C86 Show - Indie Pop

The Wild Swans with Paul Simpson in conversation

April 22, 2019

The Wild Swans special with Paul Simpson in conversation

The Wild Swans formed in 1980 when Paul Simpson, who had left The Teardrop Explodes after the recording of their first single, teamed up (on vocals) with Jeremy Kelly (guitar), Ged Quinn(keyboards), James Weston (bass) and Justin Stavely (drums).

An opportunity arose when Pete de Freitas of Echo & the Bunnymen (an old friend and flatmate of Simpson's) agreed to fund their first single "The Revolutionary Spirit" (1982, Zoo Records). Stavely had dropped out of the band, so De Freitas ended up financier, drummer and producer for the single;  he was credited under his middle names, Louis Vincent. The single spent 9 weeks on the UK Independent Chart, peaking at no. 13.

Despite turning out to be Zoo's last ever release, the single received a measure of critical acclaim and in time, developed cult status. Subsequent to the release of "The Revolutionary Spirit", weekly rehearsals were given a degree of urgency when the band was offered a BBC Radio 1 John Peel session. Songs on this session, all written by the team of Simpson, Quinn and Kelly, include "No Bleeding", "Enchanted" and "Thirst". By this point, the band was rounded out by two new members: Baz Hughes (bass) and Joe McKechnie (drums).

The Wild Swans were sporadically active in the early 1980s; touring with Echo and The Bunnymen in 1981 following a residency with The Teardrop Explodes. A David Jensen session came in spring 1982, with the band penning and performing "The Iron Bed", "Flowers Of England" and "Now You're Perfect". The group split very soon after this BBC Radio 1 session was broadcast.

Post-split: Care and The Lotus Eaters (1982–1985)

Once the band split, Kelly and Quinn started up The Lotus Eaters with co-founder Peter Coyle. Simpson followed suit with the duo Care, teaming up with Ian BroudieStrangely, Arista Records, who had refused to sign The Wild Swans, then snapped up both of the offshoots.

Both groups issued several singles. The Lotus Eaters scoring a chart hit, and releasing an album in 1984. Care, meanwhile, reached number 48 in the UK charts with the single "Flaming Sword". Both bands had broken up by 1985, with Care having recorded an unreleased album.

Revival: The Wild Swans, Mark II (1986–1990)

In 1986, the session recorded for the Radio 1 John Peel Show, was finally released on Strange Fruit Records, containing the tracks "No Bleeding", "Enchanted", and "Thirst". It repeated the single's success, peaking at no. 13 on the independent chart. Shortly thereafter, Simpson, Kelly and Quinn got together and began playing once again as The Wild Swans.

By 1988, Quinn had dropped out, Simpson and Kelly were joined on bass by Joe Fearon, and a long-awaited debut album finally emerged. Titled Bringing Home The Ashes(1988, Sire/Reprise Records), and featuring session players on keyboards and drums, it was produced by Paul Hardiman and yielded two singles, "Young Manhood" and "Bible Dreams". Simpson is nowadays disparaging of the sound developed on the album and feels that some of the aura and magic surrounding the (Mark I) Wild Swans had been lost. "Major label thinking is like a virus, you forget why you started the band and fall into the 'hit' record mind-set". He went on to offer even more stark words of wisdom for those thinking of setting up a band: "Major labels suck the poetry from your bones and fill the gaps with a cement made from cocaine and crushed teenagers."

Bringing Home The Ashes was issued in the United States initially, followed by UK and German releases. A near-simultaneous promo-only release called Music and Talk From Liverpool included Wild Swans tracks interspersed with interviews with Jeremy Kelly.

A second album on Sire, Space Flower, was released in 1990, subsequent to the departure of Kelly. It was produced by Ian Broudie, and featured a line-up of Paul Simpson (vocals, mellotron, effects), Joe Fearon (bass), Ian Broudie (guitars, keyboards), Chris Sharrock (drums) and Ian McNabb (additional guitars, vocals).[12][10] Sharrock and McNabb were both of the Liverpool three piece The Icicle Works.[12] Much of the material written for the album had a food-flavoured theme, depicted by the tracks "Melting Blue Delicious", "Tangerine Temple", "Chocolate Bubble-Gum" and "Vanilla Melange". The album was released in the US, Germany and Japan, but not initially in the UK.

The Wild Swans split up again shortly after Space Flower and Simpson went on to form his own project 'Skyray', recording several singles, EPs and albums, and the spoken word project Dream Diaries.