P.V.C. 2: Put You In The Picture (1977) Zoom Records
Scottish pop band Slik moved rapidly from being the next big thing when, early in 1976, their song Forever And Ever topped the British singles charts to a point where, before the year was out, they’d practically dropped of the radars of all but their most loyal fans. In fact, when their single released that December, Don’t Take Your Love Away again failed to recapture the public’s imagination and enter the UK charts it wasn’t even much of a surprise.
March ’77 saw Jim McGinlay abandon Slik, replaced by Russell Webb. By this point Slik were without a record label and were often playing to paltry audiences. Appearances in teen-girls magazines began drying up and the next time they made any kind of real media splash was that summer when they announced they’d broken away from the reins of Bill Martin and Phil Coulter. Pictured in the Daily Record, there wasn’t a trademark retro baseball top or cap in sight; instead they were almost unrecognisable, wearing shades and dressed in zip T-shirts and straight legged trousers and, looking a damn sight punkier than many of the bands who were finding themselves being categorised punk.
Midge Ure spoke about regretting the fact that they’d let themselves be pushed in the wrong direction and reckoned that the band’s songs were now better than before. He was also convinced that without their teen heart-throb legacy, they would have been snapped up by a label thinking they had another Stranglers on their hands.
Well one label did want to get involved although with a little less clout than the likes of United Artists, then home to The Stranglers. Bruce Findlay’s Zoom Records, an ambitious Edinburgh independent largely inspired by Stiff and Chiswick, agreed to release what was described as a triple ‘A’ side, the three new songs, Put You in the Picture, Deranged, Demented and Free and Pain being recorded cheaply on a borrowed Revox in a pub out-with opening hours.
In his autobiography, If I Was. Midge Ure explained: ‘We called ourselves PVC2, because we knew if it was Slik nobody would buy it – though it became pretty clear when Slik played the songs live. We sold 18,000 copies – not bad at all and the biggest-selling record Zoom ever had.’*
NME’s Ian Cranna saw the band live at Edinburgh Odeon and poured superlatives on their performance, describing it as, ‘a magnificent display of blistering high energy rock’n’roll’, before going on to lavish praise on Put You in the Picture. Meanwhile Ian Birch in Melody Maker called the song a ‘diamond’ but like other journalists, when reviewing the record, he spent more time on discussing Slik, a fact that looked fated to never be forgotten.
Despite the creative success of the venture, Slik/PVC2 were still on their last legs but luckily for Midge, he had a very important punk admirer, a famous bass player who’d already tried to lure him to London to join what was guaranteed to become one of the most heavily hyped bands of the era. Since Glen Matlock had left the Pistols – and not been thrown out as Malcolm McLaren preferred to portray his departure – there had been much speculation about his next move. He’d always impressed by the Glaswegian singer and had immediately considered him as a potential front man and guitarist.
Midge Ure, though, wasn’t convinced but was persuaded to troop down to London and hook up and jam with existing members, Matlock, Steve New (who had briefly played in a pre-Rotten version of the Pistols**) and Rusty Egan.
He was adamant that Slik/PVC2 were superior musicians to Rich Kids and even let his potential new bandmates and the music press know it – I bet Glen loved him for that – and he declined the offer to join, meaning their search to find the elusive missing piece of the jigsaw continued.; in September, they played in London twice with Mick Jones of The Clash guesting on vocals and guitar and already obviously had the makings of a good set – that even included an airing of Pretty Vacant.
Midge though would eventually succumb and, early in October ‘77, the Evening Times led with the not entirely accurate headline SLIK STAR QUITS. MIDGE LEAVES TO JOIN PUNK BAND.
Slik played their final British gig at Satellite City in Glasgow and before the year was out Rich Kids were gigging across Europe, where ironically Slik had managed to retain their popularity levels and then fitted in a quickly organised short British tour. In fact, before long they played Satellite City too.
As 1978 dawned, Midge would again be touted as being the next big thing as his new band’s debut release came out in a blaze of publicity on the label that had first signed The Sex Pistols, EMI.
* I think Midge is forgetting The Simple Minds originally being on Zoom here.
**As for the tale of Midge being asked to front The Sex Pistols in 1975, some other time maybe.