C86 Show - Indie Pop

David Balfe special talking about Teardrop Explodes, Zoo & Food Records

July 26, 2019

David Balfe special talking about his life in music, the Teardrops, Zoo & Food records and much much more.

Balfe and Drummond, having met while playing together in Big in Japan, founded the Zoo record label in 1978 in order to release Big in Japan's posthumous EP From Y to Z and Never Again. The label went on to sign and release the early work of The Teardrop Explodes and Echo & the Bunnymen.

Balfe and Drummond did their production work under the name of The Chameleons, and also released the singles "Touch" and "The Lonely Spy" – credited to Lori and The Chameleons – on the Zoo label, later licensing them to Sire/Korova.

Although they released a few other artists, The Teardrop Explodes and Echo & the Bunnymen grew to take up most of their time. Eventually, due to lack of finance, they signed both bands to major London Record Companies and continued to manage them, while letting the label fade into inactivity.

Balfe and Drummond's publishing company, Zoo Music, signed many of the above and below artists, as well as multi-million selling acts The Proclaimers in 1987 and Drummond's later band The KLF.

Balfe began as The Teardrop Explodes' label head, manager and producer, but after their first single, on the departure of their original keyboard player, Paul Simpson, Balfe stepped in for what turned into four years in and out of the band, having a famously tempestuous relationship with their singer, Julian Cope. He played keyboards on their Top 10 single, "Reward", and their two gold albums, Kilimanjaro (1980) & Wilder (1981).

After The Teardrop Explodes disbanded in 1983, Balfe moved to London where, after managing Strawberry Switchblade (UK top 5 Hit, "Since Yesterday") and Brilliant (the post-Killing Joke band of subsequently famous producer, Youth), he then founded the Food record label in 1984.

Food, initially funded by Balfe alone, signed Voice of the Beehive, Zodiac Mindwarp (both of whom moved on to major labels, while Balfe continued to manage them for many years), Crazyhead, and Diesel Park West, before signing a deal with EMI to fund and distribute the label worldwide while retaining creative independence.

They then signed Jesus Jones who went on to have a number one album in the UK and multi-million sales internationally with their second album, 'Doubt', and a number one single in the USA with 'Right Here Right Now'. A year after signing Jesus Jones they signed Blur.

Balfe, along with later label partner Andy Ross, convinced the band to change their name from 'Seymour' to Blur on signing in 1989.

Balfe also directed Blur's first two music videos, "She's So High" and "There's No Other Way".

Disenchanted with the alternative scene in the years of "Grunge", Balfe decided to sell the Food label to EMI in 1994, and semi-retire with his young family to the country – inspiring Damon Albarn to pen Blur's first No.1 hit, "Country House"


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