SIMPLY put, here’s a Complex story about a cult Blackpool band, whose long-lost first LP has become a worldwide collectors’ item, keeping eBay busy in recent years.
In order to avoid the imposition of Purchase Tax (VAT’s predecessor), the production run of Complex’s self-titled 1971 “psych –pop” album was limited to 99 copies.
Many of these were used by the manager to send to various agents, venue representatives and record companies. Others were sold at gigs to fans for the princely sum of £1 each.
Far removed from the £500 or so that the shiny 12in discs have been changing hands for in Japan and the USA.
The first bit of good news is that all four members of Complex – Tony Shakespeare (lead vocals and drums), Lance Fogg (bass and backing vocals), Steve Coe (keyboards) and Brian Lee (guitar and backing vocals) -– are still alive. The second is that they’ve decided to celebrate the 40th anniversary year of the album’s original release by pressing up – yes, you’ve guessed it! – just 99 copies, each one numbered and signed by all four.
Then, with another echo to the album’s nostalgic past, they are giving them away. Half of them to their family and friends, the other half to music industry and media around the world, who have helped keep alive the legend of Complex’s humble quest for fame and fortune. The original album was summed up by music expert David Wells as “an almost unique fusion of vintage British psychedelia and the more playful end of the American acid pop spectrum”.
David was so enthused by the music that, in 1999, Complex agreed to give his label a two-year licence for a limited pressing, to which he provided extensive sleeve notes, which put Complex’s story into perspective.
This time, the band want to set the scene themselves, and share their own personal memories. As we are in the digital age, the album is now a CD, and with the extra capacity available, the new edition contains an extra 12th track – a 20-minute interview with the band by local DJ Ian Calvert.
Tony Shakespeare admits: “After all this time, I still find the level of interest in our little album astounding.”
Lance Fogg says: “It’s quite surreal really, apparently it’s number six in the all-time Top 100 rare records.”
Brian Lee says: “Imagine logging on to eBay for the first time, in 2002, and seeing an album you recorded decades before being bid for at astronomical prices – increasing by the second – and finally selling for US$600. And then being told by the buyer and the seller that that was a bargain, as they have previously been selling for US$2,000 each.”
Complex was formed back in 1968 and, amazingly, three of the founder members are still playing the rounds of the local pubs and clubs, performing best-loved tracks by everyone from the Rolling Stones, Bryan Adams and Kaiser Chiefs to The Beatles, Blur and Queen.
Steve Coe found fame with Monsoon, the band which scored a huge hit in 1982 with Ever So Lonely, and although he is featured on the interview track on the anniversary reissue of the Complex album, his place in the gigging line up now goes to Dave Scott, well-known from the Dell Vikings “all those years ago”.
l For more information, links, and plenty of photographs, go to Complex’s webpage at www.complexband1970-71.co.uk and you can also get a taste of the old band of 40 years ago in sight and sound thanks to a memorabilia collage, set to the song Witch’s Spell at http://youtu.be/2FRnazw3nzY