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Pop Wallpaper Strawberry Letter 23

10th February 2023

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Glasgow’s Seated Records return with more archival Scottish New Wave material; this time, in the form of Pop Wallpaper’s disco-not-disco interpretation of the Shuggie Otis classic, “Strawberry Letter 23”. And interpretation is the right word, guitarist Evan Henderson confesses that the lyrics sang by Audrey Redpath on the record were, “err inaccurate due to pre-internet home recording translation”.

The Edinburgh band first released “Strawberry Letter 23” in 1986 as a double A side 12” alongside original song, “Nothing Can Call Me Back” on Rosebud Records. The 1986 record’s sleeve states that the original – “Strawberry Letter 23″ has been “re-modelled for special pleasures, namely on the dance floor”. Here the re-model has been re-modelled once more. The track is recontextualised for 2022 playing on a four track 12” that includes an unreleased instrumental demo version of the track, as well as mixes from label founder Pigeon Steve and close friend of the label, Useful Tom.

Wallpaper’s first EP “Over Your Shoulder” was released in 1984. The release received a considerable amount of radio support, not least from Radio 1’s John Peel and Janice Long, which culminated with a live session for Long’s show at the BBC’s studios in London. Released a couple of years later, Strawberry Letter received similar levels of radio play. Despite (much to the band’s confusion) being tracked by Motown UK at one point, Pop Wallpaper did not go on to receive commercial success and eventually went their separate ways.

“Strawberry Letter 23” sits in the singular historical, cultural context of mid-80s Britain. Following the explosion of punk at the end of the 1970s, in the 1980s many British bands began experimenting with new styles and instruments – always keeping an eye firmly on their punk roots. The loose percussion and synthesiser melodies have an almost new-age, balearic mood, while the falsetto vocals of singer Audrey Redpath are an unmistakable embodiment the Post-punk style of the time. The prominent bass-line suggests a reggae or disco inspiration, and bass player Myles Raymond admits that he obsessed over a Sly & Robbie Taxi records compilation around the time the band put the tune together.