100 Favourite Songs #99 ‘Mahalia’ The Bible

Ah, the late 80’s, when it was cool to where your raincoat in a music video – the Narcs, anyone?  As a Radio DJ on Radio Active we all use to play the ep of this at 33′ because it was mislabelled, but we al thought it was some new industrial re-interpretation, like Joy Division or test Dept.  Besides, being young and green, we dared not challenge the Station Manager’s greater knowledge on these matters.

In a pre-internet age, the Bible were flirting with misrepresentation from the beginning.  The English rock band released two critically acclaimed albums (Walking the Ghost Back Home and Eureka) in the mid-1980s,  and are best known for the independent chart hits “Graceland” and “Mahalia”.

They were formed in Cambridge UK in the mid eighties as a partnership between ex-Great Divide singer/guitarist Boo Hewerdine and keyboard player/drummer Tony Shepherd.

They released their self-written and financed debut album ‘Walking the Ghost Back Home’ in 1986 on the Norwich-based independent label Backs Records. The album was critically very well received and became a top-ten hit in the UK Independent chart, staying in the chart for over ten weeks.

The line-up expanded when guitarist Neill Maccoll (brother of Kirsty) and drummer Dave Larcombe (both former Roaring Boys) became permanent band members, later joined by Leroy Lendor on bass.

The album was spearheaded by the release of the single ‘Graceland’ which gained much publicity and became a minor UK hit, and author Nick Hornby would later devote a chapter of his book ‘31 Songs’ to the single’s B-side ‘Glorybound’. The follow-up single ‘Mahalia’ was similarly well received and reached number 15 on the UK Independent Chart.

‘Walking the Ghost Back Home’ brought the band to the attention of Chrysalis Records, and a major label deal ensued. In January 1988, the band’s second album ‘Eureka’ (produced by Steve Earle) was released to further acclaim, with the single “Honey Be Good” giving them a second minor hit.

Despite critical acclaim and a devoted following for both their recorded and live performances, the band never quite got the commercial breakthrough they deserved and dissolved in the early 1990s when individual members moved onto other music projects. Neill Maccoll went on to form ‘The Liberty Horses’ (with Leroy Lendor on bass) and later joined David Gray’s band, and Boo Hewerdine forged a successful solo career as a performer and songwriter as well as collaborating with other artists including Eddi Reader.

The Bible briefly reformed in late 1993 / early 94 for a series of hugely popular live performances, together with the release of the album ‘Dodo’.

25 years on from their first beginnings, new material is once again on the way and the 2011 line-up includes original band members Boo Hewerdine, Tony Shepherd and Neill MacColl.

And they continue on: http://www.thebibletheband.com/, although nothing will be as great as “Mahalia”.



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