A tin of baked beans and a woman’s weekly

We all remember those legendary Top of the Pops moments: Boy George’s first appearance which confused an entire nation; Morrissey’s marriage proposal; all those shows presented by Jimmy Savile.

What? Oh.

Anyway. My own favourite TotP* moment pales into insignificance compared to most, but that’s the odd thing with favourites isn’t it? Back in 1996 Brit Pop was all the rage, its two behemoths (Oasis and Blur – or was it Catherine Wheel and Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci? I forget) spawning no end of chancers, equivalents, and superiors. Falling into one or more of those categories came Space. On their debut Top of the Pops appearance, the opening line to Me and You Versus The World (“I first met you hanging knickers on the line”) caught my attention and I was hooked for the rest of the song; the tragi-rom-com story of a modern day Bonnie and Clyde set the tone for their first album Spiders.

Tommy Scott’s songs of love and hate are full of bizarre, cartoony characters and settings, including Saddam Hussein and John Major, as well as tearing into the popular hate figures of the Queen and Margaret Thatcher. His wonderfully, fiercely Scouse singing voice** was backed by a raucous, sometimes messy agglomeration of drums, guitar, keyboards, and odd vocal samples. Their poppy uniqueness came from the band being one part lyrical weirdness, one part guitar enthusiasm, and one part dance, with their first two albums both featuring dedicated dance tracks.

Space’s zenith came as they were promoting their second album, in the afterglow of the three hits off the first. A breakthrough to the big time beckoned, with endearingly daft appearances on mainstream TV programmes: on This Morning the band performed Avenging Angels, with Tommy telling Richard and Judy that he did indeed believe in these protective beings, and in fact had seven of them himself***.

While Tin Planet did give them their biggest ever hit, The Ballad of Tom Jones (which proved ultimately to be more of a platform for Cerys Matthews), it failed to be as successful – or as much fun – as the first album. 

Llistening back to both albums, I’m now struck by how much dark humour – and just plain darkness – lurks beneath the chirpy Scouse surface, with spade-loads of anger, murder, paranoia and despair. Exhibit A, the twisted genius of Drop Dead’s “I’m your number one fan and I go to every picture / The more I see you, the more I wanna hit ya”.

From here the band suffered label difficulties and a rapid turnover in members, with the planned album I Love You More Than Football never seeing the light of day. The occasional song popped out, including the enjoyable Diary of a Wimp, later followed by the album Suburban Rock n’ Roll, which was poor fare, even to the ears of this dedicated fan.

The most basic of internet search results in the promise of a new album (worryingly titled Attack of the Mutant 50ft Kebab), but this dates back nearly two years so I won’t be holding my breath just yet****. The associated live clips on YouTube suggest a move towards ska, which nearly threatens to work – time will tell.

Despite a sad fading away at the end of their initial fame, Space will always be the soundtrack to much of my late teens, and will always put a smile on my face. Nothing sounds quite like them, and ultimately Tommy Scott was right: Felix the Cat was a twat.

*as the show was inevitably re-branded during its final days on palliative care

**Scott described how he became a singer to emulate the singers idolised by his Dad. Whichever style he adopted (including Mexican, Sinatra, and plain old fruitcake) his Scouse twang was prevalent

***sadly I can’t find any footage of this appearance. Tommy made his way through the interview with admirably straight face

****I will be

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  1. #1 by vidzillaAndy Wilton on February 19, 2015 - 11:34 am

    Hi Assommoir,

    Just came across your blog, and this post. I’m a big SPACE fan and was interested to see if you enjoyed the new album?

    It’s different from their older stuff (deliberately more rockabilly/ska) – but the ideas, tunes and lyrics are great.

    I also think you’re being a little unkind on “Suburban Rock ‘n’ Roll”… It’s not the immediate ear-worm album that Spiders/Tin Planet is, but it’s actually really very classy. There’s a whole host of quality tracks in there and the production is so much more sophisticated than that of, say, Tin Planet (which is very “in your face pop”). I think Spiders is their best, followed equally by “Suburban Rock n Roll”/”Attack of the Mutant Fifty Foot Kebab”, then “Tin Planet” and then “Love you more than football”……

    There’s also an unreleased album called “Flies”, but sadly that looks like never emerging.

    Andy

  2. #2 by The Assommoir on February 19, 2015 - 10:24 pm

    Hi Andy, that had completely passed me by – one quick internet search later it’s now on its way in real form, and already accessible somewhere on the ether.

    I will have to re-listen to Suburban Rock N Roll in the meantime; I’m sceptical, but will happily be corrected. I agree entirely re. the production of Tin Planet (produced to within an inch of its life).

    Did Love You More Than Football ever get properly released? I feel another internet search coming on…

    Thanks for the heads-up about the new(ish) album.

    • #3 by Andy Wilton on March 3, 2015 - 2:09 pm

      Hey, sorry for the slow reply.

      Yeah, I’m a huge SPACE fan – not afriad to admit it. 🙂

      I really like the new album, it’s good to hear Tommy’s songwriting is still strong but with a slightly different direction. He’s doing a solo album while polishing off another SPACE album at the minute – so there’s plenty to keep me interested.

      Suburban Rock n Roll didn’t grab me immediately. I think it’s their most sophisticated album, if also the least commerical. After a few listens, there’s some really good stuff in there. It’s less immediate though.

      “Love you more than football” didn’t get a release, but it’s out there digitally – I might be able to help point you in the right directions if you get stuck. It’s got some good stuff on it, but it’s by far my least favourite of the work by the guys. 🙂

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