B-Movie formed in Mansfield, Nottinghamshire in 1978 from the ashes of local punk band The Aborted. Originally calling themselves Studio 10 after a local hairdressing salon, the inaugural line-up of Steve Hovington (vocals/bass), Paul Statham (guitar) & Graham Boffey (drums) quickly changed their name to B-Movie following Steve’s discovery in an art book of the Andy Warhol painting of the same name. The band played their first gig on a rock against racism bill at Sutton in Ashfield swimming baths which were organized by their soon to be their manager – John “Yank” Fritchley. A local miner with a penchant for American cars, Fritchley was essentially a sixties mod who saw B-Movie as his meal ticket in the mod revival that was just around the corner.
However, the band was into Tubeway Army and not Quadrophenia and refused to wear the parkas he bought them! Despite his obsession, Fritchley did have some plus points – a car with a trailer and some money. Obviously, this meant the band were now mobile and could also afford to record a demo tape. They recorded 4 songs at Chris Cook’s 4 track studio in Mansfield – Blue Lady, Drowning Man, and In The Halflight and the ska-ish sounding I to keep Fritchley happy! Armed with a demo the gigs started to come in – particularly memorable are support slots at The Sandpiper in Nottingham with the Angelic Upstarts & The Smirks. After the less than popular reaction they received from the punk crowds, it was a relief when Fritchley told them he had secured them a gig in a nice cathedral town.B-Movie played The Cornhill Vaults in Lincoln several times over the next few months and it enabled them to develop their sound. At one of these gigs, they supported local heroes The Cigarettes who were managed by Martin Patton & Andy Stephenson. These two local entrepreneurs were trying to get their fledgling Dead Good record label off the ground and we’re looking for bands to appear on a compilation album they were putting together.
Their adventures in sound recording would begin here as the band found themselves in Studio Playground in the village of Wragby to record two tracks Refugee & Man on a Threshold for the compilation album that was to be called East.
Although generally pleased with the recordings the band felt that the overall sound was a bit thin and decided the only solution would be to recruit a keyboard player. An advert was placed in the Mansfield & Sutton Recorder but they only had one reply! After a successful audition the applicant – Rick Holliday – was asked to join the band. With this new dimension, their sound developed naturally and they moved from three-minute new wave songs to much grander motifs. The band was developing an epic approach to songwriting, using classic themes but with modern sounds and attitudes.B-Movie played their first gig as a four-piece at the Red Lion Music Bar in Mansfield on 1st January 1980.
They began to attract the interest of the local press and their name started to get around – they were starting to get noticed. Reviews of the B-Movie tracks on the East compilation had been favourable and Dead Good suggested that the band record an EP. The band decided to record The Soldier Stood Alone, Drowning Man & Soundtrack – so back they travelled to Studio Playground. Dead Good was beginning to make a name for itself with its reputation for quirky releases and Andy Stephenson uttered the immortal words “anything is possible in the music business”. He then planted the seeds of doubt in the band’s mind about John Fritchley being the right manager.
After another Lincoln gig, it all came to a head after Fritchley insisted that he appear in the publicity shots with the band! An argument then ensued and Fritchley drove off leaving the band stranded. They spent the night on the floor of the Dead Good office after agreeing that the best option was for Andy Stephenson to manage them.The Take Three EP was released on 11th July 1980 to positive reviews and even a play on the BBC Radio 1 John Peel Show. To tie in with their appearance at the Nottingham Festival a session was arranged with Radio Trent and the band recorded Spirit of the Age, The Walking Dead, Aeroplanes & Mountains, as well as the first-ever recording of Remembrance Day.
All the songs were over five minutes long – each epic and grandiose in quality. The band realised that if they were to make a breakthrough they needed a short, sharp pop song that could be their next single. Steve came up with the title Nowhere Girl from an Angela Huth novel of the same name. He played around with some chords and in a few minutes, the song was written. He took it to rehearsal where Rick came up with a synth motif to go over the top.
They played it live to Dead Good who liked it and agreed to it being the next single. However, the band had more ambitious plans, to be precise a six-track EP – Nowhere Girl @ 45rpm on one side and five tracks @ 33rpm on the other – a kind of single and an album rolled into one! Dead Good thought it was a great idea and again sent the band back to Wragby where the songs were recorded live in one take! The band were still teenagers led by a desire to have a good time. The new recordings showed a young indisciplined band fired by a passion to create great music. They weren’t cool calculated careerists and they really needed someone representing them who had the same zany, fun-loving attitude.
It was at a The The / Cabaret Voltaire gig at Retford Porterhouse where they first met their future mentor. Stevo was a DJ at the Chelsea Drug Store in London where he hosted a futurist night. Steve took along a copy of the Radio Trent session to the Porterhouse gig and handed it to Stevo asking him to give it a listen. Steve didn’t expect anything to come from and was amazed the next day when Stevo called saying he liked the tape and wanted to put the band on at a London gig he was arranging.In the next week’s issue of Sounds magazine, B-Movie found themselves in the Futurist Chart with The Walking Dead along with Vice Versa (soon to be ABC), The Human League and Clock DVA!! Everything seemed to be going to plan but then suddenly there was a spanner in the works. The “Nowhere Girl EP” was scheduled for release in November 1980 but due to an error at the pressing plant, only 850 copies were pressed. It was immediately deleted and became a collectors’ item overnight. Despite this setback, they now had Stevo on their side and he was beginning to build up a coterie of weird and unusual acts through his club DJ’ing. His masterplan was to release a compilation album featuring the best of these.B-Movie played their first London gig at The Bridgehouse in Canning Town with Blancmange as support but this new music had not filtered through to the masses as yet and this birth of futurism was witnessed by a privileged few. Afterward, Stevo presented them with a management contract and they signed it there and then as they knew Stevo was their passport to better things.
This new relationship with Stevo caused friction in Lincoln and the Dead Good chapter in the B-Movie story was brought to an abrupt & somewhat inconclusive end. Stevo had big plans for B-Movie and the other band he managed – Soft Cell from Leeds. He’d decided to call his record label Some Bizzare after a Frank Zappa quote and thus the compilation album he had planned would be called The Some Bizzare Album. Stevo began talking to several major labels about what was to be the most gloriously brazen demo of all time. The A/R fraternity began to fall for Stevo’s outrageous self-confidence and eventually he sorted out a licensing deal with Phonogram. Twelve acts were assembled and they each sent in one track. The B-Movie offering was a newly recorded song called Moles which had become a live favourite. It was by far the rockiest track on the album and had very little in common with the other acts except maybe a willingness to experiment.The Some Bizarre Album was scheduled for release in February 1981 and would feature the vinyl debuts of Depeche Mode, The The, Soft Cell & Blancmange. All of these acts went on to considerable success so the album could be viewed as the musical equivalent of the Dead Sea Scrolls! Stevo created enough of a buzz about B-Movie within the music industry for Phonogram to offer them a small advance leading on to a bigger deal. Tracey Bennett, the head of A & R at the Phonogram owned Deram label, had heard the Nowhere Girl EP and he really liked Remembrance Day. Bennett felt that the band had real potential and he suggested that they re-record it with a top producer in a London studio.B-Movie were completely oblivious to the business side of things & were totally unaware that Stevo had made it a condition of the B-Movie deal that Phonogram would also have to sign his other band – Soft Cell! The band found themselves booked into Scorpio Studios with the neo -legendary Mike Thorne as a producer. His remit was to turn the overlong Dead Good version of Remembrance Day into three and a half minute pop song! Basically, the song was re-arranged with a new, almost improvised ending, guitars were overlaid in a completely different pattern to the original and new piano & synth lines devised. The result was breathtaking and totally beyond the band’s wildest dreams. As things stepped up a gear Paul Boswell became their agent and he sorted out some support slots with new EMI signings Duran Duran.
The gigs went well and the band received good reviews from both the NME and Sounds. Remembrance Day was released following the tour and a week later it had entered the UK chart at No 96. The single received unanimously good reviews but was being ignored by daytime radio – it seemed that the record company did not have a strategy to get the record into the upper reaches of the chart. B-Movie then headlined the Some Bizzare event at The Lyceum in London after Soft Cell, Blancmange, Depeche Mode & The The failed to make an appearance although they had been billed! Playing to an audience of 3000 people, B-Movie delivered a blinding set. Two days later they were in the BBC Maida Vale studios recording a session for the BBC Radio 1 John Peel show. They laid down four of their favourite live numbers Polar Opposites, Welcome to the Shrink, Escalator & All Fall Down. On 2nd April 1981, the band recorded a further BBC Radio 1 session, this time for the Richard Skinner show. As the broadcast time of the show was early evening the band decided to go for a more pop sound. The band recorded Nowhere Girl, The Devil in Me, Love Me & Disturbed (which had echoes of the darker Peel session tracks). The result of these sessions, gigs & media interviews (NME, Sounds) was to push Remembrance Day to No 61 in the UK chart. Unfortunately, the momentum the band had built up stalled at this point and their label failed them by not giving that extra push needed to get the single into the Top 40. The next week the single dropped to No 65 and that was the end of that! Undeterred B-Movie demoed a new song Ice, which they wanted to release as a double A-side with Polar Opposites, at Stanhope Place. Deram rejected this idea so the band headed back into a cheap studio in Mansfield and made a demo of Marilyn Dreams & a cover of Pink Floyds’ Julia Dream. Again Deram still wasn’t convinced but Stevo was in a strong bargaining position. Soft Cell was beginning to pick up favourable live reviews and there was talk of them covering an old northern soul record. Deram saw they could kill two birds with one stone and get Mike Thorne to produce two singles at the same time. Recording took place at Advision Studios, with the b-side Film Music Pt1 written in the studio, Rick exploiting the use of Mike Thornes’ synclavier on both B-Movie tracks to get those weird sounds. As strange as it may seem both Marilyn Dreams and Tainted Love were mixed almost simultaneously! A session was recorded for Capital Radio including Polar Opposites & Ice (the whereabouts of the master tapes are unknown and this session is presumed lost forever) a week before a sell-out show at The Venue. Stevo, however, seemed more interested in Soft Cell who had a real buzz going around Tainted Love. He wasn’t convinced about Marilyn Dreams but supported the band on their decision and kept right out of the creative process.B-Movie were more alarmed about Deram’s marketing of the band as pretty boy types – both Steve & Paul gracing the pages of teen magazines Oh Boy & Jackie. Everyone in the band felt that the label was totally missing the point of what B-Movie was about.
More UK dates came & went with the usual mixture of bad sound and the odd disaster. The 10th July 1981 saw the release of Marilyn Dreams but the patent lack of enthusiasm from Deram was clear to see. The national reviews in NME & Sounds were not good but the regional papers were much more upbeat – “chirpy electronic nostalgia destined for the charts” quoted one. The following month was a nightmare for B-Movie as the single only reached a dismal No 99 in the UK chart whilst Soft Cell hit the dizzy heights of No 1 with Tainted Love.
They had to swallow their pride and take their place as the number two act in Stevo’s stable.B-Movie had to shake things up a bit and fight back. They had got a name for themselves in the business despite one near miss and one flop single. The first step was to get a bass player in so Steve could concentrate on being the frontman. God knows why but the band plumped for an Italian waiter called Lou Codemo – who it later materialised couldn’t play bass! Next up, the band were booked to play the Futurama 3 Festival at Stafford Bingley Hall. B-Movie were surprised to find themselves fourth from the top of the bill below Simple Minds, Bow Wow Wow & Martian Dance. They went down really well and the reviews of the gig were good. Songs were being written thick and fast – Steve & Paul even found time to do some more recording at Chris Cook’s 4-track back in Mansfield. Though never actually played live by B-Movie the three songs recorded – Deep Sleep, Trash and Mystery & They Forget – still retained a certain charm and an eagerness to experiment. The band continued to tour visiting Norwich, Manchester, Torquay and Derby before playing The Days of Future Past Festival in Leeds with Classix Nouveau & The Gang of Four. By December Remembrance Day had been voted onto John Peel’s Festive Fifty and the bands’ student following continued to grow with more gigs at universities and polytechnics across the UK. Meanwhile, Soft Cell was No.1 in just about every country in the world with that song – this meant that things at Some Bizarre had changed – Stevo handing the task of looking after B-Movie to his secretary Marion! B-Movie were now rehearsing in Nottingham where they wrote a new song Scare Some Life Into Me which reflected the increasing apathy and despair felt by everyone in the band.
Thoughts turned to the next single and Nowhere Girl along with some new songs (of which Scare Some Life Into Me was the best) were demoed at Wragby. Lou’s bass playing being replaced by a sequenced bassline as he could not play in time. On a cold dark December morning, they embarked on their first European tour – Amsterdam, Lieden, Hemstede, Nijmegen & Apeldorne in Holland, Koningshukte in Belgium, Paris & Lyons France and Barcelona & Madrid in Spain. The news came through whilst on a tour that Deram had agreed that the next single would be Nowhere Girl. On their return from the tour, B-Movie met up with producer Steve Brown and got to work at Trident Studios in Soho. It was decided to sequence the bass line so Lou’s playing was not required but he did come in useful when he was sent out to find a girl to do some manic laughter on the intro. He returned with an Italian tourist who did her bit – other strange sounds like the bashing of ashtrays and synthesised explosions were added in this spontaneous atmosphere. The drums were played live and the piano track on the extended version was one of B-Movie’s greatest moments – a real pianist on a Steinway grand. A friend from Nottingham called Maria provided the sweet harmonies in the middle section whilst Paul eventually got to play the delightful Spanish guitar solo. The end result was a brilliantly crafted pop song that Stevo declared would break B-Movie. 1981 had been a phenomenal year, a rollercoaster ride of ups and downs, which had ended on a real high. Nowhere Girl was scheduled for release in March 1982 and a tour was planned to coincide with this. In keeping with the more sophisticated sound, the band decided that Lou needed replacing – his bass playing being much too limited and not fitting with their ambitious plans. A replacement was spotted playing with a band called Everest The Hard Way – an Edinburgh based outfit who were on the verge of splitting. His name was Mike Peden – both Steve & Paul thought he was the best bass player they had ever seen. Steve asked Mike if he fancied coming to a rehearsal and for all intents and purposes, B-Movie had a new bass player. Mike Peden approached B-Movie with caution – it was a job to him, he wanted paying and he would not join the band on a permanent basis. He was an expensive luxury – one B-Movie couldn’t really afford and with his fluid fast finger bass style, the band’s sound would change. A new song Mediterranean came together over an incredibly complicated bass part – the band were swimming in new waters and were in danger of getting out of their depth. Graham struggled with this new arrangement, his simple drumming style contrasting unfavourably with Mike’s complex basslines. The rest of the band made the mistake of seeing this as a sign of weakness on Graham’s part and the seeds of doubt about his technical ability took flower. Nevertheless, a new set was ready by March including further new material like Amnesia, The Great Divide & The Promised Land. During late March these four new songs were recorded as a session for the BBC Radio 1 David “Kid” Jensen show.
The tour followed with gigs in Stoke on Trent, Bath, London, Canterbury, Brighton, Leicester, Manchester and Retford. Nowhere Girl began to pick up airplay and receive some great reviews – a joint single of the week in Sounds. Following the week of release, it debuted at No 90 in the UK chart, the week after jumping up to No 70. More gigs followed – Durham, Coventry and Birmingham – reviews came thick and fast, even daytime play on radio stations was achieved. When the chart positions were announced everyone was shocked – No 68. Up only two measly places – all that effort, all those hopes dashed. They had given their best shot but it had not been good enough. The following week it was all over as Nowhere Girl dropped two places – the only solace being reports filtering through from America that the song was beginning to pick up significant airplay. Even when the single shot up three places to No 67 the next week nothing could shake the band out of their despondency. A USA tour was booked and the band flew to New York. The band played Philadelphia and Washington before returning to New York for a gig at The Danceteria. More gigs followed in Buffalo, Toronto, Montreal, and Detroit. Returning to New York the band played The Peppermint Lounge before heading to the beach resort of Margate. Two more gigs followed but it had not been the great experience they had hoped for. So what now for B-Movie? Band morale was at an all-time low and something had to change. Back in Mansfield after a period of reflection, it was decided that the only solution was to oust Graham Boffey. It was a cruel and wrong decision made without much common sense.
The real B-Movie died with the unjust sacking of Graham – all the momentum had stopped. Things with Stevo were not good, the band existing in name only – they still had a record contract but very little else. Managing to somehow pick up the pieces an all-new Mansfield rhythm section of Martin Smedley (aka Winter) on bass and Andy Johnson on drums were recruited. Rehearsals commenced, Steve went back to college and Rick was working on a solo project with his girlfriend Cindy Ecstasy who had sung on the Soft Cell hit Torch. The band appeared on the Yorkshire TV show Calendar performing Remembrance Day but their relationship with Stevo was coming to an end. The last straw being the demo the band had recorded at The Point Studios in London. The tracks were like The Doors in their Soft Parade period – watered-down pop. Stevo listened to the tape for less than twenty seconds, took it out and threw it against the wall – in his mind the band were finished. They were in Rick’s mind too – he’d been thinking about leaving for some time and after a rehearsal, he announced he was leaving to work full-time on his solo project Six Sed Red. Paul turned to Steve and said the moment Rick walked out of the door “the show goes on – with or without Rick”, B-Movie was still alive. In October the band did a mini-tour – Paul was now on keyboards and a new recruit – Ady Hardy installed on the guitar. The gigs – Hull, Coventry, Aberystwyth, Retford & Salisbury – were surprisingly well attended, with the band being practically mobbed at the last date. This it turned out would be their last UK gig for some time. Whilst at home everything looked bleak, some very encouraging noises were being made abroad. Nowhere Girl was in danger of becoming a hit across Europe whilst in America it was No 1 in the Rockpool Charts. As 1982 ended there were still grounds for hope. Whilst the band had all but disintegrated, belatedly their music was winning them fans in the most unlikely places and when Paul Boswell told them he had booked them a tour of Israel they began to believe anything was possible in the music business… To be continued