Monday, September 7, 2009

Various Artists: Shots in the Dark (1981)

Don't stop me, you have may not have heard this one before*.

MRML posts that offer unfamiliar material by familiar artists get the big reactions. It's the nature of the beast, we want what we already have but slightly different. However, as an obsessive, there's still no rush for me like finding, then sharing, something completely unheard. So now MRML, rather than just chronicling my listening choices, has begun driving them. I'm forever scouring the physical and the digital world for postable material.

This compilation, Shots in the Dark, found here, jumped out at me because of that angular aesthetic that screams "English New Wave". Sure enough it's from England circa 1981, the year before the synths ate the world. You, the listener, will have to decide whether the defining trait of this compilation, is that it's treasure trove of deeply obscure ska, punk and new wave or that it was compiled by early U2 associate and British Christian rock figure Laurie Mellor (no relation to Joe Strummer I'm guessing).

This collection, on which each band got two songs, may as well have been sub-titled 66% British Ska. Of the six bands here, the Graphics, the Magnetics, the Mystery Guests and the Stares all borrow heavily from the scratchy rhythms of Two-Tone era ska, The Specials in particular (but with some Clash and Police nicking as well). As for the other two bands, the Predators are a little more mainstream new wave - somewhere between the Records and the Cars, whereas Crowd Control could have opened up for the Cure or Bauhaus without anyone batting a heavily-mascaraed eyelash.

Unlike Sonseed this lacks a deeply comical video (oh the temptation to name this post "Jesus Has Six New Friend Requests" was almost unbearable). But perhaps such anonymity makes it easier to take this unearthed artifact at face value.

{MRML readers: please leave us a comment about your take on the bands herein.}

Download Shots in the Dark L.P.
(Contains two M3U's, one with the original L.P. order and one with the MRML order, where each band's songs are consecutive.)

* Of course, if you're a dedicated reader of the fantastic Short Sharp Kick in the Teeth you have. Hopefully I added something to the mix!


  1. I must tell you that this is one of my favourite mod compilations. When I googled its origins, I couldn't believe that it had Christian links. I was so thoroughly confuzzled by the whole venture. Still, it hardly detracts from my love of Mystery Guests. I love Take a Look at Yourself so much I will feature it in my next podcast.

    I must also tell you that I came across an article about Mystery Guests in the Future Days Fanzine from 1980, accessible on the Bristol Archive Records website:

    The write up is stupidly hilarious:

    With tactics such as masquerading as other bands on the same bill, advertising hoax concerts and releasing fake publicity, the Mystery Guests obviously come in for a good deal of criticism.

    "Yes." Sighed spokeswoman Betty Wayne, toying with a white throat.

    Great stuff. Who is your favourite artist from the compilation, jeffen??

  2. Of course we've heard it - Mutant Sounds posted it ages ago!

  3. Elananor
    Thanks for the always excellent feedback, you've been missed.
    It is a strange venture, especially that many of these bands seemed to have winked in and out of exsistance fast, even by the standards of that era.
    Do you know the issue and page number of the MG article. I tried searching the two.pdf's and couldn't find it (I have a bad thing with .pdf's it's true.)
    Hmmm I really love all the ska bands (the other two not as much) but I'd have to say the Mystery Guests win out in the 'band who shoulda made album' contest.

  4. Anon
    A Google search and a blog search revealed nothing at MS (a towering blog in the field but not one I read often.However, a longer Google search term did reveal it had been posted by a blog I always visit, Short Sharp Kick in the Teeth. Out of respect I revised to make mention of that fact.
    Thanks for leaving a comment

  5. Ahh, jeffen! I'm always here, just hiding in the shadows occasionally! I shall make a kerfuffle to make my presence known, haha!

    The article is on page 22 of Future Days, Issue 2. I'm not surprised you couldn't find it, the article was scanned on its side so its contents are deceptively hard to decipher. It's a great article though, certainly sheds some light on a band who completely disappeared from the annuls of time. Maybe more info will emerge eventually ? Who knows.

    Take care, keep up the great work!

  6. Glad you made a kerfuffle to remind us you're still here (I look forward to hearing the MG on the next Chocolate and Cheese podcast)

    Thanks for the directions,I shall go and read with my head turned sideways.


  7. Thanks very much for this! Its an amazing discovery, particularly the ska tracks. I'm always searching for obscure ska tracks from the 2-Tone era and these may be the most obscure ever. Thanks again for posting. I plan a post on this LP and will link to your blog.

  8. I figured you'd be pretty excited by the high ratio of ska - that sure got me right off. I've always been frustrated by the shortage of two-tone era obscurities (unlike say mod or power-pop where there are bushels full of ultra-obscurities) but your site rally does fill in the gaps well.
    I look forward to your post (don't miss out on the article on the Mystery Guest Elanor linked to above) and the link-back to here!

  9. Man, what an excellent comp. Someone get on Captain Oi's case about re-issuing this stuff!

  10. And a big amen to that!

    Hopefully, word will leak out about this and we'll see some re-issue action happen.

  11. I missed this. I have this comp on tape!

  12. Wow.
    That's awesome - if you scan the tape I'll repost this!


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