The Tea Set were what you would call a classic art school band, all music as art experiment, where mistakes and wrong chords were part of the process. They were creative, noisy, theatrical, clothed in thrift store chic, and WAY ahead of their time. But now it seems the music world has finally managed to catch up to them, and so the band has teamed with LA-based indie label Cleopatra Records for a definitive singles collection called Back In Time For Tea to be released on July 19. The compilation includes all of the band’s legendary singles released on 7″ vinyl and never commercially available on any other format plus two never before heard songs – “Walk Small” and the recently recorded “Pharaohs.” Back In Time For Tea will be available on all formats including CD, vinyl and digital!
Formed in 1978 after the demise of one of Watford’s most popular punk bands, The Bears, The Tea Set began when drummer Cally and bassist Ron West regrouped and drafted both keyboard player Mark Wilkins and Nic Egan, an art student who’d never sung a note on stage, as their new frontman. It was with this line up that the band made their first record, theCups and Saucers EP, a raw debut that captured the group transitioning from their punk origins (“B52G”) to their first attempts at experimental rock (“Grey Starling”). It was well received by the music press and fans alike and ended up selling out of its first run. This was followed by three other singles including the wildly popular Parry Thomas/Tri X Pan and the Hugh Cornwell produced Keep On Running (Big Noise From The Jungle). Shortly after, the band’s bass player, Duncan Stringer, left and they were joined by St. Albans guitarist Nick Haeffner while West moved back over to bass.
As highly lauded as their music was, their record sleeves were even more legendary and more ambitious than any other artists of the time. Egan and Cally pioneered a propagandist approach to music marketing, tagging bridges over the M1 Motorway and creating Prep School anti-hero images. Egan would go on to an extremely successful graphic design career creating cover art for The Clash, The Ramones, The Cult, Bob Dylan, Bow Wow Wow and others as well as directing videos for Duran Duran, INXS, Oasis, Sonic Youth and many more! Cally likewise would remain in the creative arts doing marketing, A&R and creative director at a number of major labels and for such artists as Jean Michel Jarre, Talk Talk, Scott Walker, U2, Tricky, and PJ Harvey among several others.
The Tea Set were the complete package with a highly energetic, theatrical live show that made them a popular attraction in London and earned them spots supporting The Clash, U2, and Iggy Pop as well as tours with The Stranglers and The Skids. A resurgence in popularity brought the band back together last year to not only record a new track (“Pharaohs”) but also to put this package together and film a video for “Pharaohs!”!