On 25th November, London Records will be marking the 35th anniversary of one of the 80’s most era defining albums: ‘LET IT BEE’ by Voice Of The Beehive.
Reissued on gatefold vinyl and double CD with previously unreleased material and live sessions, the re-issues also feature the track “Cartoon City”, which is being made available online for the first time here:
“Cartoon City” typifies VOTB’s sound. Formed by sisters Tracey Bryn and Melissa Brooke Belland in California in 1986 the duo fled the sleazy politics of the American music industry in favour of exploring the British indie scene. Teaming up with ex-Madness members Mark Bedford and Daniel ‘Woody’ Woodgate along with Mike Jones and Martin Brett, they formed Voice Of The Beehive. With a sunny exterior of sparkling indie guitars, an energetic rhythm section and lyrics that reveal both youthful optimism and a cutting cynicism, they went on to score a series of five top 40 hits.
Commenting on “Cartoon City” Tracey says: “I feel like this is one of my best songs and it never got the chance it deserved” says Tracey, taking us on a drive down Melrose Boulevard with all its manufactured colour and light, this is the band’s sunbleached pop with lyrics that continually subvert the facade “Seeing that things are so damn great. I find it hard to concentrate.”
The powerful live chops of the band, combined with the energy and stage presence of Tracey and Melissa, made Voice of the Beehive indie darlings and one of the hottest live bands on the London scene. Those two swinging Californian ponytails, dressed in the day’s finest dayglo, bangles, and Doc Martens, made Voice of The Beehive irresistible to record label drones circling the honey pot. Under the wing manager Andy Ross, they released debut single Just a City on his Food label and then signed to London Records for their debut album. Recorded in separate sessions with producers Hugh Jones and Peter Collins, in London and Rockfield Studios in Wales, their bold and beautiful debut reached number 13 in the album charts, producing top 40 singles I Say Nothing and Don’t Call Me Baby.
Album opener Beat of Love plays with questionable language around romance, ”Once I had the first line.” says Tracey “It sparked ideas of how full of contradictions love is, how we’re dying to find it, and then we complain that we’re tied down. We do desperate things to fall into it, and then desperate things to get out of it.” Sorrow Floats borrows its title from the chapter of John Irving novel The Hotel New Hampshire, and in turn plays with the phrase ‘to drown your sorrows’.
These are big themes, with deceptive playful lyrics and if the more bubble gum moments Trust Me and Don’t Call Me Baby might taste sweeter, they still carry a bitter pill. I Say Nothing is wrapped up with the people, places and parties of their first days in London “Favourite song. Favourite night. Favourite city.” says Tracey, of a track inextricably linked with a moment in time. But far from being a lost relic of the late eighties scene, Let It Bee with its acerbic wit, sexual politics and outsider energy, kicks against the pricks with all the self-empowered potency of the contemporary pop fermament.
As well as being constants in music weeklies NME and Melody Maker, the sister’s vibrant clothes and engaging personalities were made for late 80s TV, with the TV AM couch, Top of the Pops and a hungover appearance on seminal children’s TV show The Wide Awake Club, helping propel their singles I Say Nothing and Don’t Call Me Baby into the Top 40. Let it Bee was followed by ‘Honey Lingers’ in 1991, that would reach number 17, with the chart hits Monsters and Angels and The Partridge Family cover I Think I Love You. Their brightly-coloured image and shout-along songs made them a popular antidote to the doom and gloom of the US rock scene on college radio. In total Voice of The Beehive would rack up five Top 40 hits from two albums in the UK.
‘LET IT BEE’ REISSUE FORMATS
1x LP gatefold with honey yellow vinyl and new liner notes from Tracey Belland
Catalogue # LMS5521765
2x CD in digipak with 36 page booklet, Bee-sides, live tracks and demos
* * * * *