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The Apostles - From Analogue To Digital

After nearly 12 years of being pestered, cajoled and badgered by what now amounts to literally dozens of disparate demented souls, I have finally (with extreme reluctance and considerable foreboding) agreed to the release of works by The Apostles on CD. A previous band member was the first character to succeed in breaking the embargo. He elected to release the 1st and 5th singles, plus selections from the 2nd and 3rd singles, primarily because, since he plays on most of these tracks, he can submit a justifiable claim to them and at least a larger and younger public can hear these pieces for the first time (although, on their encounter with these wretched records, they will soon wish they had not). Then, buoyed by this unexpected success, Stephen Parsons of BBP managed to persuade me to allow the rest of the back catalogue to be transferred into the digital domain.

My hostility is directed towards people who are too weak to face the future and who would prefer not only to wallow in the past but also to redefine that past in order to render it more appealing to their nostalgic sensibilities. Thus certain previous band members have sought to censure me when I describe true and accurate accounts of what happened rather than pay homage to their whimsical ideal variant of history. I never wanted to reissue any of this noisome racket to the public but, to keep the peace, I have finally acquiesced and, with reluctance, agreed to these releases. However, there is a condition attached – that I refuse to allow anyone to mislead the general public with accounts of the group’s history modified to appease their own rose tinted memories. They would prefer to remember ‘the punk scene’ in general and The Apostles in particular in a manner that suits their fantasies and I refuse to concede to this. One band member even had the temerity to complain when I revealed that for most of the Apostles recordings I had adopted a fake south London accent for my singing. He wanted to maintain some weird Dickensian version of The Apostles with me as some sort of Cockney class warrior no doubt and the truth, since it contradicted this ludicrous fantasy, was therefore unacceptable to him. Well, the truth cannot be ordered to mould itself to fit the nostalgic ideals of people who really do need to wake up and get a life.

To this day, myself and certain other ex-band members disagree vehemently on the value of The Apostles. I expressed personal doubts about the artistic validity of the group even when I was a member but after I left the group and had the time to review their recorded oeuvre, I realised that I had spent nearly 8 years in a band writing often finely crafted pop songs, rock anthems and avant garde works only to have them performed with utter ineptitude, ruined by a total lack of any studio production and then finally crushed into oblivion by trying to cram twice as much music on each record as was technically possible. The result: 7 singles and 7 albums of noisome garbage that was a waste of the vinyl and paper used to produce them. Anyone who has been unfortunate enough to have heard these records will find it impossible to disagree with what I have stated.

The Apostles were a crap band and that’s all there is to it. One disgruntled ex-band member complained in an e-mail to me that for me to make such a statement is the same as saying ‘you are an idiot’ to anyone who likes any of those recordings. This is beyond being simply not true - it’s an absurd statement. There are a few people who actually enjoy some of these recordings besides himself but why do they enjoy them? I suggest it is due to their memories of what was happening in their lives and in the country at the time those records were made. When we performed live concerts, we were frequently far superior in both sound and technical prowess to what we produced on record so perhaps these people harbour fond memories of such concerts and therefore listen to the records with minds influenced by such memories. I submit that if I played any track from any of these records to any teenager, they would either laugh with bewilderment or cringe with embarrassment that anyone could have had the sheer audacity to commit such atrocious sonic nonsense to vinyl.

Stephen Parsons alone has proved himself able to be honest about what we did all those years ago and for this reason (among others) we can state that any Apostles reissue on CD not released by BBP should probably be avoided since it is unlikely to be truly representative of the group with its weaknesses and strengths exhibited in proper measures. In other words, if you pay money for a CD by The Apostles and find it is not released by BBP then it is likely to be a poor quality bootleg. However, there is a CD of alternative mixes of the 1st, 2nd and 5th singles plus bonus tracks being released by Chris Low which we do sanction because it has been professionally prepared and mastered at Southern Studios from decent sources and we were contacted initially to check the contents etc so we are able to endorse it thoroughly.

So why do I find it necessary to make such a strident (if not savage) critique of the recorded oeuvre of The Apostles? There is a simple but important reason: many of you reading this (actually, most of you reading this) will never even have heard of The Apostles, let alone encountered any of their music. If you are familiar with our music in UNIT it will be plainly evident that we are careful to ensure our works are performed to the best of ability and given the most professional production we can afford. If you enjoy much of our music, you might want to investigate the work of The Apostles to find out what some of the UNIT members were involved in prior to their work in the current group. Other people may be fans of Hellbastard and want to discover what Scruff was doing while he was in The Apostles. You could therefore be forgiven to expect The Apostles to sound similar to Hellbastard or UNIT or at least exhibit an equivalent degree of performance and production standards. Some of you may decide to spend your money on purchasing some of these CDs. Fair enough – but it is absolutely essential that you are not cheated or conned. I resent it when I purchase a DVD or a CD and find the contents to be of less quality than I was led to expect. Also, out of respect to Stephen Parsons (the brave soul responsible for these CD re-issues) and also to all previous members of The Apostles, I owe it to all potential purchasers to offer the following five disclaimers so you can be aware in advance precisely what you are buying.

1)   None of the original master tapes exist for these records so they have been transferred onto CD from mint condition copies of the original vinyl records. For certain tracks that were never issued on vinyl, tracks have been transferred from the best quality audio cassettes available. All these recordings have been loaded into our computer and had as many of the pops, clicks and crackles removed as possible. (No matter how excellent the quality of an original record may be, there will always be surface noise because vinyl records are horrible, cumbersome, noisy things that should no longer exist in a world that has penicillin.) Tape hiss has been either omitted entirely or at least reduced to an acceptable level. The sound envelope (bass, middle and treble) has been improved to compensate for the limitations inherent in the vinyl and cassette mediums – these were all that were available to musicians during the 1980s before digital technology evolved to liberate us from the tyranny of vinyl and tape. So while every attempt has been made by myself and Luc Tran to bring these old recordings up to an acceptable standard, these recordings will not be comparable in quality to that which you have come to expect from UNIT.

2)   Because we were all young teenagers when The Apostles started to release records and because many of us were impatient to record our music, many of these records were made before we had attained any degree of proficiency on our instruments. In our naïveté we were simply not aware how inept and clumsy were our attempts to perform music that was often beyond our limited abilities. Despite the evidence that may appear to be to the contrary, I can vouch for the fact that we really did try our hardest to sing and play these works to the very best of our abilities. However, that said, the results are often unintentionally humorous and frequently embarrassing. This is all the more irritating because so many of these records contain fine pieces of music with often incisive, witty lyrics. Fortunately most of these works have since been recorded properly by UNIT with the performances and production they deserve.

3)   As the main vocalist in the group I must accept 100% of the blame for the truly abysmal singing. It is therefore fortunate that we encouraged other band members to sing on some tracks (Dave Fanning and Malcolm Lewty in particular) while at other times we wrote a fair number of purely instrumental works. I was under the impression (erroneously) that my cultured accent with its slight Scots burr would be unacceptable to our audience so I adopted a thoroughly contrived and utterly ludicrous south London accent for most of the pieces on which I appear. That this was actually dishonest – lying to our audience – never even occurred to me at the time. The result is a collection of records that would only be slightly more absurd had they been sung by Peter Sellers in his Inspector Clousseau voice. Actually, they’d probably sound better!

4)   When most people attend our concerts and purchase our CDs, as far as they are aware UNIT is a group with people of equal status – with UJ nominally regarded as a band leader since he is responsible for setting up our e-mail account, website, my space page and addressing most of the correspondence. Once people become aware of my earlier career, this a danger that UNIT will be seen as ‘my latest project’ whereupon UJ and Luc are immediately relegated to secondary status. For this reason, more than any of the others stated above, I have stringently resisted all attempts at persuading me to sanction digital releases of Apostles recordings.

5)   We did not want anyone to assume that we were trying to capitalise on the reputation of a group I was in 2 decades ago in order to generate interest in UNIT; any esteem we accrued from our work must be due entirely to UNIT on its own merits. However, because both UJ and Luc have expressed an interest in these old recordings themselves and because, after 13 CDs, over 50 concerts and numerous plays on 3 different radio stations, UNIT has established itself as a group that warrants attention for its own work, I have finally relented and grudgingly allowed people to make available again these dreadful old recordings.

So, by all means investigate these old recordings if any of you are genuinely interested in what Dave and I were doing in our musical careers when we were 16 or if you want to discover what was happening in the avant garde and post-punk scene of the 1980s. However, bear in mind these 5 disclaimers before you make any purchase – never let it be said that we tried to cash in by promoting the sale of rubbish.

The definitive version of Apostles contained just 4 people: myself (vocals), Malcolm Lewty (guitar, vocals), Dave Fanning (bass guitar, guitar, vocals) and Chris Wiltshire (drums). This is the group that stayed together the longest, released the most records and played the most concerts. It is this format of the group most people remember. However, this is unfortunate because it means that previous band members rarely receive the credit for their work that they deserve. Worse still, nearly all the music recorded by the final version of the group (with Sean Stokes and Colin Murrell) remained unreleased and therefore unheard by the public even though much of this was actually far superior to anything previously recorded by the group. This is another reason I finally relented and sanctioned the CD re-issues.

In spite of all I have written above, there are some genuinely high calibre tracks (usually those on which I do not appear as a performer), especially those written by Dave Fanning, which alone justify the purchase of any of these CDs. The singles are generally dreadful but there are a few pieces which just about manage to deserve digital resurrection. The 1st, 2nd and 5th singles are absolutely wretched and deserve to be locked in Room 101 for eternity and a day. On Blind Discrimination Chris Low makes his vocal debut with his first lyric for the group; Stumped and The Creature, both by Dave are still enjoyable now, despite the clumsy production. All 3 tracks are from the 3rd single.

From the infamous 4th single Rock Against Communism deserves merit simply because it is one of the few Apostles tracks given a decent performance and even the production is not quite as dreadful as usual. For the 6th single we were joined by 3 members of a pop group called The Joy Of Living and one track, The Wasteland, does not make me wince with shame when I hear it. The final single is unique in that both tracks are worth saving. Pork Pies is a cracker, an instrumental by Dave on which he makes his debut on violin while In The Name Of Science, despite my wretched singing, still sounds exciting with a production that sounds almost acceptable.

The 1st LP contains Breaking Barriers (my now famous poem here set to the original music written by Dave Fanning), Thrive Alive Jive (one of the very rare occasions when a piece contained music written by myself and Dave) and 62 Brougham Road, which despite my atrocious singing still manages to survive the test of time. The 2nd LP features Run For It and House Of Horror, two of the finest rock anthems Dave has ever written, as well as his slightly ponderous but generally excellent 15 minute opus The Voyage.

The 3rd LP features the vocal debut of Malcolm ‘Scruff’ Lewty (later of Hellbastard fame) on Social Scum and Heavy Metal, two fine examples of the heavy rock style favoured by both Scruff and Dave, with interesting lyrics. The 4th LP contains some bizarre but memorable moments. Faith is my own homage to 1980s pop duo Eyeless In Gaza and is still enjoyable now. Fragments remains a highly atmospheric adventure despite my histrionic vocal delivery. Our versions of two Alternative TV numbers, Release The Natives and Fellow Sufferer, complete the collection of tracks from this album that don’t deserve to languish in oblivion. There are also some serviceable items that were rejected from the 3rd and 4th albums (for reasons known only to God) that appeared later on a split album with Statement on one side and The Apostles on the other. We covered another Alternative TV work, an instrumental called Red, on which Dave and Scruff actually improve on the original. The pure unadulterated pop of A Love That’s Died, a Tony McPhee song, features some excellent drumming from Chris Wiltshire while A World We Never Made, a 4 part 11 minute epic written mainly by myself (Dave wrote part 2) still moves me now, despite the poor playing and amateur production.

It is ironic (yet somehow typical for The Apostles) that much of our best work was never released to the general public. When Scruff left the group to join Hellbastard on a full time basis and Chris Wiltshire left to take up full time higher education, we were joined for the fag end of our career by Sean Stokes and Colin Murrell, who previously had spent 2 years recording and touring as The Demolition Company. We recorded what was intended to be a double album but by this time nobody wanted anything to do with us; this was not due to our music but because we had been totally ostracised by a scene whose exponents sought to remain safe, secure and satisfied with their cliché ridden indulgences. Here we ventured into territory we had begun to explore on the 4th album, i.e. avant garde and non-rock music. Stephen Parsons of BBP bravely stood by the group and released most of these recordings on audio cassette but they were generally ignored. Well over half the works recorded at these sessions in 1987 are worthy of issue to the public and I am therefore pleased that these pieces are finally being made available in digital format.

Undaunted by the hate mail we received and the abuse we encountered from punks at our concerts, we recorded a further album, primarily of lyrics and music by early 1970s group Third World War, in an attempt to justify our return to rock music as a genre. The exercise was fun, the playing was of a higher standard than previously and the production wasn’t too bad either. On most of these tracks I even began to sing in my own accent but this was because I had already decided to leave the group (unknown to the others) and frankly I didn’t care anymore. Again, this album was never released; again, Stephen Parsons released it on audio cassette and again, nobody bought it! When I finally left the group in February 1989 it was like being released from prison…and I thought being in a pop group was supposed to be fun.

So, the CDs have been released in this fashion:

The Singles (Volume 1) – released by BBP, this contains the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th singles plus the extra tracks recorded during the sessions for these records. It has been professionally re-mastered from chrome cassettes taken from the original tapes and from mint condition vinyl records where tapes are unavailable.

The Singles (Volume 2) – released by BBP, this contains the 5th, 6th and 7th singles plus all the tracks from an unreleased single together with 2 compilation album tracks that were only ever available in extremely limited editions. It has been professionally re-mastered from chrome cassettes taken from the original tapes and from mint condition vinyl records where tapes are unavailable.

Punk Obituary – the 1st LP, released by BBP. This album was nearly an hour long which meant that, even though many of the tracks are quiet, gentle pieces, it still sounded like a transistor radio even when played on music reproduction systems designed by NASA. It has been professionally re-mastered from mint condition original vinyl records.

The Lives & Times Of The Apostles – the 2nd LP, released by BBP. This album was also nearly an hour long but since nearly all the tracks were loud and heavy, the sound quality was truly wretched. It has been professionally re-mastered from mint condition original vinyl records.

The Acts Of The Apostles – the 3rd LP, released as BBP. This contains the album plus 4 extra tracks recorded for inclusion on it but omitted because even we realised that trying to squeeze 36 minutes per side of an album really wasn’t going to work. It has been professionally re-mastered from chrome cassettes taken from the original tapes and from mint condition original vinyl records.

How Much Longer – the 4th LP, released by BBP. This contains the original album plus 4 extra tracks recorded for inclusion on it but omitted for the same reason as before. It has been professionally re-mastered from chrome cassettes taken from the original tapes and from mint condition original vinyl records.

Equinox Screams – the 5th LP, released by BBP. The most unusual record we have ever released: side one features the last recordings made by the Martin / Lewty / Fanning / Wiltshire line-up playing punk rock while side two features the first recordings made by the Martin / Stokes / Fanning / Murrell format exploring our first serious venture into the avant garde and industrial genres. Re-mastered from a mint condition original vinyl record.

Eine Antwort – the unreleased double album, released by BBP. It has been professionally re-mastered from chrome cassettes taken from the original tapes courtesy of Danny O’Rawe who provided us with the best quality tapes available and we therefore dedicate the album to him.

Manifesto – the unreleased album from 1988, released by BBP. It has been professionally re-mastered from chrome cassettes taken from the original tapes and contains additional tracks from these sessions previously believed lost, thanks to Andy Nunn who provided decent quality tapes and towhom we dedicate the album

The Other Operation – although called ‘the 6th LP’ this was a one sided affair with Statement on the reverse. All the tracks featured are off-cuts and out-takes from the two studio sessions that resulted in our 3rd and 4th LPs so these tracks have been included on the CD reissues of both those albums.

Hymn To Pan – the 7th LP, like Equinox Screams, recorded on a cassette portastudio so these are not studio quality recordings. This was released by some joker in America who sped up all the tracks which makes us sound ridiculous (well, more ridiculous than usual). We had to restore the tracks to their original speed and improve the sound quality as much as possible. Incidentally this chap formed an organisation called Vegan Reich, a sort of neo-nazi animal rights brigade – only in the bible belt of Yankee-land could such groups originate! Re-mastered from a mint condition original vinyl record.

The Cassettes – now we come to the real problems. The Apostles released a series of audio cassettes, most of which are, in my opinion, best forgotten. Indeed they should never have been issued to the public initially. Still, we did make them available and it occurs to me that if I tried to suppress them then I’d be guilty of creating a distortion of reality – but what a grim reality that can be at times! The 2nd Dark Age (the second cassette) for example, was recorded on a portable cassette recorder with a drum machine simply so we had a rough version of our main pieces that we could play to drummers we sought to audition for the group. Topics For Discussion (the fourth cassette) is utterly abysmal and self indulgent; listeners are treated to the dubious experience of hearing us drone incessantly on as we ‘expand’ old numbers with tediously contrived guitar solos and all this mess committed to oxide via a portable cassette recorder so the quality is horrible. Private Performances (the ninth cassette) was our first venture into an avant garde live performance – this was actually myself and Dave Fanning wandering around his house playing various instruments and noise making devices, often supported by backing tapes of electronic sounds – believe me, the description, although horrendous, is far more interesting than the result! I could go on but you gain the general idea.

The very first cassette is of interest purely because I had been in the band barely a month and so nearly all the compositions are not written by me and it amuses me to hear my 15 year old voice trying so hard to sound mean, earnest and committed, despite the pacifist drivel I was required to squeal! However, by the late 1980s we had progressed to 4 track portable studios so, although still not studio quality, it was at least possible to listen to our cassettes without the supply of pain killers that was de rigeuer for all our previous releases. The cassettes The Progressive Blues Experiment, Life, A Consumer Commodity and How To Suck Seed all contain some competently performed and decently produced tracks. The final cassette Live At The Academy does reveal that we had finally learned how to play conventional pop songs at a live concert although the audience consisted of Tim Verdon, John Waddingham and the dog, Leo – that was an accurate indication of our popularity by February 1989.

Sleeve notes have been provided either by myself or by Luc Tran (who, not even born when most of this music was recorded, is able to offer an objective response to the contents) together with reproductions of the original albums covers and other artwork that has withstood the ravages of time.

The CDs are available from BBP, BOX 45404, LONDON SE26 6JW.

Of the various temporary musicians who stepped in at short notice to help us out while full time band members were indisposed, I have no idea what became of Simon Parrish, Martin Ryan, Patrick Poole, Sharon Joy, Julie Joy, Yvette Joy and Iain Archibald. Dan MacKintyre, Julian Portinari and Pete Bynghall were the original members of The Apostles before Dave and I joined. I have no idea where they are now. Chris Low became a techno / rave promoter for a while then joined The Parkinsons. Chris Wiltshire obtained his degree at university then we lost contact with him. Colin Murrell became a music teacher and music therapist (I think). God knows what happened to Sean Stokes – I hope he achieved success and happiness because he deserves it. Dave Fanning stayed with me to form UNIT and remained in the group up until 2006 when we had yet another of our frequent fights and finally parted company in less than amicable terms. That said, it remains an inalienable fact that without me, The Apostles would have continued to exist regardless but without Dave, that group would have collapsed within a matter of weeks. Anyway, he is now a fully qualified martial arts teacher and has a beautiful daughter, Harriet.

Malcolm Lewty (a.k.a. Scruff) remains the one really successful lad ever to have been in The Apostles – he made a significant impact with Hellbastard, formed a succession of equally impressive groups afterwards (Nero Circus, King Fuel, Sidewinder, Heavy Water and Moodhoover) before forming a new version of Hellbastard who released a superb album in 2008 to prove none of the old magic has been lost. We have remained in regular contact with Scruff. Indeed, Scruff actually sings and plays as a guest performer on many of the tracks of our album ‘Class War’ that was recorded and released in 2008. That leads me to my final peroration and in stating this I do offer a genuine apology to Stephen Parsons for all his generous work but this has to be said: my advice to everyone who reads this: FORGET THE APOSTLES. They were a second rate band who made third rate records. (Poor Steve – there he is trying to sell these CD reissues and here am I making it as difficult for him to do so as possible.) Anyway, that was then – this is now. Nostalgia isn’t what it was – we have to think ahead!

Andy Martin © 2009.



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