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The Farm

One of the stranger overnight success stories in pop history, the Farm were a chameleon-like band from Liverpool, England who after years of relative obscurity suddenly jumped to the top of the charts with their 1991 album Spartacus, which ushered them into the upper echelon of the "baggy" scene alongside Happy Mondays, the Soup Dragons, and the Stone Roses who merged the loopy psychedelic grooves of acid house with the guitar-oriented textures of indie rock. While the group showed off a dance-friendly sound on mid-'80s singles like "Hearts and Minds" and "Information Man," these sides were more clearly informed by funk and the Leftist dance rock combo the Redskins. Following Spartacus and their major hit single "All Together Now," the Farm continued to fly the flag for baggy on 1992's Love See No Color and 1994's Hullabaloo. Though the band called it a day in the mid-'90s, in the 2000s they reunited for live work. The Farm was formed in Liverpool, England in 1983 by singer Peter Hooton, a one-time youth worker searching for a musical outlet to voice his political concerns. Rounded out by guitarist Stevie Grimes, bassist Phil Strongman, and drummer Andy McVann, the first incarnation of the Farm recalled both the leftist identity and horn-powered sound of the Redskins; dubbed "the Soul of Socialism," the group promoted its music not only through live appearances but also via The End, a soccer fanzine published by Hooton. Despite a handful of independent singles and the addition of a full-time brass section comprised of Anthony Evans, Steve Levy, George Maher, and John Melvin, the Farm found little interest for their pop-flavored Northern soul. Still they soldiered on, even weathering the 1986 death of McVann, who perished in a car crash after attempting to outrun the police. With drummer Roy Boulter installed as McVann's replacement and bassist Carl Hunter substituting for the newly exited Strongman, the Farm dropped their horn section and added keyboardist Benjamin Leach and second guitarist Keith Mullen, resulting in a move toward synth pop; 1988's "Body and Soul," their fourth overall single and the first from their new lineup, became a minor club hit. Still, the Farm struggled; finally, in 1990 they approached dance producer Terry Farley, who agreed to produce a sample-heavy cover of the Monkees' "Stepping Stone." The single fell just shy of the Top 40, and suddenly the group found themselves aligned with the baggy pants club culture movement promoted by the likes of Happy Mondays and the Soup Dragons. The Farm's next single, "Groovy Train," hit the U.K. Top Ten, while the anthemic follow-up, "All Together Now" -- based on the melody of Pachelbel's Canon -- landed in the Top Five and sold over 500,000 copies. Eight years after their inception, the Farm finally issued their debut LP, Spartacus, in 1991; the album (most of which was produced by Graham McPherson, aka Suggs from ska heroes Madness) entered the British charts at number one, and international deals with Sony and Sire quickly followed. The band's moment in the limelight was a brief one, however; their next two singles, "Don't Let Me Down" and "Mind," both failed to penetrate the Top 30, and 1991's quickly produced follow-up LP, Love See No Colour, sank without a trace, despite the release of four singles from the set. Aside from a Top 20 cover of the Human League's "Don't You Want Me?" in 1992, the Farm faded from sight, releasing 1994's Hullabaloo to minimal notice. In the mid-'90s, the Farm folded, but in 2004 they returned to action, touring and releasing a new version of "All Together Now" in support of the England National Football Team as they competed in the Euro 2004 tournament; the single rose to number five on the U.K. charts. In 2007, the Farm issued All Together with the Farm, which combined live recordings from a 2005 London concert with rehearsal recordings from the same year. In 2019, the set was reissued as All Together Now: That's What I Call the Farm with the inclusion of a DVD featuring footage of the London show.
© Jason Ankeny & Mark Deming /TiVo
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