Sunday, 20 May 2012

Contempt breed familiarity

Think it's fair to say there was only one question on the minds of the TOTP1977 nation after Thursday night's first show...



Who the hell were Contempt? What was so fascinating before Thursday, and has continued to fascinate those who care ever since, is in this information age nobody seemed to know anything about them bar a few meagre technical clues on a discography page, and certainly nobody knew or remembered what it sounded like - precious few Google hits for the song title, as stated in the recap not even the estate of its producer Martin Rushent knew anything, yet clearly so much was thought of them by someone in a power of responsibility and influence that they got to open Top Of The Pops one week. Luckily, over the last 48 hours details have begun to emerge, some from the bassist's daughter on the doyouremember forums (and she didn't believe his claims until the repeat), so consider this your primer on a band who you've never heard of before (and this goes as much for hardened pop/chart watchers who were there at the time) and almost certainly never will again.

Contempt were Howard Paul (vocals), Chris Jarrett (guitar), Robin Langridge (keyboard), Nick Pallett (bass) and Stuart Skinner (drums). Pallett had been in Dandelion Records band Principal Edwards Magic Theatre; Paul had fronted Asylum, who played with the likes of Sailor, Camel and UFO around 1974-75 and had through which he'd gained a reputation for adopting a 'stockbroker' image, something as you can see he maintained. Asylum are described here as "reminiscent of Genesis with shades of Steve Harley" and having "a tremendous sense of theatre". After they finished Paul retreated to open mike nights and through links made there formed a new band. By June 1977 Contempt were touring with the Kursaal Flyers, one press release claiming Money Is A Girl's Best Friend "wasn't typical", though as it mentions Queen influences and RP accents it can't be that comparatively outlandish.

In fact Polydor, who'd been due to release the single a day after TOTP, messed up distribution so it didn't chart at all and as a result didn't back the album despite it already being recorded with Rushent. A few months later the members physically fell out and Contempt came to a halt. As for later work Paul released a cover of Mack The Knife on Elton John's Rocket label in 1979, Jarrett is credited with guitar and programming on Toni Halliday's pre-Curve solo album, while Langridge went on to help launch Karel Fialka - he's one of the people in the background here - as well as play with natural bedfellows Ofra Haza and Ivor Biggun, and before any of that had, in a continuation of Thursday night's theme, been in a blues band called Punchin' Judy. A documentary short directed by Asheq Akhtar won the London Film Award presented by Tamasha Theatre Company earlier this year, and here it is. The Polydor red 7" he holds up? Yes, that's it:




Now, who were Glamourpuss?

12 comments:

Matra Rancho said...

I'm gonna make a bold statement and say that I've really come to love this record.

Anonymous said...

The drummer looks like the one from Gerry Rafferty's 'Baker Street' video...

Arthur Nibble said...

Still don't like the song, but glad to see details of this mystery band being unearthed. While I remember Bis becoming the first unsigned band to appear on the show, I didn't realise TOTP featured singles that hadn't even been released.

John Fleming said...

I was one of the few who remembered this song but didn't think I liked it. I was pleasantly surprised to see it again, it must have been too quirky for my 8 year old self.

Anonymous said...

Buzzcocks' 'Love You More' featured on TOTP before release.

Asheq said...

Thanks for posting this. Robin showed me an old promo shot of Contempt - signed to Atlantic I believe - which sadly didn't make the final edit (had to replace it with that shot of the Polydor record).

Another one that didn't take off. Robin's told me a good story about this performance too. Contempt were a reserve for TOTP, and the original backing track had been lost (just the vocals were live). Can't recall it all, but I'll try and dig the audio out and put it up somewhere.

Cheers.

WeddingSuit said...

The whole reserve thing is pretty brutal. The "breaker" spot is open to abuse by the producers (we were almost bumped by rock bottom as it was considered more of a potential "national treasure" spot) so I can sympathise. So are you an insider ? The backing tracks from the 3 hour session were religiously taken away in a bag by the MU supe.

Anonymous said...

Am I right in thinking this was Contempt's one and only single?

Andy Roberts said...

Loved the Balkan style rhythms - sounded a lot like a tune by an Israeli band around now called Boom Pam - was there any more in this vein from Contempt?

A wonderful surprise and one of the best reasons to watch this unedited, unfiltered re-runs of TOTP. Would be great if the BBC added TOTP2 style captions to satisfy our curiousity as to who they were and where they are now.

Simon said...

As far as we know there was nothing else released to the public by Contempt, so we can but wonder.

I actually think not having captions makes these repeats all the better, but if you want further details live @TOTP1977 is worth a follow.

Anonymous said...

I was the keyboard player and founder member of Asylum, Howard Paul's previous band. Contempt were put together from the ashes of Asylum. Howard was an extremely difficult person to work with, especially after he started to think he WAS the persona we had given him whilst he was in Asylum! When we auditioned him he was so awkward onstage we invented his stockbroker persona to cover his lack of rock n roll.
We had one single produced by Tony Visconti that was never released. At that point I left....

mike said...

Mike

Hello Anonymous. Can you give me any details of the proposed single like titles for example. Presumably it exists somewhere in demo form.
I have read the reviews of gigs at Friars Aylesbury. Can you recall these and any others.
I am involved in a book being produced about 70s bands and I have been researching unsigned or unreleased stuff. Be great to hear more about Asylum. Where did you go after the band broke up?