The Sinister Ducks (1979-1983)

Edited 05/27/2017

1979

„We’d been doing things, working together, when Bauhaus was going. There used to be an event called the Deadly Fun Hippodrome that he was partly behind. It was a little like a mad anarchic surrealist cabaret. There’s another guy called Pickle who was heavily involved in that, who later formed a band called the Mystery Guests. All the eccentric artists in Northampton would crawl out of the woodwork and turn up for this event. It’d be great. A lot of cross-fertilization going on. It was held in an old Edwardian pavilion in the middle of the Northampton race course, the old racetrack. It was an ideal old haunted ballroom.”
David J, LA Weekly interview w/ Jay Babcock

The DFH was held on Saturday lunchtimes at the Racecourse Pavilion in Northampton. There were Super 8 cartoons every week and a couple of bands. I think Bauhaus did the first one and then got too big to play for the zero pounds guaranteed fee i was able to offer. As Alan says, most of my promotions at this time were financial suicide. But then so was Woodstock! The whole series ended suddenly when a water pipe burst during one of the gigs and caused flooding damage in the tens of thousands.
Pickle (Mr. Licquorice)

1979 summer

Critters article – page 1

„The Sinister Ducks first waddled into the limelight early one Saturday afternoon in the Summer of 1979. Local new wave compoposer, entrepreneur, and Adolf Hitler lookalike Mr. Liquorice had arranged a number of lunchtime cabaret sessions which were held in a crumbling Edwardian pavilion when the sun was at its highest and the audience figures at their lowest. Combining local New Wave or Hardcore bands with vintage Augie Dawgie cartoons, this venture operated under the alluring title of „The Deadly Fun Hippodrome”, and over the single summer of its brief duration it built up a loyal audience of, literally, dozens. One one particular occasion, when the support for the band The Shapes had failed to turn up, Mr. Liquorice asked me if I could possibly form a super-group and be on stage int en minutes time. Being pretty drunk, this seemed to me a viable proposition. If I took four minutes carefully hand-picking the correct musical personnel and two minutes writing a modest twenty-minute set, this would allow almost a full one hundred and twenty seconds for rehersal. I agreed, and ten minutes later the Sinister Ducks took the stage. Other than myself, these included Bauhaus bassist David J., saxophonist Max Akropolis from the ska band ARMY, and singer-guitarist Grant Series of Birmingham’s D-Go-Tees. The audience, muddled by glue fumes though they were, were roused to a slouching ovation by a tight and professional set that included David J. reading extracts from that morning’s paper and a heart-breaking rendition of the incomprehensible ’Debbie’s Gloss’ by Grant Series on a bass guitar and half an amplifier. Reeling from this fabulous reception and concerned lest we should peak too soon we did nothing for the next two years.”
Critter #23, Animals Rock n Roll – Alan Moore, Northampton 1987

After reading the account of the Sinister Ducks outing, I can safely say that whenever they played, it wasn’t with us. Im pretty sure we would have remembered that !
Garet Holder (The Shapes)

I was at the Deadly Fun Hippodrome but don’t remember whether they played or not. I was playing with my band the De-Go-Tees and may well have been backstage at the time. Debbie’s Gloss was one of my songs for the De-GoTees (Grant Series being my alter-ego at the time). I may have a demo of it somewhere, but the main lyric was: ’I’m mad about the motion of Debbie’s Gloss.’ I certainly don’t recall the Ducks ever playing it … the line up was: Grant Series (Gtr, vocs), Alex Green (sax) David Hunt (BS) Geoff Webb (drs). We were supporting Bauhaus 1919.
Glyn Bush

„Around 1979 Mr. Liquorice started an afternoon venue for live music and old Augie Dawgie cartoons, known picturesquely as the Deadly Fun Hippodrome. Financially it was utter suicide, but we had a lot of fun. It lasted until one of the visiting punk bands ripped out all the water pipes in the ladies’ toilets, presumably as some sort of protest against the dehumanising futility of contemporary society. Anyway, during the Hippodrome’s existence the level of organization had a kind of freewheeling Marx Brothers tendency. I suppose this was our ‘Cavern’ period. That first line-up included myself, saxophonist Max Akropolis, Dave J. from Bauhaus and Glynn Bush from Birmingham’s D-Go-Tees, who happened to be passing through town that particular lunch hour. After this first half-hour performance, we decided to follow the proven example of David Bowie and maintain an aloof, inaccessible silence. This period of withdrawal from the public eye lasted for about two years, during which we didn’t rehearse or even speak to each other. „
Alan Moore, Zig Zag article (Jun 84)

„Even though Bauhaus took up most of his time, J still found time for external collaborations. He worked with one of the original Bauhaus artists, Rene Halkett and an accident led to forming a ramshackle outfit with Moore called the Sinister Ducks. “We put them together on the spot,” recalls Moore. “There was a string of gigs at a local Victorian Pavilion that a very eccentric and brilliant musician Dr Liquorice had decided to put on at Saturday lunchtime. There would be punk bands, local bands and vintage cartoons that he would show. It had a playschool air about it that was quite interesting. Anyway, one of these particular days the main band had not shown up so he asked me and David and a couple of other musicians if we could put something together in ten minutes and do a set. We quite liked the challenge, so I did a piece of reading with music in the background.”
Ian Shirley: Can Rock & Roll Save the World?: An Illustrated History of Music and Comics, 2005

„Surprisingly enough, things were to improve. In the summer of 79, Licquorice became an Impressario and undertook the production of several curious entertainments staged in a run-down Edwardian pavillion known as the Deadly Fun Hippodrome. During the venue’s tragically stunted lifespan it was to play host to such notables as the Shapes, Bauhaus, The D-Go-Tees and the seminal new-wave skiffle combo known as the Sinister Ducks. The cream of local Bohemia would gather on those distant, golden afternoons and gaze in childish rapture at the vintage Augie Dawgie and Daffy Duck cartoons projected during the intermissions. Sadly, this idyll was shattered by a ruptured waterpipe. Those of you who have experienced the surreal enormity of a flash flood on the upper floor of a two-storey Edwardian building will appreciate the trauma entailed in such an event. The bubble had burst. There were slugs in the lettuce of our salad days. Looking back, it seems somehow inevitable.”
Alan Moore, Sounds article, Mystery and Abomination”, 1981-08-08

1981-04-18 – Roadmender Club, Northampton

„April 18th 1981 and David has booked himself into Beck studios in Wellingborough to set two of the poems; Nothing and Armour to music he had recently composed… With the session completed he literally walked out of Beck and into Northampton’s Roadmender Club on Lady’s Lane to perform at a multi media event promoted by the enigmatic Mr Liquorice ‘The Summer Shock Special’. With Bauhaus currently on a brief hiatus having recently returned from a lengthy tour of the United States David played at this event as a member of another band. The Sinister Ducks was a part time project featuring David, comic writer Alan Moore and saxophonist Alex Green with ‘floating’ members like Glyn Bush and Bridget Enever.”
Sleeve notes for David J: Etiquette of Violance reissue CD by Andrew J. Brooksbank

„Sinister Ducks consisted of Alan, myself and Alex Green, a saxophonist. Also there was a floating member,(no pun intended!) Glynn Bush, who now is with Rockers Hi-Fi. We did two performances. Alan’s role was chief provocatueur. He came on dressed like a head waiter — penguin suit — and heavy leather motorcycle gloves. We performed the two pieces that’d we recorded, March of the Sinister Ducks and Old Gangsters Never Die. Old Gangsters Never Die being a precis of a play Alan had written right around the time of the Hippodrome. They put on plays as well. … I played guitar in a quite unconventional manner, Alex honked away upon the sax, one song the entire vocal was, we used those dolls where you pull out the string and get them to talk. We put the doll to the mike and put it through effects. That would be the vocal. Alan would stare at it with malicious intent. Experimental!”
David J, LA Weekly interview w/ Jay Babcock

Critters article – page 2

„The Sinister Ducks’ first reunion performance happened at another financially doomed venture carried out under the auspices of the enterprising Liquorice, this being a one-day event known as ’Summer Shock Day’. The Duck’s lineup, expanded to include D-Go-Tee saxophonist Bridget (who used to go out with Hunt Emerson), also included a plastic Minnie Mouse doll that provided the vocal upon at least one number, the immortal ’Plastic Man Goes Nuts’. The doll’s head was detachable from its body save for a length of retractable string, which, when jerked savagely, would cause the hideous toy to utter one of six cute catch-phrases at random in between bursts of jazz so freeform that it might be better described as completely boneless.”
Critter #23, Animals Rock n Roll – Alan Moore, Northampton 1987

„In 1981 we held a reunion performance and decided we’d take longer over this one, in an effort to get everything absolutely right. Most of the material was written as far in advance as the night before, and it showed in the performance. It was that much more polished and professional. In ’83 we recorded a single, and Dave took it to the people at Beggar’s Banquet. They decided to bring it out on their Situation Two label so that nobody would know they were responsible if there was any trouble.” In addition to the Sinister Ducks, Moore and David J. have also been working together on a single based on the ‘V For Vendetta’ strip. “I’ve not actually had much to do with it save for the writing, but Dave’s kept tee in touch with developments throughout, and the test pressing sounds excellent.””
Alan Moore, Zig Zag article (Jun 84)

I can only remember one or possibly two concerts – definitely the Roadmender when they did Old Gangsters Never Die. Debbie’s Gloss was one of my songs for the De-GoTees […] I think I did it solo at the Roadmender along with some tunes where I was playing a Bontempi organ.
Glyn Bush

The second Sinister Ducks’ gig was at an event i promoted called ‘The Summer Shock Special’ at the Roadmender which utilised nearly all the rooms in the building for various events and performances. Red and green food and snacks were on sale. Was also my solo debut as Mr Liquorice. Also on the bill were The Sinister Ducks,The D-Go-tees,a performance group called Living Room
Pickle (Mr. Licquorice)

I’m afraid I have a very hazy recollection of the gig. I remember the toy being played held up to the microphone, but then there was a bit of a fad for clockwork toy noises incorporated into stage events at the time. I’m not sure whether John Dowie was involved somewhere, with ‘Big Girls Blouse’, but that was possibly another occasion. Setlist? What makes you think we were that well organised?? Or rehearsed?? More go with the flow…. As for myself, I joined in with and improvised with just about anybody in those days without any prior knowledge of the content – just used my ears! Still do…
Bridget Enever

1982

Bauhaus Information Club newsletter, 1982

Bauhaus Information Club newsletter, 1982

„Although Dave J has no definite release plans, amongst other projects he plans to ‘conduct’ (ha ha) a local gig, on a local bus, to „whoever happens to be on the damn thing at the time”. He’s doing it with his spare time superstars called the „SINISTER DUCKS” who feature a stunning sinister prose vocalist who goes by the delightful name of Brilburnlouge (see MASK sleeve notes). Who is this you may ask? Little do we know, except for anonymous breathtaking phone calls received from the above, reciting „old gangsters never die” to which the sinister quadruplets back up. This being a possible single on release on 4AD.”
Bauhaus Information Club newsletter, 1982

Tranks to Flavio

‘Transport of Delight’ article. Thanks to Flavio.

The Sinister Ducks 7" RARE test pressing

The Sinister Ducks 7″ RARE test pressing

1983-07-19 – on a narrow boat, Northampton

„July  1983 the celebration of another birthday, this time his brother Kevin’s 23rd. An unusual setting for a party, aboard a canal barge on the river Nene, the primary water  in Northampton that eventually feeds into The Wash in East Anglia. Amongst those providing the entertainment that day (19th July) are a duo; The Jazz Butcher and King Rolo (the latter would shortly form The Woodentops) and The Sinister Ducks who also play a couple of numbers and it’s this performance, their third and final, that prompts David to approach his record company with the idea of The Ducks recording a single. Incidentally following this “birthday show” Kevin made a surprise appearance at Kensington’s Ad-Lib club on the 25th playing drums for The Jazz Butcher.”
Sleeve notes for David J: Etiquette of Violance reissue CD by Andrew J. Brooksbank

„…the Ducks rose to the challenge by performing for the glitterati at the birthday celebration of Bauhaus drummer Kevin Haskins, on a corroded barge sailing down the river Nene int he middle of the night.” „…they provided a cursory runthrough of their hit single ([…]) before breaking up over irreconcilable musical differences on their way back to the bar at the rear of the barge.”
Critter #23, Animals Rock n Roll – Alan Moore, Northampton 1987

It must have been a really good party as I have no recollection of it! It may have happened or it may have been confused with my wedding reception which took place on a narrow boat, on the canals surrounding Northampton. The boat was called the Saucy Sue and we had a costume wedding (all guests in fancy dress). Now Alex Green along with Pat Fish were the wedding band! So there is a connection there with Alex. But it wasn’t a Sinister Ducks performance.
Kevin Haskins

Sinister Ducks Press pack

Sinister Ducks Press pack
Thanks to Andrew J. Brooksbank

„The Single was recorded at Beck Studios in Northampton (Wellingborough). ‘March Of The Sinister Ducks’ was built up in layers on top of a basic structure of Dave’s guitar and piano. The cabaret saxophones on the choruses were augmented with kazoos played by Alan and myself. Vocals and duck effect came later. ‘Old Gangsters Never Die‘ was recorded live with us all together in the same room, I seem to recall that the version released was the third take.”
Alex Green, Apollox, 1995

„Created in 1981 by Peter Kent (initially one half of 4AD with Ivo-Watts Russel) as an alternate to Beggars Banquet and to create appeal to an ever growing indie audience Situation Two funded a Sinister Ducks single; March Of The Sinister Ducks and Old Gangsters Never Die. Built largely around David’s guitar and Alex’s piano, the saxophones were augmented by Kazoos for the chorus, played by all three with vocals and assorted duck noises for March Of… added post production. Old Gangsters Never Die was originally a soliloquy in the surrealist play Another Suburban Romance written by Alan Moore and Jamie Delano. Issued in  a special fold out sleeve with stunning artwork from Edwin Pouncy better known of course as comic scribbler Savage Pencil augmented by contributions from another comic artist Kevin O’Neil. Also included within the package was a short band member biography, albeit under pseudonyms; The Translucia Baboon for example was Alan Moore, Alex Green as Max Acropolis whilst David appears as Captain Jose De Silva. The single was released by Situation Two on the 26th of August. There were vague plans for a second e.p. but this eventually came to nothing.”
Sleeve notes for David J: Etiquette of Violance reissue CD by Andrew J. Brooksbank

„The Sinister Ducks did a few concerts and it was obvious to J that they should record a single. “It was easy. We went to Beck Studios where we did all of our Bauhaus stuff and Alan wrote the words. The ‘B’ Side – “Old Gangsters Never Die” – was part of a play that he had written that dated back to the Arts Lab before I had met him. He resurrected it and made it into a pop song and me and Alan put some music to it.” The Sinister Ducks single was released in 1983 and received some intriguing reviews. Due to Moore’s appearance, the single is quite colleetable today not only for the music – uh the lyrics go “quack, quack!” – but the delightful fine art packaging. ‘It was two way traflic — comics and music.” recalls Moore. “It has got a Kevin O’Neill cover on it. There is a rare comic strip version of Old Gangsters Never Die done by Lloyd Thatcher. There is a Savage Pencil graphic on the back, which Sav was telling me was the first time that he had drawn his subsequently popular Dirty Duck character. He got the idea fiom the Sinister Ducks.” The Sinister Ducks even performed on water at Bauhaus drummer Kevin Hawkins’ birthday party on a canal barge.”
Ian Shirley: Can Rock & Roll Save the World?: An Illustrated History of Music and Comics, 2005

Sinister Ducks promo badges

Sinister Ducks promo badges
Thanks to Andrew J. Brooksbank

Discography

The March of The Sinister Ducks 7″ single
SIT 25, Situation Two, 1983

Fully signed 7″. Thanks to Andrew J. Brooksbank

Tracklist:

Suiside: March of The Sinister Ducks

Homiside: Old Gangsters Never Die

 

Critters #23 flexi disc
1033161ABX, F.B.I. Music & Noise, 1986
Tracklist:
Round Side: Teddy Payne & The Bluebears – Right To The Blues
Flat Side : The Sinister Ducks – March Of The Sinister Ducks

Critters Flexi disc

A Compilation Of Songs And Performances By Alan Moore And Friends CD
Universal / ILEX, 2011
CD accompanies the book, Alan Moore: Storyteller
Tracklist:
02, The Sinister Ducks – March Of The Sinister Ducks [2:42]
Also includes tracks by Satanic Nurses, The Emperors of Ice Cream, Alan Moore / Pat Fish etc.

David J : Etiquette of Violance reissue CD
CDBRED604, Cherry Red, 2013
Tracklist:
CD 2 / 16 : Old Gangster Never Die (remastered) [6:42]
CD 2 / 17 : March Of The Sinister Ducks (remastered) [2:41]

England Their England : Monsters Maniacs And Moore
Central TV documentary, 1987
Tracklist:
March Of The Sinister Ducks (ducks video, see below @1:30)
Old Gangster Never Die (excerpt, lip-synched performance by Alan Moore, see below @8:12)

Song list

The March of The Sinister Ducks
An original song with lyrics & lead vocals by Alan Moore. Released on 7″ single and played live.
Old Gangster Never Die
An original song with lyrics & lead vocals by Alan Moore. Released on 7″ single and played live.
Debbie’s Gloss
Regarding the Critters article it was played live at the very first Ducks gig by Grant Series (although he has no recollection of it). Also played live by the D-Go-Tees.
Plastic Man Goes Nuts
Also mentioned in the Critters article by Alan Moore. It could be an original song.
Nightflyers
An original song with lyrics & lead vocals by Alan Moore.
Last Night
An original song with lyrics & lead vocals by David J.
Poem
A spoken word piece by David J.
I Get A Kick Out Of You
An (almost) acapella cover of Frank Sinatra’s classic with lead vocals by Alan Moore.

Stanton Walgrave (1976-1978)

“’Stanton Walgrave'(1976-1978) Wildly avant-garde outfit that attempted everything from Henry Cow style multiple time signatures to Faustian free improvisations. Line up included Glyn Bush & Pickle”
“I first met Alan in ’76 when STANTON WALGRAVE were invited to do the music for the play ‘Another Suburban Romance’. This great surrealist drama, a cross between Beckett and Peyton Place, had been written by Alan and Jamie Detano and was then in rehearsal. Glyn Bush and Pickle wrote an incredibly complex score which was exhaustingly perfected and mostly recorded only for the project to founder when a couple of actors dropped out.”
Alex Green, Apollox 1995

Stanton Walgrave was an occasional totally improvised band comprised of Glyn, myself, the aforementioned Seaweed and last but not least Shrivs. We played mainly instruments that we couldn’t play and prided ourselves on producing hours of unlistenable twiddles to arrive at a few seconds of astounding beauty.
Pickle (Mr. Licquorice)

„I REMEMBER Mr. Licquorice as a strange and angular youth with many unsettling ways. He used to affect a resemblance to an anorexic Adolph Hitler, albeit in a totally unselfconscious fashion.
Mr Licquorice seriously believed that swept-across black hair and tiny tooth-brush moustache had their origins with him and him alone.
Wags in the street would accost him with cries of “Achtung Schweinhund” and “Heil Hitler” only to be met with a puzzled shrug, a frown of annoyance and incomprehension.
I recall receiving a letter from Brum-based Bizarro, Grant Series of the D-Go-Tees in which he enquired after his old chum Licquorice with a cheery “And how is our man in the bunker?” When I relayed these salutations verbatum to their subject I was met with a familiar sight of brows crinkling beneath a black slash-fringe.
“Who does he mean?” asked Mr. Licquorice. In that moment I understood that the being before me, while not mad in the conventional sense, was a being not of this world.
Naturally, there had been clues… like the ghastly rumour that Licquorice had eaten nothing but Heinz baby foods until the onset of puberty. At the time I laughed. But now, as Brecht’s Artoro Ui remarks, “Nobody’s laughing anymore”.
And then there were his friends.
There was Seaweed, who had a young ladyfriend called Fin. A quirk to the set of eyes and mouth, a certain pallid lower-depths luminosity… all these features conspired so that in conversation with Seaweed the sensation was one of talking underwater.
And of course, there was Spawnwash. Spawnwash had the weirdly-crafted skull and glittering marble eyes of a changeling, although it was difficult to imagine just what he had been changed with. Sworn doctor’s certificates were believed to exist revealing that he possessed two separate sets of vocal chords… a strange anatomical atterration that fecilllteted his later use of the terrifying ‘Stereo Voice’ technique.
This ear-wrenching display of Vox Abhumana was known on occasions to reduce strong men to convulsions and cause mothers to smother their offspring by placing Reticules over the heads of the doomed infants.
There was also the garish and frightening Grant Series in his blue plastic spectacles and his nightmarish silver ties. And the spectural Max Akropolis, a Beardslay grotesque with a tiny head and a large double-breasted suit.
Together these five Phantom-Zone exiles made up the subterranean quintet known as Stanton Walgrave.”
Alan Moore, Sounds article, Mystery and Abomination”, 1981-08-08

We did a freeform session there [at Wild Willy Barret’s place in Northants] with members of Stanton Walgrave and Tom [Fawcett] and his mate
Pickle (Mr. Licquorice)

Trefor Goronwy was also in stanton Walgrave after I left Northampton and met Fin. Insofar, that is, that anyone was  in the SW. It was really more a state of mind than a group. Lol
Seaweed

Rehersal dates:
29-30 October 1977, Northampton

Another Suburban Romance songs