The Stairs - Mexican R 'N' B (Cherry Red)

The Stairs – Mexican R ‘N’ B (Cherry Red)

There are many issues that have baffled scientists and historians alike for years. Why we yawn, for starters, and the whereabouts of alleged nanny murderer Lord Lucan for another. But perhaps more confusing than ANY of these enigmatic questions is this: how the HELL did Liverpool trio The Stairs fail to make any kind of impact on the UK’s commercial charts? In short, why did we, the general public, yawn?

It’s not like they didn’t have the contacts either – frontman and bass player Edgar ‘Summertyme’ Jones played bass for Ian McCulloch shortly before forming the band, and the three singles released from the album were Nuggets infused gems: ‘Weed Bus‘, ‘Woman Gone And Say Goodbye‘ and ‘Mary Joanna‘. The only theory I can come up with, and it’s a vague one, is that many of the music papers of the day painted them as a poor man’s Rolling Stones, and perhaps this stance wasn’t questioned enough by the inky-fingered faithful. I mean, sure, there’s undoubtedly an element of Jagger about Jones’s delivery, but it would be doing them a tragic injustice to suggest they were anything like a carbon copy. Indeed, the aforementioned ‘Mary Joanna‘ probably owes more of a debt to The Beatles‘ ‘Day Tripper‘ than anyone else, given its urgent, arresting guitar intro, while ‘Laughter In Their Eyes‘ begins with a Bach like melody and eventually has an aura not dissimilar to The Four Seasons‘ ‘Beggin‘. Elsewhere, the killer melodies are abundant and brimming with vital energy on tunes like ‘Russian R ‘N’ B (The World Shall Not Be Saved)‘, which has a backing vocal that recalls The Specials around the time of ‘Stereotype‘, and the Captain Beefheart like ‘Sometimes The World Escapes Me‘. Quite simply, this is a mixed bag of brilliantly sweet treats. It ought to have been huge.

This boxset features the full 1992 vinyl album on disc one, along with the relevant EP tracks for each release and an alternative, punchier version of ‘Fall Down The Rain‘, apparently mooted at one point to be the group’s fourth single, according to the sleeve notes of this immaculately packaged item. More EPs, this time from the Imaginary period, make up disc two, along with a host of demos and rarities. The pick of these is probably the reflective, wistful ‘We Could Be Happy‘, which displays a further facet to the band’s splendid craftsmanship.

Finally disc three features sessions from the tragically unreleased Who Is This album, depriving the public of such beauties as the obviously Hendrix influenced ‘Skin Up‘, and the Motown-like ‘When She Walks Down My Street‘, which may well have been lauded as a classic now, had it been recorded by, say, The Contours. Also notable here is the inclusion of the circus ska psychedelia of guitarist Ged Lynn’s ‘Shit Town‘. From here, we can be sure that The Stairs were not a band content to simply pluck conkers from the same horse chestnut tree forever – this was a three piece willing to push boundaries, and much of the resultant material is a joy to behold.

It’s just a shame such a large contingent of the population weren’t paying attention.

The Mexican R ‘N’ B boxset edition is released on 25th January through Cherry Red.

God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.