AVO-8 first began way back in the mists of 1979. We are not too concerned about this incarnation, it will be enough to say that there was a single released on Stroppo Records in 1980 called ‘Gone Wrong’ and that two of the protagonists were also involved in the AVO-8 we knew and loved more recently (Stephen Hastie & Kenny Gourlay).
In 1985, Stephen and Kenny got together again and decided to form the new improved AVO-8 with their respective partners, Jan Hastie and Claire Gourlay, and Jan’s brother, George Glen. Jan and Claire did the singing, Stephen did the guitar, George did the bass and Kenny did the drums.
Also involved were: Willie Allison who filled the roles of driver, sometime manager, and PA owner and operator; Eddie Roberston, roadie and generally all round good guy; and, Karen Trotman, lighting person and Claire’s sister and soon to marry George and become Jan’s sister in law. Confused yet? – you will be!
Our first gig was at Brando’s, the pub which we used as a meeting point before and after practice, which unfortunately doesn’t exist anymore. It was at Christmas 1985 and although we weren’t as tight as we could be it was absolutely brilliant.
During the next 5 years we did lots of gigs up and down the country as you’ll see from the gig list. Some of these were to large audiences and some small; there was even one memorable outdoor gig in Nairn where we played to a tiny group of people and a dog called James Dean. The fact that the wind was carrying our sound to a larger town several miles down the coast made up for the small local audience!
Life was made more difficult by the fact that we all had full time jobs to do during the day, but it was definitely worth it. People at work got used to us all turning up late with hangovers, blisters, sore throats etc and we got used to feeling that they were all boring and didn’t have half the excitement in their lives that we did!
We played very few songs written by other people (Last Train to Clarksville and Hang Onto Yourself being the only two we did regularly), so we spent a lot of time writing songs. Generally someone brought a nearly finished idea to the rest and we all worked on it together, so all songs are credited to everyone.
We released three singles, one on our own AVO label and two on Cherry Red. We decided to put out ‘Is This The End?’ on our own label because we didn’t have time ourselves to contact other labels. We didn’t have any real management at that time and all our time was spent working, gigging and writing. When we released ‘Is This The End?’ we did spend some time plugging it and luckily Andy Kershaw liked it, passed it on to Steve Wright and Liz Kershaw (who both played it) and gave us a Radio One session. The session was produced by Dale Griffin (ex Mott the Hoople drummer). This was especially exciting (and nerve wracking) for Kenny – playing drums in front of his hero!
After the session had aired we were contacted by management in London who took us on and then Cherry Red signed us and released two singles. We started getting more gigs down south and got on part of a tour with the Darling Buds, which was pretty good fun. We also met some strange people and autographed weird and wonderful parts of peoples bodies.
There is in existence a video EP which was made by Alistair Allison, Willy’s brother. It is extremely embarrassing to look back on now but at the time it was brilliant to make – lots of lip synching around the streets of Edinburgh and in our practice room. It includes ‘Is This The End?’ and ‘The Voice’ (which incidentally got a great review in a Greek fanzine). We also took part in a documentary for Edinburgh schools about the music business, which, in common with our own video, is extremely embarrassing to watch now but was great to do.
Unfortunately, things came to an end in early 1990 when we decided it wasn’t fun anymore. We thought it best to have good memories rather than carry on and start hating it, and each other. We formally disbanded at a party in Karen and George’s house and then we all got good and drunk.