The art school dance goes on - on the north docks
Liverpool’s favourite art-rock pioneers, Deaf School, are walking backwards to Christmas with a Yuletide party at the Invisible Wind Factory.
Saturday 9th December is the date to keep clear, the culmination of a three night tour taking in Brighton and London. Then it’s back to Liverpool, the place where it all began for the classiest of musical combos, described by MOJO founder Paul Du Noyer as the band that mattered most, in the history of the city, apart from The Beatles, that is.
It will be Deaf School’s first live show here since 2015 when they closed the bound-to-be legendary Kazimier Club. Those two nights sold out, introducing a whole new generation to the ensemble. Meanwhile, on the other side of the coin, many of the band’s original and dedicated fanbase got to have a first and last waltz in the defining Wolstenholme Square venue before the bulldozer of regeneration ended it all.
The wave of worldwide fame eluded Deaf School who were spawned at Liverpool Art College in 1973 by a rabble of students with the aim of playing the Christmas dance.
"Anyone who wanted to be in it could be,” says lead male vocalist Enrico Cadillac Jnr (real name Steve Allen). “There were about 13 on stage at that time. No one could play – it was based on people we thought were interesting.”
By the time the line up had settled down, it comprised Cadillac, Cliff Hanger (Clive Langer) Bette Bright (Ann Martin), Rev Max Ripple (John Wood), Ian Ritchie, Mr Average (Steve Lindsey) and the late Tim Whittaker and Eric Shark (Sam Davis). Drummer these days is Greg Braden.
Allen recalls: “We entered (and) won the Melody Maker rock and folk contest and were suddenly a big deal. We signed to Warners because their A&R guy, Derek Taylor, had been The Beatles publicist and when he saw us rehearsing in Mathew Street (they were usually to be found at O’Halligan’s Parlour), he cried his eyes out.”
That was 1976, the cusp of punk, which kind of drowned out everything for a while. Nevertheless Deaf School had tunes, epic tunes filled with melodrama, romance and wit, and filled three albums with them: 2nd Honeymoon, Don’t Stop the World and English Boys/Working Girls.
And while they were robbed of chart-topping glory, there were other consequences and their impact on the music industry can still be felt today. Band members went on to enjoy illustrious musical careers in either performance, production or A&R. For Langer it was producing Madness and Dexys with the unmistakeable Deaf School sound filtering down through their records.
The Guardian recently described Deaf School as a “catalyst band” who “… inspired countless other musicians [and] laid the groundwork for something bigger… and paved the way for bands like Echo & The Bunneymen, the Teardrop Explodes and Wah!”
It's a bit early to be talking Christmas, but that hasn't stopped the faithful snapping up, in their droves, tickets for a gig five months away.
And with none of us getting any younger, the IWF party promises to be something special with plenty of handy facilities near to the stage.
*Deaf School Christmas Party, Invisible Wind Factory, 25 Carlton Street, Liverpool, L3 7ED. Tel: 0151 236 3160. Tickets, £17 (plus booking fee) are selling fast. Buy them here.