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 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 theatrical British psychedelic band such as Cardiacs and The Monochrome Set, with their 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]

Formation, early years and Blunt Nails in a Sharp Wall[edit]

Sleepy People began in Wakefield, Yorkshire circa 1989, when various students on Wakefield College's Popular and Commercial Music met and befriended each other. These included songwriter and former coal miner Paul Hope, mature student Andrew "Tiny" Wood, teenaged classical cellist and bass guitarist Richard Green, drummer Andy Peace and singing flute player Rachel Theresa Hope (Paul's wife). Paul Hope and Tiny Wood first teamed up in a band called Step TLV: the two of them plus Rachel Hope would subsequently work together as Pop Kid, who released a lone cassette album called Strange Planets Emerging From Behind The Coal Shed. The loose ensemble of musical friends later relocated to Newcastle, where Wood and Green pursued a music degree. They established themselves in a run-down house in Jesmond, Newcastle (which the members called "Sleepy Hall".[1])

Pop Kid had by now developed into the first lineup of Sleepy People - Paul Hope (guitar, vocals), Rachel Theresa Hope (flute, vocals), Richard Green (bass guitar), Kerry Harrison (drums) and Liz Wardby (keyboards), with Tiny Wood as lead singer and frontman. The band began making themselves a fixture at various small venues on the British live circuit. Though tuneful, Sleepy People's music was complicated, demanding and often considered noncommercial, winning over some audiences and confusing others. To bolster its impact, the band devised a stage show which Paul Hope described as "designed to provoke a response on the soporific and conservative pub circuit up and down the country, and at that we excelled!"[2] The show was in the tradition of Split Enz and early Cardiacs, featuring eccentric outfits, make-up and haircuts plus music hall comedy. Tiny Wood made the most of his bulky physique and imposing stage presence (including at least one appearance dressed as a Chinese mandarin).

During the first few years of recording and touring, the band underwent the first of its many personnel changes. Pete Haslam replaced Liz Wardby on keyboards, and Andy Peace replaced Kerry Harrison on drums. (Peace was himself replaced by former Dead Flowers drummer Graeme Swaddle).[1]

In 1994, Sleepy People issued their first album Blunt Nails In A Sharp Wall as a self-released cassette (with distribution help from the "Organ" fanzine, who'd supported the band from the early days). The songs – based on a broad template of tightly-played psychedelic pop – were eccentric and sometimes absurdist, with ingredients veering from "Sordid Sentimental"'s disco stylings to the full-on progressive rock fantasia of "Rare Bird At The Window". (The album was re-released on CD by Org Records in 1999.)

Typhoid and Swans, Paint a Ceiling On the Sky and the Ultrasound connection[edit]

In 1995, Sleepy People suffered a major line-up change when Tiny Wood, Richard Green and Pete Haslam all left Sleepy People in order to move to London and set up a new band, Pop-A-Cat-A-Petal, with former Sleepies drummer Andy Peace. To replace the departed members, Paul and Rachel Hope recruited bass player Adrian "Bill" Bailey and keyboard player Danny Orange, plus a new lead singer Phil "Earl Slick" Sears. A self-released double A-side single featuring the new lineup ("Home Is Where Your Telly Is/Hanghar") kept up the band's momentum; although Orange and Bailey both left in 1997 to be respectively replaced by Anna Blaydon (also known as "Anna Tanglewood") and Gary "Spangles" Bowden.[1]

In 1997, the band signed a deal with Edgy Records and recorded and released their second album Typhoid and Swans. The band's songs were now less eccentric than previously: Hope was 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.

Meanwhile, down in London, the former Sleepy People members in Pop-A-Cat-A-Petal were beginning to gain attention of their own. Following a 1995 four-song cassette release via Org Records, the departure of Pete Haslam and the addition of Vanessa Best and Matt Jones, the band had reinvented themselves in 1996 as Ultrasound, and were soon being chased by various record labels, culminating in them releasing a single on Fierce Panda, signing to Nude Records and becoming an up-and-coming name in late-period Britpop.[1][3] Sleepy People in turn gained attention from interest in Ultrasound's prehistory: still friendly with his former bandmates, Paul Hope cheerfully exploited the connection.

Further line-up changes, and All Systems Fail[edit]

Further Sleepy People line-up changes followed in 1998, when Phil Sears left the band to try his own luck in London (and, later, Australia) and 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.

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 then 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]

More lineup changes and return of Tiny Wood, Salient album, final split[edit]

Unfortunately, "Freak" did not gain the same level of attention as its predecessor, and this disappointment added to the band's continuing instability. In 2001, Dunphy was asked to leave the band after falling out with Paul Hope, and Evans and Blaydon also chose to depart, leaving the band once again reduced to a trio of the Hopes plus the loyal Graeme Swaddle. Hope restructured the band yet again, re-recruiting Bill Bailey as bass guitarist: this time, however, the band opted not to bring in a full-time keyboard player. Although Norman Fay (from Tyneside synth act Vietgrove) helped out with some recording and live duties, the role was gradually taken over by Rachel Theresa, adding Moog synthesizer work to her flute-playing and singing.

At around the same time, following the collapse of Ultrasound, Tiny Wood had returned to Newcastle to form a new band called Siren. Having also renewed his musical relationship with Paul Hope, 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, and displayed a further strengthening of the band's songwriting skills. Tiny Wood co-wrote two of the album's songs - "Jump Start" (a rewrite of "Freak" with new Wood lyrics) and "Cold War" (a conceptual 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 featured on "Apples And Pears".

Although Salient gained some extra attention due to the presence of Tiny, this didn't expand beyond the existing Blue Apple Boy/Sleepy People/Ultrasound fanbase. Blue Apple Boy effectively split up in 2003, although the end of the band was never formally announced.

After Blue Apple Boy[edit]

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 rejoin the reformed Ultrasound in 2010.

Since March 2009, Paul Hope has returned to musical work, forming a new trio called The River Valley Giants (with Julie Carpenter and Beresford Francis Delany, and with Dorothy Pippin Hope sometimes joining in 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]