Pigbag

Pigbag was an English new wave jazz-funk band, best known for the 1982 UK hit “Papa’s Got a Brand New Pigbag.” They released five singles and the 1982–83 albums Dr. Heckle and Mr. Jive and Lend An Ear on Y Records.

Members: Chris Hamlin (clarinet, percussion, 1980-81), Roger Freeman (trombone, percussion, 1980-82), James Johnstone (guitar, alto saxophone, keyboards, steel drums), Chris Lee (trumpet), Mark Smith (bass), Chip Carpenter (drums, percussion), Simon Underwood (bass), Ollie Moore (tenor saxophone), Brian Nevill (drums), Oscar Verden (trombone, keyboards), Kofi Adu (drums, 1982), Angela Jaeger (vocals)


Formation

Pigbag evolved from Us Corporation a ska-funk jam quartet formed in 1980 by Cheltenham Art College fashion student and clarinetist Chris Hamlin, who enlisted trumpeter Chris Lee, guitarist (and novice alto saxist) James Johnstone, and Brummie multi-instrumentalist Roger Freeman.

After a season of impromptu outdoor performances, they added the rhythm section from Johnstone’s prior band Hardware: bassist Mark “Miff” Smith and drummer Andrew “Chip” Carpenter. Smith soon cleared for Simon Underwood of the recently disbanded Pop Group. Underwood summoned tenor saxist Ollie Moore and linked the band with Slits manager Dick O’Dell, who signed them to his post-punk label Y Records.

On October 21, 1980, the septet debuted live in Bristol opposite The Slits at Romeo and Juliet’s, where they played a twenty-minute version of Papa’s Got a Brand New Pigbag,” an instrumental pun on the James Brown classic “Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag” — “pigbag” used in reference to Hamlin’s warthog-printed handbag, hence the new band name.


“Papa’s Got a Brand New Pigbag”

In May 1981, Pigbag released “Papa’s Got a Brand New Pigbag” (b/w “The Backside”) on Y Records.

A. “Papa’s Got a Brand New Pigbag” (3:35)
B. “The Backside” (4:19)

Pigbag co-produced the single at Berry Street Studio, Clerkenwell, with O’Dell and Dave Hunt, an engineer on 1981 albums by Creation Rebel, Flying Lizards, Landscape, Rip Rig + Panic, and This Heat.

On September 9, Pigbag recorded their only session for BBC Radio 1 DJ John Peel. The 9/15 broadcast featured three songs: “Me and Your Shadow,” “You Can Wiggle My Toe to That,” and “The Dug-Out.”


“Sunny Day”

In October 1981, Pigbag released “Sunny Day” as standard 7″ (2:50) backed with “Elephants Wish To Become Nimble.” The 12″ version contains a third track, “Whoops Goes My Body.

A. “Sunny Day” (6:18)
B1. “Whoops Goes My Body” (6:23)
B2. “Elephants Wish To Become Nimble” (6:25)

Pigbag recorded the sides in July at Berry Street with O’Dell and Hunt. They promoted the single with an autumn tour of the US, where Stiff Records combined “Sunny Day,” “Whoops,” and “Papa’s Got a Brand New Pigbag” as 12″ single. Chris Hamlin exited Pigbag, which continued as a sextet.


Dr. Heckle and Mr. Jive

Pigbag released their debut album, Dr. Heckle and Mr. Jive, in April 1982 on Y (UK), Stiff (US), and Powderworks (Australia). It features the pre-released third single “Getting Up” and seven new group-composed pieces, including the lengthy jazz-funk jams “Wiggling,” “Orangutango,” and “Brian the Snail.” The LP labels sport the subtitles Dr. Heckle (one) and Mr. Jive (two).

Bassist Simon Underwood doubles on cello and violin. Clarinetist (and tenor saxist) Ollie Moore plays the “sanza,” a Zimbabwean thumb instrument readily known as the mbira (or kalimba). Guitarist James Johnstone doubles on alto sax and augments drummer Chip Carpenter on sundry percussion, also played by trumpeter Chris Lee and trombonist Roger Freeman.

A1. “Getting Up” (3:20)
A2. “Big Bag” (4:54)
A3. “Dozo Don” (3:56)
A4. “Brian the Snail” (6:27)
B1. “Wiggling” (5:22)
B2. “Brazil Nuts” (4:36)
B3. “Orangutango” (8:45)
B4. “As It Will Be” (4:17)

Sessions took place in November 1981 at Berry Street, where Pigbag co-produced the album with Dick (identified as ‘Disc O’Dell’) and engineer Dave Hunt, a co-producer on the 1982 Y release Station M.X.J.Y. by fellow funksters Maximum Joy.

Dr. Heckle and Mr. Jive sports two paintings by artist Ralph Petty. The front (black framed) depicts a chimpanzee clung to the shoulder of a human subject. The back (white framed) depicts three captive chimps on a bamboo cage bar. A jagged collage of candid member pics appears on the inner-sleeve, which features a credit spread (comic font on yellow) with doodles of two zoot-suited characters (Heckle and Jive, each seen on the labels of their corresponding LP sides).

“Getting Up” preceded Dr. Jeckle on February 5, 1982, as the third Pigbag single, backed with the non-album “Go Cat.” The extended 12″ version of “Getting Up” (7:16) contains a third track, “Giggling Mud.

B1. “Giggling Mud
B2. “Go Cat”

Dr. Heckle and Mr. Jive reached No. 18 on the UK Albums Chart.


New Lineup

Y Records re-released “Papa’s Got a Brand New Pigbag” to capitalize on Pigbag’s newfound momentum. This time, the single reached No. 3 on the UK Singles Chart. Brian Nevill took the place of Roger Freeman for Pigbag’s April 22, 1982, appearance on the BBC music program Top of the Pops, on which they mimed their hit amid studio appearances by Elton John (“Blue Eyes”), Kim Wilde (“View From a Bridge”), Phd (“I Won’t Let You Down”), and videos by Haircut One Hundred (“Fantastic Day”) and Bananarama & Fun Boy Three (“Really Saying Something”).

Nevill permanently replaced Freeman, who resurfaced in Dr. Calculus, an electronic project with (later Lilac Time) singer Stephen Duffy.

Pigbag recorded “Another Orangutango,” an alternate version of the Dr. Heckle track. It appears as a flexi-disc in the June 10, 1982, issue of Master Bag, a UK music-news fortnightly that ran eighteen issues between December 1981 and October 1982.

A. “Another Orangutango”


“The Big Bean”

On June 25, 1982, Pigbag released “The Big Bean,” a standalone single backed with “Scumda.” Trombonist–keyboardist Oscar Verdon debuts on this single, which features Nevill on drums and Carpenter on tumbas. Sessions took place at Abbey Road Studios with Bow Wow Wow soundman Pat Stapley, a veteran of seventies projects with Al Stewart (Time Passages), Be-Bop Deluxe (Modern Music), Cockney Rebel, Renaissance (Scheherazade), and The Shirts (self-titled).

A. “The Big Bean” (3:26)
B. “Scumda” (4:05)

“Big Bean” appears on Modern Heroes, a UK various-artists release on TV Records with cuts by A Flock of Seagulls (“Space Age Love Song”), Bauhaus (“Spirit”), China Crisis (“African and White”), The Cure (“The Hanging Garden”), Depeche Mode (“Leave In Silence”), Duran Duran (“Hungry Like the Wolf”), Fashion (“Love Shadow”), The Human League (“Hard Times”), Japan (“Cantonese Boy”), Mick Karn (“Sensitive”), Modern English (“I Melt With You”), Nancy Nova (“Made In Japan”), Simple Minds (“Promised You a Miracle”), Talk Talk (“Today”), Thomas Dolby (“Windpower”), Yazoo (“Don’t Go”), and the David Sylvian / Riuichi Sakamoto collaborative single “Bamboo Houses.”


Angela Jaeger

Pigbag grew to an octet with New York singer Angela Jaeger, a London-based theatre student with vocal credits behind the Bush Tetras (“Things That Go Boom In the Night”) and the Monochrome Set. She recently partnered with (future Cocteau Twins) bassist Simon Raymonde in the post-punk act Drowning Craze, which released three 1981–82 singles on Situation Two, a subsidiary of Beggars Banquet. She also sings on the 1982 single “Bali Ha’i” by the Y Records in-house band Disconnection.

Early in the new year, Pigbag bassist Simon Underwood married Angela at the Hammersmith Registry Office with Public Image Ltd. frontman John Lydon in attendance.


Lend an Ear

Pigbag released their second album, Lend an Ear, in February 1983 on Y. It features eight songs group-credited to the new eight-piece lineup, including the single “Hit the ‘O’ Deck,” which features Ghanaian percussionist (and former Osibisa member) Kofi Ayivor.

A1. “Weak at the Knees” (6:18)
A2. “Hit the ‘O’ Deck” (4:00)
A3. “Ubud” (7:33)
A4. “One Way Ticket to Cubesville” (1:55)
B1. “Jump the Line” (5:31)
B2. “Can’t See for Looking” (5:45)
B3. “No Such Thing As” (5:30)
B4. “Listen Listen (Little Man)” (7:35)

“Hit the ‘O’ Deck” became the final Pigbag single, backed with the non-album “Six of One.”

B. “Six of One”

Pigbag embarked on a winter–spring tour of Europe and the UK, where they played their final show on April 28, 1983, in Portsmouth. They disbanded in June.


Pigbag (live album)

Y Records issued the 1983 compilation Pigbag, a collection of eight numbers from their final tour, including three (“Shack of Scraps,” “Global Terrain,” and the Temptations cover “Smiling Faces”) from their April 5 show at the Berlin Latin Quarter.

A1. “Shack of Scraps” (7:23
A2. “Smiling Faces” (4:10) Whitfield-Strong
A3. “Sunny Day” (7:03)
A4. “Papa’s Got a Brand New Pigbag” (6:20)
B1. “Jump the Line (Remix)” (5:16)
B2. “Global Terrain” (5:50)
B3. “End of Ubud” (4:27)
B4. “Can’t See for Looking” (7:34)

Pigbag appeared in a two-tone sleeve with a sketch duo of the octet by Mark Harrington, who also drew the cover of Rip Rig + Panic’s 1982 release I Am Cold.


Post–Pigbag

Angela, Simon, and guitarist James Johnstone formed the synthpop trio Instinct, which landed one song (“Swamp Out”) on I Q 6 Zang Tumb Tuum Sampled, a 1985 collection of acts on ZTT, including Art of Noise, Frankie Goes to Hollywood, and Propaganda. Plans for an Instinct album ran aground amid conflicts with ZTT founder Trevor Horn.


Discography:

  • “Papa’s Got a Brand New Pigbag” / “The Backside” (1981)
  • Sunny Day (EP, 1981)
  • Dr. Heckle and Mr. Jive (1982)
  • Lend an Ear (1983)
  • Pigbag (live, 1983)

Sources:

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