1982 – 1986 (3 years)
Kingston upon Hull, England, United Kingdom
- Hallam Lewis (1982 – 1986)
- Jeremy Kidd (1982 – 1985)
- John Rowley
- Lou Howard
- Matt Higgins
- Robert Holmes
The Red Guitars started life in Hull in 1979 as the heroically named Carnage in Poland when Jerry Kidd and Hallam Lewis first met. Later that year mild-mannered drummer Sean O'Brien was replaced by Matt Higgins and bass player Ian Halstead gave way to Hull's only Rastafarian, Mark Douglas. The name was changed to the Czechs and they set about writing a set of material they described as Eastern European Reggae. Next to join was John Rowley on second guitar and when Mark left to form his own reggae band and was replaced by Lou Howard (Lou Barlow) the band had its final lineup and a new name, Red Guitars. Famed far and wide for playing free benefit gigs for dodgy left wing causes the band had plenty of opportunity to hone their musical skills.
From the start the new material was exciting and different. Hallam was born in South Africa and his chiming, fluid, African-influenced style mixed strangely with the studied political lyrics of Jerry Kidd. The rest of the band drew on different musical influences from the Velvet's to Punk and Blues but what Red Guitars all understood was the 3 minute pop song. So in 1982 they set about recording their first single Good Technology (5 minutes and 8 seconds).
Fiercely independent and suspicious of record companies the band decided to go it alone and created their own label Self Drive distributed by Red Rhino, part of the Cartel of independent record distributors. As with hundreds of bands over the years The John Peel show proved to be a major breakthrough, with Peel's "I do think that's an excellent record, I must say" typical of the hysterical over-the-top reaction to the single. Peel continued to air the record regularly and within the year the band had recorded 3 Radio 1 sessions, appeared on the Tube and The Whistle Test and were to be found at the top of the Indie Charts with subsequent singles Fact and Steeltown.
Both dramatic and bleak, Fact, about the global arms trade and Steeltown, an elegy to the death of the steel industry ensured that the band were fêted by the music press for their articulate, political stance. But Red Guitars also had a real infectious dance side and for the fourth single the band decided on a change of direction. Marimba Jive, a live favorite, had an out and out African groove studded with layers of tumbling guitars and a soaring fretless bassline. Single of the week in both NME and Melody Maker the band went back to the studio to start recording their first album.
Constant touring abroad and supporting the Smiths on British tours while running Self Drive put increasing demands on the band members particularly those with young families and while the first album Slow to Fade was well received, the cracks were beginning to show. Jerry Kidd left the band in 1984 and while they continued for another 2 years with a different lineup the dreaming was over.
After their final demise in 1986 there was a resurrection into The Planet Wilson, with Hallam and Lou joined by Grant Ardis on drums. They were a strong favourite at the Adelphi Club and elsewhere before being signed by Virgin for their first album, In the Best of All Possible Worlds (1988). They parted company with Virgin soon after and released an indie label second album, Not Drowning But Waving (Records of Achievement, 1989), more representative of their live work, but finally went their separate ways not long after.
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