My posting on The Specials last week triggered off a search of the archives of the old blog for something I’d done on another of The bands that Terry Hall enjoyed success with. I’ve updated and modified it slightly, but this is more or less what I said back in October 2008.
My introduction to The Colourfield came via TV, and a video commissioned by The Tube for their debut single*. It was a totally different sound from that of Terry Hall‘s previous bands – lots of acoustic guitar with a very clean production – quintessential pop music with a hint of indie in many ways.
It came as such a shock to long-standing fans and many other music critics that one reviewer was led to write:-
‘This lot have absolutely nothing going for them. No sense of humour. No glamour. No good melodies. No danceable rhythms. No excitement. No controversy. No emotion. Nothing whatsoever. They are, in short, ruddy awful’
He was of course, quite wrong, and while the band didn’t have anything like the impact or success of The Specials or Fun Boy Three, the first set of singles and the debut LP were quite exquisite and exceptional.
The debut single itself reached #43 in January 1984. The follow-up single, Take, bombed at #70. But in January 1985, a bitter-sweet pop song, started to get a lot of airplay, and gradually it started to climb the charts. Thinking Of You eventually peaked at #12 in February 1985.
Virgins and Philistines hit the shops in April 1985, by which time the morose but beautiful Castles In the Air, a single that sounded as if had come straight from the mid-60s had failed. Unsurprisingly, given that just one of their 45s had sold in any numbers, the record-buying public shunned the LP. But its their loss.
This is a record that was ahead of its time. Just four years later, Paul Heaton formed The Beautiful South and released a bundle of hit singles and albums that aren’t a million miles away from that of The Colourfield. And just after that, Ian Broudie formed The Lightning Seeds to great acclaim, and again much of the sound of his band could be traced back to The Colourfield.
Ten tracks long, and just under 40 minutes long – it didn’t include the debut single but the three follow-ups were all there. It’s a gloriously mellow piece of work, sometimes low-key, but filled with gorgeous pop music throughout – hints of Spanish guitar, synth-produced strings, woodwind instruments and keyboards all appear at different times on different songs. And there’s even a protest song – the very catchy Cruel Circus which slates animal cruelty, and in particular those creatures who are born in and confined to research laboratories.
Thinking back, I think its fair to assume that the main reason no-one took it seriously was that Terry Hall had forged a reputation as a representative of disaffected youth and having been pigeon-holed in that fashion not too many were keen to allow him to carve a different and more lasting niche.
Virgins and Philistines is an album that for years had been long deleted, and indeed when I wrote the original post it had never been given a CD release in the UK, but that was rectified some 2 years later in 2010.
As such, when I ripped the vinyl to mp3 to accompany the post, it was the first time I had played the LP in its entirety for the best part of 20 years and it remains a real favourite re-discovery that I still flick to when I’m on a bus or train journey-
mp3 : The Colourfield – Thinking Of You
mp3 : The Colourfield – Cruel Circus
mp3 : The Colourfield – The Hammond Song
* I recently picked up a copy of the debut single. It was then I noticed that the song AND the band was called The Colour Field. Two separate words. An ‘oops’ on my part back in 2008. Here is the debut:-
mp3 : The Colour Field – The Colour Field
This gave me the chance to listen for the first time to the b-side. It provided a real ‘wow’ factor in that I’m a bit of a sucker for the bitterly honest and straight from the heart break-up songs. You know, the sorts that Elvis Costello and David Gedge have often specialised in over the years.
This is up there with the best of them:-
mp3 : The Colour Field – Sorry