11th September 1982
The European Band is Here
Paul Strange joins the EEC
with the Europeans
For me it all started 18 months ago. It was love at first sight as the Europeans strode purposefully onto a dimly lit stage at the Half Moon in Herne Hill and proceeded to shred my brain with clout, suss, paranoia, pop craftsmanship, frightening heavy heavy power and electric eclectic energy.
And I've stuck with them since, watching them grow musically and emotionally as they struggled out of the claustrophobic London pub scene and onto the more cheerful, more accessible and more appreciative college circuit.
I've shared their frustration as a record deal continued to elude them, and despite tipping them earlier this year as a band that definitely deserved a major signing in 1982, even I became resigned to the thought that it could never be.
The news came like a hammer blow to the temple. During a gig by The Papers the diminutive, cheeky figure of drummer Geoff Dugmore raced towards me, a smile beaming from ear to ear.
"You'll never guess" he shouted, "we've got a deal. With A&M!"
Thank you God. Now I know there's some justice in this world.
About nine weeks later A&M's brightest signing since (let's really go for it) Squeeze or The Police are happily sitting round a tape recorder at my house. Bassist / Vocalist Fergus Harper recalls how after their last management failed to get them any further up on the great Pop Production Line, they decided to ring round the record companies themselves. Much to the band's surprise, A&M gave Ferg an appointment.
"It was the way people would think that it probably doesn't happen," he says in his clipped Glaswegian tone. "You know, 'Here's me just wandering in to this record company with my tape - what chances do I stand? All these bands that have been about for ages, and must know all these fancy people, and they haven't got a deal..."
Ferg took in a current demo and A&M promptly went apeshit.
"It was straight out of a manual," says bubbly keyboardist/vocalist Steve Hogarth. "How To Get A Record Deal."
The upshot of all this is that A&M have just released the Europeans' debut single - a track they heard on that first demo called "The Animal Song." It crackles in to brittle bongo life, hits hard lyrically, and has an excellent two-section hook, featuring mass screaming, the Europeans special yodel and a wrenching percussive clunk courtesy of a lift shaft being thwacked with a large spanner. Let's face it; it's wonderful!
"It's very difficult for us to predict which way 'The Animal Song' will go" says Steve. "We think its got a lot of things a lot of people will get off on, and sing in the bath or portaloos on building sites.
The Vibe we've got off A&M is that everybody in the company is wild about it. It's not just that they like it, they're literally jumping up and down!
The Guy who signed us, Wally Brill - is just knocked over the moon with it. It's his favourite single of the year."
"So what's 'The Animal Song' about?"
"It's about humans, homo sapians as a whole" says Ferg. "It's saying that now people are writing about science and super-technology, all the problems that arise like high-rise living, violence etc., have as much to do with the fear that we're all human beings and humans can't stand being locked up in towers and being exposed to 'This much is best for us.'"
"The whole feel of it is basic and essential. Tribal is a difficult word to use, but it smacks of the human animal, the wildness of it all."
Steve : "Lyrically the song is a reminder that although it's very easy for modern man to think of himself as a wonderful creature with gadgets and toys, it's really basic things that stimulate man..."
Ferg : "Passion, sex, violence..."
Steve : "Eating, hunger, fear... So like even Prince Philip is probably more turned on by getting hungry or feeling randy than any 'Duke of Edinburgh Award' or a helicopter! So it's a reminder of that."
And who wrote this masterpiece of modern moral remembrance?
"Well, it was a jam to start with," says Ferg.
"The vocal effect came first - the 'uh-yee-ar-yah' bit."
"It was a lyrical idea that I had," says Steve. "That jumping in and out of falsetto bit, but I was trying words on it and then we decided it would be stronger if it was screamed loud like a yodel. So we all started screaming; we were jamming it and then we were screaming: "Ur-yee-ar-yah", we thought 'well this is f**king great.' We kept stopping and laughing.
'The Animal Song' is an unusual Europeans number, because it's not written in their normal manner. Usually Geoff Dugmore comes up with the initial idea.
"I can't play the piano," says the skinbasher, "but I've been influenced by jazz and I just get on to a piano and I put notes together until they sound really augmented, and then I take them to the band and say 'This is the basic idea I've got here' - it's like 'Urgh!', you know, a bullet through the head!"
Steve : "Geoff says 'listen to this' - and he goes 'Ur, Anng, Um, Um, Anng, Diddleydum, Diddley Unng' all over the piano, and everybody goes 'Oh f**k!'"
"The real essence of what's different about us", says Ferg "is seen on the B-side (Someone's Changing), or some of our other material which has strange chords, changes and things poking out where they shouldn't."
Steve : "It's a process of experimentation without being solemn or serious. Most musicians that are working experimentally are trying to produce something that sounds sophisticated. We're not trying to do that; we're trying to write experimentally, but create something that is light, immediate and exciting. The way it turns out is that we have something that sounds like accidental jazz."
One thing that's no accident is the band's name. Founder members Ferg, Geoff and guitarist Colin Woore started playing together in Glasgow 11 years ago, eventually arriving in London as 'Motion Pictures' in May 1980. After a few haphazard months, Steve Hogarth joined them from the Newtrinos, and the Europeans were born.
"I think our name's very appropriate," says Ferg, with a smile that nearly reaches as high as his studious specs and frothy mane of bleached hair.
"I mean, it's a truth in itself; it describes a style of living and thinking. Europe has a history of being innovative, cultural and artistic. And the white things that we wear fits in well too. There's something about Europe that's clean, white and strong!"
But doesn't the all-white, terribly athletic look that the band are currently sporting, smack of Third Reich, militaristic overtones?
Ferg : "Obviously that's not what we're about, 'cos we'd be marching about in jackboots! Our publicity pictures do suggest that, but it's totally unintentional. What we were trying to get across was the strength. As soon as you start to look strong and clean, then that master race similarity would be drawn by most people glancing at it, but what we're trying to get across is the strongness, and the simplicity of the outfits."
"The tendency with a lot of musicians is to dress up and wear lots of layers of dress and accessories," says Steve "and we thought it would be interesting to go the other way and wear something that was bare and ultra-simple."
But there's more to the Europeans' image than pure white, clean strength. There's also the unusual stage sets, designed to mystify their audiences. It's an idea they've been working on for ages, and I've watched with great interest each new idea evolve from gig to gig.
"You walk into any gig anywhere on earth," says Steve, "and before the band comes on you see the backline. If you can get rid of that, then that's it... you've already set the scene for something different before anyone sees the band."
"So we thought, 'Let's screen the backline off'. Then we thought, 'Let's go beyond that, let's make the guitars look visually plugged into something that isn't backline at all!'"
"So we got these chairs, put jack sockets in them and we plugged the guitars in to two totally, inanimate pointless objects - which we thought was a real giggle."
Geoff : "The great thing is you get people coming up to you and saying 'Man, that's a great sound you're getting out of that wood; is it some kind of special effect ?'"
The Europeans have plans to go much further with their strange stage sets. They mentioned some far more elaborate ideas that thanks to the A&M deal can now be put into practice.
Steve : "We just want people to walk in to our gigs and think 'What's going on here then ?'"
In the next few months you'll probably hear quite a lot about the Europeans. A mini country-wide tour is currently taking place, an album is planned for November / December and a much bigger tour will tie in with it.
And on top of all their excellent material like the questioning 'Spirit of Youth', the devastating 'Someone's Changing', the driving probe of 'Falling', the beautifully constructed pop shiner 'Little Tokyo' or the stomping blast of 'Joining Dots', there's still that great single, 'The Animal Song'.
"It's so exciting and wild," says Ferg. "If it gets off the ground it'll be a great way to burst through the door and say 'Hello, we're the f**king Europeans!."
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