MIDNIGHT CIRCUS / THE FLYS 1974 - 81
This was Neil O'Connor's band. Originally called Midnight Circus in 1974 and after punk they were known as The Flys.
I came across Midnight Circus through singer songwriter Phil Knapper (Stu knapper's brother). Phil had hitched around Finland with Neil, Alex Murphy (whom Neil sings about on his solo site) and John Gravenor of Wandering John a few years earlier. As a result we gave Midnight Circus a gig (I think it was more than one) at the HOBO WORKSHOP at the Holyhead Youth Centre and they proved to be quite a popular band. By 1978 the band had shed their hippy image for a punk one and changed their name to the Flys. Neil''s sister is of course the celebrated Hazel O'Connor. They performed their single Molotov Cocktail on the Old Grey Whistle Test and appeared on John Peel show a few times.
I think Neils piece from the Flys My space describes them best -
In the beginning there were
three young lads from Cov in the UK.
David Freeman, Joe Hughes and Neil O’Connor.
Neil was slightly older than the other two
and had made their acquaintance
through David’s mum, Esther Freeman,
a lovely lady who was Neil’s Yoga teacher.
( yeah he was a bit of a late flowering hippy….)
Joe took up the bass, Dave and Neil,
the guitars and voices
and they started to try to do something.
They gave themselves the name "Midnight Circus"
and were probably bloody awful but, hey,
it was a good laugh.
In those days there was never a full time drummer
except for one guy,
Paul Angelopolis, an American guy from Florida,
in the same age group as them who wasn’t
half bad except for when he partook
more than he should’ve.
Sadly Paul abused too much and died of a barbituate
overdose at the age of 24.
And that was sort of the end of "Midnight Circus".
By now it was 1977 and there was a change in the air.
So they dropped the name
and reincarnated as "The Flys".
But still no drummer.
Around this time they happened upon a guy named
Chris King who started to take a managerial interest in the lads
as luck would have it, had a younger brother,
Pete King, who was a good drummer and so deserved an audition.
Here was the guy they’d been hoping for years to meet.
And so The Flys became Dave, Joe, Neil and Pete.
Chris had a huge amount of belief in the band
and proposed that he’d set up a small indie label and
sign up the band to release a limited edition 7 inch EP and so
they went off to Pathway studios, an 8 track
in Islington where all the great Stiff recordings had been made,
to spend a Saturday recording their repertoire of 14 songs, or so.
Then 5 of the recordings were chosen, mixed, mastered
and became the EP "Bunch of five" on Chris King’s
"Zama" label which included the titles….
"Love and a Molotov cocktail"
"Can I crash here"
Eventually EMI were to sign the band
after having heard the EP and seeing the band on stage
opening for The Buzzcocks tour in the Autumn of ’77.
A condition of the contract was that the
"Zama" indie release had to be limited to 2,500 copies
as EMI wanted to re-launch with the title
"Love and a Molotov cocktail".
In the late winter of ’78, with EMI money,
they went on a UK nationwide tour opening for
John Otway and Wild Willie Barrett and
as spring arrived moved to London
and started to record their first album for EMI,
"Waikiki beach refugees".
Maybe they’d been too long in each others company,
it’s hard to know exactly
why but rifts started to appear.
The first casualty was Chris.
The Flys were no exception to any other bands in
that they were full of insecurity and that insecurity
pushed Chris away.
Pete continued to play with the band who, by now,
were opening for "The Ruts" around the UK and
playing shows in their own right around Europe
but he was never totally happy without his brother around.
Probably he felt torn in his loyalties,
Which is no surprise and eventually he was offered
the chance to join "After the fire" who,
at the time, were about to tour with ELO.
For Pete this became a dream come true as
ELO’s drummer became to ill to play
and Pete ended up playing drums for ELO for most of the tour.
After Pete they recruited Graham Deakin,
a lay it down Keith Moon type who came to the band
from John Entwhistle’s "Ox".
And so with new drummer, Graham,
the guys went down to a 16 track in Somerset
to record their second album which was to be called "Own".
Although they continued to record more singles, EP’s,
tour and make many TV and Radio appearances
throughout the UK and Europe their time together started to
unravel and in the spring of 1980 they called it quits.
Neil went on to play guitar and record with his sister
Eventually, in the mid 80’s, he moved into the field
of recording and producing working mainly from
Martin Rushent’s "Genetic studios".
David went on to follow a solo career
securing a publishing/ development contract with Dave Stewart.
Eventually Joe joined him, they called themselves
"The lover speaks" and in the ‘90s they were rewarded
with a huge songwriting success when Annie Lennox
covered their song "No more I love you’s".
Sadly Pete succumbed to cancer before he could reach the age of 30.
Graham was never heard from again.
These days Neil lives in Montreal, Canada
producing and performing still.
Joe and his wife split their time between
the UK and the States with their band "Cicero Buck".
David’s a bit of a hermit as of writing.
"Die Toten Hosen" from Germany and
"Duanne Peters" have both covered
"Love and Molotov cocktail".
Hazel included it in one of her TV shows too.
Photo L to R ( taken by Pete Vernon 1978 )
Neil O’Connor - guitar, keys, vox
David Freeman - guitar, vox
Joe Hughes - bass, vox
Pete King - drums
Managers and road crew were………..
Chris King -manager 77 to 78
Mark Rye –manager 78 to 80
Vance Anderson -tour manager 77 to 80
Mick Anderson - backline 77 to 80
Zama-indie - 77 to 78
EMI - 78 to 80
See for miles - re-release in the 90s
Captain Oi - re-release in 2K.
By Neil O Connor.
Review from Alternative Sounds - 1979
THE FLYS - NAME DROPPING / FLY V FLY (EMI)
Get ready for the next Flys single - as the chorus line of the song says, it is amaaazing! Featuring David on vocals, there's some good lyrics for all you posers to sing-along to. There's some nice juicy guitar playing too, and with a catchy tune like this, all I can say is - make way for a hit.
The B Side is a novel little instrumental. The guitar work in it is most unusual - good if you're feeling like a jerky dance.
A single well worth adding to your collection.
7 inch singles
Bunch of fives ep, ZA 10 EP, ZAMA
Love and a molotov cocktail, EMI 2747, EMI
Fun city, EMI 2795, EMI
Waikiki beach refugees, EMI 2867, EMI
Oh Beverly, EMI 2907, EMI
Name dropping, EMI 2936, EMI
Living in the sticks, EMI 2979, EMI
Sixteen down, R 6030, PARLOPHONE
What will mother say, R 6036, PARLOPHONE
Long play vinyl
Four from the square ep, R 6063, PARLOPHONE
Waikiki beach refugees, EMC 3249, EMI
This Coventry, England-based group enjoyed a minor league role in the new wave, but owed more to power-pop and astute songwriting than punk. Singer and guitarist Neil O'Connor (brother of Hazel O'Connor) met school kids David Freeman (guitar, vocals) and Joe Hughes (bass, vocals) in the mid-70s, and formed Midnight Circus, eventually recruiting Pete King on drums. A name change to the Flys coincided with the discovery of punk's first tremors, but a demo in April 1977 brought an apathetic response from the usual channels. The band issued Bunch Of Five, an energetic EP, on their own Zama Records label in time for Christmas. Quick as a flash, EMI Records snapped them up, rushing out one of the EP tracks (and perhaps their finest ever moment), "Love And A Molotov Cocktail", as a single. After a tour with the Buzzcocks and John Otway And Wild Willy Barrett came "Fun City", recorded at Pathway Studios. Waikiki Beach Refugees (also the title of their next single) emerged in October 1978 to an enthusiastic response, while the band toured Europe. 1979 saw a flurry of singles - "Beverley" in February, "Name Dropping" in April and "We Are The Lucky Ones" - but internal quarrels led to the recruitment of a riotous new drummer Graham Deakin (ex-Frankie Miller and John Entwistle's Ox). Flys Own, rawer than their debut, coincided with a tour with the Ruts in autumn 1979. The EP Four From The Square was released in February as the band transferred to Parlophone Records. This was followed by "What Will Mother Say" in May 1980. Internal pressures began to erupt and the Flys broke up soon afterwards. O'Connor joined his sister for two years and two albums before becoming a musical arranger, and then a producer and engineer. Freeman issued a cover version of the Supremes' "Stop! In The Name Of Love", took a degree, published his poetry, sang on Alison Moyet's Raindancing and later formed The Lover Speaks with Hughes (after his spell with ex-Specials Roddy Radiation And His Tearjerkers). Pete King, meanwhile, joined After The Fire, but sadly died aged 26. In 1991 See For Miles Records compiled an excellent self-titled retrospective of the band.