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One of England's more subtly original goth rock groups, Red Lorry Yellow Lorry were initially branded as worshipful Joy Division acolytes, but came up with enough distinct variations to break free of their main influence. Their foundation always remained icy, droning post-punk, replete with sludgy, murky guitars and mumbled Ian Curtis-style vocals. However, as the Lorries evolved, they gradually sprinkled in elements of industrial dance, early rave music, and spaghetti Western soundtracks, as well as liberal doses of inventive, acid-tinged guitar work. Taking their name from a British tongue twister, Red Lorry Yellow Lorry was formed in Leeds in late 1981 by guitarist/songwriter Chris Reed and vocalist Mark Sweeney. Reed and Sweeney had previously performed in the local bands Radio Id and Knife Edge, respectively, and added a rhythm section of bassist Steve Smith and drummer Mick Brown. Sweeney left within a year, however, and Reed took over lead vocal duties, with Martin Fagan coming onboard as a second guitarist.
Later in 1982, Red Lorry Yellow Lorry signed with the independent Red Rhino label and issued their debut single, "Beating My Head." Although it was a hit on the British indie charts, Fagan subsequently left the band and was replaced by Dave "Wolfie" Wolfenden, who became Reed's frequent songwriting partner; bassist Smith also departed in favor of Paul Southern. The band's second single, "Take It All," appeared in 1983, as did the third, "He's Read"; both helped solidify the Lorries' popularity on the indie listings. After another single, 1984's "Monkeys on Juice," the band finally got around to recording its debut album; Talk About the Weather was released in early 1985, and was a hit on the indie charts thanks to the single "Hollow Eyes." It was followed by two non-LP singles, "Chance" and "Spinning Round."
In 1986, Reed and Wolfenden regrouped with a new rhythm section of bassist Leon Phillips and drummer Chris Oldroyd. They were in place for the Lorries' second LP, Paint Your Wagon, which drew on imagery of the old American West and featured another indie hit in "Walking on Your Hands." Following one more non-LP single that year, "Cut Down," the band temporarily adopted its longtime nickname of the Lorries, and issued one single, 1987's "Crawling Mantra," under that moniker before reverting back to the original form. Later in 1987, Red Lorry Yellow Lorry signed a major-label deal with Situation Two, a subsidiary of RCA affiliate Beggars Banquet. They debuted in 1988 with the LP Nothing Wrong, which spun off the single "Only Dreaming (Wide Awake)."
On their second major-label album, 1989's Blow, the Lorries flirted with the sound and visual style of England's emerging rave culture, resulting in their clearest, most spacious production to date. There was more turnover in the rhythm section; drummer Oldroyd was replaced by Mark Chillington prior to the recording of the album, and bassist Phillips departed before the supporting tour, with his spot permanently filled by Gary Weight. Chillington, in turn, left during the tour, and George Schulz came onboard in his stead. The Lorries subsequently parted ways with Beggars Banquet and released their fifth LP, Blasting Off -- with several songwriting contributions from Weight -- in 1991, on the small Sparkhead label. The album didn't appear in the U.S. for another three years, until Relapse finally picked it up. By that time, faced with diminishing returns, Red Lorry Yellow Lorry had disbanded. Several CD retrospectives of the group's work have since been released.
Red Lorry Yellow Lorry -- also known very briefly as the Lorries -- are a rock band that were formed in Leeds, England in early 1981.
The band was formed by guitarist/songwriter Chris Reed and vocalist Mark Sweeney, along with bassist Steve Smith and drummer Mick Brown (who would later join The Mission). Sweeney left the band in late 1981 and Reed permanently took over as vocalist, with Martin Fagan joining as a second guitarist. The group's sound, featuring a numbing guitar drone, powerfully throbbing bass, pounding drum machine, and Reed's cavernous vocal tones, caused the Lorries (as their fans came to call them) to be quickly lumped into the then-developing gothic rock scene by pop journalists, although the band themselves preferred to cite Wire as an influence.
In 1982, the Lorries' manager Dave Hall provided independent record label Red Rhino with a cassette of the group's demos. Impressed by the quality of the songs, Red Rhino label head "Tony K" (Tony Kostrzewa) signed the band and immediately released "Beating My Head" unchanged from the demo as the band's debut single. The song made a strong appearance on the influential NME independent record chart. Fagan and Smith soon departed the band, to be replaced by Dave Wolfenden and Paul Southern respectively. While numerous additional personnel changes would occur in the history of the band, Wolfenden became a mainstay and a frequent songwriting partner of Reed's during the band's most productive period. In 1983 and 1984, the band released several more singles (including "He's Read" and "Monkeys On Juice", which reached No. 9 on the NME indie chart). John Peel was an early supporter, and the band recorded two radio sessions for him in March and November 1983.
In 1985, the band's debut album, Talk about the Weather, was released and peaked at No. 3 on the NME indie rock albums chart. The album, which most fans consider to be the band's best, received generally positive reviews and sold extremely well for a small label offering. "Hollow Eyes", a single taken from the album, obtained good sales as well, as did follow-up non-LP singles "Chance" and "Spinning Round", the latter of which is generally felt to be the Lorries's strongest song.
The band released one more album on Red Rhino (Paint Your Wagon, which reached No. 3 on the NME indie chart) in 1986, a single (“Cut Down”) and a four track EP (“Crawling Mantra”, utilizing the one-time band name change to "The Lorries"), before signing to Situation Two, an off-shoot of Beggars Banquet Records. Two albums followed, 1988's Nothing Wrong and 1989's Blow. Neither of the Beggars Banquet albums appeared on any mainstream pop charts. Singles, including “Only Dreaming (Wide Awake)” and “Open Up” (which upon its release was chosen as NME’s Single of the Week), also failed to chart, and the band was subsequently dropped by the label. In 1991, the band released a further single, "Talking Back", and then the Blasting Off album on the tiny Sparkhead label, after which Reed broke up what was left of the band.
In 2003, Reed revived the name Red Lorry Yellow Lorry and released four new songs in 2004, available via internet download only on the band’s website. The band toured frequently in the UK during 2004 and 2005, but no additional Red Lorry Yellow Lorry material has subsequently appeared to date. In 2005, the band released Thunder in the Black Cave, a live DVD recorded in Belgium during their 2004 European tour. In 2006, Reed released an acoustic-based album, Minimal Animal, under the name "Chris Reed Unit".