Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Bigger than the Beatles - the silencers

Towards the end of the 80's most of the bands i liked were Scottish or Irish. When i left college i got the offer of a 6 month job looking after the youth trainees (the old YTS) that worked for Burtons. The fact i liked so many Scottish bands was probably the main reason for taking the job (not the most logical reason but a lot more interesting than the usual money and prospects) I got to live in Glasgow and i figured for every band I liked there must be loads more I'd not heard of and i was right. One of the bands i loved at the time were the Silencers especially the riotous sing along "Real McCoy". I remember having an argument in the pub one late night with someone who described them as a poor man's Simple Minds. As someone who felt Jim Kerr lost it when he stated wearing smocks and releasing Doves in every video this was an outrage. However listening back i can see there is an element of truth in this.

They were formed in 1985 from the death of the band Fingerprintz (probably one of the worst band names ever). The aim was to make in the words of their website "guitar based atmosphere pop with one foot in the 60s and one in the 80s" (dont be put off by that!). The emphasis was definitely on melody

" A letter to St Paul" was the first lp and i first got into this via the title track which Anne Nightingale played on her request show. I really liked the tune and the girl's spoken vocal made it stand out. I bought the lp cheap in Boots (remember when they sold music?) it was a bit of a gamble at a time when I had not much money so it was a bit of relief when the rest of the lp was packed with catchy guitar pop typified in 3 singles "I Can't Cry" , "I see Red" and "Painted Moon" (which listening again does seem to lift the bassline from the Waterfront)

Apparently the lp was recorded then scrapped and re-recorded and included the guitarist having a brain haemorrhage. Overall it does have a half finished feel, just lacking a bit of depth in it's production

Letter to St. Paul - The Silencers

The second lp a "Blues for Buddha" released in 1998, keeps the melodic strength of the first lp but adds a more folky , lusher sound and is a bit more epic (the cover made me think of Bunnymen) . Again all the singles were very strong and the band started to pick up quite a bit of radio play. The strongest song for me is "Real McCoy". it is an amazingly catchy song and the whole "Glasgow a Go Go / tenement stone / Cranes like midnight dinosaurs" - and the fact that it is such a feel good song, it still makes me smile when I hear it and so well why wouldn't you want to move to Glasgow?

The Real McCoy - The Silencers

The 3rd lp "Dance to the Holy Man" saw a bit of a change of direction, well more changes of direction as it is a bit of a hotch potch of styles - pop /rock/ funk/ blues/country. Recording saw the rhythm section leave (following a fight in a band 5 aside football match!!?) and new band members join. When this came out I played it to death and it does contain some of their strongest songs but re listening to it, it maybe suffers a bit from its diversity, if not it's ambition. The track I've posted was the lead off single and a song re-recorded from the singer's previous band. As befits their luck it is released just as the gulf war breaks out and is promptly featured on the "do not playlist" for radio 1 (no songs to reference guns)

Bulletproof Heart - The Silencers

By this stage the band are massive in France for some reason but still fail to trouble the top 40 over here.

The next 2 lps were 1991's "Seconds of Pleasure" and 1993's "So Be It". For these 2 they played down the experimentation and had a much more settled sound. Overall I think So Be It is the one that as a whole has stood the test of time the best. It also almost gave them a hit when their version of Wild Mountain Thyme was used by the Scottish Tourist Board (ironically one of the worst things they've done)

From Seconds of Pleasure I've posted "Unconscious" - about the death of the singer's father and I think their best lyric

From "So Be It" I've posted another of their slower songs and one of their best

Sing to me when the rain is falling and the blues is getting in

Sail to me when the world is calling and the water form my eyes bleeds salt into the sea

They did release 3 more lps but I lost interest as to me they were too patchy but for the first 5 lps they should have been massive and not just in Scotland and France.

As with a lot of bands I like availability is patchy

A Letter to St Paul seems only the available for silly prices but all the singles are on a compilation "Blood and Rain" which can be bought here

On a sad note I learnt while writing this that the original guitarist Cha Burns died in 2007 of Lung Cancer at the age of 50.

Also to complete the circle and prove my friend right they are touring supporting Simple Minds


  1. Brilliant bit of writing amigo.

    Someone was asking me about The Silencers just the other day and wondering why I had never covered them on TVV. It was simple enough - I never really liked them at the time!! But there's a lot of folk out there who regard them with a lot of affection and I'm sure will appreciate what you've done.

    PS : Your blog is turning into something pretty special. Apologies for not popping in more often, but I've been neglecting nearly everyone for the past month....

  2. Thanks for the feedback and all the comments, i really appreciate it - especaiily the comments. Silencers are one of those funny bands that sometimes i think are a bit naff and then others inspirationally good


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