Musical Archaeology (part 14) – Deaf School

We're delighted to welcome Pete Loughlin, editor of the excellent Purchasing Insight blog and P2P / e-invoicing guru, to write about something totally different from his usual topics!

“Paul Du Noyer”

“Who?”

“Paul Du Noyer. The founder of Mojo, ex editor of NME and current associate editor of The Word”

“Oh that Paul Du Noyer”

Paul Du Noyer has an impressive music journalism career behind him so when he says that in the history of Liverpool music ”two bands matter most, one is The Beatles and the other is Deaf School”, there can be only one reaction: Who are Deaf School?

They’ve been described as one of the best bands that never made it but if, like me, you were a teenager growing up in Liverpool in the 1970s, you would certainly have known who Deaf School were and you wouldn’t describe them as a band that didn’t make it. For a couple of years during that amazing, exciting and turbulent musical era that was the seventies, Deaf School were “the music” in Liverpool and at their final gig in 1978, it felt like every 16-19 year old in the city was in the Liverpool Empire partying with them.

You can’t pigeon-hole Deaf School easily. They’re probably best described as Art pop/burlesque/music hall/ Roxy/punk/glam/Motown/end of the pier/Scott Walker/Bernstein meets Betjamen meets Sha Na Na with added Liverpool pizzazz – a niche not occupied by many I have to say.

They had a varied line up of at least 8 regulars but they sometimes got into double figures on stage. Led by vocalists Enrico Cadillac Jnr and Bette Bright and supported by musicians that included the very reverend Max Ripple, Cliff Hanger and Frankie Average, they were, despite the surreal names, no novelty comic band. The three albums they recorded are a superb mixture of cabaret and punk. The variety is astounding and the song writing superb. They’re far from perfect by todays production standards but despite that, they stand the test of time well and on re-listening to them recently, I still can’t understand why they weren’t bigger. I’ve heard it said that they were in the right place, Liverpool, at the wrong time, at the cusp of Punk, but I don’t agree. I think perhaps that they just didn’t quite translate outside their home town.

If you want a band to compare them with, Madness is as close as you could come but you have to listen to them to understand them. Take a quick visit to iTunes and listen to a few tasters. Tracks I’d recommend to get a flavor would include: “Taxi”, “What a Way To End It All”, “Get Set Ready Go”,” English Boys (With Guns)”, “All Queued Up” and Channel 4 viewers might recognize “Thunder and Lightning” which is used occasionally as incidental music on Hollyoaks.

Where are they now?

Deaf School were a talented bunch and it’s hardly surprising they we’re individually successful after they split.

Cliff Hanger (real name Clive Langer) became a very successful record producer working with the likes of Elvis Costello and Madness. Enrico Cadillac also became successful in the recording industry and Bette Bright married Suggs. Bette Bright had a few claims to fame after Deaf School actually, founding  Bette Bright and the illuminations, the lineup of which included Glen Matlock, sacked from the Sex Pistols for ‘liking the Beatles’, and she also appeared in the Great Rock ‘n’ Roll Swindle.

Here's a sample (and it is a real treat! The Editor)

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