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The Flying Lizards

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Founded: 1979

Headquarters: London, UK

Website Link(s): They Were A Very Different Band

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The Flying Lizards were originally a one-off project by minimalist composer David Cunningham. He'd originally recorded a 7" of a cover of "Summertime Blues" as a joke -- it was stripped down with a prepared piano, homemade percussion and a British woman speaking the lyrics; he submitted it to Virgin records, and they loved it and released it... it actually did pretty well, so they wanted a followup, and he did "Money (That's What I Want)" in a similar style... and that single did even better. So, of course, Virgin wanted an album.

Since David Cunningham was a minimalist composer, not a pop musician, he thought the entire thing was amusing, so he recorded an album. Though, not really what folks'd expect based on the two singles. It opened with a cover of "The Mandelay Song" from The Threepenny Opera.... a frantic, piano driven number with lyrics barked/shrieked in high-pitched German. From there, it mellowed down a bit, and there were more dream-like songs with David doing vocals himself. The next single was "TV", the only other song on the LP to sound like "Summertime Blues" or "Money", though "TV" was an original. The B-side of the record was mostly taken up by a long soundscape similar to Cunningham's other work, and the last track was "The Window", another "pop" song, about a woman afraid of her possibly vampiric/murderous boyfriend, sung in a style of Björk meets Renaldo & The Loaf.

The album did pretty well commerically, at least initally, but considering that the album was basically a prank on the pop-music buying audience -- and probably intended at the time, to be just a one-off, just like the initial single. Of course, based on the sales of the first album, Virgin wanted a follow-up, so he recorded Fourth Wall.

Fourth Wall was a much more mature album -- more straightforward. Still not really a pop album, but a little bit closer than the self-titled album was. It, of course, bombed horribly (despite critical acclaim), as people figured "Fool me once...". A few years later, David Cunningham recorded Top Ten, a collection of ten covers, in a similar style to his initial singles (though done with a different vocalist), but the album did very poorly as well, as it came out too late, and David Cunningham went back to his solo career.

In 1995, though, a "new" Flying Lizards album came out -- The Secret Dub Life of the Flying Lizards, though it wasn't quite a standard Flying Lizards album; in 1979, Virgin approached him about doing a dub album of a reggae record they'd released. He'd agreed, and they sent over the tapes. One problem: They were mixed-down mono masters -- basically useless for anyone wanting to make a dub record from them. Since he had an agreement, he worked on it, developing all sorts of new techniques to actually make the dub record from these unusable tapes. When he turned it in, Virgin decided not to release it, as interest had gone cold on the project, so he put it out 15 years later on his own label. - Rev. Syung Myung Me

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