IT’S been reported across C86 newsgroups and fan sites over the past 48 hours that Alex Taylor, dulcet singer with Edinburgh’s great and ramshackle Shop Assistants and later of The Motorcycle Boy, has died – as long ago as 2005.
The Shop Assistants formed in the Scottish capital in 1984, and were originally called Buba & The Shop Assistants. A brace of singles followed the sole release before the name was contracted, for Bristol’s Subway Records and Stephen Pastel’s 53rd & 3rd imprint, including the great “Safety Net” (see the video below).
The buzz surrounding the band led to major label Chrysalis picking them up for its boutique Blue Guitar imprint, for which they released just one self-titled album and one single, the excellent “I Don’t Wanna Be Friends With You”.
As with so many of that crop of guitar bands that stepped up to the majors’ table, success (or, at the very least, satisfactory sales) proved elusive, and they were to split in 1987, Alex moving on almost immediately to the cleaner lines of The Motorcycle Boy – an “indie supergroup” of sorts, formed with members of early Creation Records Mary Chain devotees Meat Whiplash.
Positive press and one great single, “Big Rock Candy Mountain” for Rough Trade, which really gave Alex’s mellifluous tones a place to shine, couldn’t prevent the band falling apart again once back in the Chrysalis fold. Sessions for the 1989 album only belatedly appeared as Scarlet on Forgotten Astronaut Records at the end of last year.
Two more Shop Assistants singles emerged on Avalanche Records in 1990, and then silence.
A couple of days ago, rumours began circulating on the C86 and All That: The Creation of Indie in Difficult Times Facebook page that Alex had actually died in 2005.
It has been reported that people attempted to make an approach to Alex about the appearance of the much-delayed Motorcycle Boy album.
Michael Kerr wrote on the C86 Facebook page: “I had tried tracking Alex down, prior to the release of The Motorcycle Boy album back in November, but got nowhere.
“I thought when the album came out it would somehow make her come out of hiding. Her husband contacted me earlier this year to let us know. I’m still slightly stunned by the news.”
RIP Alex Taylor: you helped to soundtrack my teenage years, and I’d have wanted to be friends with you.