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Department S were a British New Wave band formed in 1980, who took their stage name from the 1960s TV series Department S.[1] They are best known for their debut single, "Is Vic There?", which was originally released in December 1980 and reached #22 on the UK Singles Chart the following year.


Career[edit source | editbeta]Edit

1980s[edit source | editbeta]Edit

Department S evolved from a previous punk/ska combo, Guns For Hire, fronted by Vaughn Toulouse and also featuring former Madness drummer John Hasler.[1] Mike Herbage joined them on guitar and wrote Guns For Hire's only single - "I'm Gonna Rough My Girlfriend's Boyfriend Up Tonight" - which emerged on the Korova record label.[1] The group then became Department S, with the addition of Eddie Roxy (later replaced by Mark Taylor) and Stuart Mizon.

They debuted at the Rock Garden, London, on 24 September 1980.[1] Demon Records subsequently released their debut single, "Is Vic There?", in December 1980 (re-issued on RCA a few months later).[2] It wasproduced by former Mott the Hoople members Buffin and Overend Watts, but its initial success led to the better-equipped RCA Records re-issuing the single in March 1981.[1] The single then began to climb the charts and saw the band appear on Top of the Pops. The b-side, a cover of T.Rex's "Solid Gold Easy Action", featured Thunderthighs on backing vocals.[1]

The group defied easy categorization, but recorded a session for the BBC Radio 1 DJ John Peel on 3 December 1980. The tracks featured were "Is Vic There?"; "Age Concern"; "Ode To Cologne (Stench Of War)"; and "Clap Now".

The follow-up single, "Going Left Right", was issued on the Stiff Records label failed to chart as high, while still managing to sell 60,000 copies.[citation needed] Poor sales of third single "I Want" as well as differences of opinion with their record label resulted in the band being dropped by Stiff, but not before £50,000 was reputedly spent on an unreleased debut albumSub-Stance (subsequently issued on LTM in 2003).

Toulouse later worked as a DJ under the name Main T, before recording as a solo artist with a 1985 single "Cruisin' the Serpentine", and as part of The Style Council's miners' charity project the Council Collective.[3] He died in 1991 from an AIDS related illness.[1][3]

Revival[edit source | editbeta]Edit

In February 2007, Department S recorded their first new single for twenty six years, a cover version of Alvin Stardust's 1973 hit "My Coo-Ca-Choo". It was released on Sartorial Records in October, and included a guest appearance by Mark Bedford of Madness on bass guitar. A re-recording of "Is Vic There?" and new tracks "Wonderful Day" "God Squad Saviour" and "Outside" were also recorded, and included contributions from Glen MatlockMarco Pirroni, Michelle Brigandage of Brigandage, Susie Honeyman of The Mekons, with John Keeble of Spandau Ballet contributing drums to the latter two tracks. Concert dates were planned for September 2008, but were postponed until 2010. In August 2008, drummer Stuart Mizon left the band due to family commitments, but returned to the fold in early 2009, while former Back to Zero guitarist and songwriter Sam Burnett joined on a full-time basis. In June 2009, Mark Taylor, formerly the keyboard player in Department S, rejoined the band on bass. A single, "Wonderful Day", was released in August 2009.

In February 2010, the band made their live comeback at London's 100 Club, with more gigs undertaken throughout 2010.[4] Appearances at the Rebellion Festival and Sinners Day Festival in Belgium were amongst live highlights. June 2011 saw the single release of "God Squad Saviour" b/w "Slave" released in June, followed by the live albumMr Nutley's Strange Delusionarium. Both were issued by Sartorial Records. The band played at the Hertals Rocks Festival in Belgium in October 2011. In 2012, they played at Benicassim Festival in Spain, alongside Robyn HitchcockStone Roses and Jessie J. The band is currently finalizing a studio album, 'The Constructavists Nightmare', which will be made up of new material.

Discography[edit source | editbeta]Edit

Singles[edit source | editbeta]Edit

Year Singles UK Singles Chart US Hot Dance Club Play Label Notes
1980 "I'm Gonna Rough My Girlfriend's Boyfriend Up Tonight" Korova Band then billed as Guns for Hire
1981 "Is Vic There?"[2] No. 22 Demon B-side; "Solid Gold Easy Action"
1981 "Is Vic There?" (remixed) No. 67 Stiff B-side; "Put All the Crosses in the Right Boxes"
1981 "Going Left Right"[2] No. 55 Stiff B-side; "She's Expecting You"
1981 "I Want" Stiff B-side; "Monte Carlo or Bust"
2007 "My Coo-Ca-Choo" Sartorial
2009 "Wonderful Day" Sartorial

Albums[edit source | editbeta]Edit

Year Albums UK US Label Notes
1993 Is Vic There? Mau Mau Compilation album
2003 Sub-Stance LTM Unreleased 1981 album, together with all tracks from their three UK singles,

as well as previously unheard live and demo tracks

Band members[edit source | editbeta]Edit

1980s musicians

2007-2013 version

  • Eddie Roxy - Lead vocals, Keyboards
  • Mike Herbage - Guitarist
  • Stuart Mizon - Drummer
  • Sam Burnett - Guitarist
  • Mark Bedford - Bassist
  • John Keeble - Drummer
  • Terry Edwards - Saxophonist
  • Susie Honeyman - Strings
  • Michelle Brigandage - Backing vocals
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