Posts Tagged ‘80s indie’

The Bodines

Today’s Excavating The 80s looks at The Bodines, one of a large number of Indie Rock bands that emerged in Britain in the mid-80s, drawing a heavy amount of influence from The Smiths. Based in Glossop, Manchester, had these guys signed to Factory Records they may have gotten the promotion they deserved and not been so overlooked. But then, The Bodines were clearly aiming higher than the independent labels, for they sought a contract with a major label (viewed as a severe crime against the Indie scene at the time) and indeed, their jangly, three-minute melodic pop tunes could easily have gained the attention of a wider audience given the right level of exposure.

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Formed in Glossop in 1985 by vocalist/guitarist Mike Ryan, guitarist Paul Brotherton, bassist Tim Burwood and drummer Paul Lilley (later replaced by John Rowland), they proved popular on Manchester’s live music circuit in the wake of the success of The Smiths, and quickly amassed a solid following, signing to Creation Records. They became regulars at Manchester’s legendary Boardwalk, and headlined the Hop & Grape (the venue now known as The Academy 3) supported by Inspiral Carpets.  Debut single God Bless was received positively by the music critics, and shortly afterwards, second single Therese, a true Indie classic with its infectious chorus refrain of “It scares the health out of me” delivered by the distinctive, deadpan vocals of Mike Ryan, was featured on the NME’s C86 compilation alongside other newly emerged Indie guitar-driven bands of the time (in an effort by the NME to popularize a new genre), among them Primal Scream and The Wedding Present. The Bodines quickly left Creation to sign to Magnet Records with aspirations of mainstream success.

However, it was at this point that the group’s run of luck came to an end. Although initially hyped, the C86 compilation quickly became the target of much abuse and piss-taking, the style of its content deemed far too fey and twee in an era in which heavy rock was all the rage. To avoid becoming too ridiculed for having hyped the C86 tape, the NME quickly changed its approach and began to damn the bands on the compilation themselves, dismissing the C86 compilation as an embarrassment to music as they switched their hype to American rock.

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The Bodines were neither twee nor amateurish. Their melodic and professional sound, and the commanding vocal delivery of Mike Ryan, reminiscent of that of Ian McCulloch, stood out easily from the rest of the C86 bands. Nevertheless their style of music just wasn’t ‘in’ at the time, and unwilling to invest too much in the promotion of a band they didn’t see as commercially viable, Magnet records did little to market the band. A much-damned remix of Therese issued on Magnet did nothing to help the band, and their debut album Played arrived late, released in Summer 1987 when the initial hype had long since died down. One of many albums of the era produced by Iain Broudie (later to gain major success as The Lightning Seeds), Played is a solid collection of catchy, upbeat Indie Rock tunes accompanied by intelligent, often witty lyricism and numerous dramatic guitar intros, but it was ignored by the music press and reached only #94 in the UK albums chart. Further singles Heard It All, Skankin Queens and Slip Side failed to chart, and the band was dropped by Magnet and subsequently split.

A short-lived attempt at a comeback was made in 1989 when Ryan and Brotherton, now with Spencer Birtwhistle on drums and Ian Watson on bass, reformed the band, issuing the single Decide for Dave Haslam’s Play Hard label and playing a further show at The Hacienda. Especially with hindsight, this seemed like the ideal time for a comeback, with the rise of Indie music in the UK giving rise to the Madchester explosion that year. With other long-lived, overlooked Manchester bands such as Inspiral Carpets and James finally gaining success by latching onto this scene, The Bodines could have easily done the same by integrating themselves with the movement. But it was not to be, for the band split that year, Mike Ryan re-emerging briefly in 1992 with the band Medalark Eleven.

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Whether we put their demise down to lack of media promotion or a mere missed opportunity on the band’s part, The Bodines certainly deserved more recognition than they received and have left a lasting legacy. As the genre of Indie guitar-pop of which they were veterans finally became fashionable in the early 90s, Therese received frequent plays in Manchester Indie clubs during that period, and the C86 compilation went on to be described by Saint Etienne’s Bob Stanley in 2006 as “the beginning of Indie music”. Played, meanwhile, has aged well and sounds fresh and colorful today, an essential gem of early Indie Rock.

To this author, The Bodines possessed an energy and charisma sorely lacking in much of today’s contrived ‘Indie Rock’ bands. I am unaware of the band’s whereabouts today (although a friend did tell me they were working in regular office jobs), but they have retained a decent enough cult following, and with the reissue in 2010 of Played on Cherry Red records, now would be a perfect time to raise a shout to The Bodines and celebrate their legacy.