Talulah Gosh, featuring the mighty Amelia Fletcher, tend to polarise.

Easily distinguishable from say Motörhead or GG Allin, the band’s output was, and is, often dismissed and marginalised as cute, shambling and, most especially, that reliable kiss-of-death: ‘twee’.

For some, then, huge silly grins are the instant reaction to a TG number. For others, the response is to feel a bit queasy. Not bad going for a band with only 25 songs to their name – and even that number is bolstered by John Peel and Janice Long sessions, and some pretty demo-sounding demos. (At this point it’s worth mentioning that you can scoff the lot on the 2013 Was It Just A Dream? compilation – on Damaged Goods.)

To be fair, the twee accolade/accusation is not so astonishing. This is, after all, a group who pinched their name from a Clare Grogan NME interview (if the internet is to be believed, it seems Clare played a game of combining a favourite actor’s name – Tallulah (despite the double-l) Bankhead? – and a favourite word).

This is a band, also, who titled an early number The Day She Lost Her Pastels Badge, as well as using aliases like ‘Pebbles’ – for Elizabeth Price – and ‘Marigold’ – for Amelia Fletcher – (both vocals and guitar). And you can add to all this a passion for the kind of zooming, chiming guitars, helium vocals and sha-la-la-ing harmonies that make some listeners scream and scream and scream until they’re sick.

The words? They often allude to a world of the group’s own making – a secret land of rainbow hunts, escalators on hills and, in the eponymous single, the mysterious, dreaming Talulah Gosh herself: variously a film and pop star, a top celebrity, but ultimately a figure doomed and blessed to always be herself.

Given all that, it’s no surprise that Talulah Gosh have never been everyone’s beaker of Creamola Foam. Negative reactions are maybe similar to those that greeted the fanzine-led band scene the group helped establish in the later 80s (and the Riot Grrrl genre they went on to influence in the 90s). But even if they’re not your thing at all, TG’s songs – of strawberry hair and spearmint heads, beatnik boys and bringing up babies – annoy the musically macho, and there’s always worth in that.

As a postscript, rising, like a felt-tip phoenix from the day-glo ashes of Talulah Gosh, Heavenly – still-enchanted but more worldly-wise – would emerge in 1990. That band’s records – a terrific line-up of seven singles and four LPs – saw Amelia and pals hop from one spiritual home (53rd & 3rd) to another (Sarah Records). But that’s all maybe for the threat of another ICA. (ed’s note – yes, please!!!)

Purely because it’s quite unusual: what did Marigold and Pebbles do next? The keen will know that Amelia continued in music, post-Heavenly, via Marine Research and Tender Trap – and that in 2014 she wound up with an OBE for services to Competition and Consumer Economics (and indiepop). Pebbles? Only the winner of the Turner Prize in 2012.

For now though, our story whizzes back to 1986, and to the undecorated Marigold and Pebbles of that era, alongside their bandmates Eithne Farry; Mathew Fletcher; Peter Momtchiloff; Rob Pursey and Chris Scott.
But you can call them all Talulah.

Talulah Gosh At Large: a (New) Vinyl Villain imaginary compilation album.


1. Talulah Gosh (single A-side, 1987)

Slow verses. Quick choruses. Talulah’s self-referencing anthem is a corker and, as alluded to already, paints a picture of an elusive, unsolvable character. Just who is the phantom Talulah Gosh? A minor myth insists it’s a thank-you to the band-naming Clare Grogan herself. Let’s hope, though, that the mystery endures – like an indiepop yeti or Loch Ness Monster.

A tamer, whispery session version of this song isn’t as engaging, but it’s still well worth a listen.

2. Testcard Girl (7” single A-side, 1987)

Sounding for all the world like a riot in Hamleys, Testcard Girl muses on boredom and loneliness, and it knows only one speed. But scream (the band certainly do) if you want to go even faster. Interested in the story of the real Test Card (two words) Girl? Just whack the name Carole Hersee into Wikipedia.

3. My Boy Says (Rock Legends: Volume 69 track, 1987)

Talulah Gosh at their most in-love? My Boy Says is giddy and giggly and all those kinds of things that characterise the smitten. A bit like someone who can’t be late for a very important date, the song walks-then-jogs, walks-then-jogs.

4. I Can’t Get No Satisfaction (Thank God) (Where’s the Cougar, Matey? EP track, 1987)

A cynical, somewhat fed-up lyric of the type that perhaps helped characterise Heavenly’s output, I Can’t Get No… sneaks salt into the sugar shaker. Then points and laughs.

5. The Girl With the Strawberry Hair (B-side of ‘Bringing Up Baby’ 7” single, 1987)

Another thundering pace. Carried by Mathew Fletcher’s relentless, driving drums, this is the closing song on Rock Legends: Volume 69 – the band’s original 1988 muddle of singles and B-sides. Rock Legends… would be augmented and superseded by two collections: Backwash (K Records, 1996) and the presumably definitive Was It Just A Dream? (Damaged Goods, 2013). But for a good while …Strawberry Hair is where the needle providing your Talulah fix would, with a slick little lick of goodbye guitar, hit the buffers.


6. Don’t Go Away (B-side of ‘Talulah Gosh’ 7” single, 1987)

What’s so wrong with carrying on? This lyric from the frantic Don’t Go Away could easily have titled this ICA. Bands don’t really have mission statements. That’s a good thing. But if they did, this would probably be the best one ever.

7. Be Your Baby (John Peel session, 11 January 1988)

Like Testcard Girl, here’s another express-train ride. This time the lyrical topic takes a pot-shot at the kind of restricting other-halves who seek to subtly Frankenstein their way to a perfect partner. Discernible amid the tumult are lines about having clothes bought for you, and your haircut and record collection decided by another. Six years later the issue of manipulation would resurface, this time via Heavenly’s ace LP track Itchy Chin.

8. Spearmint Head (John Peel session, 11 January 1988)

The best Talulah Gosh song in the world ever? For that honour, for me, it’d need to go toe-to-toe with Bringing Up Baby and Escalator Over The Hill. This session gem is a real shape-shifter though, and it whips up and down the gears with abandon.

9. Bringing Up Baby (7” single A-side, 1987)

Congratulations Mr and Mrs Gosh: it’s a bouncing baby single. A really splendid song with an opening ten or so seconds that will rot your teeth at twenty yards. Maybe ‘Baby’, with its la-la-la-ing chorus and fizzy, bounding tune is the ultimate Talulah number.

10. Escalator Over The Hill (B-side of ‘Talulah Gosh’ 12” single, 1987)

The curiouser and curiouser Escalator Over The Hill is daydreamy and quite otherworldly – one for all you sleepwalkers out there. From its abrupt opening, wig-out centre and soulful, haunting outro, the overall feeling is one of regret and sadness, helped along by lyrics that glue together the poetic and the mundane:

If age or time should weary you
What would you find to remind you
Of trains we caught
And buses we missed
Tickets we bought, taking us through
The barrier to
The escalator over the hill

I think those are powerful and unusual words and they contribute to my view that Escalator… is unlike any other Talulah Gosh song out there – an authentic indiepop lullaby.

Bit of trivia: Another, unrelated, piece of music of the same name predates this song by at least 15 years. Here’s Wiki’s introduction:

Escalator Over the Hill (or EOTH) is mostly referred to as a jazz opera, but it was released as a “chronotransduction” with “words by Paul Haines, adaptation and music by Carla Bley, production and coordination by Michael Mantler”, performed by the Jazz Composer’s Orchestra.

So now all you fans of chronotransductions can feel well and truly acknowledged. And to any Haines/Bley/Mantler afficionados who’ve landed here by accident: welcome aboard.


JC adds:-

I’m surely not alone in wishing that this had arrived in advance of the launch of the ICA World Cup, as there’s every chance that this wonderful collection of songs could have taken on and defeated a number of the teams who will advance to its latter stages.  Reference was made to the tamer, whispery session version of a song, and here it is:-

mp3 : Talulah Gosh – Talulah Gosh (Janice Long Session)

Nor was there room on the ICa for this gem, so consider it your bonus track:-

mp3 : Talulah Gosh – Beatnik Boy




And finally, we reach the point in this series where the focus is put on the band that I personally associate with C86/twee indie than any other on the planet.

Talulah Gosh were a five-piece group from Oxford consisting originally of Amelia Fletcher (vocals, guitar) Mathew Fletcher (drums), Peter Momtchiloff (lead guitar), Rob Pursey (bass) and Elizabeth Price (vocals), although Pursey would depart after just three gigs to be replaced by Chris Scott.   The legend goes that the band formed when the two girls met at club in their home town in 1985 having gotten talking to one another on the back of them each wearing a Pastels badge and that they took their name from a quote that had been given by Clare Grogan in an interview with the NME a few years earlier.

They signed to the Edinburgh-based 53rd & 3rd label but their blend of the Velvet Underground and 60s style girl pop groups divided opinion.  There were some who saw them as amateurishly pretentious while others thought this was a great leap forward for pop music with an indie bent.  Their first two singles – Steaming Train and Beatnik Boy -the band to be replaced by Eithne Farry.

The next single appeared in May 1987 and it is that piece of music which was has been included on CD 86:-

mp3 : Talulah Gosh – Talulah Gosh

There were two more singles before they broke up in the Spring of 1988, commemorated originally only by a compilation LP that brought all the singles together.

Amelia Fletcher would release a solo single while Peter Momtchiloff would briefly join The Razorcuts, another of the bands to emerge from he C86 movement. Come 1990 the two of them, together with Mathew Fletcher and Rob Pursey would form the nucleus of Heavenly who, for the next six or so years would release a number of singles and albums on Sarah Records in a style that was initially very akin to that of Talulah Gosh but as the years moved on transformed increasingly into a more standard indie-guitar outfit that didn’t sound too out-of-place amidst the Britpop movement.

The tragic suicide of Mathew Fletcher at the age of 25 in June 1996 brought an end to Heavenly but the other members of the band, as well as those associated with Talulah Gosh, have enjoyed remarkable success in their chosen careers and professions.

Elizabeth Price in 2012 took the £25,000 Turner Prize for a piece of video work which blended Sixties pop with footage from a 1979 Woolworths fire;  Amelia Fletcher completed a degree at Oxford University and is a senior figure in commerce;  Rob Pursey works as a producer in television; Peter Momtchiloff, is a senior commissioning editor in the world of publishing; Eithne Farry is a published author and has been a literary critic for a number of publications.

Everything the band recorded, plus demo tracks and live tracks can be found on the compilation 2 x LP Was It Just A Dream? released on Damaged Goods Records. It includes the b-sides of Talulah Gosh as well as a radio session version of the single:-

mp3 : Talulah Gosh – Don’t Go Away
mp3 : Talulah Gosh – Escalator Over The Hill
mp3 : Talulah Gosh – Talulah Gosh (radio session)




Three songs came up in a row on random shuffle the other week. I closed my eyes and imagined that instead of sitting on a train heading to work  I was at my favourite indie disco where 50-somethings can still go along and not be frowned upon as making fools of themselves as they try to relive their halcyon days.

A bit like the photo above.

mp3 : The Wedding Present – Brassneck
mp3 : Talulah Gosh – Talulah Gosh
mp3 : The Monochrome Set – Jet Set Junta

Every one a classic.



A little bit of background to today’s piece of nostalgia.

It was written in September 2007 at a time when I was around halfway through a four month work secondment to Toronto.  I had planned to keep the old blog update on a daily basis but found that having messed up copying files to a back-up drive that I had very few songs with me that I could link to.  I was only managing a post every three or four days at best but it was a great trade off for what was turning out to be the experience of a lifetime.


Although the hours are long, I’m still enjoying the work I’m doing over here in Toronto, and trying not to get depressed by thinking too much about going back to the dead-end job awaiting me in Glasgow.

I’ve also become aware that an old (but not in the age-sense) friend  is also having some work concerns of her own which I hope are resolved to her satisfaction ASAP.  In the meantime, I’ve had an idea which may solve both of our work-related dilemmas. I’ m sure she and many of you regular readers out there will want to come a join me in a new venture – one that will one day rival and indeed surpass the popularity of Hard Rock Cafe.

Ladies and Gentlemen. Homos, Hetros and Metros. Why not spend some of your cash at Tearooms Most Twee??

Forget oversize steaks, burgers and king-size french fries. Put away your desires for sundaes and free refill sodas. Come to Tearooms Most Twee for cakes, cucumber sandwiches and french fancies. Feast your eyes on trifle and pots and pots of tea of all varieties, all served on antique wooden tables covered with the finest of lace.

The walls will not be covered with garish memorabilia. Only the finest of wallpaper from the catalogues of Laura Ashley.

Your ears will not be assaulted by the shrieks and wails of long-haired men wearing ultra-tight spandex backed by ugly folk pulling faces as their fingers move up and down the fretboard of their guitars. Instead, an old fashioned Dansette record player will be used to bring you sounds such as these:-

song : Belle & Sebastian – Dog On Wheels
song : Tallulah Gosh – Beatnik Boy
song : Aberfeldy – Summer’s Gone
song : The Smittens – Doomed, Lo-Fi & In Love

At least once a week, Tearooms Most Twee will have a live acoustic performance from Duglas BMX Bandit. Occasionally, it will also have theme nights – maybe something for The Goths where the music will be different and there will a DVD of Batman Begins on show. But the Laura Ashley wallpaper and lace-covered tables will be permanent.

Care to join me?

2013 Update

The scary thing is that there’s a couple of places opened up in Glasgow this past 18 months or so whose business model isn’t all that far removed from that I suggested for Tearooms Most Twee – albeit they do also have licences to serve alcohol.  These establishments seem to be doing very well which means I really have missed a trick…

Oh and just to clear things up.  I returned to Glasgow in December 2007 and to that dreadful dead-end job.  Luckily, I was rescued by an alternative offer just a couple of months later for something much more satisfying.  I’m still there now and can see me being there for many more years to come.