Shop Assistants are probably best known for Safety Net, the first single to be released, back in 1986, on the Bellshill-based 53rd & 3rd Records. This was actually the band’s third single, following on from the late-1984 debut, Something to Do (which was by Buba & The Shop Assistants and is extremely rare and hard to find) and a four-track EP, Shopping Parade, which was issued by The Subway Organisation.

Worth mentioning that the line-up for the debut single consisted of Aggi (vocals), David Keegan (guitar), John Peutherer (bass) and Moray Crawford (drums) with Stephen Pastel on backing vocals and production duties.

By the time they were in the studio for the follow-up, there had been huge changes with only David Keegan still around, joined now by Alex Taylor (vocals), Sarah Kneale (bass), Laura MacPhail (drums) and Ann Donald (drums). The EP was recorded for their Bristol-based label in Edinburgh in April 1985 with the results being energetic and tuneful lo-fi indie-pop, mostly fast-paced (apart from the one that sounds like a Velvet Underground outtake) that provided the introduction to the vocal talents of someone who was being increasingly talked of as the new face and voices of the independent Scottish music scene in the mid-80s.

mp3 : The Shop Assistants – All Day Long
mp3 : The Shop Assistants – Switzerland
mp3 : The Shop Assistants – All That Ever Mattered
mp3 : The Shop Assistants – It’s Up To You

For the avoidance of doubt, All That Ever Mattered is a totally different song to the one of the same name later recorded by Orange Juice.  Oh, and All Day Long is one of the best and most enduring songs to come out of Scotland the entire decade.




As I said last week, there’s an incredible amount of the CD86 bands who came from Scotland…and here’s yet another.

Shop Assistants first came to some sort of prominence back in November 1984 with the release of the Stephen Pastel produced single Something To Do under the moniker of Buba & the Shop Assistants.  The line-up as well as the name was to change quite dramatically shortly afterwards with the recruitment of a striking looking new vocalist and a critically acclaimed EP released by the Subway Organisation in August 1985 with lead track All Day Long much championed by Morrissey.

The band was now a seemingly settled line-up of Alex Taylor (vocals), David Keegan (guitar), Sarah Neale (bass), Laura McPhail (drums) and Ann Donald (drums) although the last of these names would leave and join Fizzbombs (as featured last Sunday).

In February 1986, bass player Keegan and the afore-mentioned Mr Pastel decided to found 53rd & 3rd Records to try to promote the work of up and coming Scottish bands and the first release on the label would be the song later included on CD 86:-

mp3 : Shop Assistants – Safety Net

It’s a tremendous piece of pop which, and although very much of its time complete with an inexpensive, fuzzbox production, it still sounds great almost 30 years on.  It would be voted into the Peel Festive Fifty at #8 at the end of the year and spend more than four months in the indie charts.  This was a band brimming with talent and confidence, helped along the way by the NME including one of the Subway tracks as the opening song on the b-side of the C86 tape, and therefore it was no surprise that the major labels were quickly knocking on their door.

They signed to an offshoot of Chrysalis Records and in 1987 they released a single and self-titled album before they surprisingly decided to split up with Ms Taylor taking her talents to Motorcycle Boy who themselves would end up on Chrysalis via a one-off single on Rough Trade.

Shop Assistants tried a comeback in 1989 with Sarah Neale taking on vocal duties and Margarita Vasquez-Ponte (supplying another Fizzbombs connection) joining the band but the two subsequent singles didn’t do much.

I’ve tracked down the two b-sides to Safety Net and I’ve no doubt you’ll like them.

mp3 : Shop Assistants – Somewehere In China
mp3 : Shop Assistants – Almost Made It

Oh and yes…..this single did feature previously in the blog back this time last year in the Scottish Singles Series.






From wiki:-

Shop Assistants were an indie pop band from Edinburgh, Scotland, formed in 1984, initially as Buba & The Shop Assistants. After achieving success with independent releases they signed to Chrysalis Records sublabel Blue Guitar, releasing their only album in 1986. After splitting in 1987, with singer Alex Taylor moving on to The Motorcycle Boy, they reformed for two further singles in 1990.

The original line-up was Aggi (Annabel Wright, later of The Pastels), on vocals, David Keegan (guitar), Sarah Kneale (bass), Laura MacPhail (drums) and Ann Donald (drums). This line-up released one single, the now highly-collectible “Something to Do” which was produced by Stephen Pastel. Stephen Pastel also contributed backing vocals.

Aggi left to be replaced by Alex Taylor. Soon after, the name shortened to simply ‘Shop Assistants’ and the first release under their new name was the Shopping Parade EP in 1985 on The Subway Organization, the lead track from which, “All Day Long” was described by Morrissey as his favourite single of that year. Ann Donald left round about November 1985 and was briefly replaced by Joan Bride (possibly a pseudonym!). Shopping Parade was followed in early 1986 with “Safety Net”, the first release on Keegan’s 53rd & 3rd Records, which peaked at number two in the UK Independent Chart, and the band recorded a national radio session with Janice Long and a second John Peel session, both of BBC’s Radio One.The exposure they gained from the sessions enabled the group to have two songs to be voted into John Peel’s Festive Fifty in both 1985 and 1986.

In 1986, they were featured on the NME’s compilation C86 with one of their slower songs, “It’s Up To You”, taken from Shopping Parade EP. Also in that year, they signed to Chrysalis Records’s sublabel Blue Guitar for another single, “I Don’t Wanna Be Friends With You” as well as their first and only LP album, Will Anything Happen. This spent one week at number 100 in the UK album charts, which gives the band the distinction of being the (joint) least successful act ever to hit the national charts. The album was re-released on CD in 2001, although it is now very hard to find.

The band split early in 1987, when Taylor left the group to join The Motorcycle Boy. After a two-year hiatus, the band reformed without Taylor in 1989 with Kneale on vocals and MacPhail on bass and the addition of Margarita Vasquez-Ponte of Jesse Garon And The Desperadoes.

And here is one of THE great indie-singles of the era:-

mp3 : Shop Assistants – Safety Net
mp3 : Shop Assistants – Almost Made It
mp3 : Shop Assistants – Somewhere In China

Again…from wiki:-

The song was first recorded for the band’s first session for John Peel’s BBC Radio 1 show on 8 October 1985.It was recorded for release on 24 and 25 October 1985 at Pier House, Edinburgh, and released as a single on guitarist David Keegan and Stephen Pastel’s 53rd & 3rd Records in February 1986, the first release on the label.

The single reached number two on the UK Independent Chart, spending seventeen weeks in the chart in total. The song was voted to number eight on the 1986 Festive Fifty, with only tracks by The Smiths, Primal Scream, The Fall and “Kiss” by Age of Chance receiving more votes.

“Safety Net” was described by David Sheridan of Trouser Press as “nothing short of brilliant”.Gillian Watson of The Scotsman called the song an “early classic”, which “captures how nervous and exciting it feels to be a young adult in the city at night”.