Also you may wonder who this Paul Haig might be. Well, I must admit, I don't know a single tune he has written on his own and this might be true for a lot of you. But Paul Haig was the singer with the fabulous Josef K. ... and if this name doesn't ring a bell with you, then get a life, kids!
Josef K. released their stuff on the legendary Postcard label and they were highly influential for numerous bands of the post punk and indie era and they - and Paul - still deserve some attention these days. Especially these days perhaps.
So lean back whilst you read the below essay by James Nice from 2001. It sums it all up pretty neatly, I would think. And - in order - to put you in the right mood beforehand, here's a little gem from yesteryear for you to enjoy:
Josef K. - 'Crazy To Exist' (mp3)
For two brief years at the dawn of the 1980s Josef K gave the
Postcard label its sharpest cutting edge. Although outlived - and
outsold - by labelmates Orange Juice and Aztec Camera, Josef K's
flame burned brightest, while their influence has touched bands
as diverse as Propaganda and the Wedding Present. Yet just as
interesting are the subsequent solo careers of all four members,
which include stints with Orange Juice, Aztec Camera and 4AD
outfit the Happy Family. Not to mention the undervalued body of
solo work produced by enigmatic frontman Paul Haig.
Inspired by the heady punk summer of 1977, and later Pere Ubu and
the New York art-punk sounds of the Velvet Underground and
Television, Josef K came together in Edinburgh in mid-1978 as TV
Art. Initially a three-piece, guitarists Paul Haig and Malcolm
Ross and drummer Ron Torrance were briefly joined by bassist Gary
McCormack, later to find fame of another kind with the Exploited.
After David Weddell took over on bass early in 1979 the group
began gigging locally, joining a thriving Edinburgh scene which
also included the Associates, the Visitors, TV21, Fire Engines,
the Scars and Another Pretty Face.
At this point, Haig and Ross shared lead vocals, both apparently
being strongly reminiscent of Lou Reed. It therefore came as no
great surprise that their covers included the Velvet's Sweet Jane
and I'm Waiting for the Man, as well as Be My Wife (Bowie),
Psycho Killer (Talking Heads) and Marquee Moon (Television).
Summer 1979 saw TV Art change their name to Josef K, a reflection
of Haig's then-current fascination with Czech writer Franz Kafka.
Like another influence, avant punks Subway Sect, the group took
to sporting sharp monochrome suits - from Oxfam. Josef K also
recorded their first eight-song studio demo tape with the
intention of landing a deal with a credible label such as Radar
or Rough Trade, though these embryonic songs failed to elicit
Of this formative period, Malcolm Ross would later comment:
Josef K was like a gang. We would all hang out together. We
didn't like talking to promoters and such. It was
snobbishness to an extent. We just thought that they
weren't in the gang or on the same wavelength. I suppose we
were quite puritanical. We didn't like sexism or
laddishness... It was modernist. I was quite interested in
the original mod movement, and that was one of the
influences in wearing suits. Again, it was a reaction to
the whole dirty, long-haired thing that punk reacted to,
but punk wasn't too far off it either. Punks were just as
dirty. I didn't like that - I wanted some kind of dignity.
We were forward looking.
None of us had ever played in groups prior to punk so it
gave us clean slate. Whereas you could tell the bands who
had, because they would chuck in rock guitar cliches here,
there and everywhere. We never did. Paul and I were always
striving to be, if not experimental, at least not cliched.
Meanwhile, a chance encounter with Steven Daly, drummer with
Glasgow band Orange Juice, lead to a loose alliance between the
two bands, who began playing out together, alternating headline
status on one another's home turf. After Daly set up his own
label, Absolute, Chance Meeting by Josef K became its first (and
last) release. Both sides were lifted straight from the earlier
demo, and although initial sales were modest on release in
November 1979, BBC radio airplay from John Peel afforded the band
a degree of national exposure.
Edwyn Collins and Alan Horne, singer and manager respectively of
Orange Juice, subsequently set up Postcard Records, to which
Josef K duly signed. Arty and camp, Postcard stood in stark
contrast to the colourless majority of independent labels of the
'cold wave' era. The second Josef K single, Radio Drill Time, was
recorded in April 1980 during a shared session with Orange Juice,
who cut Blue Boy. The flipside, Crazy To Exist, is credited as
'live', but was in truth recorded in a cottage in Fife. As well
as doubling up on studio time, both records also appeared in the
same sleeve, a double-sided wraparound affair, many of which were
Radio Drill Time found favour with the rock weeklies, who now
ventured north to check out 'the Sound Of Young Scotland', a
phrase appropriated by Horne from Motown. In consequence Josef
K played their London debut in October, and one month later
released It's Kinda Funny. Easily their most relaxed and
reflective single, Funny earned them the kind of hyperbolic
reviews that in time came to weigh increasingly heavily on the
group. Interestingly, the song would also prove the most durable
oldie in Haig's solo live set.
November 1980 also saw the band record their debut album, Sorry
For Laughing, a record which (until its appearance on CD in 1990)
quickly joined the pantheon of Great Lost Albums. Twelve tracks
were cut, test pressings made, and a deluxe silver sleeve proofed
- yet at the eleventh hour the release was cancelled. Over the
years an astonishing stock of rumour has attached to the record,
while even at the time no little hype surrounded its
cancellation. Horne claimed that the twelve-song set was too
well-produced (!), while rumours abounded of several thousand
finished copies being destroyed.
Later, the band would claim that the mix was unsatisfactory (as
in too bass-heavy and clean), and that it failed to represent
their blistering live sound. Certainly, most of the songs were
already old, and the album gave little indication of what the
group proved capable of delivering just nine months later with
the Only Fun In Town. Yet while many subsequently judged Sorry
For Laughing a more listener-friendly set than its successor,
it's an inferior piece of art. And collectors are warned against
paying hundreds of pounds for test pressings, it being rumoured
that rather more than the usual handful were pressed, with the
express object of producing saleable rarities.
Thus Sorry For Laughing would gather dust in a vault for a
decade. Ever uncompromising, Josef K were already displaying a
marked disdain for careerist notions, even going so far as to
boast of making only one or two albums before splitting in a
blaze of glory.
THE CREPUSCULE CONNECTION
In December 1980 Orange Juice and Josef K travelled to Brussels
at the invitation of Les Disques du Crepuscule for a New Year's
Eve concert at Plan K. The date also featured Brussels p-funk
enigma Marine, a jazz band and silent films. Manager Allan
The concert was invaded by a group of inebriated punks, one
of whom threw a plate of food in Edwyn Collins' face when
he was onstage. The OJ singer retaliated with a kick. By
the time Josef K appeared feelings in the crowd were
running high. A fight broke out in front of the stage and
the group had to stop playing while the promoters attempted
to sort things out.
Indeed, at a distance of twenty years, it is easy to overlook the
fact that Josef K considered themselves a live rather than a
studio band. Allan Campbell again:
Since their early live shows with the likes of Echo and the
Bunnymen, the Cure, Magazine and the Clash (where they were
heckled for being 'mods'), they were now becoming
formidable live performers. In concert was the place to
truly experience Ross and Haig's sensational guitar work.
Ross' lead playing in particular was inspiring. Fiery,
committed and ringing, it was a key element in the group's
sound. Onstage was where Josef K made most sense.
It was becoming increasingly apparent that Josef K weren't
the serious young men that they first appeared to be. A
penchant for psychedelic shirts, the occasional kaftan and
liquid light projection was their tongue-in-cheek way of
repudiating their monochromatic image. Because Haig refused
to talk to the audiences (part of their anti-showbusiness
stance; neither would they play encores or sign autographs)
he would tape song introductions and play them over the PA.
Later, he and Ross would expand this to include their own
versions of some old Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis routines -
"Did you take a bath this morning?" / "Why? Is there one
During the first visit to Brussels Josef K also re-recorded the
track Sorry For Laughing for single release. When Crepuscule
released the record in April 1981 it was rightly hailed as the
group's strongest offering to date, and established the
definitive Josef K style of circular rhythms paired with incisive
guitar angles. Indeed, the song became so highly regarded that
German sophisticates Propaganda later covered it (albeit blandly)
on their acclaimed ZTT album A Secret Wish.
Horne, upset that the groups' best single yet was to appear on
another label, pressed Josef K into re-recording Chance Meeting
for Postcard, thus triggering a frantic six-month burst of
activity. In March, several songs from the scrapped debut album
were donated to the BBC as a fake John Peel radio session, while
in April the band crossed to Brussels again to play several more
shows, and to record their debut album a second time. Chance
Meeting, released in June, was far superior to the Absolute
version eighteen months earlier and, complete with added brass,
saw Josef K beginning to sound like a bona fide pop band.
This overt commercial edge, together with a distinct funkiness,
was further developed that same month by their one proper Peel
session. Bearing in mind that these four songs were to prove
Josef K's last recordings together, their excellence makes the
demise of the group all the more heartbreaking. Heaven Sent and
Missionary were the new songs, two fine slices of looping punk-
funk, the latter heavily influenced by Life in Reverse, a single
by Brussels band Marine released on Crepuscule in April. However
the biggest surprise came with a charming Alice Cooper cover -
Applebush - sung by Ross's wife, Susan Buckley.
THE ONLY FUN IN TOWN - PARADISE BUNGLED
Although expectations for the 'debut' album were now running
high, it met with mixed reaction upon release in July. Although
praised in Melody Maker, The Only Fun in Town was roundly slated
by Sounds, while Paul Morley, writing in the NME, bemoaned:
...an artificial paradise totally bungled. Fun is not much
at all chasing itself in dizzying circles. Somewhere
between the chunky echo beat and the wound down punk bleat,
through a large door and down a shady lane, in the hands of
a world famous producer, lies smart and shirty and
splenetic. The Josef K Sound that would present their songs
The precarious balance between reality and reverie is lost,
lost, lost, the reduced production degenerates rather than
glorifies the escapist desires and poetic fancy. Fun is
subdued not sublime: an errant substitute for what could
have been... Singer Paul Haig is brilliant. He acts rich -
as the group should do, as the production should be - but
he alone cannot stop Fun being scruffy. I am appalled. Will
there be a third time? Can they forget their past? Is
what's lost all? Josef K have cheapened themselves and
cheated the world: not bad for a first LP.
Barely half an hour long, comprising many familiar songs from
singles, and blessed with a hyper-bright production that belied
the six day schedule in a Belgian eight-track studio, TOFIT
arrived as a shock indeed to anyone expecting Josef K to turn in
the brand of sophisticated pop subterfuge that, say, the
Associates would produce a year later with Sulk. Haig now
I think we committed commercial suicide. When we were
mixing the album, we wanted it to sound like a live
concert, because we were so into playing live. I purposely
mixed down my own vocals. God knows why. I regret that.
Nonetheless TOFIT remains a dazzling record, featuring ten left-
handed pop nuggets of undeniable genius, and while very much the
uncompromising 'punk' album both band and Horne had long
promised, it effortlessly topped the alternative charts for
several weeks. The album also stands as the only album that the
original Postcard label ever got around to releasing.
CRAZY TO EXIST?
By way of promotion Josef K set out on a lengthy UK tour during
July and August, with boy wonders Aztec Camera in support. The
last London show, at the Venue, is preserved on the 'Crazy to
Exist' CD. However, the final Scottish date at Glasgow Maestro's
would prove their last. The exact reasons behind the split -
principally Haig's decision - remain obscure, although it would
appear that a combination of too-great expectations, small
incomes, Haig's dislike of touring and unspecified disagreements
over future direction were primarily to blame. Rather fancifully,
Alan Horne saw fit to blame the NME. Whatever the cause, one of
the Great White Hopes of the decade had self-destructed after
just one album, thus fulfilling their own brash prophecy.
Interviewed by Johnny Waller in Sounds early the following year,
I was pretty depressed for a week because it was the end of
an era, but after that I was really happy that we'd split,
because I could get on with everything I wanted to do. I
don't listen to any of those records now. It's all gone.
Nothing from that period interests me, except maybe Sorry
for Laughing. We didn't really get on all that well towards
the end. We didn't have anything in common, so there were
no jokes, no happy feeling. It was just down to doing a
job. Josef K weren't that famous anyway. We've split up, so
what? Everybody changes.
More tellingly, the singer revealed:
I've lost alot of the ideals I had in Josef K. About not
wanting to be commercially successful, suffering for your
art and all that. Not that I wasn't sincere about it at the
time... But I got sick of it. I want to be signed to a
major and make a great record that will get radio airplay
and be a big hit, then make my own money from that. I don't
mind being manipulated to a certain extent in order to get
what I want, but in time I want to control everything.
It's an ideal which Haig, perhaps to his detriment, has never
strayed. But before going on to examine the subsequent careers
of all four members, it is worth jumping forward in time and
covering the many posthumous Josef K releases.
THE RECORDED LEGACY
First came Crepuscule's 'Farewell Single' in 1982, combining
Missionary (from the Peel session) with two instrumental takes
on the Angle (from TOFIT). Former manager Allan Campbell (who
also oversaw Haig's solo career until 1984) then took charge of
the back catalogue via his Supreme International Editions label,
issuing an ep featuring Heaven Sent (Peel again) as the lead
track, and a compilation album, Young and Stupid. The track
selection of the latter - undertaken by the band themselves -
left a little to be desired, presenting neither an accurate
overview of their career, or a complete collection of wallet-
withering single sides which had rapidly become pricey New Wave
rarities. Fortunately, in 1990 LTM collected every
Josef K song ever committed to vinyl (together with demo tracks,
the Peel session and the shelved album) onto two remastered
In Japan, the LTM CD releases were split into three, with the
addition of a 'Rare Live' set identical to the first 12 tracks
on the live album eventually released worldwide by LTM in 2000.
German label Marina released a fine 'greatest hits' set titled
Endless Soul on CD in 1998 (with great sleevenotes by Allan
Campbell), while the following year Creation offshoot RevOla
reissued the LTM CD coupling of Sorry For Laughing and The Only
Fun In Town.
In the years immediately following their Josef K would spawn a
legion of imitators, a perhaps questionable legacy given that
their influence was chiefly mirrored in the shambling C86-stable.
The direct covers and tributes number just three: Sorry For
Laughing (Propaganda), It's Kinda Funny (the Confettis), and a
heartfelt adieu from the June Brides, titled Josef's Dead.
PAUL HAIG SOLO - RHYTHM OF LIFE
Back in 1981, none of the former group members wasted any time
in exploring new avenues, although singer and chief songwriter
Paul Haig would maintain the highest profile. With Postcard
disintegrating amidst the JK split and Orange Juice signing to
Polydor, Haig quickly released two interim singles on Edinburgh
independent Rational, run by manager Allan Campbell.
The first of these, Soon, was a collaboration with fellow
Edinburgh musician Steven Harrison (formerly of Metropak), while
the second single saw Haig guesting on a what was in effect a
vanity record by artist Sebastian Horsley. Exploring territory
first charted by Heaven 17 in their BEF guise, both singles
appeared under the generic name Rhythm Of Life Organisation
(RoL), an imprimatur Haig has retained ever since for everything
from production work to his backing band. Such anonymity also
suited his avowed dislike of publicity; indeed Haig has never
once released a record with his own hardly wretched face on the
Also via Rational, Haig released a bizarre cassette-only set of
home-recorded electronica titled Drama, featuring Kafka texts set
to music as well as an odd take on Forever Drone. With just 700
copies manufactured, collectors will be hard put to track down
a copy today, though it should be added that this minor curiosity
is hardly a must-have.
Haig subsequently teamed up with Crepuscule to release future
product, and in January 1982 made solo live debuts in Edinburgh
(Valentinos) and London (the Venue). According to the NME's Dave
Hill, for the latter show:
Rhythm of Life remained a mystery... Initially they seem
like an artful re-arrangement of the Iggy-Oakey ice-box
delivery, and the Bogart mail order catalogue, into a
perfect cliche of the same. But how straight are their
faces? I don't know, but Haig projects with the efficiency
of a sly android, blonde, doleful and besuited, spooning
each painstaking tune with an immaculate croon. All is calm
and self-contained... Since Josef K split Haig has pursued
several lines, yet the cool execution of this show is
undeniable, elegant and curvaceous.
The following month Rhythm of Life took part in Crepuscule's
first trans-European package tour, Dialogue North-South, also
featuring Durutti Column, the Names, Marine, Richard Jobson,
Antena and Tuxedomoon. Eschewing a live drummer in favour of a
rhythm box, RoL gained plaudits for their versatile, snappy brand
of funk minimalism, and five excerpts from these shows can be
found on Crepuscule's souvenir compilation (TWI 082). Since two
of the songs (Stories and Glory) were never subsequently re-
recorded, it's an album well worth seeking out, although
completists are warned that the CD version omits the rather
shambolic rendition of Shining Hour present on the vinyl and
cassette. The CD liner notes also reprint much of an excellent
on-the-spot report written by the late Johnny Waller, reprinted
from his piece in Sounds (April 3 1982).
BACK TO BELGIUM
Haig elected to move to Brussels in March, and there embarked on
an intensive recording schedule at Little Big One studio. This
resulted in two self-produced singles, Running Away and Justice,
although the latter was destined to be shelved. However, after
just four months Haig tired of continental living and returned
to Edinburgh. Running Away, a charming cover of the Sly Stone
classic, appeared in May on Crepuscule subsidiary Operation
Twilight and topped the independent charts in the UK, its success
unhampered by the Raincoats' decision to release their own
version of the same song simultaneously.
The excellent follow-up single, Justice, was cancelled after
Crepuscule signed a licensing deal with Island. 7" test pressings
on Crepuscule (TWI 100) nevertheless exist, as does a separate
12" release on Crepuscule/Interference featuring two mixes of the
song Blue For You, although this seems to have been intended as
a DJ record more than a proper commercial release.
While in Brussels Haig also recorded the infamous Swing in '82
set, partly at the instigation of Crepuscule kingpin Michel
Duval. Originally intended for release as a 10' ep, Swing saw
Haig tackling six big band numbers Sinatra-style. While Vic
Godard fans no doubt found much to admire, others loathe it with
rare passion. The anti-faction now includes Haig himself,
although back in 1982 he had this to say to Masterbag magazine:
After listening to lots of Frank Sinatra records I became
aware of these fantastic old songs. I think the music and
the lyrics are absolutely incredible - especially the
lyrics. You just don't hear lyrics like them nowadays.
They're just so emotional. It was a big challenge to try
and sing them. The 'swing' side starts with The Song is
You, then All of You and Let's Face the Music and dance.
The 'dream' side is Love Me Tender, The Way You Look
Tonight and Send in the Clowns. I think the first side is
around 1938, with songs by Cole Porter, Irving Berlin,
people like that. The second side is slightly more modern.
The basic instrumentation on side one is just drums, double
bass and piano, with the addition of string synthesiser on
side two. We had to try about three sets of musicians
before we found these old session musicians that had been
playing jazz all their lives. The piano player must have
been 70 years old! The drummer was quite young, in his mid
twenties, so it was quite a challenge for him to keep pace
with these brilliant jazz musicians, as it was for me too.
I'm sure they thought it was a joke. I remember I turned up
at the studio the morning they arrived. They said, 'Are you
the singer? The producer?' They looked at each other in
It could either be slammed or it could be looked upon as
something brilliant. I tend to think that in England it's
going to be laughed at, but I don't think that's justified
because the musicianship is really, really good on it. If
anyone slags it off then it must be for some other reason,
but they can't fault the playing.
In fact this record too was shelved, and not released by
Crepuscule until 1985, with five tracks only , Haig having
finally vetoed the inclusion of Send in the Clowns.
THE GREAT WHITE HOPE
Thanks to the Island licensing deal Haig recorded his first album
in New York at the end of 1982, with the late Alex Sadkin
producing. Featuring a host of crack sessioneers (including
Bernie Worrell, Anton Fier and Jack Waldman), his new direction -
a brand of polished dance/electro - seemed a million miles away
from the abrasive edge of Josef K. Indeed Haig was already
disowning his past with a vengeance, informing the NME that JK
was a 'cockroach' he wanted squashed, although in fact songs such
as Adoration and Heaven Sent had begun life with that band. Yet
fine though songs such as Justice, Adoration and Stolen Love
were, Haig's solo debut played very much as a producer's record,
and in surrendering a measure of artistic control Haig lost
something of his identity. And, it cannot have helped that Sadkin
was then heavily involved with the odious Thompson Twins, whose
Tom Bailey also guested on the album.
The first single release on Island was Heaven Sent, a drastic
club refit of the earlier JK number. Despite Island's best
marketing efforts, however, it stalled at 74, and failed to
provide Haig with the hit many had confidently predicted. The
Rhythm Of Life album appeared in October 1983 and was accompanied
by a short seven date UK tour. Haig's touring group included
Malcolm Ross on guitar, together with bassist David McClymont
(also fresh from Orange Juice), drummer James Locke and former
Associate Alan Rankine. However, although the album sold
respectably Haig found himself caught between two commercial
stools. Plainly ahead of his time, Haig had perhaps moved too far
too fast, his polished pop alienating many Josef K fans not yet
ready to trade their raincoats for a sharp Italian two-piece and
a place in line outside Studio 54. Reviewing the album in NME,
Chris Bohn lamented the fate of an artist:
...dropped somewhere mid-Atlantic and left to drown in
liquid demi-disco. Though four percussionists are credited
the record has no forward momentum. It sort of slithers
across the dancefloor. Worse, Haig has tailored his
songwriting to serve a form he only imagines is there.
Cutesy couplets are left in mid air, grappling after non-
existent rhythm hooks... More than a name producer and an
NY studio he needs sympathetic musicians to bring out the
character of his songs.
Simple bad luck seems to have prevented all three singles
providing the solid hits which might have allowed Haig to cross
over to a new, wider audience. Inexplicably Island failed even
to release the album - or the singles - in the US, a market in
which they might have performed well. Although the slick New York
Remix mini album was belatedly issued in America in 1984
(appearing on Crepuscule in Europe), it was a textbook example
of too little too late. In 1990 Haig recalled of this difficult
The main thing was that I didn't want to be the centre of
it all. The initial idea was just to keep working with
different people under the name Rhythm of Life. It was more
of a big joke. It all went a bit funny when I signed to
Island, but before there were quite a few things in the
pipeline. But Island wanted a pop image to sell... and they
didn't get one.
BIG BLUE WORLD
Already relations with Island had become strained. Incoming MD
Dave Robinson showed little enthusiasm for Haig's music, while
an overly candid Sounds interview and an abortive appearance on
a childrens' television show (Hold Tight) to promote Never Give
Up soured relations further. When Haig recorded a new single, Big
Blue World, in December, Island chose to cancel it just a
fortnight before its scheduled release. Fortunately, Crepuscule
continued to release Haig product in Europe, so that the delayed
record - with a sublime cover of Suicide's road classic Ghost
Rider on the flipside - arrived in the UK on import. Both sides
of the single featured the same group that Haig had formed to
promote the album live.
In 1984 Haig joined forces with several celebrated electro peers,
recording The Only Truth in collaboration with Bernard Sumner and
Donald Johnson (of New Order and A Certain Ratio respectively),
and The Executioner with Cabaret Voltaire. November saw the
completion of a new album, this time recorded in London with
Rankine co-producing. Unfortunately the failure of The Only Truth
as a single lead to Island severing the Crepuscule connection,
and so the untitled second album (co-produced by Alan Rankine)
was shelved. For the record, the tracklist ran as follows: Love
Eternal/Shining Hour/One Lifetime Away/Fear and Dancing/All Our
Love/Trust/Love and War/Big Blue World/The Only Truth.
Nevertheless all but the ballad All My Love were subsequently
released, with this (inferior) early version of Love Eternal even
appearing as a single over two years later.
THE WARP OF PURE FUN
Rather than release the shelved set on Crepuscule, it was decided
to combine half the album with new songs recorded throughout
1985. Haig launched his fightback later in the year with a
powerful single, Heaven Help You Now, and the excellent album
Warp Of Pure Fun. Again produced with Alan Rankine, it was a less
one-dimensional set than its predecessor, focusing on the songs
and arrangements (and live drums) rather than programmed rhythm
tracks, though without entirely abandoning club appeal. In the
UK Warp appeared on another short-lived Crepuscule offshoot,
Operation Afterglow, but while the album fared comparatively well
as an independent release, Afterglow failed to propel it into the
Unhappy with limited sales, Haig left Crepuscule to seek another
major deal. After demos recorded for EMI came to nothing, Haig
spent most of 1986 writing new material, surviving on PRS
royalties from his Crepuscule back catalogue. He also found time
to embark on a fruitful partnership with another Associate, Billy
Mackenzie, the result being low key dates in Glasgow (May) and
Edinburgh (September), which mixed their own greatest hits with
covers such as Running Away and Yoko Ono's Walking On Thin Ice.
Later the pair united to perform Amazing Grace on a Scots
Hogmanay television programme, and each donated a song to the
other's forthcoming album. Chained would prove a highlight on the
next Haig album, although Mackenzie's version of Reach The Top
remains unreleased (as does Haig's) after the Associates' patchy
Glamour Chase set was shelved by WEA. Following Mackenzie's
untimely death in 1997 an entire album of Haig/Mackenzie
material, Memory Palace appeared on CD in 1999. Much warm light
on the pair's firm friendship is cast by Tom Doyle's admirable
biography, Glamour Chase, published by Bloomsbury in 1998.
Haig returned - albeit briefly - to Crepuscule in September 1987
to record several tracks, though the only new record to emerge
was the fine Torchomatic single, complete with spy theme and a
home-recorded instrumental cycle on the flipside. The European
Sun compilation album followed, including most of the shelved
Island album not included on Warp plus several rare b-sides, and
the unreleased Cabaret Voltaire collaboration from 1984. An
expanded CD version was licensed to German imprint Interphon.
Early in 1988 Haig financed the recording of a new album himself,
once more produced with Alan Rankine. Virgin offshoot Circa
purchased the tapes in August, but chose not to release the
album, titled Chain, until May the following year. Neither Chain
nor the lead single, Something Good, broke commercially, and to
some the album came as a disappointment, with strong material in
places undermined by underdeveloped arrangements. Sales were
scarcely assisted by Haig's refusal to undertake any lengthy
tours, and with much of his following was in Europe and Japan,
many fans were not even aware that a new record was available.
Nevertheless, a showcase at the ICA in London on May 18th saw
Haig and his band in fine and powerful form.
Following Drama, Swing In '82 and the Mackenzie pairing, 1988's
off the wall project came in the form of the Dub Organiser
single, a club cut recorded in collaboration with Allan Campbell
and released as a one-off on Manchester indie label Play Hard.
Unperturbed by Chain's modest commercial showing, Circa financed
the recording of a new album, produced in New York by dance gurus
Mantronix and Lil' Louis, and also by the Chimes, whose drummer
James Locke had been a periodic Haig collaborator since 1981. The
album marked a timely return to the dance orientation of Rhythm
of Life five years earlier, as suggested by its title, Right on
Line. But after the fine I Believe in You single failed to build
on a measure of club success, Circa delayed releasing the album
until a reworked Flight X (featuring rapper The Voice Of Reason)
broke. When two versions of this track stalled early in 1991 the
album was shelved. Unlike the loss of the second Island album
this was a genuine disaster, since Right on Line largely
comprised pin-sharp original material, together with another
wayward Suicide cover, this time the lush ballad Surrender.
With the RoL album in limbo, Haig released an instrumental set
of imaginary film themes through Les Temps Modernes, who had
previously issued the Josef K back catalogue on CD. Cinematique
appeared in September 1991 to glowing reviews, and comprised
three distinct suites, being City of Fun (accomplished noir
jazz), Lagondola (new age, almost) and Flashback (electronica).
In 1993 the Right on Line album finally emerged as Coincidence
vs Fate on the ever-accommodating Crepuscule label, albeit with
two weaker tracks relegated to the flipside of the accompanying
single (Surrender) and three new tracks added. After a two year
delay its state of the art production style might have sounded
a tad dated in places, but not fatally so, and in this writer's
opinion RoL/Coincidence... may yet prove to be the best Paul Haig
album to date.
Despite warm reviews neither Cinematique nor Coincidence vs Fate
sold in great numbers, due in part to low-key press and
distribution, and to Haig's ongoing reluctance to submit to self-
promotion. By his own admission:
I just don't like playing live much. Maybe once every two
years. It's a situation I can't handle. Up on stage it's
very strange. It just seems an awkward situation to be in.
You're on stage and there's all these people looking up at
you. I can't help laughing at the thought of it. I just
want to do it as little as possible. Other people love it.
It only depends on what kind of person you are, if your ego
can cope with it. Weird, eh? (Deadbeat, 1984)
With me it's quite simple. I just do my own thing and don't
compromise for anybody. If you can do this and still
succeed, that's perfect. New Order manage it - perverse and
breaking all the rules - they just make records that sell.
I hope I can fit in in my own way. There might be a place
for people who have some sort of background, who have
substance as opposed to being just another manufactured
act. But apart from that I don't see where I would fit. I
couldn't really define the sound. I don't think it's like
anybody else. (Melody Maker, 1989)
It's just music and records. That's the main thing for me.
I find the rest of it completely alien and uncomfortable.
I'll just have to retire quite soon. Not retire from making
music, just from all this [promo] kind of stuff I just find
it more and more ridiculous. Ideally I'd like to be
involved in the background, and still make music but not to
have to be seen or anything like that. I guess film music
is the obvious area for that kind of thing. Or weird
experimental records. (The Scotsman, 1990)
All of which is a great shame, since Haig remains one of
Britain's finest songwriters, and it seems a tad premature to
label him a Scott Walker for the new millennium. In 1999 Paul
Haig unveiled a new label, RoL, with the release of several
archive Billy McKenzie collections, and an excellent second
volume of the Cinematique series.
OTHER JOSEF K SOLO PROJECTS
Returning to the Josef K split back in 1981, Malcolm Ross and
Davy Weddell quickly became involved in the Happy Family, a band
based around quixotic singer/songwriter Nick Currie. Currie had
handed Ross a rough tape at JK's final show in Edinburgh, and
soon after Ross and Weddell helped him record a studio demo with
which he hoped to land a deal. Since Ross had already joined
Orange Juice, his involvement with the Happy Family remained
strictly casual. Nevertheless Fiction were sufficiently impressed
to offer the group two Scottish support slots with the Cure in
December, after which 4AD signed them for a one-off single.
Although the Happy Family was strictly a Nick Currie vehicle,
Much of the publicity attendant to the release of Innermost
Thoughts in April 1982 focused on the presence of 'former Josef
K bass player' David Weddell. After drummer Ian Stoddart fell ill
Ron Torrance stepped in to replace him, while yet another Josef
K connection came via guitarist Paul Mason, previously a JK
roadie. With the addition of keyboards, the group proceeded to
record The Man On Your Street as a five piece, producing a fine
(if rather mannered) literary concept album, which should
nonetheless please any Josef K fan on a musical level - even if
many found Currie's convoluted lyrics and outre obsessions a
little hard to swallow.
Despite some fine songwriting, the JK connection drew unenviable
comparisons, and the album was neither a critical nor a
commercial success. Indeed, even 4AD's cultish following steered
clear, although a remastered CD would in time appear. After a
third and final concert in Glasgow (with Jah Wobble) in December
1982 the group split, apathy and disinterest seemingly the cause
rather than musical differences. Currie returned to university,
and after graduating reinvented himself as Momus, going on to
record a string of acclaimed (sort of) albums for El, Creation
and other labels, and achieving semi-stardom in Japan.
In 1984 Les Temps Modernes released ten 4AD demos on cassette
only, together with a booklet featuring Happy Family ephemera and
texts. One of these tracks, March In Turin, also appeared on
LTM's Heures Sans Soleil compilation album a year later. Finally,
completists may wish to invest in early copies of the third Momus
album Tender Pervert (Creation), the initial run of which
contained a free 7" featuring a song recorded for the 4AD album
but left unused, The Poison Boyfriend.
Prior to joining the Happy Family, Ron Torrance had briefly
joined Edinburgh band Boots For Dancing, although without playing
on any of their records. After the demise of the Happy Family
Weddell played with a variety of bands, including Lip Machine and
the High Bees (with Malcolm Ross), before teaming up with
Torrance again in 1985 as Heyday. Fronted by Steven Harrison (who
had earlier cut an RoL single with Paul Haig), Heyday recorded
an ep for Crepuscule, produced by - surprise! - Haig and Rankine.
For reasons unknown the three tracks remained unreleased until
Tel Quel Records licensed them as part of a Steven Harrison mini
album in 1987. By then, however, Heyday had come and gone. The
Heyday track Sad and Blue also appeared on a Crepuscule
compilation, The Rough with the Smooth, in 1986, albeit credited
to Harrison alone.
Following the demise of Josef K guitarist Malcolm Ross become
something of a gun for hire, and just one week after the split
was announced accepted an invitation to join Orange Juice. Since
OJ had already recorded their debut album You Can't Hide Your
Love Forever Ross did not contribute, but did complete the
accompanying tour, and remained on board when the original band
fragmented early the following year. The Ross/Collins/Manyika/
McClymont line-up then hit commercial paydirt with the hit single
Rip It Up in February 1983, which climbed to Number 8. Sadly,
Orange Juice were unable to consolidate on this success, with no
less than nine of their singles stalling between 75 and 41
between 1981 and 1984. Ross contributed several songs during his
stay with the band and stuck around until late 1983, but
eventually quit after clashes with Edwyn Collins over the Texas
Ross immediately hooked up with mercurial Roddy Frame in Aztec
Camera as second guitarist, joining in time to record and tour
the Knife album. Ross's role in Aztec Camera was strictly as a
session player, and with their work over the group disbanded,
Frame only later re-emerging with the Love album in 1987. Ross
then guested on the second Blancmange album, Believe You Me, and
also appeared with the duo live.
In 1985 Ross embarked on the High Bees project with wife Susan
Buckley on vocals. However, after a handful of live concerts and
a lone single, She's Killing Time, on Supreme International in
October, the project faded. Since then Ross has guested with Paul
Haig, former Moodist Dave Graney, and - with Weddell - backed
Nick Currie/Momus live. After completing a music degree, Ross
released two distinguished solo albums on chic German label
Marina, Low Shot (1995) and Happy Boy (1998). A third set is
currently being readied for release.
Josef K manager Allan Campbell, incidently, is now an established
BBC television producer, with Film 2000 among his many credits.
While it seems highly unlikely that his erstwhile charges will
regroup, the band's rich legacy - and any future records that
individual members release - will continue to inspire for many
years to come.
What a great day for the Scottish, isn't it? And I don't even understand a single word they say half of the time ....
Either way: enjoy you very own Paul Haig - Day today, friends .... and stay tuned!