David Devant
& His Spirit Wife

TrackSingle / Album
This Is For RealHumbug 7HUM04
PimlicoHumbug 7HUM04
BallroomWork, Lovelife, Miscellaneous
MiscellaneousWork, Lovelife, Miscellaneous
One Thing After AnotherShiney On The Inside
Space DaddyKindness KIND8CD
ContactPower Words For Better Living
Putting My Demons To BedCut Out And Keep Me
Taking My TimeDownload-only single *
Dolphin SquareKindness KIND7CD

* an alternate, early version can be found on the Outstanding Records release ‘The Lost World Of David Devant And His Spirit Wife’, again download-only but available on Spotify.


David Devant photo 2
Rhythm King Records promo photo credit Davies & Davies



DD&HSW playlist



Contributor: John Hartley

“This is for real,” began the B-side to David Devant and His Spirit Wife’s debut single Pimlico. And it was. This Is For Real, sung by Mikey Georgeson, better known as The Vessel through which long-since departed conjuror David Devant channelled his modern day musings. The trouble was: not many people realised it. Certainly not many people in the music press realised it, getting far too carried away for their own good with the onstage theatrics of Vessel, his musical co-conspirators Foz?, The Colonel and Professor Rimschott, their stage hands Cocky Young ˈUn and Ice Man, and projectionist Lantern. And probably too much for the good of the band too, because behind all the visuals lay a solid body of music impressive in its own right. This Is For Real would later be re-released as a single and deservedly so. However, it is worth sourcing the original version if only to hear the bagpipe outro in all its glory.

The stage show was intrinsically linked to the band’s formative days. It certainly brought them to the attention of the right people, and word-of-mouth – so vital in the early careers of artists of any genre – quickly brought the audiences flocking. To attend a David Devant and His Spirit Wife gig was to attend an immersive art experience: music, magic, moving image, cartoon comics, comedy, drama, dance … it was all here and, as the band were keen to promote, “all done by kindness”. This was escapism at the time when we most needed it; the death throes of the last incarnation of Tory economics before Cameron, Osborne, May et al decided to reinvent the wheel (to borrow another DD&HSW title) in the second decade of this century. “Sometimes London don’t seem too appealing,” sang Vessel in Pimlico. He was right, even if your lover wasn’t living in Deptford.


The band were quickly picked up by Rhythm King, affording them the chance to release their music on their own Kindness Recordings imprint. An album was recorded with Warne Livesey at the production helm; a signal of intent given his commercial success with Midnight Oil, Deacon Blue, the The and the House of Love amongst others. To make an album that successfully captured only one facet of the band’s overall presence must surely have been a challenge – imagine a film about the band without the music, for example. However, DD&HSW and Livesey achieved it. A single, Ginger, reached number 54 in the UK charts – no mean feat at the time – the band had a residential slot on television show Asylum and their album tour was followed by a Channel 4 documentary team.


Work, Lovelife, Miscellaneous was released in 1997, a fourteen-song debut that captured all that was great about the band. Ballroom perhaps provided the peak moment of comedy – and yes, despite the littering of novelty ‘comedy’ acts throughout the history of music, Georgeson’s songs were genuinely funny. Ostensibly a song about a game of Cluedo, it’s also a tale of family dynamics that most people can relate to: competitive Uncle Jo, easily-scared cousin Sarah, smug Aunty Mabel. So many songs take pause for effect or fill gaps with “la-la-las” but there can’t be many that combine the two to segue into the revealing of a whodunnit with the “la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-lead piping”. Miscellaneous meanwhile harks back to the opening line of this Toppermost; a gentle rumination on the mundanities of life – this is for real – that are actually fundamental to our existence. “I love extraneous details you can’t live without,” sings Vessel, trying to fathom out “what this mess is all about”. The whole of existence summed up in a single song.

However, there remained a critical cynicism that actually, none of this was for real. It was just some art-school pranksters having a laugh, and whilst we were happy to laugh along for the moment we all knew it was just a passing fad and wouldn’t last. Georgeson made sure it wouldn’t last – not in the same form at least – when he set light to the jet black bouffant wig worn onstage by Vessel in his living room at the end of the Channel 4 documentary. It was an emotional moment for Georgeson and the significance of the act was immediately evident to the viewer. The band parted ways with Rhythm King. The costume and prop-laden stage show was largely ditched. Foz? moved on, replaced on guitar by John Pope.

All was not lost. David Devant and His Spirit Wife resurfaced with a single after a couple of years. “You disappeared from my radar,” sang Vessel on Radar, “you disappeared and I don’t know where you are.” This was certainly true of the music critics who now seemed lost without the stage-show to hide behind in their reviews. Now they actually had to concentrate on the music and that was too difficult for many of them. Soon an album appeared. Shiney (sic) On The Inside was once more released by Kindness, providing a solid set of well-crafted songs that could stand the test of time in their own right. These songs seemed to demonstrate a more personal side to the band, Vessel perhaps now channelling his own emotions rather than those of a nineteenth century conjuror. “It’s just one thing after another,” he sings with a relatable world-weariness in One Thing After Another, “and I’m hoping that we can recover.” Maybe Georgeson was describing the events that led to the burning of the hairpiece and subsequent changes within the band? A second single was released from the album, a remixed version of Space Daddy. It received welcome airplay on iconic radio station Xfm as well as BBC’s Radio One evening shows but failed to dent the charts. “You need a guru,” sang Vessel. Unfortunately, there weren’t many around.


Even worse for the band, it appeared they themselves disappeared from radars across the country. Not completely, but significantly enough that their third album, 2004’s Power Words For Better Living would be their last for a significant period. Which was a pity, because it was not an album without songs that matched the standards of the previous two. About It, Gentleman Jim, Any Fool Can Fall In Love, were all worthy of the band’s earlier releases, but it is Contact that makes the cut for this Toppermost, its lyrics a glorious blend of wry humour (“the older you get the tighter you wear your jeans”), flights of fancy (“I’ll never know if it was love that she felt as we both ended up in an asteroid belt”) and unexpected lines (“there’s a hole in my bucket and part of me wants to say ‘oh well forget it’”).

Time passed; well over a decade. In fact, it was closer to two decades before David Devant and His Spirit Wife would reappear (2006 download-only The Lost World Of David Devant And His Spirit Wife notwithstanding), a surprise ray of sunshine during the 2020 global-pandemic-induced lockdown. Released at the back end of 2019, the band’s Zoom-inspired video performances of tracks brought the album to wider recognition. The album showcased the strongest set of songs since their debut album. Sally’s Down With The Kids, Sublime, eponymous Cut Out And Keep Me … all fine songs, all brought to us by kindness once more.

Album closer Putting My Demons To Bed gave the sense that perhaps the reason for the previous years’ silence may have been derived from the fall from stardom (relatively speaking) to widespread ignorance. It might have been seen by the press as quirky, wacky, frivolous, but for Mikey Georgeson, it was for real. If it wasn’t, he wouldn’t have ended up lecturing in art at a university. Time might have healed things though; not only was he putting the demons to bed, he was tucking them in and knocking them on the head. And with the support of Foz?, The Colonel and Professor Rimschott, he was doing it in style.

And yes, maybe it had been a while, but the clues had always been there … About a third of the way through The Lost World Of David Devant And His Spirit Wife was a track to which the band would now return. In May 2020, a newly recorded version of Taking My Time was released via the band’s website, to build on the momentum of Cut Out And Keep Me. “I hope you don’t mind … since I was young I’ve been lagging behind” sings Vessel, before adding “I fell asleep beneath a tree and woke to find angels kissing me.” Perhaps the nap explains the gap; it certainly excuses it, as this track ranks amongst the very best of DD&HSW’s not inconsiderable catalogue of officially and semi-officially released material.

This Toppermost began in Pimlico, with the band’s first single and its B-side, and it is in Pimlico where it will end. Dolphin Square, to be precise, once described by BBC News as possibly the “most notorious address in the UK” on account of its scandals, spies and political occupants. It is also the title of the B-side to 1999’s Radar. “The last man in the world hears a knock on the door. He hides behind the sofa …” It’s a world where no one can hear you scream, a world full of life, full of flair. There is no specific reason why this song should bring this Toppermost to a close – it isn’t anything other than a simply strummed lament to surreal confusion, a man dreaming of nobody else but him and her. But to these ears it is glorious. To these eyes and ears, the joy of David Devant and his Spirt Wife is surreal confusion. “The last man in the world, he finds there’s nobody there …” Maybe we are all that last man in the world?






Mr. Devant – Mikey Georgeson’s website

David Devant & His Spirit Wife (Wikipedia)

Facebook page

Ashley Hames documentary on Devant for Channel 4’s The Other Side

Gary Crowley interviews The Vessel – Phoenix Festival 1997 (YT)

Louder Than War feature (September 2020)

David Devant, English magician (1868-1941)

David Devant & His Spirit Wife biography (AllMusic)

Mikey Georgeson & The Civilised Scene bandcamp

John Hartley has written several posts for the Toppermost site. He is the author of “Capturing The Wry”, a memoir of the early stages in his quest to write the perfect pop song. He tweets as @Johny Nocash and the music he creates can be found at Broken Down Records.

TopperPost #1,048

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