Sal Solo, he of the bald head, excessive make-up and grim demeanour, who cut an alarming figure in some lighting, was two albums into his career with Classix Nouveaux when Because You’re Young was released. The group would last barely another year because Solo – lead singer and main writer and producer – was becoming disillusioned with the music industry.
Born Christopher Stevens, he was using the name Sam Smith when he was a member of new wave outfit The News and wrote their only single, released in 1978. The News split at a similar time to punk group X-Ray Spex, and members of both teams melded to form Classix Nouveaux, Stevens retaining his ‘stage’ initials but adopting new name Sal Solo at this time. An early recording session for Capital Radio proved popular with one of the station’s DJs and the group arranged to have one of the tracks released as a single independently. It wasn’t a hit, but it did bring them to the attention of a major record company which signed them in October 1980. Thereafter, a punishing schedule of albums and touring followed, with little let-up for nearly three years: success outside the UK required promotional tours across Europe and they developed followings in territories such as Israel, Yugoslavia and Poland. The latter was the only country where their third and final album was well-received, yielding two major hits there.
The last Classix Nouveaux single to chart in the UK was the appropriately-titled The End … Or The Beginning in 1983. For the band it was the end, but for Solo it was very much the beginning. Later that year, he visited San Damiano in Northern Italy and had a religious experience; he subsequently converted to Roman Catholicism. His solo single named after the area San Damiano came complete with a ‘seeing the light’ sleeve image and backing vocals by the St Philips Choir (now known as Libera), directed by Robert Prizeman; the follow-up Music And You was jointed credited to Solo and L.C.G.C. (another Choir, this time the London Community Gospel). Although he joined another group, Rockets, to sing lead vocals, most of his work with them was on stage and he increasingly withdrew from recording. He issued the occasional single in the second half of the 1980s (proceeds from one were donated to the SPUC Educational Research Trust, another was based on the Catholic stanza Adoramus Te) but by this time his energy was mostly focused on being a youth ministry leader for the Church.
NEW SINGLES on sale from May. 14
ALTERED IMAGES Pinky Blue (Epic EPCA2426)
CLASSIX NOUVEAUX Because You’re Young (Liberty BP411)
JAPAN Cantonese Boy (Virgin VS502)
MADNESS House Of Fun (Stiff BUY146)
THOMPSON TWINS Runaway (T TEE5)
TOYAH Brave New World (Safari SAFE45)
SADE When Am I Going To Make A Living? (Epic A4437)
WHAM! Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go (Epic A4440)