Blast Off Country Style
Borthwick / hollAnd
Bridget / Kathi / Doug
Tha Cheeky Bastid
Draw the Kitten
The Feminine Complex
Flowers of Discipline
The Fontaine Toups / TFT
Fred & Ginger
Gastr del Sol
horse ing TWO=HIT
Jungle George & The Plague
The Last Wave
The Long Goodbye
Loudest Boom Bah Yea
Maybe It's Reno
Mirah & Ginger
MMM's Live Archive
Olympic Death Squad
The Pacific Ocean
The Soft Rock
Teenage Gang Debs
True Love Always
Deaf / Not What I Expected
From the Cradle to the Grave
Live on a Hot August Night
Four Minutes from the Frontline
Alan Hempsall and Robert Davenport formed Crispy Ambulance in Manchester in 1977, originally as a two-man outfit, adding two further members, Keith Darbyshire and Gary Madeley, to the line-up in the following year. With original influences acknowledged as Magazine and Hawkwind, they co-wrote nearly all of their material and developed a distinctive style.
During their original five years together they recorded sessions for local and national radio and released several records on the Aural Assault, Factory and Factory Benelux record labels. They played numerous gigs throughout the UK, both as headline act and as support to better known bands such as Joy Division and Killing Joke, culminating in a two-week tour of Holland, Belgium and Germany with fellow Factory band Section 25 in January, 1982. They disbanded Crispy Ambulance at the end of the same year.
RAM RAM KINO (Keith, Robert, Alan, Gary)
Photo by [unknown]
Photo by [unknown]
Photo by [unknown]
RECORD LABELS ASSOCIATED WITH
From the Live on a Hot August Night 12" vinyl 45.
Throughout their short recording career, Manchester band Crispy Ambulance were unjustly dismissed as substandard Joy Division plagiarists, notable only as proof that Factory was as fallible as any other label. The truth is very different, for as their Factory Benelux recordings unarguably prove, Crispy Ambulance were perhaps the most maligned and undervalued bands of their time.
Crispy Ambulance initially came together as a duo in 1977 to perform covers of Magazine and Hawkwind material. After a debut appearance at Spurley Hey Youth Centre on January 1st 1978 by Alan Hempsall (vocals) and lifelong friend Robert Davenport (guitar), bassist Keith Darbyshire and drummer Gary Madeley were recruited in March and November respectively. This line-up would not change, and by 1979 was gigging regularly in the Greater Manchester area, often at the Band on the Wall and the Cyprus Tavern. Hempsall:
"The motivation for formation for me was a combination of (i) seeing the Sex Pistols at their first Manchester gig in June 1976 in front of an audience of about 40, made up mainly of Bowie clones and hippies, and (ii) seeing Magazine's first gig. The latter had a more immediate effect, with me forming Crispy Ambulance a mere six weeks after seeing Magazine... None of our early tunes passed the test of time, mainly because it took about 18 months to find an identity."
"Joy Division stumbled upon us in July 1978 at a gig we played in Manchester, and they liked our approach, even if the material was a little weak -to say the least. They dragged Rob Gretton, their new manager, down to see us some months later, and as a result we did a gig with them at The Factory around the time that Unknown Pleasures was released."
Those interested will find selected highlights from this formative material documented on the cassette-only release The Blue and Yellow of the Yacht Club. Throughout the history of the band their music came about as a collaborative group effort, although Hempsall wrote the lyrics alone. The band's novel moniker was suggested by Graham Massey, later of Biting Tongues and 808 State. Hempsall:
"People asked about the name and how it originated every time we did an interview. The answer is, I'm afraid, quite a boring one. It is simply that a close friend (Graham, who did our first single sleeve) thought it up. He has a way with words, and I thought it was such a nondescript name (silly too) that we decided on it. Also, at the time every other band was called 'the...' (fill in blank space) whereas our name gave nothing away with regard to image, musical style etc, but at the time captured the imagination."
In August 1979 Crispy Ambulance entered the studio for the first time, recording several tracks at Graveyard with engineer Stuart Pickering. Motorway Boys, a meditation on adolescent druf ritual, would later surface on Blue and Yellow. In January 1980 the band returned to Graveyard to record their debut single, settling on From the Cradle to the Grave and Four Minutes From the Frontline as the strongest numbers in an ever-changing live set. The single was released in April as a double A-side on their own Aural Assault label. Hempsall:
"The idea for Aural Assault came from the fact that we'd already tried Rough Trade and Factory and they'd turned us down, but Rough Trade gave us loads of info and addresses for a do-it-yourself single, which Rob Gretton encouraged us to do. So I came up with the bank loan and the name. There was an initial pressing of 1000, which sold quite quickly, and a repressing of 4000, half of which are still under my bed."
"Looking back on this, I recall how pissed off I was at having been turned down by all these local independent labels. But if I had my time over, I'd do the same again."
Following the death of Ian Curtis in May 1980, Rob Gretton became a Factory director, and in July persuaded Crispy Ambulance to release their next recording through the label. FAC 32 thus became Gretton's first-born in his capacity as an A&R man. Hempsall again:
"We recorded the second single in two days, with a day's rest in the middle. It was during this day's rest that I discovered Factory wanted us. We used Pickering and Graveyard again because we had demoed with him in the early days. Also, he had been my old physics teacher at school, believe it or not. We wanted the second single to be a 12" but when it was mastered Tony Wilson just decided to do a 10", so it was out of our hands."
"Tony never liked us, but suffered us because Rob liked what we did. Since he had become an equal shareholder, Tony had no choice but to bite his lip."
The Factory association had previously been strengthened when Hempsall stood in for Ian Curtis at the now infamous 'riot' gig at Bury Derby Hall on 8th April 1980, performing Digital, Love Will Tear Us Apart and Sister Ray. Those seeking a full blow-by-blow account are directed towards that provided by Mick Middles in his Factory biography, published by Virgin in 1996. Worth noting also is that Hempsall, in interviewing Joy Division for the sci-fi magazine Extro, was responsible for the only worthwhile band interview to appear in print.
ON THE RADIO
Together with FAC 32, July 1980 also saw the band record a four song session for Piccadilly Radio. Although The Presence and Concorde Square were later re-recorded for release in superior form, both Eastern Bloc and the powerful A Sense of Reason were effectively shelved. Remarkably, the same fate would befall all four tracks recorded for John Peel the following January, these being Come On, October 31st, Egypt and the awesome tour de force Drug User/Drug Pusher.
Although the Peel session was somewhat marred by Hempsall's heavy cold, the worth of both radio sessions was well summed up by Tim Anstaett in the Offense Newsletter (USA, 1983):
"Drug User/Drug Pusher is one of the many tracks that gives irrefutable testimony to Crispy Ambulance's brilliance, but it's the one that presents the strongest arguments. Talk about a convincing sound. Just thinking now about the tune makes me shudder... Sense of Reason includes stream-of-vocal-consciousness, and Eastern Bloc is beautifully resigned... The Peel session was highlighted by Come On (the most rock n' roll sounding they ever got) and October 31st, which is the only one that sounds like it would fit right in on The Plateau Phase."
But this is to jump ahead. In November 1980 5000 copies of FAC 32 emerged under the overall title Unsightly and Serene, and featured two tracks. The flipside, Deaf, is superb, a high-octane, driving rocker. Regrettably the lead track, Not What I Expected, easily stands as the weakest cut the band committed to vinyl, while Martyn Atkins' gothic sleeve (a woodcut from Dante's Inferno) fell full square in the realm of cliche. It cannot have helped that the record seems later to have wielded considerable influence in the Sisters of Mercy.
All of which was unfortunate, for unfavourable comparisons between Joy Division and Crispy Ambulance now became commonplace, and would blight the latter's career long after they found their own sound and identity. Confusing form and substance, critics also found fault in the fact that not every Factory act was as visibly novel as A Certain Ratio or Durutti Column. The result was indolent reviews such as that which appeared in the NME following an appearance at the ICA Rock Week:
"Crispy Ambulance were so uninspiring (and uninspired) that they do not deserve to waste any more of this space."
LIVE BEARDS AND FLARES
In truth, Crispy Ambulance tended to confound in a live context. According to Hempsall:
"On the whole we always kept gigs to a minimum because we found we could make each performance more unique with new material for each one, whereas on a tour the performances lose some of their individuality... We preferred the idea that by keeping gigs down we were giving the audience something special, and not to be repeated. This also meant that we enjoyed playing live even more, as the novelty never wore off."
"We loathe going to see a band and finding it within our capabilities to correctly predict their appearance, actions, encore etc. This will work fine until people begin to expect the unexpected from us - trapped! In a coffin of our own design. Being extremists is a risky business, but that's just what I like about it. For me there is no fun in safety... We presume the audience will expect one thing of us, so we do the opposite. It's a basic fear of typecasting."
"We have only a bare skeletal structure preconceived, leaving a vast amount of space for spontaneity onstage. Therefore our live performances become a reflection of how we feel at that point in time. This makes each performance unique, due to the fact that the same piece can - and does - turn out totally different to the previous rendering."
"When I go onstage I go WAAH!! I go absolutely crazy. Sometimes I look behind me and see the band and they're so good I just want to laugh or cry... Live it's like a visual drug. You get the audience out there expecting a regular Factory act and they discover that the singer's got long hair, the guitarist wears flares, the drummer's got a beard and the bassist has his overcoat on. We're always engineering things for an audience, never pandering to them."
Flares and beards notwithstanding, the band found a champion in Sounds staffer Dave McCullough, who devoted two pages to them in the issue for 21 February 1981. While the breathless text revealed little worth knowing, his initial impressions of Hempsall are worth repeating:
"The voice on the phone was friendly enough, though suspicious, but it didn't at all correspond to what happened in broad daylight, on Piccadilly platform 4 where Alan Hempsall, vocalist and Crispy contact-point, proved not to be the staid young JD correlative that I perhaps expected, but, yes! -amazingly- a Lad! Alan wore baggy trousers (Madness-style!), laddish clothes in all, a huge forthcoming grin and a set of bones three sizes too big. A six foot five lad. I said hello. It started a flush of words, waving arms, good vibes. Not what I expected, the cruel catchphrase of Crispy's Factory debut rang true. But, there again, did I anticipate anything else? He out-talks Julian Cope! He out-talked me! He could out-talk anybody..."
"Alan subconsciously adds to their tally of perverse contrasts when he rattled on about Throbbing Gristle (like Faust another hero): 'TG are just brilliant. Going to see them is just breathtaking. It's like having a shit!'"
After two promising if hardley exceptional singles, the first real sign that Crispy Ambulance were more than just a weird name came with the third, Live On A Hot August Night. Not live (and recorded at Cargo Studio in January) the session was produced by Martin Hannett, who achieved an astonishing sound ranked by some amongst his finest productions. The single comprised two extended tracks which sat together perfectly, despite being poles apart in terms of style. Concorde Square was a bright, almost blinding guitar glide, and probably the closest the group ever came to writing a hit single, while The Presence was lengthy, languid and hypnotic, drifting weightlessly above a soft electronic pulse and whiplash snare.
Although Factory shot a video for The Presence, the flipside's mordant six minute gregorian outro triggered a free transfer from Factory to European offshoot Factory Benelux, the single emerging as a 12" in July. Hempsall:
"Hot August Night was the first time we actually went into the studio as a Factory band. As a matter of course Hannett was used as he was The Factory Producer... Tony craftily got us off his back by depositing us on Factory Benelux, which we didn't object to because Tony was only making things difficult for us whilst on Factory, whereas Michel Duval, boss of Factory's Belgian counterpart, genuinely liked us, and had an enthusiasm for the records almost as strong as our own."
"Rob Gretton was always more interested in tunes than anything else, so when we had six minutes of voices and piano on the end of Concorde Square he found this a bit strange. We began to move out of his field of understanding."
Comprehension was also found wanting in the fourth estate. According to Melody Maker:
"The best and worst of Martin Hannett and, as usual, you can forget about the band. The Presence illustrates his genius for that eerie, evocative snare-obsessed sound, cleverly maintaining interest in another Curtis clone crooning another doomy dodo of a tune. Concorde Square, however, is the most melodramatic manifestation yet of his frustrating feedback fetish, allowing the group a begrudgingly cursory run for their money before picking put a particularly rich resonance and toying with it into uncharted territories of tedium. One for earnest New Orderites and strict Samaritan-cases only."
At least the Maker bothered to listen to the record - all 22 minutes - from beginning to end. In the opinion of the NME:
"After the power and the passion that was Joy Division, imitators like Crispy Ambulance just sound listless and unoriginal."
Although the switch to Factory Benelux was effectively a relegation, the move would prove Factory's loss, for the following year Crispy Ambulance delivered an album which many connoisseurs rightly regard as a jewel in the Factory crown.
THE PLATEAU PHASE
Released in March 1982, The Plateau Phase stands today as a bold and thoroughly excellent record, and one that has aged remarkably well. Despite limited studio time, poor pressing and an appalling lilac sleeve (conjured by Factory Benelux without prior consultation), the scope, diversity and sheer ambition of the ten songs still shines through. Wind Season and Bardo Plane offered direct modern rock, while Simon's Ghost (like the Concorde Square's outro which so perplexed Gretton) brought to mind Eno and Popol Vuh. Indeed the title track and Are You Ready? dared to hint at progressive rock, causing consternation amongst 'earnest New Orderistes' who purchased the album on the strength of an avalanche of disapproving and comparative reviews. Myself included. Aged 16, and in 1982 a relative latecomer to the sober, cold wave mysteries of the Factory genre, I purchased The Plateau Phase expecting Known Pleasures. On listening, my initial reaction was one of confusion, and probably even doctrinaire post-punk distaste. Are You Ready? kicked off side one with the sound of bells. Church bells? Or were they alarm bells, carrying echoes of Pink Bloody Floyd. And what gave with the lycanthropic howling which presaged Chill? Or the whistling in Death From Above? Or the monolithic metal riffing of Federation?
I had no idea. If anything at all was certain, it was that the album did not sound much like the three singles which preceded it. True, I quickly came round, although even today I cannot easily explain what makes listening to The Plateau Phase such a unique personal experience. The mood of the album is predominantly nocturnal or twilit, and the tone often claustrophobic, relentless, think of Travel Time, its nagging guitar motif, like its narrative, "cunning away from an enemy that's pushing ever onwards." Of the title track, a creeping barrage of bass-heavy synthetics, its lyrics focused on thirst and drowning. More "falling back into the water" in Chill, and apparently no dawn following each dark night of the soul.
Only Bardo Plane and Wind Season fulfilled immediate expectations. The album sounded genuinely disconcerting in 1982, and utterly out of time. This the band encouraged, investing in the dirtiest-sounding ARP synth available rather than the string models then in vogue. And like Magazine, Simple Minds or Random Hold, Crispy Ambulance used the best of what artists such as Faust, Eno, Pink Floyd and Van Der Graaf Generator had offered a decade before, yet without stooping to outright plagiarism. In doing so (and doubtless without realising) the band actually looked forward, which is precisely why their music has aged so well, and makes better sense two decades later.
Spotters may care to note that the album title refers to a stage in the female orgasm, while a further track (Rain Without Clouds) was dropped before mixing. The Plateau Phase was produced by Chris Nagle at Strawberry 2, and completed in little over a week during the preceding September. Hempsall:
"We used Chris Nagle for the album because Hannett had already fallen out with Factory at this point. I enjoyed Nagle more than any other producer."
The album achieved a modest independent album placing in April/May, and was, according Sounds, the best new album since Seven Songs by 23 Skidoo. Nevertheless sales were at once boosted and hamstrung by lazy comparisons with Joy Division. Although it was clear from the content of the grooves that such charges were by now wholly misplaced, the opinion of Mat Snow, writing in the NME, was typical:
"I looked forward with some trepidation to reviewing this LP. The sleeve is offensively tasteful. Subdued lilac with the barest information inscribed in italic calligraphy. Song titles such as The Force and The Wisdom and We Move Through the Plateau Phase did nothing to alleviate my growing apprehension. But the record inside surpassed even my worst expectations."
"This is one of the most pretentious, turgid and tedious LPs I've ever heard. Slavish imitation of Joy Division doth not good music make. All the trade-marks are there -relentless inverted drumming, ominous bass lines, dramatic flanged guitar, bleak synth washes and a lone desperate voice. But whereas Joy Division were sincere and inspired in their depiction of obsession, loss and desolation, Crispy Ambulance are portentous, inane and very, very boring."
"Has Tony Wilson gone mad?" More pertinently, had the critics gone deaf? Interviewed by this writer in February 1983, Hempsall responded thus:
"It was a combination of three factors that made us the media's favourite whipping boys: joining Factory, our early JD influence, and Ian's death. It would be stupid of me to deny that Joy Division had a considerable influence on our music around the time of our first single, and I see no shame in that. Prior to Ian's death people who were fans of JD appreciated what we were trying to do. We never set out the deliberately sound derivative. Then afterwards the same people became wrapped up in the romance of the whole unfortunate episode, and presto! - all of a sudden we were treading on sacred ground."
"Ironically the first single sounded more derivative than anything else, yet when it got reviewed there was not one mention of Joy Division. However, the more each record we released strayed from this, the more our critics dragged us through the sub-JD sheep dip. It is for these reasons that their criticisms ceased to worry me, because it's obvious that they can't really have listened to the music. The Plateau Phase is an lp I'm very pleased with and have no doubts about, yet it got the worst reception of them all."
"The publicity we received on the Continent was much more favourable, and responses at live performances were far more enthusiastic than Britain on the whole."
| Unhinged In Europe In January 1982, just prior to the release of the album, the band toured Europe in tandem with Section 25, then also at a psychedelic peak. The tour was organised by Wally Van Middendorp (of Dutch labelmates Minny Pops) and comprised six dates in Holland and one apiece in Germany (Bochum) and Belgium (Brussels). Section 25's soundman, Jon Hurst, was thankfully no conservative when it came to interpreting the barrage of sonic weirdness each band cranked up onstage, and it is largely thanks to him that these phenomenal - and phenomenally tight - performances were preserved on tape.
On several dates the two bands took the stage for combined encore jams, which included skewed versions of The Beast, Girls Don't Count and Haunted. The latter, from Bochum, can be heard on the Section 25 archive CD Live in America and Europe 1982.
The European tour would eventually result in two belated records. The first was an inferior studio single, Sexus, recorded in a rush in Brussels and released a full two years later as a Factory Benelux maxi. Sexus, a vigorous if nondescript rocker, was backed by the more experimental Black Death (Life Is Knife), which, despite sounding like a jam, was performed several times on the tour before being abandoned as unworkable.
Mixing desk tapes taken from the European tour (as well as several UK dates, some again with Section 25) were later edited down for a cassette-only release, Open Gates of Fire. Together with the earlier Blue and Yellow compilation, both sold well following a glowing review in Sounds. Open Gates of Fire contained roughly two-thirds unheard material, the velocity and sheer violence of which - on Brutal and The Plateau Phase in particular - came as no small surprise to those more familiar with the group's more restrained studio output. Perhaps the biggest surprise was a strangely straight cover of United, Throbbing Gristle's paean to transcontinental postal correspondence recorded at The Circus, Soho in December 1981. An ardent TG disciple, Hempsall on occasion donned their trademark combat gear onstage, and a full blown version of the song was even mooted as a Factory single, although the idea was abandoned.
More interesting were the two long sequencer-based tracks, Choral and The Poison. It was a style that the band never took into the studio, not least because a more electronic musical direction failed to gain a unanimous vote of approval within the band. Nevertheless both tracks offer a tantalising glimpse of what might have been. So too do Rainforest Ritual, At The Sounding Of The Klaxon and Nightfall Ends The Ceasefire, brooding and sinister pieces all, with the latter providing a rare example of a rock instrumental which is more than an overlong intro in search of a song.
Reviewing both cassettes in Sounds in November 1983, Dave McCullough found time to reappraise the maligned Factory Benelux album: "The Plateau Phase saw Crispy as the new Doors, there and waiting. The kind of raw energy it whipped up was only matched by the kind of non-response it received. It wasn't only ahead of its time, it seemed to have invented it's own time, which is a neat way of putting it, as Plateau was about Time... and still ranks as a monster of an album."
RAM RAM KINO
But by then the band were gone. Crispy Ambulance continued until November 1982, performing several more gigs in London and the north of England before deciding that the project had run its course. Their final date, at Nottingham Adub Club on October 13th, consisted solely of unheard material, including Cult, Say Shake and Lucifer Rising, all of which have appeared on posthumous live releases.
Although the brand name was gracefully retired, all four members continued under the name Ram Ram Kino (German for sex cinema) with an expanded line-up. EMI expressed interest and financed a demo, but their first and only single was released on Psychic TV's Temple label, Hempsall again flaunting the TG connection. Advantage (Tantric Routines 1-4) contained four funk-based work-outs, somewhat reminiscent of Chakk and Workforce, and marked a conscious attempt to sound more commercial. While certainly worth seeking out by completists, the band lacked the originality and exploratory abandon of Crispy Ambulance, and eventually folded in 1987.
In 1985 Les Temps Modernes released the core of Open, Gates of Fire as a live album, Fin. Again drawing principally on material recorded by Jon Hurst during the winter of 1981/82, Fin reflected the fact that from late 1981 through 1982 the vision and creativity of the band had advanced with astonishing speed, and one which often dwarfed previous studio cuts. Had the band set down a second album in 1982 it might now stand as a classic. As it was, this collection of rough live takes served as a worthy substitute, and one which attracted glowing (albeit posthumous) reviews - even from the NME:
"Long before Manchester crawled back into flared trousers, bands such as Crispy Ambulance were busily painting their city black with urban mood music. The Crispies were doomed at the time by being compared to Joy Division, but as this record shows, they were much looser and far less serious than the mighty JD. Fin captures them in action onstage, lashing their audience with such songs as Lucifer Rising and a wild version of United. Too bad this find band ended up in the casualty ward."
"Unlike the sequenced, formulaic English disco bands which trace their lineage to the Factory years, Crispy Ambulance took chances, playing almost entirely new material at every gig. Live, their songs typically featured extended synthesiser or guitar intros and distorted, often improvised vocals. The instrumentals included here - At the Sounding of the Klaxon, built around a disjointed melody interspersed with sound effects; Rainforest Ritual, a spacey guitar solo; and Nightfall Ends the Ceasefire, featuring shimmering drums, long synth chords, and hypnotic guitar picking - are some of the best jams this reviewer has ever heard from a band retrospectively cordoned off into the English new wave scene."
A little extra for spotters: the working title for the live album was Unhinged. Fin ('end', en francais) was borrowed by LTM from the posthumous 12" of the same name by 4AD band In Camera. El Records subsequently borrowed the title from LTM for their posthumous live album by the Monochrome Set, released in 1986.
In 1990 both Fin and The Plateau Phase were remastered for CD, gaining extra tracks, favourable notices and (for the studio album) revised artwork. Both CDs emerged again on LTM in 1999 to positive reviews, and the following year were joined by Frozen Blood, an archive CD including both sides of FAC 32 as well as the eight studio tracks recorded for radio sessions. Hempsall:
"The reason why so much of our stuff wasn't released on vinyl is because we wrote songs at quite a rate, so in between studio sessions whole sets of material would come and go. Hence the release of Blue and Yellow and Open Gates of Fire. Of all the material put out on record or tape there must be as much again that has never been heard. But three-fourths of that I would say was unsuitable as 'permanent' material."
Completists might also wish to seek out A Factory Record, a 7" ep released by Washington DC band Unrest on the feted Sub Pop label in 1991. Alongside covers of ESG, Miaow and (ahem) Crawling Chaos material, Unrest also took a run at Deaf, although without improving on the original.
AFTER THE FACT
Crispy Ambulance hailed from the wrong side of Manchester, and persisted with a resolutely uncool name. Nevertheless the group possessed talent and originality in abundance, and simply got better and better until the mission was terminated. A band of their calibre deserved a better epitaph than a namecheck by parody band Half Man Half Biscuit, and against all odds devised their own in 1999.
On November 5th, all four members of the group gathered together for a one-off renion show at the Band on the Wall in Manchester. Intended to mark the reissue of the two CDs, months of intensive rehearsal paved the way for one of the band's finest ever performances, attended by a partisan crowd and preserved for posterity on the CD Accessory After The Fact on LTM. A fuller account of the show can be found in the CD booklet, and at the official Crispy Ambulance website. Since then new music has been written, and thus a new album by the group might yet surface. We live in hope!
- James Nice, L.T.M.
Alan Hempsall and Robert Davenport formed Crispy Ambulance in Manchester in 1977, originally as a two-man outfit, adding two further members, Keith Darbyshire and Gary Madeley, to the line-up in the following year. With original influences acknowledged as Magazine and Hawkwind, they co-wrote nearly all of their material and developed a distinctive style that has attracted a modest but international following.
During their original five years together they recorded sessions for local and national radio and released several records on the Aural Assault, Factory and Factory Benelux record labels. They played numerous gigs throughout the UK, both as headline act and as support to better known bands such as Joy Division and Killing Joke, culminating in a two-week tour of Holland, Belgium and Germany with fellow Factory band Section 25 in January, 1982. They disbanded Crispy Ambulance at the end of the same year and went on to pursue other projects, having established a catalogue of three singles and an album. Further material was later released, including a fourth single in 1984, recorded two years' earlier in a Belgian studio during the tour.
In 1999, after an absence of almost seventeen years, they reformed for a "one-off" gig in Manchester to promote the re-release of two earlier album titles on the LTM record label. Since then they have brought out a live recording of the 1999 reunion gig, a further retrospective album and a brand new studio album of all-new material. Recorded in January 2002 and released on Darla, "Scissorgun" was promoted by a four-show mini-tour of the USA east coast in November of the same year, marking the band's first ever visit to the States.
In February 2003, Crispy Ambulance returned to the rehearsal room once again to prepare for a return visit to the ICA in London in May (they were last there in 1981) and a second studio album for Darla. Recorded in June, 2003, "The Powder Blind Dream" was released in April, 2004, and is arguably the best work the band have produced so far.