The Comsat Angels, C.S. Angels, The Headhunters, Dream Command...  All this & more
History
Made in Sheffield......
Big in Holland......
"Independence Day"......
If this is all you know about The Comsat Angels, read on...
A favourite in music magazines "Where Are They Now" sections - The Comsat Angels split after their UK Tour in late 1995, leaving behind a large back-catalogue of stirring music. Most people know the band for one song, Independence Day a radio-hit from long, long ago. But there is much more to The Comsat's than one song.

The band released their 9th studio album, The Glamour in mid-1995. Between 1979 - 1995 The Comsats explored the extremes of their craft - never remaining in one place long enough to become too comfortable and safe. Maybe this was their big mistake. A lot of bands stick to what they perceive to be their winning formula - and if they do move on, they often take two steps back and attempt to recapture what made them tick in the first place. The Comsat Angels remained true to their spirit to the bitter end.

One of the first Comsat Angels photos - Hunter House Road
The Early Days
Mik at the Radar sessions 1978
Kevin & Steve - first recording sessions for Radar 1978
Do You Remember Your First Time?
Like most followers of the band, the first Comsat's track I heard was Independence Day. The song hit me immediately - I loved the tension in the arrangement - and I've always been a sucker for harmonics in a song.
1980 Comsat's gig ticket (thanks Nick!)
The hyper-lyrics were also intriguing:
"I can't stand up and I can't sit down
'cos a great big problem stopped me in my tracks 
I can't relax 'cos I haven't done a thing
and I can't do a thing 'cos I can't relax"

The bands first album Waiting For A Miracle was a critical, if not commercial, success. It would always be like this. Instead of dancing on the city streets, the great British public stayed at home. Their loss, I guess.

The Comsats started life as The Skylids, then Radio Earth, before changing to their final moniker, releasing the Red Planet ep on the short-lived Junta label, in April 1979. The debut Polydor release was Total War, closely followed by the July 4th 1980 release of Independence Day. Live dates followed the release of the album (with artists as diverse as Captain Beefheart & the Yellow Magic Orchestra). Waiting For A Miracle was produced by Pete Wilson (who also produced The Jam) and The Comsat Angels.

1981 heralded the release of the second Comsat Angels album, Sleep No More - a much darker release. The band toured with Siouxsie & The Banshees and, at the end of the year, they took part in a co-headlining tour with U2. Much has been said about Steve Fellows guitar style influencing U2's The Edge - one is now a multi-millionaire and one isn't. Ain't that always the way.
Kevin Bacon - Arnhem 23/10/92 (Pic by Christel Pieper) 
Performing 'Sleep No More' on Dutch TV - shades of Spinal Tap?

 

"I heard that he lost the beat - what a surprise -

now he's in un-real estate - until he dies"

 

The Sleep No More sessions threw up Mik Glaishers famous "drums recorded down a lift shaft" sound - that added to the intensity of the recordings. But from darkness there comes light - in the shape of the 3rd and final Polydor release - Fiction.

Released in 1982 - things got off to a good start with an appearance on BBC TV's The Old Grey Whistle Test - performing two songs. The band also released their most commercial single to date - It's History:

Sleep No More tour - boat trip
"It's history - there's no future in a memory
....Stop holding on - so stubbornly 
just let it go - it's history"
The band also embarked on their first US tour in 1982 - which lasted barely a week - due to illness. On it's release, the Fiction album received mixed press - journos who has previously mocked the band as being too dark, suddenly leapt upon the slight "lightening up" as being a sign of selling out. After The Rain was released, in remixed form, as a single - and remains one of The Comsat's best loved songs amongst followers to this day.
comsats pictured in the Steel City
The band's albums were selling reasonably well - but obviously not well enough for Polydor - who let the band go.
"She took a drink from the radio"

So it was time for a re-think - a re-fit - a re-assessment. The band signed to Jive Records in mid-1983 - recording the album Land with OMD producer Mike Howlett.

It was the time of picture discs and remix frenzy - why release it once, when you can remix it again. The single Will You Stay Tonight received a fair amount of airplay (for a Comsat's single), but even the re-recorded Independence Day failed to dent the charts.

Comsats 7 Day Weekend Era
The band were going for the Pop jugular - but still retained their individuality. The follow-up album, 1985's 7 Day Weekend carried on where Land had left off, with a perhaps stronger selection of songs - but even after the release of virtually the whole album as singles, the charts refused to succumb and the band were soon homeless again.
CSA Jive era promo picture Andy - Pink Pop - Holland 1983
Following on from the lack of success with Jive, the band were recommended to Island Records Chris Blackwell by long-time champion of the band, Robert Palmer - who was enjoying the most commercially successful period of his career to date. The band joined the Island rosta and delivered a stunning new album in 1986's Chasing Shadows. The Comsat's made one of their rare TV appearances on the UK televison show The Tube performing a couple of tracks live - and Island released a single from the album, The Cutting Edge.

Once again, the band earned critical rather than commercial success with Chasing Shadows - but it would have seemed that Island would have been an ideal home for the band - as a lot of the bands signed to the record label were considered more as album artists as opposed to single artists. The band persuaded Island to let them build their own studio - which would save money in the long-run - and the Comsat's set about recording their second Island album.

The Comsat Angels had been having difficulties with their name for many years - The Communications Satellite Inc. company objected to the bands use of "Com Sat" and so an alternative was sought. The Headhunters was chosen as a replacement initially (the band played one gig under this name) - but the follow-up to Chasing Shadows was released under the name Dream Command. The Comsats, probably in an attempt to please their new masters, attempted a change in direction - aiming for the US market with a more AOR approach to song-writing.
Dream Command sleeve - band photo
Like most bands who try to hit on a formula for success, they failed dismally. The tapes were bounced back and forth between band and record company - with no-one happy with the results, the album slipped out onto the US market in limited quantities and the band were dropped by Island.

Most UK based Comsat's fans (like myself) thought the band had split following Chasing Shadows. Very few people in the UK knew about the Dream Command debacle, until The Comsats were mentioned in Q magazines "Where Are They Now" section. The band set about writing and recording new material on their own terms - aiming to please only themselves - and they finally hooked up with RPM records, who released The Comsat's Radio 1 sessions on a CD compilation Time Considered....

Time Considered... picture
Shortly afterwards, RPM took up the option to release a new Comsat's single, Driving, and album My Mind's Eye. Just for a change, the music press heaped praise on the album - citing several current bands (Curve & The Catherine Wheel) who were influenced by The Comsat's sound (if there is such a thing).
"Melody Maker" reviewed My Minds Eye:

"My Minds Eye could easily have been recorded by ghosts, such is the dexterity of the Comsat's approach and the haunted nature of their anguished restraint...Every snapping bassline and icebound guitar fragment has a place, a purity and a passion that chills...At the heart of their hurtling hailstorm lies Steve Fellow's punishing baritone. The man sounds like he's singing from a carriage on the soul train to hell, all sweat and worry as the songs rage around him like they've come for a debt..."

RPM also issued the Dutch radio sessions collection Unravelled before the final studio album The Glamour in 1995 - the first studio album to feature new members Simon Anderson & Terry Todd (who appeared on Unravelled) - and the first studio release without Kevin Bacon who was now concentrating on production work at the bands Axis studios in Sheffield. No singles were released from The Glamour - although there are unreleased songs from these sessions that have yet to see the light of day - i.e. Hyperprism and Evanescent. The new members added fresh energy and enthusiasm to the band - who seemed to be at home with rpm - a label who seemed to be in love with the band and the stirring music they create - instead of falling into the trap of trying to mould the band into a "unit-shifter".
"And I don't know where I am going
but I am going anyway..."

The Comsat Angels disbanded in late 1995 following UK dates to promote The Glamour. Steve Fellows released an instrumental album, Mood X, his first solo release, on RPM in late 1997 - and he is also currently working on a more "traditional" song-based solo album, as well as managing the band Gomez. The rest of the band regrouped - with a new vocalist, Peter Hope, under a new moniker of Soup - but have now disbanded. 

There will be further Comsat's releases - Connoisseur released the Jive era albums (Land & 7 Day Weekend) on CD in early 2001, complete with non-album tracks and excellent sleeve-notes.  Cherry Red released the first of 2 compilations, From Beyond 2 - A Compilation 1987 - 1995, in May 2000.  Volume 1 is still awaiting compilation & release..

Please bookmark the site and visit again - and remember to sign up to the Sleep No More mailing list - if you want to be informed of site updates & news, as well as taking part in Comsat's chat with fellow fans.

Tony Kinson 2001

Designed & written by Tony Kinson - 1996 to 2004
CSA (and related) news
Currently available
Live shows archive
CSA History
Interviews / press
Back to the start
CSA Albums
Mailing List
Stephen Fellows
Discography
Links