Unsung Bands: #2 Red Guitars

Red Guitars

OK, this is a loose interpretation of the idea behind ‘Unsung Bands’ and I have a feeling it may yet get looser.

There was a time when Kingston – Upon – Hull was the new Manchester. Or was Manchester the new Hull, that’s one for another debate.

During the mid-80s, there was a vibrant music scene in the city. There might still be; to be honest I couldn’t tell you because this one was nationwide.

The Housemartins, a group who did more for knitted cardigans than Haircut 100 ever did, were on Top of the Pops with ‘Happy Hour’. It was their second or third single from memory, complete with a Morph influenced video.

Everything But The Girl also emerged around the time, and I use that phrase loosely; it was a two or three year period which, as in politics, is a long time in pop music. I can’t think that success was instantaneous for any of the band but obviously that depends on the benchmark you use to define success.

Few were regular habitués of the top 40 – had we moved to that by then or were we still worried only about the top 30, I genuinely can’t remember – but they were feted in the Independent Chart. Of course, if you didn’t read NME or one of the other music papers of the time, you weren’t going to know that.

My favourite group from the city though were Red Guitars. I’m not alone in that but despite this, they haven’t found their way onto Spotify yet – if ever – so out of respect for what I assume is a belief rather than a ‘can’t be arsed’ decision, I won’t include a playlist. You get videos instead, which I hope you will take the time to listen to.

Watch them if you want, as well, although being 1980s music, there’s a lot of meaningful looks with out-of-sync singing and playing along to the background track.

It is an eternal regret that I never got to see them live. I don’t know why; their rise to prominence coincided with my own gig-going era. Not the occasional evening out but a serious love of live music. Two or three gigs each week were the norm. Try affording that now and still having the money to date and watch Arsenal, home and away, twice each week.

Once at the same time. Yes, I had a first date at Arsenal. Surprisingly, there was a second and third date, followed by a brief romantic interlude but only once at the Arsenal.

And never to a gig. I’ve taken partners to gigs before but never on a first date. Dumpy’s Rusty Nuts were an acquired taste and certainly not first date material.

I do genuinely remember the first album, Slow To Fade, being released by the Red Guitars. I had been looking forward to it for some time and released in late 1984, bought it soon after it went on sale. Upon arriving home – and I still lived with my parents at the time – I placed the record in its bag on the dining room table whilst I took my coat off.

At which point, the record was picked up from the table with the never-forgotten phrase, “Good, it’s Christmas soon; you can have this as one of your presents”, at which mummy-dearest wafted out of the room and the record wasn’t seen until a month or so later.

It’s worth the wait. The album stands the test of time in my view. There’s a heavy undercurrent of dub and reggae influencing the tracks, particularly on the singles.

Aside from Marimba Jive; that just showed Paul Simon how to make a record which sounded original and had a political conscience, despite its African roots.

A second album followed after lead singer Jerry Kidd had departed; always the sign of a good band when they combust after the release of their defining album. I vaguely remember snippets of the songs, with this – Love and Understanding – being the outstanding track, I think.

You can find out more about Red Guitars here, as well as another perspective and life afterwards here.



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