SHOP ASSISTANTS – SHOP ASSISTANTS (1986)
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 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.
Eric Brightwell is a writer, rambler, explorer, cartographer, and guerilla gardener who is always seeking writing, speaking, traveling, and art opportunities. Job offers must pay more than slave wages and involve neither listicles nor television personalities. Brightwell’s written work has appeared in Amoeblog, KCET Departures, his art has been featured by the American Institute of Architects, the Craft & Folk Art Museum, and 1650 Gallery. Art prints of his maps are available from 1650 Gallery and on other products from Cal31. Brightwell has been featured as subject in the Los Angeles Times, Huffington Post, and Notebook on Cities and Culture and been a guest speaker on KCRW‘s Which Way, LA? and at Emerson College. He is currently writing a book about Los Angeles and you can follow him on Facebook, Instagram, and on Twitter.