Song of the day: THE NEED – Let Them Eat Valium (1980)

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In the late seventies and early eighties, scores of 45s appeared almost weekly on tiny labels by bands who would often never make another. Many would be sold to friends and family, and perhaps at local gigs. Some would be stocked in the major London emporia like Rough Trade and Small Wonder, and some achieved airplay on the Peel show – then the only place that new bands could hope to be heard without major company backing. A select few garnered more than the one spin. One of these was “Let Them Eat Valium” by the Need, released in 1980.

I’ve no idea who the band were. I seem to recall that they hailed from Kent. The label was called Vitriol Products, but as far as I’m aware, this was its only issue. And the band never made another record – at least not under the same name.

Lyrically “Let Them Eat Valium” covers similar terrain to the Fall’s “Rowche Rumble” in that it’s a harsh condemnation of drug companies pushing sedatives – the title, of course, being a pun on Marie Antoinette’s infamous (and probably apocryphal) “let them eat cake” statement. “Let them eat valium, let them eat valium, you can’t change your life but you can change your reality” – it’s a powerful and angry polemic. The singer reminds me a little of a young Jaz Colman of Killing Joke. Musically, the track fits in a space somewhere between the early gothic melodrama of Bauhaus and Wasted Youth, the scratchy politicism of the Gang Of Four and the warped, dark jazz-funk of the Pop Group. It’s dominated by a powerful, reverberating three-note bass riff and sounds fantastic – this is no scratchy lo-fi home recording. The flipside is a song called “Seduction” which is another great tune. The Need certainly seemed to have real potential, like another great lost band of the period, Sheffield’s Past Seven Days (who they resemble to a degree).

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“Let Them Eat Valium” has yet to make it to CD as far as I’m aware, but it isn’t so rare that it doesn’t turn up on Ebay or Gemm every now and then. It’s a fantastic record – one of the best from a period when superb sevens were dropping weekly. If anyone has any info about the fate of the band, or some more detail about the record’s genesis, it would be great if they would care to share it.

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10 responses to “Song of the day: THE NEED – Let Them Eat Valium (1980)

  1. Pure chance that I put in a search for this record today. First time ever!
    Anyway I played the bass. A side lyrics by singer Tony Tutt from Herne Bay. A side music by guitarist Chris Nicholas from Ramsgate. B side lyrics by me, music by Chris. Drums played by Paul Daley from Ramsgate, later of Leftfield fame and fortune.
    Band disintegrated after this although Chris and Tony did record another 7″ Rebel Times/Sound of Fear under band name Strange Fruit.

  2. Thanks for that, John.

    I’ve always been curious as to know who was behind the single, and what happened next. It was a great record.

    Judging by the number of folk who’ve searched for it since I wrote the post a month or so back, I’m far from alone in remembering it either.

    Great bassline, too!

  3. Hello Dez !
    I know this single since the 80´s and you´re really right.
    The track is brilliant. It´s curious, I don´t find any about this
    item twenty years long and now in these days.
    Thanks to John Luck for the whole story.
    Morton

  4. I was hipped to the Need many years ago via Tim Yohannan’s magical record collection and been hunting for it ever since. thanks so much for posting this.

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