The Innocent Vicars


The Innocent Vicars formed in 1980, with an average age of 14. The St Albans band met at school, bonding over a love of Bo Diddley, the Undertones and Buzzcocks. The line up chopped and changed for a while before settling on Richard Norris, vocals/rhythm guitar, Aaron Russell, lead guitar (brother of the Toys Mick Russell), and Nigel Benson, bass, who went into a Christian recording studio in Wheathampstead to cut 'She's Here'/'Antimatter'. A host of local talent guested on the record, including Nick Egan from the Tea Set on backing vocals, Cally from the Tea Set on drums, Mark Adams from the Bodies on Roland 101 synth (making the acid house noise on 'Antimatter' nearly a decade early) and Waldo's Phil Smee on production duties.
The single sold out of it's initial 500 pressing, thanks to support from John Peel and Radio 1's Round Table show, where it was spun straight after the Clash. The band played many school discos, local clubs, various church halls and youth clubs in St Albans, Hatfield, Luton and Harpenden, as well as a number of spots at St Albans City Hall (supporting Kagagoogoo and Paul Young's band Q Tips). They also played at the Fleur De Lys pub, despite all being underage, at a girl's Boarding school and in St Albans Abbey (twice).
After a quick line up change (Mike 'Mac' McDonald replaced Nigel Benson on bass, Steve Watts took over on drums), the band recorded a second single, a cover of Lipps Inc's 'Funky Town' backed with 'Voices'. They also appeared on two compilation albums, with the tracks 'Starship 22' and 'She Was My Girl'.
Since their release thirty years ago, the original singles have been bootlegged a number of times in America and Japan and regularly sell for over £100 on ebay. BBC Radio's Steve Lamacq named 'She's Here' one of his all time favorite records, playing it on BBC 6 Music as recently as February 2011.
Richard Norris, 'Mac' McDonald and Steve Watts have all had long careers in music. Aaron Russell and Nigel Benson are currently missing in action (any updates gratefully received).

Richard Norris