In this week’s installment of One Album Wonders, we look at the Scottish band, Shop Assistants. On the eve of the Scottish independence referendum they were officially named on of the Top 50 Scottish bands of all time (see Top 50 Scottish bands of all time).
The band formed in Edinburgh in 1984, originally as Buba & The Shop Assistants). The original line-up was Annabel “Aggi” Wright (vocals), David Keegan (guitar), Sarah Kneale (bass), Laura MacPhail (drums), and Ann Donald (more drums). Stephen Pastel produced, provided the artwork, and sang back-up on their debut single, “Something to Do” on the very short-lived Villa21 Records. Soon after Pastel nicked Aggi for his own Glasgow-based band, The Pastels.
Aggi’s replacement was Alex Taylor and with the line-up change came a shortening of their moniker to Shop Assistants. Shop Assistants debuted with Shopping Parade EP in 1985, released on The Subway Organization, run by Martin Whitehead of Bristol-based band The Flatmates. Its lead track, “All Day Long” was described by Morrissey as his favorite single of the year.”
Donald quit shortly afterward and without her, the band recorded and released “Safety Net” on Keegan’s own 53rd & 3rd Records. In 1986, another of their songs, “It’s Up To You,” was included on the NME’s now-famous scene-making C-86 cassette.
Having achieved some independent success Shop Assistants next signed to Chrysalis Records, the Blue Guitar Records imprint of which was credited on their sole full-length album, Shop Assistants. Considering its quality, it performed surprisingly poorly commercially. In 1987, Taylor disbanded the band in and formed The Motorcycle Boy with former members of Shop Assistants and East Kilbride‘s second-finest, Meat Whiplash. They also proved to be one album wonders, releasing just Scarlet in 1989.
In 1990, Shop Assistants reunited — albeit without Taylor (or Wright, for that matter). This time around original bassist Sarah Kneale assumed vocal duties and the line-up additionally included the addition of Margarita Vasquez-Ponte of Jesse Garon And The Desperadoes on drums. The new lineup released “Here It Comes” and “Big ‘E’ Power” in 1990 before again splitting up and after which another member (this time David Keegan) defected to The Pastels.