The Lines – Memory Span (part 1)

19 Oct

I am doing that because I like The Lines.

You know, it just hit me, so I started writing…

I bought their album “Ultramarine” back in the early 80s and I instantly fell in love with their sound.

Unfortunately, there wasn’t any information on the album and it took me a lot of years to discover what was going on.

You know these kind of records, that you love but there is a super mystery around them cause you know nothing about the artist ?

The Lines remained in that dark area of my record collection until I discovered Acute Records, an American label that re-released during 2008 their full discography in two CDs.

You may ask, what’s so special about  The Lines ?

As Dan Selzer, of Acute Records puts it: “Although they played shows with bands like The Cure, Bauhaus, The Sound and Birthday Party, and featured members of prag Vec and Alternative TV, they were never part of any scene. They never toured and rarely spoke to the press. For 5 years they rehearsed, performed and recorded to little acclaim, leaving only 8 releases on vinyl. While unappreciated in their time, they perfectly encapsulate the best qualities of the era: angst-ridden angularity, danceable catchiness, sublime dub-influenced atmospherics, sonic experimentation and killer hooks, with an unrivalled consistency.

What follows, is taken from the booklet of  Acute’s re-release, The Lines – Memory Span covering on this post the first 3 releases of the band and hoping to boost a little the name of the band.

The Lines played their first show in July of 1977 as Proof featuring Rico Conning on guitar, Jo Forty on bass and Bill Cran on drums. In early 1978, Bill was replaced by Pete Harker, Hywel Philips joined on lead guitar and they recorded their first single as The Lines.

It was recorded on February 24, 1978 at Clubland Studios and was produced by The Lines.

They released White Night / Barbican themselves (during April 1978, on Linear Records as Linear 001) delivering the copies via bike to stores and distributors like Step Forward and Rough Trade.

Initial press referenced the music’s mysterious cryptic quality and compared the Lines to 60s British pop like the Zombies and Kinks. But, soon after its release, Rico traveled to America and the band was put on hold.

In January 1979, White Night received greater exposure when it was re-pressed by Step Forward subsidiary Illigal Records (as ILS0011). Miles Copeland’s precursor to IRS.

After the re-release, Rico returned to the UK and reconvened the band, this time without Harker and Philips but with Nick Cash of prag Vec on drums.

Within a few months, this new version of the Lines recorded their second single (September 2, 1979 at the Soundsuite, Camden) the more tense and aggressive On the Air.

It was produced by The Lines and released during October 1979 on Red Records as RS001.

Press noted 60s references, as well as a Lou Reed influence but the single didn’t get as much attention as the first.

This would be the last time the subtiety of their music would get inder the skin of a few journalists and a small cult of fans, while missing the mark with a larger audience.

Zig Zag editor Kris Needs later wrote of their records: “The stumbling block for instant accolades seems to be the puzzling paradox that these are lasting pieces of work which require several listens before they finally take root in your soul”

Despite a lack of immediate success, the band increased activity and began playing as many gigs as they could.

Fleshing out their sound was Mick Linehan, formerly of Alternative TV, on lead guitar. By January 1980, the Lines had recorded their first John Peel session and had their first headline gig at the 101 Club. That May, they recorded demos including the unreleased songs Blisstability, Uneasy Affair and Time to Go and a month later, the Cool Snap EP (recorded June 2/4/5/6 1980 at Pathway, Islington produced by The Lines with engineer Nick Godwin).

An extension of what they began on the previous singles, Cool Snap had a minimal , skeletal production and their catchiest songs yet.

(It was released August 1st 1980 on Red Linear Records as RL 12005)

Rico would later complain that it sounded like a demo, but to most of its admirers, it is unvarnished perfection.

While this EP has become a sought-after collectors item and “desert-island” disc to Chuck Warner of hyped2death, it wasn’t a huge seller.

to be continued


Posted by on October 19, 2010 in Music


2 responses to “The Lines – Memory Span (part 1)

  1. Averkios

    October 19, 2010 at 9:57 pm

    I have to admit that i have never HEARD of these guys until now! Thanks for the info, this calls for further investigation 🙂

  2. panole8riambos

    October 20, 2010 at 6:34 am

    Thank you.
    It’s nice to know we helped them.
    3 more parts will follow…


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