Many of their productions were issued on two labels closely related to Red Bus Studios: Red Bus (launched in 1980 with a Jolley and Swain-produced cover of Cat Stevens’ Wild World), and R&B Records, founded in 1981. The first release on the latter label was the debut single by Imagination, arguably the group the duo were most associated with. Body Talk was the first of nine Top 40 hits for the group over the next three years or so. Jolley and Swain were involved in the writing, the producing and performed as session musicians on most of these singles; they also found time to record the largely instrumental Backtrackin’ album, released under their own names, showing their versatility.
Their popularity peaked in 1984, the year in which they helmed albums for Bananarama (Bananarama), Spandau Ballet (Parade) and Alison Moyet (her debut, Alf). Between them, these three albums alone yielded seven Top 20 hit singles during the year and the result was a nomination at the following year’s BRIT awards for Best British Producers.
They had been working with the former for a couple of years, starting with their single Shy Boy. “They had a song called ‘Big Red Motorbike’ and we didn’t like the lyrics so we changed it to Shy Boy. For some reason we found those lyrics more acceptable,” the ‘Rams recounted in the sleeve notes to their The Greatest Hits Collection album in 1988. Of the recording sessions themselves, they had this to say: “It was a really good laugh recording with Jolley and Swain except sometimes we got too much and they’d send us home like naughty schoolgirls. We’d take out cards into the studio and sit on the floor laughing and they’d send us home.”
Parade was their second collaboration with Spandau; they had produced 1983’s True, the title track of which provided the producers with their biggest international hit single: as well as making #1 in the UK and Ireland, it made the Top 10 in America, Australia, Belgium, Canada, Germany, Holland, Spain and Switzerland, among others. But it was Moyet’s Alf that gave them their biggest long-playing success in the UK: less than three years from its release, it had moved more than a million units.
They were unable to sustain this success after 1984. Some of this was beyond their control: Spandau, involved in a dispute with Chrysalis records, went on hiatus while they sorted out a new distribution deal with CBS and when they returned it was with a new producer. Imagination were also in flux: their singles of the mid-80s performed poorly in the charts and their relationship with their primary producers ended when they left R&B Records and signed to RCA. They were still having hits with Bananarama, but the girls too were looking for new collaborators by 1986. By then, though, Jolley and Swain were bringing an end to their own partnership. The last single jointly credited to the pair, from British gospel singer Paul Johnson’s second album, was released in 1989.
NEW SINGLES on sale from Feb. 12
The ASSOCIATES Party Fears Two (Associates ASC1)
IMAGINATION (Leee John) Just An Illusion (R&B Records RBS208)