'Memories are meaningless without emotion.'
The music and culture of your youth has the ability to open up a gateway to new ideas, attitudes, politics and alternative ways of living and being creative that can shape you and take you on a path throughout your life. January 1980, I was already on that path and it was starting to widen. Punk/Post Punk, D.I.Y record and cassette labels, fanzines, John Peel, gigs and record shops as meeting points for like minds. That month, myself and a friend went to see The Clash at Glasgow Apollo (with Mickey Dread as support), we hung about after the gig and met them, Joe Strummer put us on the guest list for the next night. We arrived on the second night armed with our assorted Clash vinyl hoping to get it signed, after the gig we managed to get backstage and Joe asked what we were doing with ourselves, I said I wanted to start a fanzine, maybe a label. He proceeded to tell me that I should just do it, don’t just talk about it, or else I’ll wake up one day full of regrets for what might have been. The band graciously signed everything we had and we headed for home feeling elated and inspired. Within the year I was writing to bands and the fanzine was developing into the ‘Pleasantly Surprised’ cassette label. One of the bands I wanted to include was Vee VV after listening to the wonderful ‘Love Canal’ flexi that came with the equally wonderful Blam! fanzine. Letters were exchanged, cassettes, flyers and posters were received and a few weeks later I was heading through to Edinburgh Uni to see them supporting The Membranes. Suitably blown away I organised a gig for them in Glasgow (Henry Afrika’s) and went to visit them in Poulton, near Blackpool. Sitting in on rehearsals and flicking through singer Mark Ormrod’s notebooks of lyrics and ideas, watching these new friends create music full of energy and youthful zest was an exciting, exhilarating time.
Like The Clash, the band influenced my politics, outlook and musical education (Mark sent me mix tapes of Charlie Parker, The Pop Group, James Chance, Lydia Lunch, Suicide, Augustus Pablo...). In what seemed like no time at all I’d started a record label and they were to be my first 7” single release with ‘Kindest Cut‘ / ‘The Romance Is Over.’ I travelled to Blackpool, London and Manchester to stay with them and watch them play live, many times, in headline and support slots, in what was an incendiary amalgam of razor sharp lyrics delivered with passion and charisma, precision drumming, angular, chiming guitars awash with melody and driving bass lines.
They had presence, the stance, the determination and some excellent graphics but sadly, like many creative units, their time was short and despite some sterling releases and a good reputation they didn’t achieve the wider critical success that I personally felt they truly deserved. Last year (2019) I was back in touch with Martin Reynolds, the bass player for Vee VV. We had lost touch in the intervening years and as that was pre internet if someone moved with no forwarding address it was almost impossible to track them down. Phone calls were made but alas everyone had moved on. When we met up in Edinburgh (the very place where we first met) we managed to pick up where we had left of, the friendship and the passion for doing ‘something creative’ was still there. Martin told me that the band had reformed to deal with ‘unfinished business’ and that a compilation CD was being planned for release. I jumped at the chance of the invitation to write the sleeve notes for the accompanying booklet. Suitably inspired I headed home and lost myself in their online archive of live gig photos, promo shots, sleeve images and relaxed moments captured at rehearsal sessions. Looking through the photographs the memories of happy and exciting times when anything felt possible, and frequently was, came flooding back in a way that the music could only partly do.
Obviously biased, I can highly recommend the CD collection ‘Payola’, it gives a glimpse into their fiery beginnings and a great indication as to just where that flame was heading. Plus it contains photographs...
All images used are copyright and courtesy of Vee VV