Where: 57 Park Avenue
Vital Records was formed in 1980 by Nik Townend (after the Akrylykz split) and Nick Stewart, a former art student.
VTL 001 & VTL 002
The label’s first release was an EP with Townend’s “Gunslinger” on one side and two tracks, “Messerschmidt” and “Too Many Faces”, by Stewart’s band, Liberace Coughs Up Blood, on the other. Townend’s “Gunslinger” was a track he’d written for the Akrylykz, which, although they recorded a ska version, hadn’t been released. Not wanting a good song to go to waste, Townend produced it again at a slow reggae tempo rather than up-beat ska, recording all the instruments and vocals himself. The Akrylykz livelier version was arguably better. All three tracks were recorded at Revolvo Studios and engineered by Darryl Johnston. The record carried two catalogue numbers (one for each side) – VTL 001 and VTL 002.
Nik Townend started working with Mark Douglas, a Jamaican-born poet, singer and bass player studying at Hull University. Consequently the next Vital Records release was a 12” single of a session recorded at Adda Studios with the first iteration of this Townend/Douglas band. However, they had not yet settled on a name for the project so the record was released under the controversial name of Militant Red. Side one was a song written by Douglas called “And Then a Voice…” and side two was a jazz-reggae instrumental titled “Kick It Up” written by Townend, this second track featured tenor sax by Steve Pears from the Akrylykz and toasting by Andrew Gad.
Around this time Kari Brown of Brazen Promotions (and the band Cool to Snog) approached Vital to release the now-legendary Hull compilation album Mrs. Wilson’s Children (VTL AO1). The album was originally due to be released by another label and Kari had already done all the groundwork of pulling together the master tapes and the artwork; once alternative funding was in place (thanks to Paul Trynka of Nyam Nyam) it was all cued up and ready to roll. Nik Townend was already involved in the project, having produced three of the 12 tracks, so it was a natural fit for Vital to step in when the previous label walked away.
After the release of Mrs. Wilson’s Children, Vital released a double A side single for Paul Trynka’s Nyam Nyam. The tracks on this record were “When We Can’t Make Laughter Stay” and “Knowledge (Chapter II)”, both recorded at Fairview Studios.
Other Vital Records Related Stuff
Another record Vital were involved with was actually released on the Surfing Sounds label because it was funded and managed by a third party; however it was produced by Nik Townend and feature Nick Stewart’s new band. This record was a surf-punk EP for Stewart’s band Mountbatten’s Bits and Pieces, a name which with a sly nod and a wink to the thought police, was toned down to The Mountbattens, and the EP was titled Bits And Pieces. The drummer for The Mountbattens was Chris French, who famously did a stretch in borstal for grave robbing; he wanted a skull so he dug one up and kept it on his window sill. The Mountbatten’s Bits and Pieces EP was a 10” 45rpm record containing six cover versions and was also released as a two track 7″.
Post-Vital, Nik Townend went on to form multicultural reggae band Bushfire – more info on them coming to Hull Music Archive very soon…
(Nehama Abrahami / Hull Music Archive)
Various Artists – Mrs Wilson’s Children (LP) – VTL AO1, 1981
Singles / EPs
Liberace Coughs Up Blood / Nik Townend (split 7″) – VTL 001 / VTL 002, 1981
Militant Red – And Then A Voice… (12″) – VTL 1203, 1981
Nyam Nyam – When We Can’t Make Laughter Stay (7″) – VTL 004, 1981
Various Artists – Mrs Wilson’s Children [extracts] (7″ flexi) – VTL AL1