First conceived as a sequel to a Cherry Red reissue of their eponymous debut album, it has taken Brian Moss and Josephine Warden two years of work with the US label Minimal Wave for the project to finally come to fruition. Last month the double album – appropriately pressed on pink vinyl – finally arrived on these shores.
“It’s amazing, really, it’s all with the help of YouTube and Spotify,” says keyboard player Moss of the resurgence of interest in the group he founded with singer Warden in Leeds in 1981. “Some of the tracks we uploaded to YouTube and that got the interest going and we got various record labels interested, all from America.
“Looking at the stats on YouTube and Spotify, a lot of the people weren’t even born when we did the first stuff.”
Contemporaries of Soft Cell, Moss and Warden – then known as Vicious Pink Phenomena – sang backing vocals on Marc Almond and Dave Ball’s first album, Non-Stop Erotic Cabaret, which came out in November 1981.
While Warden admits she looked upon the five years she spent in Vicious Pink as “just fun and a laugh”, Moss has very much tried to maintain interest in the group responsible for such synth pop nuggets as Cccan’t You See and My Private Tokyo.
“I’ve saved a lot of stuff,” he says. “Also I’ve been in touch with the son of Mike Wiand, who was our manager at the time and also owned (celebrated Leeds nightclub and venue) The Warehouse, and he got one of the two-inch multi-track tapes from Washington that his dad had kept. We’d paid for the recording back in the day and two of the tracks that are on (West View) were recorded in a studio in West Yorkshire. It’s a two-inch 24-track tape and it had been kept in a garage in Baltimore at his aunt’s, and he’d got various other tapes. We took that to London and got it baked because the glue that holds the oxide is hygroscopic, it absorbs water, so we had to get it baked at this place in North Acton, they’ve done Bob Marley and lots of these tapes. They had to bake it for three days then it was digitised from that.
“A lot of the stuff was one quarter-inch tape and cassette, the demos were recorded on our kitchen table back in the day.”
Warden says it “wasn’t an ambition” of hers to have hit records back in the 80s. “We were just there having fun, playing in clubs, going around the country, recording in New York. It’s only now that it hit me.”
She and Moss first met at The Adelphi pub in Leeds, where he was DJing. “I was already friends with Marc at that time (from Polytechnic),” she says. “Brian and I decided to do something. Dave Ball wanted to get involved because he was always like the third member of Vicious Pink originally, so of course he was always going to be the silent partner and he was always going to produce it, because he wanted to get into production. But as things had it, Tainted Love was such a massive hit and his allegiances lay with Soft Cell so really Dave wasn’t able to go much further than the first two or three tracks that we wrote.”
Nevertheless Vicious Pink remained part of a close-knit Leeds gang that also included Anni Hogan, who would later team up with Marc Almond in Marc and the Mambas, and Kris Neate, who designed the artwork for the Tainted Love single cover. “We all used to go around in a gang of us, and it’s great because we still all see each other, particularly because of these couple of reunions that Soft Cell have had,” Warden says. “At the O2 I saw a lot of people there and then we went down to the Hammersmith Apollo for the recent one for the Non-Stop Erotic Cabaret 40 years show, which was absolutely brilliant.”
Both Warden and Moss have fond memories of recording Soft Cell’s debut album in New York. “It was a non-stop party, in fact it was so much a party I missed the flight home,” Warden recalls. “We went from the studio to a club to another club then to one that opened at 4am, then we’d get back home, have a couple of hours sleep and go straight back into the studio where the party atmosphere would continue. It was just laughing and as you can probably hear when you listen to the album, that was the atmosphere of the band at that time.”
“That was a crazy carry-on,” remembers Moss. “I actually had serious appendicitis before we were going to go and it all went wrong and it had to be left open. I had this hole in my stomach and I was having salt baths every day and then Marc and Dave said ‘Do you want to come to New York?’ I told the nurse and she said ‘No, you can’t’ but I said ‘We’re going’, so she taught Jose what to do (to treat me). I ended up for the whole two weeks with this gaping hole in my abdomen, partying and recording.”
As a duo they were offered a deal with Parlophone and started to write more songs. “This album that’s just come out, West View, is named after where we lived. The songs were all written at the kitchen table there,” Warden says.
Between 1982 and 1986 Vicious Pink released seven singles and one self-titled album.
Their favourite haunt was The Warehouse. Warden recalls: “It was very important for us because Mike Wiand then started to manage us and got us a publishing deal and it was a great venue for us to play. We had an audience there all the time, lots of our friends went there as well so it was good. Everybody played The Warehouse, I saw so many bands there, it was really the place to be back then. We were fortunate already because we were the support act for Soft Cell for lots of shows everywhere, but to have The Warehouse as well. We were playing there, Frankie Goes To Hollywood were playing there, and Fad Gadget. It was a great place to be.”
Wiand, it later turned out, was leading a double life. Undercover of his business interests in Leeds, he was also a US spy. “I never realised that Mike was a spy,” Warden says. “I wondered why he kept lugging us all over everywhere. At one point he sent us off in a Winnebago to do a tour instead of staying in hotels. He’d park us up in really bizarre places in the remotest parts of the country. Afterwards I thought ‘what are you doing?’, but I never realised he was spying.
“The other thing about him was that wherever we went he would get a hero’s welcome. He could walk into any club or any bar and he knew everybody. It all fell into place afterwards. But the things I used to do, I was really pleased I didn’t know he was an American spy. But what a great cover, eh, managing a band. He was the last person I would have expected as well because he was just one of the gang.”
After Vicious Pink split up in 1986, Warden left the music business and raised a family, but Moss continued to make music with other bands and also worked as a tour manager. “One of the big ones I did was working with a support band for AC/DC in 2016,” he says.
While Warden seems content to think that West View “will be a nice surprise” for her three children whose only seeming interest in her past musical exploits came when she and Moss were mentioned in a question on the TV show Mastermind – “They were so shocked that they googled it then and had a look at things,” she says – Moss is hopeful that the renewed interest in the band might yet lead to them going out on the road again. “We’ve been asked to do a small tour in America, they’ve been onto us for 11 years, so maybe,” he says. “They also asked us to play The Warehouse and other venues.
“Jose’s way of looking at it is ‘do you want to get up onstage and look like you wish you hadn’t done it?’ We’ll see how it goes.”
West View is out now. www.facebook.com/Vicious-Pink