Deaf School - What A Way To End It All (The Anthology)

Deaf School were all students in the mid 70's at an annex of Liverpool Art College, which was previously a school for the deaf, hence the groups name. Perhaps somehow anticipating the oncoming punk era's fashion for adopting stage names. Clive Langer became Cliff Hanger, John Wood - Reverend Max Ripple, Anne Martino -Bette Bright and so forth. After various line up changes the group settled down to an eight piece line-up. They won the Melody Maker Rock / Folk / Pop talent contest in July 1975 after gaining a following and a a cult reputation in their native Liverpool. Interestingly the winners of those contests unfortunately never went on to much greater things.

They signed to Warner Brothers Records after being championed by then head of Warner UK, former Beatles, Byrds and Beach Boys publicist Derek Taylor. After rehearsals in Matthew St, former homes of the Cavern Club, they brought in Paul Pilbrick who was a veteran compared to them and has played guitar for Sixties Merseybeat legends The Big Three and in the early Seventies in Stealers Wheel. The band feel in to, appropriately considering the place of their formation, the category of 'Art School Rock' which usually meant an elaborate stage show, fancy costumes etc. while musically carrying on musical traditions of groups like the early Roxy Music or Cockney Rebel..

In August of 1976 the first album "Second Honeymoon" was released. It included a variety of styles ranging from the European pre-war cabaret of "Cocktails At Eight" with a bit of blues thrown in. The best track "Final Act" was a showpiece for singer Bette Bright. The first single which gives its title to this collection is the jaunty "What A Way To End It All" about a half-hearted suicide attempt which got lots of airplay, despite its subject matter, but just missed out on making those all important charts even though they made an appearance on the then popular pop show 'Supersonic'.  At this time they also made regular headlining appearance at the newly opened Erics Club which was to become the centre of the Liverpool punk scene which was to produce bands such as Echo & The Bunnymen, Teardrop Explodes, Pete Wylies Wah and Frankie Goes To Hollywood.

The second album "Don't Stop The World" was released in 1977 featuring a stripped down sound to fit in with a music scene that had changed with the punk and new wave explosion.

The third and final album "English Boys, Working Girls" in 1978 was produced by Robert John 'Mutt' Lange, now better known as the husband of Shania Twain, who had produced the debut by The Boomtown Rats but was to make his name producing heavy rock bands which is probably why the subtleties of the band were lost in the bombastic production and the band surrendered their previous experimentation's to fit in with the New Wave, most tellingly on the Elvis Costello-esque "Refugee". The band split later that year after failing yet again to make the charts with the single "All Queued Up" which sounded like the then successful Rezillos.

Most of the band stayed in the music business - Bette Bright had a brief career with a trio of cover version singles (one of which "Hello I Am Your Heart" was a minor hit) backed by her group the Illuminations who included former Sex Pistol Glen Matlock. The bands principle songwriter Clive Langer went on to become a successful producer, producing hits for Elvis Costello, Dexys Midnight Runners and of course most notably Madness who were fans of the Deaf School and whose singer Suggs name Bette Bright in 1981.

This 2 CD Anthology contains all three albums by the band plus 12 previously unreleased BC Session versions of the album tracks recorded for John Peel. A fold out booklet in which the bands detailed history is told by David Wells with many photographs and snippets of reviews taken from magazines at the time provide a fine testament to a band that didn't quite make it.

Derek McCann

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