pragVEC

pragVEC was an English avant post-punk band that released two 1978–79 singles and the 1980 album No Cowboys. Guitarist Nick Cash (not the 999 singer) joined The Lines and Fad Gadget. Singer Susan Gogan hailed from pre-punks The Derelicts with her sister Barbara, who fronted the neo-psych Passions.

Members: Susan Gogan (vocals, synthesizer, guitar, bass), John Studholme (guitar, synthesizer, bass, drum machine, tapes, vocals), David Boyd (bass, vocals), Nick Cash (drums)


Background

pragVEC formed in February 1978 from remnants of The Derelicts, an unrecorded politi-rock band that gigged between 1974 and 1976 on the London pub circuit.

Fender Soundhouse employee Sue Allegra formed and fronted The Derelicts, which featured drummer Richard Williams, guitarist John Studholme, and the Gogan sisters: Barbara (guitar, vocals) and Susan (vocals, artwork). Ten people passed through the Derelicts lineup, including bassists Dan Kelleher (once of Joe Strummer’s 101ers) and Marion Fudger (future Art Attacks).

The Derelicts ran aground as punk took hold in Southern England. In early 1978, Williams and Barbara Gogan joined The Youngsters, which morphed into The Passions with (ex-101ers) guitarist Clive Timperley.

Studholme and Susan Gogan formed pragVEC with bassist David Boyd and drummer Nick Cash. Their name is a portmanteau of “pragmatic” and “vector,” two words chosen at random. They played one of their earliest shows on June 23, 1978, at London’s Acklam Hall on a mutli-act bill with The Raincoats. On August 11, pragVEC played Acklam with the Jamaican reggae trio Sons of Jah.


1978 Peel Session, Bits

On August 23, 1978, pragVEC recorded their first of three sessions for BBC Radio 1 DJ John Peel. The 8/23 broadcast aired four songs: “Nervous,” “Bits,” “Ruby,” and “Stay.”

pragVEC started their own label, Spec, with distribution by the established London indie Rough Trade. In October, pragVEC debuted on vinyl with a four-song 7″ maxi-single, informally known as the Bits EP.

A1. “Existential”
A2. “Bits”
B1. “Wolf”
B2. “Cigarettes”

pragVec gigged the London club circuit with Chelsea (10/17: The Marquee) and a triple bill with Swell Maps and Raped (10/20: Acklam). On November 18, they played an Acklam multi-act event with Red Crayola, The Tourists, Cabaret Voltaire, and Scritti Politti.


1979 Peel Sessions, “Expert”

On January 29, 1979, pragVEC recorded their second Peel session. The 2/7 broadcast showcased four new songs: “Toast,” “Expert,” “The Follower,” and “Hijack.”

pragVEC’s winter–spring live itinerary included dates in Liverpool (2/24: Eric’s w/ Stiff Little Fingers, Teardrop Explodes), Lincoln (3/5: Drill Hall w/ Magazine), and London (5/11: Africa Centre w/ The The).

In June 1979, pragVEC released their second single: “Expert,” a warped synth-laden number backed with “The Follower,” about a predatory lone wolf.

A. “Expert”
B. “The Follower”

The contents of both Spec singles appear on a six-song 12″ EP on the French Celluloid label.

On July 10, pragVEC embarked on a Greater London tour with the Monochrome Set and a rotation of third acts, including The Mo-dettes (7/15: Albany Empire), Manicured Noise (7/18: Moonlight Club), and Essential Logic 8/11: (Vespa’s).

pragVEC recorded their third Peel session for the 8/1 broadcast, which aired four new songs: “By the Sea,” “Rural Erotic,” “Third Person,” and “Laugh.”

On August 3, pragVEC performed at the YMCA inside the Prince of Wales Conference Centre as part of a multi-act bill with Cabaret Voltaire, Throbbing Gristle, and Rema Rema. Autumn shows occurred at Goldsmith’s College (10/26: w/ Au Pairs, Poison Girls) and Camden’s Electric Ballroom (11/10: w/ Psychedelic Furs, Ludus).


No Cowboys

In December 1980, Spec Records issued No Cowboys, a thirteen-song album recorded by Susan Gogan and John Studholme in assorted group configurations.

London-based Australian musician Jim Thirlwell joins on the Wasp synthesizer, an early battery-powered, dual-oscillator synth by Electronic Dream Plant. He appears with Gogan, Studholme, and percussionist Suresh Singh (drums, marimba) on seven tracks credited to Spec Records and an eighth (“Your Your Lay Lay”) credited to Vince Quince & His Rialto Ballroom Detectives.

No Cowboys credits pragVEC with three songs: “Third Person,” “Breaking Point,” and a live 8/3/79 YMCA version of “Cigarettes” (titled “Cigar-Ette”). These are the only tracks with the pragVEC rhythm section of David Boyd and Nick Cash.

Musician Keith James appears on the tracks credited to Couch Potatoes (“Mens Casual Wear 1962”) and Major Eddie (“My Name’s Eddie”).

A1. “Laugh” (1:49)
A2. “Third Person” (2:38)
A3. “Nervous” (2:32)
A4. “Happey Valley” (3:34)
A5. “Mens Casual Wear 1962” (2:36)
A6. “Breaking Point” (3:25)
A7. “Your Your Lay Lay” (3:38)
A8. “By the Sea” (2:26)
B1. “Uh Oh Erotic” (3:07)
B2. “Welcome Home” (4:15)
B3. “My Name’s Eddie” (4:04)
B4. “You’re the Gun” (6:23)
B5. “Cigar-Ette” (3:41)

Gogan and Studholme produced No Cowboys under the joint pseudonym Norma Form. They both perform bass, Wasp synthesizer, and guitar (“speculator” guitar in Susan’s case). Each group configuration recorded on a different month at different locations:

  • pragVEC (September 1979 at Easy Street)
  • Keith James (December at Markland House)
  • Thirlwell–Singh (May 1980 at Rockstar Studios)
  • Rialto Ballroom Detectives (June at Easy Street)

Reggae soundman John Springate engineered the Thirlwell–Singh material amid work on 1979–80 titles by Dillinger, Delroy Wilson, Black Slate, and French jazz-rockers Abus Dangereux. He engineered the subsequent United Dairies release Dance Music by the proto-zolo outfit Bombay Ducks.


Discography:

  • Bits (EP, 1978)
  • “Expert” / “The Follower” (1979)
  • No Cowboys (1980)

Sources:

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