Acrobats of Desire

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Acrobats of Desire were an English post-punk band. An electric string quartet with raw vocals, their lineup consisted of two violins, a viola, cello, assorted percussion and a lead vocalist. Originating in Sheffield, they were among the founders of the music style which went on to spawn Pulp, Hula, Richard Hawley, Cabaret Voltaire, Arctic Monkeys and The Long Blondes.


Mick Wilson and Deborah Egan were the original members of the ensemble and the majority of the material was written for the group by Mick Wilson - now Head of Composition at Salford University, Manchester. Their unique style fused contemporary classical composition with influences ranging from Appalachian country music to Stravinsky. Driven by complex rhythms and harmonies, their sound was unique, featuring funny, sexually provocative, darkly observant lyrics. These were fully explored in the energised and confrontational performances of the leather-clad singer Deborah Egan and the group quickly attracted critical attention from press and broadcasters.

Very much a live act, they got their career break at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in 1977 where they performed to full houses - initiating a cult status amongst fringe-goers and co-performers. They were the first performers to perform stand-alone live music at what was then fundamentally a theatre festival. Their chamber opera Punch in Prison won a musical theatre fringe first in 1979.

They went on to tour the UK at festivals and live gigs and were promoted by Cherry Red Records in London and at the Moonlight Club, Hampstead alongside Jools Holland. They were featured on many broadcasts for television and radio, including live sets for BBC2's Late Night Line-Up, Ned Sherrin's Start the Week and BBC2 TV's rock documentary series Futurama 80.

Their EP, Parking Boys (Desire Records DES001) was distributed globally by Red Rhino Records in York and entered the independent charts in the UK and Italy. It was featured by John Peel on his radio show. It was released in the final year of their career in 1981 and is now a rare punk classic. Acrobats appear in George Gimarc's Post Punk Diary: 1980-1982 and in the photography archive of the Belgian photographer Phillipe Carly who photographed them for the national press at the Futurama Festival in Queens Hall, Leeds in September 1981 where they played with U2, Clare Grogan, League of Gentlemen and Siouxsie and the Banshees.

Mick Wilson[edit]

Mick Wilson has a doctorate in composition and has written the following;

  • 13 Foxtrot Songs - available on CD
  • A Birthday Garland for Rachel - 50 piano pieces
  • A Christmas Ceremony - for Gamelan, two Percussion Ensembles, String Quartet, Soprano, Choir and Organ
  • Alter the Razor Blades entry to Razor Blades - Saxophone Quartet No.1
  • Alvarita - Song Cycle, for Contralto, String Quartet & Percussion
  • American Music
  • Atlantic Hotel - a full-length musical set in the Paris of 1968
  • Beasts- for Wind Nonet
  • Ceremonial Fanfare - for two Horns, two Trumpets, Organ and Percussion
  • Come Tonight. The Indian Has Been Found - for two Percussionists & Tape
  • Concerto for Alto Saxophone and Gamelan
  • Concerto for Six-String Electric Violin and Double Brass Band
  • Dangerous Beasts - for three Voices, Chorus and Gamelan
  • Dangerous Pleasures for a Wind Octet
  • Dark to Dazzle - Saxophone Quartet No.2
  • Deosil and Widdershins
  • Dreams of Midnight, Dreams of Paradise - for Two Percussionists and Tape
  • Earth, Air, Water, Fire - Four Visions of the Future
  • Farewell Variations
  • Filthy Alex
  • Fairy Tale - for Contralto and Piano
  • Fire Dance - for six Percussionists
  • Five Enigmas - for Solo Clarinet
  • Five Pieces for Western Gamelan
  • Five Songs, Prelude & Tango, for Lady Macbeth - for Contralto, Electric String Quartet, Bass Guitar, Drum Kit/Percussion
  • Four Visions of the Future
  • Hamelin! - a short musical for children.
  • Incantation & Firedance - for Six Percussionists
  • Incantation and Scherzo
  • Introduction, Allegro & Can-can
  • Kecak - SSAATTBB
  • Lady M'bira Macbeth McDrum - for two Electric Thumb Pianos, Contrabass Cowbells, Bass Drum, Tape
  • Little Quartet in Five Movements - for Gamelan Instruments
  • Mandala - for Female Choir
  • Masks and Dances - for Soprano and Ensemble
  • New Games from Other Worlds - for Contralto, Electric String Quartet, Bass Guitar, Drum Kit/Percussion
  • Nine Bagatelles - for Solo Piano
  • Pass Office Song - for Choir and Organ
  • Prelude & Chorale
  • Punch in Prison - Chamber Opera
  • Rain Dance - for nine Percussionists
  • Razor Blades - for Saxophone Quartet
  • Ride the Tiger - 10 piece Brass Ensemble
  • Rondo (for a Lovely Wedding)
  • Salford Celebration Overture
  • Scherzo and Trio - for Oboe Quartet
  • Seven Different Kinds of Waltz - Piano Sonata in Seven Movements
  • Six Songs - for Contralto & Piano
  • Sonata in One Movement - for Flute & Piano
  • Song Spells - for Contralto and Piano
  • Suite for Viola & Chamber Ensemble
  • Tactics for Orchestra
  • Ten Songs - for Children's Choir and Piano
  • The Garden of Earthly Delights
  • The Waxing Moon, the Wolf-Heart's Blood - for Two Six-string Electric Violins, Kempul, Gamelan Gongs, and Five Percussionists
  • The World - Shadow Puppet Show
  • Three Songs for Contralto & Cabaret Band
  • Three Musicians - for Flute, Trombone, Cello and Dancer
  • Twelve Duets & a Trio - for various combinations of Flutes, Clarinets, Violins, Viola, Cello and Percussion
  • Two Tczardas & a Kalamohjczhka
  • Variations & Inventions - Piano Duet
  • Whistle & I'll Come To You - for Solo Percussion & Tape
  • Woodwind Septet
  • World Music Dances - Song Cycle for Electric String Quartet with Singers and Percussion
  • Worksong