SATURDAY’S SCOTTISH SONG : #268: RESTRICTED CODE

Here’s a two-part story adapted from the band’s own website : https://restricted code.com

Part One : 1978 – 1981

Tom Cannavan, vocal/guitar
Frank Quadrelli, guitar/vocal
Kenny Blythe, bass/vocal
Robert McCormick, drums
replaced by Steve Lironi, drums

Friends Tom and Frank had written songs and played together in various school bands before discovering punk and going on to create Restricted Code in 1978. Influences were pretty eclectic from punk (big Sex Pistols fans) to New Wave (Talking Heads, Magazine, etc.) to funk and soul (Chic, Otis Redding, etc.).

In 1979 the band got together with fellow Glaswegian bands Positive Noise and The Alleged to release an EP called Second City Statik, which enjoyed considerable critical acclaim. Even as Second City Statik climbed the indie charts, the band recorded further demos in search of a deal. In 1980 they got a call from Bob Last, manager of The Human League and the man whose Fast Product label released seminal records by The Gang of Four, The Mekons and Joy Division. Last loved the demos, and after arranging a showcase gig, he became their manager and signed them to his new record label, Pop:aural.

Restricted Code released two further records on Pop:aural and toured extensively, including supporting The Human League in the UK and Europe and a nationwide tour with the Fire Engines, label-mates at Pop:aural, the bands taking it in turn to headline each night. They recorded sessions for John Peel and Richard Skinner at BBC Radio. Aged just 16 at the time, the increasing touring commitments led to Robert’s decision to quit the band. Steve Lironi was recruited on drums.

Restricted Code enjoyed fantastic critical success and something of a ‘cult’ following. Paul Morley in NME picked them as “band most likely to…”, in 1981 Sounds music paper claimed they delivered the “best gig of 1981”, and there were rave reviews and extensive features in magazines including The Face and Melody Maker. As one of the hottest up-and-coming bands around, one memorable gig at The Embassy Club in London saw a who’s who of musical faces in the audience including John Peel, Debbie Harry, Frank Zappa, Julian Cope and members of the Sex Pistols and dozens of other bands. There were also, as one magazine reported at the time, “dozens of record company A&R people.”

Despite the critical acclaim, an extremely loyal fan-base and universal praise for their live gigs, the band didn’t sell the volume of records that they, or their record company, expected. The single First Night On topped the NME indie charts – but that didn’t mean huge sales in 1980 – and while Love to Meet You sold well, it didn’t break though into top 40 success. The band split up late in 1981, perhaps down to the pressures of not acheiving real breakthrough success despite such critical acclaim. Each of the members formed or joined other bands in and around Glasgow and Edinburgh, with some success. But life moved on, with the members developing careers in everything from teaching to aircraft engineering.

mp3: Restricted Code – First Night On
mp3: Restricted Code – Love To Meet You

(JC adds…….the first is from the 7″ that’s part of my vinyl collection; the latter was included on the Big Gold Dreams boxset referred to quite often throughout this particular series).

Part Two : 2018 – present

It took more than three decades until Restricted Code got together again. Having rekindled their friendship via social media a few years earlier, one day the crazy idea came to Tom and Frank of getting together to write and play again. There was no plan, no great ambition, just a desire to get the guitars out and see where it took them. They were already in touch with Kenny via social media, and with Robert, but knowing he no longer played drums, they approached Les, a friend from the old days.

Soon, the four piece band was together again, re-learning the old songs and enjoying making music. One day, quite by chance, they bumped into Robert outside a Glasgow rehearsal studio. They arranged a jam for the following week which went so well that for the first time Restricted Code became a five piece, with keyboards.

New songs soon began to emerge, Tom and Frank hitting a rich seam of renewed creativity, and the band continued to rehearse the old and new material. A support gig appeared on the horizon, then another, then another, and suddenly they were headlining their own gig at Glasgow’s 13th Note to a sell-out crowd.

Recording the new material became the focus in the middle of 2019, slightly delayed by Kenny breaking a finger, Les busting his toe and Frank ending up in hospital with an ankle injury. Were the gods against them? Well, eventually they did get into the studio at the end of 2019, recording the four tracks for their self-funded E.P. that was released in February 2020.

I Got Lost has picked up extensive radio play on BBC radio, Astounded Radio and other stations, with lots of enthusiastic critical comment. As fate would have it, the coronavirus lockdown struck just as CDs were manufactured and their official launch gig scheduled. The gig has been postponed, but the CD is available from the official website (link above) as well as all major download and streaming services.

The band cannot wait until lockdown is lifted and they are able to play again. The story goes on, and the band says, “The truth? It’s like we have never been apart.”

3 thoughts on “SATURDAY’S SCOTTISH SONG : #268: RESTRICTED CODE

  1. “…life moved on…”. I’d say joining Altered Images and becoming Mr Clare Grogan for Steve Lironi was quite a happy success story.

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