People, Places, Products and Praxis

“And you, forgotten, your memories ravaged by all the consternations of two hemispheres, stranded in the Red Cellars of Pali-Kao, without music and without geography, no longer setting out for the hacienda where the roots think of the child and where the wine is finished off with fables from an old almanac. Now that’s finished. You’ll never see the hacienda. It doesn’t exist.”

Christopher Gray Leaving the 20th Century
(with text appropriated from the Formulary for
a New Urbanism by Ivan Chtcheglov)

X is for X-O-Dus

X-O-Dus press shot 1975

Hailing from Hulme and Moss Side, X-O-Dus were regulars at the Russell Club, the original home of the Factory club night. Initially formed in mid-1975; the founder members were Honey, Leddy, Trevor Bell, and shortly after, Dave Reid. The aim of the band was to play the kind of music which they themselves wanted to hear and that was not being played by others at the time: a progressive reggae, a new, young sound which could be understood and enjoyed by black and white alike.

Flyer for The Factory featuring X-O-Dus 1979

In early 1979 the band changed their management and in June, recorded their ‘rainy city reggae’ at Cargo Studios in Rochdale. Tony Wilson heard the resulting tape and the song English Black Boys made such an impression on him that the band were offered a deal for a single almost immediately, making X-O-Dus the first reggae band to sign to a leading independent label. It was decided that the single should be a 12-inch, comprising English Black Boys – which clocked in at just over ten minutes – as the a-side, and a new song, See Them A’ Come as the b-side.

Fac 11 X-O-Dus English Black Boys 1980

Factory engaged the dub producer Dennis Bovell to mix the single. Bovell, who had previously worked with The Pop Group and also with Janet Kay on the hit single Silly Games, was busy with other projects, including the album Cut by the Slits, and the release was delayed until the following year. X-O-Dus performed at the Leigh Festival, Zoo Meets Factory Halfway and at the Moonlight Club showcase but Fac 11 was their only record on Factory, and is the label’s sole reggae release. When the single eventually hit the shops at the end of April 1980, it received favourable reviews in Sounds, Melody Maker and the NME. X-O-Dus were also favourably reviewed in the Manchester listings magazine City Fun (date unknown): ‘First on are X-O-Dus, possibly the most underrated Reggae band in the country, not, as I’ve said before, I don’t claim to know a great deal about the subject, the sooner someone who does takes the time to write in, the sooner we’ll be able to give bands like X-O-Dus the coverage they deserve. Manager Mr Dunlop’s movement of Ja People seemed very impressive, if the size of the supporters’ entourage is anything to go by, X-O-Dus must be highly regarded in reggae circles. Now with a single out on Factory, which I have listened too and did appreciate, and getting radio play, apparently the lout (John) Peel thinks it’s great as well, so there ye go. Come on all you Lee Perry impersonators, let’s have a full-size X-O-Dus feature/interview.’

Fac 11 X-O-Dus English Black Boys 1980 Back cover

The sleeve for English Black Boys, was designed by Peter Saville and, typically for a Factory release, was available in two different versions: a dark grey textured card sleeve, and a light grey regular card sleeve. The single had ‘for J Anderton’ scratched in the run-out groove – a reference to James Anderton, the disputed head of Manchester Police.
Texts and images re-structured from various sources - respect and thanks to those I have sampled. The output of Factory Records inspired me as a teenager and still inspires and informs me today: thank you, Tony Wilson.