1986 Onwards

The success of 'Clock Comes Down the Stairs' gave Microdisney prospects of a much brighter future as they entered 1996. James Compton (ex Darts) had joined them on keyboards bringing not just his outstanding abilities and a bigger keyboard, but adding another eccentric touch to the band. He was a flamboyant showbiz entertainer if ever there was one and to watch him on stage you wouldn't think that he had a clue what the band were about. Somehow though you knew that he knew, adding irony to a band you thought had already pushed irony to its limits. One abiding gig memory was Sean promoting an up and coming Microdisney gig for a Northern Ireland anti strip-search benefit- in an anal-retentive voice James Compton told people to 'come along and enjoy yourselves'.

After the success of 'Clock', Microdisney were being noticed. Virgin signed them and the rest should have been history. The Virgin move was probably not a difficult one for the band to decide. Although lacking the independence, credibility and ethics of Rough Trade, Virgin had always had a better name than the other majors, if only for signing the Sex Pistols 10 years earlier and being owned by a cuddly character with a beard. More importantly the band had always felt they had never been given the backing they deserved from Rough Trade whether due to lack of resources or lack of belief in the band. The choice wasn't between honouring their indie ethics and becoming megastars, the choice was a simple one of survival. It may have ended up as 'out of the frying pan' but it was clearly an offer they couldn't refuse. No one saw it as a 'sell out'.

Once signed to Virgin, Microdisney entered a well deserved period of rest and relaxation. Gigs were a rare treat in 1986 confined to one Glastonbury appearance and a handful of others just to let people know they were still alive. 1986 saw them working on and recording a new LP at leisure. The LP 'Crooked Mile' was released in January 1987, much as it had been in the old Rough Trade days, six months late. Just as before, most of the songs were already known with three already included in a Peel Session from a year earlier and several others part of their live set for ages. 'Town to Town', the single released a couple of weeks before the LP was well received. It nearly made the Top Forty, although with various promotional gimmicks and without an indie chart as a guide it was difficult to judge how much was hype and how much was heartfelt. It did however win the 'Saturday Superstore' pop panel vote and earned them a pleasurable appearance on the Tom O'Connor show which, for once without a scowl, they played in the spirit it was intended. With Virgin's backing, the trickle of press coverage became an avalanche, they were almost popular.

What was blindingly obvious though through all of this new found fame was that they had made a complete Pig's Breakfast of the recording. Sean was quoted as saying 'it sounded like it was recorded in 1973- and that's bad'. They had simply murdered arguably the best songs they were ever to write. This became a problem between themselves and Virgin, who were keen to release an immediate follow up from the LP and strike while the iron was hot. Despite the LP having at least 3 other songs good enough to be singles, Microdisney had worked out by then that the recordings weren't up to it and no further single was released from 'Crooked Mile'. By February 1987 their promotional tour fizzled out and things went quiet again as they commenced an 'unmitigated slog' on the follow-up LP.

The first offering was the previously unheard 'Singer's Hampstead Home' in the Autumn. This time they had got it right, not only a powerful song but an extremely powerful production. Just as they were getting it right they were being ignored again, perhaps with the song being considered too 'close to home' for daytime radio DJ's. Instead of the new LP following right behind the single, Microdisney were back to the waiting game. It took until February 1988 for the follow up single, 'Gale Force Wind', just as strong as the last one, and March before the LP saw the light of day. Ever since 'Everybody Is Fantastic' all those years ago, we had been waiting to see what Microdisney could really do with proper resources. Finally we got it with '39 Minutes' , a production that captured the hard side of their nature but took nothing away from the pop melodies. An LP where punches weren't pulled and where they didn't have to resort to '464' style songs to get the message through. Microdisney could no longer be ignored through being misunderstood, instead they were ignored by those who just didn't want to know. Live appearances continued until April 1988, but they had failed to make it. They produced a T-Shirt to tell everyone they were shit- they split up. I could have cried.

All that was left was for a 'Peel Sessions' release in 1989 and a 'Big Sleeping House' greatest hits in 1995. Additionally, much to my pleasure, the Rough Trade LP's were all re-released in CD format in 1996- those CD's already proving to be the most difficult to obtain although several further re-releases have been made since as well as further compilations.

In 2018 Microdisney reformed for two live shows. Initially this was for one gig in Dublin on 2nd June 2018 at the national Concert Hall to receive a IMRO/NCH Trailblazer award. This sold out in hours and they added another gig at London Barbican a week later on 9th June. At both conerts the band performed the complete Clock Comes Down The Stairs and moving onto a greatest hits package with "The Night" as a cover version added into the set. A further gig was announced for Dublin in February 2019.

Microdisney didn't change the world. They were never going to. For those who were interested in listening they held up a mirror to Eighties attitudes that are still with us today. A world where soundbites and dumbing down have replaced genuine political awareness. Microdisney were much more than a political band though and they had the ability to express feelings in songs that words on paper, or websites, could never hope to express. I will be forever grateful.

MP3 cover versions.
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