As a teenager during the 1980s, music was best consumed underneath the table, like a dog with a bone it had pinched from above.
Big hair and shambolic, flourescent clothing wasn’t for independent sorts who’d bemuse our parents (and most of our peers) with our preference for Echo and the Bunnymen, Lloyd Cole and the Commotions and other long-named bands. Indie kids were to be seen, but not heard.
The radio and the charts were an endless stream of post-new romantic synth pop, and all sorts of corporate-grown recycled product.
But I had fallen in love, with a band by the name of the House of Love. I was smitten and it would take some time for me to get over the inevitable parting.
In my mid-teens I was of that breed that was too young for punk and too immature for post-punk. We’d missed a lot, and there was little of substance to make up for the shortfall.
In my small north-eastern Scottish town I would be recommended, by the plumbers and joiners of the distillery that provided me with my first wage, Brothers in Arms, Queen Greatest Hits Vol 1 and the latest album by Level 42, which I would buy at John Menzies in the High Street (and truth be told I actually quite liked).
Then, at the equivalent of sixth-form college, those ears were turned to the Jesus and Mary Chain, the Cocteau Twins, The Smiths, New Order and Primal Scream, who with 60s revivalists, The Thanes, would perform at my first ever gig, in Aberdeen.
In 1987 indie music was preparing to say its goodbyes to shambling, the floppy-fringed sub-genre whose godfathers were The Byrds, and which even Bobby Gillespie was one the Ace Faces. It had been the dominant scene for a couple of years and produced some of the decade’s finest pop records. But all scenes have a lifespan.
Baggy, Madchester, rave, techno and grunge were months, or years, away.
There was a vacuum, and into that came the House of Love.
Led by Guy Chadwick, he was ably assisted by his ‘Paul MacCartney’, Terry Bickers, a German Andrea Heukamp, New Zealander Chris Groothuizen and Pete Evans. Heukamp would leave after the first two singles, Real Animal and Shine On.
Destroy the Heart was the single of 1988 and John Peel’s listeners agreed, when voting in their Festive 50. A monumental self-titled debut and a fourth single, Christine, followed; Fontana snapped them up and released an album, confusingly also called The House of Love (but known generally as Fontana) and a re-released Shine On gave them their sole British chart hit.
But Bickers had left, famously while travelling on an English motorway, and some say the gloriously tense, edgy sound had been removed.
Two albums followed, Babe Rainbow in 1992, which I personally think almost matches their debut, and the seminal ahead of its time Audience With the Mind a year later. And that was it. One minor UK hit was scant reward for their immense talents.
Chadwick went solo, recorded a decent album in 1998, and in 2005, in a surprise move, the band reformed – with Chadwick and Bickers having set aside their, ahem, bickering to reform for a tour and an album, Days Run Away.They were softer but hadn’t lost their edge.
What made them so good? I often wonder if they were just another indie band but there was something mystical, almost spiritual about HoL. I was an impressionistic teen, lacking in self-confidence and I found a bedfellow in the band, the same way others my age did with The Smiths.
There was nothing in the lyrics that was aimed at creating a new world or addressing current trends, just simple heart-filled lyrics about love, lust, life and everything inbetween. Chadwick’s beautiful voice, Bickers’ deranged guitar playing, the intense musical relationship between the four.
The albums have been re-released in the past few years along with a series of compilations so there is clearly still considerable interest in the band, more than 15 years after the original line-up split up.
As part of this article, I tried to contact Chadwick or anyone involved with the band to find out what they’re up to and arrange an interview. Emails went out to addresses (or presumed ones) of people associated with the band such as Suzi Gibbons, Mick Griffiths, the company who dealt with their PR for the previous album, the unofficial website and Art and Industry, which released Days Run Away, to no avail. So where are the House of Love?
The only reply I received was from Dave Roberts of the unofficial website, who had been told by Terry Bickers in May that the band were “rehearsing new material and planned to record a few songs “in the not too distant future”.
The excellent unofficial website can be found at: http://hem.passagen.se/nyholm/holindex.html