Welcome to Bliss/Aquamarine - alternative, underground and indie music.

THE SEA URCHINS Open Out vol 2 (1986-1990) CDR (Bobby Bongo)
THE SEA URCHINS Wales Visitation CDR (Bobby Bongo)

Two forthcoming CDRs of archival Sea Urchins material on Robert Cooksey's label Bobby Bongo Records. A couple of issues ago I reviewed the first volume of Open Out, a collection of demos that take us into the earliest history of The Sea Urchins, with material stretching back as far as 1981 when they were just 13 years old. It showed them exploring a variety of genres over the years, some of which ended up having little or no impact on the sound of The Sea Urchins as we know them. Volume two however represents the era of the band we all know best. It features demo versions of familiar songs and songs new to me, plus alternate mixes of some of their material that came out on Sarah Records.

There are three tracks I've never heard before in any form, all really good songs that fit well alongside their other late 80s output. This is How We're Meant to Be has minimal guitar and tambourine accompaniment, Cove is wistful melancholia set to fuzz guitar and tambourine, and See the Sky is just voice and guitar but what a song, a serious earworm I just can't seem to shake off, just imagine how great this would have sounded in final form! There's also a nice minimal version of Show Your Colours, a song most Sea Urchins fans will know as A Morning Odyssey, the name it appeared under when it was released on Sarah a few years later.

The demo of Everglades shows a few tweaks were made to the lyrics once it made it into the studio. For instance in this earlier recording, "wooden steps showed us the way / to tumble backwards into yesterday", not the more familiar "stumble" from the final version on Sarah. So nice to hear how this, one of my favourite Sea Urchins songs, took shape over time. Also good to hear the demos of Cling Film and Pristine Christine. Sadly the sound drops out in one speaker partway through Show Your Colours but fortunately sorts itself out. The other tracks in this batch are all decent home demo quality.

Some good bits of aural memorabilia follow, starting with John Peel recounting how when out for a meal in Birmingham with members of The Nightingales and Yeah Yeah Noh, The Sea Urchins' friend Mark Aynsley pressed a piece of paper into his hand asking if he could play a record for Jamie, Robert, Bridget and the rest of the band.

Cling Film is played on local radio shortly before its release on flexi through Leeds fanzine Kvatch, which was of course run by Clare Wadd who went on to co-found Sarah Records with fellow fanzine writer Matt Haynes of Are You Scared to Get Happy. Not sure who the DJs are but it sounds like they had mixed feelings, with one of them commenting that he likes The Sea Urchins a lot but Cling Film isn't one of their best and he's not quite sure why they put that one on the flexi! Going to have to beg to differ - Cling Film is a classic and another of my personal faves! The same guys play Summershine and recommend the band as worth seeing.

Next up are different mixes of the songs from their debut 7" on Sarah: Pristine Christine with the bass higher in the mix than on the final version, Everglades with three stray notes at the end, and Sullen Eyes with a different guitar solo. Note also the different running order; the EP places Everglades last. The songs from their second Sarah single appear in demo form, a full band Solace and a stripped-down Please Rain Fall. Day into Day is a song Sarah initially rejected, but they evidently changed their minds later, as it appeared on the Sea Urchins compilation album Stardust, released on Sarah in 1992 after the band had split. It represents the band's more raucous side, with Beatles-esque riffage placed within a wild garage rock setting, culminating in an impassioned shriek of yeahs and waaaahs. The song appears here in its original phased mix, the psychedelic shimmer adding something extra special to the piece. This version would have made a great single, a real pity that never happened.

The CD closes with a demo version of Low Scene, which sees The Sea Urchins starting to venture into late 60s American rock territory, along similar lines to what James, Robert and Patrick were doing a couple of years later with their next band Delta. Another song that really should have been a single.

This compilation is an absolute treat for fans of this band, I really recommend getting a copy once it's available.


Wales Visitation, named after an Allen Ginsberg poem, is The Sea Urchins live at Aberystwyth University on 20th January 1989. It's a good quality recording with a mixture of Sarah-era faves, cover versions, and a couple of their own songs that were never released at the time. The set opens with a spirited cover of You're Too Much by 60s mods The Eyes, followed by probably the most well-known Sea Urchins song, Pristine Christine. The pealing jangle of A Morning Odyssey is next, in which the arrogant attitude the band became notorious for puts in an appearance: following on from the song's usual "Do you know?" ending, James adds an extra line, "I'll bet, all you fuckers, you don't!"

Open Out is announced as their next single. It was not; I suppose Sarah had other ideas. As they are playing this in January 1989, I guess it must have been written in 1988 or even earlier. I'm surprised this one dates back so far as it's more like the material they were playing live around 1990 when they started sounding more like Delta. It's unfortunate that Sarah were so averse to this rockier side of the band; Open Out really would have made an excellent single. Solace is next, a hard-edged mod number driven by a choppy riff overlaid by impassioned vocals, followed by the sheer melancholic beauty of Please Rain Fall. The psych-tinged jangle-pop classic Everglades rounds off this part of their set.

Next is a selection of 1960s covers sung by Darren, the band introduced as Darren Martin and the Martinettes! There's the spiky mod sounds of The Eyes' I'm Rowed Out; The Monkees' You May Just Be The One, perky pop tinged with American folk; The Yardbirds' Heartful of Soul with galloping drums and squealing feedback; and Dizzy Miss Lizzy, originally by Larry Williams and popularised by The Beatles, a vigorous rock 'n' roll number with half-sung, half-shouted vocals. The crowd screams out for more and the band return for an encore, See the Sky, James back on vocals for this. Unfortunately the song ends abruptly as the tape runs out, but getting to hear around three quarters of this unreleased-at-the-time gem is better than none at all! Note however that I'm reviewing a pre-release preview, not the finished version. The final release may leave See the Sky off or fade out the ending; I say keep it and fade out as it's too good a song to leave off altogether. Another option: if anyone reading this recorded the gig and has the complete performance of See the Sky, please contact Robert so the full song can be included.

Robert hopes to have these CDs released by September 2023, to coincide with his new band Mystic Village playing the Paris Popfest on the 30th of the month. Mystic Village will be playing a couple of Sea Urchins songs that Robert co-wrote, alongside new material. If the release is delayed for any reason, the CDs should be out no later than early 2024. There are also plans to set up a Bandcamp to sell Bobby Bongo CDs, but before then, the best way to find out more is to email Robert at


[ home ] [ about ] [ tapes - page 1 ] [ tapes - page 2 ] [ tapes - page 3 ] [ tapes - page 4 ]
[ tapes - page 5 ] [ tapes - page 6 ] [ tapes - page 7 ] [ tapes - page 8 ]
[ also available ] [ ordering information ]
[ aquamarine online ] [ aquamarine archive ] [ links ]

Site developed by Chris Harten and maintained by Kim Harten Lam
Text © Kim Harten Lam, 2023.