With Andy Ferguson's help they started doing demos for various labels in London and eventually had a bidding war going on between the labels to sign them! They did a final label showcase at the famous London Dingwalls, and signed to EMI. They then started recording their one and only album. They were given what at the time was a huge budget, and recorded in some of the best UK studios - Abbey Road, Martin Rushent's Genetic (where Human Leagues' Dare was recorded) Air and other really great studios. The album was produced by Steve Nye who had co-produced Japan's albums. They started putting out singles and got generally a good reaction, building a solid fan base.
This brought their first year as a signed band to a close. EMI were getting ready to release the album and they wanted the band to go and start working on the next one. Quite a few new songs were already written and they were certainly improving as songwriters (Chris and Phil the singer co-wrote everything). They did various support band shows as well as their own dates, and this really helped consolidate their growing fan base.
As a result, EMI paid out the 2nd years advance, about the same week Live Aid happened. EMI had been touting them as the new Duran Duran for about a year, the album was finished, they had the fan base behind them, and everything was poised to explode for Scary Thieves. Phil Manikiza (lead singer) had been having an affair with a girl who was the long-time girlfriend of a senior EMI person. She broke it off with Phil, told her boyfriend, and trouble broke out. The album was shelved even though EMI had spent about £250,000 recording it and making videos, and generally had expected them to be a successful act. The band was asked by the girl involved not to make public what had happened to save the boyfriend's embarrassment (as there were other people at EMI who hated this guy and would have loved to have known the details to humiliate him).
So perhaps a little naively they put this loyalty before their own careers. Years later one of the band members mentioned it to the new head of EMI, Nick Gatfield (once of Dexy's Midnight Runners). Nick had been the band's AR man at the time and never knew at the time why decisions higher up had been made to drop the band. Nick just looked at him in disbelief and said that he had been totally crazy to remain silent - and that had it been made public at the time, the then head of EMI (who hated the boyfriend) not only would have released the album but he would have made sure it was a huge hit just to really piss the boyfriend (his enemy) off.
These guys had actually had a fist fight once in the EMI offices, so they really didn't like each other! Keyboardist Chris says, "All round it was a shame because we were young and our songwriting and sound had really gotten better from the album tracks, so we had better material written which never got released. Unfortunately I didn't realise at the time that the stigma of being dropped by a major label who spent a fortune on you and who had touted you as the new Duran Duran for a year or so really worked against you, as the other labels just presumed there must be a fundamental problem with the band and that's why EMI had given up." At the time this all occurred, Scary Thieves had just signed a new contract with EMI and had received another year's advance. To break the contract, EMI had to pay up a lot of money just a few weeks later. Chris says, "the band thought this was great - we all bought shiny new cars etc.
- but in hindsight that was just naive and a mistake. It's almost 20 years ago now, and realising now from experience how few chances like that we get as musicians, I don't think I would have done the same - I should have just had a quiet word with the very top guy in EMI!" After this they struggled to find another label. Politically, it looked really bad from a new label's viewpoint: here was this new band that had had a fortune spent on it, with all this hype, then a new advance, and then even more money for EMI to throw them off the label a few weeks after the 2nd year advance. So they thought there must be some serious problem that wasn't being talked about, and stayed away.
Scary Thieves eventually split up a year or so later. Singer Phil Manikiza got a publishing contract and had some small successes. Keyboardist Chris Youdell joined Sinead O'Conner's band very briefly, then joined Then Jericho for the recording of their 2nd album, producing 3 or 4 top 20 UK singles, with the album going gold and reaching #2 in the UK. However Then Jerico imploded just as it was about to achieve world success. At about the same time, Lol Tolhurst from the Cure asked Chris to join his new band Presence.
They put a record out in the UK and recorded another in the US which wasn't released. Chris gave up on the music industry and now has a successful business selling vintage instruments, especially keyboards, at analogsynths.com. Read more on Last.fm. User-contributed text is available under the Creative Commons By-SA License; additional terms may apply..
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