An early incarnation of The Spectres came together after the split of the
Rich Kids and consisted of a line up of Glen Matlock, Rich Kids guitarist Steve
New, former Tom Robinson Band (TRB) guitarist Danny Kustow, and drummer Budgie
who was between spells with The Slits, and Siouxsie & The Banshees. Glen had previously
hooked up with Budgie as part of a Bette Bright & The Illuminations tour after
the demise of the Rich Kids, and he had met Kustow at a TRB gig some three years
before. Kustow bit on a blood capsule during the set which alarmed Glen who thought
the band's singer had punched him in the face! The band were tentatively titled
'The Jimmy Norton Explosion'. They recorded a Peel Session which was aired in
July 1979 and Glen has since said that this may have featured Mick Ronson (Ronson
had produced the Rich Kids album and in the 90's Glen performed at two Ronson
tribute gigs as well as dedicating the track 'My Man' to him). Glen contributed
three tracks; 'Getting Away With Murder', 'Lazarus' and 'Ambition'. The other
track was the Danny Kustow penned 'Lost In A Landslide'. There were also a couple
of live performances under the Jimmy Norton moniker.
band's progress was halted when Glen, and initially Steve, went off to work
with Iggy Pop on European and American tours, subsequently recording the 'Soldier'
album (including Glen's 'Ambition'). Following this Glen reunited with Kustow
and conceived the idea for The Spectres, leaving Steve New, in Glen's words, to
develop his "snow white tan" (New would later reunite with Glen for his 1996 solo
album 'Who Does He Think He Is When He's At Home' (Creation Records), and then
go on to form the band Lude as well as becoming part of Glen's touring band).
Kustow explained the problems with the TRB, "We weren't really happening anymore,
it was getting sort of safe. Most of the sentiments and politics I agreed with,
otherwise I wouldn't have been in the band, but it got to the point where Tom
started to go off and do just what he wanted to do, his own separate show."
refuted suggestions that the band's name referred to his own history, "Not
really. No. Names to me are a bit silly. I remember when I told my nan our band's
name, which was when I was with the Sex Pistols. She said 'Ooohh, that's a nice
name', like nans do. You've got to have a gimmick though she said. Anarchy?"
boosted the line up to five, Arthur 'Art' Collins coming in on saxophone (having
spent six years in the Grenadier Guards learning to play!), along with the Little
Roosters drummer Graeme Potter and former TRB keyboard player Mark Ambler. Ambler
had joined TRB in 1976 as a 16 year old. Also involved with the group during their
relatively short career, at the suggestion of ex-Ultravox frontman John Foxx,
was tenor/keyboard player C.C. Smith, formerly of Gloria Mundi. A third ex-TRB
member Brian 'Dolphin' Taylor, later of Stiff Little Fingers, also featured on
drums after Graeme Potter suffered a broken leg. The group began playing the London
circuit in early 1980, the set consisting of Matlock / Kustow material including
explained why the band featured horns, "I've always been into that John Barry
kind of stuff, that more orchestrated kind of sound, the 'heads-down' gets a bit
boring. I've always loved saxophones but I never learned to play it, so I thought
we'd get some brass, but not in a soully kind of way." Glen went on to say, "The
only reason I wanted to play music was to try to get ideas across that you can't
do in other fields. Not literal ideas but more feelings and creating moods. I
don't like modern art bands much, that tortured artist as an art form bit. As
you become older you get more confident, you tend towards things that are interesting
without being clever-clever. It's a more natural thing, to make you feel. I think
some of Lydon's music is just a drone, but you can write modern music that is
melodic and harmonious. Eno makes good music."
May 1980 edition of Sounds reported that a single 'This Strange Effect'
(a Ray Davies song) would be out soon with an album to be put together shortly.
This single was released on a French label called Direct Hit, and was backed with
'Getting Away With Murder'. A gig that month at The Nashville in London saw Steve
New invade the stage to jam with the group. A Danny Kustow track called 'Precious'
was planned for a single on Jake Riviera's new F-Beat subsidiary Demon. Both this
track and 'Getting Away With Murder' had previously been recorded by a band comprising;
Glen, Danny, The Clash's Mick Jones and Pistols drummer Paul Cook, which Glen
later wanted Dojo Records to remix and include on the Rich Kids 'Ghosts Of Princes
In Towers' CD reissue in 1993. Instead of 'Precious', The Spectres next single
was 'Stories' which was co-written by Matlock and Art Collins, and was produced
by Clive Langer who Glen had played alongside on the Bette Bright tour. An enthusiastic
music press review of the single read, "One of the most interesting bands of the
moment, they've chosen in 'Stories' an ideal single. Verses bubble, and textures
round outbursts of the title, while the endlessly attractive and busy arrangement
incorporates sixties influenced melodies, and a fade-out on squalling sax. Something
to give us all hope." The B-side of the single was a track called 'Things'.
review of a live performance, with Dolphin Taylor on drums stated, "The Spectres
work with a curious hybrid of styles, and amidst the dehumanised soundtracks of
futurism stick out, if stick out they do, as singularly and engagingly naive."
Glen agreed that the band were a progression for him, "Yeah, a lot more so. Just
in terms of having respect for the people you play with. Before I'd say 'you play
this', and arrange it all and not get the best out of people. But this time it's
better, a lot freer. We've started to feel the songs a bit more."
also brought a support slot to the Ramones at the Hammersmith Odeon, London. The
group were working without a manager, fixing their own gigs and promotion, and
keeping close control over artwork and publicity, mainly due to Glen's past experience,
"With the Rich Kids it was so democratic it was ridiculous. There were so many
people at the rehearsals putting their comments in that there was no point in
opening your mouth. This time though, I put my foot down. It's more totalitarian."
'This Strange Effect' and 'Stories' proved to be the only two Spectres releases,
with a potentially lucrative deal with Arista falling through, about which Glen
said, "They were pissing us about. We do this song by a mate of mine called 'Hook,
Line And Sinker', which Danny sang, and they insisted that it be the first single.
I thought, if they're gonna be like that about the very first thing we put out,
what are they gonna be like later on?" After the company had put out a story saying
the band had signed they received a telegram from The Spectres, putting the record
straight so to speak. Glen takes up the story, "After that we decided to go shopping
in America. Just before Xmas (1980) we were waiting to hear from David Geffen,
and then Lennon (who was signed to the label) gets shot!" The band had been chatting
to David Bowie as a possible producer at this point, before reaching a verbal
agreement with eccentric former Box Tops / Big Star frontman Alex Chilton. Danny
Kustow and Mark Ambler left the group before the end of 1980, with Glen saying
of Kustow, "He didn't like flying, and he didn't think we were going enough places
fast enough for him." Rather bizarrely the music press said another source claimed
Kustow left the band because he was afraid of "the Russians", and felt that in
the event of attack or invasion he'd be less prone to persecution if engaged in
a 'normal' job! The Spectres continued for a while with Glen saying "I think we're
more an American type band. Not that we're vapid, but they've got this whole history
of rock'n'roll. I'm not gonna be ska, rockabilly or electronic woofters in carpet
slippers!" Mick Hanson was recruited as guitarist and a song called 'Lions Share'
was recorded, but never released. Little more was heard of The Spectres and Glen's
hope that they would materialise more completely than the Rich Kids had sadly
complete The Spectres story, 'Stories' was included on Connoisseur Collection's
1993 post-Pistols compilation 'After The Anarchy'.
by Jim Henderson)
(Live photo by Mark Cooper)
EFFECT / GETTING AWAY WITH MURDER (P/S) Direct Hit DH 1 (5/80) (Limited edition
/ THINGS (P/S) Demon D 1002 (10/80)
AFTER THE ANARCHY CONNOISSEUR VSOP CD 188 (?/93)(compilation CD of Sex Pistols
solo work, includes 'Stories')