The Lucy Show
Words on Music

Countless bands have been chewed up trying to make a go at a career. This was especially true in the ’80s when the industry was still profitable. It was not uncommon for a band to be signed, only to be dropped unceremoniously not long after. As such, the tale of the Lucy Show is not unusual. The London-based quartet released a moderately successful album, ...undone, on A&M in 1985, but the label dropped the band for unbeknownst reasons. After signing to Big Time, the following year the group put out Mania, which made the CMJ college charts and got airplay on MTV. Despite securing distribution with BMG, though, the label went bankrupt before the band could release a third album, and after a couple more unfruitful years, The Lucy Show called it a day.

But like many bands of that era (and before and after), The Lucy Show managed to strike a chord (no pun intended) with its audience. Mania was required listening for anyone interested in music left of the dial, and its “Part of Me Now” was a mixtape staple. The folks at Words on Music must surely agree. After reissuing Mania in expanded form in 2005 and re-releasing ...undone in 2009, the Minneapolis label is tying up all the loose ends with Remembrances, a compilation collecting outtakes, alternate versions and demos never before released on compact disc.

Beginning with “Leonardo Da Vinci,” The Lucy Show’s first single from 1983, the collection favors the sparse and darkened sound prevalent on ...undone—no surprise given that several tracks here are demos for songs that would wind up on that debut. Nonetheless, “History Part 1,” which was later re-recorded and used as a B-side, is reminiscent of The Cure (circa Pornography), with a cracking drum beat juxtaposed with bassist Rob Vandeven’s murmured vocals. It manages to be at once minimalist and atmospheric, its negative space as evocative as what’s there. As for the demos, they mostly leave something to be desired. Though there is something to be said for the gaunt take of “Come Back to the Living,” these versions sound like the blueprints that they are, with the drum machine beats and keyboards of “Undone” sounding particularly meager. Meanwhile, “The Lady Lies There,” though recorded on the same equipment in The Lucy Show basement, takes things in a different direction, its oscillating synths more reminiscent of a Giorgio Moroder production than what the band would become.

It is, however, the studio-recorded tracks at the heart of the album that make this collection worthwhile. “The Price of Love,” remains one of the band’s strongest cuts, and while I still prefer the version on the Extended Play EP, the alternate mix here is no less effecting. The slower version of “See It Goes” here is less successful, though. “Lap of the Gods” is perhaps the highlight of the album. Recorded with John Leckie during the first session for Mania, the song contains the moody mix of elements that became hallmarks of that record: jangly guitars, brooding vocals and spritely rhythms. Even the demo-ish “Waiting for You” from 1986 is a bright spot on the record. The surprise of the album comes with “She’s Going Down,” one of two tracks from 1993 that were recorded for an EP that never materialized. The song shows the same flashes of brilliance as from the band’s prime and hints that perhaps there could have been more to The Lucy Show story had they chosen to explore it. While the other cut from the same session, “When It All Comes Down,” isn’t on par with its counterpart, the two combined nonetheless make a good note on which to end.
Stephen Slaybaugh