The Glaxo Babies may be the most underrated band of the immediate post-punk era; or all time. They certainly deserve to be celebrated in the pantheon of Bristol bands alongside The Pop Group, Portishead and Massive Attack.
The group was formed in Bristol late in 1977 by Tom Nichols (bass) and ex-Vultures members Dan Catsis (guitar) and Geoff Alsopp (drums), with Rob Chapman on vocals. In true punk tradition, they played their first gig just three weeks later and signed to local label Heartbeat Records.
In February 1979 they released a four-track EP called This Is Your Life, which earned them a Peel session. One of those tracks, It’s Irrational – filled with dissonant guitars and eerie lyrics, with a chorus about “houses full of deserters” – became the opening number on a Bristol compilation album called Avon Calling.
The EP establishes their post-punk sound prior to the replacement of Alsopp with Charlie Llewellin and the arrival of Tony Wrafter on saxophone, whose contribution altered their sound considerably.
Sadly, soon after they went into the studio in Bath to record their debut album, Chapman left the band in a dispute over their musical direction, leaving only two tracks including the memorable Christine Keeler (video below), though a compilation of his contribution, including early demos, would later appear on an album called Put Me On The Guyest List.
After his departure the band adopted a more experimental sound incorporating dance rhythms and elements of jazz on the subsequent album, Nine Months To The Disco but by the time it came out early in 1980 The Glaxo Babies had broken up.
Wrafter, Catsis and Llewellin founded Maximum Joy with Janine Rainforth, and John Waddington, formerly of The Pop Group, like Catsis), while Chapman joined The Transmitters, with whom he recorded one LP, And We Call That Leisure Time.
This is how he sounded the first time I heard him, on the opening title track of the This Is Your Life EP, with a lyric that matches Buzzcocks’ Boredom for capturing the times in which it was recorded. The other three numbers – the extremely Joy Divisionesque Stay Awake, Because Of You and Who Killed Bruce Lee? – are all equally good; the cover versions by The Last Shadow Puppets aren’t.