ltm biography

The youthful Stockholm Monsters came together in South Manchester

in the summer of 1980, initially around the core of vocalist Tony

France, bassist Jed Duffy and drummer Shan Hira. Their unusual

name was conjured by France, and represents a combination of

Bowie's then-current Scary Monsters album and the Swedish capital



Then still in their teens, and with no settled guitarist, the

band found it hard to find gigs and be noticed. After linking up

with the Manchester Musicians Collective the Monsters scored a

few gigs at local venues such as the Cyprus Tavern, and struck

lucky when supporting the Rezillos at Rafters. Both Rob Gretton

and New Order bassist Peter Hook were in the audience, and

decided that the outstanding song Fairy Tales would make a good

single on Factory. Hook in particular took the fledgling band

under his wing, and would go on to produce almost all of their

recordings, albeit disguising his identity behind the moniker Be



By the time Fairy Tales was recorded in the spring of 1981 the

band had recruited Shan Hira's sister Lita on keyboards, and in

January and February supported New Order at several early dates

in the North of England. As well as the single the band also

recorded three studio demos during their first year, although

most of this material would not be heard by a wider public. The

majority of these early tracks (Catch Me In Confusion, We Are

Nation, Copulation) were fairly raw, but several showed real

promise, including Future and James (aka Systems Failing). A show

taped at Manchester venue Devilles in June 1981 clearly shows

that by then the band was finding its musical feet.


Fairy Tales (Fac 41) eventually appeared some eleven months late

in February 1982, and revealed a melancholic band with a liking

for strident drums and simple but effecting melodies. Whether

Martin Hannett's production brought out the best in the song is

debatable, for the demo version from January 1981 released on the

Last One Back CD is arguably better. Certainly Hannett's

tardiness in mixing the track was a major factor in the long

delay, but the single drew deserved praise from the NME's Paul

Morley and Mick Mercer of ZigZag, who compared France's vocals

to Peter Gabriel, and rose to the giddy heights of number 43 on

the indie chart. Spotters should note that the handsome Mark

Farrow sleeve came in two colours, green and purple.


Now joined by trumpet player Lindsay Anderson, in April 1982 the

band supported New Order on a European tour which took in France,

Belgium and Holland, and in August released a second single (Fac

58), coupling the busy Happy Ever After with Soft Babies.

Produced by Hook, a wintry video short was later made for the

flipside, and included on the compilation A Factory Video (Fact

56). During this period Jed Duffy left, to be replaced by Tony

France's younger brother Karl. In September the band performed

at the Futurama IV festival at Deeside, where Melody Maker

praised their 'big sound and big tunes' and Sounds condemned the

group as 'Factory failures.' That same month the first press

interview with the group appeared in indie scenesheet Masterbag,

wherein writer Mick Paterson (later to manage A Certain Ratio)

attempted to coax the nothern beasts from their lair:


     The various members of the Stockholm Monsters are scattered

     around the room amidst piles of books; their rehearsal room

     doubles as a stockroom for the bookshop below. The books

     provide an interesting distraction to certain members of

     the band, who take little or no part in the conversation.

     It is their first interview, not for the reason normally

     associated with the less communicative Factory bands, but

     surprisingly, because they have never been asked. The band

     are all acutely shy, and it's primarily Tony who does the

     talking. The others, feeling no need to explain their

     music, are more concerned with the search for elusive

     tobacco and matches.


     Lindsay Anderson, the seventeen year old trumpet player who

     played bass on their recent recordings, remains rooted in

     her David Bowie biography, only lifting her head when

     teased by the others. She has only been part of the band

     since January and seems still to remain on the outside of

     the family groupings which make up the rest of the group...

     They have been playing together for two years, although

     they were friends beforehand. Friendship proved important

     in their search for a new bass player.


     'We only want someone who we know and like. That's how we

     and most bands - especially in Manchester - start. You

     don't start bands with strangers, but with your friends.

     It'll take a while to find the right person, people are

     hard to find. You think you know a person but it doesn't

     always work out that way.'


     Until they find the right person they are borrowing Paul

     Kershaw, a friend from the Delhi Polo Club, to fulfil their

     immediate commitments. The band also put their relationship

     with Factory on a friendly rather than business level.


     'We don't get any pressure, we have no real deadlines,

     although they do like us to rehearse. Mind you, at times I

     don't think they have enough confidence in us. Maybe

     they're just a bit too cautious. But we get on with them,

     and that's what's important. Then again, we don't like the

     idea of people buying our records just because they're on

     Factory, like the stupid collectors who buy the same record

     in four different colour sleeves!'


     They also seem slightly disillusioned with the business

     machinations involved in releasing their records, with

     their first single Fairy Tales taking eleven months to hit

     the racks - and even then not in sufficient quantities to

     satisfy public demand. However, the Factory liaison did

     prove fruitful when they were looking for a producer.

     Although they do not publicise the fact, Peter Hook of New

     Order has been in charge of production on the majority of

     their recordings.


     'We knew that by cashing in on his name we would probably

     sell a couple of thousand more records, but it's a

     Stockholm Monsters record, not Peter Hook's. Look at a

     recent review of 52nd Street - all it mentioned was Donald

     Johnstone. Peter Hook is really good in the studio because

     he's learning like us, and experiments a lot, which we

     like. And if we don't like anything about it, we tell him

     and he stops it. We like working with him as he gives us

     more scope and more confidence. We have no plans to sack.'


     This comment produces giggles from behind shaking books.

     The band are aware though of an inevitable comparison with

     New Order, but they shrug it off realistically.


     'Anyone who lived through the Manchester scene a few years

     ago can't help but be aware of them. We don't think we are

     influenced by them, but you can't help it. We can't see the

     comparison - maybe others do, but we can't help what they

     think. As long as you try to be different and to put

     everything into it. It's as it happens - what comes

     naturally - and if you change that then it's false. If what

     comes naturally is shit, then you're stuck with shit.



     The music of the Stockholm Monsters is as uncompromising as

     their naive cynicism, but they are aware of their

     inexperience and willing to persevere.


Paterson also reviewed their show at Manchester Polytechnic in

February 1983:


     The fairytale keyboards are offset by the severe vocal

     delivery, the excellent surging drums and the spasmodic

     trumpet blasts. In many ways I wondered what they were

     doing on stage as they all seem acutely embarrassed by such

     elevation, the two guitarists keep their backs to the

     audience whilst the girls take every opportunity to leave

     the stage. Yet there is an honesty reflected in the lyrics

     that is endearing and illuminating, and when they have

     overcome this stage-shyness they will reap the benefit of

     their Factory status and the crowd pull that ensures.


Following on from their earlier European tour with New Order, the

band recorded a three-track 12" single for Factory Benelux (FBN

19), released in March 1983. Miss Moonlight, an evocative, organ-

lead lament, may not have been an obvious single choice, but

showed that the band were capable of stretching out, and came

housed in a striking Mark Farrow sleeve. The track was reworked

for possible inclusion on the Monsters' debut album a year later,

but failed to make the final cut. A clip for The Longing, another

track from the Benelux ep, appeared on the Factory Shorts video

collection (Fact 137).


A debut album was due to be recorded shortly after the Miss

Moonlight session, but was postponed after Factory decided that

the band were not yet ready. Lita Hira departed, and the

remaining four members were joined by a new guitarist, John

Rhodes. Karl France switched to bass, although in due course both

Rhodes and France would play occasional keyboards onstage, and

Tony France took up the guitar. In September 1983 the band played

a show at the Midnight Express Club in sunny Bournemouth, which

was written up by Andy and Cindy (no surnames given) for a local

magazine called Coaster. The law of defamation demands some

judicious editing of this splendid little article, but

nonetheless it provides a candid snapshot of a somewhat insular



     Continuing the steady flow of Factory bands to the Midnight

     Express Club were the Stockholm Monsters, five scruffily-

     dressed individuals who looked more like a band of roadies

     than an actual band themselves.


     Despite their appearance, the Stockholm Monsters' music was

     intensely powerful, forced upon the audience with a manic

     sense of urgency and at a painfully stupendous volume.

     Their well-constructed songs were hurriedly performed, with

     Tony France's desperate lead vocals accompanied by the

     obligatory drums, guitars, keyboards (precariously mounted

     on a stack of milk crates) and a miniaturised horn section

     comprising a solitary trumpet.


     The audience received the Monsters with a variety of

     diverse reactions. For some the music was just too loud,

     others stood and watched with abating interest, while a few

     'punks' expressed their extreme appreciation by pogoing and

     smashing into each other and the surrounding members of the

     audience. All watched by Tony France with what appeared to

     be incredulous contempt.


     After the performance had ended and the repeated request

     for an encore had been emphatically denied, we made the

     mistake of going backstage to chat with the band. To say

     that they were stand-offish would be a gross

     understatement. They seemed to be staunch representatives

     of that enigmatic clique of the music industry, the

     reluctant pop stars. They seemed almost as embarrassed as

     we were, constantly looking at each other and giggling



     Just as singer Tony France needed a bomb under him to get

     him moving onstage, he required the same prompting to be

     enthusiastic and obliging in conversation. From what we

     could gather from his patchy monologue, the band weren't

     really interested in making money, and didn't seem to be

     particularly bothered by their lack of fame, success or

     record company promotion. We had even less of a response

     from the celebrity at the mixing desk that evening, Peter

     Hook, bassist with big shot chart biggie band New Order. He

     informed us that it was his day off (from being famous),

     and sat back and giggled with the rest of the Monsters.


     These Factory funsters seemed to take a great delight in

     ridiculing everything in sight from us and Bournemouth ('a

     one horse town') to the audience, and even the Midnight

     Express... It's a shame that a band with such a strong

     musical personality can come across as such time-wasting

     individuals when it comes to talking about their music. For

     instance, when questioned about the derivation of their

     name, Tony France's reply was 'We thought Stockholm was a

     nice country' (country?), and 'We wanted something that was

     opposite to Stockholm so we chose Monsters.' Oh yeah?

     Unfortunately, he was being serious. Our verdict: music -

     marvellous, personalities - monstrous.


In January 1984 the band set about recording their debut album

at Strawberry studio, with Peter Hook again in the producer's

chair. Engineered by Mike Johnson and CJ, the sessions were mixed

at Revolution in March and achieved a hard-hitting clarity absent

from previous records, and which perfectly suited the robust but

highly melodic material written by the group. Songs such as Five

O'Clock and Something's Got to Give had been in the Monster's

repertoire for some time, but it was the newer, more punchy songs

that really impressed. Indeed the set contained at least three

potential singles in Terror, Life's Two Faces and Where I Belong,

yet yielded only one - All At Once - which was perversely left

off the album. Backed with National Pastime, the effervescent All

At Once (Fac 107) drew deserved praise on release in June 1984.

According to the NME:


     Dark, doomy, depressing... just a few of the qualities the

     Stockholm Monsters do not possess, further emphasising just

     how inaccurate most people's idea of Factory Records has

     become. The Stockholm Monsters always put me in mind of The

     Move before they discovered heavy metal, all regency horns

     and rushing drums. The indulgences that the sales of Blue

     Monday allowed Factory to make in tolerating their less

     successful acts are looking to have been worthwhile.


Alma Mater (translation = bounteous mother) was released as FACT

80 in August 1984, housed in a stylish sleeve by Trevor Johnson,

eight copies of which form can be arranged to form a jigsaw. It

is estimated to have sold perhaps 4000 copies worldwide. Although

the NME's reviewer damned the album as 'close to the worst thing

I've ever heard' (and the pressing quality left much to be

desired), Dave Roberts of Sounds offered criticism of a more

constructive kind:


     The Stockholm Monsters are fast becoming a very important

     cog in the Factory machinery. Developing an increasingly

     individual and varied sound, the Manchester monsters have

     recently put their horrifying hands to some nicely-

     terrifying tunes. Generally purveying simple, danceable

     rhythms with the bass drum holding down a driving disco

     beat, the music is made up by equally simple melodies,

     expressed by a keyboard-dominated sound, and delivered with

     some excellent vocals... It's a long way from Sweden, but

     once their horns are in riotous rein and the grinding

     guitars reach overdrive, the Stockholm Monsters will

     support the healthy fears of the Factory faithful.


Melody Maker also praised the record. According to Julian Henry:


     Their first LP is a powerful record brought down only by

     the occasional lapse into the solemn (some might say dour)

     and bleak (some might say dreary) mumblings that are

     typical of their spiritual forefathers and label

     companions, New Order. Produced by Peter Hook, Alma Mater

     is atmospheric, bass-heavy and geared to the group's highly

     melodic and dark poetic wanderings. Vocalist Anthony France

     is not the greatest singer in the world, but his voice does

     blend in well with the twinkling guitars and keyboards,

     though the tense edge that the group are capable of live is

     sometimes buried... As a debut album it stands up well, and

     promises good things for the future.


The title E.W. pays homage to Edgar Wallace, incidently. On

August 15th the group played a London showcase with Section 25,

as part of a string of well-attended Factory 'premieres' at

Riverside Studios, which advertised the Monsters as 'raw power

and fairgound melodies.' I was at the gig and left much impressed

with the intensity of the band, although the material was still

unfamiliar and their set all too brief. Biba Kopf hit the nail

on the head in the NME:


     Sometimes clumsy in their rush to a song's end, Stockholm

     Monsters at the very minimum have developed the speed to

     avoid the world's weight crushing them... With Section 25,

     Stockholm Monsters have grown into the most alluring

     livebait dangled from Factory's unshaken faith in unhyped

     quality eventually finding takers since Joy Division. If

     this trend-soaked wet and spoilt consumerland continues to

     turn a blind eye to this lost generation, it will have

     truly proved itself a place unfit for heroes.


Following the release of Alma Mater Lindsay Anderson left to go

to college and was not replaced, leaving the band to soldier on

as a quartet and hone a more rock-orientated sound. In an

interview with a local Manchester paper that autumn, the band

revealed something of their philosophy (and predicament) to

Robert Graham:


     They gig more than any other Factory band (because they

     have to in order to survive) and when you meet them, they

     put you more in mind of the Fall's prole-art than New

     Order's student bop. They don't exactly seem like rock n'

     rollers, but claim to do a Buddy Holly song now and then...


     Tony France: Because we took three years preparing it, and

     we'd already put it off once, because we'd always thought

     it'd be the breakthrough - I'm not saying it's a letdown,

     but we all thought the album would have done better.


     Andy Fisher (manager): Everything we'd done before was like

     geared towards it. You'd been led to believe that doors are

     opened to you - certain gigs, travelling abroad. Everyone

     had led us to believe that once the album was out, those

     doors would open. They've not. It's like banging your head

     against a brick wall.


     Shan Hira: It's got reviewed alright, but it still doesn't

     seem to have helped it that much. We don't put out posters

     or whatever, so the only way we can advertise is by gigs


     Tony France: Yeah, that's what you do when you put an LP

     out. Because there's so much money involved, and because

     your future's involved, you try to do as many interviews as

     possible. You try to get your picture in as many things as

     you can, you try and get your posters up in as many places

     as you can and things like that...


     Robert Graham: So to sum up, even though it's easier for a

     band with record company clout behind them, you still

     believe that the Factory strategy is right and good.


     Shan Hira: We want to do it on the merit of the music,

     without doing interviews. We want the merit of the music,

     not the image, to do it. You've got to have faith in your



     Tony France: The way we work just fits in with Factory

     totally because we progress pretty slowly. If you do

     something at the wrong time, you know, if you go too fast,

     it just ruins it.


     Shan Hira: If you go to major label, you've got so long to

     do an LP or to do whatever. That doesn't happen with

     Factory. You can do it in your own time.


     So, I came away from the Stockholm Monsters' rehearsal room

     feeling quite a lot of admiration for their faith in the

     Factory way. But I don't think for a moment that that way

     can work except once in a blue moon - which has already

     happened. Any band wanting to make a living in pop has to

     hawk their wares like buggery, like Arthur Daley. That's

     showbiz, and that's all, folks.


For their next single the group returned to Factory Benelux and

released the provocative How Corrupt Is Rough Trade? (FBN 46) in

June 1985. Backed with Kan Kill, the excellent a-side managed to

sound both haunting and violent, and deserved better than a lowly

indie chart placing at 47. In fact the single appears to have

been in part an inspired publicity stunt. Interviewed for the

'facfacts' news sheet in May 1986, manager Andy Fisher revealed

something of the thinking behind the record:


     How Corrupt Is Rough Trade? was put out for a reason. Rough

     Trade are bastards. It's the little things that niggle you,

     and they niggle everybody at Factory. For instance, the

     other week I was looking at sales figures and it said

     'Rough Trade sales figures: Stockholm Monsters - none', it

     said this for about two or three months, 'none', so I

     thought... is it in stock, or what? And it's not been in

     fuckin' stock, plus we had a problem with the inner sleeves

     for it. All we do is play somewhere and it sells, it sells

     consistently. It could easily sell forty a month... It put

     the shits up 'em for a bit when they first heard about it,

     but it could have been a lot more slanderous.


In truth this criticism was misplaced. The group released their

records through Factory, not Rough Trade, and if RT were failing

to press and distribute records in sufficient quantities, it

should have been down to Factory to rectify the problem. And

while Rough Trade Distribution could certainly be a supremely

inefficient operation at times, the corruption charge is a little

wide of the mark. Not that it mattered: Rough Trade declared

themselves amused, and most of the declamatory lyrics were too

muffled to comprehend easily.


In August 1985 the group played dates in Spain, but in September

disaster struck when the band lost almost all their equipment in

a theft from their Manchester rehearsal room. Although the kit

was insured the claim was disputed, a dire state of affairs which

left the band with little more than a drum kit. With the benefit

of hindsight the ex-members agree that the theft knocked the

stuffing out of the band, but at the time the Monsters struggled

on as best they could with borrowed instruments. The following

month the band travelled to Italy for a string of shows with the

Durutti Column, and in November again travelled south to play a

Factory showcase at the Hammersmith Clarendon in London, together

with Section 25 and the then-unknown Happy Mondays (who failed

to perform). According to Fidel Ghandi in the NME:


     Stockholm Monsters are a riot and a half - such unruly

     gentlemen, such poise, such drunkenness. Four figures on a

     stage play sober whilst microwaving Alma Mater - singer

     swaying from scream to whisper via croaks, grunts, burps

     and coughs. The others switch instruments at will,

     improvising variations on a forgotten theme. Yep, FUN -

     haphazard, out-of-control, undisciplined fun(k).


The arrival of the Mondays on the scene also hastened the demise

of the band. Since 1981 the Monsters had very much been Tony

Wilson's blue-eyed boys, in part due to a fairly hard, street

image which saw them variously labelled as scallies and Perry

Boys. By 1984 the band were showing real promise with Alma Mater,

but the record was indifferently received by the press, and

failed to sell. The Monsters never made it to the States, and

found themselves overtaken by the Mondays, who quickly became

press darlings and edged the Monsters from their slot at Palatine

Road. Nor did it help that John Rhodes threw a punch at Wilson

following a show at the Hacienda in December 1986.


In February the band played a brace of European dates in Paris

and Lausanne, in April were the subject of possibly the briefest

feature in the history of the NME, and in May played two poorly-

promoted dates in Dublin. In June the Monsters performed their

first hometown gig for two years at the Boardwalk, and in July

supported the Smiths in Newcastle and Glasgow on the Queen is

Dead tour. It had been intended that the Boardwalk show would be

filmed by Ikon for a live video, but sadly this never saw the

light of day. Another stalled project from the same year was a

musical, although neither show nor the mooted mini-album

soundtrack materialised. Indeed almost two years would separate

the Rough Trade single and the next Monsters record. Shake It to

the Bank, recorded as a single, simply never appeared, proof

positive that Factory had lost interest in the band.


With motivation beginning to wane, the recording of the final

Partyline single took over a year. With the object of scoring a

bona fide pop hit, this winning track was endlessly reworked at

Cargo/Suite 16 (in which Shan Hira had become Hook's business

partner), and in the process was transformed from a powerful

Monsters classic into a slightly cluttered electronic concoction.

On release in April 1987 as Fac 146 the record failed to break,

and the appearance of an ep on the Italian label Materiali Sonori

featuring much the same tracks just a month earlier caused no

small degree of confusion. In another time and place, though,

Partyline should have been a hit, and to these ears matches

anything by Pulp circa 1993-1994.


The release of Partyline was promoted with a couple of live shows

in February 1987, including a support slot with New Order in

Belfast and a superlative live rendition on Granada TV. A five-

song studio demo was also recorded, with Stupid and House is Not

a Home in particular showing that the band still had some of

their best material ahead of them. However within a few months

the band had effectively split, two years short of the Manchester

explosion which propelled Happy Mondays and the Stone Roses onto

Top of the Pops. Some have subsequently cited the Monsters as a

pre-Mondays Mondays, but viewed in musical terms the comparison

fails to survive close scrutiny. Instead, the organ-lead Inspiral

Carpets provide a better parallel, beginning as an organ-lead

frailty and ending as an accomplished rock act. The difference

being that the Inspirals sold records, whereas the Monsters were

the best part of a decade ahead of their time.


And they never did get to play Stockholm.


James Nice

February 2002


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