health issue and the continued hostility toward him Paul left the band as he felt that there were others in control of the band that were not aiding the success of the group. The record label had already shown from the start that they were cheapskates getting Rikki Sylvan (frontman of Rikki and The Last Days Of Earth - whom also happened to be signed to DJM) to produce as he said he'd do it for nothing and the management of the band were not exactly playing their part either.

You can read Vocalist Paul Rencher's side of the story here!

The Photos Are Developed!
Now, with no lead vocalist and a desire to move forward the remaining members Steve Eagles, Dave Sparrow, and Olly Harrison decided to hunt for a female lead vocalist. The first name on the list was Jayne Casey of Big in Japan after she had left the group but she informed them that she had a new band already called Pink Military. Then they stumbled upon Wendy at Barbarellas in Birmingham (she also came from Worcester). "I remember they phoned me up and asked if I could sing. I of course said yes, even though I had no idea if I could" said Wendy

"She was immediately auditioned and asked to join the band" Steve Eagles said. "She had an unusual voice that at times sounded a little like Patti Smith and at others like those girl bands from the 60s."

The band's management company at the time, Magic Management, were not a great help - "Magically they made money disappear", said Wendy.

Throughout June and July 1979 the band were playing in all the musical hotspots in London - The Marquee, The Music Machine, Dingwalls, The Moonlight Club, The Hope and Anchor and The Nashville.

Cherry Red were interested in signing the band but it was CBS who got them to sign on the dotted line. Their first single I'm So Attractive would be released on that label but they would switch to the sister label Epic Records for the next releases.

They had done shows supporting The Cure, Squeeze, The Undertones, The Police and even had U2 in their early days supporting them on headline shows.

The Debut Album was made with Roger Bechirian because "he made 'You've Got My Number' by The Undertones, a fantastic record" (Steve Eagles). But whilst they were out on a short tour the album was mixed and when they heard it the band were a bit disappointed, "it all sounded a bit pop to us. It was great in a way, but it didn't sound like we did on stage" (Steve Eagles)

Another issue that came to light and not authorized by the band was that "someone in the marketing department of the label decided to give away free cameras to a few selected record shops around the country. These would undoubtedly have been chart return shops. We as a band were not told that this was taking place. If we had known, we would never have allowed it. At this time the industry was very nervous if any accusations of chart-fixing" (Steve Eagles). But despite the fact that the band had made what they thought was a good album, released it with a Limited Edition demos album The Blackmail Tapes, and had worked their butt off on stages all over the land some people assumed that they had cheated their way to #4 on the UK Album Chart.

Their record label never really got behind them at all after this debacle and released future singles with little fanfare and even scrapped the release of their second album Crystal Tips and Mighty Mice (not sure how many were made but the only Vinyl copies of the album that exist were for "Promotional Purposes"). It would not be released until 2008, 27 years later than planned. It was on CD and was released by the label who had first shown interest in them - Cherry Red. The package also contained some singles A's and B's and a previously unreleased track.

The Debut album has been reissued a couple of times, firstly in 1998 by Epic on CD in their Rewind Series (The Blackmail Tapes were added as a bonus) and also Cherry Red in 2007, who not only added The Blackmail Tapes  but both sides of the first single and the B-Side Je T'Aime

Wendy Wu left the band in 1981 and was replaced with someone called Che (have to admit that I cannot even recall what she looked or sounded like!) and the band broke up later the same year.

They did reform in 1983 releasing one more single but without Wendy Wu. Time has not made the song sound any better! I still think it sounds absolutely wretched bad synth-pop! 

Where are they all now?

Wendy Wu is apparently a social worker.
Dave Sparrow works in the building industry.
Olly Harrison is a filmmaker, artist and animator.
Steve Eagles is currently a member of Blurt - a jazz-psycho-funk-poetic-punk band!

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