Joe Crow is a post-punk musician from Birmingham, England. He was a member of legendary Brum band The Prefects, and hung on long enough after the name-change to appear on a couple of early Nightingales singles. In 1981 Joe began his solo career and recorded a 2-song demo “Compulsion” and “Absent Friends”. Joe sent copies of the finished recordings to Cherry Red, who thanks to Lawrence of Felt, ended up releasing the single in 1982. An edited version of the single would later appear on the compilation “Pillows & Prayers” that collected songs which originated as 45s or EPs. Martin Gore of Depeche Mode subsequently covered “Compulsion” on his ‘Counterfeit’ EP in 1989 forever solidifying its status in the cannon of UK melancholic synth pop.
“Compulsion” and “Absent Friends” were originally intended as a double A-side. Composed, performed and recorded by Joe on an 8-track reel-to-reel at Sinewave Studio, Moseley Village in February 1981. Joe plays everything: guitar, bass, Boss Dr. Rhythm, Bee Gees Rhythm Machine, Wasp synthesizer, bongos stuffed with towels and an old tin tray for a snare drum. Everything was borrowed. “Compulsion” is an imaginary suicide note, a meditation on loss and grief. Its dark twin “Absent Friends” is an anti-song: no verses, choruses or middle-eight, some willfully odd chord progressions and plaintive yet melodic keyboard motif. Both songs are a spectral hybrid of alternating childlike and cynical vocals over lo-tech basement electronics with profound lyrics. This expanded 12” reissue adds 3 unreleased bonus tracks on the B-side taken from a mini-album of nine songs, recorded at the same time as “Compulsion”. Originally titled “Ken Blagdon Sings” with music by Joe Crow and lyrics by photographer Brendan Jackson, as a birthday present to the latter’s girlfriend, Jacqui Neave. The whole session lasted one day and the line up was Brendan Jackson (alias Ken Blagdon; vocals/percussion), Joe Crow (vocals/bass/guitar/Boss Dr. Rhythm/Wasp synthesizer), Mark Rowson (drums), Helen Rowson (alto saxophone), Eamonn Duffy (Nightingales bassist; squawks) and Legs Akimbo (technicals).
All songs have been remastered from the original master tapes for vinyl by George Horn at Fantasy Studios in Berkeley. The jacket is an exact replica of the 1982 edition enlarged for the 12” format, featuring front and back photos of Joe from a dawn beach shoot at Hayling Island, Hampshire, England. Each copy includes a two-sided newsprint insert with lyrics, never-before-seen photos and liner notes by Joe Crow and Robert Lloyd of the Nightingales. These songs are perfect new wave / post-punk tracks, full of attitude and dark romanticism.