Smiths, Freak Party

A lost demo from an early incarnation of The Smiths has been rediscovered after lying dormant for 35 years, and is due to be released as a single.

The band, which went by the name ‘Freak Party’, was formed in 1981 and featured original Smiths members Johnny Marr and Andy Rourke, plus drummer Simon Wolstencroft.

“We rehearsed in Ancoats, at Decibel Studios on Jersey Street”, said Simon.

“That’s where we came up with the funk rhythms you can hear on our two singles- ‘Firefly’, which is out on November 25th, and ‘Don’t Push Your Luck’, which’ll be out sometime in the New Year.”

After a long hiatus the band eventually dissolved once Marr met Morrissey and formed The Smiths. Despite being offered the chance to drum with the group, Simon turned them down after meeting Morrissey one night and ‘not liking the cut of his jib’.

“I got a phone call from Johnny pleading with me to be in his new band, The Smiths. My first thought was that it was a crap name for a band but I thought I’d go down and give it a go.

“I went down to the studio and Morrissey walked in, and I just thought ‘Oh god, look at him!’. He was wearing winkle-pickers and a shabby coat and all his hair was stuck-up. He cut a very strange figure and I just didn’t like the cut of his jib, so in the end I turned them down.”

Above: Simon and Johnny in the early 80s.

As The Smiths took off Simon parted ways with Marr & Rourke and the Freak Party tapes became lost to time; a footnote in the history of Manchester’s brief foray into Jazz-Funk in the early 80’s.

They remained missing for 33 years until they were recently discovered again “hidden inside the lining of a flight case” in the depths of Simon’s cellar, who promptly passed the tapes on to long-time friend and collaborator Mike Bennett.

“We spent the first six hours just scraping the mould off the tapes” Mike explained, “then it was a question of finding individual parts played by Johnny Marr, Andy Rourke and Simon, de-hissing them and then putting them back together in the structure of the original songs”.

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Mike Bennett during the Freak Party video shoot.

Once the tracks had been restored, the duo recruited veteran soul diva Angie Brown and ‘Fifth Smith’ Craig Gannon to add additional guitar and vocals, and released their first single, ‘Firefly’ on Wolstencrofts’ own label ‘Funky Si Records’.

“Although we weren’t trying to be commercial with it- for us it was more about restoring an archive- Rough Trade have picked up on the record, and for that we thank them.” said Mike.

Firefly is out on November 25th via Funky Si Records. Listen to it below.

 

 

 

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