Year of Release: 1979
Noel Edmonds - so much to answer for. From his cuddly patience with unpredictable children on Saturday morning TV to his frequently quite barbed japes at the expense of celebrities, Radio One DJ and TV host Edmonds straddled himself across seventies and eighties British popular culture like an immovable Blob(by). He was responsible for breaking many a hit on his widely listened to breakfast show, but it's safe to say that art-punk, DIY and new wave never really figured in his list of interests, even if he did get John Peel to host some segments on BBC TV's "Late Late Breakfast Show" (none of which had anything to do with music, before you ask).
This, then, is a truly peculiar story. One week on the Edmonds hosted "Swap Shop", it would seem that the programme found itself short of a band and in need of a replacement at very short notice. Upon realising that the assistant designer Grenville Horner had his own New Wave group Cut-Outs, a member of the crew asked him if he and his friends would mind stepping into the spotlight to fill the unexpected gap… and so it came to pass that the unsigned and almost entirely unheard of group went live on Saturday morning TV and gained themselves an interview with the jocular Noel afterwards. EMI spotted them performing "D.I.Y.", quickly booked them into the studio to get the track produced by John Leckie sharpish, and the rest is long-forgotten history. A punky anomaly on Edmonds' otherwise smooth and safe watch, and a rare, real-life example of the old Hollywood stand-by plot of "Hold on! The assistant kid can fill in for us!"
"D.I.Y." is actually slightly quirkier and more angular than you'd expect an employee of "Swap Shop" to come up with. "Brown Sauce" this isn't - rather, it's like Colin Newman out of Wire fronting a satirical approximation of Devo-styled pop, all sharp, panicked vocal delivery and staccato guitar parts. It certainly wasn't commercial enough to be a hit despite their television exposure and EMI's clout, and while the label offered them a tour supporting The Tourists to build their profile and take them to the next level, the members rejected the proposal all having day jobs to focus on.
We could deem them foolish for not grasping the opportunity, but as Grenville has subsequently gone on to work as a production designer on numerous major film productions, it would perhaps be foolish of us. The lead singer Graham Crowley is now Professor of Painting at the Royal College of Art, while the whereabouts of the guitarist John Feathers are less clear.
For leaving us this little gem in between BBC production duties and canteen breaks, however, we should salute Cut-Outs. They may never have made another record, but their one release emerged under such odd and non-punk underground circumstances that it's almost tailor-made for this blog.
Thanks to regular reader Arthur Nibble for bringing this track to my attention and causing me to seek it out. And obviously, if anyone, anywhere has video footage of their performance and the subsequent Edmonds interview, I for one would love to see it.