|~~Many thanks to our own Justin Whyte for this rare gem!~~|
"From 'oh wow' to Transvision Vamp... The rules are -- there are no rules..."
The best of looking at it is this : A new star appeared in the sky. It grew bigger, sharper and brighter as we new it must. Another way of looking at it is this: Wendy James, having left school with a safety pin through her nose, was singing Patti Smith songs over a backing tape in a Brighton Basement Club. It's 1984, in the audience is one Nick Christian Sayer, guitarist and songwriter, bearing the first suicide LP. Soon the two are working around Nicks portastudio. They spend two years writing songs and a screenplay for a movie, "Saturn 5" about youth rebellion. The movie hasn't materialized yet, but then, hell neither has the second coming...
They hit London. Smart from the start, they hire a lawyer. They launch the demo tapes. They meet the nice man who signed the Sex Pistols to EMI, and go with him to MCA. It's Christmas 1986, Wendy, glamorous at the very least, tells everyone in every nightclub on every night, that she's the singer in the most exciting new band in the world. Some already believe her. Others scoff. Wendy and Nick meet two young art terrorists under a flyover in West London. Dave Parsons can play bass, Tex Axile, drums and keyboards. Transvision Vamp is, as they say, a group.
"Revolution Baby" is the first of their 'Hot Grooves For Cool Dudes,' It's summer 1987. It boasts the first record sleeve Jamie Reid has designed since his work with the Pistols. "We wanted him for the high irritation level of his art," says Wendy. Many are irritated by the single. Many are high.
"No one should tell anyone else what to do," says Wendy, "least of all pop groups. "Revolution Baby is about individual change, not armed conflict; about the need for people to look inside themselves and see where they're going. Soapbox rock bands only delude themselves and everybody else. It's down to the individuals. It's pure common sense."
There follows a roaring rendition of Holly and the Italians anthem "Tell That Girl To Shut Up," before the Vamps at last match promises with deed, scotching the cynics with the surging rise to NO. 4 in UK charts of " I Want Your Love," " I don't want your money honey I want your love," growled Wendy, and a nations heart was smothered with arrows. Transvision Vamp were now to be seen as romantic as they were radical, subversive without subduing the more worthwhile sentiments. Sexy with savvy. Science fiction with artistic friction, "Revolution Baby" resurfaced, "Sister Moon," charmed while accompanying a strongly green video, wherein we saw, "serious footage of whales being slaughtered and forests burnt down and monkeys force fed" - it was banned from television screens in the UK. "They were censoring reality. They'll show fictionalized murders and rapes, but it's supposedly too offensive to show the reality of animals being purposefully abused."
By now the debut album POP ART had leapt into the Top five on the UK charts. It's blend of fury and flirtation included such unforgettable throw away epics as "Andy Warhol's Dead" and "Hanging Out With Halo Jones":
"Hey now, I'm a girl of the times, child of design, romance, romance is cool, but I've got things to do."
From the staccato melodrama of the opening "Trash City", POP ART couldn't put a foot wrong...
"From easy rider to Star Wars, from Che Guevara to Laurie Anderson, from light shows to videos, from LSD to MTV, from Brat Pack to Pac-Man, from the now generation to high tech, 2001 to we're number 1... success is credibility, credibility is success..."
Never before had a group so embraced consumer culture and retain the irrepressible spirit of rock 'n' roll. Transvision Vamp could praise Warhol and Blondie and in the next breath eulogize Bukowski and Sam Shepard. Transvision Vamp were the post-modernist ideal, and, cooler than that, pretended they didn't know what it meant. Wendy, though, refused to labeled as a bimbo.
"I've always wanted to be five foot eight, with long dark hair, really beautiful and perfect," she opined, in between berating the government and the tabloids. " The two worst inventions of humankind are religion and politics."
Often accused of overplaying her sexuality, Wendy retorted, "Anything that's a faction can't be good. "When you proudly say 'I'm a feminist,' that's just another faction, one that's anti-male. Surely the strength of women should lie in taking each individual on his or her own merits. It's what's your mind that matters, not what's between your legs. It's how you go about fulfilling the things you care about. "A lot of girls in pop seem to despise me. I don't know they feel threatened by me or just think I'm crap. I'm not sure either way."
Transvision Vamp toured Britain with audiences alternately adoring or exasperated, then recorded the second album. Velveteen was released in the UK on June 26th 1989 (with Pop Art still high in the charts) and entered the charts at number 1 on July 3rd. As Transvision Vamp wind up their second sell-out tour, it's surely poised to scale new peaks of electric eclecticism. The single "Baby I Don't Care" has already ripped up the Top 3, "The Only One" chasing at its heels. "This one's more focused," they claim, and the ten-minute title track? "It's about obsession," says Wendy, "It's about life rotting from the inside, about all the bad things in humans coming to the surface."
Reality and fantasy, Elvis and Marilyn. Iggy Pop and Edie Sedgwick. Somewhere in between or a satellite of both. Transvision Vamp clawed their way to the top of the sugar mountain with dauntless self belief and a disarming wiggle and smile. Recently described as, "the very best pop band we've got going at the moment." This summer a tour is planned, to include Japan, America, Australia and Europe.
"Now all I know
is all I see
When in London Transvision Vamp can still be found at their local pub in Notting Hill, as approachable and effusive as ever. No doubt they'll still be that genuine when by Christmas at the latest, they've won over the world with the kaleidoscopic kalashnikovs of stirring style.
Stars are stars. They say love is blind but this time your eyes will be opened.