The Art Objects
Meanwhile, GERARD had been putting together a set of recordings featuring the above musicians and IAN KEAREY (also of the OYSTER BAND). These turned into the first album “BOP ART”, which was ready for release in 1984 on the band’s own label. A live band was put together to promote the album, including NICK JACOBS, ANGELO BRUSCHINI and CAROLINE HALCROW) on guitars, SIMON HEATHFIELD on bass, JOHN LANGLEY on drums and, of course, WOJTEK DMOCHOWSKI on dancing.
The album (and the launch event at the Red House, Bristol’s first warehouse gig) got rave reviews in the NME and SOUNDS and led to the band signing to FIRE RECORDS. At this point, and not for the last time, the band split. The outgoing lineup, with the addition of DAVE CHAPMAN on guitar and bass, is documented on the ‘LIVE 1985’ album, released on ArtStar in 2021.
Tolerance & Spitting Out Miracles
GERARD and NICK then called in RICHARD BELL and RUTH COCHRANE (guitar and bass, formerly of BIG BAND SOUND) and DAVE CHAPMAN became a permanent member, playing guitar, bass, mandolin and clarinet) and this line-up was stable enough to record both “TOLERANCE” and “SPITTING OUT MIRACLES” before splitting up in mid-1988 to get proper jobs. With a certain amount of overlap (RICHARD delayed his entry into the real world until the end of 1988), the band turned into a much rockier unit with the return of ANGELO BRUSCHINI and the addition of RODNEY ALLEN on guitar and vocals, ALEX LEE on guitar and ANDY McCREETH on bass.
This infusion of youthful ambition (RODNEY was 20 and ALEX was 18) seemed to lead directly to where the band wanted to go. After supporting the DARLING BUDS and REM in early 1989, the BLUE AEROPLANES signed to ENSIGN, forming an incredibly hip roster of SINEAD O’CONNOR, THE WATERBOYS, WORLD PARTY and the AEROPLANES. This led to the release of “SWAGGER” (produced by GIL NORTON, fresh from producing ECHO & THE BUNNYMEN’s ‘Ocean Rain’ and the PIXIES ‘Doolittle’) and touring 18 countries in a year, many of them several times. Unfortunately, this uncharacteristic burst of energy led to tensions in the band and JOHN LANGLEY quit at the end of 1990, just before the recording of “BEATSONGS” (produced by LARRY HIRSCH, not by ELVIS COSTELLO, as often reported).
ALEX LEE then quit immediately after the recording of “BEATSONGS” (in the best studio in the world, LA’s Oceanway) and was replaced by HAZEL WINTER and, for one tour only, ex-ART OBJECT ROBIN KEY.
“YR OWN WORLD” (the single from “BEATSONGS”) received a massive amount of radio play in the US but a likely Top 20 hit was scuppered by a record-company buy-out and the subsequent cancellation of their 1991 US tour. Legal problems resulting from the buy-out then prevented the band from releasing their next album until 1994 with a move to BEGGAR’S BANQUET. The subsequent album “LIFE MODEL” sold surprisingly well and there was a sell-out tour of the UK with A HOUSE and SLEEPER supporting. After the following year’s “ROUGH MUSIC”, however, feeling somewhat out of place among Britpop and Grunge, the AEROPLANES took a break, with Gerard supposedly researching his history of rock music based on one snapshot moment (still unfinished, unfortunately). There were still gigs, such as the BLACK RADIO session in Paris and main stage appearances at the ROSKILDE and HULTSFRED festivals, and several benefit gigs, but the band did not record again until 2000. They then returned with the experimental folk-rock-psych-prog “CAVALIERS”, featuring CALVIN TALBOT on guitars and twin sisters DAWN and BAZ LARDER on guitar and bass respectively, and Gerard’s weird-pop solo album “RECORD PLAYER”, featuring ex-EAT guitarist MAX NOBLE.
In a surprise move, the band then signed with EMI/HARVEST and released the “ALTITUDE” album and a re-issued “SWAGGER DELUXE” (an expanded version of their biggest UK album) to a chorus of 4 and 5 star reviews. They played “SWAGGER” in its entirety at a sweaty over-sold gig at the Borderline where WOJTEK (in spite of his current part-time status due to family commitments) almost destroyed the overhead sprinkler system with some over-enthusiastic audience interaction.
The musicians that formed to tour “ALTITUDE” consisted of GERARD LANGLEY, JOHN LANGLEY, MAX NOBLE, JOE ALLEN on bass and JULIAN POOLE on guitar (both formerly with JOHN LANGLEY and ALEX LEE in STRANGELOVE) and GERARD STARKIE on guitar and vocals (formerly with JOHN LANGLEY in WITNESS). Harvest also put out “HARVESTER”, an album recorded in 24 hours that the band had intended as a promotional jape. EMI was then bought out by venture capitalist GUY HANDS and fell apart (as is well-documented elsewhere).
ANTI-GRAVITY & THE FLEECE
After the tour, the above lineup set about recording a set of new material with JIM BARR (bassist with PORTISHEAD and owner of J&J Studios in Bristol) and CHRIS SHARP, featuring MAX NOBLE and GERARD STARKIE plus old hands ANGELO BRUSCHINI, IAN KEAREY and DAVE CHAPMAN on a variety of guitars, keyboards, mandolins, banjos, fiddles, harmoniums etc. The subsequent album, “ANTI-GRAVITY” was initially released in 2011 on vinyl only, but a 2CD version was made available at the end of 2012.
At this point, GERARD LANGLEY accepted a position as Songwriting lecturer at the newly-opened BIMM Bristol, becoming its Head of Songwriting two years later. Due perhaps to a justified suspicion of the music industry, the band, now featuring CHRIS SHARP as bassist, then started treating the whole enterprise as a cottage industry, releasing limited edition albums via its own website and acquiring THE FLEECE, a 450 capacity venue in Bristol.
GERARD LANGLEY then started writing with two BIMM Bristol graduates, BEC JEVONS and MIKE YOUE on guitars, and after four or five sessions jamming at THE FLEECE with JOHN LANGLEY and CHRIS SHARP this new line-up had come up with much of the material that would become “WELCOME, STRANGER!” in 2017. A well-received (and sold-out) tour raised the profile of the band to a height it had not achieved since “BEATSONGS”, but before the album could be fully distributed GERARD LANGLEY was hospitalised with cancer. During GERARD’s recovery (and lockdown), the band still managed to play their regular December gig at THE FLEECE, every year seeing it sell out earlier and earlier until, in the last two years, they have had to add a second gig at THE EXCHANGE. Also during this time, some rather sporadic (unsurprisingly in the circumstances) sessions have resulted in the forthcoming “CULTURE GUN” album, due to be released in April 2023. An expanded vinyl release of “SWAGGER” has also just been released on the LATE NIGHT IN GLASGOW label. As always, there’s more to come. So… watch this space!!!