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Coming Down Fast with Getting The Fear

Getting The Fear ZigZag cover I never saw Getting The Fear, I was too young. I did however catch them on the Oxford Road Show where they were interviewed and performed 'Yurune', a song about teenage Berlin junkie, prostitute and Bowie fanatic Christiane F., where Bee stripped off his top to reveal his pierced nipples and navel to a BBC2 teatime audience. For a short time at least Getting The Fear were everywhere. "85 is going to be a good year; the year for Getting The Fear" Aky optimistically stated to Janice Long. He wasn't far wrong. In 1984 they were everywhere. Tom Vague sent dispatches in his essential Vague fanzine, cult zines like Artificial Life and The Day of the Ray Gun Cometh! featured interviews, while ZigZag the monthly alternative music magazine made them cover stars. By the end of their brief tenure, which only lasted around 2 years, they recorded two BBC Radio sessions, one for David "Kid" Jensen and another for Janice Long. So what happened and why has it taken over 30 years for anything aside from 'Last Salute', a danceable twin bass assault smothered in synth-riffing released on the major label RCA to emanate from Getting The Fear?

Enter a steel ring
Getting The Fear were formed from the remnants of the Southern Death Cult, after Ian Astbury left to form Death Cult with ex-Theatre of Hate guitarist Billy Duffy before truncating the name even further to The Cult. While Astbury and Duffy went onto achieve rock fame, of sorts, the three remaining members Aky, Barry and Buzz searched for a new singer before Mark Manning aka Zodiac Mindwarp suggested Bee audition. He did and after being offered the position he hesitated. His reticence should have acted as a warning sign. The former Southern Death Cult members were clear they didn't want an Ian Astbury clone, and Bee who wasn't really aware of the Southern Death Cult, it seemed, fitted the bill perfectly. As Buzz told Zig Zag, "we just wanted someone who stood out from the rest. Somebody who was a bit special." And that was Bee. Bee wasn't from Bradford but he was another northern boy, born in Barnsley; an original member of goth-electronic outift Danse Society before he upped sticks for London and later a spell in Japan where he received a modicum of success as part of the glam new romantic group Panache, a group involving Paddy Phield an ex-member of Raped and The Cuddly Toys. It was an experience that would inform his later attitude to success, record labels and the music business. And before he joined Getting The Fear there were recording sessions with Bill Nelson, Blancmange and a projected project with Marco Pirroni.

Coming down fast
Replacing the Native American fixations of Ian Astbury in the Southern Death Cult, Bee brought to Getting The Fear a unique philosophy informed by the fashions of the Blitz Kids, the fetishism of the Skin Two club where he worked the door, with the occult and sexual aspects of Thee Temple of Psychick Youth. Launched by some of Bee's friends in Psychic TV, some of whom would go on to form Current 93 and Coil, TOPY was instrumental in raising the profile of the then underground piercing scene, which centred around tattoo artist and esteemed body piercer Mr Sebastian. Bee's influences were, as he told Janice Long on the Oxford Road Show, Patti Smith lyrically and Throbbing Gristle musically. But it was the so-called cult-leader Charles Manson who according to public opinion ordered his loyal band of assassins to kill that figured heavily on Getting The Fear. The group's name was lifted from a Manson tactic employed to instil fear and paranoia by creepy crawling into homes and rearranging the furniture. It wasn't the murders that interested him, Bee had to constantly tell interviewers, explaining that it was "the way that they thought. The ideas of control and manipulation that were about," that were the prime motivation behind the Manson inspired lyrics of Getting The Fear. But the t-shirts often featured images of the "hippie cult leader" and the group would perform under the watchful gaze of Manson, his piercing eyes glaring from the group's backdrop.

Getting The Fear Last Salute cover Even the front cover of 'Last Salute', Getting The Fear's sole vinyl recording, featured a close-up detail of Manson's waistcoat embroidered by the adoring and faithful female members of the Manson group. Lyrics to the wonderful 'Dune Buggy Attack' were culled from the testimony of Manson murderess Susan Atkins on a track anchored around chiming bass tones and thunderous drums swathed in melodic clarinet performed by Buzz. The energetically rousing 'Coming Down Fast' aka 'Getting The Fear' had its title swiped from the blood scrawled message daubed on the refrigerator of the La Bianca's after they were bludgeoned to death in the second night of what became known as the Manson Murders.

It's the same game we play and we struggle
It wasn't all Manson though. The songs Bee brought to Getting The Fear dealt with emotions, dreams, childhood innocence, youth and sex. And more sex. Interviewed in Vague's Psychic Terrorism issue, Psychic TV's Genesis P. Orridge incisively noted "out of all of his songs basically 50% are about sex and the other ones are about dubious moral characters. It is fuck music." Genesis wasn't wrong. A strong sense of sexual frisson permeated the sensual working of 'Rise' - one of the sexiest records ever - which married initiation with body piercing to a pulverising tension filled beat, while 'We Struggle', a constant favourite - which made wonderful risqué t-shirt imagery - soon became the go-to track Getting The Fear track as the b-side of 'Last Salute'. "Three into one will go, three into one we go, it's the same game we play with steel," sensually describing the erotic entwinement of bodies in vivid lyrics, over a quiet shimmer of guitar notes, subtle bass tones and wafting clarinet. Bee's lyrics often drew on personal sexual experience and long before body piercing became de rigueur amongst fashionistas Bee featured in soft porn mag Forum displaying his ampallang piercing, while sensational tabloid weekly Sunday Sport ran an article on how he drove girls wild "with the bolt in his plonker!". On Bee, Genesis P-Orridge continued, "his sexuality and his ideas on sexuality, I mean even before he was in Getting The Fear, were totally parallel with ours. He's taken those ideas to Getting The Fear rather than (the) reverse. But obviously the reason they accepted him into the group and developed it within was because it made sense to them. Which is why they are all getting pierced, apart from Aky!" In ZigZag, Tom Vague countered Genesis' viewpoint claiming the others weren't altogether convinced by the philosophy of TOPY.

Feel that I can be somebody
Barry believed the Southern Death Cult had progressed too quickly and wasn't ready for the instant success the group received, telling Janice Long on the Oxford Road Show: "We didn't have time to write new songs and things, we were always out doing gigs. And in two and a half years we'd hadn't really written more than 13 songs". Aky meanwhile cited a lack of direction: "nobody had a good idea on where the band was going." To Tom Vague in ZigZag he continued: "we just played that music and we didn't think beyond it." Getting The Fear hoped to be free of musical restrictions. In an early interview conducted by Current 93's Tibet for Sounds, Bee claimed that "as a band we're not afraid to do songs that are really obscure, or songs that are very simple." The group were well aware of the pitfalls of signing to a major label. Aky elaborated on their signing to RCA telling ZigZag: "a lot of people said we were all washed up and we'd sold out, but we've set ourselves a much harder challenge than anyone signing to an independent label. We're gonna go through all that crap that a big record company gives you. But we are four strong people...a hit single isn't going to change our personalities." Even though the group featured four strong good looking individuals their label wanted dance music and commercial appeal and attempted to create an identity that differed markedly to the band, even though they themselves were unclear what that was. Yet amidst all these competing voices at points you could still detect the sound of Southern Death Cult in Getting The Fear, just listen to 'Against The Wind' and parts of 'Swell' where to the rhythm section of Barry's solid and subtle basslines and Aky's dynamic rhythms Buzz lays down those chrystal clear chords and ringing guitar notes that propelled Southern Death Cult. 'Sometimes', of course, chimed from notes first featured on 'The Patriot', while passages of 'Flowers in the Forest' grew into similar basslines to 'Getting The Fear'.

Pulling me up, pulling me away
The formation of Getting The Fear allowed the group to experiment musically, swapping instruments and even allowing Buzz to display his musical prowess on the clarinet. Both 'Last Salute' and 'Before I Hang' throbbed to a twin bass assault, the latter's dance tendencies augmented with a fanfare of spirited trumpets, while the single 'Last Salute', inspired by Peter Pan author J.M. Barrie and his Lost Boys, was smeared in synths resulting in a synth-pop cum post-punk rendering which in some ways may have confused listeners. Pop magazine Smash Hits considered it "an excellent record" with "a touch of ghostliness about it". Promotional photographs highlighted the band's good looks and you can almost see why they were considered evil Duranies. That description wasn't too far wrong, as years later Hein Hoven, the American producer behind Getting The Fear's sole single went onto form a label with Duran Duran's John Taylor. 'Last Salute' their only official release was given such a high-sheen and polished production by Hein Hoven, it failed to capture the inventive, powerful and energetic sound of Getting The Fear live. It was a sound that comprised Buzz's chiming guitar patterns and punk funk chords, Barry's booming, loping basslines, Aky's pounding inventive intoxicating rhythms and the sensual voice which emanated from the beautiful waiflike Bee. Bee's voice was deceptive sometimes soft and quiet, and other times powerful. Their disparate musical tastes recorded by Artificial Life noted Bee's love of Patti Smith, The Stooges and Psychic TV, Barry's admiration for Kate Bush and Aky's liking for Imagination. It was a wide cross section of differing styles which seeped into their sound, perhaps too varied for a group formed from the remnants of the Southern Death Cult.

Wish I was dreaming
Getting The Fear drew on dreams on the stunning live favourite 'Swell' and the more intimate 'Wish I Was Dreaming', which saw Buzz and Barry swapping instruments. 'Swell', in particular, remains one of their most enduring tracks. Carried by smooth chords bolstered by Barry's cool basslines, Bee maps out a dreamy domain sinking into surreal realms, accompanied by Buzz's shimmering guitar patterns as he enters a cathedral of light with a golden frog, before it slips into the sensual. It's just great and one of the groups finest moments. On 'Fatal Date' Bee reflected on his formative adolescent years and his growing realisation that God doesn't exist. "How do I live when my dream has died, when you're not around tell me who is my guide" he questions over pop hooks and intricate guitar patterns, while 'Sometimes' continued their deceptive pop sensibilities as it sung about initiation over ringing guitar notes, on a track which saw its lyrics curtailed by the BBC as they took offence to the line "I'll break your neck in two". Although on the periphery, Bee was close friends with many of the original members of Psychic TV and 'Spirit of Youth' captures that period with a track dedicated to and influenced by Caresse, the first child of Genesis and Paula P-Orridge which coincided with her image adorning the cover of Psychic TV's album Pagan Day. 'Yurune' and 'Throb' were some of Getting The Fear's more melodic pop songs. 'Throb' has perhaps been confined to history but 'Yurune' due to its appearance on a Janice Long BBC session soundtracked the group's sole TV performance on the Oxford Road Show resulting in one of Getting The Fear's most accessible songs filled with punk-funk guitars and a rhythm section of booming bass tones and powerful rhythms as Bee extrapolated on the torrid life of teenage Berlin junkie prostitute Christiane F. in a track revelling in the sleazy and sensual.

Death is bigger
The retrospective album, Death Is Bigger, 1984-1985 takes its title from a Getting The Fear song. That title though has a longer history. Before Getting The Fear Bee was managed by David Claridge, founder of the Skin Two fetish club, who would later go onto find fame with Roland Rat, a puppet he created, operated and voiced on UK breakfast show TV am - "I put my hand inside his head" - but at the time he was working with the Mobile Recording Suite on a film project, described as a "risqué film short for the cinema" intended to launch Bee as a recording artist. Written by BBC playwright Dixie Williams, Bee described it to The Raygun as a "brilliant, really perverse" script. It never materialised, as the writer committed suicide but the song remains powerfully strong with Barry's driving bass over thunderous rhythms, topped with Buzz's patterns of chime and funk chords, and Bee's strong wails.

Getting The Fear group photo No-one is in control
RCA permitted the group space to develop but it also brought problems in terms of marketing. The label wanted group shots on their single, Getting The Fear didn't but a schism within the label which saw the group's support fall away also allowed the group to get Manson's embroidered waistcoat past the executives and onto the cover of 'Last Salute'. Perhaps more tellingly the lack of clear vision for the band was created with the space RCA permitted the group, as Bee in ZigZag noted: "I think what we did basically was shut ourselves away in the rehearsal room, ignored everyone else and see what came out." What came out was disparate, varied and exciting and in many ways acted as an outlet for Bee's passions.

Getting The Fear attempted to create their own identity. And yet they were caught between a major label who focussed on the band's good looks and aimed for commercial appeal, while much of their audience looked for another Southern Death Cult. They made music but didn't know why. Constant struggles with their record label and internal differences within the band over musical direction eventually resulted in the group pairing off into two camps with Bee and Barry working separately from Buzz and Aky. They were conflicted, restricted and as a group ceased to function. Speaking to Raygun fanzine Bee summed up the problem succinctly: "Getting The Fear was getting fucked from all orifices."

If this day must end
Fame, which Buzz told Janice Long on the Oxford Road Show they all wanted, ultimately eluded them. Getting The Fear failed to deliver on their potential. They did, however, leave behind an impressive body of work spread over two radio sessions and many hours of demos and rehearsal recordings. Those tapes which would be sold at gigs and via mail order have been circulating for years for the most committed to seek out and covet. Death Is Bigger 1984-1985 captures a selection of their material culled from demos and radio sessions. It shows a group dealing with unconventional themes then deemed taboo captured in Bee's lyrics and wrapped up in melodic pop hooks which explored the musical possibilities opened up by post-punk to great effect.

After 2 years Getting The Fear ceased to exist. There was no falling out, Bee recollected, in the booklet for Into A Circle's Assassins CD edition, telling compiler Alex Ogg, "we actually got on well on a personal level but could never bond over music." Buzz and Aky formed Joy, a short lived project with bassist and vocalist Eddy Temple-Morris. They performed a few gigs but released no material. Even demos have failed to surface. Aky would subsequently gain success with the politically challenging Fun-Da-Mental. Bee and Barry formed Into A Circle. In late 1985 Into A Circle released their debut single, a sensual reworking of Getting The Fear's 'Rise', a song about sexual initiation extolling the virtues of genital piercing, which was an attempt to bridge the gap between Getting The Fear and Into A Circle. Into A Circle were a far more focussed outfit which continued the themes of sex and dreams, drawing on religious iconography, and inspired by the writings of William Burroughs and especially Brion Gysin. Into A Circle took with them a number of other Getting The Fear tracks such as 'Dune Buggy Attack' and 'Swell' before subsequently reprising 'Sometimes' and 'Yurune' in later sets before that group imploded too. You can read more at the Into A Circle website

Vague 16/17, The 20th Century And How To Leave It: Psychic Terrorism Annual
The Day of the Raygun Cometh! No.2
Artificial Life, No.10
ZigZag, May 84, Fear Is A Man's Best Friend by Tom Vague
Sounds, June 30 1984, Fear and Loathing by Tibet

Death Is Bigger 1984-1985 at Dais Records
Getting The Fear on Facebook
The Bee Now, a resource for Bee's current and past projects
Into A Circle website
Into A Circle on Facebook