* A Wing and a Prayer b/w When You Became That Summer + Now Winter Lasts Forever (12” – Ugly Man Records – August 1986)
GROWN Up Strange were an Ulverston based band playing their own original material. The term ‘indie’ had yet to be coined, so it was often referred to as the ‘alternative’ scene.
Chris ‘Mokka’ Hutchinson was the band’s singer, songwriter, guitarist and front-man. After a couple of line-up changes, the rest of the band lined up as Greg Shields (keyboards), Steve Wildgoose (bass guitar) and mainstay drummer Mike Gaunt. Legend has it they took their name from a headline about the Psychedelic Furs in one of the UK weekly music papers. [Afterword: possibly Melody Maker].
Along with other local bands, they played at showcase events at the Civic Hall and a well remembered outdoor gig in Barrow park after the general election of 1983. Margaret Thatcher’s Conservative government had been returned for a second term, but unlike the Tier Garden, Grown Up Strange’s songs were not at all political, relying more on atmosphere and a jangly sound reminiscent of Tom Verlaine’s Television.
Taking inspiration from the explosion of new bands from Liverpool in the early 80s, including Echo & the Bunnymen and the Teardrop Explodes, Mokka planned to relocate the band to the area.
In the event, only Mokka and drummer Mike took the plunge. Rather than recruit a new bassist and keyboard player, Mokka elected to record the bass and keyboard parts onto a Teac reel-to-reel machine, to be played over the p.a. system at gigs. They got to support the likes of A Certain Ratio, Pete Wylie of Wah!, the Blue Orchids and the Icicle Works.
When they returned to Barrow for a show at the 99 Club organised by local band The Active in 1985 [see poster below], they had recruited a full band, including a young guitarist called Colin Vearncombe, who would soon emerge as front-man with the band Black, who went on to have a massive hit with the song Wonderful Life. Their 12” single was released in August 1986, sporting a cover that bore something of a resemblance to Echo & the Bunnymen’s The Killing Moon single sleeve of a couple of years earlier.
* First published in the Evening Mail (Thu.18.Oct.’12)