the press say ...
'Skin Games celebrate a state of elation, the majestic spirals of melodies
veering from the delicate to the defiant.' - Melody Maker
'Cradled in the hammock of blue flame guitars, Wendy's voice is an
essential and unpretentious instrument.' - NME
NME - October 1988
SKELETONS IN THE CUPBOARD
UNDAUNTED BY our location - SKIN GAMES and I are sandwiched between a well-used gents and the loudest fruit machine Camberwell can offer - vocalist Wendy Pygott is keeping no secrets. "This was the first song I ever sang live" she admits as the strains of 'Annie's Song' rise, for the tenth time that evening. "I had my acoustic guitar and I played it to loads of old people in Wales ... 'Streets Of London', too. I was ten at the time. "You do realise that the tape's on?"
Bassist Jim Marr, who, alongside Wendy, co-founded the band, groans. He's not yet aware that I also know about Wendy's violin lessions, folk dancing and fun days out at the Eisteddfod. She's disalarmingly generous with her memories. Don't worry; I'll say that Skin Games play hardcore hip-hop .. which, of course, they don't.
What they do play fits into no easy categories. Impossible to ignore, Wendy's swooping vocal style fills all points between a hyper-oxygenated Cocteay-esque gasp on 'No Criminal Mind', their Steve Hillage-produced follow-up to 'Cowboy Joe', to low booms on 'Money Talks'. Add Jonny Willett's range of foot-pedal guitar power and gymnastic rhythms from Marr and drummer, Dave Innes, and a sound that's as changeable as weather conditions emerges.
Originating during Wendy and Jim's soujourn at Warwick University, Skin Games grew from the ashes of their previous band, Double Agents ("a mod/goth crossover - completely forgettable" says Wendy). Systems-inspired Willett joined in 1985, when Skin Games moved to a Brixton squat that doubled as a rehearsal studio. Filthy beyond even NME's imaginings, the one-light-bulb facilities were free and consequently popular with other local groups, including the embryonic Blow Monkeys. Now the delicatessen counter of a new Tescos covers the space that the squat once occupied, and CBS have installed their new hopes in a studio.
In the meantime, Skin Games have developed a music that combines rarifies sonics with a live edge that slices with a razor's precision. They don't like my ethereal label, so what do they prefer?
Wendy: "It's very hard to put a definition on something that's instinctive. There's a pleasure that's both emotive and intellectual in our songs, we're writing lyrics on subjects close to the heart, so there's a lot of passion. 'No Criminal Mind', for instance, was inspired by a friend of mine who did a robbery and was jailed. It was an irrational act, completely out of character. He was under a lot of pressue and just flipped. It's written as a vindication."
No longer reliant on painting and decorating to keep body and bass together, Skin Games are poised to begin their pre-Christmas tour, quietly confident for 1988.
The Marquee, London
IT'S worrying how you leave some gigs sodden with a sense of hope, lulled into thinking that good songs are not such a rare phenonenon as some would have you believe. The trouble is that many of them are never committed to vinyl and those that are are frequently lost, en masse, to bargain bins, warehouses and bedroom cupboards as a result of sales rep freebies, poor marketing and ignorance respectively.
As such it's somewhat disappointing that "Cowboy Joe" shuold be chosen as the debut release from Skin Games. It is a pleasant enough rough country trit-trot, but one which only stands out from their set for its failure to showcase the talents of their tatty-headed, blonde haired singer.
Wendy Pygott's voice has a tremendous range sometimes sugar-coated mouse, yummy sweet, sometimes equally deliciously wanton, sometimes low and plaintive, sometimes high in hosannas. With the superb "No Criminal Mind", "Blanche" and "Skin Games" she sends warm shivers up and down the back, poking at the tear ducts, convincing that a comparison to Kate Bush isn't as ridiculous as it seems on paper.
Chaperoning Wendy is a sprint of guitar, bold bass long jumps and high jumps, a firm drum workout, all bundled up into tumbling, humbling mature pop music. There's no attempt to create the fickleness of a total sound, a single, swelling atmosphere, and there's no image to speak of. They appeal solely to civilised instincts, to the finer human qualities, on a purely personal level.
Skin Games aren't out to revolutionise. Their brief is to refresh the existing parts, to repair the battered banner, the bane of commerciality, to rediscover the middle path between accessible and eccentric pop. Here's hoping that they find their way into your home. You both deserve it.
London School Of Economics
THERE'S something somewhat unnerving about the bangles jangling, blonde hair tossing, soaring and roaring singer of Skin Games. It's partly because of her willingness to undertake explorations of her own sexuality as well as those of others and to address socio-political concerns - heroin and homelessness are mentioned - with considerable candour. It's more in her icy stare and the animated expressions which slither and twist from the palms of her ever searching upwards hands. She could, quite conceivably, belong in the darkest corner of the madhouse. For, in spite of the claims of conscience, murder may well be within her capability. Even if she is called Wendy.
It's not simply a question of the spook being compounded by a name. It is also due to the frail physical form and the sweet swell of a voice which remains victorious whichever end of the broad range is on offer. And, more pertinent still, is the unchallengable fact that, musically, Skin Games are a highly commercial pop proposition. Nobody has got down to the small print yet.
Tonight the guitar is constantly held in check, the beat never climbs to more than a pleasant jolt, the addition of keyboards rounds off the edges. The majority of the songs positively shine because of the self-imposed limitations and the discernible power has nothing to do with volume. "Cowby Joe" sounds particular relevant in view of Ronald's replacement by George, "Brilliant Shining", the new single, attains a greater semblance of sense, does not seem tart in the sky, and the uncomplicated message of "Money Talks" rings clear. Most thrilling of all is the resurrected "Whipping Boy", an ingenious sting from the dedication to Wendy's final Liz Frazer lip wobble.
Skin Games are responsible for a subversive pop which has rarely been seen so perfect in application and execution. Turn around.
Bolshoi + Skin Games
Marquee - 1989
Last day the Goth popsters headline, hailing from Honor Oak Park, the BR stop after Brockley. Ably supported by the commercial rock of Skin Games, with Wendy Pygott their flaxen-haired fire-breathing vocalist. Move over Carol Decker, that's what we say.
Games + The Wright Brothers + Energy Orchard
Greyhound - 1989
See Saturday for the headliners - flaxen haired Welsh pop/rock, with the rousing Celtic rock of Energy Orchard supporting. Don't miss Skin Games as they're on the up and up.
D.I.H.E. Poole - October 1988
By Neil King
Having just released their third single Skin Games are just beginning to make an impact on the U.K. music scene.
Consisting of Wendy Page [Voice], Jim Marr [Bass], Jonny Willett [Guitar] & Dave Innes [Drums] Skin Games are signed to Epic Records & have their debut album due out in the new year.
Skin Games started in the Coventry area before moving to London, when they came to the D.I.H.E. in Poole I took my chance to go along and see them.
Skin Games The Gig
The set started with the b-side to the current single "Brilliant Shining", "Hold The Mirror". The first thing you noticed was just how expressive Wendy's voice was, then you noticed it was more than just her voice, she was using her wh-ole body particularly her arms & hands like a mime to convey her message, in many ways creating a binding affect.
Then you realized there was more to it than that, it was the overall sound that encouraged you to lose yourself within yourself & to the music.
Jim imparticular had a very distinctive style treating the bass almost as if it was a guitar & in doing so created a sound that intrigued.
Add to that the passionate guitar work of Jonny [At one time described by the band as the third head of the Hydra] and drums, plus the odd keyboard piece here and there, lead to a live sound if anything more expressive than the vinyl.
Next they went into a piece called "Keys" which seemed to represent the key to change & unlocking the inner self.
This they followed up with the anti-Regan "Cowboy Joe" [Which was, incidentally their first single.] By this time the crowd was warming to them with most, if not all, songs bring dancers to the floor.
Sea Song was the next number, during which Wendy added a guitar to her range of abilities. Though, to be honest, I was so captivated by the deceptive simplicity of the song I failed to notice how much use was made of it.
Then came "Tirade", dedicated to the women in the audience it laid into sexism in such a way that really you had to see the subtle movements on stage to really appreciate it, or maybe I'm being pretentious, looking/listening too deep.
That brought us to another b-side, "Money Talks", about the corruption of money & the attitude of money orientated people when there is so much positive use it could be put to.
The next song sounded as if it was called "Whipping Boy" but at the vital moment someone shouted in my ear, anyway the song was a celebration of love, love with an r as the band put it.
By this time the crowd was well and truly hooked, so what better time to do "Brilliant Shining"? There is a lot more depth to this song live, it really reaches in and grabs at your inner self & says why look to others ? You have all you need within you. Sod the evangelists, sod the politicians playing their power games you are who you are, be happy.
Then they went into a piece called "Killin The Pleasure" [I may be wrong about the title, another badly timed shout by the person stood next to me.] which the band said was their last number, in the event they were persuaded to come back for one more number.
If that seems like a short gig it has to be said that for various reasons the band went on late & for legal reasons they couldn't continue playing after eleven.
The only real fault with the gig was that it was over lit. For the size of the venue there were just too many lights, at times it was almost like being in daylight.
Sure I'd've liked to hear more numbers but that situation was beyond anyone's control.
Live, Skin Games, play with a passion & spirit lacking in many of today's bands.
brought enjoyment to those who attended the gig and that, more than anything
else is what it's about.
Review - The Blood Rush
The archetypal '80s British pop-rock guitar sound coalesced about half a decade
ago, formed from the shimmer and splash techniques of the Edges, Johnny Marrs,
Will Sergeants and Charlie Burchills. Ever since then there's been an awful lot of
middling bands, squatting unenterprisingly on the formula.
On their debut album, Coventry-formed Skin Games are very much in that area,
but save themselves from faceless mediocrity by dint of their relentlessly sunny disposition - a touch of the Cocteau's loop-the-loopiness and vocalist Wendy Page, who appears to be about 33 women in one. Wendy, it has to be said, looks like a model, yet she only features on the sleeve as a psychedelic blur, which has to count in the band's favour. Cradled in the hammock of blue flame guitars, her voice is a sensual and unpretentious instrument; it breaks in awkward places, topples off the high notes and leaps clean out of the song for no good reason whatsoever.
On the tumbling 'Big Me', she is a baby Bjork in free fall, on 'Your Luck's Changed'
she is a dreamy Chrissie Hynde, on 'Heaven Blessed' she's Siouxsie after the exorcism,
and on "Where The Wild Things Are" she's Elizabeth Cocteau having
made the mistake of writing her words down.
Because too many songs meander aimlessly and because the band too easily settle
for just framing Wendy's words with a swirl of guitars, Miss Page has to be the
centre of attention. She can be so toe polite, as on the pro-feminist 'Tirade'
("I never dreamed in all my sheltered years that I would meet such a rigid,
frigid mind" needs to be screamed, not stated), and sometimes her dizzy poetic
is a little too awkward.
But there are pristine pop moments to be had here, particularly in the lost single
'Brilliant' and the star-kissing 'Big Me' - and it's all a lot sexier than T'Pau.
Pretty much a bewitching transcendence of the formulation then, guv.
Front covers, ahoy.
Wendy Page of Skin Games: pristine
(8/10) Roger Morton - NME - 15th July, 1989
A few weeks ago a demo by Skin Games was pressed into my hand, a cassette which
featured 'Whipping Boy', a track which cut me to the bone. Days later the tape was
worn thin, played to a state of uselessness. An opportunity to acquaint myself with
this particular song again was most welcome.
Skin Games are yet another band attempting to engineer a sophistication of rock music.
Like those who've gone before and those will undoubtedly follow, they
combine accessible, commercial rhythms with a raunchy guitar and a degree of
Almost every song is an effective slash, but tonight their set did not include the
blood-letting 'Whipping Boy'. For that, I must confess to a twinge of disappointment,
even if the dozen or so minor lacerations added up to an exquisite stinging lesson.
PUSH - Melody Maker - 27th May, 1989
Diving into dreams and clawing at the cold comfort. Painting skies and creeping
through flesh with gentle fingers. Shivering the timbers. Mystical and magical,
more than ever, Skin Games are a Lewis Carroll of a pop group. And Wendy Page,
one bangled wrist banging against the other, eyes fixed in a swimming stare,
threatening to leave you behind this time, in an intriguingly eerie adult Alice.
Skin Games celebrate a state of elation, the majestical spirals of melodies veering
from the delicate to the defiant. Each climb is potentially dangerous but charmingly
inviting. The haunting, harrowing sway of "Where The Wild Things Are" is the
most disconcerting, the most challenging. "Your Luck's Changed", their new single,
has a more obvious pop notion, a shove to the top, and "Brilliant Shining" lasts
for an eternity, Jonny Willett's guitar playing brash and bold, sharp notes flying
off at tangents to linger lost and lonely.
A push, a tingling blush, an avoidable blood rush, Skin Games have taken up a
position of considerable strength.
Record Mirror - 27th May, 1989
Wendy Page is not only stunning, vivacious, amiable, intelligent and a tremendously
powerful singer - she and her band Skin Games have just made of the records of
the year! 'Your Luck's Changed' captures all the shimmering grandeur of Wendy's voice
chiming resonance of Jonny Willett's guitar. Dizzingly splendid it is.
You won't believe your ears!
Skin Games are steeped in poetic glory, much of it deriving from Wendy's literary
background; it was while she was studying for her degree at Warwick University
that she met bassist Jim Marr, a fellow student.
"He put a notice up in the Union bar asking for a singer. It was the end of term
and I was really pissed, so I scribbled my room number on it in lipstick.
The next day Jim phoned up, offered me an audition and that was it."
Her voice has distinct Siouxsie overtones, although Wendy's initial inspiration
came from male singers - Ian Curtis, Jim Kerr, Ian McCulloch.
"I always tried to get my voice to go deeper than it would naturally…"
She's a dreamer too. The forthcoming debut LP (they finally settled on the
title 'Blood Rush' from a shortlist of only 210 possibles) is divided equally
between songs based on relationships and songs based on dreams.
'Heaven Blessed' - hopefully the next single - is based on a dream where
I was down a wishing well with somebody; no-one in particular…my dreams
don't seem to be specifically erotic, if you know what I mean!"
Their finest moment is the feminist anthem 'Tirade', where the 'get-yer-tits-out'
element in the audience is rightly and roundly harangued. It's absolutely magnifique.
Welcome to the many wonders of Wendy. These games have only just begun…
Tony Mitchell - Sounds - 5th December, 1987
But it's much easier to slag than to praise - except, perhaps, when the objects
of one's intended compliments are of the calibre of Skin Games.
Finally getting some exposure after a year of obscurity with Epic Records,
they show themselves well capable of occupying an interesting and, I'd venture
to say, profitable slot somewhere between the Cocteaus, The Pretenders and U2.
For a three-piece without keyboards on stage or tape, they create a remarkably
intense impression of instrumentation, providing a lush backdrop to Wendy
Pigott's sweet, soaring vocals. Modest and quiet off-stage, Wendy transforms
into a performer of quite frightening ferocity.
But it's a beautiful ferocity, emphasised by a mane of unruly blonde hair and
by heavily lidded eyes which occasionally roll heavenwards in some kind of
ecstatic release. Shiver me timbers, the woman's got a whole zoo's worth
of animal magnetism.
The songs vary from the gentleness of 'Blanche' through the forceful emotion
of 'Fiction' to the beaty jog of 'Cowboy Joe' and the new single 'No Criminal Mind'.
The mood ducks and soars but behind it always is a sense of meaning and
purpose which few rock bands other than U2 either aspire to or achieve.
Admittedly, both meaning and purpose could have been even clearer if the set
hadn't been played at Wembley Arena volume - a voice like Wendy's does
not benefit from high-frequency distortion and break-up. But that was perhaps
the only factor beyond Skin Games' control.
In every other respect, they seem to be very much in control, and one senses
that this will be of great value when, in a couple of years, they're playing
stadiums instead of small London clubs.
impressive debut album is a heady concoction of shimmering guitar work,
Wendy Page's soaring vocals and some passionate song writing."
album confirms all that early promise. A few of the rougher edges have
been sanded down, and the guitars have taken on a Simple Minds feel."
The Blood Rush - the band's opinions ...
Wendy - "Still feels too tender to listen to it sometimes."
Jim - "An old friend"
Jonny - "Brilliant"
The New Album … ?
Jim - "A new friend"
"The Blood Rush", an enticingly entitled debut LP, is the strongest proof yet that
SKIN GAMES should not be considered as a disposable pop group. Both musically
and lyrically, the album is a tangle of intentions and emotions, one often undermining
the next. Pop music is, of course, not supposed to be so complicated.
"Pop is often a simple idea bashed out in three minutes, an attempt to hit a single
emotion as hard as possible and leave people gasping," says guitarist Jonny Willett.
"That's all very well, but we want to try and do other things. I don't think that we're
capable of being more direct. I find it difficult to say that I'm happy or I'm sad at
any given time. There's always some other feeling which cannot be ignored."
"The LP is bursting with paradoxes," agrees vocalist Wendy Page, "For example,
'Where The Wild Things Are' has a swirly, dreamy, magical quality but the lyrics
are about avoiding something potentially destructive. Similarly, although the music
of 'Cowboy Joe' is quite jolly and lightweight, the song is actually a rejection of
tinsel kingdoms and materialism. More than any other track, with 'Dancing On'
we've left ourselves open to being struck down. The chorus - 'Is this my sin?'
over and over again - begs an answer which is never received and this will
undoubtedly invite extreme reactions. But that's good: we've nothing to hide
and plenty to show."
"Tirade", Skin Games' new single, is perhaps the most commercially viable pop
song on the album, but even here there is a degree of subtle subversion at work.
Moreover, the message is extremely positive.
"It's a steely, angry and very strong feminist song but it has already been
completely misunderstood by some critics," says Wendy. "One reviewer said
that the lines, 'I never dreamed in all my sheltered years, that I would need
such a rigid frigid mind' should be screamed rather than simply stated, but
the whole point of the song is that I have no intention of sinking to that level
which the archetypal male would expect me to. I'm not going to scream and
shout and stamp my feet. I'm cold, I'm thorough and, above all, I'm equal."
Mean Fiddler (Acoustic Room)
Tuesday, 26th February 1991
Wendy Page - Pat Golding - Rain Danger
Concert venues are not the most thrilling of themes, but I shall
set the scene nevertheless. Basically it was a very small, particularly
narrow hall with a capacity for between 100-150 people and a
stage barely enough for 5. It does not sound inspiring, however, I
have yet to visit a more intimate venue than this. It has such a
friendly, cosy atmosphere, enhanced partly by the close following
these sort of bands procure.
Due to the late addition of another support act, the very talented
Rain Danger, the evening was rescheduled, which meant Wendy was
to perform first.
An Acapella called 'Wish Myself Home' was the rather enchanting
but nervous opener of the night. This beautiful song was performed
throughout in haunting vocals of the spine-tingling variety.
Maybe there were some surprised people in the audience,
who were not expecting the Skin Games' vocalist to have been
participating in a seemingly unorthodox style. However, we waited
in anticipation for what would follow.
This time it was a keyboard assisted Jazz song, 'You Called'.
Performed exceptionally well, when considering the danger of
estrangement from this vocal style. Wendy possesses the talent to
create emotions, which so many modern artistes lack :
if only she would perform 'Welsh Town' live.
I would not have expected a down tempo of the next song
to have worked so well, but I found 'Big Me' to be one of
the two real spellbinders of the evening. Again, assisted only by
Nick on keyboards, it was a stunning version of the 'Big Ego' song.
Better I thought, than that on 'The Blood Rush' album,
it certainly added sparkle to the set.
The next song does have some truly awesome guitar on its full version.
However, I was certainly satisfied with Jim and Jonny's more delicate
approach to 'Down By The Riverside' that night.
Again it proved that a song can work very well, without too much instrumentation.
I couldn't imagine many performers who could have captivated
an audience with a better song than the quite recently (at the time)
completed 'Ma Petite'. It created an air as vivid as any I had witnessed previously.
Wendy's increased presence on stage enhanced a lyrically spectacular song
into a memorable experience.
It would have been difficult to select a follow up after ''Ma Petite',
but in my opinion, 'Dancing On', another 'Blood Rush'
track was aptly the ideal finale. In a more familiar
sound, I noticed how much urgency was in the performance.
Wendy had found her confidence, which created that visual effect,
more reminiscent of Skin Games.
Although it was a brief set, it gave us an indication of the
quality of their song writing ability, and if carried across
by Skin Games, then what a formidable force they will be live.
It's not the first time a foreign hit's been nabbed and become a huge success in the UK - as the Sun's Dominic Mohan explains: "That does seem to be a pretty good recipe for success. I mean, this Edita Gorniak, she's pretty successful in Poland and they obviously realise that there is a market for this kind of music", he told Radio 1.
"So they pull out quite an obscure song that's done well in its own country that nobody would have heard here, very unlikely that anybody will have heard it in Britain, and sort of sneak it out and leave it dubious as to who wrote it and where it came from."
However, Wendy Page and Jim Marr have always accepted responsibility for writing it - they also wrote Billie's current hit, 'Honey To The Bee'.
There was a similar story with Natalie Imbruglia re-recording a version of 'Torn' by Trina Rain and Madonna's 'Ray of Light' vocals were practically the same as the girl from Baby Fox.
Vanessa Mae - Storm review
Storm is an enthralling album; the title track, fiercely suspenseful. This album alternates between the dense and sparse, piercing and dissolving sounds of the violin and accompanying instruments. Although each track is truly enjoyable for its own unique sounds, my faves are the title track and Embrasse Moi (You Fly Me Up), a hauntingly beautiful mid-tempo ballad, featuring the vocals of Wendy Page. With this album, Vanessa Mae sure kicks up a storm. (I thought it sounded remarkably like that Marillion song)