A 101 on 101 Club

I first posted this album eons ago, and it sounded like complete dogshit. In my ongoing effort to redeem myself for my ceramic needle USB-turntable early days, here it is again, re-recorded with decent equipment.

Live Letters – Bands Featured Live at the 101 Club


This is a very interesting record, and I wish I knew more about the people who made it. Apparently the 101 Club was a venue in  South London in the early 80s, but I don’t know for how long, who owned it, or if it was important to any scene or style of music. It’s long gone, and since the Sex Pistols probably never played there, no one seems to care about it today. In addition to being a club, 101 was also a label, putting out recordings of shows performed at the venue.

Of the 101 records I have, Live Letters is the best. It has the perfect combination of bands you probably know with bands you probably don’t, and it also does a great job of showcasing the crossroads of new wave music at the time. In one corner, you have bands like Endgames, who were sticking firmly to the Kraftwerk/David Bowie/Gary Numan ideal of the late 70s. And then in the other you have acts like Wang Chung and The Fixx, who were actively embracing pop music and the conventions of mainstream rock. Then there are bands like Fay Ray, who seem to be trying to do both.

It also has a hysterical back cover full of bizarre little news articles. Click on the pics to read them, and enjoy the tunes.

Wang Chung
You’ve Taken Everything
I Don’t Believe A Word
Journey Without Maps
By far the biggest band in Live Letters is Wang Chung, which were still going by Huang Chung here. In a humorous bit before the first song, one of the members actually tells the audience how to pronounce the band’s name. Here’ s a protip for all you kids out there in bands with wacky names: if you need to tell your fans how to pronounce it, then you should change the name.

None of these songs were ever released on any studio albums by the group, which is a real shame. “You’ve Taken Everything” has a great hook and bridge and “I Don’t Believe A Word’ is late-70s new wave at its best, high intensity and just about two steps away from punk when it gets to the fast-paced chorus (maybe five steps away when you consider the saxaphone). Speaking of the sax, “Journey Without Maps” might have one of the best opening sax melodies of the 80s outside of “Careless Whisper.”

As much as I love me some “Everybody Wang Chung Tonight,” it would have been interesting to have seen more music like this from the group.

Intermission – 101 Records Commercial
A silly faux-commerical for 101 Records

Endgames
Works
Visions Of
Stare 
Endgames never made it. They were an also-ran band in the over-crowded new wave scene of the greater UK/Scotland/Ireland/Wales areas, released two albums, and quickly vanished. However, if their Wikipedia page is accurate (and we all know Wikipedia is always right), they were sampled by Heavy D. Which means they win at life, at least a little bit.

Of all the bands on Live Letters, Endgames is the most stereotypically synthpop. No saxaphones to be found here, just cold, cold keyboards and dark, brooding vocals. These dudes liked David Bowie a lot.

The Fixx
Acrobat
Soho Alley
Eye For Design
Credited as “The Fix” here, this live recording shows a band in transition. “Acrobat” is a semi-experimental tune with some obvious Joy Division influence, while “Eye For Design” is a poppy, fun, upbeat pop tune that could have easily been the B-side to The Fixx’s megahit “One Thing Leads To Another,” and “Soho Alley” is a little bit of both. All are good tunes, but none are “Red Skies” quality.

Intermission – 101 Records Commercial No. 2
Another goofy promo extolling the awesomeness of 101.

Fay Ray
Do What You Want To Do
Dreams of Heart
Modern Lovers
No, not the actress who was in King Kong (that’s Fay Wray). And no, not the Japanese singer Fayray. This is Fay Ray, a new wave band that completely fell off the face of the Earth. I know next to nothing about them, but they did release one album, and if it’s anything like these tracks then I’m totally going to have to track down a copy.  Lead singer Sheila Macartney’s voice is very unique, with an odd wavering aspect that really gives her a feeling of vulnerability and emotion you rarely heard in new wave music at the time. Both “Do What You Want To Do” and “Modern Lovers” have an upbeat feeling that almost give them a 60s British Invasion vibe, while “Dreams of Heat” is a haunting ballad that best shows off Macartney’s stunning vocals. A great way to close the album.

7 Responses to “A 101 on 101 Club”

  1. Hi there,
    I remember listening to Fay Ray at gig somewhere in the North Wales Mountains. They
    did a song with the line: Fighting in the kitchen, repeated in the lyrics. It was excellent as I recall
    and the band were really impressive too. As far as I remember this was the late seventies early eighties

  2. Pete the Pick says:

    Hi, a bit of info for you: the 101 Club was in Clapham, indeed South London, and a band I played in, The Form, played there 7 times between September 80 and January 81, when we split. The day after one of those gigs, I was in the club when Endgames did their recording: it was a Sunday night, and there must have been all of 15 people in the building! Got talking to them (well, it was almost unavoidable, there being so few people there), and they were a nice bunch of Scottish lads, though I rather think they were on their best behaviour, it being a recording event, as somebody I met later said they were normally right piss-heads who screwed up college gigs by getting plastered. Anyway, I thought they were pretty good, and ended up buying a couple of singles, including “First-Last-For Everything”, and their album “Building Beauty”. I knew The Fix also, seeing them there a couple of times. It was a good little club, run by a guy called Bob Salmons, who himself played in a band called The Works. Rory Lyons, drummer with King Kurt, worked behind the bar before they got a bit big.

  3. GUY says:

    Yeh the 101 was a great venue.
    I was in a band called Red letters and we played there several times between 80-81 in between U2,Holly and the Italians an those mentioned above .I do remember Rory well,the last time I saw him was in the 90s and he was working with some upcoming band called Manic Street preachers
    Would love to hear from anyone from those days- still have some photos somewhere.
    Cheers

  4. David says:

    I remember the 101 club from back in the early 80’s.
    I saw a band there named “Masked Orchestra” who I thought were
    quite remarkable. They, along with thousands of others, never quite made it but
    great none the less.
    I often wondered what happened to those guys.

  5. ian says:

    I remember the 101 club
    went there many times saw killing joke there and lots of other groups.
    Used to live in croydon it was easy to get to so often went there to see what was on.

    Great venue fond memories

  6. adrian says:

    I loved the 101club …101 st John’s Hill, London SW11..near clapham jnc B.R. It was open seven nights a week and was considered the sister club to the Rock Graden Convent gdn.
    More bands than I remember Captain Sensible, Webster Frank Salmons are names that I think of U2 I will follow playing on the duke box. A two level slim and often sweaty sticky drink floor smoke screened bar frenzy mad house and well worth dicussion..mmmh

  7. Mark Timlin says:

    Blimey, this takes me back. I ran the club as manager back in 1979 for a year or more. What a dump it as, but hosted many a rocking night. StoriesIcould tell…

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