Formed in 1982, Red Guitars delivered great tunes, had the left-wing political credentials to become NME darlings and were defiantly independent, releasing material through their own label, Self Drive.
While the band was largely guitar-driven, there was an underlying swagger and groove to their music, influenced by the sounds of African Highlife and acts like King Sunny Ade, which stood them apart from the morass of wannabes.
They delivered incessant earworm riffs, swooshing bass lines, chanted lyrics and scattering drums that make the feet want to move and the ass want to follow, to paraphrase Funkadelic. And there’s more than a little groove in some of the Red Guitars’ tunes, particularly in the bass lines delivered by Lou Duffy-Howard.
Added into the mix was some good old-fashioned rock, blues and even a hint of prog – as well as some rapid-fire riffing to keep the post-punk crowd happy.
After meeting in Hull at a community arts project, Jeremy Kidd (vocals) and Hallam Lewis (guitar) formed a band in the late 70s, dabbling in reggae as The Czechs before quickly changing their name and focus. Joined by John Rowley (rhythm guitar), Matt Higgins (drums) and the aforementioned Lou Duffy-Howard on bass, the band built a solid following playing north-west venues and a number of benefit shows for worthy causes.
A demo got a good review in Melody Maker, encouraging the band to make the leap to vinyl. In keeping with the band’s anti-corporate stance, Red Guitars formed their own record label, Self Drive, in 1982, under the care and control of Jeremy Kidd.
The first single, Good Technology b/w Heartbeat Go (Love Dub) was released the following year and, after some great reviews and John Peel airplay, it clambered to #8 in the indie charts.
The band hit the motherlode with their first single. Good Technology was a fantastic slice of indie pop, with great lyrics, screaming guitars and a ferocious bass rumble underpinning everything. Their sound borrowed elements from big hitters like Echo & The Bunnymen, U2 and Simple Minds – without sounding derivative in the slightest.
The video for the single was played on Channel 4’s The Tube as part of a feature on Hull’s music scene, reaching a new fan base. Good Technology was then reissued on 7″ and 12″ formats in 1984, with a new flipside (Paris, France) and went on to shift an impressive 60,000 copies.
The follow-up, Fact/Drive, was another mid-paced burner, with the A-side carrying a strong anti-war message that was perfectly timed in the immediate wake of the Falklands War, with the straight-ahead rocker Drive on the flipside. The single was another indie chart success, reaching #7.
It was, however, with the track Steeltown that Red Guitars arguably made their most significant musical statement. It shot to #2 in the indie charts.
Jeremy Kidd departed in 1984, though the band continued on for a further two years, bringing in Robert Holmes on vocals.
Lou Duffy-Howard (Louise Barlow)