Sleepy People

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Sleepy People (later renamed Blue Apple Boy) was a British psychedelic rock band known for eccentric, energetic songs and live performances, as well as for incubating three of the five future members of short-lived (but briefly famous) Britpop band, Ultrasound.

Sleepy People should not be confused with The Sleepy People (a New Wave indie rock band from Oregon) or Sleeping People (a Californian progressive rock band.

Sound[edit]

In both incarnations, the band featured an eclectic sound blending psychedelic rock, New Wave pop, punk, and progressive rock. Other ingredients have included noise-rock, nursery rhymes, ska, Muzak, bossa nova, circus/fairground music, tango and anything which the band members found inspiring. The band was strongly influenced by the theatrical British psychedelic band Cardiacs and shared much of their sound, with other cited influences including The Monochrome Set. The band’s lyrics varied from cheerful or sinister nonsense to surreal representations of everyday life and hallucinatory twists on eccentric stories from tabloid newspapers.

Sleepy People band history[edit]

Early years[edit]

The band's roots were in a short-lived previous band called Pop Kid, led by guitarist/songwriter/backing vocalist Paul Hope. Sleepy People subsequently formed around a line-up of Hope, his wife Rachel Theresa (Hope) (flute, backing vocals), Tiny Wood (lead vocals), Richard Green (bass), Kerry Harrison (drums) and Liz Wardby (keyboards). The band established itself in a run-down house in Jesmond, Newcastle, which the members called "Sleepy Hall".[1]) It began making itself a fixture on the small venues of the British live circuit, gaining attention via a bizarre stage act featuring eccentric costumes, make-up and haircuts plus music-hall-style comedy (in the manner of Split Enz and Cardiacs). Tiny Wood also made the most of his imposing stage presence and considerable bulk, dressing up in a variety of costumes (including one resembling a Chinese mandarin). Early supporters of the band included the "Organ" fanzine.

Though tuneful, Sleepy People's music was complicated, demanding and often considered noncommercial, winning over some audiences and confusing others. Paul Hope has commented, "The songs... were all part of a stage show that was designed to provoke a response on the soporific and conservative pub circuit up and down the country, and at that we excelled!"[2] The band was also characterised by a frequent turnover of personnel. Between 1992 and 1995, Pete Haslam replaced Liz Wardby on keyboards, and Andy Peace replaced Kerry Harrison on drums (he himself was subsequently replaced by former Dead Flowers drummer Graeme Swaddle).[1]

Blunt Nails In A Sharp Wall and departures to Ultrasound[edit]

In 1994, the band issued their first album Blunt Nails In A Sharp Wall on self-released cassette. The songs – based on a broad template of tightly-played psychedelic pop – were eccentric and sometimes absurdist, with ingredients veering from disco ("Sordid Sentimental") to full-on progressive rock ("Rare Bird At The Window"). The album was re-released on CD by Org Records in 1999.

A major line-up change followed in 1995 when Wood, Green and Haslam all amicably left Sleepy People in order to move to London and set up a new band with Andy Peace. Initially called Pop-A-Cat-A-Petal, this band (now minus Haslam, and adding Vanessa Best and Matt Jones), cut down on their early progressive rock instincts and eventually became the more glamorous Ultrasound.[1][3]

To replace the departed members, Paul Hope and Rachel Theresa Hope recruited singer Phil "Earl Slick" Sears (who would become godfather to their newborn baby girl Dorothy Pippin Hope), bass player Bill Bailey and keyboard player Danny Orange. "Home Is Where Your Telly Is/Hanghar" (a self-released double A-side single featuring the new lineup), kept up the momentum. Orange and Bailey both left in 1997, to be respectively replaced by Anna Blaydon (also known as "Anna Tanglewood") and Gary "Spangles" Bowden.[1]

Typhoid and Swans, Paint a Ceiling On the Sky and All Systems Fail[edit]

In 1997, the band recorded their second album Typhoid and Swans (released on Edgy Records). The band's songs were now less eccentric than previously, with Hope favouring more direct lyrics and making use of Sear's rich quasi-operatic voice (although signs of the band’s more theatrical past remained in the shape of the lengthy "Everything You Know Is Wrong"). Former Gong violinist Graham Clark made a guest appearance on the album. Several songs from this period were recorded for a live-in-the-studio mini-album called Paint a Ceiling On the Sky, which was released on cassette.

Further line-up changes followed in 1998. Phil Sears left the band to try his own luck in London (and, later, Australia). Gary Bowden also left, following clashes with Hope. They were replaced by bass player Mark Greenwood and teenage singer Lee Haley. This lineup of Sleepy People recorded the 1998 cassette single "All Systems Fail/Every Wave Is Higher On The Beach". Haley was a lighter singer than Sears, and brought an air of cool insouciance to the band,[1] which by now had jettisoned most of the make-up, costumes, and theatrics in favour of letting the music work by itself. At this point, Ultrasound were rising stars on the Britpop scene: Paul Hope remained friendly with the former Sleepy People members in Ultrasound's line-up, and cheerfully exploited the connection between the two bands.

Lee Haley’s time with the band was brief, and he left in 1999 to form a more straightforward band called The Embassy. Phil Sears obliged the band by filling in for several gigs, but was unable to make a long-term commitment. Haley's eventual replacement as singer was Mark Dunphy (the brother of Cud guitarist Mike Dunphy), whose more flamboyant style returned the band to their previous sound.[1]

Blue Apple Boy band history[edit]

Fresh start and early singles[edit]

In 2000, in search of a fresh start, Sleepy People changed their name to Blue Apple Boy (a name apparently based on Masonic imagery). The band’s initial line-up was identical to the final Sleepy People line-up – Mark Dunphy (lead vocals), Paul Hope (guitar, backing vocals), Rachel Theresa (flute, backing vocals), Graeme Swaddle (drums), Anna Blaydon (keyboards), and bass player Tom Evans (who'd replaced Mark Greenwood).[4]

Initially, the name change led to a new lease of life for the band. The band recorded a new double A-side single – ("Who’s That Calling?/Sunshine Valley Paradise Club" – which was released as a one-off arrangement with cult Oxford indie label Shifty Disco.[4] Both songs were inspired by bizarre true-life newspaper stories: a tale of a man falling off a bridge while conversing on his cellphone, and one of unpleasant goings on in a retirement home. Former Sleepy People/Ultrasound member Richard Green (by now leading his own Leeds-based band, The Somatics) added noise-guitar to "Sunshine Valley Paradise Club". The single attracted attention from the national music press, leading to an appearance in Melody Maker. Blue Apple Boy followed up with a more sinister single called "Freak" (released on the band’s own Bad Apple Records) which dealt with vigilante/mob violence and was inspired by the then-current paedophile panic in the UK (during which several innocent people had been harmed by mobs on the suspicion of being paedophiles).[5][6][7][8] However, "Freak" did not gain the same level of attention as its predecessor, which added to the band's continuing instability. In 2001, Dunphy was asked to leave the band after falling out with Hope, and Evans and Blaydon also left.

Return of Tiny Wood, and Salient album[edit]

Once again, Hope restructured the band, re-recruiting Bill Bailey as bass guitarist and bringing in Vietgrove synthesizer player Norman Fay to cover keyboard parts: however, this time the band opted not to bring in a full-time keyboard player. Instead, Rachel Theresa took over the keyboard playing role, adding Moog synthesizer work to her flute-playing and singing duties. At around the same time, Paul Hope renewed his musical relationship with Tiny Wood (who had returned to Newcastle after the collapse of Ultrasound to form his new band, Siren). Wood agreed to join Blue Apple Boy as singer.[4] Revitalised, the band set about assembling the debut Blue Apple Boy album. Wood re-recorded vocals for earlier songs (including some late Sleepy People ones), rewrote others and worked on new material with Hope.

Credited to "Blue Apple Boy featuring Tiny Wood", the Salient album was released on the Soma Sound label in 2002. It showed a further strengthening of the band's songwriting skills, including "Jump Start" (a rewrite of "Freak" with new Wood lyrics) and "Cold War" (another Wood co-write which was apparently a sequel to the Ultrasound anthem "Stay Young"). Although Wood sang on most tracks, the band was now pursuing a more flexible approach to vocals: Rachel Theresa sang lead vocals on "Leave The Mud For The Worms" and the bossa-nova song "The Moon Is Hungry" (influenced by G. I. Gurdjieff) and the Hopes' eldest child Dorothy Pippin "Dolly" featured on "Apples And Pears".

After Blue Apple Boy[edit]

Blue Apple Boy effectively split up in 2003, although the end of the band was never formally announced. From 2003 onward, Paul and Rachel Hope concentrated mainly on running The Sky Apple Cafe, their vegetarian restaurant in Newcastle. Both Hopes became chefs and managers, with Tiny Wood also involved. The various core band members retained their friendships (although the stress of running the restaurant would eventually end the Hopes' marriage). Tiny Wood would continue, on and off, with Siren and would join the reformed Ultrasound in 2010.

The River Valley Giants[edit]

In March 2009, Paul Hope returned to musical work, forming a new trio called The River Valley Giants (with Julie Carpenter and Beresford Francis Delany) Featuring Dorothy Pippin on vocals. They have described their music as containing elements of post-punk, progressive rock and film soundtrack music. Tracks recorded so far have included a reworking of the Sleepy People song "Halfway World".[9]

Discography (Sleepy People)[edit]

Albums[edit]

  • Blunt Nails In A Sharp Wall (1994), cassette release (reissued as CD, Org Records 1999)
  • Typhoid And Swans (1997), Edgy Records

Singles[edit]

  • "Home Is Where Your Telly Is" (1996), Edgy Records
  • "All Systems Fail/Every Wave Is Higher On The Beach" (1998) cassette release

Mini-Albums[edit]

  • Paint A Ceiling On The Sky (1997) cassette release

Discography (Blue Apple Boy)[edit]

Albums[edit]

  • Salient (2002), Soma Sound

Singles[edit]

  • "Who’s That Calling?/Sunshine Valley Paradise Club" (2000), Shifty Disco
  • "Freak" (2000), Bad Apple Records

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f Dean Carlson. "allmusic ((( Sleepy People > Overview )))". Allmusic.com. Retrieved 2008-11-01. 
  2. ^ Sleevenotes for Blunt Nails In A Sharp Wall CD reissue (Org Records, 1999)
  3. ^ "Org: Sleepy People". Organart.demon.co.uk. Retrieved 2008-11-01. 
  4. ^ a b c http://www.allmusic.com/artist/p509885
  5. ^ Mob mistakes man for sex abuser by BBC News
  6. ^ Vigilante attack on innocent man by BBC News
  7. ^ Pediatrician attacks 'ignorant' vandals by BBC News
  8. ^ Plain stupid by Salon.com
  9. ^ River Valley Giants MySpace page

External links[edit]