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Random Hold

Their connections were many, any of the comparisons they gained -- whether fitting or not -- were almost always favorable, and their supporters were prominent, but Random Hold were unable to use these aspects to their advantage enough to remain a lasting entity. During their short existence, they released an album that seemed to show a band with great promise. Like This Heat, Random Hold probably fit best in the fertile post-punk bin of the late '70s and early '80s, but their lack of ties to punk prevented them from being considered with the more experimental end of the rock spectrum. David Rhodes and David Ferguson decided to start a band after meeting at a 1976 concert by 801, the short-lived pseudo group that featured Phil Manzanera and Brian Eno. One major impairment was Ferguson's lack of musical skills and the fact that his knowledge of the guitar was limited and distant. Nonetheless, the duo practiced together and arranged a series of low-key gigs near the end of 1976. Named Manscheinen to reflect their shared interest in Krautrock, the duo continued to hone their material and eventually enlisted the services of others to fill out the lineup. Ex-Glitter Band drummer Pete Phipps joined up for a short spate, and eventually the core duo reeled in Simon Ainley, who -- oddly enough -- had just spent time playing guitar and singing with Phil Manzanera. And at some point prior, the group was re-named Random Hold. The trio recorded a demo and began playing out again, including an opening slot for Adam & the Ants that didn't go down so well. The crowd didn't take to their lack of a drummer or their non-aggressive sound, so they chased the band off-stage with a flurry of projectile spittle and still-in-the-glass beer. A few days later, the group approached early supporter Bill MacCormick, who had also played bass with Manzanera, as well as Eno. MacCormick joined on as a member and also kicked in with financial support. In need of a drummer, the group took out an ad in Melody Maker and eventually landed Richard Marcangelo long enough to cut another demo, which fell on unimpressed ears of the label and radio sectors. Marcangelo split soon after the demo's recording (he would later drum for Vibraphonic and Cinerama, oddly enough), another ad was placed, and another drummer -- David Leach -- joined on a more permanent basis. Thanks to a large feature in Melody Maker, which profiled a band in a still embryonic form, the labels suddenly perked up and engaged in a frenzied bidding war for the band. One thing that separated Random Hold from a number of bands they were often compared to up to this point -- This Heat, the Pop Group, Cabaret Voltaire, etc. -- was the desire to become popular and sell a lot of records. Polydor had the most to offer the group, and they partnered up with them. The band members proceeded to go on a shopping spree for equipment and all sorts of assorted trinkets to the point where it became difficult to fit everything on-stage. Still, prior to the recording of the band's first record, they caught the attention of Peter Gabriel, who had the band over to his place to play along with him. Gabriel expressed interest in producing the debut, but his hectic schedule prevented him from doing so. For health reasons, Leach was asked to leave the group and was replaced by former member Pete Phipps. Ainley was sacked around the same time, and Rhodes and MacCormick took over the vocal duties. Although the timing was odd, both changes had nothing to do with the label's involvement. The band went about recording their first album with Peter Hammill (Van Der Graaf Generator), and they wound up with two LPs' worth of material. Polydor released a single for "Etceteraville" that failed to do well. The band embarked on a 13-date tour with XTC, and the five-song Avalanche EP appeared on the racks around this time, accompanied by another slew of lukewarm reviews. A couple months after the tour with XTC, the band headed out with the extremely supportive Gabriel as the opening act on his U.K. tour. The tour coincided with the release of The View From Here, a full-length record culled from the sessions with Hammill. The reviews were more positive than not, but this proved to be of little help -- Polydor dropped the band shortly after they returned from the tour. Undaunted, the band started working on new material that they had been developing live. Meanwhile, management secured a distribution deal for the band in the States. During late spring, Random Hold set off on a tour of North America with Gabriel again in the headlining spot. During the tour, Passport, Random Hold's new U.S. distributor, offered to fund a tour of U.S. clubs that would take place after the Gabriel tour. The band eventually declined and returned home, planning to return to the States before the end of the year. Upon the return, MacCormick was given a verbal pink slip. Upset by the investment he had made in the group -- both physically and financially speaking -- MacCormick demanded that he have a large sum of money that was owed him returned to the source. The check all but emptied the band's bank account, effectively hamstringing them. Rhodes split the scene to play with Peter Gabriel and the remainder of the band decided to quit. Ferguson, however, attempted to form another version of Random Hold to little avail; with a new lineup, Random Hold appeared again in 1982 with Burn the Buildings on RCA. Not surprisingly, the record made less impact than The View from Here, and Ferguson went off to involvement with the short-lived Nine Ways to Win and a career in film music. Several years later, a pair of retrospective releases were issued on CD: a bolstered version of The View from Here expanded the album to two discs, and Over View offered more in the way of archival material. ~ Andy Kellman, Rovi
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