NEON HEARTSBand

Formed: Wolverhampton, West Midlands, England, UK

Band Bio / Discography

Note: All photographs below were taken by Aidan Sullivan (black and white shots) and Jack Harrington (colour).

Standard issue '77 punk, maybe, but responsible for the stunningly good Venus Eccentric (b/w 'Regulations') single, one of those infectious, energetic and powerful single that is still a joy to listen to. What a great record! Unfortunately, after this the band began to flounder, allegedly because Satril, the square WEA-owned label to which they signed in 1978, didn't know what to do with them, battled with the band over what to record and release, and plainly did not have a plan of action. The third single, Popular Music, was supposed to be an attack on the music industry but the lyrics were watered down to achieve airplay (irony) which it didn't get anyway (double irony), and the album of the same name, when released shortly after, sank without trace.

Neon Hearts - Punk

Steve Heart, on saxophone, had quit the Suburban Studs because the rest of that band considered it to be a too-unpunky instrument. A few months later, X-Ray Spex were doing the rounds and attracting a lot of attention with Lora Logic's sax noises, which provides how wrong they were. So there you have it: the Studs were almost certainly the first punk band to feature a saxophonist.

Anyway, Steve formed Neon Hearts in summer '77 with his cousin Paul Raven. The original lineup was:

Steve Heart - saxophone
Paul Raven - bass
Keith Allen - drums
Martin Ratcliffe - guitar
Tone Dial (real name Tony Deary) - vocals

Tone Dial had been recruited after they had seen him performing Bowie covers at local clubs. They recorded their first demo in Autumn 1977, at Ginger Studios, and in December released 'Venus Eccentric' on their own label in an oversize sleeve that was both distinctive and irritating.

Neon Hearts Live

The band gigged throughout early '78, playing in London, Leeds, cambridge and Exeter, They secured a residency at The Lord Raglan pub in Wolverhampton, and also played at Barbarella's many times, supporting Generation X, Radiators From Space, The Clash and others.

The band's days at Satril, however, were miserable. The label wanted them to go 'funk', and even suggested they contribute material to the Eurovision song contest. Second single Answers was released in July against the band's wishes, and Satril made no effort to promote it. I've said what happened to the third single. As for the LP Popular Music, which was produced by Satril boss Henry Haddaway, the band were pressured into recording songs they felt they had outgrown, and had little opportunity to include new material. They were also not allowed to participate in the mixing, Little wonder the LP was a bit of a disaster. Satril didn't pay royalties either.

Neon Hearts

After the LP was recorded, but before it was released, there was a lineup shuffle. Allen and Ratcliffe both left to join the boring Mod band The Circles. Dial began playing guitar as well as singing and a new drummer, Mark Fuller, came into the picture.

The lineup, then, was:

Steve Heart - saxophone
Tone Dial - vocals, guitar
Paul Raven - bass
Mark Fuller - drums

This new lineup recorded another demo and, in March '79, a John Peel Session, featuring four songs.

Satril finally released the LP in April but it didn't do too much. The LP had been previewed with a storming appearance on the BBC TV show 'Look Hear, where the band performed impressive versions of 'Popular Music' and 'Synchronisation', but that had been filmed in late '78, months before the LP got released, so it didn't really help. Dial then decided he'd had enough, and the band folded. Bassist Paul Raven then joined Burned Out Stars but found greater fame fame in Killing Joke, Brilliant and Prong. Tone played in two bands, first Fashion and then Silhouette Theatre.

Neon Hearts - Tone Dial

In 1980, Steve Heart however had another ideas...well, the same one really: let's reform Neon Hearts. And so he did, with this lineup:

Steve Heart - saxophone
Tone Dial - vocals, guitar, keyboards
Martin Ratcliffe - bass
Mark Spruce - drums

Live shows resumed and the new band recorded some demos between December 1980 and March 1981, but nothing came of all this new activity and the band split for good. Later that year Dial, Spruce and Heart formed a new band - 21C - which went nowhere.

Ratcliffe is now an Estate Agent in Wolverhampton, Keith plays in the now reformed Circles, Dial is now a mechanic in Wolverhampton, Steve Heart runs a city centre rehearsal studio called Beat Foundry and also manages The Planet rock venue. (Paul Raven sadly died in 2007.)

As of 2014, Dial (Deary), Ratcliffe and Allen have got the Neon Hearts back together and are about to tour Japan, where they have a cult following. (Check out the 2011 Neon Hearts tribute CD which was released on the Simply Thrilling label.)

Neon Hearts in the Studio

DISCOGRAPHY

Singles / Albums

Neon Hearts - Venus Eccentric Neon Hearts - Answers Neon Hearts - Popular Music 7" Neon Hearts - Popular Music LP
Venus Eccentric
(7", 1977)
Answers (7", 1978) Popular Music (7", 1979) Popular Music
(LP, 1979)

Extraneous Releases

Neon Hearts - Ball & Chain Chelsea / The Adverts / Neon Hearts - Box Set    
Ball & Chain (CD, 1997) Box Set (5xCD, box set, split with The Adverts and Chelsea, 2008)    

Various Artists

Short Sharp Shock UK CD 1996 (Overground): Regulations / Venus Eccentric

England Belongs To Me Japan LP 1996 (77 Records): Regulations

Links

WIKIPEDIA

PAUL VINCENT RAVEN Obituary

PUNK 77 - Info

YOU TUBE - Great footage of the band playing two songs for the BBC TV show 'Look Hear'

JUNK ARCHIVE - Neon Japan – Tribute Album To Neon Hearts

OVERGROUND RECORDS

 

You can add stuff and make comments/corrections by emailing me at:

jane@punkygibbon.co.uk

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