This week saw the first release from Alan McGee’s new 359 label, John Lennon McCullagh’s North South Divide, and with FMO about to start a new An A to Z of Scottish Fanzines feature, I thought now would be the ideal time to run a live review of one of McGee’s early bands, Newspeak, from Fumes fanzine #4 – and look out for the mention of Peter Capaldi’s band The Dreamboys dancing along to the band as they played.
A couple of years earlier, the young Alan McGee had joined local outfit H2O as bassist but was never really at home there so left along with their guitarist Andrew Innes to form Newspeak, who gigged frequently on the Glasgow area circuit in venues like the Countdown and Doune Castle during 1979 and 1980.
According to David Cavanagh’s epic The Creation Records Story (My Magpie Eyes are Hungry for the Prize): ‘McGee made 35 copies of Newspeak’s demo tape and sent them to all the English record companies he could think of. None of them replied.’
Future Primal Scream guitarist Andrew Innes then decided that the best way forward for Newspeak would be relocating to London and singer Jackie Reilly agreed. McGee staying in the band and in Glasgow was impossible so the bassist, reluctantly, agreed to move south, his employer British Rail transferring his job. After about a month he realised he’d made the right decision.
In the capital, Newspeak became, with an altered line-up, The Laughing Apple and before 1980 was out, they had recorded four tracks back home at the Sirrocco Studios in Kilmarnock, which came out early the next year as The Ha Ha Hee Hee! EP on their own Autonomy label in an edition of 1500.
H2O also set up their own independent, Spock Recordz, to release their debut, Hollywood Dream. Recorded at CAVA in Glasgow and produced by Kenny Hyslop, this picked up airplay on Radio Scotland and Clyde and helped win them a deal with RCA.
Their commercial breakthrough then came with Dream to Sleep, a soothing, would-be sophisticated, slice of slickly produced synthpop which made the UK top 20 in the summer of 1983.
Listening again to Dream to Sleep it’s hard to imagine that H2O could once have been loosely described as punks or that Alan McGee could possibly have ever been a member of the group. I bet he detested the single.
By this point, he was coming to the conclusion that he was never going to be a success as a bass player although he wasn’t yet ready to give up and quit.
As Top of the Pops and Smash Hits beckoned for H2O, a double A-side flexi disc shared with The Pastels was to be The Laughing Apple’s fourth and final release, which McGee put out on a label he christened Creation Artifact and this was soon followed by the very first official Creation release, 73 in 83 by The Legend!
Going back to 359 Music, I can’t claim to be a fan of North South Divide as it’s undeniably Dylanesque and I’m undeniably allergic to Bob; I should also point out that McCullagh is only 15 so I wouldn’t want to be too harsh on the lad, therefore I’ll just say on the plus side that it is unquestionably a much, much better listen than CRE 001 ever was, as is, now I think of it, Dream to Sleep.