May 21, 2003
Transvision Vamp

Was checking my access logs for the Raw Text section of my “Views from Broadway” website. I am always astonished by the number if hits I get for the pages on this site - especially from Google. But with the exception of a page which sets out a review of my Psion netBook from a few months ago (which gets hits from like-minded Psion-lovers from all around the world) there is one page in particular seems to get the most Google-hits - and it’s my page about Transvision Vamp: This gets hundreds of hits every week for fans of this esoteric band from the second-half of the 1980 - fans trawling desperately through endless pages of Google search results for little gems of information about this band. I am also surprised how many times the North Cirecular mpeg video that accompanies the article has also been downloaded by these curious fans! (It contains high quality audio dub of one of Transvision Vamp’s biggest hits to some junky movie of me driving around the North Circular to IKEA on a Sunday afternoon!)

Since it’s the second anniversary of the Raw Text pages - as a tribute I reproduce the popular Transvision Vamp piece as today’s blog entry - but this special edition of the article contains links to relevant places that didn’t feature in the original article. The power of the blog!

Transvision Vamp

You know this band.

They were a late eighties phenomenon. A breath of fresh air. Strangely trashy, but likable. The sort of band that becomes famous on image, stage behaviour and a couple of songs. Much more than a one-hit wonder - the sort of band that impresses upon people something new and exciting - but when the world moves on are still remembered - and definitely not forgotten. The sort of band that generates the sort of music that you can dig out of your old cassette collection, play in your car on the way to work - and actually enjoy it.

Transvision Vamp

Despite almost universal critical hatred, Transvision Vamp briefly rose to the top of the U.K. charts in the late ‘80s, thanks largely to the media image of lead singer Wendy James, who fashioned herself as a sexually provocative, rebellious, fashion-conscious punk — sort of a mixture of Madonna, Blondie’s Deborah Harry, T. Rex, and The Clash. The musical backing by guitarist/songwriter Nick Christian Sayer, keyboardist Tex Axile, bassist Dave Parsons, and drummer Pol Burton tended to reflect the latter three bands as well. The singles “Tell That Girl to Shut Up” (originally by Holly and the Italians) and the Top Five “I Want Your Love” helped their debut album, Pop Art, reach the British Top Five, while the follow-up, Velveteen, hit the top, buoyed by the Top Three hit “Baby I Don’t Care.” The group’s run halted when MCA initially refused to release Little Magnets Vs. the Bubble of Babble in the U.K.; it eventually appeared in 1991 to little attention.

I am not embarrased to say that I liked this band. I was an impressionable college kid at the time - and my flat-mates were all raving about them. Except - I’d like to think that whereas my flatmates raved on about the lead singer (admittedly a fanciable blonde called Wendy James) - I was taken by the freshness and audacity of the music and the stage performances. Looking back now - Wendy James was one of the early icons of “girl-power” at a time when musically the late-eighties were quite depressing.

I am pleased to say that I have blown the dust off my “Now That’s What I Call Music 1988” double-CD and will be recording it onto a TDK 90-minute cassette. I will then use a bic biro to pull out some of the brown magnetic tape from the cassette - give it a bit if scrunching in my hand and then wind it back up again before I toss it into my car. This will give the music an authentic “retro” feel when I next drive round the North Circular. And I will really enjoy Transvision Vamp!

In fact - now go see the video and hear the music! Go to the “audio/video” section and download the MPEG file labelled: “North Circular to IKEA”.

Posted by jag at May 21, 2003 12:46 PM

Have you heard the dreadful cover of “Baby I don’t care” by Brookside “babe” Jennifer Ellison?

I saw Transvision Vamp at Brunel University in the late ‘80s. Can’t remember being terribly impressed, but I have a 12” single of theirs kicking around in the vinyl cupboard.

Posted by: Nigel Hardy on May 30, 2003 11:00 AM

Hi Nigel, thanks for dropping by!

I have to admit that I haven’t heard the Jennifer Ellison cover. But I can imagine it being dreadful though - isn’t anything to do with Eastenders dreadful?

Yes - I saw Transvision at college too. I don’t remember being too impressed myself actually - but having suffered two or three terms of manically depressing music by The Smiths, anything different was refreshing.

You still have 12-inch singles? Wow.

Best regards - Jag

Posted by: Jag on May 30, 2003 01:27 PM

I need more informations about them

Posted by: jgmarinho on August 21, 2003 12:02 PM

What more information do you require?

Posted by: Jag on August 26, 2003 02:14 PM

I have all three albums and they were much better than people seem to remember. Magnets was a bit weird, not as good as the first two. James was a bit irritating but a very good performer.

Posted by: dickie on June 12, 2004 08:36 PM

Hi Dickie - many thanks for your comment! I agree that James was a great performer - especially when live on stage.

Posted by: Jag on June 12, 2004 09:25 PM
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