The following is based on magazine interviews and is my interpretation of the events.
Any confirmations or corrections to this history would be most welcome (see main page for email address)
Billy Chapman, Declan John Barclay, Steve 'Flid' Brown, Steve Shanley and Michael 'Mac' McDermott are regulars at the Globe pub in Stepney and play in a football team called The Bash Street Kids. They also go to the London nightclubs like Le Beat Route and Blitz. Inspired by the success of friends and fellow clubbers like Spandau Ballet, they decide to form a group.
The line up of Billy (saxophone), Declan (trumpet), 'Flid' (guitar), Steve (bass) and 'Mac' (percussion) start rehearsing but they soon realize a singer is needed.
Also on the London club scene is Andy Polaris, currently sharing a squat with Boy George and Marilyn. At a Spandau Ballet gig, the group ask Andy to join as vocalist.
They decide to name themselves Animal Nightlife, Andy explained about the group name in 1984:-
"It was just a party all the others went to at New Years Eve. It was Molly Parkin's party, she's a saucy authoress, you know in those days it was trendy to gatecrash people's parties cos there was nothing else to do anyway, there were no clubs to go to. Anyway she didn't really take to them being really drunk, bashing their way into her house so she said 'Get out you animals' and that's where the name came from 'cos they were all really taking the piss out of her and Nightlife just came from the fact that we all met in clubs so we thought it was a good name".
From Le Beat Route club, DJ Steve Lewis becomes the group’s manager.
Left to right:-
(rear) Sally Gissing, Steve Shanley, 'Mac’, unknown.
(front) ‘Flid’, Declan John Barclay, Lynn Harding,
Andy Polaris and Billy Chapman,
To add a little more style to the line up, Lynn Harding (Billy’s girlfriend) and Sally Gissing are recruited. But it soon becomes apparent that the girls need to do more than just dance. So the band looks around for a couple of good singers.
Andy had met Leah Seresin over a year ago and invites her to watch the band rehearse. Impressed by their music she auditions and is accepted into the band.
In July at a Blue Rondo A La Turk gig, Egidio ‘Frenchie’ Newton is approached by ‘Mac’ who thinks she’ll be perfect for the band. She joins the group soon after.
The first proper line-up is complete with the addition of drummer Nigel Vidal.
Early live appearances are unadvertised “secret” gigs as the band want to build up their confidence as none of them have played on stage before.
Photo shoot for New Sounds New Styles
(The Face January 1982)
Animal Nightlife start playing at small clubs and also appear in fashion spreads of trendy magazines. They use this publicity to attract a substantial following but record companies are mystified at their musical mixture of 70’s soul and 40’s jazz.
Leah Seresin and Andy Polaris at an early gig Manager Steve Lewis and Andy Polaris
(photo by Jude Calvert-Toulmin) (photo by Jude Calvert-Toulmin)
After a sell-out gig at London’s Heaven disco, they sign with Innervision Records in September. By this time Paul Waller has replaced Nigel on drums and Chrysta Jones joins Leah on vocals as Frenchie departs. Egidio ‘Frenchie’ Newton later joins the Special AKA.
Debut single Love Is Just The Great Pretender is released in November and despite favourable reviews and considerable airplay, fails to chart.
Left to right:-
Steve Shanley, ‘Flid’,
Chrysta Jones, Billy Chapman,
Andy Polaris, Declan John Barclay, Leah Seresin,
'Mac’ and Paul Waller
The group start the year with their first major tour of the UK. This is followed in March with the release of their second single The Mighty Hands Of Love with Chrysta on lead vocals. As with their debut, the single gets a lot of radio airplay but only manages to reach number 82 in the charts.
In April, manager Steve Lewis announces that the Animalettes, Leah and Chrysta, have left the group “to pursue solo careers”.
(Record Mirror 30 April 1983)
A short run of dates at Ronnie Scott’s Club in London sees the group with Rush Winters on backing vocals.
Third single Native Boy appears in July with guest backing vocals from Dee C Lee (Wham! & The Style Council) and Carol Kenyon (who sang on Heaven 17’s hit Temptation). Again, the group fail to get a hit single as they only reach number 60 in the charts.
Dee also joins the group on some live dates and an appearance on Channel 4’s music show Switch where they perform Native Boy and Mint Condition.
(Record Mirror 9 July 1983)
Unhappy with their record company, Animal Nightlife leave Innervision during the summer.
Without a record label, Billy joins The Style Council on tour and on record (he also appears in the video for ‘You’re The Best Thing’) and Paul drums for funk band Black Britain. Meanwhile Andy works as a doorman at London’s Wag Club to make ends meet.
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