Cavalcade to Obscurity ? FURYO: A Background
by Paul Rabjohn
Well UK Decay ended and we all cried. But although it was sad , it wasn’t a totally negative feeling as I think we all felt Abbo would be back with something worthwhile. Maybe even better, who knows? Those final gigs ended things on a real high and there was no sense of a clapped out band outstaying their welcome, the guys were still playing awesome gigs and seemed to have a whole lot further to go. But where, that was the question?
Like naughty little teases, Abbo, Steve and Eddie sneaked out a couple of low profile releases on compilation albums during the first half of 1983. These turned out to be a useful appetiser for what was to come, even though few probably realised it at the time.
Both featured an anonymous guitarist called Patrick who disappeared before Furyo hit the boards, unaccredited and unloved. First came the track “Slave Drive” on Dave Roberts’ “The Whip” album, a near-instrumental featuring a barrage of Steve’s drums and some very aggressive acoustic swooping on guitar. I recall John Peel playing this and it sounded great on the radio, keeping elements of the DK sound yet moving into fresh territory. I wanted more…..
Even better was “Meat of Youth” on the “Batcave” album, recorded by the same line-up. This was a much looser, funkier track with Eddie basically playing lead bass and some proper Abbo lyrics. Much the best track on a pretty disappointing album (James T Pursey and various second division ‘Goth’ turns), this is well worth tracking down.
(Notes for Record Collectors; the 2 vinyl albums above are long deleted but the Whip has been re-issued on CD, naughtily crediting Slave-Drive to UK Decay which it clearly isn’t. The Batcave album was on Decca and I guess won’t ever be re-issued, which is a shame. These 2 tracks were both played live by Furyo in their first few gigs but had been dropped by the end. MOY was often the encore and made a storming closer)
Anyway, Patrick missed the cut and in came Albie de Luca, ex- of Gene Loves Jezebel and one of several victims of that bands revolving door recruitment policy. He’d played unaccredited on 2 singles ( “Screaming” and “Bruises”) but the Aston twins seem like a difficult pair of guys , which may be why he seemed so much happier working with Abbo & Co. This line-up stayed constant throughout Furyo’s short existence.
So, after what seemed like ages but was only 8 months, Furyo announced their debut gig ; 1st September 1983 at the Marquee. I was working in Coventry for that summer and bunked off work to get a train down to London for the occasion, no way was I going to miss the start of it all. Although the publicity was minimal (with no mention of the band’s past on the ads), the venue was rammed and its usual sweatbox self. It was a fabulous atmosphere, loads of old faces making the trip and a huge sense of expectation and curiosity as to what we were going to get.
And what we got was something very similar to UK Decay. Thunderous drums, crashing guitars , Abbo weaving his spells. I thought it was great, I recall “Sounds” were unimpressed and slagged it as UK Decay minus the tunes. Bit harsh, I thought it showed some real promise and it was so good to see Abbo back in action. The crappy Marquee acoustics didn’t exactly help but I genuinely thought they were heading somewhere exciting and I was looking forward to the trip. Albie looked good too, playing very aggressively and strapping on an acoustic for “Slavedrive” (and playing that just as hard). I went away that night full of optimism; confident these guys could maybe take things a lot further.
Now unlike UK Decay, Furyo did not seem to think gigs were their lifeblood. They only ever played maybe a dozen shows so the three I went to were actually a fair proportion. Next one I saw was at Luton Library Theatre in late October (oh how certain friends laughed. You saw a band in a LIBRARY? That was Luton 1983 sad to say, very few suitable venues to be found). This was (I think) the third or fourth show, I was lucky enough to get to chat with Albie who I recall discussing a couple of low key gigs they’d played since the Marquee show. This was basically a small movie theatre, all seated, so a very different venue to the ‘trad’ rock club that was the Marquee.
And it was quite a different gig. Maybe they’d had a re-think after the Marquee show, but it was all a lot less frantic and thrashy with some slow numbers (that became the majority of the mini-LP) bought into the set. This was quite a surprise for the (fairly punky) crowd, stuff like “Vultures” was a long , long way from “For my Country”. I liked it, but there was a sense we were moving into some unusual territory. The acts who’d supported UK Decay a year previously were now breaking through big time but Abbo seemed to have no interest in cashing in with a SexCultSocietyofMercy type act, he was a man on a mission to do things his way and part of that was very much to do things differently this time. All the talk in interviews was about keeping it positive, fresh, different. And when the album came out I think people finally got just how different things were going to be.
Around late 83/early 84 the band gigged sporadically, always in London at small club venues. I was stuck at college in the Midlands so I missed all these but reviews seemed to get much better with some big fans in the press. Then in March came the debut mini-LP (just called “Furyo”) and an accompanying gig at the Venue. This was a really amazing release, in that I think it amazed everyone who heard it one way or another. No trace of punk, no fuzz pedals, lots of acoustic guitars and 4 of the 5 songs very slow and brooding. Albie’s massed choruses of guitars underneath Abbo’s theatrical lyrics, which were mainly about the ”joys” of performance. I guess it was “Goth”, but in the sense of some 1930’s Berlin cabaret rather than silly posturing like the Specimen. Reviews were good, in as much as they had to admit it was something incredibly different from what else was going on back then. But I think really it was just way too different to what people were expecting and they couldn’t really understand what it was all about. It didn’t fit into 1984, and I think it still sounds as out of time now as it did then. Which I guess is saying it was something quite unique. Flawed, but unique.
Did I like it? In parts I think it really works (the gentle opening of “Gold of our Lives”, the shrieking guitars of “Monster”, the epic finale of “Opera in the Air”). But a track like “Vultures” seems to collapse under the weight of its intentions, the lyrics veering too close to pretentiousness and the rhythm section nowhere to be seen.. Still, this was just an opening gesture and I really looked forward to seeing it live now I’d heard the tracks on vinyl. Nobody had given up hope; it was just fascinating to guess how it would go from here.
I got my chance at St Albans in July, around the time of the release of the “Furioso” 12” EP. I thought this was a huge improvement over the album, much more accessible and together. “Legacy” was the lead track, a great single with strident vocals and the band playing much more like a unit. Even better was the storming “Cavalcade”, built like a Luton Spaghetti Western with some fabulous Steve Harle drumming and Albie’s cod-Morricone guitars. Also on the bill was Lutons hugely underrated ‘Corpaelia’, also “King of Hearts” which got some sniggers as a sort of Goth “Greensleeves”, but if you ask me that Henry V111 had some fine ideas.
The gig (supported by the excellent Corpaelia) was great, the band really seemed to be going for it and were playing brilliantly. The old Patrick tracks were ditched and a lot of new stuff added (I guess tracks from the unreleased album). I think they played all the tracks form “Furyo” and “Furioso”, and it all got a great reaction from the crowd. I left the gig really impressed that the band were taking it to a new level, and hoping to get the chance to see it all again soon.
But…it never happened. The band played (I think) two more gigs in autumn 84 (including a very badly received support to retro rockers the Gun Club which I think was the final ever performance. Very odd choice of acts to play with.) And then things just petered out. Their was an interview in Sounds in Dec 84 where the band were still talking positively, but apparently things got a bit sticky and they called it a day early 85. An album was recorded but never got released, it all ended with a whimper rather than any sort of bang with no formal announcements or anything.
Such a shame the album never got issued, it came out in a very limited way (on tape from “Grim Humour” fanzine, I guess a bootleg basically). It took things on from “Furioso” and I think would have been a much bigger success, some of the later tracks were really good. Not sure if the band or the label declined to release it, but whatever it remains in the vaults to this day.
And their legacy? Well Abbo moved on to become a very successful music businessman and has seemed uninterested in re-visiting his career. I’ve only ever seen one interview since Furyo ended (in Mick Mercer’s excellent “Gothic Rock” book), and whist he seemed to have a soft spot for UK Decay he was very dismissive of Furyo.. Albie formed a very short-lived act called De Luca Triangle (with the bassist of Play Dead and ex-Cult drummer Nigel Preston). The demo I heard sounded like pub rock and was best forgotten. Eddie joined Pete Murphy’s band and has played on several tours and albums. Steve Harle sadly died in 1995, but was involved in several projects on the Luton “scene”.
Maybe Furyo will be re-discovered some day and given some credit for what they did. It would help if some of the material (particularly the unreleased album) had been more widely heard, but it was all over so quick I think it never had a chance to make an impression with the public at large. Their whole career was less than 18 months and they never got the momentum going to make things a success. Another year and maybe they could have cracked it, but it wasn’t to be.
Shame, there were some great moments in there that deserve to be more widely heard.
PRJ August 2004