Obviously 5 Believers
In the photographs, five young men are sat around a table in an unremarkable Birmingham cafe. There are polystyrene cups of hot drinks on the table, next to an overflowing ashtray. There is a lot of smoking taking place. If this weren't on the sleeve of an album, the pictures would be in an exhibition depicting the monochrome monotony of life in the late 1970s.
Fast forward to October 2019 and one of the people from that cigarette wafting group is performing live at Birmingham's Glee Club. Stephen Duffy has a new Lilac Time album to inform the world about and he's chosen his hometown for the final stop on his tour. In the audience are two more of the people that were in those photographs: Dave Kusworth and Dave Twist. When the three meet up, Kusworth asks Duffy something that he'd requested of him numerous times before:
'Release The Hawks'
'The Hawks' that Kusworth referred to was the band that he and Dave Twist had formed with Duffy in 1979 after their band (the garage punkish TV Eye) had collapsed and Duffy had parted company with Duran Duran. The 'release' was a request for Duffy, as custodian of the band's tape archive, to make their unheard music available to the public. Unlike previous occasions the band's former vocalist agreed to the task and, almost forty years after they had split, Duffy set about work on assembling The Hawks debut album.
In 1979, their band was born as Obviously 5 Believers before becoming the Subterranean Hawks and finally The Hawks - it appears that Duffy was going through a bit of a Dylan phase. Despite being adored by most who saw them play live, the band only recorded one single (‘Words Of Hope’), and were never signed. Apparently, Rough Trade rejected them because, in their eyes, they were a little bit too rock 'n' roll for them.
As the first of these songs stumbles into view ('All The Sad Young Men'), it's more akin to those fledgling indie label artists, (think Television Personalities, 'Karen' era Go-Betweens, Robyn Hitchcock, or even early Orange Juice), than the feared retro of Rock n Roll. 'Aztec Moon' and 'Big Store' may be familiar to those who know Duffy's album of his early Duran songs that he assembled with Nick Rhodes ('Dark Circles' by The Devils, 2002), but here they're emboldened by Kusworth and Paul Adams soaring guitars. Fans of Kusworth's band Jacobites will also know a more swaggering version of the latter song.
'What Can I Give?' has a sleek Roxy Music-esque guitar introduction, whilst Duffy's seems to be developing (how best to describe this...?) the 'pop star' phrasing that was to be found on his early solo hits. Ex Duran bassist Simon Colley shines on the franticly jangly 'A Sense of Ending'. Even more fun is the melodic scratchy pop of 'The Bullfighter' which is reminiscent of those other local heroes, Felt.
Although 'Obviously 5 Believers' is a fascinating jigsaw piece in the tales of its protagonists, it shouldn't be regarded as just juvenilia, as something for collectivists to file away. The clashing together of musical and lyrical ideas on this record is far too thrilling for it to suffer that fate.
It is a tragedy that last September, apparently prior to Duffy and Twist's plan to play some of the initial tracks to him, Kusworth unexpectedly died. The emotional response following his death (see Outsideleft's piece here) shows what a loved songwriter, artist, and performer (sometimes described as 'more Keef than Keef') he was.
'Obviously 5 Believers' is dedicated to Kusworth and is, according to Duffy '...a memorial, a way of sending good wishes to him, wherever he is.' As such, it is a beautiful and loving tribute as well as being a wonderful snapshot of a great band.