The Teardrop Explodes – Sleeping Gas

11th September 2022 · 1970s, 1979, Music, Punk

Liverpool had never loomed large in my musical education. I was never sold on Cilla or Gerry & The Pacemakers or even the big names like, er, The Swinging Blue Jeans. Merseybeat left me cold. Until I heard the Teardops.

As punk proliferated and splintered that began to change – and this trancelike tune with a loping bass, swirling psychedelic keybooards and arcane lyrics put the city back on the music map.

I’d read in the music papers about a legendary band called The Crucial Three, formed by three teenagers in early 1977.

I don’t think they ever got any further than their bedrooms but, being Scousers and having egos the size of a small planet, they weren’t exactly backward in coming forward to tell everyone how great they were. Especially the one called Pete Wylie.

The other two – Ian McCulloch and Julian Cope – went along with it and although their band lasted less than a month, within a few years Wylie’s prediction became true, with all three of them finding fame in bands of their own.

But not before Cope and McCulloch had formed another band, The Nova Mob, with future Banshees drummer Budgie, though they were even more short-lived, disbanding after one disastrous gig.

The pair had a few more goes at finding pop stardom – groups called The Hungry Types, Uh? and Shallow Madness all disappeared as fast as they had formed – but the latter evolved into The Teardrop Explodes after McCulloch left and Cope took over as singer.

Their first single was called Sleeping Gas, released on the local Zoo label owned by Dave Balfe and future KLF man Bill Drummond.

I think it’s their only recording to feature original keyboard player Paul Simpson, who left to form Wild Swans and was replaced in the Teardrops by Balfe himself.

Its lyric, referring to a long-forgotten TV serial called Rafferty, starring Patrick McGoohan, remains as impenetrable today as it was when I bought it in February 1979.

But the music, with its hypnotic rhythm, swirling organ and overlapping vocal, remains as startlingly original today.