80’s Music Rules ~ Criminally Underrated Artists/ Bands ~ Comsat Angels

comsatsbI held off on featuring this fabulous 80’s post-punk band because a reunion gig was in the works in Sheffield, UK for this past April. I belong to a Comsat Angels group on Yahoo and was interested to hear what the fans would report after having lived the dream of being there.

 Not a negative word from the entire group of fans who were wildly lucky enough to attend. Apparently, the Comsat Angels put on a superb show that was so well-received and successful, that the band has decided to do it again this coming October.

 A music blogging friend, Joey from Teatro Triste Del Clown just inquired about the Comsats, and I thought that now would be a good time to include them in my “Criminally Underrated” series.

 Hailing from Sheffield, the band formed in 1978 with original members Stephen Fellows (vocals, lead guitar), Kevin Bacon (bass), Mik Glaisher (drums), and Andy Peake (keyboards). Their debut EP was called “Red Planet” and was released in 1979. The Comsats were approached by Polydor and agreed to release three LPs under that label. They were Waiting For A Miracle, Sleep No More, and Fiction. Personally, it would be extremely difficult for me to recommend one album over the other, as I believe all three to be works of sheer genius.comsatsa

 The Comsats’ best-known single, “Independence Day,” is from the Waiting For A Miracle album. But there are so many other treasures from all three of their initial albums, the listener would do well to try to locate copies of them all. Additionally, the Comsats’ other 80’s LPs that followed, Land, 7-Day Weekend and Chasing Shadows, contain strong post-punk influenced songs with lyrics that are dark and brooding, deep and meaningful, and at the same time both hopeful and tinged with despair.

 The $65,000 question is always the same throughout the series of Criminally Underrated: Why didn’t this band make it in a huge way here in the States? The Comsat Angels were hurt by their name because some inane corporate suits decided the band’s name infringed on their precious copyrighted business moniker. As if a hugely talented post-punk band would negatively impact the bottom line of a communications conglomerate. Whatever.

 The Comsats tried a name-change first to C.S. Angels while touring in the US, then as Dream Command. Under the latter, they released another album in 1990 called Fire On The Moon. Unfortunately, the group was never able to gain any traction here in the states. Our huge loss, in my humble estimation.

 If you’ve never experienced the sheer genius of the Comsat Angels, there is never a better time than now to start. Some of their music is out of print and extremely expensive. If you can afford to, buy it. The 80’s would have been a much more hollow period musically without the vital and earnest music of The Comsat Angels. Three words: Brilliant, brilliant, brilliant.

 

“Independence Day” via YouTube user fery2:

“The Cutting Edge” via YouTube user videopreditor:

 “Will You Stay Tonight?” via YouTube user teawanga:

 “Eye Of The Lens” via YouTube user tadeuz30:

80’s Discography
Purchase Comsat Angels music here.
 

comsats1Waiting for a Miracle (1980, Polydor) (reissued in 1995 on RPM & in 2006 on Renascent)

 

 
comsats2Sleep No More (1981, Polydor) UK #51 (reissued in 1995 on RPM & in 2006 on Renascent)

 

 

 

comsats3Fiction (1982, Polydor) UK #94 (reissued in 1995 on RPM & in 2006 on Renascent)

 

 

 

 

comsats4Land (1983, Jive) (reissued on Connoisseur in 2001) UK #92

 

 

 

comsats57 Day Weekend (1985, Jive) (reissued on Connoisseur in 2001)

 

 

 

comsats6Chasing Shadows (1986, Island)

 

 

 

 

 

comsats7Fire on the Moon (as Dream Command) (1990, Island) (U.S. & Netherlands only)

24 thoughts on “80’s Music Rules ~ Criminally Underrated Artists/ Bands ~ Comsat Angels

  1. Egads, they were the same band as the C.S. Angels! I did, in fact, play some of their songs on the air at one point.

    You know, I listened to an all alternative college station in high school from 81-85. I was a college DJ in Maine from 85-89 and a grad school DJ out here from 89-93. At both jobs, I was also the Program Director for a chunk of years. My shows focused on exactly the kind of music you feature here. In fact, sometimes when I read Ed’s playlists I think “spooky, that looks like a playlist of mine from 198x. I don’t mention this to brag or anything, but to make this point:

    I never once saw a Comsat Angels albums pass through the station or get played on the air. Now, the songs you’ve shared with us are fabulous and, had I had the chance, I would have absolutely played them in a heartbeat – or requested them – or tried to record them off the radio. (Other than the C.S. Angels My Minds Eye)

    Man, that is as close to a music tragedy as I have heard. These guys should have been all over my stations but weren’t. Thanks a lot, corporate America. 😦

    Anyhow, thanks to you, MissP, for exposing me to them!

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  2. Great piece! I was at the April concert and it was the time of my life, no exaggeration. Many people were in tears after the show. They are that good.

    Everyone who discovers the Comsat Angels and are receptive to their music has the same question: Why didn’t they become huge? I think they suffered at the time for not being “trendy,” which is exactly why their music holds up so well. I don’t blame “corporate America” for why they failed to get an audience here, but the name problem didn’t help.

    Thanks so much for featuring the Comsats on Rave and Roll. I would advise everyone to seek out their music, especially the first three albums which were reissued on Renascent. I also love the last two albums, My Minds Eye and The Glamour, even though they are a bit different than the earlier work. Those are easy to get on iTunes.

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  3. Hey Joey,

    I was sort of flabbergasted that you hadn’t heard of them…now I understand. It was due to the name changes the band went through. If you read Laura’s comment here as well, she knows far more about the Comsats than I. She doesn’t blame the name debacle as much as the fact they remained true to their style and refused to succumb to trend. I guess both issues combined spelled disaster for the band.

    I admire that you were so active in the 80’s music scene. I rather slept through that decade, more involved in trying to be a mom and go back to school for a late-in-life degree than really paying close attention to the music. I’m grateful for the “Interwebs” as Ed-FM likes to call it and people like him, David Marsden, you, Laura, and tons of other people that have helped to educate me 20 years after the fact.

    Hugs,
    MissP
    xo

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  4. Laura,

    I bow down to your expertise on this band. Just reading what you and the active members of the Comsats Yahoo group write has truly educated me further on this fabulous band and their music. I knew of them and liked their music, but have only over the past few years really given them the attention that they deserve. Better late than never, eh? 🙂

    I envy the fact that you were there to celebrate their return to the stage this past April, and that you are going to do it again this October. I look forward to more after-action reports from you and the rest of the Yahoo group.

    Thanks again for your insight and all the best to you.

    Hugs,
    MissP
    xo

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  5. As for Joey missing the Comsats early on, those first three albums were not released in the USA. I bought (and still have) Waiting for a Miracle as an import. I recall a buddy bought Fiction as an import when it was released. The first US release was Land, on Arista in 82 or 83, and the label made them more ‘New Romantic’ looking and sounding. It was a disappointment, but they found just a smidge of success with MTV airplay.

    Reading through the Comsat’s info in “Rip It Up and Start Again” and in some interviews at the Comsat Angels .net site it seems they missed opportunities due to illness, or delayed plans, or lack of support at Polydor.

    I fully understand how Joey did not play the Comsat albums in the early 80s on college radio. Thsy just weren’t available as promos. As a DJ, if you were lucky enough to have bought them as imports, then you played the crap out of them. I know I did! Just wish I could have seen them back in the day. Maybe if I save my pennies and dollars I’ll get luck with a reunion gig.

    E-Mann
    (now in greater Cleveland)

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  6. Hi MissP,

    The Comsats are definitely one of the best kept secrets of the 80’s. As I’ve told you before, I discovered them thru you and am very thankful. Among their songs I love the most are “Independence Day”, “Day One”, and “You Move Me”. Their albums re-issued in CD’s are top notch and still fetching high prices. Hope they do a new album. 🙂

    McDoC

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  7. Heya ((((E-Mann)))))

    Are you getting settled in? Thank you for your insider’s view to Joey as a fellow DJ from back in the day. Along with Laura’s viewpoint as an Uber-Fan, I’m adding more information to my own personal knowledge base about this fantastic band. Hoping all is well for you in your part of the world. 🙂

    Hugs,
    MissP
    xo

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  8. Hey (((((((McDoc))))))))))

    If I’ve exposed you to something great that you’ve never heard before, then I am doing my job! With another live gig in the works for October (in addition to the one they just successfully did in April) then perhaps it’s not outside the realm of possibilities that they will release another album. Fingers crossed!

    All the best and thank you for your kind words,
    MissP
    xo

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  9. MissP,

    I’ve recently discovered the Comsat Angels, I think from the old DJ Info, but they are also on Rhino’s Post-Punk Chronicles: Left of the Dial disk. Great band.

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  10. Hi Robert!

    Glad you have discovered and approve of the Comsats. They are truly a phenomenal band. All the best to you and thank you for your comment!

    Hugs,
    MissP
    xo

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  11. Heya again, E-Mann,

    I saw that LP listed, but only included the discography from the late 70’s- 80’s (and, OK, one from 1990, because it fit! – LOL). I believe the one you mention was originally released in 1992, then reissued by Renascent in 2006 (according to Wikipedia).

    Good catch and thank you for your album review! 🙂

    Cheers,
    MissP
    xo

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  12. MissP,

    This is rapidly become your most talked about post. You did a fine job of a very underrated artist. I was fortunate enough to hear them in the early 80’s courtesy of David Marsden’s CFNY. Of note though, the alum mentioned by E-Mann (Time Considered As a Helix Of Semi-Precious Stones` was released in 1992 but is a collection of BBC recordings that were done between 1979-1984. Not quite the John Peel sessions but close enough.

    Maybe they will consider coming to North America, …we can only hope.

    Keep up the great blog.

    Ed

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  13. (((((((((Ed-FM)))))))))))

    Thank you! 🙂 Of course David Marsden would play the Comsats – his taste in music then, as now, is superlative. He never did “go with the flow” – and neither do you!

    Thanks so much for your comment – “see” you tomorrow night for your wonderful CFRC-Retrospect-“80’s Music That Doesn’t Suck” show. You ***rock***!

    Hugs,
    MissP
    xo

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  14. Response to some of the people who’ve posted here:

    Time Considered is a great entry point to the Comsats. For years, I only knew of Land and bought Time Considered in 2006 (Renascent reissue) because I was curious about their other work. 19 songs, all great – I was hooked.

    “Ed” hopes they will come to North America, but sorry, there’s no chance of that. There’s no money to support it and the fans are too scattered; we’re lucky that they’re able to scrape enough together to do the UK tour of three cities. If you can, you should definitely go – great excuse to take a vacation in England!

    “McDoC”, I’m hoping they make a new album, too. That’s still a long shot, though. If they do, it probably won’t sound like the songs you mentioned; they are artists who like to explore different genres. Maybe all the renewed interest will get them back in the studio!

    Laura

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  15. Laura, one can dream LOL. Thanks for the detailed information. I guess I will have to talk my wife into a trip to the UK.

    Cheers

    Ed

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  16. Wow, I just saw this incoming link and had to give it a read.

    This band is intriguing. Listening to the vids you posted I hear that all to familiar 80’s pop but in a couple of the songs. What really perked my ear was The Cutting Edge. It had a heavy free-form Jazz feel to it while still keeping elements of their Pop sound. I can’t think of any commercial radio at the time willing to play that back then. I am sure it would have tore up the airwaves on College Radio.

    That song goes on the wish list.

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  17. ((((((Memo)))))

    I am so glad you’ve discovered something from this band that you like – they can use all of the support they can get as they are planning a second 2009 reunion in Manchester UK in October. 🙂

    Thank you for your kind comments (here and on Marilyn Roxie’s entry) – all the best to you and Happy Fourth of July!

    Hugs,
    MissP
    xo

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  18. The Comsat Angels have not dated yet still evoke the early 1980s; a very desolate period for the UK economy, when manufacturing went through wrenching changes with the death of mass production, and there was much unemployment and a rather brutal and protracted strike among the widely scattered coal mines. It was a particularly unsettling time in Northern England. During this phase there was a fashion for often doomy music with portentous lyrics. I was a student in Machester and I know it was true also of Sheffield and Leeds too at the time that the huge recession produced a wave of bands, spanning post-punk, industrial, new romantic and the Factory sound among others Plus genuinely weird, and one-offs. Also some crossovers with electronics (like Cabaret Voltaire/earliest Human League) and dance music (e.g. A Certain Ratio, Pigbag). There was real do it yourself ethos about as the lack of jobs made time and motive to practice. Some synths started becoming cheap and technology meant you could make drums sound heavier and use more fuzz and effects. There were literally good gigs in clubs every week. Perhaps some of the Comsat Angels newer fans in the USA are getting the same bleakness in the music at a time of recession and structural change that we felt in the UK. Best wishes to you all across the pond

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  19. Thank you for your thoughtful comment, Bill. I believe you are correct. The bleakness that pervaded Sheffield’s (and the rest of the UK’s) economy back in the 80’s is certainly present here. Somehow music that mirrors the mood is much more effective and comforting than music that tries to avoid what’s really going on.

    I hope the Comsats enjoy a resurgence. I hear through the gravevine that they are playing a gig in Sheffield in December. How I wish we would have the chance to see/hear them here.

    All the best to you, MissP xo

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  20. The Comsat Angels are playing December 11th at The Plug in Sheffield. Tickets are on sale now. The line-up for the gig will be Steve Fellows, Mik Glaisher, Andy Peake and Terry Todd, as it was for the October 2009 tour. I recommend anyone who loves this band attend the gig. You never know if it will be the final time they play!

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  21. Thanks so much, Laura, for the details. i hope they get the large turnout that they deserve. And, I expect to hear/see an after-action report from you. 🙂 xo

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