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Menswear

If OASIS, BLUR, PULP and SUPERGRASS were the cream of the Britpop crop, and GENE, SHED SEVEN and CAST were the cat’s whiskers, then ill-fitting mods MENSWEAR – or, indeed, MENSWE@R – were certainly its powdered-milk substitute. Learning next to little from ELASTICA’s costly brushes with the laws of plagiarism on both `Line Up’ and `Connection’, pinup singer Johnny Dean and Co would also allegedly raid the punk-beat wardrobes of WIRE for Top 20 hit `Daydreamer’ (via a likely perm of `Three Girl Rhumba’, `I Feel Mysterious Today’ and `French Film Blurred’). Still, it was no crime to sound nearly like a song, or most bands would be up in front of a High Court judge every other day, but it was no coincidence that guitarist Chris Gentry was the then-boyfriend of ELASTICA’s Donna Matthews.
Founded in October ’94 in Camden, London, Dean and Gentry had already espoused the virtues of a mod band not yet in existence (the unsigned and “unformed” Menswear) to the Select monthly magazine. Their hand forced by the very nature of this white lie, the pair roped in bassist Stuart Black and, in turn, another friend, guitarist Simon White (ex-Cooler Than Jesus), plus roadie/drummer Todd Parmenter, to flesh out the band’s wide-ranging retro sound.
Only five gigs into their mod pilgrimage (Matt Everitt now installed as their drummer), MENSWEAR signed a near-6-figure sum with London Records (through subsidiary Laurel), and a lucrative publishing deal, to cater for several songs already penned by the group. Not particularly fruitful when The JAM-like `I’ll Manage Somehow’ scraped the lower echelons of the Top 50 the following April, initial hype had hindered progress rather than secured it. However, the aforementioned sleeping giant `Daydreamer’ woke up Britpop disciples and started the lads on their road to stardom. Some would say the meeting of BLUR, early BEATLES and The MONKEES, the glam-tastic `Stardust’ and 60s throwback fourth hit, `Sleeping In’, guaranteed near Top 10 album NUISANCE (1995) {*6} its place in rock/pop history; the softer, CHORDS-esque `Being Brave’ chalked up hit number five and their first and last Top 10 entry.
Sadly not a cover of JAGGER & RICHARDS’ celebrated 60s song, the schmaltzy `We Love You’ ended their short liaison with the Top 30, and it was the final outing for a sacked Everitt (off to The MONTROSE AVENUE), who was swapped with the returning Todd. Their closing down sale not quite in motion as yet, there was one final fashion show by way of country-rock sophomore set, HAY TIEMPO! (1998) {*4}, albeit only for Japanese fans. Note that they’d also covered as B-sides: `Public Image’ (PUBLIC IMAGE LTD.) and `This Will Be Our Year’ (The ZOMBIES).
As all members branched off to find their own franchise; Gentry to Vatican DC, Dean and Black to Messiah (until 2000), and White as touring/studio auxiliary for FINLEY QUAYE (among many other acts for all and sundry), Dean was paid homage by ART BRUT who celebrated his name in the track `I Wanna Be Johnny Dean’. In 2009, the singer was diagnosed with persuasive development disorder (a form of autism), and has since staunchly campaigned on behalf of the National Autistic Society; he raised awareness and funds by selling out a gig in June 2013 as the Nuis@nce Band (performing BOWIE tracks). It inspired him and his new band to reconvene as MENSWEAR, recording one song so far for 7-inch release, `Crash ‘14’.
© MC Strong 1996-2003/GRD series // rev-up MCS Aug2016

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