Friday, 8 April 2011

Department S

Department S were the first band I got into and discovered before the band achieved commercial success with their one chart success song "Is Vic There?". As a young teenager I discovered them on night-time Radio 1. Back in the 1980s Maidenhead had a really good independent record shop called Opus-One and I was able to order the original independent release on Demon Records. 
I played this song to death and followed its success riding high in the Independent Charts for months I seem to recall. In 1981 the song was released on RCA and made it into the top 40 and the band appeared on Top of the Pops.

This was an exciting time for me and when they released the follow up single "Going Left Right" I fully expected them to hit the big time, but alas the single missed out on the top 40. The 12" version I particularly enjoyed and the song has always reminded of the Dr Who theme tune...

The 3rd and as is turned out final single to be released was "I Want" which failed to chart once again, although it fared better in Europe. Once again I could not work out why it didn't chart...

Around this time the band featured on Radio 1's In Concert supporting The Jam so I eagerly taped that show and I still have the tape, although most of the recording was included on Sub-Stance album released finally in 2003. The record company dropped the band before the recorded album was released and put a £50,000 price tag on the recording effectively preventing the band releasing the material.

I had written to the band in 1982 to find out what was happening in terms of single and album releases, and I got a personal reply from Vaughn Toulouse the lead singer who sadly passed away in 1991, and I finally discovered that the band was no more.

So I had gone through my first musical crush and at the time was left very frustrated as I was sure an album had been recorded, but had to wait over a decade to get my hands on a CD. The one question that still mystifies me is did the band ever record "Tell Me About It" which appears on "Sub-Stance" from the In Concert show? Gary Crowley had introduced the band on stage saying it was to be the forthcoming single, but I have never found out if a studio version exists...

Bringing the story up to date, I never got to see the band live back in the day and I finally put this right in 2010 with the now reformed Department S playing live once again and recording new material, and so it was a wonderful experience seeing them play the songs I grew up with. There was a new single "God Squad Saviour " released April 2011 followed by a new album "Mr Nutley's Strange Delusionarium" in October 2011. The album is genius combining brand new recordings of the old classics alongside the songs from the modern era. Gone are the keyboard sounds from from the 1980s replaced by punkesque guitar driven riffs bringing the songs perfectly into the 21st century.

Exciting times once again and alongside the new material I now have a new t-shirt. As a 14 year old I got my own "Is Vic There?" t-shirt printed, and now 31 years later I have another one.

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