One of the most talented and prolific bands on cult Manchester label Object Music, precocious avant-pop group Grow-Up released a pair of great lost albums, drawing comparisons with XTC, Captain Beefheart and even Weimar cabaret, but ultimately sounding like no-one else.
In 1978, aged just seventeen, John Bisset-Smith was a student at Rochdale Art College, and an early member of the Manchester Musician's Collective. At about the same time Bisset-Smith was invited to audition for Spherical Objects, a new band being put together by songwriter and Electric Circus deejay Steve Solamar. Bisset-Smith remained with Spherical Objects for two years, recording the albums 'Past & Parcel' and 'Elliptical Optimism'. By 1979, however, the precocious guitarist was growing restless.
Grow-Up recorded their debut EP 'Stay Awake' at Graveyard Studio on 17 February 1979. Released in April on 7" as OM 05, the record contained six short songs, four of which -"River", "Stay Awake", "Photo" and "So Long" lasted barely a minute. Grow-Up also featured on the next Object album project, also released in April and drawn from the talent pool of the Manchester Musicians' Collective. Now dominated by groups, gigs were organised on a rota basis at the Band on the Wall on Swan Street, and later the Cyprus Tavern.
A short list of better known MMC bands includes Warsaw/Joy Division, Fast Cars, Frantic Elevators, Spherical Objects, The Not Sensibles, Slight Seconds, The Passage, A Certain Ratio, Grow-Up, Crispy Ambulance, Manchester Mekon and Dislocation Dance. A Manchester Collection, curated by Solamar and released on Object as OBJ 003, featured Grow-Up, IQ Zero and Manchester Mekon, as well as Fast Cars, Mediaters, Fireplace, F.T. Index, Slight Seconds, Vibrant Thigh, Property Of... and Picture Chords. Grow-Up contributed two of the best tracks, "You Are The One" and "Night Rally".
In July 1979 Bisset-Smith cut his last album with Spherical Objects, 'Elliptical Optimism', and the first by Grow-Up, 'The Best Thing'. Both were recorded in tandem over five days at Pluto Studio, and produced by the band along with engineer Phil Ault. By turns touching, slapstick, humorous and barbed, the album boasted accomplished harmony, brass and woodwind arrangements, and intriguing lyrics from Bisset-Smith.
Released in October as OBJ 005, 'The Best Thing' was some way ahead of its time, and attracted excellent reviews. The original Spherical Objects parted company in September 1979, after John Bisset-Smith moved to London to study at Ravensbourne art college. However, his place would be taken by Grow-Up guitarist Roger Blackburn, and there was no acrimony.
With Object concentrating on album releases, the very last single on the label came courtesy of Grow-Up. Recorded at Revolution on 10 April 1980, and released in July as OM 12, lead track "Joanne" was described by the band as a 'quality pop song', while the flip featured a sequence of brief musical skits by Roger Blackburn: "Affirmation of Existence", "Reaffirmation of Existence" and "Swept Away", as well as Bisset-Smith's "GGGDADGADADAD". This attempt to enter the Guinness Book of Records went unnoticed by the compilers, and soon afterwards the original line-up went their separate ways.
In February 1981, Steve Solamar decided to abandon his past life and identity to become a woman. Having failed to find a successor to take on Object as a going concern, the label closed down, although Solamar did finance the recording of a second Grow-Up album, 'Without Wings'. The album was recorded at Revolution in Cheadle Hulme (Manchester) in August 1981, with Stuart Pickering engineering. With Bisset-Smith now based in London, the new Grow-Up comprised two fellow students, Tony King (bass) and Harry Van Rooij (drums), along with regular guitarist Roger Blackburn.
Several tracks embrace an overt jazz feel, while overall the sound was more robust than on the Object releases. Although Solomar met the studio costs, manufacture and distribution was left to the band. The result was a disaster, and relatively few copies of the album reached the shops. "Do Choose", one of the two unreleased demo tracks from 1982 which close this double archive set, sets the scene for the end of Grow-Up. Indeed it would be another sixteen years before Bisset-Smith released another record. [SOURCE: LTM RECORDINGS]