Pigbag was a good example of the restlessness of the late-'70s/early-'80s post-punks. Rather than conform to a defined sound, the group blended elements of funk and jazz into their "anything goes" attitude. The group formed in 1980 by Chris Hamlyn (clarinet, percussion), Roger Freeman (percussion, trombone), Chris Lee (trumpet), and James Johnstone (saxophone, guitar). For the first months after their formation, the group did little more than jam together. They opted to add more of a rock element by gaining a regular drummer, Chip Carpenter, and a bassist, Mark Smith -- the new members had played with Johnstone previously in Hardware. Former Pop Group bassist Simon Underwood also signed on, bringing sax player Ollie Moore along for the ride.
Thanks to a successful support gig with the Slits, Pigbag found themselves signed with Y Records. A trio of singles and a pair of BBC sessions predated their debut LP, 1982's Dr. Heckle and Mr. Jive. (Hamlyn departed after the first single and Freeman was out by the end of 1982; Brian Nevill and Oscar Verden were eventually added to the lineup.) The album failed to receive the warm reception and brisk sales of the earlier singles, so the group re-released their debut single from a couple years prior -- somewhat surprisingly, "Papa's Got a Brand New Pigbag" did even better its second time around, reaching the Top Five of the mainstream chart.
Ex-Drowning Craze singer Angela Jaeger introduced vocals to the group, joining after another single release in 1983. (She also married Underwood by year's end.) However, Pigbag opted to break up after a final single and the failure of their sophomore LP, Lend an Ear. Johnstone, Underwood, and Jaeger continued as Instinct. Moore played with Float up CP, and Freeman later took part in Doctor Calculus with Stephen Duffy. ~ Andy Kellman