“A camouflaged animal avoids detection by assuming the appearance of its surroundings, allowing it to evade predators or lie in wait for prey. Well-known examples are zebras and tigers, both of which have evolved stripes that make them difficult to discern amidst the long grass or jungle plants of their respective habitats. Some animals alter their appearance to match seasonal changes in their surroundings. The arctic hare, for example, has brown fur during summer but turns white for the winter as camouflage against the snow.” from decodedscience.org
In the aftermath of Punk, it wasn’t animals who used post punk’s sartorial subterfuge to slip through the cultural landscape undetected, it was more likely to be members of lumpy, forgotten, or previously unsuccessful bands. As they glanced up from a 19 minute guitar solo, some bands might have noticed that something new was afoot. Stopping the HP payments on that second hand Mellotron, and instead wrapping themselves up in a convenient and strategic post punk invisibility cloak, they attempted to pass through, as one of the tribe. Like our friend the arctic hare, growing a new pelt to mimic their surroundings.
In 1975, a young art student called Annie Lennox was studying the flute at London’s Royal Academy of Music, and in-between times she would waitress at a local health food restaurant. One of the regulars, a record shop owner called Paul Jacobs, introduced her to another musician friend of his, a Mr Dave Stewart. Dave Stewart was already a seasoned musician and could already boast of once being part of a commercially unsuccessful folk rock band called Longdancer, who had signed to Elton John’s Rocket Records as far back as 1971.
Stalking their prey of worldwide fame Stewart, Lennox and fellow guitarist Peet Combes formed a punchy new trio called The Catch, who released the single “Borderline” in 1977, which despite its pleasant free-wheeling prog/disco fusion melange, and Lennox’s unmistakable vocals, failed to attract any attention.
Back at the drawing board, in 1978 the group expanded their line-up, took themselves emergency clothes shopping, examined the sound of their contemporaries and changed their name to the more “new wave” sounding The Tourists. With the camouflage in place, their first single, post re-invention, was the upbeat “Blind Among The Flowers” which managed to dent the UK charts, where it crept in at number 52. Later that year and with another new raincoat, their new wave cover version of the 1960s Mums and Dads favourite, the Dusty Springfield song, “I Only Want To Be With You”, gave them their first Top 5 hit.
This was not new wave, but in a fast moving post punk world, sometimes it was hard to tell. In her new-wave raincoat, Lennox reminds us of sit-com superstar Yootha Joyce, but nobody seemed to notice that at the time, and the BBC seemed relieved to find at least one so-called “new wave” band who could actually play and sing without resorting to anything very new wave at all. This was the sort of “new wave” that all the grown ups had been waiting for.
Engaged as the support band on Roxy Music’s 1979 manifesto tour, The Tourists seemingly on the brink of a big break-through, responded by splitting up. However, after a few hours in their hotel room and deciding that guitars were probably over for the time being, Dave & Annie, now used to a spot of pop subtefuge, re-branded themselves as the more synth-pop sounding Eurythmics.
In this completely fair, mature and balanced analysis, let’s look at how many post punk points The Tourists have earned themselves: –
Number of band members who were Vivienne Westwood shop assistants = 0
Times they played at The Roxy = 0
Years they lived in Bromley = 0
Non Punk Points (each point represents a minus and will count against their final total)
Releases of prog/folk/disco tinged records = 2
Industrial scale rebranding attempts years 1977-1980 = 3
Number of members awarded an OBE = 1
The Tourists – Total Post Punk points = a poor, minus 6