A Brief History of The Shop Assistants


The Shop Assistants formed in Edinburgh, Scotland, in 1984. Initially called "Buba & The Shop Assistants", the first line-up only recorded one 7" single prior to abbreviating their name and shedding some members. The personnel for that first single, Something To Do, consisted of David Keegan (guitar), Aggi (Annabel Wright, vocals), John Peutherer (bass), Moray Crawford (drums), and guitar/production by Stephen McRobbie (Stephen Pastel, from indie legends The Pastels).

After the first 7" single was released Pastel and Wright departed to focus on The Pastels. Keegan, Peutherer, and Crawford added vocalist Karen Parker (also heard on the Jesus & Mary Chain's "Just Like Honey"), later adding second vocalist Alex Taylor. Parker, Moray, and Peutherer were later replaced by Sarah Kneale (bass), and drummers Laura McPhail and Ann Donald, completing the best known Shop Assistants lineup in the spring of 1985.

The band began touring and released two EPs in 1985, Shopping Parade on the Subway Organization label and Safety Net on 53rd and 3rd, a label co-owned by David Keegan and Stephen Pastel. As their reputation began to grow the band were invited to record a number of sessions for influential UK radio hosts John Peel and Janice Long. In 1986 Chrysalis/Blue Guitar released the single I Don't Want To Be Friends With You and their only LP, The Shop Assistants, also called Will Anythibng Happen?

Singer Alex Taylor left the band in 1987 to form The Motorcycle Boy with David Scott on guitar, second guitarist Michael Kerr, Eddie Connelly on bass, and Paul McDermott on drums (the latter three all formerly members of Meat Whiplash). The Shop Assistants would be inactive for the next two years.

The Fizzbombs formed in 1985 in Edinburgh, with Katy Lironi (also known as Katy McCullars) on vocals, Margarita Vasquez-Ponte on guitar and backing vocals, Angus McPake on drums, and Ann Donald switching from her drumming role in the Shop Assistants to bass. Vasquez-Ponte and McPake performed in another Edinburgh indie band, Jesse Garon & the Desperadoes, and Vasquez-Ponte also performed in Rote Kapelle.

With the Shop Assistants on hiatus, The Fizzbombs released the Sign on the Line... 7" single on Narodnik Records in 1987, with the B-side "The Words That," both featuring highly distorted guitar and melodic vocals.

The next release was a split flexidisc with Jesse Garon & the Desperadoes, featuring the Fizzbombs track "You Worry Me." This was followed by a Janice Long BBC session in June, 1987, with live-in-the-studio renditions of "Blue Summer," a cover of Neil Diamond's "Cherry Cherry," "It's Not As Simple As That," and "Beach Party."

After the Janice Long session Lironi and Donald departed. Vasquez-Ponte took over lead vocals, and former Shop Assistants bassist Sarah Kneale replaced Donald, with Angus McPake continuing on drums. The new lineup issued The Surfin' Winter E.P. on Calculus Records. The 7" included a trio of homages to surf music, the excellent "Surfaround," with the B-sides "Beach Party" and "Blue Summer." The 12" EP added a studio version of Diamond's "Cherry Cherry," and "Test Pilot."

By 1988 the Fizzbombs were inactive. Margarita Vasquez-Ponte returned to Rote Kapelle, releasing the No North Briton album in 1990. In 1995 Katy McCullars would go on to front Glasgow band The Secret Goldfish, with guitarist John Morose, bassist G Lironex (Graham Lironi), and drummer Paul Turnbull, the last two from C86 alumni the Mackenzies. The band's albums included Aqua-Pet...You Make Me (1996), Jet Stream (1997), and Mink Riots (1999), among a clutch of singles, including a cover of the Shop Assistants' "Somewhere in China." In 1989 the Shop Assistants re-formed, with Sarah Kneale taking over lead vocals, David Keegan on guitar, Laura McPhail on vocals and bass, and Margarita on drums. They released two singles in 1990, Here It Comes and Big E Power, both on Avalanche Records. A limited box set version of Here It Comes included a flexidisc with a cover of "You Trip Me Up," originally by fellow Scots The Jesus & Mary Chain. Unfortunately, the reunion was short-lived. David Keegan joined the Pastels in 1990 and the band soon retired once more.



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