history of the passage

dick witts (francesco mellina / john nichols)

‘passage’ was formed in march 1978, by tony friel (bassist and founder member of the fall) and dick witts (percussionist with the hallé orchestra and the dreamtiger ensemble), both of the Manchester Musicians' Collective. dick's friend bob dickinson (original keyboardist with magazine) joined them initially, before settling with tony's friend lorraine hilton

passage live 1970s (thanks: tony friel)

they released their first recording, a 4-track ep for object music, new love songs, at the end of 1978, with writing credits split evenly between tony and dick

karl burns (drums, also of the fall) joined the band in 1979 so dick could play keyboards too, but karl quickly moved on to john cooper-clarke's band. they released a second 4-track ep, about time, with equal writing credit to tony and dick, this time the ep was produced by david cunningham of the flying lizards

alongside his work in passage, dick became music & dance officer for the merseyside arts association and was a presenter of granada television's what's on (later working on the bbc's oxford road show)

after an audience altercation at a london gig, tony quit the band, and joined ex-fall bandmates martin bramah and karl burns in the teardrops. tony was replaced by lorraine's sister martine hilton (bass) and john snowdon (vocals) for live work, while dick wrote enough material for their debut album

dick recorded the album in a week in july 1980. not long afterwards, he was involved in a car accident and his arm was injured, putting him out of action. the band separated indefinitely. object music released the album pindrop in november 1980 (under the name ‘the passage’) to critical acclaim, but a dispute with the record company caused the album to be deleted after just 5000 copies were made

lizzy, dick, andy and joe - 1980 (kevin cummins)

still recovering, and in need of help with promoting the album, dick recruited joe mckechnie (drummer with Liverpool bands activity minimal and modern eon), lizzy johnson (vocals), and andy wilson (guitarist with the spurtz, still in school)

the passage formed their own record label (‘night & day’, to be published by dindisc/virgin), but had only recorded one single devils and angels (december 1980) when lizzy quit the following month

joe, andy and dick - 1981 (francesco mellina / john nichols)

a three-piece again, they went into the recording studio in february 1981. they emerged with a single, a remake of troops out, and their first "band" album for all and none

the album release went without a bang, and they continued to gig intermittently, until joe had enough of living in two cities. now, down to a duo, they signed with indie label cherry red records. dick and andy recorded a single taboos, recruited paul mahoney (drums), and started work on a new album

andy, paul and dick - 1982 (tom sheehan)

degenerates was completed in 1982. taken from the album, new single xoyo received welcome publicity by inclusion in the ubiquitous Cherry Red pillows and prayers compilation, and was included in john peel's festive 50 that year. they toured northern europe, and joined Richard strange's cabaret futura tour of america

after recording new single wave, paul left the band. joe was persuaded to return, so they could continue to tour the UK and Greece, as well as record their fourth album over the following months

joe, dick and andy - 1983

the album enflame and single sharp tongue were released in march 1983. there was no promotional tour, but they made occasional live performances, and ended 1983 with a bbc session

unhappy with the way cherry red records was handling releases, they quit the label, which then proceeded to compile and release an unapproved "best of" album through the passage

after an abortive attempt at a new project, the passage was finally disbanded due to lack of success, setbacks, disillusionment and alternative interests

where are they now?

dick witts worked for various arts-based organisations, is a writer, and lectures on modern music in edinburgh, lon don, and lancashire

andy wilson worked as a dj all over the world, and now djs and works at sonica radio in ibiza

joe mckechnie joined benny profane after the passage, played with wild swans, pete wylie, the bunnymen, blue orchids, vic godard and factory star, and djs/produces as the mindwinder and dj tempest in liverpool

tony friel produced several bands, including blue orchids, and played with the woodbank street band and the scavengers. he runs an electronics company in norfolk

paul o'mahoney played with many bands, including ludus, hurrah!, martin stephenson and paris angels, tried the police, and is now a steiner waldorf teacher in ireland, where he leads contrawave

lizzy johnson continues to sing, and has worked in band promotion, has lived in australia, and now works for a children's charity in merseyside

please spot the mistakes and fill in the blanks
by e-mailing keith at degenerates@thepassage.co.uk