Age Of Chance were most notable for their cover of Prince‘s Kiss, but there was a plank-like quality to their version that served as an adequate summary of their approach.
Titles like Shut Up and Listen! and Be Fast Be Clean Be Cheap were typical of a band high on spittle but with little real musical muscle.
The group formed in Leeds in 1984 after guitarist Neil Howson replied to an ad placed by a 16-year-old Steve Elvidge in the NME. Bassist Geoff Taylor saw another notice in a Leeds record shop, and roped in a friend from art school, Jan Perry, on drums.
They bonded over noise, clubbing and leftwing politics, rehearsed in rooms above shops and, for a while, a van hire garage, listening to tapes of everything from The Fall and The Pop Group to Motown and LL Cool J, working towards their unique sound, best defined by their own job descriptions within the group: Elvidge was “mob orator”, Taylor provided “all-nite bass frequencies”, Howson was “power noise generator” and Perry was “beat dominator”.
Their first two singles got them some press, a John Peel session and a slot on the NME‘s time-capsule of jangle, the compilation C-86. Their track, From Now On This Will Be Your God, was recorded in a studio in Sheffield.
It was while recording a session for Peel that the band decided to tackle Kiss, which was still in the charts. “We changed the lyrics, which was against the law,” Taylor says. “We basically removed the sex and replaced it with lump hammers.”
Released as a single by Sheffield’s FON label, the rapped, feedback-drenched cover was their biggest hit. But their moment of cut’n’paste glory – a remix called Kisspower which included chunky samples of Prince’s original and Bruce Springsteen‘s Born in the USA – brought the first inklings that their brand of innovation might not be an easy sell.
“When we went to Virgin from FON, they wanted to try to release it,” Elvidge recalls. “But we played it to the head of Virgin America, and when it went into the Bruce Springsteen bit, he visibly blanched. And that was pretty much that.” Only 500 white label 12in copies of the track were ever pressed.
Their debut album, One Thousand Years of Trouble, was a triumph, showcasing a musical hybrid they called “crush collision” in which stentorian drumming, crunching but clipped guitar powerchords and samples rubbed up against gospel choirs, house beats and rumbling bass.
Elvidge’s lyrics critiqued American militarism and the avarice of the Reagan/Thatcher era with the strident emphasis of the terrace chant, while the sleeve art – one of the first big projects by the influential Designers Republic studio – drew on the band’s love of influences as disparate as Russian constructivism and Trouble Funk albums.
But sales were disappointing, things began to unravel, and midway through making the eventual follow-up, Mecca, Elvidge jumped ship.
By 1989’s Mecca, The Stone Roses put them in the shade forever and they called it a day in 1991.
Steven E (Elvidge)