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"Now I'll be journalese and tell you about the story of The Blue Ox Babes..."
 
The Blue Ox Babes were formed in 1981 by ex-Dexys guitarist, Kevin Archer and girlfriend, Yasmin Saleh. Archer's appreciation of artists such as Al Green and James Brown had been very important to the original Dexys sound but now he was keen to focus on folkier styles of music including traditional Celtic, American, Russian and Arabic sounds. Underlining their folk roots, the group's choice of name (inspired by the traditional American tales of Paul Bunyan and Babe, the Blue Ox) was the result of an afternoon spent browsing the books in Birmingham library in search of a three-word combination with the desired feel. Other options considered at the time included the French King Singers and the Prole Art Singers.

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Adding to the already eclectic mix of styles, further inspiration came from the less obvious source of Marc Bolan and T. Rex. "I wanted to form a group with a vocal style" Kevin Archer explained to me in 2006 "When I formed the Blue Ox I thought Marc Bolan was a really good singer. I listened to a lot of T. Rex: "Hot Love", "Electric Warrior". The way he sang was really pure. I liked the vocal style, the way he vibrated his voice." This proved to be a key influence on Archer's own singing as he adopted a similar vibrato style for his vocals with The Blue Ox Babes.

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During the long time taken to recruit and rehearse new members, The Blue Ox Babes also listened to a lot of Irish artists like The Chieftans and Van Morrison as well as Western Swing and Cajun music. "We had been searching for new music, collecting Romany gypsy records and other unusual types of music." Yasmin revealed "We had Nick Bache who was already a friend of Archer's, he was such a beautiful person, and he worked on tracks with Archer initially. We rehearsed together. Initially we only had a few tracks." While Archer continued working on his new direction with guitarist Bache it became obvious that a pianist was required to help create the desired sound and so Archer enlisted the services of former Dexys keyboard player Andy Leek. Gradually the group began to take shape as Bache and Leek were joined by local lads, Ian Pettitt (a drummer whose enthusiastic style has been likened to Animal from The Muppets!) and a young bass player called Corrin. "I wanted to use people with no experience" commented Archer who was intent on moulding his raw recruits into a group that would be unlike any others around. One of the key aspects that would set The Blue Ox Babes apart from the synth-drenched pop scene of 1981 was to be the group's instrumentation as Archer developed what he described as "a light sound". Yasmin continues: "Archer used instruments such as the jews harp, melodica, mouth organs and of course the fiddle and one particular instrument that I can't even remember the name of".

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"I wanted to form a group that wasn't electric at all, by getting instruments such as violin and acoustic guitar,"  Archer told the BBC's  "Young Guns" documentary in 2000 "We were looking for a violin player and we went to the school of music in Birmingham and I met Helen Bevington. Helen is a really good player and I spoke to her and I said do you want to play on a demo?" The original plan had been to use fiddle and cello together on the demos but the cellist (who had initially put the group in touch with Helen) failed to show up for the first session in mid-81 so Helen had to provide the string parts on her own (occasionally accompanied by Yasmin playing a melodica into the same microphone.) "We got Helen into the studio and gave her what to play, based on a Russian sound" Archer commented in 2006.
 
"Archer explained to Helen how he wanted the fiddle to sound, he'd already played her the songs and guided her through to the sound that he wanted." confirmed Yasmin "Helen was such a brilliant musican, she produced exactly the sound that Archer was looking for."

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"I was knocked out with his band, they were terrific." Helen told the BBC in 2000 "I mean, he was such a good singer and it was very relaxed and it was just great to play the fiddle with such great music." These first demo sessions combining Helen's free-flowing fiddle with Andy Leek's powerful piano-playing and Archer's distinctive melodies proved very productive, resulting in the bawdy barrel-house bash "What Does Anybody Ever Think About?", the Dylan-esque "Thought As Much" and the sublime "Something's Wrong" - a short extract of which accompanies the arrival of vistors to this page (refresh the page to listen again). Kevin Archer was understandably proud of his new recordings as was Yasmin: "We had the basis of something good and original."

The rootsy, folk-sound of the music was reflected in the Blue Ox Babes' visual image created by Yasmin Saleh, whose interest in musical theatre and film provided the inspiration as she told me in 2005:  "I wanted to do mini musicals for videos as I loved musicals and wanted to act in them anyway. I loved "Westside Story", "The Wizard of Oz", "Singing in the Rain". I loved all that and wanted to incorporate that into the Babes videos if we ever got the chance. IF we ever got the chance."
 
"I'd always been into my fashion. I had collected fashion magazines from around and without thinking about an image I just took from what I was already wearing." Curiously, the person later credited with suggesting Dexys' own "gypsy-style" image - Pauline O'Brien - was working alongside Yasmin at the time in "Browns" hairdressing salon which was owned by none other than Dexys manager, Paul Burton!  
 

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"Dressing like we did at the time was natural for me, I'd cut Archer's hair and we'd go buy his clothes together." Yasmin remembers "We loved clothes and I remember when we went to Greece and found the fisherman's hat, which in actual fact is the one I am wearing in the photo [above]."  As Archer recalls: "We actually slept in those clothes to get the authenticity".   "We would talk all night about ideas," Yasmin continues "one being the dress down rustic image that was part of our initial concept, we had photos taken in the old brown colour shades in the woods to portray a sort of wild gypsy feeling, it wasn't dungarees but the emphasis was on dressing down in a gypsy type of fashion. That was at about the same time that Archer played the first tapes to Rowland."

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As Yasmin recalls:  "Archer meets up with Rowland, plays him the tracks, as he only lives up the road from us on Hagley Road. Archer said Rowland thought the tracks were very good, which I thought was very promising and respected his opinion greatly."  Archer recounted this meeting with Rowland to Swedish film-maker Tommy Bergman in 2003: "The demo I'd done I was very proud of and I played it to him. I'd got a cassette and went round his flat but I played it to him on a Walkman. There was just one speaker on it and he couldn't hear properly and he said, Can I keep the tape? And I said, Yeah, keep the tape." 

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The Blue Ox Babes went back into Outlaw studios to record a second set of demos a few months later. again featuring the sound of Helen's fiddle. The session produced another three excellent numbers: the up-tempo and up-lifting "Apples And Oranges", a wistful waltz entitled "Four Golden Tongues Talk" (featuring Andy Leek playing the harmonium) and an early version of the instrumental later known as "The Last Detail". Archer was particularly pleased with the potential of "Apples And Oranges" as he explained in 2006: "When we did 'Apples And Oranges' we were trying to make it sound poppier. I wanted to do something that was really up-beat, driving music." The future for The Blue Ox Babes at this time seemed as bright and colourful as the apples and oranges they had sung about in their latest song and the group looked forward to enjoying the fruits of their labours. As Yasmin observed: "The end results were good. Now all we had to do was go out there and get a record deal."

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Kevin Archer tells the story of what happened next: "I switched the radio on. I was with the group. We were having a meeting round my flat in Old Hill ...and I heard "Come On Eileen" and I said that's 'my song', you know, that's my 'sound' or whatever." Andy Leek viewed the incident in very stark terms as he recalled to me in 2006: "It was a crucial turning point for me when it became clear what had happened. I remember the day well and the effect on the group when we realised our whole sound and idea of a folk sound had been poached." It soon emerged that Kevin Rowland had also acquired the services of Helen Bevington for his group (renaming her Helen O'Hara) as he adopted a similarly folk-influenced sound on the new Dexys album "Too-Rye-Ay". Ironically, the staggering success of Rowland's 'Celtic Soul' made it even more difficult for Kevin Archer to secure a recording contract, with the Blue Ox Babes being dismissed by many as Dexys sound-alikes (and EMI rejecting them as being "English Folk"). With "Come On Eileen" riding high in the charts during the summer of '82, The Blue Ox Babes (who by this point featured ex-Dexys bass-player, Pete Williams amongst their ranks) had one last bash at the big-time, performing a showcase at Birmingham's Art's Lab. 

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On the back of this performance, Dave Robinson at Stiff Records offered to sign the group up for a single deal: "I did a showcase for Stiff... They came up, and basically liked the fact we had Andy - he must have heard them, and he left. I said we could still make a record, but the problem was that I didn't want to deal with all the music and all the image as well, the look… I wanted Andy in it to look after the rest of the group."  Andy Leek has rather different recollections of how he came to leave the group: "We were very 'up' during the second demos and optimistic and, as soon as the depression over the Dexys song happened, I left to live in Glasgow very disillusioned." Following Andy Leek's  departure from The Blue Ox Babes, and sensing that (with Dexys' Celtic Soul sound in full swing) he had already missed his oportunity   Archer turned down the Stiff Records deal. "We didn't have enough experience as a band." he concluded. "If we had brought a record out then we'd have had to take on Dexys as well as everything else."

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And so the first incarnation of The Blue Ox Babes came to a sad end as Yasmin remembers: "The Blue Ox Babes fizzled out not long after we turned down the Stiff record contract.We all went our separate ways. Archer continued to write music, Pete had his little recording studio and others played for other bands. I was performing musical theatre and joined a band with Steve Shaw which I think used to be called The Letters. We recorded a number of tunes and played one showcase." In the summer of 1983 Archer met up with Kevin Rowland at the legendary Little Nibble caff in Smethwick but Archer declined an invitation to rejoin Dexys as a joint front-man.  "I came back and said 'No'. Dexys was too strong by then. If we'd have come out, they would have gone, it's Kevin Rowland and who's THAT? I felt unknown."  

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In the two years which followed, things went from bad to worse for Kevin Archer. The break-up of his band was followed by the break-up of his relationship with Yasmin, lengthy periods of depression and worsening health. This culminated in him being diagnosed as suffering from paranoid schizophrenia in 1985 and prescribed medication. While he recuperated in his new flat (which had previously belonged to Dexys sax-man, Geoff Blythe) his regular visitors included Kevin Rowland and former Dexys violinist, Steve Shaw who recalls: “I kept in touch with Kevin Rowland as I was keen to be part of the Don’t Stand Me Down live stuff - and was really into the Brooks Brothers look. Rowland used to take me round to Archer’s flat and give him lots of clothes and shoes he'd bought for him in New York. We'd drink a lot of tea and I enjoyed Archer’s vision. I quite fancied working with him, but he was losing some momentum at that time - understandably disheartened.” Soon Archer and Shaw were hanging out regularly with another ex-Midnight Runner, bass player Steve Wynne and, although the three had belonged to different Dexys line-ups, naturally they began discussing the idea of working together. Around this time Steve Shaw came up with the basic idea for a new song called "There's No Deceiving You" and, after a few more meetings in caffs, the team of Archer, Shaw and Wynne had become the back-bone of the newly-reformed Blue Ox Babes.    

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Encouraged by Kevin Rowland to "get back into the studio and do some more recording" (and with Geoff Blythe generously offering to pay for studio time) Archer headed back to Outlaw studios in 1985 with a new line-up of musicians who all had something in common: they had all previously performed with Dexys Midnight Runners! Along side the new nucleus of Archer, Shaw and Wynne, Archer's fellow "Young Soul Rebels", Geoff Blythe and Big Jimmy Paterson supplied the brass. Finding himself short of pianist and drummer, Archer chose a simple solution: “Rowland had just finished Don’t Stand Me Down which featured the late Vince Crane and Woody Woodmansey – so they became our session players!"  The first sessions of 1985 yielded two classic Archer instrumentals: the thematic "Last Detail" and the rustic "Russia In Winter" as well as an early attempt at new song "Gregory Right."  Perhaps unsurprisingly given the personnel involved, the recordings from this period had an unmistakable 'Dexys feel' to the playing. Steve Shaw remembers this highly creative period fondly: "We would often refer to having an idea or two on the anvil, work in progress. It’s not often an instrumentalist gets the chance to develop - particularly with someone so accomplished. Regarding the fiddle parts, Kevin would give me carte blanche unless he had a particular line, which was always fabulous to play. There was such a youthful, energised flair around Kevin, too: stylish, thoughtful and a brilliant talent.” One of the earliest products of this creative process, "There's No Deceiving You" was also demoed at this time as well as the soulful "Where Do We Go From Here?" and a reworking of the early Blue Ox Babes song "Something's Wrong", now retitled "Walking On The Line".

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Darren "Tommy" Langford (who had hung around with Dexys in their early days) started to manage the group as they began rehearsing in practice rooms at Rich Bitch in Birmingham. Keyboard player Micky Billingham joined briefly and, after a long search for a permanent drummer (during which Paul Comaskey from The Nervous Kind joined temporarily), Ian Pettitt - who had been performing with Pete Williams' band These Tender Virtues - was re-enlisted. "Archer asked me if I would defer from going to Drama school and rejoin, which I did." Yasmin explains " Thats when we started to play live gigs, work on some new material. Kevin Rowland's brother Pete, along with Ruby Turner's manager Geoff [Pearce], offered us a manager’s contract, at which point we started doing a lot of live work.” The new Blue Ox Babes line-up was completed with the addition of young pianist Pete Wain and sax-player Nick Smith. Go! Discs' Andy MacDonald and Jona Cox came up to Birmingham to see them rehearse and encouraged another demo session at Outlaw which resulted in the unheard song ‘We Are But Together’.

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Eventually, during a high-profile show in late '87 at London's "Town & Country Club", with Kevin Rowland and Helen O'Hara amongst the audience, it was announced onstage that the group had signed to Go! Discs (home of hot properties, The Las and The Housemartins). With the backing of a record company at long last, and amidst a hectic touring schedule, in January 1988 the Blue Ox Babes went to Chipping Norton studios (in Oxon!) to record their much delayed debut single, "There's No Deceiving You". With Paterson and Blythe augmenting the now-settled line-up of Archer, Shaw, Wynne, Saleh, Pettitt, Wain and Smith, Pete Wingfield took on the role of producer just he had done eight years earlier (in the very same studio) on Dexys' debut album "Searching For The Young Soul Rebels". The resulting recording sounded like a sure-fire hit and to promote the promising new single a promo video was produced, filmed by Jeff Baines who had worked on the Madness' videos. As Archer remembers: "We got a call out of the blue and were taken to a warehouse that the record company had hired and did the video in one day.” Yasmin Saleh continues: "We had a lot of fun making that video and I don't think I'd seen Kevin laugh that much for a while.” In spite of its obvious hit-potential and the promotional activities backing it, "There's No Deceiving You", released on 7th March 1988, barely dented the top 100 of the single charts. This inexplicable failure of a song which still crops up regularly in lists of 'singles that should have been hits' was the first warning of what fate had in store for The Blue Ox Babes.

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Over the next few months the group continued to record the rest of the tracks destined for their debut album, provisionally entitled "The Desire For Verification Is Understandable But Cannot Always Be Satisfied” (named after a Harold Pinter quote). One of these songs was a rerecording of old demo "Apples And Oranges" which Archer had envisaged as a potential single back in the group's early days and it was subsequently chosen as the follow-up to "There's No Deceiving You".  A jaunty Western Swing style number released on 20th June 1988 at the height of the 'Acid House' craze, the song which was a guaranteed crowd-pleaser at the group's live shows again failed to set the charts alight. Undeterred, the Blue Ox Babes continued to tour relentlessly, clocking up over one hundred gigs in the space of a year, accompanied on the road by the familiar face of Outlaw studio owner Phil Savage acting as the group's sound engineer. “We only had a seven-piece on stage with one sax but in the studio we had a three-piece brass section for the tracks which were to feature on the album,” explains Kevin.

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Yet more live shows followed as the Blue Ox Babes landed a support slot on The Proclaimers' national tour in October 1988 which also led to Steve Shaw performing on the duo's "Sunshine On Leith" album. Another single was released on the 31st of that month, the classic Archer composition, "Walking On The Line" which sounded as fresh as it had seven years earlier when it had featured (under the title "Something's Wrong) on the group's now-legendary early demo tapes. However publicity surrounding the release was virtually non-existent and, as with the previous singles, it failed to sell. Coupled to its lack of commercial success the group was also suffering from internal tensions, with Kevin and Yasmin's working relationship particularly strained,  as Yasmin explained: "We had a bit of a run in and I ended up going home early which I truly regretted afterwards as I missed the final mixing of the tracks. I sort of bit my nose off to spite my own face really. I knew then that it couldn't last the way it was." With Steve Shaw also tempted away from the group by the lure of additional touring and recording with the hugely successful Proclaimers, the group had begun to disintegrate before their album had even been released and consequently the release was shelved at the last minute. Kevin Archer summed it up: "We were summoned to a meeting by Andy MacDonald. He just said there was no group and stopped the pressing of the album. I felt terrible. I couldn’t stop playing the album and was tired from touring. That was the end, really."

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The story of The Blue Ox Babes would have ended at that point but for an unexpected post-script added in 1993 when Kevin Rowland stated publicly that the credit for Dexys' "Too-Rye-Ay sound" belonged to Kevin Archer: "After Searching For The Young Soul Rebels, when he left we were both experimenting with strings. I wasn't getting what I wanted; he found it and I stole it... As a result he disbanded his group. Dexys had taken his sound and succeeded with it."

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When Rowland repeated these revelations upon signing to Creation in 1997, his words were misrepresented by the British press who tried to infer that "Come On Eileen" had been plagiarised, forcing him to issue a second statement: "I stole the STYLE of music (the blend of folk and soul, the combination of instruments) that was Kevin Archer's, for which I am deeply sorry and regretful. I did not steal the song." Unfortunately for the Blue Ox Babes, the belated publicity and notoriety this brought them seemed for many years only to have overshadowed their true legacy - the brilliance of the songs they left behind.

But that's where this story takes one final twist - and for once, a positive one! Finally, after two decades of false dawns and dashed hopes the Blue Ox Babes' brilliant 'lost album', "Apples And Oranges" saw the light of day on the 18th of May 2009, when it was given the release it so richly deserved by Cherry Red Records. Accompanied by nine additional tracks spanning the various periods of the group's existence and a sumptuous sixteen-page booklet full of images and information, this release ensures that, at long last, there will be a fitting testament to the brilliance of the Blue Ox Babes' and the genius of Kevin Archer.

It seems that this Ox-tale has finally found a happy ending.

Blue Ox Babes Discography
(singles):

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There's No Deceiving You / The Last Detail (GOBOB1) 7"

Theres' No Deceiving You / The Last Detail / Take Me To The River  (GOBOB112) 12" (Released 7th March 1988)


 

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Apples And Oranges (The International Hope Campaign)  / Pray Lucky  (GOBOB2) 7"

Apples And Oranges (The International Hope Campaign) / Pray Lucky / Yes Let's / Russia In Winter (GOBOB212)  12" (Released 20th June 1988)   


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Walking On The Line / Four Golden Tongues Talk (GOBOB3) 7"

Walking On The Line / Four Golden Tongues Talk / What Does Anybody Ever Think About / Thought As Much (GOBOB312) 12" (Released 31st October 1988)
 

(albums):

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APPLES AND ORANGES [ZGOLP14] 
(Unreleased 1988 album)

1.   It Could Have Been Love
2.   Walking On The Line
3.   Apples And Oranges
4.   Bedlam
5.   East To West
6.   She's So Strong
7.   Gregory Right
8.   There's No Deceiving You
9.   Thought As Much
10.   Ballad Of The Blue Ox Babes

Whilst this album never gained an official release, some copies are known to exist on tape (as well as some extremely rare vinyl test-pressings). The album featured additional playing from Big Jimmy Paterson [trombone], Geoff Blythe [sax], Dave Bishop [sax], Vince Sullivan [trombone], Mark Feltham [harmonica] and Pete Wingfield [keyboards] who also produced it. 'Thought As Much' is a different version from that featured on GOBOB312.

 

APPLES AND ORANGES [CDMRED401] (Retrospective CD - release date: 18th May 2009)

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1.   It Could Have Been Love
2.   Walking On The Line
3.   Apples And Oranges
4.   Bedlam
5.   East To West
6.   She's So Strong
7.   Gregory Right
8.   There's No Deceiving You
9.   Thought As Much
10.   The Ballad Of The Blue Ox Babes
bonus tracks:
11.   The Last Detail
12.   Take Me To The River

13.   Pray Lucky
14.   Yes Let's
15.   Four Golden Tongues Talk
16.   What Does Anybody Ever Think About
17.   Where Do We Go From Here
18.   Thought As Much (Demo)
19.   Russia In Winter


(Tracks 11-19 were previously released as B-sides (see singles) except for "Where Do We Go From Here" which is a previously unheard demo dating back to 1985)

Released on CHERRY RED RECORDS

 


APPLES & ORANGES - Digital E.P.

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1.  Gregory Right   (1985 Demo)
2.  
There's No Deceiving You   (1985 Demo)
 3.   Walking On The Line   (1981 Demo)
4.  
Walking On The Line   (1985 Demo)

Previously available to download from Cherry Red Records.

 

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Kevin Archer: (AKA: "Al Archer") Co-founder and original guitarist of Dexys Midnight Runners (1978-81), writing the music for the singles "Geno", "There There My Dear" and "Keep It - Part Two" as well as the classic album track "The Teams That Meet In Caffs". Previously in a band called The Negatives with Pete Williams before a brief stint with Kevin Rowland in The Killjoys (1978). Left Dexys in Jaunuary 1981 to form The Blue Ox Babes (1981-88), taking on lead-singing duties and writing (or co-writing) all of the group's original material. Retrospectively credited by Rowland with having inspired the folk-influenced sound Dexys adopted on their "Too-Rye-Ay" album and the hit single "Come On Eileen".

Nick Bache Guitarist and founding member of The Blue Ox Babes, like most of those recruited by Kevin Archer for his new project in 1981, Bache had no previous experience of the music industry. He came up with the basic idea for "Apples And Oranges" while round at Archer's flat having been given strict instructions to write a song by the time Kevin returned from an outing. Had previously played in a local band with Kevin Archer's brother.

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Helen Bevington Violin player recruited from Birmingham school of music to play on the Blue Ox Babes' first demos. Recommended by Archer to Kevin Rowland (who renamed her Helen O'Hara) and subsequently played with Dexys Midnight Runners (initially as part of "The Emerald Express") from the "Too-Rye-Ay" album sessions (1982) through to the release of the single "Because Of You" (1986). During this time she co-wrote several key songs including "This Is What She's Like" and "Knowledge Of Beauty" and was also involved in a relationship with Rowland. After leaving Dexys, performed with Tanita Tikaram and released two solo albums of instrumental music, "Southern Hearts" (1990) and "A Night In Ireland" (1998).

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Micky Billingham Ex-Dexys keyboard player who performed with The Blue Ox Babes for a brief period around 1987 (playing organ on an unreleased version of "Take Me To The River") but was unable to commit to the group long-term. Previously enjoyed a two-year tenure as a Midnight Runner (from December 1980 through to December 1982) co-writing hit-single "The Celtic Soul Brothers" and the B-side "Love Part Two". Joined up with Dave Wakeling and Ranking Roger in General Public after leaving Dexys and is currently performing with The Beat on their 30th anniversary tour.

Bishop, Dave Saxophonist on the final sessions for The Blue Ox Babes' "Apples And Oranges" album in 1988, playing on "She's So Strong" and "It Could Have Been Love". Has subsequently carved out a hugely successful career as a session player, featuring on albums by such big names as Van Morrison, Paul McCartney, Robbie Williams and Amy Winehouse.

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Geoff Blythe  Saxophonist on The Blue Ox Babes 1985 demos as well as on most of their album sessions. Nick-named "J.B.", he was the tenor sax-man in the original line-up of Dexys Midnight Runners (1978-80), co-writing the songs "I'm Just Looking" and "Keep It". Part of the three-man 'nucleus' (along with Rowland and Archer) signed to EMI, he had previously performed with Geno Washington's Ram Jam Band. After leaving Dexys he became a founder member of The Bureau (1981) and also performed with The TKO Horns, These Tender Virtues and The Neighbourhood. A member of Irish-American band Black 47 for the last twenty years.

'Carl' Bass player on The Blue Ox Babes' second demo session in late '81/early '82 which yielded "Four Golden Tongues Talk" and the original version of "Apples And Oranges". Further details (including his surname) remain a mystery.

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Paul Comaskey  Drummer with The Blue Ox Babes circa 1986/87 before Ian Pettitt rejoined the group. Long-time member of Birmingham-based band, The Nervous Kind who supported Dexys on their Intense Emotions Tour in 1980. Also performed with Sommerville, The Sunshine Club and Richard Buckner. Now living in the United States of America, writing and performing his own songs. Visit: http://www.reverbnation.com/perrycommon for further information, images and recordings of Paul Comaskey's excellent compositions.

'Corrin' Bass player on The Blue Ox Babes' first demo session in mid-81, playing on "Something's Wrong" and "What Does Anybody Ever Think About". As with Carl (above) the rest of the information regarding him has been lost in the mists of time.

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Vince Crane Piano player on The Blue Ox Babes' 1985-era demos, including the released versions of "The Last Detail" and "Russia In Winter" and the previously unreleased "Where Do We Go From Here" (as well as additional recordings available to download from Cherry Red records). Performed with Dexys on their "Don't Stand Me Down" sessions (1984-85) and the subsequent "Coming To Town" tour. Previously with The Crazy World of Arthur Brown (playing the famous organ parts on the classic, "Fire") before founding his own band, Atomic Rooster. Commited suicide in 1989 following depression.

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Mark Feltham Harmonica player on the 1988 album version of the Blue Ox Babes song "Thought As Much". A founding member of Nine Below Zero in 1977, he later performed with many other artists including Oasis, Tom Jones and Rory Gallagher and also played on Kevin Rowland's 1999 album "My Beauty". Hugely successful session career has also seen him perform on numerous film soundtracks including "Tootsie", "Lock, Stock And Two Smoking Barrels" and "Notting Hill".

Janet Harris Backing singer who performed with The Blue Ox Babes for a while in the mid-80s before Yasmin Saleh rejoined the group. 

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Tommy Langford (Real name: Darren) Manager of The Blue Ox Babes for a brief period circa 1987 before Pete Rowland took over the group's affairs. As a young Dexys Midnight Runners fan, Langford (who was christened "Tommy" by Kevin Rowland) had ended up hanging around with the group in its early days, posing as a band member in several of their publicity shots and as a trumpeter in the video for "Geno" in 1980. After his stint managing The Blue Ox Babes he went on to form the group Babylon Zoo with singer Jas Mann in 1992.

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Andy Leek Piano player and occasional mouth-organ maestro who was a founding member of The Blue Ox Babes, performing on early demos such as "What Does Anybody Ever Think About" and "Four Golden Tongues Talk" (on which he played the harmonium.) Previously played hammond organ with Dexys Midnight Runners (1979-80) on recordings including the number-one hit, "Geno". After the break-up of the first Blue Ox Babes incarnation in mid-82 he moved to Scotland before enjoying a successful solo career as a singer, including the George Martin-produced album "Say Something" (1989). Still very active in the music business: www.andyleek.com

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Jim Paterson (AKA: Big Jimmy Paterson) Trombone player on The Blue Ox Babes' mid-80s demos (providing a particularly powerful solo on instrumental track "The Last Detail") and also on the sessions for the "Apples And Oranges" album in 1988. Original trombonist with Dexys who stayed following the split-up of the first band to become Kevin Rowland's right-hand man and songwriting partner during 1981, subsequently co-writing "Come On Eileen". Formed The T.K.O. Horns after leaving Dexys in '82 but returned to perform on their "Don't Stand Me Down" album. Also played on recordings by Elvis Costello, Paul Young and The Neighbourhood before working with Rowland again in the late 80s and 90s.

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Ian Pettitt Drummer and founding member of The Blue Ox Babes, performing on their early demos including "What Does Anybody Ever Think About" and "Four Golden Tongues Talk". After the break-up of the group's first incarnation he joined These Tender Virtues (formed by fellow-Blue Ox Babe, Pete Williams) who he played with for a number of years. Eventually re-recruited by The Blue Ox Babes in 1987 (ending the group's lengthy search for a permanent drummer), he performed on all of the singles and album sessions as well as touring extensively with the group.

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Pete Rowland Manager of The Blue Ox Babes in the late-80s, helping to secure them a recording deal with Go! Discs in 1988. Brother of Dexys Midnight Runners' front-man, Kevin Rowland and a major influence on his life and career. Performed in 1970s social club bands White Satin and New Blood which featured Kevin Rowland on guitar and was responsible for introducing him to Kevin Archer after briefly managing Archer's pre-Killjoys band The Negatives. Mentioned in the Dexys song "My Life In England - Part One" ("My brother Pete he was the leader..."). Sadly died of cancer in 2005.

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Yasmin Saleh Co-founder and backing vocalist/percussionist of The Blue Ox Babes, also playing melodica on several of the group's early demos including "Thought As Much" and "What Does Anybody Ever Think About". She was also Kevin Archer's girlfriend in the early 80s having been introduced by Pete Williams. Responsible for creating the band's 'gypsy' style image in 1981, her interest in musical theatre and films such as "Paint Your Wagon" was a key influence. Worked in hair-dressing salon, 'Browns' owned by Dexys manager Paul Burton and performed briefly in a band with Steve Shaw during the mid-80s before rejoining the Blue Ox Babes. Now living in New Zealand.
 
Phil Savage Owner of Outlaw Studios in Birmingham where The Blue Ox Babes and Dexys Midnight Runners recorded all of their demos. Also worked as sound engineer on The Blue Ox Babes' tour in 1988. Started musical career with groups Frosty Moses and Sundance before setting-up Outlaw studios in 1976, working with Ozzy Osbourne and Judas Priest amongst others. 

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Steve Shaw (AKA: Steve Brennan) Violin player who reformed The Blue Ox Babes with Kevin Archer and Steve Wynne in 1985 and played on their subsequent singles and album sessions as well as co-writing the songs "There's No Deceiving You""Gregory Right" and "Russia In Winter". Began performing with The Proclaimers when The Blue Ox Babes supported them on tour and featured on their 1988 album "Sunshine On Leith", eventually hooking-up with the Scottish duo on a more permanent basis. Previously with Dexys Midnight Runners as part of "The Emerald Express", performing on the hit-single "Come On Eileen" in 1982 and remaining with the group until the end of "The Bridge" tour in '83.  

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Nick Smith Saxophonist with The Blue Ox Babes from 1987-88 and featuring on all of their singles and "Apples And Oranges" album sessions. Unlike the other horn-players who recorded with the group on a session basis (including Big Jimmy Paterson, Geoff Blythe and Dave Bishop), Nick Smith was a permanent member of the group, performing with them on their lengthy tours and forming a one-man brass section for the live shows. After The Blue Ox Babes disbanded in 1988 he has enjoyed a very successful career performing with many major artists including The Temptations, Shirley Bassey and The Proclaimers. For more comprehensive details of Nick's post-Blue Ox Babes work, and much more, visit http://nortonsmith.com/about.html.
 
Vince Sullivan Trombone player on the final album sessions for "Apples And Oranges" in 1988, playing on "It Could Have Been Love" and "She's So Strong". Later performed on The Proclaimers' 1994 album "Hit The Highway" which was also produced by Blue Ox Babes producer Pete Wingfield. Has also recorded with The Beat, The Pasadenas and Swing Out Sister.
 
Brian Taylor Manager of the Blue Ox Babes in their early days, he was responsible for organising their showcase with Stiff Records in the summer of 1982. Also managed Alternative Rock band, Killing Joke.

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Pete Wain Keyboard player with The Blue Ox Babes from 1987-88, joining the group after the departure of Micky Billingham. Performed on the three singles and all of the "Apples And Oranges" album sessions as well as clocking up over a hundred live appearances with The Blue Ox Babes. When the group disbanded in 1988 he continued to work with Kevin Archer, helping to record an album's worth of demos in an unsuccessful attempt at securing a new deal with Go! Discs. Still recording and releasing music through his own company "Headline Music", see: http://petewain.website.orange.co.uk/ for further info.

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Pete Williams Bass player with The Blue Ox Babes for a short period in mid-1982, appearing with the group at their show-case for Stiff records that summer. Previously in punk band The Negatives with Kevin Archer before becoming a founder member of Dexys Midnight Runners in 1978. After leaving Dexys he went on to perform with The Bureau in 1981 and eventually formed his own band, These Tender Virtues in the mid-80s, show-casing his  own talents as a singer and song-writer. Continued to record and perform throughout the 90s with new band, Basehart. Returned to Dexys as a joint lead singer on their "To Stop The Burning" tour in 2003. For more info see: www.myspace.com/peterenwilliams.

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Pete Wingfield Producer of The Blue Ox Babes album "Apples And Oranges" in 1988, also providing additional keyboard playing on the track "She's So Strong". Previously produced the album "Searching For The Young Soul Rebels" for Dexys Midnight Runners as well as albums by The Bureau and The Proclaimers. Worked with Kevin Rowland again in 1999 playing piano on his solo album "My Beauty". Started musical career as a recording artist, enjoying success in the 70s with solo single "Eighteen With A Bullet" as well as performing with The Olympic Runners and Van Morrison.

Mick Woodmansey (AKA: Woody Woodmansey) Drummer on The Blue Ox Babes' 1985 demos including "The Last Detail" and "Where Do We Go From Here". Previously with Dexys Midnight Runners during the "Don't Stand Me Down" sessions, playing on the released versions of "The Waltz", "Kevin Rowland's 13th Crime" and "The Way You Look Tonight" (1984). Made his name performing with David Bowie in the early-70s and later appeared on Helen O'Hara's "Southern Hearts" album (1990).

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Steve Wynne Bass player with The Blue Ox Babes after helping to reform the group with fellow ex-Midnight Runners Kevin Archer and Steve Shaw in 1985. Played on The Blue Ox Babes singles and album sessions in 1988, co-writing the song "Gregory Right". With Dexys from December 1980 through most of the "Projected Passion Revue" era to October 1981 when he was replaced by Giorgio Kilkenny. Previously a member of Ska band The Swinging Cats.  Was given a belated co-writing credit for the Dexys song "My National Pride" (AKA: "Knowledge Of Beauty").
 

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(featuring music, lyrics, song-by-song account and other Blue Ox Babes features)

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Thanks to: Yasmin Saleh for her help with creating this page; Kevin Archer, Steve Shaw, Pete Wain and Andy Leek for sharing their thoughts and memories; Bloxy for sharing his superb scrap-book; gfoots for the original album scan; Bazza for additional discographical information; John O'Connor for the header illustration and blue ox logo; and to John Reed for helping in so many ways.