The Lovebirds

The Lovebirds single featuring Richard Hawley

12″ single THUNDERBIRD CSA002T

I came across a few copies of this single while I was moving some stuff around in the loft the other day (upgrading the insulation!), one of the few sleeves I was involved in by a local Sheffield band. Out of interest I had a hunt on the web to see how history had treated it and found no pictures and just the odd aside in biographies. So with my archivist’s hat on, back to 1992…
The Lovebirds were an excellent Sheffield based indie outfit but very short lived. I was co-running RPM Records at the time, a reissue label, but we all had an interest in new material and Steve Fellows from The Comsat Angels (we’d reissued some of their albums) put us onto the band. The Lovebirds had evolved from Treebound Story, signed to Sheffield’s FON label and then Native Records, based in nearby Doncaster. I did quite a bit of sleeve work for Native but they were a little overstretched to say the least and when they stopped paying even my modest artwork bills I jumped ship. Treebound Story were left in the lurch with an unreleased album and split up, with some of the band forming The Lovebirds, getting in singer John Stuart from Chakk.
Treebound Story were a bit too US West Coast for me but the Loverbirds demos were excellent, hard edged with great slabs of guitar noise from Richard Hawley, and the single was cut at The Comsat Angels’s Studio, Axis, produced by the Comsat’s bassist Kevin Bacon. RPM agreed to release it as a 12″ single. It was all a shake of the hands sort of affair, and while my partner sorted things out, I co-ordinated the sleeve. I went over to Richard’s flat on – where else? – Hawley Street in town (number 93) to discuss what they wanted. One of the band’s mates had done a plaster relief moulding of feathers, and they also had a logo (drawn in indian ink by John Pedder), so it wasn’t very difficult to put things together. The photos of the plaster moulding were taken in the flat (by Mick Marston) and came out a bit fuzzy – it would have been great to have photographed this properly in a studio (and to have done the cover on matt card instead of the sticky varnish they used to get a gloss finish then). For the back, they had collected a few plastic birds, the sort you find in budgie cages, and these peeped out of the back corner. I did a two colour label design and the artwork was ready.
The Lovebirds single featuring Richard HawleyThe 4 track single was mastered and pressed for us by SRT studios near Cambridge. There was a launch party arranged at a pub – The Rattener’s Rest, in the old restored Globe Works (the band had rehearsal rooms in the same complex – a lot of their gear was nicked one day, while the pub only lasted a couple of years). The boxes of the single arrived a few days before, the band did a great gig and it got some good local publicity.
As a label we just got round to sending out review copies and the single was shipped to the distributors – good old Pinnacle – when we got the news that Richard Hawley had jumped ship to join The Longpigs, signed to Elektra. Which buggered everything up; 500 singles and no band. We were cheesed off at the time, and financially it hurt the label. I’d like to say it taught us a valuable lesson too but it didn’t, history repeated itself a few years later with another local group.
We were certainly a bit backward; if we’d had a contract we could have got Elektra to cough up and cover the costs. As it was The Longpigs were soon off supporting U2 in America,  after which it was amazing to watch Richard’s rise as a solo act, and a more down to earth guy you’d be hard pressed to find in the business.
The Lovebirds single sold a few copies, but most ended up in my partner’s store room near London, and were skipped when he moved some years later (“typical,” he said recently. “The one record I was involved with which might now be worth something and I binned them all!”). I stuffed the remaining copies I had in the loft and forgot all about them.

8 Responses to The Lovebirds

  1. chris frain says:

    I found the above very interesting, thanks for the information.
    I’m a Rotherham fellow myself and I was really into the early 90’s music scene. It was listening to John Peel that got me into bands like Treebound Story and Greenhouse (Native).
    Then it was a short trip on the bus to buy the rare music at Warp records or a gig at the Leadmill in Sheffield. I was fortunate to see The Lovebirds two or three times in Sheff (in fact I was at the Hawley gig in Galway last Dec. I live in Ireland now).
    If you know how I can get a copy of the Lovebirds white label I would be very grateful.

    • simon robinson says:

      Chris – yes, Warp Records was a great shop, though it doesn’t seem to have lasted very long once the label itself moved off to London. It was a jewelery shop last time I went down that way. It’s been ages since the Leadmill put on anything I wanted to see ( think Royksopp were the last band), they don’t seem to do many live gigs these days. I remember going to their opening week of shows, amazingly diverse set of bands. I did some work for Native Records in their early days as well, will have to dig those covers out.
      Funnily enough I bumped into Richard H. in town the other day and said hello, we were both heading into the Forbidden Planet store! (Not sure why I bother, it’s the world’s worst stocked sci-fi shop mainly because it’s so tiny).
      I do have a couple of copies of the 12″ single somewhere, I’ll contact you off the blog.

      • chris frain says:

        It was a Hieneken big top event at lower DonValley, Sheffield when me and a friend first caught the Lovebirds in action. We had just watched Energy Orchard in the tent before hand. The LB were on the outside stage, I remember them dressed in black leather with a rough guitar driven sound. We were blown away! My mate bought the 12” EP the following week at Warp records.
        The second time was at the Leadmill with support from a band called 100 Quid. I remember the singer being a bit mad, in fact he sent a member of the audience to the back of the room for not getting into the spirit of things. Hawley’s guitar malfunctioned and he played the remaining set with the support band’s guitar. I remember the queue to get in was all the way down to the railway station. When we finally made it to the door we found out the queue was for Evan Dando acoustic tickets a week later (The Leamonheads had just appeared on The Word and were very popular!). The wait was well worth it though.
        The 3rd gig was again at the Leadmill for a Mark Goodyear Evening Session thing. The Lovebirds were one of the local bands on the bill. Other bands that week included Living Colour, Senser and Pop Will Eat Itself. For me, the late 80s and early 90s music scene have not been touched since.

      • simon robinson says:

        Thanks for this Chris. I love the idea of waiting all that time and finding it was the wrong queue… We used to regularly queue for tickets for the bigger bands at The Sheffield City Hall, it really built to sense of excitement about an upcoming show and was much more sociable than sat cursing in front of a crashing online server. I reckon proper bands should offer printed tickets at selected outlets ahead of the web sale. That would sort out the men from the boys.
        I saw Living Colour myself, but not at The Leadmill.

  2. chris frain says:

    You’re right Simon, it was Living Colour and Lovebirds at Sheff Uni.
    (Radio 1 Sheff Sound City 93).

  3. Ruby Dimelow-Steel says:

    My dad Dean Steel was in this band on bass guitar, he and my mum were best friends with Richard and his wife Helen. Such a shame it didn’t go anywhere.

    • simon robinson says:

      I think if Richard hadn’t been lured away it probably would have, they were brilliant live when I saw them. Amazingly there is now a band by the same name working in London.

  4. chris says:

    I’m flying over to Sheffield from Ireland this week for the Tramlines festival.
    I cannot think of a better place to be!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s