The Planets

The Planets was an English new wave band that released the 1979–80 Rialto albums Goon Hilly Down and Spot. Songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Steve Lindsey formed the band after three albums with Deaf School. He recorded Goon Hilly Down with assorted musicians and formed a quartet for Spot.

Members: Steve Lindsey (vocals, bass), Tony Wimshurst (guitar, 1979-80), Andy Duncan (drums, 1979-80), Chris Skornia (keyboards), Larry Tolfree (drums, 1980-?), Barry Lines (guitar, 1980-?)


Background

Lindsey assembled The Planets after four years in Deaf School, a theatrical large band formed at Liverpool Art School. They released three albums between 1976 and 1978 on Warner Bros: 2nd Honeymoon (a blend of cabaret, music hall, and glam rock), Don’t Stop the World (a mix of punk and ’30s–’40s pop), and English Boys, Working Girls (a fusion of punk, new wave, and Spector-style production). Guitarist Clive Langer wrote most of the band’s material with their primary vocalist, Steve Allen (aka Enrico Cadillac).

Lindsey — sometimes billed as Steve “Mr. Average” Lindsey — made five songwriting contributions to Deaf School’s oeuvre, including three sung by their underused female singer Bette Bright: the ’40s showgirl ballad “Final Act,” the sultry Stax romp “Operator,” and the anxious pogo rocker “All Queued Up.” He also wrote the debonair dance-rocker “Darling” and co-wrote the vaudeville-period ditty “Where’s the Weekend?” In select group photos, Lindsey wore a 1963-style collarless Beatles suit.

Deaf School folded in mid-1978 when Bright formed the Illuminations with Langer and members of the Rich Kids and Yachts. Langer also formed his own band, The Boxes, and co-produced albums by Madness. Allen teamed with guitarist Ian Broudie (of seminal Merseyside punks Big In Japan) in the Original Mirrors.

Post-Deaf School, Lindsey first cut a 1978 Warner single under his nickname, Mr. Average: “Mr. Average,” a thematic rock-ska number backed with “Mr Average Goes To Nashville,” a hopping piano-boogie tune with a rockabilly guitar solo.

Lindsey recorded the first Planets albums as a solo project with assorted backing players, including members of Ian Dury’s Blockheads. He joined The Korgis, The Regents, and (ex-String Driven Thing) singer Kim Beacon in the small roster of Rialto, a nascent subsidiary of Pinnacle Records. Rialto’s second release unveiled the first fruits of Lindsey’s project: “Break It To Me Gently” backed with “I’m On Fire,” both originals billed under the pseudonym Steve Tempo.


“Lines”

On July 13, 1979, Allen released the debut Planets single: “Lines” backed with the exclusive “Further Down.”

B. “Further Down”

The “Lines” video aired on the July 27 broadcast of the Australian music show Countdown. It presents the band in white space suits on a satellite station (green screen) with two backing vocalists: sisters Jane and Kate Robbins (both part of 1980 Eurovision hopefuls Prima Donna), who wear matching ’40s skirt suits and victory rolls.

Lindsey mimes in the “Lines” clip with a proper band composed of guitarist Barry Lines, keyboardist Chris Skornia, and Larry Tolfree. Skornia played in ’77 punks The Cane (with Kirk Brandon) and recently guested on the third Fabulous Poodles album Think Pink. Tolfree played on the 1975 album Listen to the Sound by rustic folksters Redwood. Though absent from “Lines” and its parent album, they constitute the lineup of the second Planets album.

“Lines” reached No. 36 on the UK Singles Chart. The Planets mimed it on the August 23 broadcast of the BBC music program Top of the Pops,> which also featured studio performances by The Jam (“When You’re Young”), Flying Lizards (“Money”), Joe Jackson (“Is She Really Going Out With Him?”), Spyro Gyra (“Morning Dance”), and Cliff Richard (“We Don’t Talk Anymore”).


Goon Hilly Down

The Planets first album, Goon Hilly Down, appeared in 1979 on Rialto. It features nine Steve Lindsey originals, including “Lines” and the followup single “Iron for the Iron.” Side A features “A Minute Ago,” a remake of Lindsey’s 1977 Deaf School composition “Darling” (retitled after its chorus line). Side B opens with the Steve Tempo a-side “Break It to Me Gently,” which Lindsey re-released as the third Planets single.

Lindsay plays bass, guitar, keyboards, and drums on Goon Hilly Down, which features nine backing musicians: four guitarists, three percussionists, and two keyboardists.

A1. “Iron for the Iron” (3:41)
A2. “Mile High” (3:51)
A3. “A Minute Ago” (3:54)
A4. “Lines” (4:00)
B1. “Break It to Me Gently” (3:05)
B2. “Too Late” (3:23)
B3. “Secret” (2:42)
B4. “Ball and Chain” (3:22)
B5. “I’m on Fire” (4:15)

Sessions took place at five studios: Pebble Beach, T.W. Studios, Vineyard Studios, Basing Street (aka Island Studios), and Tony Visconti’s Good Earth Studios. Goon Hilly Down features string and brass arrangements by Gregory Rose, also credited on the 1977 Deaf School epic “Taxi.”

Lindsey self-produced the album, which lists four engineers, including new wave soundman Alan Winstanley (999, The Stranglers), who teamed around this time with Clive Langer in the famed Langer–Winstanley production partnership (inaugurated with the 1979 debut album by Madness).

Lindsey performed and co-produced “Lines” and “Break It to Me Gently” with three Blockheads: guitarist John Turnbull and keyboardist Micky Gallagher (both ex-Skip BiffertyARC) and drummer Charlie Charles.

Budgie, a then freelance drummer (ex-Big In Japan), played concurrently on Goon Hilly and albums by The Slits (Cut) and the Boxes EP I Want the Whole World. Additional names on Goon Hilly include guitarists Tony Wimshurst (ex-Nasty Pop) and Danny Kustow (TRB). 

The original UK cover sports grayscale aerial photography and pink–teal graphics. In Europe and Canada, Rialto issued Goon Hilly Down in a white sleeve with three primary-colored shapes and a back-cover photo of the subsequent quartet lineup (absent here apart from Lindsey). The title refers to Goonhilly Downs, a plateau in southern Cornwall equipped with the world’s then-largest satellite Earth station.

Rialto lifted “Iron For the Iron” in November 1979 as the second single (b/w “Ball and Chain”), followed in January by “Break It to Me Gently” (b/w “A Minute Ago”).

In 1980, Motown issued the album in the US as Planets in a blue sleeve with doodled confetti and an illustration of the four-piece band.


Spot

The Planets released their second album, Spot, in 1980 on Rialto. It features ten Steve Lindsey originals, including “Earth,” “C.R.A.Z.Y. (Crazeey),” and the single a-sides “Intensive Care,” “Let Me Fall,” and “Don’t Look Down.”

A1. “Don’t Look Down” (4:09)
A2. “Let Me Fall” (3:28)
A3. “Intensive Care” (4:38)
A4. “You Gave Your Love (Back to Me)” (3:59)
A5. “I Want to Touch You” (3:46)
B1. “I Can’t Stop” (3:40)
B2. “Earth” (3:38)
B3. “Follow the Leader” (3:36)
B4. “Foregone Conclusion” (4:47)
B5. “C.R.A.Z.Y.” (4:10)

Sessions took place at Marquee Studios and Surrey Sound, where Lindsey co-produced Spot with engineer Nigel Gray, an early Police soundman who also worked with Alternative TV, The Fall, Godley & Creme, Girlschool, and Stewart Copeland’s alter ego Klark Kent. Gray’s assistant, Tim Painter, also engineered titles by Linx, Nutz, Strapps, Roger Chapman, and Walkie Talkies.

In September 1980, “Don’t Look Down” appeared as a single (b/w “I Wanna Touch You”), followed by “Let Me Fall” (b/w “Follow the Leader”) and the March 1981 single “Intensive Care” (b/w “Earth”).


Post-Planets

After The Planets folded, Lindsey cut the 1982 single “She’s Locked My Life Up in Her Suitcase” and entered publication and label management. Tolfree and Lines joined Mark Andrews & the Gents (the other spinoff of Joe Jackson’s pre-fame Arms and Legs) while Skornia surfaced in mod rockers The Truth.


Discography:


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1 thought on “The Planets

  1. Original drafter (2018)
    “The Planets were an English New Wave/pop-rock band that released two albums between 1979 and 1980. The band was fronted by ex-Deaf School bassist Steve Lindsey, who also sings here — something the now-multi-instrumentalist never did in his former band.

    For Lindsey, The Planets served as an outlet for a songwriting talent that was underused in Deaf School — which, after all, had an abundance of Langer/Allen and Langer/Shark compositions two tackle across three albums. (Trainspotters will have noted the bassist’s eclectic short-list of contributions to the Liverpool legends — the ’40s showgirl candle-lighter “Final Act,” the debonair dance-rocker “Darling,” the anxious pogo-romp “All Queued Up.”)

    Musically, the debut Planets album Goon Hilly Down — simply titled The Planets in the U.S. — consists of slick, alternately pointy/curvy modern-pop numbers that refine the course of Deaf School’s premature swansong — the heady, tumultuous English Boys, Working Girls. On the sophomoric Spot LP, ska-tinted/reggae-fied rhythms are sprinkled more liberally. Two songs on the first album feature writing and keyboard contributions from Blockhead/former-Skip Bifferty member Mickey Gallagher.

    After The Planets folded, Lindsey cut the single “She’s Locked My Life Up in Her Suitcase” (1982) and subsequently went into publishing and label management. Tolfree and Lines were swallowed into Mark Andrews & the Gents, while Skornia reemerged in The Truth.”

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