Monday, September 10, 2007

The Morgans

Who were the band known as The Morgans, and what became of them? The question has been asked before. You might be familiar with their limited oeuvre if you've purchased a punk or goth compilation from the bargain bin in the last decade, including: Flesheaters, Femme Fatale: A History of Women in Popular Music, Undead: 50 Gothic Masterpieces, among others. But, if exposure through those comps piqued your interest and curiosity, you'll be disappointed to learn that there is very little, if any, information about the band on the Internets.

If you're unfamiliar with them, the titles of the aforementioned comps should suggest, slightly, the genre of their music. Based on the scant amount of information available online, one can piece together only that the band existed sometime in the mid-1990s and that they played a harder version of a sort of goth-influenced alternative rock. Deciding to investigate a bit, I tracked down Chloe LeFay, one of the band's vocalists, who gave me a wealth of information.

To answer the question, The Morgans were: Chloe LeFay (vocals), Lucy Cotter (vocals), Russell Pay (guitars), Pete Dixon (guitars), Eddy Brimson (bass, later replaced by Kevin Browne), David Axford (drums, later replaced by Steve Holland). Here they are in concert:



Using information gained from LeFay and some online resources, I have also created a discography of sorts of the band's official releases, which is made up of three singles.

The Morgans Discography



Tell Me What You Taste (1995) (Diversity Recordings)
1. Tell Me What You Taste (Radio Edit) (Pay, LeFay)
2. Tommy (Dixon)
3. Joyrider Boy (Pay, LeFay)
4. Simon Says (Dixon, LeFay)



Half Girl-Half Jesus (1995) (Diversity Recordings)
1. Half-Girl Half-Jesus (girl version) (Dixon, Cotter)
2. Half Girl Half-Jesus (jesus version) (Dixon, Cotter)
3. Half Girl Half Rant (Dixon, Cotter)



Teenile Dementia (1995) (Rented Life)
1. Teenile Dementia (Pay / LeFay)
2. Red or Dead (Pay, LeFay)
3. Say (Dixon)



Videos were shot for all three of the singles listed above, and "Tell Me What You Taste" received airplay on dear old MTV (although it is unclear whether it was broadcast on the American version of that channel). Pictured above is LeFay during the shoot for the video of "Teenile Dementia." According to her, the video for "Half Girl-Half Jesus" was banned due to her being dressed as a bald pregnant Jesus riding a horse with burning crosses.

Today, LeFay compares The Morgans' sound to the Yeah Yeahs Yeahs and notes in an email:
[W]e were really out of time to be honest. Brit Pop (yuk) was huge and there were no girl fronted bands with any balls except Skunk Anansie, only fucking Echobelly and Elastica so we were fighting a losing battle. . . . . I have always suffered from being a bit too ahead of my time, as arrogant as it sounds.
Based in London, the band released the singles listed above and recorded a full length album in the mid-1990s. Interestingly, the band's initial tracks were produced by Andy Gill of Gang of Four fame and at his home, no less. However, LeFay recounts that the London-based band was not satisfied with the sound so they bought Gill out of producing the subsequent album with their advance. The band toured with Theatre of Hate, and "Tell Me What You Taste" appeared in a trailer for the early 1995 cult flick Tank Girl (although it did not appear on the official soundtrack for that film). A planned album was recorded over seven months in Ealing during night sessions over seven months, but it was never released. Instead, the singles were released piecemeal. They, along with some tracks that were recorded for the album, would ultimately end up on the aforementioned comps. But fame was not to be, for as LeFay noted, "as many bands do, [The Morgans] imploded due to sordid affairs, jealousy, too much booze and a rip- off manager." In essence, it was your basic Behind the Music narrative with all the novelties and cliches of a band's self-destruction. The band played its last gig with Theatre of Hate in November of 1996 at Camden Palace. And they were then no more. Notes Cotter in a recent email: "In the brief history of The Morgans there were many stories to be told, not all I’d wish to be printed but we had a lot of fun and some very happy memories stem from that period. "

LeFay and Dixon continued to collaborate musically under the name Morgans Baby (with other members Nick Lloyd Webber (son of Andrew Lloyd Webber), Senser's Paul Soden on drums, and Josh Town on bass). After several brief tours and the recording of a never to be released album, Morgans Baby, in LeFay's words, "withered and died," as so many things do. She now lives in Austria and writes and records for the band, Audio Medical Device.

Lucy Cotter, for her part, emails to note what her post-Morgans projects have been:
When The Morgans split up Russell and I formed an acoustic project called ‘Dust’. After this I did a hit dance single called ‘Breathe in You’ which went under the alias ‘Tekara – featuring Lucy Cotter’ with top dance producer Matt Darey. I then carried on working with 3 Beat Records to try to come up with another hit, but failed! One can but try! I’ve done various session vocals and lots of acoustic projects which is really what I enjoy most, guitar and vocals – bliss.
Cotter now works in the television industry in the United Kingdom. She is currently rehearsing as a country duo with Paul Offord of The Starts. Dixon (who also appears to have a site here) is a member of Who's Who, a tribute band of The Who.

For good measure, here is another picture of The Morgans in concert:



So how is it that the only artifacts remaining of this band are the various songs and singles on the bargain bin compilations collections? LeFay blames the band's manager, who she says sold the songs for inclusion on them without adequately compensating the band. But for that, though, would there be any evidence at all for we in the present to discover? The officially released singles appear to be long out of print and very difficult to locate for sale online.

I myself discovered the band shortly after purchasing the aforementioned Femme Fatale compilation, which features "Teenile Dementia" "Red or Dead" (credited to LeFay alone), and "No Man's Land " (credited to Cotter alone). I Googled "The Morgans" and found very little about the band (and the name is not very Google-friendly, as there are many families with the surname Morgan with personal websites.). I did find one or two of blog entries similarly wondering about the band, its origin, and its ultimate fate, which prompted me to seek out information on the group. (It was on those pages that I learned that LeFay and Cotter were members of the band, as the Femme Fatale compilation did not list individual members or any other biographical information on the band).

Interestingly, my out-of-the-blue inquiry seems to have prompted some nostalgia in LeFay, as she was kind enough to scan in the concert photographs and album covers above for my benefit and use. She is also now considering creating a MySpace profile for the group and uploading the band's three videos to YouTube when she can find the time to do so.

I think that would be very interesting to see.

(All photographs courtesy of Chloe LeFay.).

UPDATE (9/15/07): I have incorporated into the post an excerpt of an email from Lucy Cotter, who emailed me to alert her to her recording projects and career following the Morgans. Elsewhere in the post, I also included a quotation from her about the legacy of the Morgans. Also added was some information about Pete Dixon and his current goings-on. I also embedded a few additional links into the story, including one to the official site of Eddy Brimson. Further, in a comment posted here, LeFay mentions the possibility of "a re-release if there appears to be enough interest." This week, following the initial publication of this post, she established a MySpace page for The Morgans.

UPDATE (10/4/07): Radio personality Nigel Barker, who was with The Morgans from 1994 to 1995, emails with some "missing facts" to complete the historical record:
I was in the Morgans right up to the release of the Tell Me What You Taste EP and I also co-wrote both that track and "Joyrider Boy" from that EP with Chloe (additional bits from Russ [Pay]). The Manager decided that since my departure occurred weeks before the EP release that Russ would be given the credit for the songs (which caused huge grievences between myself and the rest of the band).

However, this release wasn't the first Morgans release and a limited run 12" was pressed featuring a track called "Say" by Chloe and Pete Dixon and "Television" written again by Chloe but with music by The Morgans (I think it's a bit blurred as to where the initial idea for the song came from).

Tell Me What You Taste was recorded by Andy Gill in Smokehouse Studios in Wapping and then overdubs and vocals were conducted at Gill's house.

...

The whole project was destined to implode from the onset and end in beautiful chaos. There was a very prodigious set of talents in the band and with proper management and direction then it might have been possible to make the whole thing work but with the guidance available it was always doomed to fail.
Barker notes that after The Morgans he joined HipJam, a group which featured Steve 'Smiley' Barnard and Andy Marlow. The group recorded some tracks for Channel Four TV and had a track featured in Hard Men, a 1996 British gangster movie. Barker now produces his own late night radio show in Cornwall and as well as several local bands in that city.

7 comments:

Maurici said...

Thanks for giving tribute to one of the best lost gems of the last decades.
I really enjoyed reading this great article.
Good job indeed!

Maurici Ribera
Trilogy Rock

Mark said...

Great band, and a nicely done article! Thanks!

Dawn said...

Awesome article! :) As one of the people who had been searching for more music by The Morgans on my blog, long ago (and was found by another seeker), I appreciate the effort you put into finding them! :)

austria said...

saw the band in some little back street pub with placebo...(1996?)
theres a load of morgans info at
www.bromleycontingent.com

really superb!

B.hotep said...

What I don't understand is how this band ended up on a 3-disc punk compilation (you know, one of those generic ones, the name of which escapes me) which was made up almost entirely of 70s and 80s "classic" punk rock? Not that I'm complaining, because the addition of "Teenage Dementia" and one other was the highlight of one of the discs and since I bought it (some 7 or 8 years ago now), I have been trying to find info about the band! Well done for furnishing me with this info!

Lee said...

Note that the Femme Fatale compilation also includes on of the Dust tracks (Lucy Cotter & Russell Pays) that is mentioned in the Lucy Cotter quote in your article.

Anonymous said...

hello! thank you for writing this article, had the undead compilation for years, just found a video on youtube that made me try and search for info on the band, as you said a very generic family name... many thanks for taking your time and to the artists themselves for aiding you. love and sparkles, yours, jess.