Modesty Blaise formed in late 1993/early 1994 and rapidly recorded their topjuke-box hit single Christina Terrace with Edwyn Collins at the helm. It was an instant success, the video was played on ITV and the single appeared near the top of many end-of-year polls.
This acclaim however was not enough to quell the kind of internecine warfare that Modesty Blaise have become famous for. Six months after the first single, a new line up released the West Country-Soul ballad You Can Do Better Than That which also sold rapidly and an ITV company decided to make a documentary about songwriter Jonny Collins. However, between filming and broadcast, another two band members had come and gone. By the time the ‘Blaise recorded The Most Beautiful as the third single for Spirit of ’86 Records only Jonny and Dave remained from the original line-up. It was at this point that the ‘Blaise turned up to do a BBC Radio session with seventeen people. After the ensuing technical difficulties a huge fight broke out at a curry house which put paid to another line-up. More new members came and went, so did a disastrous Radio 1 Roadshow where aged equipment proved to be incompatible with modern generators and Gregory had to tap-dance the whole set. Then an argument with Spirit of ’86 meant that The Most Beautiful was withdrawn before release, and things looked decidedly uncertain.
However, soon Modesty Blaise released the singles Blue & Beautiful, a horn-led statement of intent, and Let’s Get Together from the album, Modern Guitars with Amplification before signing to Apricot Records of Wiesbaden, Germany. Apricot compiled A Beginner’s Guide to Modesty Blaise, early singles and different mixes from the formative years.
The ‘Blaise then settled on a line-up for long enough to record the award-winning album Melancholia which featured in many end of year polls as one of the finest albums of 2000. A magnum opus that encompasses many genres, the album’s centrepiece, Carol Mountain was released as a single and was hailed as the finest single of the year, later appearing on the Rough Trade Shops Indiepop 1 compilation.
After Melancholia though, things took a bit of a downturn. The third album proper, The Modesty Blaise, was started but stalled as band members came and went and personal circumstances deteriorated. There was the all too familiar spiral that often ends in tragedy. Forced to spend nights sleeping in abandoned cars whilst picking up casual work as a gravedigger, the years went by slowly but no matter how bad it got Jonny still had his guitars in his mum’s attic.
2013 saw a flurry of activity and the first single, I Love You, from the new album appeared, and it looked like things were happening; a live appearance supporting Robbie Williams at the O2 Arena in London went well but it all went quiet again.
Keen to maintain their reputation as the least hard-working band in showbusiness, it’s now 20 years and counting since the last album.
However, the band have finished recording their long overdue third album proper, The Modesty Blaise to be released on From Lo-Fi to Disco! Records. The single, Natalie Vendredi was released on Nov 22 2019.
Modesty Blaise are currently:
- Jonny Collins – vocals
- David W Brown – bass
- Gregory Jones – guitars
- Mark Bradley – drums
- Alastair Jenkins – guitars
- Roger MacDuff – violins