(The exclamation mark is an optional extra)
Formed: Leeds, North Yorkshire, England, UK
BAND MEMBERS (1980-1982):
Vocals: Judy 'Jo' Evans
Guitar: James Alan (real name Jez Pritchatt) (ex-S.O.S!, pre-Sexbeat; pre-The Tall Boys; pre-Sadodada!)
Bass: Gerard Swift (ex-S.O.S!)
Drums 1980: Chris Oldroyd (ex-S.O.S!, pre-Music For Pleasure)
Drums 1980: Paul Simon
Drums 1980-1982: Carl Harper (ex-The Expelaires)
"How can four people pack so much excitement into two minutes" - Ed Stewart, Capital Radio
We may never know why this quartet from Leeds - singer Judy 'Jo' Evans and three male cohorts – gave themselves such a daft and inappropriate name, but they briefly lit up the independent/alternative sector with what began as a vaguely Modettes/Gang of 4-ish/feminist brand of agit-pop but swiftly evolved into sublimely infectious indie-pop by the time of Pleasure, an album which more than lives up to its name. o wonder John Peel has been quoted as saying that GAOB made the early 80's"bearable".
Gerard Swift, Chris Oldroyd and James Allan all played in a 77-vintage punk band called S.O.S.!. At some point Jo joined and S.O.S! became an "atonal experimental experience" called The Butterflies, but this band split in late 1979. However, a demo tape had found its way into the Rough Trade demo tray and they were encouraged to reform, which they did, as Girls At Our Best! (They took the name from a song on that demo, 'Warm Girls').
Getting Nowhere Fast, their splendid debut single, was released on their own label and remains (to my ears) their best and roughest recording. At barely two-minutes long, it is a veritable feast of scratchy guitars, with Evans' off-key squeak and a distinctive cut-off ending its most distinctive qualities. The B-Side is more measured and even more effective, with a super-cool bass solo in the middle that lodges into your head and refuses to leave. It sold 7,000 copies - no mean feat.
Over the course of three more singles and a Peel Session they refined and honed their craft: the music became more polished and Jo's vocals more high-pitched and affected, always off-key and rarely in tune but rather lovely to behold. Single No. 2 Politics! (1980) was a quirky, wry look at political campaigns, and was issued in the US (in a sleeve exclaiming: "A special tribute to the celebrate the 1980 presidential elections") and even Australia.
ABOVE: Publicity photo to promote 'Pleasure', and the stencil from the 'Pleasure Bag'
They signed to Happy Birthday Records in 1981 and released two more cracking singles, Go For Gold and Fast Boyfriends, and finally an LP: Pleasure really is a pleasure, sort of an English indie equivalent of Parallel Lines, with delightful odes to foreign travel ('China'), dreams of stardom ('£600,000'), hedonism ('Fun-City Teenagers'), romance ('Fast Boyfriends') and all things aquatic ('Waterbed Babies'). With bright and shiny production, as well as Thomas Dolby on synthesiser, it's a charmer. For collectors, the LP came with a free “Pleasure Bag", basically a paper bag into which various cheapo gifts were shoved.
Despite the rave reviews and strong sales that the LP generated, the band fizzled out in 1982, Some of the group carried on with musical careers, but the whereabouts of the publicity-shunning Jo Evans is known only by herself, her family and friends.
ABOVE: Images from the 'Pleasure Bag'