THE HISTORY OF
BY FOUNDER MEMBER CHRIS PAYNE
Back in around November 1980 I had just finished a world tour with Gary Numan, having played Synths and viola in concert with him for over a year.
Just after that period I found myself back in my hometown of Lancing in Sussex. Crucible, my old band of schoolmates (which for a while had featured film composer Hans Zimmer) had split up, and I had recently formed a new electronic project tentatively called ‘Electronic Circus’ with ex Crucible keyboard player, and good friend of mine from music college days Mike Stewart. Unfortunately it didn’t last long as Mike was committed to studying composition at Trinity College under the acclaimed British composer John Tavener. A while later I met up one night with my good friends, and ex Crucible buddies and after a few beers down at our local pub decided that it was time to record something together under a new project.
After a bit of deliberation involving a rather large collective dose of Gales HSB (rather strong Ale) the project became aforementioned ‘The Electronic Circus’ (we added THE).
I suggested that with a name like this we could do anything providing it was predominantly electronic. The problem was that I had about a week to write something as we had booked the legendary ‘Pebble Beach’ studios in Worthing. The week went by a bit too fast for my liking, and a rather stressed out and totally unprepared ME just about managed to cobble together a verse and chorus. The song was loosely based on the threat of nuclear war which was very current at the time, and my companions and I spent two days recording what was to become our first song ‘Direct Lines’. So, ex Crucible members Tim Vince, Tony lewis, Mike Bunyard and myself along with Mike’s girlfriend at the time Penny Heathcote became ‘The Electronic Circus’.
The project was really just me and a bunch of musician mates having a bit of a laugh. Little did we know that a record label called Scratch Records would release Direct Lines through RCA records, and guess what?… it bombed!
I had to leave shortly afterwards due to contractual obligations I had to fulfil with a band I was with at the time called Dramatis (and who were signed to Elton John’s Rocket Records) which somewhat displeased Scratch records to say the least. So we compromised by me being given the rather pompous title of Musical Director (which I never fulfilled!) to allow me to have some contact with the project. Paul took over Electronic Circus mark 2 and recorded a few tracks at Gary Numan’s Rock City studios in Shepperton. Apparently things weren’t going well and various problems arose with singer Penny Heathcote. So the band split and reformed with new members drummer Mark Otway and Terry Smith on bass guitar, Paul taking over on vocals/guitar and Tim Vince on keyboards. This became Electronic Circus mark 3. This combination supported Dramatis on our only UK tour back in 1982. After the tour, Scratch records failed to pick up their option on keeping the band and it just drifted into oblivion….along with Dramatis!
However…’the story doth not endeth here’.
Over the past 35 years or so, Direct Lines has become a bit of a cult record having been discovered on the internet and released on various compilation albums mainly featuring obscure 80’s releases. I know it has been released in Greece, Spain, America, A small island off the coast of Venezuela, and who knows where else? It has somehow managed to achieve a staggering 1.5 million views on a youtube site, which unfortunately synchronised the song with a very obscure Swedish film, and the powers that be decided that it could no longer be shown as it infringed copyright.
If, like me you cannot view it, do not despair. if you google ‘The Electronic Circus Direct Lines’ you’ll see all manner of versions to listen to. People have even made their own videos to the song.
So, as a tribute to all of these amazing fans of this obscure cult track that sold about 6 copies back in the day, I have reformed Electronic Circus (without the THE) and featuring some of the original members Tim Vince, Mike Stewart, Paul Rogers and Myself plus my wife Dominique and daughter Marikay guesting on vocals. We won’t always perform together (especially as Paul lives in America) but we will perform whenever we can in whatever format we can manage.
Original Electronic Circus who recorded ‘Direct Lines’ and the b side ‘Le Chorale’
Penny Heathcote Vocals
Tim Vince Keyboards
Chris Payne Keyboards
Tony Lewis Bass
Mike Bunyard Drums
Nick Berlevy Backing vocals
Other past members who recorded other tracks composed by Paul Johnson Rogers (it would be great if we could find these)
Mike Stewart Keyboards
Paul Johnson Rogers Keyboards Drums Vocals
Terry Driscoll Bass
Mark Otway Drums
Terry Smith Bass
Over the coming months I’ll be working towards an album, but in the meantime you can hear edited tracks that have already been recorded and these tracks will be featuring at future live events.
Also, for a limited period, you can download for free the original Direct Lines here!
So feel at ease to download and spread the word!
We have decided to give away another free download to compliment the original direct lines single. This is our 2017 version of Direct Lines. Hope you enjoy it?
Checkout my conversation with Chi Ming Lai on the Electricity Club website - electricityclub.co.uk