14 February 2016

The Reps - Rebel/ No More Yesterdays

Label: Kingsway Music
Year of Release: 1980

The Reps were the first band I ever saw live. That sounds like an impressive statement, as if they were some kind of gateway group who helped me discover my love of rock and roll, so let me clarify that a bit - I had no choice in the matter. My Religious Education teacher at secondary school, a much-mocked and faintly smug but, in retrospect, well-meaning sort of man - the kind who is always the first to volunteer to take forty schoolchildren on a camping expedition then nearly have a nervous breakdown in the process - booked the group to play at my school. The Reps, you see, had a reputation (or should that be Rep-utation?) for delivering edgy, relevant and not at all drippy Christian Rock music.

So there I was, sat in the school assembly hall, begrudgingly admiring the group. I had long made up my mind that I didn't believe in God, but nonetheless The Reps were loud and loved catchy New Wave and Powerpop riffs, two things I was also quite keen on. In fact, they played our school hall twice and I can still remember how the chorus to their track "What You Gonna Do About It?" goes even now. The hooks earwormed their way deep, and it's clear that the band had a very simple concept - keep the Christian message simple and subtle, the songs catchy, and the style relevant (they were a wee bit out of time in that respect by the time I saw them, admittedly) and eventually you may gain a few more believers. For all their efforts, I highly doubt anyone who actually knew their underground music would have been converted. A quick look at the quota of beards and rather casual clothes on the sleeve shows that the band were more likely to be found shopping at C&A than Sex on the Kings Road. Still, I could see how they might make an impact on the floating voters.

The Reps didn't actually begin as a New Wave styled band, starting their days as The Dunamis or Dumani Roadshow, a much more middle-of-the-road group. "Rebel" seems to catch them at a halfway house, an odd transition point. The A-side is squeaky, sprightly and definitely punk inspired, trying to reach the alienated kids out there. The intro even sounds almost like a nineties Teen C record, zinging along jauntily and only really mentioning Jesus about a minute in.

Flip "No More Yesterdays", on the other hand, is MOR 70s angst-rock, owing a slight debt to the space-age melodrama of Jeff Lynne and ELO. And, to be honest, while the lyrical message behind the track is even more naive than one of Jeff's more flippant exercises on "Time", it's actually the side I prefer. There's a keener expression of ideas here, and overall it sounds like a much more natural style for the group. You get no sense that they're trying to fit into a pair of trousers far too tight for them.

Their next single release, though, the aforementioned "What You Gonna Do About It?" would go on to defy the odds and become a punk/ new wave collectible, proving that they did eventually master the art impressively (and leave me regretting the fact I didn't buy the record for two quid at the time).

The Reps were apparently mainstays on the Christian Rock circuit for many years afterwards, picking up an impressive following along the way, but the trail for their activities goes cold after the late eighties. It seems as if the line-up at the point of "Rebel" was John Ritter on vocals and guitar, Sue Ritter on vocals and keyboards, Andy Clark on guitar and vocals, Paul Raper on bass, and Jo Stephens on drums, but that may have changed later on.

On a slightly tangential point, the small Christian orientated Kingsway Music label also put out a single by an artist called Adrian Snell with the title "That's Me In The Corner". Was Michael Stipe paying attention? It's doubtful, but you have to ask.


Arthur Nibble said...

Interesting, at least to me. It looks like the labels were put on the wrong sides of the record, as you can clearly make out "No More Yesterdays" under the whiteout, and the powers that be have also amended the sides' statuses at 9 o'clock on the labels to try and correct matters, but they forgot to also amend the 'A' and 'B' status shown at 3 o'clock, meaning both songs are technically shown as joint 'A' AND 'B' sides.

I know, I need to get out more.

Arthur Nibble said...

By the way, you're right - that IS a catchy chorus to "What You Gonna Do About It?".

23 Daves said...

It looks like a very cheap, small-run pressing that went wrong. The 45cat website has a very similar example, so I suspect that all the final copies were cursed with the same mistake. I wonder how many times they had to write the correct titles out in biro? 500 or a thousand?

Anonymous said...

Thankyou for posting this! Jo Stephens (the drummer) was my father, who sadly passed away 8 years ago today, so I'm trying to find some records and internet profiles of him - but it wasn't as rife in those days!

23 Daves said...

No problem at all, and I'm glad I've been able to give you something to share with your family and friends. I'm also sorry to belatedly learn of your father's passing.

Anonymous said...

The Reps were also the first band I saw. It was at school in Cornwall in the early 80s so everyone was quite excited as a rock band was a real novelty. I seem to remember that the concert was enjoyable but what came afterwards left a sour taste in the mouth. They basically came accompanied by a God brainwashing squad and after the concert children were subjected to quite graphic and brutal stories of how the nails were hammered into Jesus on the cross. I remember several children were fairly traumatised. One male friend in particular, who you never thought would cry, was in floods of tears.

23 Daves said...

Blimey! I don't remember anything like that at all, fortunately, though by the time I caught the Reps it would have been closer to the mid-eighties.

Since I posted this entry up, though, a few people have got in touch to talk about The Reps being their first live experience, and one person has even confessed that he used to follow them round the country as a pre-eighteen year old, theirs being among the few gigs he could actually get into.