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Femme Fatale

Caption: Femme fatale…the first major show for one of Tamworth’s most original sounding bands. From left Nigel Horton, Jimmy Goodman, Debbie Witty, Mark Poyner and Martin Higgs.
Femme Fatale
Photograph courtesy: Tamworth Herald
The Gallery

Musical Genre/type: Indie
Formed: 1985

Band Members:
Debbie Witty : Lead Vocals
Mark Poyner : Guitar
Nigel Horton : Keyboards
Jim Goodman : Drums
Martin Higgs : Bass

Gigs:
12/07/85
Femme Fatale
Love On Board
Tamworth Arts Centre

20/07/85
Femme Fatale
Certain Circles

Tamworth Arts Centre

07/09/85
Ao Terroa
Femme Fatale
Tamworth Arts Centre

27/02/86
Femme Fatale
The Parade
Coventry

02/05/86
Beyond Elisium
Femme Fatale
Tamworth Arts Centre

05/05/86
Freight Train
Duel
Femme Fatale
The Rathole

Tamworth Herald Reviews

Tamworth Herald – 12/07/85
Musicbox – Femme fronts the boys with a fatale sound…
AN exciting new alternative band, who list influences as varied as Siouxsie, The Cult, Sisters of Mercy and The Stranglers, will make their eagerly-awaited Tamworth debut tonight.

Femme Fatale, who say they appeal to the blacker side of alternative music, will hit the Arts Centre stage with a 60-minute show which looks like being a hit with the scores of local people who have been patiently waiting for a new spark of individualism.

The band refuse to be tied down to any particular sound but their own personal musical taste implies that they could appeal to a wide cross-section of modern music lovers.

“We all like basically like the same sort of music although we all have different tastes. We like everything from psycho-billy to punk and people who have listened to us have said that we have touches of The Cult and Sisters of Mercy,” said singer Debbie Witty.

Sexism

Debbie’s presence will undoubtedly prove one of the most interesting facets of Femme Fatale. Tamworth seems to have taken up the national trend of sexism in music to the extent that a couple of drummers apart, locally females tend to be in the audience rather than on the stage.

Debbie is the first female rock singer in Tamworth for many years and she is aware that this will bring its own problems. “I sometimes think the only reason the band want me in is because I am a woman,” she jokes. “And I guess because I am female, people will automatically assume we are like Siouxsie and the Banshees or The Cocteau Twins.”

Well, the band are influenced by these two acts, but it seems that between them they are influenced by virtually every decent post-77 band. Guitarist Mark Poyner was one of Tamworth’s earliest punks but he now cringes at the mention of his ‘Sid Vicious’ nickname and doesn’t seem to embrace anarchy with his former tenderness.

Keyboard player Nigel Horton is also very much a visual attraction combining his love of dressing up and looking good with a love for music like The Cult.

According to the rest of the band, Nigel is sponsored by ‘Avon’, but it is refreshing to see someone prepared to indulge in a little showmanship and invention.

Drummer Jim Goodman also enjoys psycho-billy side of life and happily enjoys the title ‘flat-top’ whilst bassist Martin Higgs is a man to be respected and adulated as a good clean living Stranglers fan who has tried to bring a touch of The Meninblack to the group’s overall sound.

“This is just the first step really but we hope people are going to like what we can offer now,” said Debbie.

Joining the band tonight will be Love On Board who have established almost a residency at the Arts Centre. The group who have probably spent more time at the venue recently than its administrator, will be hoping to impress the curious who turn up for Femme Fatale with their own brand of energetic modern pop.

Combining a set of oldies and newies, Nick, John, Neil and ‘The Phillipono’ will be hoping to make it a double-bill to remember.

But as tonight is really Femme Fatale’s night , let’s leave the last word to them. Do they see themselves as Tamworth’s top alternative banner-wavers?

“What is ‘alternative?’ If it means we are different, then yes we are, and we expect that it will mainly be punks and cult fans who like us,” said Martin. “But we think everyone will find something interesting about us and it is up to people to come and make up their own minds.”

STOP PRESS: New Tamworth band ‘Another Promise’ and ‘Love on Board’ will be playing a special free concert at Tamworth Arts Centre on Sunday night.

Tamworth Herald – 22/03/85
Musicbox – SNIPS
Femme Fatale, a new alternative band influenced by everyone from Killing Joke ad The Cult to the Stranglers and Siouxsie and the Banshees, are on the lookout for a guitarist. The band who formed out of the wreckage of the Black Market, aim to be Tamworth’s only tru alternative band and they have set a date in June for their launch on the town.

They are looking for someone who is dedicated, and willing to work hard to get the band ready. If you want more details the people to contact are Martin Higgs or ‘Batman’.

Tamworth Herald – 12/07/85
Caption: Femme fatale…the first major show for one of Tamworth’s most original sounding bands. From left Nigel Horton, Jimmy Goodman, Debbie Witty, Mark Poyner and Martin Higgs.Musicbox – Femme fronts the boys with a fatale sound…
AN exciting new alternative band, who list influences as varied as Siouxsie, The Cult, Sisters of Mercy and The Stranglers, will make their eagerly-awaited Tamworth debut tonight.

Femme Fatale, who say they appeal to the blacker side of alternative music, will hit the Arts Centre stage with a 60-minute show which looks like being a hit with the scores of local people who have been patiently waiting for a new spark of individualism.

The band refuse to be tied down to any particular sound but their own personal musical taste implies that they could appeal to a wide cross-section of modern music lovers.

“We all like basically like the same sort of music although we all have different tastes. We like everything from psycho-billy to punk and people who have listened to us have said that we have touches of The Cult and Sisters of Mercy,” said singer Debbie Witty.

Sexism

Debbie’s presence will undoubtedly prove one of the most interesting facets of Femme Fatale. Tamworth seems to have taken up the national trend of sexism in music to the extent that a couple of drummers apart, locally females tend to be in the audience rather than on the stage.

Debbie is the first female rock singer in Tamworth for many years and she is aware that this will bring its own problems. “I sometimes think the only reason the band want me in is because I am a woman,” she jokes. “And I guess because I am female, people will automatically assume we are like Siouxsie and the Banshees or The Cocteau Twins.”

Well, the band are influenced by these two acts, but it seems that between them they are influenced by virtually every decent post-77 band. Guitarist Mark Poyner was one of Tamworth’s earliest pinks but he now cringes at the mention of his ‘Sid Vicious’ nickname and doesn’t seem to embrace anarchy with his former tenderness.

Keyboard player Nigel Horton is also very much a visual attraction combining his love of dressing up and looking good with a love for music like The Cult.

According to the rest of the band, Nigel is sponsored by ‘Avon’, but it is refreshing to see someone prepared to indulge in a little showmanship and invention.

Drummer Jim Goodman also enjoys psycho-billy side of life and happily enjoys the title ‘flat-top’ whilst bassist Martin Higgs is a man to be respected and adulated as a good clean living Stranglers fan who has tried to bring a touch of The Meninblack to the group’s overall sound.

“This is just the first step really but we hope people are going to like what we can offer now,” said Debbie.

Joining the band tonight will be Love On Board who have established almost a residency at the Arts Centre. The group who have probably spent more time at the venue recently than its administrator, will be hoping to impress the curious who turn up for Femme Fatale with their own brand of energetic modern pop.

Combining a set of oldies and newies, Nick, John, Neil and ‘The Phillipono’ will be hoping to make it a double-bill to remember.

But as tonight is really Femme Fatale’s night , let’s leave the last word to them. Do they see themselves as Tamworth’s top alternative banner-wavers?

“What is ‘alternative?’ If it means we are different, then yes we are, and we expect that it will mainly be punks and cult fans who like us,” said Martin. “But we think everyone will find something interesting about us and it is up to people to come and make up their own minds.”

STOP PRESS: New Tamworth band ‘Another Promise’ and ‘Love on Board’ will be playing a special free concert at Tamworth Arts Centre on Sunday night.

Tamworth Herald – 19/07/85
Musicbox – Relax, you’re great, but give us a dance!
Femme Fatale – Tamworth Arts Centre
THE ARTS CENTRE as full. Everyone was buzzing with keen anticipation for the first Tamworth show by Femme fatale. Everyone that is, except Femme Fatale. To say they were nervous was an understatement – their fears seemed to border on terror.

They were worried about playing a bad show and losing a potentially large audience for ever. They were worried about accepting such a high profile in their very first show and they were worried that people wouldn’t like what they served up.

Well they shouldn’t have worried on any of those counts. As a concert in itself it was very impressive, and as a debut show it was quite remarkable.

There were a few problems – not least Nigel Horton’s keyboards becoming ‘Bolshie’ and refusing to work – but there was so much good about Femme fatale that I can’t help but feel positive about their future.

The most impressive thing of all was the skill of their musicianship. None of the band members are particularly experienced – but they all played as if they were. The main talking point was obviously Debbie Witty’s voice which was very strong indeed.

She carried the vocals with confidence and style, drawing complimentary comparisons with Siouxsie Sioux. In fact the Banshees were stamped all over the music and there is no doubt that of all their many influences, it is the Hong Kong Gardenites who are nearest to Femme Fatale’s sound.

Guitarist Mark Poyner is another person who obviously plays “The Scream” a lot and his work was always interesting – and occasionally inspired.

Several other guitarists told me how impressed they were with Mark and there is no greater compliment than to earn the praise of your peers.

Tribalistic

Drummer Jimmy also turned in a faultless performance, hitting out a series of tribalistic drumbeats with a natural and very consistent sense of rhythm. Finally, Martin Higgs gave a sterling show on the bass, looking – and playing – nearer to his hero JJ Burnel than anyone else I have seen in the town.

The main problems with the band as a whole however, was that despite playing well and serving up a host of strong songs, they were visually disappointing.

Some of the songs are so clearly danceable that if the band swayed around a bit to them, it may have encouraged the audience to do likewise. There is nothing more frustrating than sitting down to music that SHOULD be dance to, but when the band don’t lead you in that dance, it tends to dampen your ‘get up and go.

Still, that apart, there were strong and well-structured and they also handled a couple of cover versions (The Cure’s ‘A Forest’ was tremendous) with a touch of real class.

They were refreshing and enjoyable to listen to and judging by the amount of smiles underneath the spikes of the audience, it seems they have captured the hearts of a much-neglected audience in Tamworth.

If they can just spruce up their stage show, somewhat, there is no reason why they can’t be one of the brightest – and most – original – bands in the area.

Tamworth has been waiting for a band like Femme Fatale for a long time – and now we have got them, we should enjoy them while we can.

S.H.

Tamworth Herald – 19/07/85
Musicbox – GIG GUIDE
JUST a quick guide to the gigs you can watch this week-end…tonight, Femme Fatale make their second Tamworth appearance when they join the band Certain Circles at the Arts Centre.

Certain Circles play entertaining pop with a touch of Simple Minds and they already have a single to their credit. A very promising looking show indeed. Then, 24 hours later, the Arts Centre is the place for the heavy rock of the experienced Hard Road, a band who have their own brand of pulsating, powerful rock and will boast a very interesting support act.

On the subject of rock, if you fancy a trip out of town tonight, why not join Wolfsbane on a coach trip to The Coach and Horses in Castle Bromwich. The £2 fee includes entrance and an exciting show is assured. Contact band members or Brian.

Tamworth Herald – 27/09/85
Musicbox – Tuning up for Party time…
THE PARTY political conference season may be in full swing, but more unusually Tamworth hosts two party political concerts!

For the Arts Centre is staging a tremendous three-band line-up under the Rock Against The Dole banner, organised and funded by the Tamworth Borough Labour Party.

And just up the road on the same night, Femme Fatale will be joining rock and roll eccentrics Jet Morgan and the Phantoms in a St. John’s Hall show in aid of the Ecology Party.

Both concerts look like being very entertaining but according to a MUISCBOX opinion poll, Labour has a slight percentage lead over the Ecology Party. The reason is that they have Breaking Point, The Royal Family and Love On Board rocking on their behalf.

The Royal Family, who have started to make a name for themselves out of town, bring their inspired lunacy to the Arts Centre at a time when interest in the group is at a new peak. And with love On Board, bringing their bubbling cocktail of talent and enthusiasm to the show it promises to be a night for literally rocking against the blues.

Up the road at the same time, you can rock for the greens with Femme Fatale’s black melancholy sound providing the perfect foil for the rock and roll extravaganza that Jet Morgan and the Phantoms serve up.

Tamworth Herald – 08/11/85
Musicbox – A night to remember
Caption: Ian Gibbons…working flat-out to make the event a great success. THE final details about Tamworth’s exciting 12-hour musical marathon for Ethiopia have just been released.

The show on Saturday December 21, will feature among others, The Dream Factory, Wolfsbane, Breaking Point, The Royal Family, The Sway and Femme Fatale.

It will also include the first – and probably the last – live appearance pf ‘TamAid’ and as a whole it promises to be a night which musicians and spectators alike will not forget.

“This is our way of saying thank-you to Bob Geldof, all the artists involved in Band Aid and relief agencies all round the world who are trying their best to stamp out poverty,” said crusading organiser Ian Gibbons.

As many of you may know, the show which can virtually be seen as a festival, is the centre of a nationwide ‘Live Aid’ bonanza which promises to raise thousands of pounds.

On the same night as the Tamworth show, there will be similar gigs all round Britain with around 30 or 40 other towns expected to take part. As an example Leatherhead this week sold out ALL of its 2,000 £8.50 tickets showing just how the idea has caught on nationally.

“Everything is going very well but we must make sure Tamworth which started the whole thing off, id the best of all,” enthused Ian. “It is going to be a brilliant night.”

The show has been given the full support of Band Aid – who have said they will try and fix a rock VIP to visit the town on the day to give the campaign a boost.

Also on the same day, the Ethiopian Committee are calling on all nightclubs, working men’s clubs and a multitude of other organisations to join in a day of action for Ethiopia. Whatever happens it is going to be a night where a lot of money is going to be made for famine victims, and a night when Tamworth can hold its head up high.”

“I am sure we will sell all our tickets in Tamworth, and as it is just £2 for the whole twelve hour show I am sure people will take part in raffles and put money in buckets,” said Ian.

For that meagre £2, people can enjoy the spectacle of not only six brilliant rock bands but also the more diverse sounds of The Banned Wagon and The Trout Brothers. In addition there will be lots of good disco courtesy of Beuwey and the much-loved Buttercup and raffles, speeches and numerous other sidelines.

The doors open on the event at 11.30am and musically it gets off to the most powerful start with Wolfsbane at 1pm. The Banned Wagon appear an hour later, Femme Fatale are set for 3.30pm and then The Trout Brothers hit the stage at 5pm. At 6.30 Breaking point step out to do their passionate parade, and an hour later Rikk Quay and the boys are up on stage. The Dream Factory are due on at around 8.45 and then The Royal Family get into the swing of things at about 10.15, ‘Tam Aid’ are expected to hit the stage after 11.30 to round off a day that already looks exhausting just thinking about it!

Tickets should be available soon from Tamworth Ethiopia Committee members or members of the individual groups. They are expected to sell out quickly so be warned. It is a night which you simply cannot date to miss.

Tamworth Herald – 20/12/85
MUSICBOX – Big hearts fine sounds unite
Tonight we have the excellent Terroa lining up with alternative poet Joolz at the Arts Centre and then tomorrow night at the Assembly Rooms, we have probably the greatest local gig ever seen in Tamworth.

The Dream Factory, Royal Family, Breaking Point, Wolfsbane, The Sway and many more will present a 12-hour Christmas present for the town’s rock fans and the silent millions such concerts are designed to help.

The doors open at 11.30am and after a nice session with that most impressive of DJs Buttercup, it is straight onto Wolfsbane at 1pm.

After the marvellous slice of ear-bashing, there is more disco and then it is the turn of the Banned Wagon to do their bit for charity and musical culture.

Femme Fatale hit the stage at 3.30pm to be followed by the DJ with impeccable taste Beuwey and then it is time for Trout Brothers. By now it will be time for Breaking Point…The Sway…The Dream Factory…The Royal Family.

During the day there is the possibility of a few star guests, new bands, raffles, competitions and fun by the literal bucketful.

Tickets for the event are a mere £2 and that entitles you to come and go as you please – although it would be better if you stayed of course!

It looks like being the best day of the year for the areas music scene, and one which will show that for thousands of people up and down the country the Ethiopia tragedy is still very much on our minds.

On a personal note. I would like to express a vote of thanks to everyone – especially Ian – who has helped to arrange this marvellous weekend.

1986

Tamworth Herald 03/01/86
Musicbox – Factory floor the opposition to make a hat-trick…
Musicbox – Factory floor the opposition to make a hat-trick…THE Dream Factory have done it again! Yes, for the third year in succession, Tamworth’s favourite soul men have pipped all opposition to once again claim the top local band slot in the Musicbox poll.

They did so despite a fantastic turnout of votes for new boys Terroa, who just lost out by virtue of the masses of votes the Factory received not only for first place (which was worth three points) but also for second (two points) and third (one). Wolfsbane, Breaking Point and Royal Family fans by the score put the Factory as their second choice and as the poll entered its last frantic days, it was clear the band were going to do it again.

Landslide

TerroaBut that was not the only joy for the band. Because they have had such a big national profile all year I allowed them to be included in the Top National Band sector – and they won that with a landslide.

And the same went for the band’s tremendous ‘Wine and Roses’ single which floored all the opposition.

Just to complete the (wine and ) rosy picture, the group had four songs in the top twenty local song section, and also had Mark Mortimer and Tim Goode voted into the top five local personality section.

Dream factory take a bow – you have won it again and you have deserved to do so.

It wasn’t only The Dream Factory’s poll though. Terroa as well as scooping the runners-up slot in the top local band, also won the best local song award with the excellent ‘Thunder and Lightening’. If the views of the hundreds of people who voted (we passed the 500 vote mark with ease) are anything to go by, Terroa are the group you think are going to make it next year.

Still in the local band section, The Royal Family finished a strong third well ahead of the bands beneath them. Like The Factory they seem to have universal support from people of all musical tastes and there is no doubt their popularity is now at an all-time peak.

It should bring a smile of Steve Martin-style proportions from Dave Smith and Eddie Blunt!

Places four and five went to two bands from the Atherstone area Dance Stance and The Me, a band who seem pretty big in North Warwickshire and will be investigated further in the near future.

It was nice to see Dance Stance up there – and also the likeable Paul Hanlon in the personality section – and with Nick Reed now in their line-up, I have a sneak feeling ’86 will be very good indeed for the Atherstone band.

Elsewhere, Freight Train showed they have made considerable impact and Wolfsbane proved that their appeal goes far beyond strict heavy metal types judging from the people who voted for Jeff, Bayley, Jase and Stakk.

Breaking Point also had their best ever poll result and it was very nice to see the now defunct Love On Board still hold a special place in a lot of people’s hearts.

Delighted

Completing the top ten are Femme Fatale who will be delighted with their debut show in the poll, and then the next five or six bands all came very close indeed to one another. The Sway, Magnets and Sitting Pretty all started well but faded somewhat but overall it was nice to see that virtually every band in the whole district had some supporters.

Just missing the top twenty, for example, were Depth Charge, Banned Wagon, Scarab, Boozy Brothers and Pulsebeat.

The local songs section was pretty reflective of the local band poll but it was pleasing to see people voting for songs that were not by their favourite band, which showed there is a lot of unbiased ‘general’ listeners among local rock fans.

Perhaps the only surprise was that Breaking Point only managed a top twenty placing (and that was at 17) but you can’t have everything.

In conclusion, everyone who votes, many thanks and to all the bands who have made the year so exciting, a double-dose of thanks. Let’s now make ’86 even better.

Top local band
1. The Dream Factory
2. Terroa
3. The Royal Family
4. Dance Stance
5. The Me
6. Freight Train
7. Wolfsbane
8. Breaking Point
9. Love on Board
10. Femme Fatale
11. The Sway
12. Spirit of Water
13. The Parade
14. Sitting Pretty
15. Trout Meets The Cavalry
16. Dickens
17. Judas Cradle
18. The Magnets
19. Powerplay

And no here’s how I’d have voted
Just to complete the overall local music award section, here are the people, the musicians and bands that I think deserve credit in ’85:

Top Band – Breaking Point
Top Local Song – ‘Come The Day’ – Breaking Point
Guitarist – Jase The Ace/Tim Latham/Nick Reed
Drummer – Stuart Blane/Steve Quilton
Bass – Daydo/Mark Mortimer
Keyboards – Rikk Quay
Vocalists – Dave Ingham/Dave Smith/Debbie Whitty
Best Live Band – Wolfsbane
Most Improved Band – Dance Stance
Most Likely to Make it in ’86 – Dream Factory
Best Gig – Breaking Point, The Sway, The Magnets Tamworth Arts Centre
Best Demo – Wolfsbane
Best DJ – Buttercup
Best Songwriters – Kevin Briggs/Bryan Lacey/Jase The Ace/John Reeman
Best Lyricist – Bryan Lacey
Haircut – Mick Rutherford
Best Dressed Person – Jeff Hateley
Saying of the Year – “I can’t get me breath’ – Buttercup
Personalities of local music scene – Ian Gibbons, Tim Goode, Rikk Quay, Eddie Madden, Blaze Bayley, Dave Ingham, Mike Turner, Paul Speare, Phil Smith, John Reeman, John James, Mike Fleming, Sage Side Psycho, Mark Mortimer, Jeff Hateley, Kevin Briggs, Star Trek, Trevor Muglestone, Dave Smith, Mick Goodby, Buttercup and everyone else I’ve missed.

SAM HOLLIDAY

Tamworth Herald – 10/01/86
Musicbox – Black looks from Les Miserables
…BUT OFF STAGE THEY TURN UP THE WARMTH

Caption: Femme Fatale crack a joke and display their normal jovial apparel.
Caption: Femme Fatale crack a joke and display their normal jovial apparel.

Femme Fatale…demo
FEMME FATALE are very much a product of the Eighties. Three or four years ago, their bleak pessimistic mood would have won them just a few John Peel-adoring admirers, but now it is almost the musical norm.

Bands like lovable depressives Sisters of Mercy and disgusting rock and roll dinosaurs The Cult, have reintroduced the colour and the mood of black to the populace and suddenly you no longer have to wear a George Michael smile to get on Top of the Pops.

Here we have Femme Fatale, combining the old punk ideals of Martin Higgs and Mark Poyner with the Cultesque mood of Debbie Whitty and Jim Goodman. Their dark sombre sound has about as much warmth and humour as a fridge.

Although off-stage the band are as pleasant and friendly as you could wish, when they put on their Femme Fatale hats, it is like putting a black veil over their personalities. It is as if they believe the only way they can show they are enjoying themselves is to be miserable, a kind of musical masochism, if you like.

So unsurprisingly, this demo is not cheery pop music. But it is, for the most part, very good indeed. You find your toes tapping and your depression increasing as you listen, which I imagine is the sort of response Femme Fatale are after.

Charmless

Unfortunately, the worst thing about the tape is the most important thing of all - the opening track. How I wish that promising bands like Femme Fatale would get a manager who would ensure they did not pick an opening track that is clearly unsuitable to be the flagship of the tape.

If a record company boss doesn’t like track one, it doesn’t matter if track four is a classic worthy of Lennon/McCartney, because he simply won’t listen to it.

The dubious track in question is the sub-Banshees ‘Obsession’ an overtly charmless number that despite improving on successive playing, simply lacks that initial bite to catch the ear. It is not a bad song, simply a bad choice for a demo ‘A’ side.

Much better is the second track ‘Have Faith’, which apart from having rather dubious anti-religion lyrics, has a strong rhythm and a powerful feel. It is like something out of Ian Asstbury’s portfolio, but that apart, it is an immensely likeable song, which boasts some quite tremendous guitar work from the highly-talented Mark Poyner.

On the flip side of the demo is a very worthwhile and commendable idea – three live tracks recorded at Tamworth Arts Centre. Surprisingly perhaps – the sleeve notes boast there are no dubs or edits – it sounds very good indeed and features my favourite track of the tape, ‘Hideaway’.

This is far more of a mainstream punk-pop song, with a catchy chorus and the sort of throbbing bass that has made Martin Higgs a legend in his own lunchtime. It is a pity ‘Hideaway’ isn’t the ‘A’ side, but obviously the band thought it was too cheery by half.

Also on this side is the very intelligent ‘Revenge Is Mine’ – an extremely thoughtful and well-crafted song, and ‘Prime Of Life’, which is simply depressing.

Altogether, it makes for a demo light on laughs but heavy on potential. It shows that the band have a very bright future indeed, and a lot of genuine talent. The only one worry now is that the Sisters Cult genre dies its inevitable death, Femme Fatale may well die with them. After all, there is nothing more displaced than an idea whose time has come – and then gone.

SAM HOLLIDAY

Tamworth Herald – 17/01/86
Musicbox – Bands tune up for five nights
TAMWORTH’S second annual Battle of the Bands contest looks set to be a great success with 16 groups – some completely new to the scene – taking part. The event has been stretched over five nights, with four heats and a final which will possibly be judged by a celebrity.

And as well as winning the accolade of Tamworth’s best band, and a Young People’s Arts Festival trophy, the successful band will also win £50 worth of recording time at the Expresso Bongo studios.

The whole event will get underway two weeks on Sunday at Tamworth Arts Centre.

Sunday February 2Caprice and Femme Fatale take on the unknown quantities of Coleshill’s Burnin’ Sky and new Anice Byfield group Precious Toys.

Sunday February 9 – The Australians, One On One, Dance Stance and another new one, Drowning Pool.

Sunday, February 16Depth Charge, Wolfsbane, The Me and The Parade.

Sunday, February 23Terroa, Spirit Lake, Judas Cradle and Breaking Point.

Friday February 28 – The Final.

Tamworth Herald – 07/02/86
Musicbox –REVIEW
SKY HIGH IN THE SAUNA!
TAMWORTH’S second annual Battle of the Bands contest got off to a superb start on Sunday, when a packed-to-bursting Arts Centre watched new outfits Burnin’ Sky become the first group to qualify for grand final.

With Femme Fatale forced to pull out and horrendous weather being served up outside, the Tamworth public could have been forgiven for forgetting all about the show. But scores turned up and the Arts Centre’s new band room was turned into a veritable sauna as the huge crowd watched well-tested Caprice take on the fresh challenge of Orange Blossom Special and Burnin’ Sky.

Caprice were first up and they caused a ripple by producing a new member who was even better looking than bassist Mike Fleming. She was Karen Nicholls, a powerful and confident singer who added a raunchy touch to Caprice’s OR sound.

She looked good, sounded good and I have no doubt that with her in the line-up, attendances at Caprice gigs will start to rise appreciatively.

With new drummer Dean Cox also sounding useful, Caprice looked a virtually new band and with a little more time they could become quite a force.

Admiring

Next up were Coleshill’s Burnin’ Sky, who turned on an intriguing 20-minute burts that was very well received. Their sound is closer to progressive rock than R ‘n’ B I was expecting, but it has a nice sleazy feel all of its own.

Maurice Collins (vocals), Pete Whipps (drums) and the wonderfully-named Keith Richards (bass) are all musicians of note, but for me, the band’s biggest bonus is lead guitarist Nig Allen.

He handled a couple of long breaks very effectively indeed, and received admiring glances from many of the musicians who were sunbathing in the equator-like temperatures.

To add spice to the night, Tamworth’s premier poet Jed Moore took to the stage for another scurrilous, irreverent and downright disgusting burst of filth-prose. He was extremely funny and even when he viciously destroyed every band’s ego with a send up of the Tamworth scene, he kept everyone smiling. I have said it before and I will say it again – this guy is a star!

Very bright

Last on were Orange Blossom Special, who turned in a very entertaining debut set. Their sound was smooth, well-crafted and very melodious and was as passionately played as you would expect from the people involved.

Everyone did their bit to give the sound its well-rounded edge, but a special mention must go to Julian Amos who I thought was tremendous.

As a band their future looks very bright. They have a nice image, they are all very likeable personalities and with the tireless Mr. Byfield as manager, their potential should be exploited to the full. After all, if they can sound this good after one concert, what will they sound like after 10?

So closed a very enjoyable night’s entertainment. The final result was very close and the announcement that Burnin’ Sky had won was greeted with a loud roar from their large band of followers.

If the next three weeks are as good as this, the contest will have been a very great success indeed. And, after the steamy atmosphere of that band room, we will all end up several stones lighter by the end of this enjoyable event!

Sam Holliday

Tamworth Herald – 21/02/86
Musicbox – Sounds out of town
FIVE of Tamworth’s top bands have just lined up out of town concerts – and they are all planning coaches to ferry supporters to the shows.

First on the agenda is a terrific double bill on Monday night, featuring the varied dynamics of Wolfsbane and Terroa. The show is at Bubbles in Hinckley, and it promises to be a very enjoyable night out. Tickets – costing £2 – are available from any band member of the two groups or by contacting Brian Edwards.

Then, on Thursday night (February 27), kindred spirits Femme Fatale and The Parade have been lined up for a winebar concert in Coventry. Once again, the two bands are hoping to generate enough support to be able to run a coach to the gig.

Finally the very tasty One On One are lining up another show at Bubbles at Hinckley – this one is on March 1.

Tamworth Herald – 02/05/86
Musicbox – Catch this cool train

Caption: Three members of the Freight Train…(from left) Barry Douce, Donald Skinner and Jos Cope.
Caption: Three members of the Freight Train…(from left) Barry Douce, Donald Skinner and Jos Cope.

TWO EXCITING bands with high national profiles top off a special Bank Holiday concert at the Rathole on Monday.

Freight Train – all set to go on a nationwide tour with The Woodentops – will be joined by the much-vaunted Duel, the band who have lined up that remarkable show with keyboard wizard Rick Wakeman.

And if these two intriguing acts are not enough to have the crowds swarming to The Rathole, there is also, the considerable attraction of the entertaining Femme Fatale and perhaps a reunions show by The Royal Family.

The concert promises to be one of the Rathole’s biggest to date. As it is a Bank Holiday the evening will go on until 1.00am although people are warned that there will be no admittance after 10.30.

For most Tamworth people, it will be the first time they have been able to see Freight Train since they set off on their national success journey.

The band are an enthusiastic quartet built around the two strong personalities of Donald Skinner and Jos Cope. Already they have released an excellent single ‘Man’s Laughter’ and their success in the MUSICBOX poll shows that their local absence has made hearts grow fonder.

Later this month they will tread the boards with Rough Trade outfit The Woodentops involving gigs at Sheffield, Manchester, Oxford, Liverpool and many others. Locally fans will be able to catch them at the Birmingham Triangle on Saturday May 24, Coventry Poly on May 13 and North Staffs Poly on May 14.

The most glamorous of the dates however, is the London Camden Electric Ballroom on May 29 which wraps up the tour.

All in all an exciting time for this exciting band and if you want to see why they are causing such a national fuss, the Rathole is the place to be on Monday.

Also exciting will be the Tamworth debut of Duel – fronted by Alan Watkins and Ian Pritchard. The band have spent a long time working on getting everything just right and with enthusiastic support by the Secs company from Birmingham they have already built up enough contacts to earn themselves a support slot to Rick Wakeman and a headline slot at the Powerhouse in June.

Musically they are still something of an unknown quantity but Alan assures me that they are far different from his old act Talk Back – although remaining basically commercial.

Joining Duel and Freight Train will be Femme Fatale – enjoying their second show of the weekend (see separate story).

The Femmes should go down well in the Rathole atmosphere and they are keenly awaiting the show. Finally there is a chance that the night will be made extra-special by a one-off reunion show by the Royal Family.

At the time of going to press it was still uncertain whether they would be playing but just the possibility of Tamworth’s ultimate good time band is likely to swell the attendance on the night.

So a marvellous occasion in prospect and with all the funds once again heading for the worthy John Hodgetts fund, everyone wins.

It all starts at 8pm – but remember no admittance after 10.30pm.

Tamworth Herald – 02/05/86
Musicbox – Perfect night for spikeys
A BRAND new band in the Sisters of Mercy/Joy Division mould, will make their Arts Centre debut tonight (Friday).

The group, Beyond Elisium, will be joined by fun loving Femme Fatale, making their eagerly-awaited return to a Tamworth stage.

Beyond Elisium are made up of Tamworth and Birmingham-based members and have been together for just a few months. They have already played a couple of concerts but are keenly looking forward to testing the water in front of Tamworth’s large, spikey-top population.

“We are looking forward to the concert and we hope we will go down well,” said bassist Barry Cope.

Joining Barry will be Andrew Lucas (vocals), Petet Steadman (rhythm), Adrian Hall (lead) and Richard Williams (synth). Together they make a sound which should appeal very much to Femme Fatale’s loyal crowd.

The concert starts at 8pm and even if you don’t find out what Beyond Elisium means you should have a good night.

Tamworth Herald – 09/05/86
Musicbox – Triple tonic at late, late, show
Freight Train/Femme Fatale/Duel – The Rathole
IT IS only a few short weeks since The Rathole tentatively opened its doors for the first time. Before it opened no-one was quite sure how it would take off, but even the most optimistic couldn’t have suspected it could have done so well, so quickly.

Bank Holiday Monday’s late night shindig was just the latest enjoyable chapter in a very entertaining success story. It wasn’t just that the room was full (that is almost obligatory) but the sheer camaraderie and spirit among both audience and band members, was something that is a rare and pleasurable sight in Tamworth.

‘The Rathole’ has succeeded in bringing together young people of like minds in a way we haven’t seen before and I can’t help feeling this is a very good time to be young, and musically aware in Tamworth. ‘The Rathole’, I salute you. As to the gig that was pretty good too!

It all began with Freight Train, who turned out to be my favourite band of the three. Despite not hitting the stage until 10.30 they enjoyed a large receptive audience not made any less entertaining by the odd heckler (apart from the National Front supporter who was about as welcome as a gigolo in a convent).

Freight train’s sound owes as much to the late Sixties as to anything currently coming out of the radio airwaves. Jos Cope’s keyboards occasionally lead in a Ray Manzanarek direction while the slicing, menacing guitar work of Donny Skinner has a Velvet(s) touch.

The two outstanding features for me were the sheer quality of Freight Train’s songs (‘Hill’ is a minor masterpiece) and the fact that Jos’ deadpan negative keyboard act reminds me of the ludicrous old coot from Sparks.

The band went down very well indeed and I for one am looking forward to seeing them again on their tour with the Woodentops.

Next up after another long delay were Femme Fatale. Their main problem is one that is not really of their own making. They spend so much time apart that although it gives them time to perfect their individual musicianship their essential “togetherness” suffers as a result.

It means they cannot write a great deal of new material which is sad because there is something curiously endearing about their ‘dead souls’ sound.

It is sparse, defiant and powerful with Debbie’s vocals reaching new peaks and Mark Poyner’s guitar cutting through the sound like a scythe through wheat.

Visually, bassist Martin Higgs still holds my attention for reasons, that should be obvious to anyone who knows what MIB stands for, but overall the band come across as confident, strident and committed. I just wish they were together a bit more and that they trimmed the length of their exhausting set as well.

Finally, after another very long break while the disco became a rather monotonous barrage, Duel tool to the stage. It was by now 12.45 and at this time most people were normally in bed or incapable.

I felt one and felt like the other, so I only managed to stay for about half a dozen songs before walking and took the rest o my body with me.

Business

In those half a dozen songs it quickly became apparent that Duel mean business. Their sound has tinges of Howard Jones and Paul Young and is both visually and material-wise very commercial indeed.

The tunes come thick and fast, each retaining a simplicity that bodes well for a bright future in Hitsville UK. Best of the numbers I saw was ‘New Love’.

Alan Watkins and Ian Pritchard worked together well on the vocals of a bubbling and extraordinary catchy number.

Yet another great night at The Rathole and another great concert for its loyal punters. Only about five weeks ago concerts like this would have seemed impossible, now they are almost an everyday Tamworth occurrence. Rattus Norvegicus indeed!

Tamworth Herald – 06/06/86
Musicbox – Memories linger on – as two bands split
TWO OF TAMWORTH’S best known bands have split up. The Parade and Femme Fatale both decided to split within hours of each other, leaving two large holes in the local scene.

The Parade describe their split as being ‘by mutual agreement’ after an increasing lack of direction which saw them miss a few vital concerts. In fact hours after the split, the band were offered a last minute substitution slot at the Dome’s ‘Battle of the Bands’ in Birmingham – a concert that singer Bryan Lacey reluctantly had to turn down.

It is not known what will now happen with Bryan, bassist Andy and drummer Simmo, but it is hoped that all three will continue to pursue musical ambitions. They leave behind a legacy of two of the very best Tamworth demos ever recorded and a host of hot sweaty concerts at the Arts Centre. They will be missed.

Femme Fatale’s decision to quit is probably less of a surprise. For months the band have been unable to practise on regular basis due to the commitments of guitarists Mark Poyner and Martin Higgins.

Understandably this created tensions within the band and last week they decided to throw in the towel. Martina and Mark will probably carry on working together and the same probably applies for Jim and Debbie – both of whom are highly respected musicians on the local scene.

When Femme Fatale first arrived I said that Tamworth had been waiting a long time for such a band. Now sadly the Town will have to wait a little longer for a new one.

Tamworth Herald – 06/06/86
Musicbox – SNIPS
Debbie and Jim ex-Femme Fatale WILL be putting a new band together and are on the lookout for a bassist, guitarist and keyboard player. Their influences range from the Revillos and B52s to Carmel, Woodentops and Pale Fountains.

Tamworth Herald – 16/03/90
Musicbox – Great bands of the 80s

Femme FataleFemme Fatale
One of Tamworth’s more sombre outfits but one who could dazzle in their own darkness at times.

Based around Debbie’s haunting lead vocal, the band delved into the black waters of post punk modernism and created the odd gem of a tune that helped them build up a loyal and large following.

Moody and malevolent but occasionally mesmeric.

No one has been nearly as dark ever since.


The Gallery

Caption: Femme fatale…the first major show for one of Tamworth’s most original sounding bands. From left Nigel Horton, Jimmy Goodman, Debbie Witty, Mark Poyner and Martin Higgs.

Caption: Femme Fatale crack a joke and display their normal jovial apparel.

Caption: Femme Fatale crack a joke and display their normal jovial apparel.

Set List : 14/06/85

Set List : 14/06/85

Set List ; 12/07/85

Set List : 12/07/85

Tamworth Arts Centre : Poster

Tamworth Arts Centre : Poster : 12/07/85

Tamworth Arts Centre : Poster : 19/07/85

Tamworth Arts Centre : Poster : 19/07/85

Set List : 19/07/85

Set List : 19/07/85

Set List : 26/07/1985

Set List : 26/07/1985

Tamworth Rock Festival : 25/08/85

Tamworth Rock Festival : 25/08/85

Set List : 25/08/85

Set List : 25/08/85

Set List : 07/09/85

Set List : 07/09/85

Tamworth Arts Centre : Poster : 07/09/85

Tamworth Arts Centre : Poster : 07/09/85

Set List : 28/09/85

Set List : 28/09/85

St. Johns Guildhall : Poster : 28/09/85

St. Johns Guildhall : Poster : 28/09/85

Set List : 21/12/85

 

Set List : 21/12/85

 

Poster : 21/12/85

Poster : 21/12/85

Tamworth herald 12/07/85

Tamworth Herald 12/07/85

Tamworth herald 19/07/85

Tamworth Herald 19/07/85

Set List 27/02/86

Set List : 27/02/86

Poster : 27/02/86

Poster : 27/02/86

Poster : 02/05/86

Poster : 02/05/86

Tamworth Arts Centre : 25/02/86

Tamworth Arts Centre : 02/05/86

 

Set List : 02/05/86

Set List : 02/05/86

Rathole : 05/05/86

Set List : Rathole : 05/05/86

Set List : Rathole : 05/05/86

Tamworth Herald

Tamworth Herald

Tamworth Herald

Tamworth Herald


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