Altered Images – Quay Session – December 19, 2019 – BBC Scotland –
Altered Images tonight. In a reunion session for the BBC Scotland series Quay Sessions on December 19, 2019. Altered Images started the early 1980s as a Scottish new wave/post-punk band. Fronted by singer Clare Grogan, the band branched into mainstream pop music, having six UK top 40 hit singles and three top 30 albums between 1981 and 1983. Their hits included “Happy Birthday”, “I Could Be Happy”, “See Those Eyes”, and “Don’t Talk to Me About Love”.
Former schoolmates with a shared interest in the UK post-punk scene, Clare Grogan (vocals), Gerard “Caesar” McInulty (guitar), Michael “Tich” Anderson (drums), Tony McDaid (guitar), and Johnny McElhone (bass guitar), were all members of the Siouxsie and the Banshees official fan club. When they learned that the Banshees were going to play in Scotland, they sent a demo tape to Billy Chainsaw, who managed the official Siouxsie fan club with a note asking: “can we support them on tour?”. The Banshees gave the band a support slot on their Kaleidoscope British tour of 1980. Altered Images’s name referred to a sleeve design on the Buzzcocks’ single “Promises”, and was inspired by Buzzcocks vocalist Pete Shelley’s constant interfering with the initial sleeve designs.
After being championed by BBC Radio 1 DJ John Peel, for whom they recorded a radio session in October 1980, they garnered enough attention to be offered a recording contract with Epic Records, but mainstream success was not immediate; their debut single, “Dead Pop Stars”, reached only number 67 in the UK Singles Chart, while its successor, “A Day’s Wait” stalled outside the top 100. “Dead Pop Stars” was particularly controversial at the time, sung from the viewpoint of a “has-been” icon with irony, but badly timed in its release shortly after John Lennon’s death, even though the song was written and performed before his death. A dance remix of it with different lyrics was recorded and released as the 1982 single “Disco Pop Stars”. (Both were absent from their studio album releases, but made it onto later anthologies.) After these singles and their first two sessions for John Peel, Caesar left and formed The Wake.
With additional guitarist Jim McKinven (formerly of Berlin Blondes), they recorded their debut album, Happy Birthday (1981), largely produced by Steven Severin of Siouxsie and the Banshees. The band also worked briefly with producer Martin Rushent for the title track, which became the band’s third single and their biggest hit. The song reached number 2 in the UK (for three weeks) in October 1981, catapulting the band to fame. They quickly became established as one of the biggest new wave acts around, and were subsequently voted “Best New Group” at the NME Awards and “Most Promising New Act” in the 1981 Smash Hits readers poll.
After the break-up of the band in 1983, Grogan attempted a solo career, signing to London Records in 1987 and releasing a single, “Love Bomb”. Grogan was also included on a London Records compilation album titled Giant, contributing the track “Reason Is the Slave”. After “Love Bomb” failed, plans for a follow-up single release, titled “Strawberry”, and an album, Trash Mad, were shelved by London Records.
Grogan performed again in 2012 under the name Altered Images at Butlins Holiday Resort in Minehead on 11 May and at The Assembly in Leamington Spa on 12 May 2012. Also in 2012, Grogan put together a new all-female version of Altered Images and performed at the Rebellion Festival. She again fronted Altered Images in Series 5 Episode 5 (December 2019) of The Quay Sessions on BBC Scotland, which you are about to hear right now, as soon as you hit the play button and crank it up.
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