Bitches Sin from Cumbria, formed in the early months of 1980, is one of the more well-known acts of the legendary N.W.O.B.H.M. movement. After a well-received debut 7" single for Neat Records in 1981 (entitled "Always Ready") they switched to Paul Birch's Heavy Metal Records label and released the rather disappointing "Predator" longplayer one year later. A further 12" EP called "No More Chances" (Q.T. Records) appeared in 1983, followed by their second and last album "Invaders" in 1988 (published in the US by King Classic and G.I. Records in the UK). By the end of the '80's Bitches Sin was already history. However, brothers Ian and Pete Toomey went on to form Flashpoint, the indirect follow-up to Bitches Sin, albeit musically a lot more melodic.
For a start, however, let's go back to the year 1980. The demo "Twelve Pounds And No Kinks" marked Bitches Sin's first ever visit to a recording studio of any type. The seven tracks of this cassette make up the lion's share of "The First Temptation" (released as a strictly limited vinyl edition on High Roller Records). Guitarist and Bitches Sin founder Ian Toomey thinks back: "This was all the songs that we had at the time because the band had only been together a few weeks but we were prolific writers and it wasn't long before we had an album's worth of our own songs. It was not an ‚official' release but copies were made available to fanzines and fans who wanted a copy. We would run off a few copies at a time and mail them out, only charging for postage and packaging. We did not produce a large number of copies." The title "Twelve Pounds And No Kinks" sounds, well, mysterious to say the least ... Ian explains: "Pete had seen an advert from a young lady offering her services for £12 only but just for a straight session. It was in keeping with the mood of the times and it complemented the band's name so we decided to use it for the demo."
The last four songs on "The First Temptation" are taken form a BBC session, that Ian remembers vividly: "It was extremely hot in the studio but a great experience, and my abiding memories are of a control room that seemed to stretch into infinity and Pete and I stripped to waist blasting out our solos while more and more people came into the control room to watch us play. It was a fantastic session!" The producer of the session was Tony Wilson: "He is an absolute gentleman and a great producer. I still see him occasionally today." This is how the session came about in the first place: "I rang the BBC who put me through to the 'Friday Rock Show' office and I asked for a meeting with Tony Wilson, their in-house producer for all the 'Friday Rock Show' sessions, who after a few days got back to me and said yes ... Actually, getting a meeting with Tony just like that was quite a big deal - he could easily have told me to go away. So I travelled to London, to BBC Broadcasting House, and had a short meeting with Tony. I can tell you I was very apprehensive but he was really good and told me he would listen to our music and get back to me, which he did a few days later. It's worth remembering at this point that all the 'Friday Rock Show' sessions were recorded in a day because that was the rules, and this was the premier radio show for hard rock/heavy metal in the country, if not Europe! Our session was broadcast over the airwaves twice within a few weeks and Tommy Vance said it was the fastest repeat they had ever known!" And best of all, Bitches Sin even got paid: "
Yes, we got paid the agreed rate which is the same for any musician playing at the BBC, but I can't remember how much it was."
Some of the songs present in demo form on "The First Temptation" have later surfaced on official vinyls. According to Ian Toomey, are there any songs which lost some of their original charm when they were re-recorded them for an album? Ian shapes his words very carefully: "Because of the circumstances surrounding your first ever visit to a recording studio, with a band like Bitches Sin, it will always remain a special memory. There is a certain raw charm which is present in the demo form of some songs that official releases don't always retain. They can't. That said, it was a point in time and I would always go for the official release ahead of the demo. Some of the guys might see it differently which is cool ..."
The rumor still exists that the "Always Ready (For Love)" single came out on yellow vinyl. Ian Toomey himself is pretty sure that this is just a myth: "This story has perpetuated since the early '80's with one or two fans saying that they had seen copies ... We have had requests directly to the band too on this subject but I have been unable to source a copy. You would have to contact Neat Records, their pressing plant and/or distributors for better information. I seem to remember that it was a European release although it could be my memory playing tricks I guess."
Another myth somehow found its way into the legenday "N.W.O.B.H.M. Encyclopedia", namely that Bitches Sin's "best-attended gigs were actaully in Holland" to which Ian Toomey answers: "We have yet to play Holland but hope to put this right in 2010." The guitarist continues on the topic of the band's most memorable gigs: "I think that you might say that they were all memorable for different reasons and because there are only a few by comparison to some bands. Probably Newcastle Mayfair and the village halls we used to play that we organised and promoted ourselves. Coming up to date, we took London by storm in April 2009 at the 'British Steel' festival and received some rave reviews for our performance." So, after all, it is true what fans said about Bitches Sin, a live appearance by the band was a rarity. Even back in the '80's: "It would be difficult to give you a definite figure but certainly there was not a lot of gigs played. That said, we were fortunate that the gigs we did play made such an impact that the interest in the band accelerated our reputation and contributed to the legendary status that has been given to us by many fans and commentators on the genre."
Wisely spoken, the vinyl release of "The First Temptation" will almost certainly boost Bitches Sin's status even further. Maybe whetting the fans' appetite for additional demo collections from the band, as one thing is certain, there is still a lot of undiscovered material in Ian Toomey's vaults: "I have not considered this at all and I am aware that there are various songs on tape that have never been available. Its an interesting thought and maybe when time allows I'll track them all down and look at it more seriously as a project to make them available as a one-off release."
"This excellently-named combo were formed a year ago, culling members from a variety of bands based in the Barrow-in-Furness area. Viz and to wit: Alan Cockburn (vocals), Ian and Pete Toomey (guitars), Pez (bass) and Bill Knowles (drums). A demo tape gained exposure on Picadilly Radio and in January of this year Bitches Sin recorded a single for release on Neat Records, 'Always Ready'. They're also included on the Neat compilation cassette, 'Lead Weight'. Armed And Ready, Kerrang! #1, June 1981
Formed in April 1980 and with a name chosen "One night after we'd been out on the beer," admits Ian Toomey. "There was Page Three kicking off and lots of sleazy stuff happening, and it sounded like a show-stopping name to us," Bitches Sin was the Toomey Brothers quest for some kind of musical ideal. "There seemed to be no band that set out to hit you between the eyes with aggressive, hard, exciting metal music," he recalls; "and if they did then all the songs sounded the same. Pete and I tried to find a band where we liked all their stuff and couldn't, so we decided to form one of our own. And that was Bitches Sin."
With the stable line-up noted by Kerrang! above, Bitches Sin wasted little time in getting into a studio, venturing to Smile Studios in Manchester in August 1980 to record their first demo '£12 And No Kinks'. The seven-track tape came to the attention of Neat Records who offered to issue a single, and the result of this was the band's debut release 'Always Ready (For Love)' c/w 'Sign Of The Times'. A great single in its own right, the seven-incher was soon to be over-shadowed however by two other recordings made at Neat's Impulse Studios - a re-recording of 'Down The Road' from the demo tape (which had been recorded as the same time as the single and which appeared in May 1981 on the aforementioned 'Lead Weight' compilation cassette), and the attention-grabbing 'Strangers On The Shore', for many people the highlight of Heavy Metal Records' 'Heavy Metal Heroes' LP. "Oddly," recalls Ian, "Neat didn't feel that 'Strangers On The Shore' fitted in with the label's sound, which I find quite hilarious really!" With the single doing its thing quite nicely in national and international Heavy Metal charts, Bitches Sin went on to record another demo, 'Your Place Or Mine', after which Ian set his sights on a prestigious session for BBC Radio One's The Friday Rock Show. "After the single came out, I arranged to see The Friday Rock Show's producer Tony Wilson and took with me the two demos and some assorted band stuff. I remember being quite apprehensive about the meeting at the time, but after listening to a few songs he said he'd liked what he 'd heard and would be in touch, and not long after we were invited to the BBC's Maida Vale studios to record a session. However, Pete and I drive ourselves very hard and that pace isn't for everyone," and, as a consequence of such a punishing work ethic, by the time Bitches Sin arrived at Maida Vale on 26th August 1981 the band boasted quite a different line-up with Tony Tomkinson (vocals), Dave Newsham (bass) and Tony Leece (drums) alongside the two guitarists.
The success of the session and their growing profile led to the offer of an album by Heavy Metal Records. "We had some very good European reviews, were voted best new band by Aardschock in Holland, the BBC session went down very well and Paul Birch at Heavy Metal Records wanted us to do an album, which was very much the right thing for us to do, to capitalise on the past, what, 18 months of hard work. It was recorded in April/May 1982, I think, again at Smile Studios in Manchester. It had some good reviews and it had some average reviews." And it also had Howard Johnson's Kerrang! review. In Issue 20 (July 1982) the debut album 'Predator' received the kind of mauling usually handed out to Frank Bruno. In fact, it's not really a review; it's more of a piss-take really, 150 words or so to fill a page. "I can't say the review did us any good, 'cos it wasn't so much a fair review as an out-and-out slagging," Ian was quoted almost a year later in Kerrang! #38. "We had lots of reviews at the time the album came out from fanzines and major magazines, and most of 'em thought it was pretty good. Indeed, we got a four star review in Sounds the week before Howard's thing appeared… So, I think overall Kerrang! was out of step with the majority."
There can be little doubt though that the Kerrang! review did serious damage to the band. Ian's rightly proud of the fact that the band bounced back almost immediately with a new song called 'Ain't Life A Bitch' (intentionally stolen from the final line of the Kerrang! review), which later turned up on Roadrunner's rather tasty '12 Commandments In Metal' compilation LP. "'Ain't Life A Bitch' was one of those songs that just happened, and it scored high acclaim; like 'Strangers On The Shore' before it, when it appeared on the Roadrunner '12 Commandments In Metal' compilation it became one of the focal points of the LP." He's not wrong either: "…Bitches Sin rock out in fine form with 'Ain't Life A Bitch'…," was an observation I made what seems like a lifetime ago when reviewing the '12 Commandments…' LP for Marshall Stack (a 'zine so underground each issue came with its own tube train).
Bitches Sin finally kicked back with a second album 'Invaders', and yet another line-up, this time with Frank Quegan behind the mikestand, Mike Frazer on bass and Bill Knowles back on the drum stool. But 'Invaders' took the best part of two years to write, rehearse and record, and by the time it came out it was 1986 and the Metal scene was very different. "We're not a big hair and spandex band and couldn't - and didn't want to - compete with the stuff that was starting to happen in America. Invaders was an album where I wanted to say, 'OK, follow that!,' and I think we achieved just that; one review called it 'a classic moment in '80s Metal,'" recalls Ian. "But there were a lot of internal and external pressures and they ultimately caused us to call it a day. There were just so many…combine them all together and something has to give and sadly it was the band. A little after that I formed Flashpoint, and Pete joined us just as we went in to record an album. The timing wasn't good for it, but I just wanted to satisfy my own feelings to write a straight rock record - one reviewer talked of a Ted Nugent type sound, not in an unkind way - and 'No Point Of Reference' did exactly that."
What seems surprising though is that neither Ian nor Pete had any real idea of how popular Bitches Sin were, although with the number of visitors to their website and the back catalogue sales arising from this, the truth slowly began to dawn. That said, they credit Toine van Poorten of Holland's Metal Maidens Magazine for giving them what Ian calls "The inspiration and belief to go for it". After originally releasing 'The First Temptation' on CD in 2004, Ian then made available some other older material from both Bitches Sin and Flashpoint days before recording a new self-titled Flashpoint album. During the final mix of the album producer Chris Tsangarides persuaded Ian that Bitches Sin should continue - with Pete Toomey now living in New Zealand Ian was reluctant to reform the band without him - and the result was 2008's highly acclaimed 'UDUVUDU' album which featured, amongst others, Tony Tomkinson back on vocals, Flashpoint drummer Steve Turton and producer Chris Tsangarides himself. With Daniel McNamee now slotted in on bass, the band recently released a single, a cover of 'The Sound Of Silence' b/w 'What Loving Means' and 'Red Skies'.
The album you hold in your hand features Bitches Sin's first demo '£12 And No Kinks' in its entirety together with the BBC Session recorded for The Friday Rock Show in August 1981 and aired a couple of months later (the album cover, incidentally, is another shot of model Sharalee from the same session that produced the sleeve to the 'Always Ready (For Love)' 7"). "'£12 And No Kinks' was recorded on 6th and 7th August 1980 over a period of about ten hours - all seven songs, including setting up and mixing," recalls Ian. "This was the band's first ever visit to a recording studio; money and time were tight and it's all live takes aside from one overdub - the second guitar solo on Ice Angels. All the rest is live in the studio. The title, by the way, came from a contact or call girl ad, and we thought the sleazy title and cassette cover fitted in with our name." Things were no less pressured at the BBC, where like most Friday Rock Show sessions, the four-song set was recorded in one day at the Beeb's Maida Vale studios. On the plus side though, it was produced by in-house genius Tony Wilson, and he certainly brought out the power that drives both Bitches Sin and the band's songs: just check out the difference between the early version of 'Down The Road' and its BBC counterpart (a version which is often viewed as one of those songs - like offerings from Raven and Jaguar - that form the bridge between the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal and the later Speed Metal daze, and which Ian regards as "Probably the fastest we have ever played!"). "The BBC session was all done in one day but we struggled for ages to get the set-up right as Tony Leece had forgotten to tune his drums. He and I had an almighty row, and if you listen to the drum track you'll hear how hard he's hitting those drums - probably instead of hitting me, I suspect!"
This is a slight revision of the original 'The First Temptation' CD booklet notes