A Word - How It All Started For Us.
Record Mirror Living In A Box
Any local band knows what it’s like. You find a mate who can hold a tune, bang a drum kit in some sort of regimented time or play Stairway To Heaven on his Dad’s guitar. That, in itself, is enough to spend endless hours in a dark, dank underground rehearsal room perfecting your skills. Fueled on home brew, and perhaps a few other things, it’s possible to spend hours creating your sound and chasing the dream. In essence, it was no different for Living In A Box.

Marcus was working as a promoter for the Limit Club and the Lyceum Theatre in Sheffield when Tich walked in, around the summer of 1985, and played Marcus a demo of his current band’s efforts, Typhoon Saturday (what a name!), in the hope of securing the support slot for an up and coming Clash gig at Leeds Queen’s Hall. Marcus thought the songs were okay but could hear that Tich’s drums were just incredible. Marcus let Tich down gently about the gig but suggested they retire to the pub for a chat. A few pints later, they decided to rehearse together as Marcus had convinced Tich, surprisingly, that with his connections in the music industry and his keyboard dabblings, that they could go places.

The rehearsal setting became a small packing room on the top floor of Marcus’s Dad’s old warehouse off the back of Eyre Street, Sheffield (pictured below), which is now an undertakers; quite funny really, when you think about it, given the band-in-the-making was Living In A Box! They rehearsed most evenings for months, mainly working out new arrangements for classic soul covers but also coming up with some original material.

Tich’s old band, Typhoon Saturday, had been working with local keyboard wizard Steve Piggot. A chance introduction to Steve through Tich got the boys an invite to start demoing some of their tracks in Steve’s studio. In fact it was Steve who helped shape the sound and get Marcus’s and Tich’s ideas on tape. Steve had a major input on one particular backing track which Marcus was working on, strangely, as a jingle to earn some badly needed cash to pay for studio time! Two weeks later, and this would be late ’85, Marcus rushed in singing over that track as Tich recalls, “something about cardboard boxes”. “I wasn’t sure about using the word ‘cardboard’ in a song”, said Tich, “but Steve Piggot thought it was fresh and new it was a smash hit right away and I guess you could say I came round to his point of view”. The team started building the track up in the studio, with one major problem, er.... there was no singer.

Eyre Street Living In A Box
Steve Piggot was something of a talisman and knew most of the local recording talent both in and around Sheffield and further afield around Manchester too. One individual had always attracted his attention and that person, again by coincidence, was visiting Sheffield to record in Piggot’s studio right after the current Marcus/Tich session.

The story goes, that Richard Darbyshire, overheard the backing track, and Marcus’s wailings over the top, while waiting to start his session. Marcus asked Richard if he would stick a ‘guide’ vocal on the track so they could punt it to the record companies. Richard, was reticent because he had his own project going and didn’t want any confusion with different tapes floating around the industry, but eventually agreed to vocal the track after Marcus poured a few pints down him. The result, was phenomenal. Richard’s massive soul voice on top of that pounding track with the catchy synth hook was pure magic. “We all new, pretty much right there and then, that we had a worldwide hit on our hands”, recalls Marcus.

Living In A Box, the track, was born, but unless a record label signed it, of course, it would collect dust on the shelf of Steve Piggot’s studio and never be heard of again. Richard gave the track his blessing and by mid ’86 Marcus and Tich were heading south to London to start knocking on the doors of the record companies.

Despite having contacts with a lot of London agents that Marcus had been using to book live acts, they found those contacts were pretty useless when it came to getting recording contract offers, so they started by the most logical route... the Yellow Pages. Huddled in a phone box on Holland Park Avenue in West London, Marcus and Tich went through the list of record companies starting at ‘A’ for A and M. “We went to see some idiot in A and R who heard three tracks, Living In A Box was sandwiched in the middle, and the nerd picked a ballad called ‘Can’t Stop The Wheel’! He didn’t even notice the big one. Although we were happy to have got the meeting and that all in all he’d liked what we’d done, we were a bit down that he wasn’t running round his office screaming SMASH”. So, off they went, undeterred, to the next meeting which was ‘C’ for China Records, a small independent in Notting Hill who were having hits with Art Of Noise at the time. Bob Grace of China and Empire Music Publishers recalls, “It was the end of a long, tiring day and my secretary said there were two guys from Sheffield waiting down stairs to see me. I thought, do I really need to hear another crap demo today? And, thankfully, as they’d come all that way, I thought I’d give them 5 minutes.... I’m not sure if they were on something but they rushed in to my office 10 feet off the ground and stuck the tape in the machine, selected the track they wanted to play me, as I’d said I’d only listen to one, and hit play. It is very rare that you get the hairs on the back of your neck standing on end but I can honestly say that that was one of those moments. They’d done it! They’d written an absolute out of the box smash. We had to get that track Living In A Box out.”

Tich Signing Deal
Although Bob Grace and his partner Derek Green could have put Living In A Box out through their own label China, they felt to their credit that it really needed a major label. Bob and Derek spent the next few weeks setting up meetings with all the big labels. Finally, after a lot of overtures from Virgin Records including a shmoozie lunch with Richard Branson on his private barge moored in Little Venice, it was Chrysalis Records who seemed the most perfect match for the band. (Tich,  pictured right, having just signed the deal in ’85 outside the old Chrysalis building). After all, they were having tremendous success at the time with Huey Lewis and The News, Billy Idol, Blondie, Go West, Ultravox and Spandau Ballet to name a few. The deal was signed just before Christmas 1985.

There was only one problem now... What to call the band? Nobody could think of anything they liked. There was this track though.... What the hell..? Let’s call them LIVING IN A BOX.