Shop Assistants is one of many groups that signaled the early 80’s blossom of UK post-punk fever. There was a rapid proliferation of bands who softened the stripped-down instrumentals of punk and, in the case of Shop Assistants, replaced the typically anti-authority lyrics with laments over unreciprocated crushes and bursts of after-the-breakup anger. While Shop Assistants were probably too disorganized (as evidenced by their frequent line-up changes) or too unfocused (they released only one LP in six years as a band) to achieve commercial success, their simple, spunky arsenal of largely unnoticed pop singles encapsulate the essence of the UK post-punk gold rush. Perhaps it is fitting that two of the bigger moments for Shop Assistants have been the nods from acts more successful than their own.
In 1985, at the height of the Smiths’ success, Morrissey identified the Shop Assistants song “All Day Long” as his favorite single of the year. Of course, the compliment is really the master winking at one of his proteges, as it seems unlikely that such a song would have existed without the Smiths, containing as it does a heaping portion of Morrissey’s brand of social detachment and secret emotions. “All Day Long” starts with a simple drum beat/guitar chord construction, before vocalist Alex Taylor sings “All day long we walked about / And all day long you talked about her.” Although the track doesn’t compare to the solid sound of Morrissey’s own band (his expansive and poetic vocabulary, the emotional expressiveness of his voice, the polished instrumentals) there is an innate, under-dog charm to the frustrated confession of a “one of the guys” young woman who wants the romantic attention of her male friends.
These same kinds of situations are the thematic foundation of last summer’s most attention-grabbing beach band, Best Coast. Appropriately, Best Coast included the 1986 Shop Assistants track “I Don’t Want to Be Friends With You” on their guest mixtape for Artist Advocacy. Shop Assistants produced a low-budget music video for this particular single, in which they try to look like Blondie on an Edinburgh rooftop:
Article by: Weston Clay