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Monday, March 6, 2017

Ian Mitchell Band, etc. (1979-1983)

The Ian Mitchell Band is yet another challenging albeit interesting subject for the ‘70s teenpop blog. Although reportedly massively successful in the Far East during their time (1979-1980), very little seems to have been documented on them in the intervening decades.  Not to mention their other incarnations La Rox, Identity Crisis and Bachelor of Hearts.  So about bloody time I'll say.  And here, then, is the "whole" fragmented story...
Disillusioned, having left Rosetta Stone in early 1979, Ian Mitchell didn‘t rest on his laurels for long.  On the contrary, he quickly signed up with manager Tay Devlin and several solo demos were promptly recorded with former Rosetta Stone producer (and ex-Tremeloe) Alan Blakley (Sometimes also credited as Alan Blakely).  Among those were original compositions „It‘ll Do You Good“, „Get Down“ and the controversial – child molestation being the subject – „Jailbait“; the latter two of which ended up on the first Ian Mitchell Band album.  On the strength of these a deal was struck with Warner/WEA and by spring ‘79 The Ian Mitchell Band had been formed.  Consisting of Ian on guitar and vocals, along with John Jay (Sometimes spelled Jon, on bass), Paul Jackson (Guitar), Lindsay Honey (Real name: Simon James Honey, on drums) and, a little later, Nicky Diamond (Keyboards).

Lindsay, John and Paul had previously played together in the Artful Dodgers, who released one single, "Here We Go", in 1978, and later evolved into 20th Century Heroes before eventually becoming the Ian Mitchell Band. 

The Ian Mitchell Band debut single „Suddenly You Love Me“, a disco-fied version of The Tremeloes‘ mid ‘60s hit, was released in Japan in time for their successful late August tour of the country, to be followed by an album of the same name in November.  Confusingly, „Lonely Nites“ was the European single (autumn ’79) and album (early 1980), neither of which did anything chart-wise.


The „Lonely Nites“/“Suddenly You Love Me“ album suffered somewhat from over-production.  The material itself deserved better, comprising of covers and band originals in equal measure.
Del Shannon‘s „I Go to Pieces“ had been earmarked for the first Rosetta Stone album two years earlier, while the Carole King/Gerry Goffin chestnut „Goin‘ Back“ was done few favours by the aforementioned over-production.  Canadian Swiss-born singer/songwriter Phil Carmen (no relation to Eric) was drafted in to supply „Only Seventeen“, a bitter-sweet ballad, and to co-write the mid-tempo single cut „Lonely Nites“ with producer Blakley, both of which were clear teenpop fodder.
The band originals included Paul Jackson‘s bouncy „Having a Good Time“, a couple of Mitchell/Jay co-writes, „Jennifer Squeeze“ and „Crazy Way of Life“, and „Get Down“ and „Jailbait“, remnants of that Ian Mitchell solo demo session, reappeared.

Indifference from critics and the public alike pretty much rendered the practice futile from the start.  Ian blamed the record company for its short-sightedness by catering to the rapidly vanishing teenpop market.  Consequently WEA dropped the Ian Mitchell Band - in all markets except for Japan where the „Suddenly You Love Me“ album had fared quite well.  Thus, „Goin‘ Crazy“, the second IMB album came to fruition, where a much more interesting aspect of the band was explored.

Although the band – and production - personnel was the same as on the first album one could not be blamed for thinking otherwise since it sounded like a complete different scene altogether. 

Of the 12 tracks only one, Pete Bite‘s „Peekaboo Love“, came from an outside source.  The stronger efforts included „Everybody‘s on the Fiddle“ (Believe it or not, not dissimilar to something like Blur might‘ve done 15 years later, at the very height of Brit Pop!), the pure pop of „Hold on to Love“ and „Take Me Back“, not to mention the weirdness of „ABCD I Love Me“, and then-current musical trends like ska being light-heartily explored in tracks like, well, „Ska Music“.  Furthermore, the naughty side of IMB got an outlet in the title track, „Peekaboo Love“ and the slightly sexist „Girls“.
 

Which brings us to the rather unfortunate yet inescapable X-rated escapades of the Ian Mitchell Band.  Before the band began drummer Lindsay Honey made his living as male stripper Hot Rod (Partly due to his visual resemblance to Rod Stewart, I guess) as well as appearing in the occasional X-rated film.  Parallel to the Japan-only release of the „Goin‘ Crazy“ album there was an adult video tape of the same name unleashed on the then-burgeoning home video market in the U.K.  Ian told music weekly Sounds in August 1980 that the film „is a really dirty type of ‘Saturday Night Fever‘.  But it‘s all based on fact.  Our life IS one long love-in – sex, sex and more sex.“
Now that being told, the album and the single „Take Me Back“ were issued in Japan during the summer of 1980.  By that autumn though both Paul Jackson and Nicky Diamond had left the band, and were replaced by Lea Hart (Guitar) and Kim Wylie, who took over on drums while Lindsay Honey assumed keyboard and tambourine duties.  In the mid-‘80s Jackson released a lone solo single, „The Story of Gone With the Wind“, a tad reminiscent of a-ha, while later carving out a career as a Freddie Mercury impersonator of some repute.  He currently resides in Thailand.

Lea Hart (Real name Barry Hart), a talented and versatile songwriter, had a long career behind him.  Having first come to prominence in the mid ‘70s as a member of the heavy rock/glam band Slowbone, he had also toured as a support solo act with Judas Priest and recorded one album with superb power pop outfit Roll-Ups.  As if that wasn‘t enough he – and the Roll-Ups – also played a vital role on Joan Jett‘s eponymous solo album in 1980, which was post „I Love Rock & Roll“ repackaged and retitled as „Bad Reputation“.
Wylie, meanwhile, was better known on the U.K. new wave/punk circuit as John Towe, having honed his skills with seminal – some would even say legendary - acts such as Chelsea, The Adverts, and Generation X.
In late August of 1980 this new incarnation of the Ian Mitchell Band embarked on a tour of Japan while a second single off the „Goin‘ Crazy“ album, „Peekaboo Love“, was prepared for a regional relase.
Upon returning to the U.K. further gigging ensued.  Eventually, though, the band was renamed La Rox – undoubtedly in an effort to re-establish itself as a more serious musical entity as well as distancing itself further from its teenpop past.  Just a retroactive guess, mind you.  The first La Rox gig was at the Embassy Club in London on July 2nd 1981.
(Photo courtesy of Dave Thompson)
A new image was constructed.  Glammed and tarted-up the boys took to „the road“ – i.e. the clubs of London.  Their gig at the legendary Marquee club in Wardour street in Soho will be remembered infinitely by all who attended.  Music writer Dave Thompson, who ran the La Rox fan club for a while, says „I still rank La Rox among the best live bands I ever saw – they had great songs, great musicianship, and they knew how to put on a great show, no matter how silly it sometimes looked.“  Ian Mitchell has given great credit to Lea Hart and his songwriting abilities in this aspect as well: „The man was absolutely brilliant when it came to composing the music for La Rox!  In fact, at one point, almost half of the songs that La Rox used during our set were written by Lea“. 

So, naturally, when it came to committing some of this stuff to tape, Lea‘s songs were at the top of the litter.  „Photograph (It Doesn‘t Matter)“ was recorded for a proposed debut single but before that could happen bassist John Jay upped and left the band, so the single was scrapped.  Jay briefly joined the Hitmen and recorded with them at least one single – „Ouija“ in 1981 – before rejoining Lea Hart in a rejuvenated Roll-Ups in 1982.  Lea Hart & The Roll-Ups then re-recorded „Photograph“ with Japanese singer Ann Lewis for her solo album „La Saison D‘amour“ (1982), which was produced by Lea Hart.

Replacing John Jay in La Rox was one Murray Ward.  With him the band recorded another Lea Hart composition, „Can I Bring You Love“, previously released as a single by Hart‘s old band Slowbone way back in 1977.  The La Rox recording of it, however, was also eventually scrapped, although Lea Hart & the Roll-Ups, including John Jay, later recorded a version of it for a Japan-only album in 1982.
Meanwhile, Lindsay Honey, Kim Wylie and Lea Hart had formed Small Ads, a band that released three novelty singles on Bronze Records in 1981; the most popular of which, „Small Ads“, reached number 63 in the U.K. singles chart in April 1981.  Consequent releases, „HP Man“ and „Friday-Nite Cowboys“, however failed to impress and that was the last anyone ever heard from Small Ads.

While Lindsay, Lea and Kim had their fun with Small Ads, Ian became a part-time DJ and an occasional member of Splodgenessabounds of „Two Pints of Lager and a Packet of Crisps Please“ fame, although he apparently had absolutely nothing to do with that particular piece of popular culture.

Lea Hart then left La Rox and reformed his Roll-Ups with John Jay and others and a Japan-only album, „Lea Hart & The Roll-Ups“ was issued in early 1982.  Later that same year The Roll-Ups also appeared on that Ann Lewis album which Lea also produced – a task he also undertook on the second Panache album, „Heartbreak School“ (1982). 
Later on Lea Hart & the Roll-ups evolved into the Lea Hart Band which then became Ya-Ya which included ex-Panache members Terry Jackson (Bass) and Graham Garrett (Drums).  By then John Jay was long gone, and as Lea recently commented, „John just vanished years ago, no-one seems to know anything about him.“
Lea himself though has enjoyed a long and successful career in the music business, both as a performer,  either solo or in groups such as Fastway, and as a manager of ex-Iron Maiden singer Paul Di‘Anno.
After Lea‘s departure La Rox became Identity Crisis – less glam, more straight ahead no- frills pop-rock – and promptly recorded a new album with old hand Alan Blakley.  The band now consisted of Ian Mitchell (Guitar, vocals); Murray Ward (Bass), Lindsay Honey (Keyboards), and Kim Wylie (Drums).

The first – and only – Identity Crisis single „Eloise“/“Boulevard L.A.“ was issued on FMR Records in the U.K. in 1982.  It did absolutely nothing.  „Eloise“ was a credible cover of the grandiose late ‘60s Barry Ryan hit which ironically enough became a Top 3 U.K. for The Damned less than four years later.

By the time the album „On the Boulevard“ eventually arrived in 1983 Identity Crisis had become Bachelor of Hearts.  The record was only ever released in Japan and a couple of European territories (Holland and, er, Romania).  By then Gary Cotter had joined on guitar and vocals and, oddly enough, Pat McGlynn, Ian Mitchell‘s replacement in the Bay City Rollers in 1976, was pictured on the sleeve of the Japanese issue although he had nothing whatsoever to do with the album as such, but the band later toured Japan billed as Bachelor of Hearts featuring Ian Mitchell and Pat McGlynn.

Or perhaps it wasn‘t so odd after all since the Rollers had now reformed as a seven-piece unit completing a successful tour of Japan in July 1983 where a „Live in Japan“ album was recorded at the Budokan hall in Tokyo.  And that, effectively, signalled the end of Bachelor of Hearts.  The Rollers then did a few tours and another album – „Breakout“ (1985) – over the next couple of years before the band imploded amidst personal agronomy and band infighting (See ‘70s Teenpop blog Bay City Rollers - That First Reunion).
As for our current main subjects, the Ian Mitchell Band/La Rox/Identity Crisis/Bachelor of Hearts, after having joined (along with fellow Roller Stuart Wood) and left South African band Passengers, Ian moved to Los Angeles in the late ‘80s where he quickly bumped into Duncan Faure, another ex-Roller, and formed the Joybuzzers, which at one point also included his old IMB chum Lindsay Honey on drums.  Ian became a U.S. citizen sometime around the turn of the century and various endeavours – musical and otherwise – ensued.
(Photo courtesy of Dave Thompson)

Lindsay Honey moved back to the U.K. and assumed the alter-ego Ben Dover; probably the most productive and powerful entity within the British porn industry during the last two decades.  Recently, Lindsay/Ben has been diagnosed with a bladder cancer.  We wish him well.
According to Wikipedia, long time Ian Mitchell producer/collaborator Alan Blakley died of cancer in June 1996, aged 54.  Apart from being a member of The Tremeloes during their most successful spell from the mid-‘60s through to the early ‘70s.  Alan also produced the Rubettes, Rosetta Stone, Bilbo Baggins, and, of course, the Ian Mitchell Band and Identity Crisis/Bachelor of Hearts.
Murray Ward, John Jay‘s replacement in La Rox, has also passed on.  R.I.P.
Former La Rox fan club president Dave Thompson, now a successful music writer, contributes the following info on drummer Kim Wylie/John Towe: „The last I heard about John Towe, and I don‘t know if this is true (although I hope it is), is that he is now a commercial pilot, flying cargo around the world.  Which is a sobering thought...“



Indeed.  And that is all he wrote.

Special thanks to Dave Thompson.

Discography:

Ian Mitchell Band:
45‘s:
„Suddenly You Love Me“/“Only Seventeen“ (Atlantic/WEA Warner-Pioneer P-457A, Japan 1979)
„Lonely Nites“/“Jailbait“ (WEA K 18100, U.K. 1979)
„Lonely Nites“/“Suddenly You Love Me“ (WEA 18 070 N, Germany 1979)
„Lonely Nites“/“Having a Good Time“ (WEA Warner-Pioneer P-501J, Japan 1979)
„Take Me Back“/“Danny‘s on the Dance Floor“ (WEA Warner-Pioneer P-562J, Japan 1980)
„Peekaboo Love“/“Hold on to Love“ (WEA Warner-Pioneer P-624J, Japan 1980)
LP‘s:
„Suddenly You Love Me“ (Atlantic/WEA Warner-Pioneer P-10725A, Japan 1979)
„Lonely Nites“ (WEA 58 070, Germany 1979).  The same LP as above – but a different title & artwork.
„Lonely Nites“ (WEA K 58070, U.K. 1980).  Same as above.
„Goin‘ Crazy“ (WEA Warner-Pioneer P-10872J, Japan 1980).  A Japan-only release.
CD‘s:
„Rearranged“ (Woodpecker Productions Wdpkr 101, U.S.A. 1995).  A compilation also featuring Bachelor of Hearts.
„Suddenly You Love Me“ (Airmail Archive AIRAC-1485, Japan 2008).  A re-issue.
„Goin‘ Crazy“ (Airmail Archive AIRAC-1486, Japan 2008).  A re-issue w/one bonus track.

Identity Crisis:
45:
„Eloise“/“Boulevard L.A.“ (FMR Records FMR 1, U.K. 1982)



Bachelor Of Hearts:
45‘s:
„Boulevard L.A.“/“I‘m a Winner“ (Teichiku, Overseas Records YE-25-V, Japan 1983)
„Boulevard L.A.“/“Get Me Out“ (EMI 1A 006-1271077, the Netherlands 1983)
LP:
„On the Boulevard“ (Teichiku, Overseas Records FEX-24-V, Japan 1983)
„On the Boulevard“ (EMI 1A 068-1271081, the Netherlands 1983)
„On the Boulevard“ (Electrecord ST-ELE 02866, Romania 1986)
CD:
„On the Boulevard“ (Airmail Archive AIRAC-1488, Japan 2008).  A reissue.


Artful Dodgers (Featuring Paul Jackson, John Jay and Lindsay Honey – Pre-IMB!):
45:
„Here We Go“/“Sing It Again“ (Cat Records SELEC 015, U.K. 1978)

Small Ads (Featuring Lindsay Honey, Lea Hart and Kim Wylie):
45‘s:
„Small Ads“/“Motorway Madness“ (Bronze BRO 115, U.K. 1981)
„HP Man“/“Radio Love“ (Bronze BRO 125, U.K. 1981)
„Friday-Nite Cowboys“/“I Wanna Fly Concorde“ (Bronze BRO 135, U.K. 1981)
The Hitmen (Featuring John Jay):
45:
„Ouija“/“Shade In, Fade Out“ (CBS A1591, U.K. 1981)
Lea Hart & The Roll-Ups (Featuring Lea Hart and John Jay):
45:
„It‘s New to Me“/“Your Love Affair‘s Over Now“ (Victor, Japan 1982)
LP:
„Lea Hart & The Roll-Ups“ (Victor VIP-6818, Japan 1982)
Lea Hart (Featuring The Roll-Ups, uncredited):
45‘s:
„Crispina“/“Blackmail“ (Victor VIPX-1666, Japan 1982)
„It‘s New to Me“/“Your Love Affair‘s Over Now“ (RCA 170, U.K. 1982)
„No One Left to Blame“/“Hideaway“ (RCA 257, U.K. 1982)



Ann Lewis (W/The Roll-Ups, featuring Lea Hart and John Jay):
45:
„La Saison“/“Clumsy Boy“ (Victor SV-7223, Japan 1982)
LP:
„La Saison D‘Amour“  (Victor SJX-30160, Japan 1982)



Paul Jackson (Ex-Ian Mitchell Band):
45:
„The Story of Gone With the Wind“/“The Story of Gone With the Wind“ (Instrumental) (Hippodrome HIPPO 110, U.k. 1987)

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