The Comsat Angels, C.S. Angels, The Headhunters, Dream Command...  All this & more
I first heard of The Comsat Angels in early 1979 when a friend excitedly waved a copy of their Red Planet EP at me, but the band had already been going for some time if you count their earlier incarnation as Radio Earth, who people used to say sounded something like Bebop Deluxe (remember them? I don’t). 
They made three LP’s for Polydor between 1980-82 and despite hardly ever receiving a bad review they were destined to remain one of those acts only the music papers liked.  They never got anywhere.  The problem in part was lack of promotion.  With Polydor they were just there.  They weren’t a big money signing so nobody made the effort to make them successful, so they weren’t.  The period produced its fair share of classic songs all the same, (Do The) Empty House perhaps the best, Independence Day certainly the best known.
1983 saw a transfer to Jive Records, where they joined an illustrious roster which includes Tight Fit, Lesley Ash, Percy Thrower and George Best & Mary Stavin’s Shape Up For Sex routine.  A Jive Records tour featuring all these acts would really be something.  The change has brought some obvious results in terms of a higher profile.  Comsat Angels singles now get played on daytime radio:  the rerecorded Independence Day was on the Simon Bates show almost daily weeks after it was obviously not going to be a hit.  And they’ve done jingles for Radio 1, a radio In Concert show, one of them even appeared on Pop Quiz.  How did they achieve all this?  “Crawling”, according to Comsat Angel Kevin Bacon, and I believe him.
You Move Me advert from Sounds 12/5/84
When (Do The) Empty House came out Dave McCullough said it was a good record but it wouldn’t be a hit because they looked like your binmen.  The “dustbin men of rock” tag stuck, and perhaps it hurt, because these days the group are definitely more image conscious.  “In order to get another record deal we had to look as though we’d had some hit singles” says Steve Fellows.  Problem is, they’re getting a bit old for the cover of Smash Hits.
The sound has changed too.  They say going into a studio, recording a song just as they’ve rehearsed it and leaving it at that is lazy.  So they spend longer recording, use more equipment and take time to get it finished just as they want it.  In my opinion its not a change for the better.  Of their 4 LP’s my favourite is still their first, Waiting For A Miracle.  Some of us still adhere to the Luddite spirit of ’77. Technology subjugates the soul.  Changing recording techniques is the groups justification for the revamping of Independence Day last year.  They like the song and so do I but it was blatantly flogging a dead horse – after all these years they could have come out with another obvious potential hit.
Looking ahead, in September ’84 I visited Battery Studios in Willesden where the group were recording a new LP which should be out more or less as you read this.  Don’t expect it to make them stars overnight.  I can’t help thinking The Comsat Angels have been left behind by the changes in the UK music market over the past few years.  America, of course, could be a completely different prospect – the rock group lives on, MTV doesn’t let you get close enough to spot the wrinkles, and they have a real cult following to build on.  Their last American tour was cut short when one of the group (Kevin, I think) was struck down with appendicitis.   They can’t wait to get back, and America should welcome them.
But are they hungry enough?  Steve admits that their hopes and expectations have swung so many times between believing they were on the brink of megastardom to just not caring that these days they just take what comes.  I thought the smaller set-up at Jive would mean they were under pressure to succeed.  I suppose they can’t afford groups to fail?
“Who, Jive?  Oh no, Jive are loaded!”
I wish them all the best.  The Comsat Angels are very nice people, they’re talented and they’ve paid their dues, several times.
Overground Fanzine 1985
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