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    I'm sure there's not that much more new to say on this album, but as someone who' only recently heard it properly, I'd love to have a little discussion on it.

    Pretty fantasic, isn't it?

    (Side question: I'm presuming its Rob on drums, but is it live or on tape? The drum pattern to Man The Lifeboats sounds identical to the one on I've Waited Ages, which I seem to remember was from a tape. But I might have made that up by accident, as I've been awake for nearing 3 days now)
    'Man the Lifeboats' and 'The Gymnast' include an uncredited backing tape from Rob. As for the demo's included as extras they are Rob. He provided both Colin and in turn Des with a cassette of drums tracks recorded in the Wire rehearsal space. One of Rob's drum tracks also appears on 'Rolling Upon My Day' from the first Dome album.
    Agree with MIxtil - it IS rather good, although some of the finished tracks do sound like sketches that didn't have time to come to fruition.

    Also, a track was used on the soundtrack of the recent series of Ideal
    Ian B - That's certainly the case. April Waits, for example, sounds almost sub-demo in terms of completness, but then I suppose that's the Dome way.

    I knew Graham Duff (exceutive producer/writer/Brian of/in Ideal) is a massive Wire fan, but haven't seen the latest series yet.

    Also, Kevin, do you know about the other insturmentation? Is it all Desmond, cornets, synths and all?
    I have a particular fondness for this album, and used to listen to it and the Dome albums all the time in artschool in the 80s. Phone Ringing used to drive my fellow painting students nuts. To the repetition of song's title people would invariably say something like, "...would someone ever answer that fuckin' phone...!!" Good times. Seems like centuries ago now.

    I think it's aged very well. It's got a unique atmosphere - slightly skewed, off-beam, isolated, a strange broadcast from an abandoned outpost. With Dome's fingerprints all over it that's hardly surprising. In Simmons' own words in the liner notes, it wasn't exactly a meeting of minds, but I think the creative tension produced very interesting results that were well worth the slog. Especially the approaches to vocals - doing a take after running around the block, lying on the floor, singing under a sheet... hardcore Dome territory !

    The sketchiness of some tracks never bothered me, they were appealing enough, and worked like bridges or interludes between the more fully realised tracks. Always particularly liked By Air Or By Sea with its clipped and rapidly panning guitar sound. Terrific. The Gymnast could almost be a sister track to Our Swimmer with it's insistent vocal repetition. Both songs relating to sporting activities !

    Great album cover too, always intrigued me with its abstract/figurative ambiguity. I didn't realise it at the time but looking at the CD notes now I see it was Jon Wozencroft. A world away from his more familiar landscape imagery. Well, praise be to Bruce and Graham for producing it in the first place, and praise be to Kevin for doing the CD re-release... saving it from becoming another great 'lost album'.
    I used to have this album 'till I 'loaned' it to someone, it never came back- so many things loaned 'never came back' (in particular I loaned out about 4, maybe 5 copies of Mervyn Peakes Gormenghast-they're still out there).at least I know who has my most recent copy!
    As for alone on penguin island, I was into this type of music 'back then' not so sure about today though.
    I think you're right about it aging so well, Fergus - some tracks (Especially Parthenon or Castle From Hawaii) could be released today by Beach House or someone similar, and no-one would bat an eyelid.
    That's gas - you've spelt Parthenon correctly, even though it is misspelt on the album, and got the opening title wrong, which should be A Caste From Hawaii... ;-)
    More info here as well, extra tracks and all.

    This has got me wondering what has happened to the WMO catalogue. Shame none of it could me made available on iTunes or Spotify and can only be a matter of time before people start charging silly prices on Ebay especially for the Wire/Dome stuff.
    Michael O'Shea is about £40 regulary on Ebay, Turns & Strokes about £15.
    The instrumentation was never disclosed, in fact I never asked, but form what Des said it was whatever was lying around at Blackwing along with whatever Des had to hand.
    As for the artwork, all Jon Wozencroft did was tweak Slim Smith's original sleeve into a CD format. I think the typeface was changed as we weren't happy with the original that Slim used.
    Jon did two sleeves for WMO, Des' and the Lewis/Gilbert & Mills - Pacific/Specific, which used my photos of vintage ORTF Vienna radio station taken from huge photos on one of their corridors when I was in Vienna with Wir in 1992.
    All WMO sleeves after that were passed over to Dave Coppenhall who was always given carte blanche to create something. He deserves a medal!
    As for the catalogue well most of it is sold our or deleted. There are a few odds and sods still available.
    Like Fergus I still love this album and always felt it deserved a wider audience and when it came to WMO it was no brainer that it should get a well deserved re-release.
    Desmond has replied about the instrumentation and some other informative news:

    "it was all guitars, not a keyboard in sight-the guitars were processed through various boxes that Graham, Bruce and I owned at the time.

    All additional instrumentation was percussion including hammers, bits of wood and saws.

    I'm reforming Love That Bang with the intention of playing most of Penguin Island as close to the album as possible, with hopefully a date in London.

    Actually it has become evident that contrary to what I always say about Penguin Island being a singer/songwriter thrown off course by two mad scientists, the home demos sound very similar to the finished album, in feel if not performance.

    I listened to them recently as I made a copy for Graham Duff, the Ideal writer/actor,and a mate of mine, who maintains my myspace site, remarked that they were if anything weirder than the album.

    So I think it's time to re-address the facts and show that, if it's credible, Bruce and Graham actually made the stuff more accessible, and didn't derail a promising top forty career after all :)"
    Wow Kevin, you really go above and beyond! This is fascinating stuff. That its all guitar is fairly amazing, considering some of those sounds and textures.

    The demos/live had always struck me in that way too - the live take of The Gymnast is much more dememted and herky-jerky than the album version.

    It would be great to see much of the album live, London or otherwise.


    On 6 December Rough Trade Publishing’s Rough Cuts are to digitally release Desmond Simmons cult ‘Alone On Penguin Island’ album. Originally released via Rough Trade, on the Wire's Dome label in 1980, it was later re-released by WMO, the album has therefore been unavailable for quite a few years.

    In the Beginning...
    In the summer of 1970, at the age of 15, Colin Newman (later of WIRE and Githead), and I formed our first band, Tyres: it was appalling, we had a piano, a drum kit and one acoustic guitar, the sheet music to Big Yellow Taxi and Up Around the Bend and no idea what to do next.

    In the summer of 1979 I formed Amorphons and recorded some demos with Nick Garvey who had previously performed a similar duty for Wire. Although Amorphons as a unit did not achieve the success that perhaps we could have, the recordings were used as the basis for what would become Alone on Penguin Island.

    Recording A-Z with Colin Newman
    In early 1980 Colin Newman, Robert Gotobed and I began to rehearse the material that would become Colin's first album A-Z. The subsequent demos produced two songs included on the 7inch EP that acoompanied Wire's 154. In late summer 1980 we recorded A-Z at Scorpio Sound in London.
    After support slots for Amorphons and the Flatbackers, the A-Z band, now renamed Soft Option, flew to North America for a short promotional tour of New York and Toronto, returning for a headling date at the Venue, London.

    The Recording Penguin Island
    On the back of having completed live dates as part of Colin's band Soft Option, and in the midst of a period of change within the Wire camp, I recorded Alone on Penguin Island.

    Funded by Geoff Travis at Rough Trade, produced by DOME (formed by Bruce Gilbert and Graham Lewis of WIRE) and studio time at Blackwing, the recording of Alone on Penguin Island was not a harmonious experience.

    Eric Radcliffe and John Fryer (engineer and assistant engineer respectively) found themselves acting as brokers between my intention for the album to build on the music and demos I had already created and DOME's desire to strip the material down to its essential building blocks. Many arguments, sulks and silences later we had seven tracks recorded. Not enough for an album and I admit at this point I had become so disenfranchised with the production process I seriously contemplated walking away from the whole thing. However, I worked on with the producers and an increasingly enthusiastic John Fryer for a further two days to wrap up the recording.

    TheLP was cut at Portland Studios and sent to Deutsche Gramiphonique for pressing. Slim Smith did the artwork, which was interesting but lacked any visual clues as to who I was. Unfortunately the LP was released, during an industrial dispute between the music journalists and the publishers, which meant that there was little or no exposure and sadly it was never played on radio.

    Escape from Penguin Island
    The first Brixton riots convinced me to leave London for a while. I returned in late 1981 to re-join Colin Newman for the recording of Not To, but I decided not to join the subsequent promotion tour.

    In late 1982 I again returned to London and re-joined Colin Newman in a start up band including Simon Gilham and Tom Morley (ex. Scritti Politti), with the objective of playing material by all four members. The band on Colin Newman's departure to India, and Simon Gilham's formation of Inteferon.

    Early in 1983 I recorded a few songs with assistance from Nick Garvey, and impressed Muff Winwood at CBS enough to want to hear more. I assembled a band that included Terry Chimes (ex. The Clash), Paul James (ex. Blowzabella) and a handful of old Newbury cohorts, along with the recording expertise of Steve Parker who had engineered Colin Newman's recordings. However with the emergence of the keyboard based New Romantic movement, CBS decided to pass on another guitar band. the moral of this rock 'n' roll tale, is that as with many on the edge of the music industry at the time I decided to get a life, have children and try an earn a steady(ish) income that such circumstances demand...

    Return to Penguin Island
    Despite everything, the affinity I had with the core material that went into the album remains strong, even if the final rendition on vinyl did not necessarily live up to my original aspirations. Although very much of its time, there has been an increasing interest on the web and with support from Colin Newman the time seems right to revisit the original songs and also introduce new material. Joining with a younger group of musicians the aim is to retain the essential essence of the songs, but to reproduce them in a more contemporary context.

    For more information please contact Ken or Alison at Hermana
    More in from Des about the gig:

    "The 12bar is in Denmark Street in London,and the other band members are Chris Rutterford and his son Eric, and Neil Purdie. We won't be using a drummer, just a few Robert loops and percussion loops, some songs have no drums or bass on them anyway, and we'll end with Alone on Penguin Island complete with plastic guitar,imitation melodica and manic laughter courtesy of a couple of kids noise makers that I found in a Poundshop.

    Hopefully play all the album, minus a couple that I don't like/don't work, in the order from the album."
    That sounds fantastic! Shame its almost definitly impossible for me to make it. I'd love to hear it live.

    Edit: I think I might be able to make it. Its not listed on the club website yet. Where might I get tickets for this?
    More info from Des:
    "Looks like we're the headlining act at the 12bar-which should be interesting as we end the evening playing possibly the most downbeat piece of music of the evening, Alone on Penguin Island, complete with no drums, bass or guitar, just two blokes shaking kids toys and another picking a plastic 10 inch guitar, accompanied by an imitation Melodica refrain and strange drum loop, Bon Jovi it ain't."
    Damn & gawd damn...I'd like to experience this...from 8998 miles away....
    Same feelings, mate.
    I can barely believe this is possible...