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for November 14, 2002

Is Vic There?
by Sean Carolan

I was stumbling through my record collection the other night, fresh from a magnificent bout of Rosemount Estates Shiraz-Cabernet (way cheaper than it tastes) when I stumbled across "Is Vic There?" from Department S. It's an odd little 45 from the 1981-or-so timeframe, and it fell into my collection on the coattails of the Jam and Stiff Little Fingers purchases on which I'd spent what little money I had at the time. (It was either that or Pac-Man...)
Of course, back then (when we'd walk to the record store in a snowstorm, uphill, both ways) we didn't have the Web, so whenever you found a band that intrigued you, you couldn't look it up and read all there was to know about them. Now, of course, you can. And what a bizarre story it is. Suffice it to say they set out to be an entity called "Guns For Hire", no more than a fictional Two-Tone band with a popular badge, positioned on leather jackets London-wide next to the Specials and Madness pins. No record, no live dates, just badges.
They finally had to play a gig when people started claiming they'd seen them.
Then when they played a gig they got great reviews, ditto for their first record...and that's when it stopped being fun. They were ultimately torn up by their finances, their management, and their egos, before they'd even get to release their first album. It's finally going to be released next year, twelve years from the death of their lead singer, Vaughn Toulouse. (By the way, if you've ever seen the cover of The Jam's "The Bitterest Pill" single, that's him.)
If VH1 had a Movie Of The Week, this story would be a solid candidate.
Since their best records were recorded before they got serious about "the business", there's a little food for the odd thought about the corrupting influence of fame and the promise of money. Their quick flameout could have been fanned by their not having really needed to work hard at getting where they got, ultimately figuring they were entitled to it, which is usually about the time one stops getting whatever it is one thinks they're entitled to.
On the other hand, it's still a solid, edgy set of British post-punk-pop-foofahrah, and I'd recommend picking it up if you can get your hands on it. Vaughn would be happy.

Original portions ©2002 Sean Carolan

All material ©2001-2014 Sean Carolan, except as noted.


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