THE SEA URCHINS: A RETROSPECTIVE

Urchin To Go

The Sea Urchins hailed from West Bromich, in the West Midlands. They were active during the late 1980s to the very early ’90s at which point they disbanded but regrouped with some line-up changes to form Delta.

Sadly, I knew nothing of The Sea Urchins back then, they’re a recent discovery for me. I would have been their greatest fan had they been on my radar. The single “Pristine Christine” is the sweetest tune I’ve heard for decades and believe me when I say I’ve listened to many thousands of records.

The amount of records and CDs I own nowadays is so vast that I’ve superseded having a record collection. I now refer to it as my archive. Boxes and shelves filled to the brim with ’60s garage and psychedelia, ’70s punk rock and garage punk revival. . . . . . but back to The Sea Urchins.

The first thing I did when I discovered “Pristine Christine” on YouTube a few weeks ago was try and locate an original copy of the single. Imagine my grief when I realised that the 45 would set me back in the region of £300.
I simply don’t have the disposable funds to buy a record for that amount nowadays.

OK, an original pressing is out of reach! How about finding a copy of their releases on an album called “Stardust” on the important Sarah Records label? Well, that too has soared in value and I’d be lucky to buy a copy for less than £150. In fact all of their releases are akin to gold dust. They’re all important historical documents of this truly special group. One of the great lost and unknown English bands.

Their music is available on two insanely rare flexi-discs given away with Kvatch and Sha-La-La fanzines. A few singles were released on Sarah and one last attempt on Cheree in 1991 but by then the sparkle had gone and they were rehashing a decent but flat version of Badfinger’s “No Matter What” with more polished and mature tunes. . . . but to me, less interesting..

The material recorded and released by Sarah Records is delicate folk-rock with jangle guitar, subtle bass moves, splintered tambourine and exquisite drum action. The drummer provides James Roberts’ songs with the perfect backbeat, approaching his kit with a very light touch.

Singer / songwriter James Roberts reminds me of Blue Things leader Val Stecklein. He writes the same kind of beautiful songs, full of melody and grace. They’re moving numbers about love, rejection and turmoil. His forlorn and occasionally tortured vocal delivery is perfect for these shades of grey creations.

Discography:

“Cling Film” (Kvatch 001) flexi-disc 1987
“Summershine” (Sha La La 05) flexi-disc 1987
“Pristine Christine” / “Sullen Eyes” / “Everglades” (Sarah Records 1) 11/87
“Solace” / “Please Rain Fall” (Sarah Records 8) 1988
“Untitled” recorded 30/10/88 (Fierce Recordings) 1988
“A Morning Odyssey” / “Wild Grass Pictures” (Sarah records 33) 1990
“Please Don’t Cry” / “No Matter What” / “Time Is All I’ve Seen” (Cheree 15) 1991

Compilation:

“Stardust” LP (Sarah Records 609) 1992

tracklist:
“Cling Film”
“Summershine”
“You’re So Much”
“Pristine Christine”
“Sullen Eyes”
“Everglades”
“Solace”
“Please Rain Fall”
“A Morning Odyssey”
“Wild Grass Pictures”
“Day Into Day”

The Sea Urchins are fortunate enough to have some keen and loyal fans devoted enough to set-up a Facebook Group and it’s from the latter where the photos I’ve posted here were originally shared. I’ve provided a link at the beginning of my retrospective to The Sea Urchins fan-group.

Join up, there is plenty more information and delightful images from fanzines and such-like. Without their dedication images and cuttings would never be seen. So thanks to them.

Special mention to Paul Burridge who took the time and effort to share his rare demo-tape of The Sea Urchins recordings made before they were ever heard outside of the bedrooms. The same tape was likely sent to the NME, who wrote about the band in their “Thrills!” section on 31/05/86.

1986 Sea Urchins demo-tape mix

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