Although the two girls were generally described as being 'from Newcastle' neither of them spoke with a Geordie accent. Either they grew up in one of the city’s posh suburbs, or they came to the town as students and somehow never left.
The band‘s name was taken from a catch phrase used in a series of advertisements for Cadbury’s 'Milk Tray' chocolates shown widely on British TV in the 1970‘s and 80‘s. It’s probably fair to say the girls came to regret this choice of name. Firstly because they were constantly having to explain to non-British interviewers where it came from and secondly because, to a British audience, the name implied a somewhat twee or light-hearted image, which was at odds with the nature of the music they played. (If you’ve never heard any of their music, imagine a cross between Billy Bragg and The Corrs. And then add extra charm and talent.)
Anything but a soft centre
The duo’s debut LP, "Anything but a soft centre" was released on the Newcastle indie label Paint It Red in late 1988, to generally good reviews. It immediately shot to No.1 – in the Viz magazine charts. (1) Its highlight was the opening track 'Not that kind of girl', which was to become probably their most popular song. (It was released as a single in early 1989 and also climbed to the No.1 slot. (2)) Other outstanding tracks were 'Spitting venom', 'Messed it up again' (which included an excellent solo vocal from Nicky, and cello accompaniment supplied by the capable Penny Callow) and 'I never believed'. The lyrics of the latter track led to the widespread assumption that at least one of the girls was a lesbian. In truth, however, only those who know them personally would be able to confirm or deny this. They both made a point of never discussing their private lives in public and none of their other songs were 'gender specific'.
Following the relative success of their first LP, and positive audience reaction at various gigs they played around the UK (including Glastonbury ’89) the ladies decided to start their own record company. And so And All Because The Lady Loves‘ second LP, "Centred" became the first release by Roundabout Records, in late 1989. "Centred" can be considered the group’s 'purest' album in that all but one of the tracks feature only the two band members and all have a similar, somewhat sombre tone. It’s fair to say that this, plus the spartan quality of the recording, meant that the LP did little to broaden the group’s general appeal. Nonetheless, the glorious '10,000 Leagues' and 'Jealous fool' can boast Nicky Rushton’s two finest recorded vocal performances. The bitter passion with which she sings the latter track is astonishing and, quite frankly, more than a little scary. Other noteworthy tracks were 'If you’ve had enough', 'One for me and one for you', a song about getting drunk wonderfully sung by Rachel, and the group‘s 'tribute' to Margaret Thatcher, 'Flesh and blood' (3). Whilst not, in the opinion of this reviewer, the group’s best song the latter was clearly a favourite of the girls themselves, as it found a place in practically every subsequent set list. Quite what non-British audiences made of it is not clear.
Sugar Baby Love
After the gloom of "Centred" AABTLL’s third album, "Sugar Baby Love" (4) was an altogether more cheerful affair. Released in 1991, it came in what is possibly the most garishly tasteless album cover ever produced (5). Musically, it featured a broader sound palette with important contributions by Hansi Voight (drums) and, once again, Penny Callow (cello and accordion.) The highlight was 'Touching you' – a perfect pop single that in a fair world would have stayed at number one for a month. A bouncy and stupidly infectious song about unrequited love, 'Can’t do that' was another outstanding track, as was the spectacular 'It’s only now', which featured both voices at full throttle. The album also included the oddball track 'Bottle and the blues', which was recorded separately from the rest of the album and featured Dave Bruce and Steve Lee on drums / percussion and John Sylvester on saxophone complimenting a lead vocal by Rachel (clearly the group’s principal drinker!) The song became a regular feature of the group’s live act.
Fame at last !!!!
Unfortunately, by the time "Sugar Baby Love" was released, AABTLL had been practically forgotten by the British music press and, at home, were restricted to a small, dispersed fan base. Quite simply, they just didn’t fit in with any of the trends then current in British popular music (6). You couldn’t dance to their records, they didn’t suddenly sound better if you 'got on an E' and the two girls themselves didn’t look as though they lived in a skip with only a mangy dog on a string for company.
To their own surprise, however, AABTLL had somehow created quite a large following in German-speaking Europe, particularly in Switzerland. With Hansi (who, being a German speaker, doubled as a road manager) and Penny in tow, plus a small entourage of friends who helped by selling tickets and T-shirts, roadying or simply partying, they toured the area extensively from 1991 onwards and made themselves, in Switzerland at least, into one of the most popular bands around. The duo featured regularly on Swiss national radio (7) with several interviews and, in 1993, a concert, being broadcast live.
When interviewed, the two ladies said that they derived as much pleasure from running their record label, and for providing work for so many of their friends, as they did from performing and recording. Unfortunately, the first group signed to Roundabout Records, the folkish "Friends of Harry" also failed to achieve any notable success.
The group’s final studio album, "Sister Bridget" (8) was released in 1993. For the first time in their career, the girls were able to see their name in the proper charts – the CD went straight into the top twenty of the Swiss album chart. Musically, the obvious difference to previous AABTLL records was that Nicky played electric guitar on a number of tracks, and clearly enjoyed the range of distortion effects this made available to her. The most notable 'electric' track was the ferocious 'There’s the dead', a song apparently about faking orgasms. The most memorable track on the LP is however 'Quiet Life', a touching and thoughtful song about domestic violence beautifully sung by Rachel. Other key tracks were 'Comfort you' the shimmering but lyrically banal 'Perfect world' and the group’s only recorded cover version, 'Soul sister'. The record closes with the anthemic 'Respectable' (9), in which the interplay of the two girls‘ voices is astounding. All in all "Sister Bridget" was the best produced, the brightest and also the loudest record the group ever made.
The ladies live
It’s fair to say that, in many cases, the duo’s records didn’t actually do them justice, in that many of their best performances were on stage, rather than in the recording studio. (Their albums, with the possible exception of "Sister Bridget" were apparently recorded almost 'live', with only the minimum of studio trickery being employed.) Especially in small indoor venues, they were a great live act, largely due to their exemplary professionalism. Both girls were relaxed on stage, and evidently derived great pleasure from performing live, which they transmitted to the audience. In short, they had the sort of charisma any successful live performer needs – it was almost impossible not to like them.
What’s the point? – A personal view
So why this long article about a group, now long gone, that achieved only modest success and whose records are, today, practically unobtainable? The answer is partly to try and ensure that the group, and its works, is not completely forgotten, but also because of the affection they created amongst their fans. This researcher will probably carry at least half-a-dozen songs by AABTLL around in his head until the day he dies – more in fact than from any other group, with the possible exception of the Beatles. This obviously doesn’t mean that And All Because The Lady Loves were 'better' than the Beatles, but perhaps the very fact that they were not so commercially successful meant that one felt more possessive about them than one ever could about a 'mainstream' band. The fans could feel that AABTLL was 'their' band.
Two personal recollections; this researcher's first encounter with the group as one of hundreds of people who braved a freezing February night to crowd into the tiny 'Boa Halle' in Luzern. Latecomers had to be accommodated on the sides and back of the stage, often within reach of the group’s equipment. In these circumstances, the two girls gave the best concert you'll ever witness. And then there was the only time he met the two of them, just before their final concert (also in Luzern.) He tried to tell them how much their music had meant to him over the years … and Messed It Up Again. Nicky would have understood.
In late 1994, it was unexpectedly announced that, at the end of their current Swiss tour, AABTLL would be splitting. No reasons were given. Although it’s possible that the personal relationship between the two girls had broken down, the most probable reason was simply that they got tired of playing the same sort of music, and often the same songs, year after year. Also, Nicky’s health gave cause for concern – she had for several years been plagued by severe back pains, culminating in the need for surgery. And so 'And All Because The Lady Loves' played their last concert in Luzern‘s Schuur concert hall in early November 1994. The last encore they played was 'I never believed', with Nicky so emotional that it took four attempts for them to get through the song without her breaking down.
Following this, a live album was released on the Swiss Rec Rec label. Besides all the concert standards, this record also included the last three songs they wrote, which were not on any of their studio albums. The rest is silence.
(1) Issue No. 33, if you have a copy to hand. In the accompanying photo, Rachel’s shown on the left and Nicky on the right.
(2) Viz magazine, issue No. 36.
(3) It’s fair to say they didn’t like her very much.
(4) Named after the Rubettes‘ 1974 glam-pop classic – obviously fondly remembered by the duo.
(5) In addition, for some reason the cover designer elected to put the most unflattering photograph possible of Nicky and Rachel on the back cover. Either she bore the two girls some sort of grudge, or they wanted to make some sort of 'anti-glamour' statement.
(6) Although whether they actually noticed this is debatable. Nicky, who wrote the lion’s share of the music, was well known to have very little interest in anyone’s music but her own. This led to the following classic exchange on Swiss radio
Interviewer: "Didn’t the crowd’s reaction [to the new song 'Respectable'] remind you of that video by Queen?"
(7) DRS3 – the Swiss German equivalent of BBC Radio 1.
(8) The young Nicola Rushton attended a catholic school, at which several of the teachers were nuns. Sister Bridget was, by her account, a particularly unpleasant one.
(9) Definitely not to be confused with Mel and Kim’s hymn to late-80‘s consumerism.