Back in the mid 1970s, Scottish record labels were few and far between and those in existence tended to cater for was often derided as the haggis and heather market, think bearded men in Aran knits singing folk songs from a bygone age and men in kilts blasting away on bagpipes.
This all changed when punk came along and a new breed of independents like Zoom, Fast, Boring, No Bad and Sensible emerged. According to Lenny Love, the man behind Sensible, his new venture was ‘the first Scottish label that has anything to do with rock at all’.
Love, who was Island Record’s Scottish rep, had been searching for an act to launch his label for some time and, with The Rezillos, he found the most exciting new group in the country and the ideal vehicle to get his idea off and running.
Inspired after he’d met up with Captain Sensible of The Damned, Love registered the name Sensible Records in March 1977. ‘Because we are new, I suppose we are new wave but that doesn’t make us punk,’ he explained to the Glasgow Herald that summer. ‘Sensible is prepared to record anything – folk, country, rock – anything, providing it is good enough of its kind.’
The label’s first release was recorded in Edinburgh’s Barclay Towers studio. One side was a composition by guitarist Luke Warm, which he suspected might almost be a joke when he first wrote it. Luckily his fellow Rezillos managed to persuade him to the contrary and the anti-love song I Can’t Stand My Baby immediately became the highlight of many a Rezillos concert.
For the 45, it was accompanied by Lennon and McCartney’s far less interesting I Wanna Be Your Man and advertised as a ‘double B side’ although Sensible had been trumped on that particular marketing gimmick by Stiff, who’d recently issued the Tyla Gangs’ Styrofoam and Texas Chain Saw Massacre Boogie in a plain white sleeve stamped: ‘Artistic breakthrough! Double B-side’.
Propelled by a relentless and incredibly nimble bass-line from Dr. D.K. Smythe, I Can’t Stand My Baby (Fab1) was one of the finest high-octane singles to ever to make its way out of Scotland and it was reviewed very favourably across the board in the music press. Ian Birch in Melody Maker even referred to it later as a ‘masterpiece’.
As I Can’t Stand My Baby hit record shop shelves in August of 1977, the band gigged relentlessly across Scotland, including a date in Paisley’s Silver Thread, where the Glasgow Punk scene had been exiled to due to a clampdown from the council on punk gigs taking place within that city’s boundaries – but that’s another story.
The band were also confirmed to be taking part in the forthcoming Edinburgh Rock Festival, which would also include other new wave acts including Chelsea, The Cortinas and fellow Scots The Jolt and, early in August, they were featured in Melody Maker’s On the Crest of a Wave series on up-and-coming bands, such as X-Ray Spex, the Adverts and Generation X.
The future looked bright for The Rezillos. And Sensible.
Within a month of the single’s release, Seymour Stein, the head honcho of Sire Records sent Sensible a telegram (remember them?) requesting more information on the band and they weren’t the only label expressing an interest but plans began anyway for what was intended to be FAB 2: (My Baby Does) Good Sculptures coupled with Flying Saucer Attack.
That was never to be though. Stein was interested enough to travel across the Atlantic to see The Rezillos live – and he was (along with me) part of a 3,000 plus crowd at the Glasgow Apollo that gave The Rezillos a wild and wonderful reception during their support slot for The Stranglers that October. It was a performance that finally convinced him to make the band an offer and The Rezillos notched up a first; no other British punk or new wave act at that point had yet signed directly to an American label.
Many have assumed over the years that that the Edinburgh label died with their defection to Sire but Sensible continued briefly, releasing one final 45 by a band, Neon, who’d shared a stage many times with The Rezillos.
Neon were from the North East of England, contemporaries of Penetration and Punishment of Luxury, and in the early spring of 1978, they entered Durham’s Guardian Studios where, co-produced by Terry Gavaghan and someone known as ‘the Lovely Lenny’, they recorded Anytime, Anyplace, Anywhere and two other tracks that would became FAB 3.
They found a fan in Tony Visconti, producer of Bowie, Bolan and later Morrissey; guesting as Singles Reviewer in Melody Maker, he described Neon as: ‘thinking people’s rock. A very solid group who delight in fidgeting with the fabric of time.’
The record did reasonably well, persuading John Peel to give the band a session on his radio show and helping them find a deal with Radar but that was the end of Sensible – unless you count the re-release of I Can’t Stand My Baby in 1979 under the moniker of Sensible Mk 2, which, to put it rather mildly, The Rezillos weren’t entirely happy about.