The sixteen-month period from October 1985 – December 1986 was a busy, yet reasonably stable one for the band. They were being well-supported by Beggars Banquet and seemed to be happy with the label. There were sell-out tours of the UK. The core of the band remained the same – Mark E Smith, Brix Smith, Craig Scanlon, Steve Hanley and Simon Rogers, with just the drummer’s chair becoming a touch on the hot side. Karl Burns left the band, again, in April 1986 shortly after a month-long tour of the USA and Canada, and was replaced, but only always on a temporary basis, by a returning Paul Hanley, proof again that even those who had left before under the darkest of clouds were always prepared to help out whenever the need arose.
But, come the summer, a new drummer, in the shape of Simon Wolsencroft, was drafted in. ‘Funky Si’, as he was commonly known, was a familiar figure in the Manchester and wider indie-scene having been a contemporary of the likes of Ian Brown, John Squire, Johnny Marr and Andy Rourke, as well as being a member of The Colourfield, the group formed by Terry Hall after the break-up of Fun Boy Three.
Over the course of the final six months of 1986, there would be three 45s and the album Bend Sinister, and while Wolsencroft drummed on most of the songs, some of the material completed prior to his arrival was issued, meaning Paul Hanley got a few final credits with the band, including the tracks on the next flop single in July, released only on 12″:-
Have a look at the cover of the single at the top of this post, and you’ll see a man who has an angel on one shoulder and a devil on the other. Combine it with the downbeat nature of the lyric and the almost funerial pace of the music on the a-side, then it was no surprise that at least one interviewer thought it might be a sign that MES, with his 30th birthday just a year away, was beginning to plan some sort of exit from the music industry. In response, he said it was really his attempt to write a song about upper-class suburbia and how pissed off folk must be about the routine and dull way it was all panning out. Not exactly the sort of things that make for a good single is it?, albeit it remains a song I still enjoy all these years later.
The b-side, Hot Aftershave Bop, is a faster-paced number that wouldn’t sound out-of-place down at the local indie-disco, albeit not when the DJ really wants to pack the floor out. It’s more than worthy of a listen, albeit it does have an almost throwaway near-nonsensical lyric in which the song title, or a slight variant on it, appears regularly. The extra track on the b-side, Living Too Long, is an extended yet different version of the a-side, with a lot more going on in the playing.
Fun fact 1: There was actually a limited edition 7″ promo single issued, omitting Living Too Long but offering a miniature bottle of Hot Aftershave Bop aftershave. I’m guessing MES wouldn’t have been best pleased with the marketing folk
Fun fact 2: Living Too Late was reviewed in Smash Hits magazine, possibly the first (and last?) time that the Beggars Banquet promotional folk got a 45 into the pages of the UK’s biggest selling music weekly. There was always a guest reviewer, who that week happened to be Samantha Fox, whose initial claim to fame had come through regular appearances on Page 3 of the tabloid papers in which there was a daily photo of a woman with her tits out, but who had, in early 1986, embarked on what would become a successful, if short-lived, career as a pop star.
Cutting-edge criticism, indeed. MES, many years later, would look back and laugh at it all:-
“That’s as good as it got inside Smash Hits: Page 3 birds airing their views. I think it’s great, actually — better than being harangued by Tony Parsons and Julie Burchill.”
Living Too Late reached #97 but was voted in at #15 in the Peel Festive 50 at the end of 1986.
Next up……an actual appearance in the Top 75, thanks to a song that could and did pack the floor at indie-discos.