Julian Cope presents Head Heritage

The Desperate Bicycles
Smokescreen/Handlebars


Released 1977 on Refill
Reviewed by Dave Furgess, 08/03/2001ce


What can I really say about The Desperate Bicycles? Well they are GODS!!!and Danny Wigley was truly punk's answer to Syd Barrett!!!
I first heard this single in 1979, sadly I got into the Bicycles a bit late, so this record was a couple of years old by the time I heard it but it is a record that has never been far from my turntable ever since, in fact there was a time I played "Smokescreen" everyday before work for close to a year. I bought one of those Phillips CD recorders in 1999 and the first thing I did was make a Desperate Bicycles anthology, but it's incomplete I still can't find their "Occupied Territory" 45 and "New Cross,New Cross" EP (can anyone out there help me find these records I've been searching over 20 years. Sorry if I'm rambling it's just that the Bicycles get me so excited!!
"Smokescreen" is the group's first single on their own Refill label, it was released in 1977 and is considered by many as punk's first true DIY 45. The lineup is Danny Wigley-vocals, Roger Stephens-bass, Dave Papworth-drums and Nicky Stephens on organ. This is sometimes considered the "Classic" Desperate Bicycles lineup.
Now to describe the record, well the Bicycles were not really a punk band of The Sex Pistols, Clash variety, their sound was more like the Television Personalities blended with "Live at the Witch Trials" era Fall.
"Smokescreen" begins with Wigley counting off 1234 then the group launch into one of the most bizarre songs I've ever heard, Wigley's lyrics are brilliant!!, I have no idea what he's on about but whatever it is I'm into it!!,all the while the band provides a very early Fall type backup, Nicky Stephens' organ sounds just like Yvonne Pawlett, what could be cooler than that?, Keith Emerson and Rick Wakeman FUCK OFF forever!!. Wigley has such childlike charm he always brings to mind Syd Barrett as I mentioned earlier.
"Handlebars" is a short experimental piece that also recalls very early Floyd at the song's finish the band chant their DIY motto "It was easy, It was cheap, GO AND DO IT!!!" a sentiment which still rings true today. Both songs are found on side A of the record and are also on the B side of the record in case you wear out the first side like I did, all selections were recorded in "Slightly Stereo".
I moved to a new place in 1999 and while packing my records I somehow misplaced my copy of "Smokescreen" and the group's second 45 "The Medium Was Tedium" I almost tore my house apart looking for them, I was getting really uptight but thank GOD I found them, Whew what a relief!!
Who is Danny Wigley and where is this genius today? I wish I knew.
"IT WAS EASY, IT WAS CHEAP, GO AND DO IT!!!" Right on Danny!!!!!


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