With Scottish punk outfit The Rezillos turning up at Preston Guild Hall next week, marking 40 years since their debut LP, MALCOLM WYATT tracked down co-vocalist Fay Fife before she left Edinburgh
Four decades after first gracing our TV screens, belting out ‘Top of the Pops’ on the BBC show of the same name, the alluring Fay Fife clearly still has a passion for rock’n’roll.
Anyone who’s caught The Rezillos live knows that, and next Thursday she’ll be leaping about at the Guild Hall with fellow frontman Eugene Reynolds, 42 years after teaming up in Edinburgh.
A shared love of ’50s rock’n’roll and ’60s garage bands inspired them, punk rock providing the spark for a ‘new wave beat group’ who could never be accused of a po-faced approach to their art.
In 1978, the group – who formed at Edinburgh College of Art – released debut LP Can’t Stand the Rezillos, followed by live follow-up, Mission Accomplished… But the Beat Goes On!
By the time of that latter Glasgow Apollo show they’d split, though, guitarist/songwriter Jo Callis going on to The Human League, several more Top 20 co-writes including No.1 hit, Don’t You Want Me.
Yet Fay (real name Shelagh Hynd) and co-vocalist Eugene (real name Alan Forbes) reconvened in The Revillos, carrying on until 1985, a brief mid-’90s Rezillos reunion followed by a permanent one in 2001.
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And while a band completed by fellow founder-member Alasdair ‘Angel’ Paterson (drums), Chris Agnew (bass, since 2008) and Jim Brady (guitar, since 2010) remain busy elsewhere, they still regularly regather.
Their most recent original LP was 2015’s, Zero, and right now, they’re proving that The Beat Goes On! And it so happens that the first tour date this time involves that latest Preston visit, as Fay confirms.
“We’re kind of busy until the end of the year, and then there are other plans I shouldn’t talk about yet.”
Not the most prolific recording ensemble, we had to wait 37 years for a studio follow-up to their debut LP. Will we have to wait that long for the next?
“Well, there’s another in the pipeline. I wouldn’t say we’re quick off the mark, but are actually starting to write material. One new song we’re doing on a BBC 6 Music session, Goodbye, My Motorbike Guy.
“Everybody does other things, so it’s hard to get together to get it done, but I’m pushing for that. If you’re going to be doing this and not staying creative, there’s no point.”
That was always the case, though – sparking off at different angles, that creative energy key to their appeal. You also saw that in their careers – Fay moving into acting then psychology, Eugene setting up a motorbike business, Angel developing an architectural practice in Germany ...
“I only did the theatrical thing for a short time, then took time out to bring up my son, later studying psychology. I’ve done all sorts, and now I’ve come full circle, returning completely to music. I wanted a more settled life when my son was growing up. Now he’s at university, I feel I can do more of my own thing.”
Incidentally, her son’s father was Revillos guitarist Kid Krupa, who died in his early 40s in 2005, later a session player and producer before returning to the Rezillos’ ranks for the mid-90s shows.
Fay remains involved with the University of Edinburgh, where she studied, providing services in ‘therapy for people with addiction problems’, a sideline she feels keeps her ‘fairly grounded’.
The Rezillos always struck me as a fun punk band, I told her, with plenty of art-rock experimentation.
“If you’re feeling creative and working with creative people, you laugh very easily and humour is part of it. If you’re going to be over-serious and dour, it kind of deadens things.
“We always had that angle. Certainly, myself and Eugene have a similar humour, spark off each other.”
Was there a moment when you first realised this could happen?
“The key one was at our first gig. There was another singer then, Gail (Jamieson, aka Gayle Warning). We made our own stage outfits. I had a red plastic dress, hers was green. Everyone turned up like themselves but a slightly exaggerated version.
“When we got on stage, something happened. I’d never been on stage until then, but Eugene said it was clear once we started singing, that something else happened, some sort of performance thing.
“We completely gelled, really communicated with the audience. You could tell they were getting it.
When I think of The Rezillos, I think of those first two albums but also your memorable Top of the Pops appearances in 1978. Which moments stand out above all others for you?
“The first goes back to when The Revillos were touring America. We were in a mini-bus, travelling all over, including down to Tucson, Arizona, through the Grand Canyon, and over the Rockies. It was like being in an extended, bizarre musical adventure. It reminded me of Scooby Doo. An amazing experience.
“More recently, maybe three years ago, we were touring the US west coast, had a great tour bus and I had my room at the end – I felt like Tammy Wynette! I loved to wake up early, look out on really amazing scenery. We travelled from Canada right down to Mexico. Something about it was quite transcendent.
“Sometimes you feel that, then others, it’s, ‘My God, I’ve spent about a million hours getting to the gig, I’ve gone on stage for 45 minutes, and then I’ve gone home!”
The Rezillos and support Department S - best known for 1981 hit ‘Is Vic There?’ – play Preston Guild Hall LiVe on Thursday, September 6, with tickets £17.50, from the box office on 01772 80 44 44. For more details try https://prestonguildhall.co.uk/shows/the-rezillos-plus-special-guests/. The band also plays Manchester Academy on Saturday, October 13.