Fish Co. Beneath the Laughter. 1977. Producer John Pac. Grapevine 114.
A few weeks ago I got a listen of Fish Co's first album, which was everything I expected - enjoyable, poppy, easy listening songs performed by a Simon and Garfunkel style duo.
Produced by John Pac, the album, Can't Be Bad, included Sue McClellan and Peter Yates-Round on backing vocals on the track goodnight brothers. The sleeve actually records Sue M as "Sue (Won't you come out of that field and stop writing poetry) McClellan".
Now some samples of their Grapevine-issued second album Beneath the Laughter have become available. According to Ken Scott, the expert on the genre, this album is "altogether much darker" than the first. The duo had transformed into a full scale band
Getting Fish Co was a triumph for Grapevine and a mixed blessing. Grapevine may have been the most progressive Christian label but Fish Co, led by the eccentric and much lamented Steve Fairnie, had its sights on the avant garde.
According to some accounts, the band had transformed itself into a new post-punk electro-band, Writz, even before Beneath the Laughter hit the shops. By the time I saw them perform at Greenbelt 1980 they had changed again into Famous Names.
There's now a website which documents Fairnie's amazing and brave career and also offers the samples I have listened to.
These are a revelation, especially if you are looking for the Parchment legacy. Great songs backed by blues guitar, folkie, harmonising female backing vocals by Bev Sage and Barbie Benson of the kind that Parchment specialised in and amazing fade-outs. The sound is that of Shamblejam.
You can listen to Fish Co's first, Myrrh-issued album, Can't Be Bad, here, at the Ancient Star Song Blog.
You can find the Beneath the Laughter samples and the Fairnie story here at fairnie.net. This link takes you directly to the story of the album.