Sad Café was an English ensemble that was active between the late 1970s and mid-1980s. Hailing from a then-furtive Manchester scene (10cc, Buzzcocks, Magazine) the band released six studio albums between 1977 and 1985.
The instrumental core of the band congealed as Mandalaband, formed to backup composer David Rohl on a pair of album-length conceptual works: Mandalaband (1975) and The Eye of Wendor: Prophecies (1978). Between the two backing projects, Sad Café debuted with 1977’s Fax Ta Ra.
In 1978, Sad Café were among the few of England’s new breed to gain stateside traction when the single “Run Home Girl” grazed the Billboard Hot 100. The following year brought homeland fame with the back-to-back chart success of “Every Day Hurts” and “Strange Little Girl.”
Members: Ian Wilson (rhythm guitar, vocals), Paul Young (vocals, 1976-90), Tony Cresswell (drums, 1976-78), John Stimpson (bass, 1976-80), Vic Emerson (keyboards, piano, 1976-84), Ashley Mulford (lead guitar, vocals, 1976-81, 1986-89), Dave Irving (drums, vocals, 1978-84), Lenni (saxophone, vocals, 1979-84), Dave “Des” Tong (bass, vocals, 1980-90), Michael Byron-Hehir (lead guitar, 1981-84)
The members of Sad Café came together in Manchester through their involvement in the studio project Mandalaband, assembled by keyboardist and composer David Rohl.
Aside from Rohl, the band featured five members: singer David Durant, guitarist Ashley Mulford, bassist John Stimpson, drummer/percussionist Tony Cresswell, and keyboardist Vic Emerson. Mulford and Stimpson were recruited from the folk trio Friends. In 1975, this lineup released Mandalaband on Chrysalis, comprised of the side-long, four-part suite “Om Mani Padme Hum,” plus four medium-length epics on the second side.
After Durant’s exit from the band, they welcomed vocalist Paul Young (not the soul-pop singer) and rhythm guitarist Ian Wilson of the unrecorded Mancunian act Gyro. Young fronted ’60s beatsters The Troggery Five and made the 1971 folk-psych album This Is Young & Renshaw with Troggery guitarist Frank Renshaw.
Mandalaband played select local dates, including a show at the Lesser Free Trade Hall on June 4 as part of a double-bill with an up-and-coming London band, The Sex Pistols. The event, organized by Howard Devoto and Pete Shelley of the embryonic Buzzcocks, drew future members of Joy Division and The Smiths.
As Rohl turned his attention elsewhere, Mumford played guitar on the album Almanac by Farnborough folksters Therapy. One track, “Another Chance,” also features Stimpson, Cresswell, and Emerson. The album, Therapy’s fourth, is a rerecording of their 1971 debut, also titled Almanac.
In 1977, the lineup of Young, Mumford, Stimpson, Cresswell, Emerson, and Wilson formed Sad Café, a self-contained unit independent of Rohl’s vision. They singed to RCA and recorded their first album with Osibisa/Bryan Ferry producer John Punter.
- Fanx Ta-ra (1977)
- Misplaced Ideals (1978)*
- Façades (1979)
- Sad Café (1980)
- Olé (1981)
- Politics of Existing (1985)
*US version is a mix of tracks from UK Misplaced Ideals and Fanx Ta Ra.
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