David Devant & His Spirit Wife
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|David Devant & His Spirit Wife|
|Genres||Indie rock, art rock|
In Brighton, in May 1992, Georgeson formed his first band with Foz Foster, the ex-guitarist of the Monochrome Set, Jem Egerton, a classically trained musician, who played bass, and the drummer Graham Carlow. Georgeson derived the name for his band from a second-hand copy of My Magic Life, the autobiography of the great English stage magician, David Devant (1868–1941). One of Devant's stage illusions was to produce a floating apparition of his ‘spirit wife’. Georgeson told the Sunday Times, "I knew it was lazy just to nick the name, David Devant and His Spirit Wife, so I decided to research the man. I read the book and his nickname at school was the same as mine – Monkey Face… Our motto – like his – is All Done by Kindness.".
Georgeson explained the idea behind the band to the Brighton Punter magazine: "It's quite simple really, as a magician Devant didn't really fulfill himself so he said 'I shall walk down the corridors of contemporary music', so he chose us. I am his vessel."- hence Georgeson's new stage name, The Vessel. The rest of the band also assumed new names: The Colonel (Egerton), Professor Rimschott (Carlow), and Foz? (pronounced 'Foz Questionmark'). The line-up was completed by "the Lantern", who provided film and light, and two "Spectral Roadies", known as IceMAN (Nick Curry) and Cocky Young'un (Gary Smith), who accompanied the music with visual jokes and magic using cardboard props.
A Devant show was conceived as an act of invocation, in which the spirit of the late magician would speak through the Vessel, and the songs would summon down the Spirit Wife. Audience members attending early gigs were given paper 'spirit specs' (to enhance magic awareness) and a souvenir programme listing the 'songs of invocation'. There was always a message of welcome from David Devant:
Once more, through the power of song and sorcery, my four apprentices and their spectral roadies will bring me closer to you in your earthly abode. My powers grow ever stronger with each twang on the tremolo arm, my message ever clearer with every contorted balloon...So come let us build a magic rope bridge over the ravine of destiny to the white cliffs of The Beyond. And with HOLY JOY we will once more meet with my Spirit Wife. BELIEVE!
In concert, the Vessel, who wore a black pompadour Elvis wig and a pencil moustache, might appear flying on a magic carpet, projected as a shadow on a paper screen, or be sawn in half by the roadies. At one Halloween concert, at the Duke of York's Picture House, Brighton, he was fired out of a cannon from the stage, emerging at the far end of the hall in tattered clothes, his face blackened. The climax of every show was the appearance of the Spirit Wife, manifested in the form of a Victorian lace nightgown waved on a pole, while the audience was instructed, 'Don Spirit Specs Now!'
The elaborate stage show created a false impression that the band was a novelty act. But, as a songwriter, Georgeson was easily the equal of any of his Britpop contemporaries. He had a gift for catchy melodies, and wrote about unusual subjects, from the murder mystery game Cluedo ('Ballroom') to ginger hair as a metaphor for the social misfit ('Ginger'). His lyrics looked at the everyday from a fresh, off-kilter, perspective: 'When we woke up, we thought, what's the big deal?/ Then we remembered - this is for real.' ('This is for Real'). They were also playful with language. In the opening lines of the first single, 'Pimlico', for example, the expected rhyme ('Ealing') is subverted: 'Sometimes London don't seem so appealing/ Maybe your lover is living in Deptford'. Georgeson also revived the lost art of the pop song coda, or outro, section. Two typical coda lyrics are 'Back to front left to right/ I could keep this up all night' ('Miscellaneous') and 'From my head right down to my Silver Boots/ I'm going to sell my story to whoever it suits' ('I'm not even going to try').
The band were behind a short film, Light On The Surface, in the early nineties set in a motorway service station and featuring the original pop video to their first single, "Cookie". In 1996, Devant were the house band for the single-series sitcom Asylum, performing segments in every episode from their Work, Lovelife, Miscellaneous album, released the following year. The lead-in track "Ginger" provided the programme's title music.
After the 1997 release of their first album, Work, Lovelife, Miscellaneous, the Radio One Breakfast DJ, Mark Radcliffe, told the Sunday Times, 'Initially I was intrigued by the look of them, by the name, by the image. Then I heard some really good songs. It certainly helps that they sound like early Bowie. Since most people will never see the band play, unless the records themselves work there is no point to all the theatricality. But this lot are messing about with the concept of what makes a pop band. Their act isn't just a gimmick. We need more bands like them.'
In 1997, touring Britain in support of the album, the band was accompanied by a Channel 4 film crew from The Other Side series. The documentary, shown in 1999, marked a farewell to the first incarnation of David Devant as, in the final sequence, filmed in 1999, Georgeson symbolically set fire to his wig. As he did so, he joked, 'I feel my power draining!' He added, 'I'm doing that so that, from the flames, the Phoenix will rise.'
On 11 December 1999, at the Falcon in Camden, Georgeson unveiled a new David Devant, stripped of the theatricality of the earlier version. The Spectral roadies and the Vessel's wig had gone, and Foz? had been replaced by John Pope on guitar. The accompanying album, Shiney on the Inside, had a harder-edged sound, with driving glam-inspired anthems, 'Radar' and 'Space Daddy'. Eddie Argos, of another art-rock band, Art Brut, would later describe Shiney on the Inside as 'one of the greatest albums ever made.'
In 2002, the original line-up of David Devant reunited, beginning with a concert at Komedia Brighton, on 8 April. A third album, Power Words for Better Living, in 2004, was filled with more catchy songs with witty lyrics from Georgeson: "The older you are, the tighter you wear your jeans/ The longer you spend at the back of the queue waiting for cash machines" ('Contact'). Foz? returned to the band after this and was involved in the recording of the 2004 album Power Words For Better Living, writing the music for the track "Social Comet".
The band continues to play two or three times a year. In recent years, there has been a return to theatricality, with audiences invited to take part in mass balloon twisting and Foz? wearing clown make-up or dressing in a gorilla costume. Georgeson now wears white pancake makeup with black eyeliner, and has found a replacement wig. There has even been magic with cardboard again, with Baron Gilvan in the role of a Spectral Roadie.
While the band continue to do live performances, Georgeson launched a solo career under the pseudonym of Mr Solo. In November 2005, Mr Solo took part in a benefit show for War Child at Oxford House of Bethnal Green on the same bill as comedian Richard Herring and Chris Difford of Squeeze. Solo kicked off the evening with a version of "Whole Wide World" and also sang the old Devant favourite, "Pimlico". His next performance was as the support act for a David Devant show at Brighton's Komedia club in July 2006. Mr Solo has since gone on to perform regularly at venues across London, and released an album All Will Be Revealed in 2007, including several tracks ("Three Wishes", "Genius") which were previously recorded for Minky Pauve. In 2010 he released a second album, Wonders Never Cease.
Performing as Mr Solo, Georgeson has also made a number of appearances as part of This Happy Band, a loose collective of artists, poets and musicians who have performed together at art events including 'Dead Season / Live Art' for Limbo Arts in Margate and Nunhead Open Exhibition 2009 and 2011. Mr Solo is also a member of The Glam Chops, a side project of Art Brut's Eddie Argos who have appeared on Marc Riley's 6 Music show.
James Foster is part of a performance art musical double act, Foster and Gilvan, who perform regularly by themselves and as part of Badstock Puppets and the Karaoke Circus. Both Foster and Georgeson have made a number of special guest appearances with Martin White's Mystery Fax Machine Orchestra.
- The Vessel (Mikey Georgeson, also known by pseudonym Mr Solo) (lead vocals, keyboards, guitar)
- Foz? (James Foster) (guitar)
- The Colonel (Jem Egerton) (bass)
- Professor Rimschott (Graham Carlow) (drums)
- ICEman (Nick Curry) (spectral roadie)
- Cocky Young'un (Gary Smith) (spectral roadie)
- Lantern (projections)
- John Pope (Jon Klein)
- Don Spirit Specs Now! (1993) [Cassette Only]
- Work, Lovelife, Miscellaneous (16 June 1997) #70 UK Album Chart
- Shiney On The Inside (13 July 2000)
- Power Words For Better Living (12 April 2004)
- The Lost World Of David Devant (2006)
- "Miscellaneous/Ballroom" 1996
- "Cookie/One Hand" (12 August 1996)
- "Pimlico/This is For Real" (September 1996)
- "Ginger/Life on a Crescent" (10 March 1997) #54 UK Singles Chart
- "This Is For Real/Ghost in My House" (9 June 1997) #61 UK
- "Lie Detector/Who We Are" (13 October 1997) #84
- "Radar" (18 October 1999)
- "Space Daddy/Born Yesterday" (3 July 2000)
- "Contact/One Thing" Outstanding Records OSTRS002 (22 March 2004)
- "About It/Any Fool Can Fall In Love" Outstanding Records OSTRS003 (22 November 2004)
- Robin Eggar, ‘Could it be Magic?’ The Sunday Times, 20 April 1997.
- AS, ‘Ectoplasmic Fantastic’ The Punter, October 1995.
- Souvenir Programme of David Devant concert at the Richmond, Brighton, 20 February 1993.
- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RnUXgOVlxBk&feature=related, David Devant and His Spirit Wife (in The Other Side series), Channel 4, 1999.
- http://the-eddie-argos-resource.blogspot.com/2010/01/david-devant-and-his-spirit-wife.html, The Eddie Argos Resource Page.
- "This Happy Band". Limboarts.co.uk. Retrieved 2012-05-09.
- Turnpiece Web Design - www.turnpiece.com (19 September 2009). "The Surgery - This Happy Band, Play At The Nunhead Open". Thesurgery.turnpiece.net. Retrieved 2012-05-09.
- "Last chance to see an out of the (bird) box exhibition". Dulwichonview.org.uk. 23 September 2011. Retrieved 2012-05-09.
- David Devant & His Spirit Wife on Facebook
- Mr Solo - official website
- David Devant & His Spirit Wife on Myspace
- Mr Solo with This Happy Band at 'Dead Season / Live Art' for Limbo Arts
- Mr Solo with This Happy Band at Nunhead Open Exhibition 2009
- Mikey Georgeson at Sartorial Contemporary
- Bird Boxes at Dulwich Picture Gallery