A proper best-kept secret, 1980s Edinburgh outfit WIN are the greatest band most people have never heard of
Until fairly recently, I had no idea that Edinburgh’s stuff-of-legend Fast Product label – who released The Human League’s ‘Being Boiled’ single – had a sister label. To me, Pop Aural was just home to the entirely magnificent Fire Engines, who debuted in December 1980 and burnt out in under a year.
Fast forward to 1988 and I’m a first year art student at Sheffield City Polytechnic, Psalter Lane branch. One afternoon, an aspiring documentary filmmaker called Lois Davis was in the building to give a talk about her work. Turns out she’d done some pop promo production, most notably working with Derek Jarman on Orange Juice’s ‘What Presence?!’. She’d also been involved with a band called Win. From Edinburgh. She showed us a video, can’t recall which one. It took a second or two for the penny to drop, but Win were the new band of former Fire Engines’ frontman Davy Henderson and drummer Russell Burn.
The plan was screamingly obvious: make polished major label pop and score a ton of hits. Win unleashed two almighty albums, the first, 1987’s ‘Uh! Tears Baby (A Trash Icon)’, was awash with potential hits, including ‘Super Popoid Groove’, ‘Shampoo Tears’, ‘Binding Love Spell’, ‘Un-American Broadcasting’ and ‘Hollywood Baby Too’. And that was just the first side. We’ve not even got to the stone-cold Number One elect, ‘You’ve Got The Power’.
And yet, somehow, Win barely scraped the Top 40. I’ve often wondered why Win weren’t massive. Even now, both of their albums sound as fresh as daisies. Their second, 1989’s ‘Freaky Trigger’, was a little more leftfield but no less pop-fuelled, and it fared no better. Worse even. Win were duly knocked on the head in 1990. Thankfully, Henderson resurfaced as Nectarine No. 9 and Burn as Pie Finger and Spectorbullets. The pair worked together again recently, with Burn producing Henderson’s current band, The Sexual Objects.
A few years back, I was talking to Fast Product label boss Bob Last. We chatted about his work as the music supervisor on films such as ‘Chocolat’, ‘A Room For Romeo Brass’, ‘Little Voice’ and ‘Backbeat’, and as a producer with Terence Davies and on the Oscar-nominated animation ‘The Illusionist’. Which was all very interesting because I’ve always thought Davy Henderson’s music had a certain soundtrack-ish appeal. So I asked Last about Henderson. They’re still pals. Has he, I wondered, considered using Henderson for a film soundtrack? He laughed like a drain. It had never crossed his mind, but he said he’d give it some thought. I hope he did.