Altered Images iTunes Tracks

Altered Images

+ {Clare Grogan}

Like TOYAH before her, suitably kinetic songstress Clare Grogan had tread the boards as a budding actress before she launched her singing career. A couple of months prior to the filming of her inaugural acting role (alongside fellow greenhorns John Gordon Sinclair and Dee Hepburn) in Gregory’s Girl (1981), Clare was left permanently scarred on her left cheek when dispersing from a pub brawl in the Pollok Inn. Despite her facial wound, Scots director Bill Forsyth kept faith with his former waitress protégé from Glasgow’s Youth Theatre, and cast her as Susan.
Meanwhile, ALTERED IMAGES had formed in 1979; lyricist Clare – or Claire, as she was born – leading out Glasgow lads, Johnny McElhone (bass/main composer); Tony McDaid (guitar), Gerard “Caesar” McNulty (guitar) and Michael “Tich” Anderson (drums). Their moniker was inspired by the sleeve design formats used on singles by the BUZZCOCKS (`Promises’ for example’).
By mid 1980, the ‘Images secured a support slot with SIOUXSIE AND THE BANSHEES, and following a promising John Peel session, they were duly signed up to Epic Records. Following minor chart success in early ‘81 with cult classic, `Dead Pop Stars’ (produced by Steve Severin and delivered a few months after the untimely death of JOHN LENNON), Caesar was posted absent, his berth taken by Jim McKinven around the release date of the quirky quintet’s second single, `A Day’s Wait’.
It was a case of third time lucky, however, and the celebrations began in earnest with the release of `Happy Birthday’, a Martin Rushent-produced ditty which narrowly missed the top of the charts and came to define the band’s kaleidoscopic pop sound. Bouncing about like a demented rag doll, Grogan made for a compelling stage presence, her little-girl-on-helium vocals among the most distinctive in the new wave pack. The Severin-produced HAPPY BIRTHDAY (1981) {*8} album spawned no further hits, but did include previous chart liaisons, plus some wee gems such as `Insects’, `Real Toys’, `Idols’ and `Leave Me Alone’.
Following hot on its heels, `I Could Be Happy’ and `See Those Eyes’, hovered around the Top 10, although the band’s popularity began to dip slightly after the release of a pop-fuelled parent second album, PINKY BLUE (1982) {*7}. Having exclusively covered T. REX’s `Jeepster’ for a B-side, Clare and her boys chose to highlight the nuances of NEIL DIAMOND’s `Song Sung Blue’; the title track only scraped into the Top 40.
Anderson and McKinven subsequently departed (the latter would later reappear with ambient popsters ONE DOVE), while RESTRICTED CODE’s Stephen Lironi was brought in as a replacement. A change in direction – or at least in an altered image – resulted in another Top 10 hit with BLONDIE/disco-esque `Don’t Talk To Me About Love’, one of three other chart entries (`Bring Me Closer’ and `Love To Stay’) lifted from the accompanying album, BITE (1983) {*6}. The voice of Bart Simpson was probably born here.
GROGAN began increasingly concentrating her full-time efforts on her acting career, reviving it notably in another Bill Forsyth movie, Comfort And Joy, plus later TV parts in Blott On The Landscape and Red Dwarf; the band ground to a halt in 1984. While Lironi went on to form Flesh, McElhone re-emerged initially with HIPSWAY, then TEXAS.
Music wise, GROGAN released a lone 7″ single, `Love Bomb’ (augmented by FIRE ENGINES’ Davey Henderson), in the mid-80s; later teaming up with future hubby Lironi once more to form Universal Love School. Celeb Clare’s cheeky grin was subsequently witnessed on cable music channel, VH1, for whom she worked as a presenter. Although she rarely finds the time to sing, her acting prowess have heralded appearances on an episodes of Father Ted, Eastenders and most recently, Waterloo Road. ALTERED IMAGES subsequently signed up to the “Here And Now Tour”, while of late she presented Scotland’s Greatest Album fiasco for STV.
© MC Strong 1994-2003/GRD / rev-up MCS Jun2013

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