Dalek I Love You

TrackAlbum / Single
The WorldCompass Kumpas
Destiny (Dalek I Love You)Compass Kumpas
The KissCompass Kumpas
Freedom FightersCompass Kumpas
Missing 15 MinutesCompass Kumpas
Astronauts (Have Landed On The Moon)Back Door DOOR 10
Holiday In DisneylandDalek I Love You
AmbitionDalek I Love You
LustDalek I Love You
Africa ExpressDalek I Love You

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Dalek I Love You photo

 

Contributor: Rob Morgan

I suppose I was always going to love Dalek I Love You. There’s the name for a start, it’s silly but it’s memorable. And then there’s the links between the band and two other bands I love – OMD and the Teardrop Explodes. It was inevitable, really. The first I knew of DILY was when I read an unofficial biography of OMD, written and published in 1982 in the wake of the band’s huge success with their third album Architecture And Morality. In a way, that biography – which I read in the summer of 1983 – opened myriad doors to new music for me. There were the links to the past – mentions of Kraftwerk, Tangerine Dream and Neu! would give me pointers to the band’s antecedents. There were also links to the contemporary scene – how OMD had fitted in with the Factory bands and other acts around Liverpool and Manchester. Dalek I Love You were mentioned there and I was intrigued.

By the end of 1983 I had seen my first mention of DILY, in the free monthly newspaper given away by HMV. The paper, More Music, had interviews and charts and record reviews and in December 83 it reviewed Dalek I Love You, the band’s second album. I don’t have the review to hand but I remember it wasn’t very good. But now I had an idea what they looked like – and it was very odd. I wanted to hear them, but their records were nowhere to be found. They were like a mystery to me, already a legend with links to my favourite band, unheard and unknown. So who were Dalek I Love You?

The roots of Dalek I Love You are in the Wirral, the small peninsula across the Mersey channel from Liverpool. In the mid to late 70s, Liverpool was experiencing a renaissance of musical inspiration not seen since the birth of Merseybeat back in the sixties. Sure there had been plenty of music from Liverpool all along, but the shadow of the Beatles hung over everything to an extent. But as the seventies progressed, a new generation of musicians developed new ideas and concepts, drawing on art school backgrounds, a love for experimentation and a desire to create something new, different and interesting. And Dalek I Love You were all of these things.

The DILY family tree can be traced back to a band called Mr McKenzie, formed in the Wirral by Alan Gill (guitar), David Balfe (bass), Keith Hartley (vocals) and Steven Brick (drums). Around November 1976, they changed their name to Radio Blank and played a mix of punk and R&B. Another Wirral band of the time was Pegasus, featuring future members of OMD such as Andy McCluskey, Paul Humphreys and Malcolm Holmes. Recognising the changing times, Pegasus became The Id and dropped any prog rock tendencies while Radio Blank split up at the end of 1977, seeing punk as boring and last year’s thing. Soon members of Radio Blank formed a new band named Dalek I Love You – Gill and Balfe, alongside keyboard player Dave Hughes and tape operator Chris Teepee. No longer beholden to a drummer and able to use backing tapes, DILY were unique on the Liverpool scene, more reliant on keyboards and primitive monophonic synthesisers than other bands. The name of the band was a compromise – Balfe wanted to call the band The Daleks, Gill wanted Darling I Love You. Still, they played at Eric’s and got attention from their peers. Here’s an extract from Julian Cope’s autobiography “Head On” where he sees DILY in June 1978

The middle of June, we saw a group called Dalek I Love You. They played Eric’s one night with sofas and lamps on stage, and their set was a weird combination of uncool and brilliant. Like the guitarist had a moustache. Uncool. And the bass player was a total sissy, with a lisp and cutesy fringe. But they had organ lines, like The Seeds, and Doorsy bass lines. The bullshit on stage didn’t work, but along with the psychedelic guitar and Suicide drum-machine, it all helped to create their own thing.”

It did indeed create their own thing, and it was inspiring. After witnessing a typical DILY gig, Andy McCluskey split up The Id and joined DILY on bass and vocals, just as Dave Balfe left to join Big In Japan. In the end McCluskey only stayed with DILY for a few months, but the experience liberated and inspired him, and he formed Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark with Paul Humphreys, using backing tapes just as DILY had. There were still links between the two bands – the unique synth sound on OMD’s Dancing was provided by a keyboard borrowed from DILY.

The Dalek line up was pretty much settled now; Alan Gill on guitar and vocals, Dave Hughes on electronics and tapes, and they started to get noticed, just as other Liverpool bands like the Teardrop Explodes and Echo and the Bunnymen were receiving attention from the music press. DILY soon signed to Phonogram Records in 1979, recording their debut album with The Blitz Brothers (Chris Hughes and David Bates) producing, issuing The World and Freedom Fighters as singles that year as tasters for the debut album Compass Kumpas issued early in 1980.

There aren’t many debut albums like Compass Kumpas, and certainly it must have stood out like a sore thumb in 1980. The music is a strange but compelling mix of primitive synth pop smothered by a large portion of psychedelic guitar work, like early Eno working with Syd Barrett instead of Robert Fripp. There’s also a sense of adventure, of messing around in a studio and seeing what happens, found sounds dropping in and out, changes in timbre and jumps in sound, and a playful attitude to the stereo spectrum last seen on late sixties psychedelic albums. Compass Kumpas is also an album that works well in its original format of a twelve inch slab of vinyl – each side starts with shorter songs before progressing to longer pieces as the needle gets closer to the spindle.

As for the songs, they’re uniformly great. Songs like The World and Destiny (Dalek I Love You) sound as relevant today as they did then – political tension, not liking the way the world works, searching for answers – while Mad and Good Times are more personal glimpses of life and relationships. Freedom Fighters is a vignette of the type of people you didn’t want to meet in those days, while it takes some guts to move from the grim and chilling A Suicide into the chirpy pop of The Kiss, which kicks off with the line “Wasn’t it me who said how nice it would be to be dead? Well I’ve changed my point of view and I felt that I should inform you”. There’s even a minimal cover of You Really Got Me in there. As the album proceeds on side two, the songs get longer, weirder, there’s dub like effects and huge gaps of silence in We’re All Actors and Heat, before the album closer Missing 15 Minutes moves through multiple sections, found spoken word sections, backwards guitars, a very odd but enthralling end to an odd but enthralling album. It’s also a very human album, the songs are about subjects which anyone could relate to, the antithesis of the cliché of synthetic music being cold and unemotional.

However, by the time Compass Kumpas was issued in early 1980, Dalek I Love You no longer existed. There had been tensions with their record label – who had changed the name of the band on their releases to Dalek I – and the band split up as the album was released, so any critical acclaim it received could not be boosted by tours or promotional appearances. Dave Hughes joined OMD, playing keyboards on their first major tour to promote their own debut album (a tour where they played Two Chameleons from Compass Kumpas) while Alan Gill joined the Teardrop Explodes, where his former band mate Dave Balfe was now keyboard player. Gill was only a member of the Teardrop Explodes for around six months but during that time they completed and issued their debut album Kilimanjaro, full of his characteristic psychedelic guitar fills, and he co-wrote Reward with Julian Cope, which would be the band’s big breakthrough. And Gill introduced the previously straight edge Cope to psychedelic drugs. But there was tension again and Gill left at the start of 1981.

Now this is where it all gets a little bit complicated so I hope you’re sitting down and taking notes. In 1981, Dave Hughes left OMD and formed a new band called Godot alongside Martin Cooper (also ex-OMD) and Keith Hartley – former vocalist with Radio Blank. They issued an EP called Extended Play that year; three fabulous synth pop songs and an atmospheric instrumental. Meanwhile Alan Gill reactivated Dalek I Love You (now under their full name again) issuing a double sided single Heartbeat/Astronauts (Have Landed On The Moon) with Chris Hughes (now listed as Merrick, as he was known as one of the two drummers in Adam And The Ants) on drums. Heartbeat is a thumping piece of electro pop but Astronauts is something else, a wistful jangle of remembrance of times past, a lovely song.

Both DILY and Godot played gigs together, then Godot split up. Martin Cooper returned to OMD, Dave Hughes moved into TV and film music and Keith Hartley joined DILY alongside Gill and two more singers, Gordon Hon and Kenny Peers – both being capable musicians too. This new lineup would move to Korova Records (home of Echo and the Bunnymen and The Sound) and issue three singles during 1982 and 1983 before their self titled album was issued in late 1983.

The Dalek I Love You album is a very different beast to Compass Kumpas. If the 1980 album was characterised by minimal synths and psychedelic guitar, the 1983 album was closer to the mainstream of pop, but still had a few odd ideas up its sleeve. Opener (and first single from the album) Holiday In Disneyland sets the stall accordingly – clattering drum machines, female call and response backing vocals, a slap bass … it has 1983 running through it like a stick of rock. But still Gill throws in some discordant guitar across the song and the lyrics are slightly disturbed too: “Don’t want to be a ghost, don’t want to go to heaven, and when I die I don’t want God to find me”. Horrorscope was another single and while it is catchy on the surface, the lyrics hide dark thoughts of bank robberies. As the album progresses these thoughts reflect the stresses of modern day living (or an 80s version of it) – the drive for money and success, the need to relieve the tension. Side one features a variety of singers – mostly Hartley – and concludes with Ambition, a very 1983 song. It even sounds like Relax in places, but more desperate – lyrics allude to troubles in Liverpool, the need for money and there’s a sense of impending doom in the fake jollity.

Side two of the album starts with Lust, a thrusting speedy electro pop gem (if you ignore the slightly dodgy lyrics in places) which finally allows Gill to sing again, which is good to hear. Twelve Hours Of Blues actually sounds like a real band; Drummie Zeb from Aswad guests on drums, Gary Barnacle wails on sax, it almost turns dubby at one point, and Gill again rails at his life. Album closer Africa Express is the escape route from modern day pressure cooker living, the dream of giving away everything and living the simple life, and the music is also special, propulsive like Trans Europe Express, synths burbling and playing against each other, expanding over seven minutes but feeling like it could go on forever. A beautiful moving end to the album.

What happened next? It’s hard to say. The record sales weren’t anything to write home about. DILY were dropped by Korova and eventually reverted back to Gill on his own. A third album Naive was issued privately on cassette in 1985 and the band name was retired. Gill moved into film scores, creating music for Letter To Brezhnev and Blonde Fist, then retired from music for many years. He now has a band called The Most High. Dave Hughes has a successful career providing music for films and television.

Although Dalek I Love You have a small catalogue and only existed for five years, with barely a whisper of commercial success, their name lives on. Obviously with the Doctor Who connection in their name, it was inevitable that it would turn up somewhere – and it did. BBC Radio broadcast a radio drama called “Dalek I Love You” about a Doctor Who fan who falls in love at a sci-fi convention.

Journalist Nick Griffiths wrote a book about his Doctor Who fandom entitled “Dalek I Loved You”. Not bad really. They were also influential in another way – Tears For Fears were huge fans of Compass Kumpas and signed to Phonogram Records through David Bates, and asked to work with Chris Hughes due to his work on the Dalek I album. Hughes would produce their first two albums which would sell by the bucket load and establish his name as a producer.

So how did I eventually hear Dalek I Love You? I finally tracked down the album Compass Kumpas during the summer of 1986 and loved every minute of it. It was stark, melodic, thoughtful, tinged with psychedelic touches and wonderful. I couldn’t understand how it had fallen off the radar. Also there was something nagging about Freedom Fighters, like I’d heard it before. It turned out that the song had been used during an episode of A Very Peculiar Practice, the BBC2 comedy drama earlier that summer. Over the next year or so I picked up their singles at record fairs, impressed by B-sides like Happy (on the Destiny single) and Heaven Was Bought For Me (on the Holiday In Disneyland single). The 1983 album was harder to track down but turned up in a mail order package on the day I had an interview at Liverpool University, so the album always reminds me of long train journeys. I even found the two Godot records quite by accident in 1988, browsing through the racks of a second hand record shop in Cardiff. Stopping dead in my tracks, not even sure if I was seeing this DILY holy grail in front of me, here were the missing pieces in the DILY jigsaw that completed my collection.

The band have always had a small but loyal following and it was a pleasant surprise to find Compass Kumpas issued on CD back in 1990 (with singles and B-sides). Dedicated fans like myself had to wait until 2007 for the second DILY album to be issued on CD and that disc now sells for large sums on Discogs and eBay.

It’s always a pleasure to find fellow DILY fans online and to introduce people to their music. I hope they get as much enjoyment out of their music as I have, and I hope you will as well.

 

 

Comprehensive Dalek I Love You website

Dalek I Love You website
(songs from Naïve can be downloaded here)

Dalek I Love You – Live at Eric’s (1978)

Chris Hughes official website

Dalek I Love You biography (AllMusic)

Rob Morgan writes about the music he loves at his website, A Goldfish Called Regret. He is a regular contributor to Toppermost. He also creates podcasts of his favourite music at Goldfish Radio.

Read the Toppermosts of some of the other artists mentioned in this post:
Kraftwerk; Orchestral Manouevres In The Dark; The Teardrop Explodes

TopperPost #624

1 Comment

  1. Richard Warran
    Apr 28, 2017

    Remember buying Holidays In Disneyland on 12 inch many years back

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