Today I’m turning my attention to a Scottish act who shone oh-so brightly but oh-so briefly in the mid 80’s, releasing some bafflingly brilliant singles and two sweetly fantastic, lyrically oblique, trashy pop albums. This blog might be mainly about new music, but the chances are that for most readers this old band will be a new (hopefully top-notch) discovery.
The name of these Edinburgh based upstarts was Win, and they were formed by Davy Henderson and Russel Burn who were previous members of The Fire Engines (who more recently were covered by Franz Ferdinand) together with Ian Stoddart, Simon Smeeton, Emmanuel Shoniwa and later William Perry.
The two albums were Uh! Tears Baby (A Trash Icon) from 1987 and Freaky Trigger from 1989 which received rave reviews from critics at the time. “An alluring lucky bag stuffed with candy, sex oblique jokes and cartoon funk metal,” wrote Stuart Maconie before going on to give it 10/10 in the NME. “These are the ten best songs Salvador Dali never wrote,” he added. “The immaculate pop conception,” raved Sounds. “One of the few jewels that shine out of this bad, bad world,” said List. The critics loved it. The public (mainly) never heard it.
It just didn’t happen for the band. The first album failed to chart, the second reached the giddy heights of number 51 in the UK for one week. Every one of their quirky, ideas stuffed singles didn’t make the top 75, except for Super Popoid Groove (a song which I’ve been sneakily referencing on this blog for years) which hit number 63. You can see the video below, with the band wearing bizarre supersize coats and singing of "chewing gum baby for the ears, a dashing young valium to soften the fear" make of that what you will. It's first-rate bonkers.
Win - Super Popoid Groove (Video)
Frankly I find this lack of success unfathomable. Shampoo Tears, Dusty Heartfelt, What’ll You Do Till Sunday Baby and You’ve Got The Power, which did find some favourable outcome soundtracking a rather odd TV advert by McEwan’s brewery (see below), seemed genuine contenders, with an intelligently arty buzz-pop sound that found reference to ABC, Prince, Heaven 17 and Marc Bolan. But by 1990 the band were dropped and split.
Win - McEwans Lager Advert (includes extract of You've Got The Power)
Maybe they were just a little too out there for the masses. After all, this was a band who had songs called It May Be A Beautiful Sky Tonight But It’s Only A Shelter From A World At Risk, What’s Love If You Can Kill For Chocolate and Mind The Gravy. Lead singer Davey once described what an ideal Win gig would be like: “Win should ideally have 30 humans on stage dressed in pink riot gear and have a musical director.”
What Win left behind was some of the most wonderful pop music that most of the world has never heard. It’s why I’m writing about them. If they weren't on your radar till just now (statistically the chances of that are high), don't pass them by.
You can hear the whole of Freaky Trigger on Spotify (click here). Considering it was recorded in the 1980’s its production still sounds remarkably sharp and the songs, of course, still sound subversively fun.
Copies of Uh! Tears Baby occasionally crop up on E-Bay and the CD version fetches anywhere between £30 and £100 (there are more copies of the vinyl floating around). I’m keeping everything crossed that one day someone somewhere makes that record more easily available.