When it comes to music, Sheffield has always had a knack for producing weird, unconventional acts out of nowhere. The late 60s and early 70s produced several big names and musical hits from the Steel City. Joe Cocker’s performance of The Beatles’ “With A Little Help From My Friends” at Woodstock in 1969 turned him into an international star overnight and in 1974 local band Ace had a hit single on the charts with “How Long?”.
To get success back then you had to hone your craft. Joe Cocker had been singing since 1963 under the name Vance Arnold with a group called The Avengers. Ace’s members had all been in bands before including Mighty Baby, Bees Make Honey and Warm Dust.
By 1977 this had all changed. Joe Cocker had moved to America as he had far more success there than in the UK and Ace released their third and final album “No Strings” and broke up later that year. Rock and Folk no longer dominated the charts as they once had and big names that would have easily found success a few years ago, now struggled. The rise of Punk however brought about new bands who decided to play music just because they could. Add to this, the fact that electronic synths were cheaper than ever and you had a mix that gave way to a revitalised scene in Sheffield.
All of a sudden bands were springing up from nowhere. Vice Versa, Clock DVA, The Future (later The Human League) Cabaret Voltaire and The Comsat Angels all formed in this period. However the biggest of all of them and the one most destined for success, found themselves reduced to a mere footnote due to nothing more than tragic circumstance.
Robin Markin’s involvement in the Sheffield music scene goes back a long way. Whilst in University around October 1976, Robin ‘happened upon a random group of UoS students, who had a one week residency at the Broadfield pub on Abbeydale Road’ Robin talked to the singer, gave him his phone number and “six months later he phoned me and it grew from there”.
Influenced by Lou Reed, Leonard Cohen, David Bowie and Roxy Music, Robin joined the band, now called The Extras in April 1977. In Mid 1977 there wasn’t that many bands in Sheffield and there was no local scene to speak of (that was still roughly a year away) but the band used this to their advantage “Despite the fact we had no ambitions or expectations, there was also a sense that anything was possible”.
The Extras quickly became one of the biggest bands in the city, being touted as the ‘next big thing to come from Sheffield’. By mid 1977 the band were doing studio recordings payed for by Phonogram Records. The band moved to London in 1978 in the hopes of signing a record deal. However the record deal went sour and the band never got the contract and were sent back to Sheffield, eventually breaking up in 1980.
When asked if there were any bands that he would class as being significantly from the late 70s in Sheffield Robin answered “Cabaret Voltaire definitely, they typified Sheffield’s non-mainstream approach and style which was less formulaic”.
Formed in 1973 by Stephen Mallinder, Richard H Kirk, and Chris Watson, it could be argued that Cabaret Voltaire started Sheffield’s obsession with electronic music. Early recordings from 1974 were more experimental and involved tape machines and homebuilt synthesisers. They switched to a more dance oriented sound in 1982 and reached their commercial peak with songs such as ‘Yashar’, ‘Sensoria’, ‘Just Fascination’ and ‘I Want You’.
First bit about Joe Cocker, Ace late 60s early 70s rock music, big names
segue into late 70s all change, punk, electronic, DIY
The extras, interview with Robin mention Cabaret Voltaire
Paragraph about Cabaret Voltaire
Local bands relied on local companies like record collector to distribute their music
Questions to follow up on
What happened after The Extras broke up?