A Heavy Metal Mystery Solved: The Oral history of ORAL
Few mysteries remain in heavy metal. With unlimited internet access and a plethora of people who have dedicated much of their life to becoming heavy metal historians, it is hard to find a band that existed that no one knows anything about.
When I started seeing an LP with three women on a beach in the 1980’s, dressed in fetish gear holding whips and chains, and who were apparently in a band, my curiosity was alerted. Not only am I almost always a fan of female-fronted metal, but they were from the U.K. and lumped as NWOBHM, one of my favorite genres. The band was named Oral and the 6 song mini-LP was titled Sex. It was released in 1985 on Conquest Records. With song titles like “Pearl Necklace” and “I Need Discipline,” I could only imagine what had become of such a prolific songwriters! I listened to the songs via Youtube. They definitely sucked, but it was still such a mystery that I made it a mission to find out more.
Like anyone, I started with the internet, to only be met with articles about the poor quality of the recording and that almost nothing was known about them. I searched and searched and searched. The same information came up on every blog article I could find. The group was four sexy women: Monica Ramone, Dee, Bev and Candy. Candy is not featured in the images on the LP, and it states she had left the band after the recordings. The songs were raunchy, and apparently Monica was taught guitar by Lemmy. This was about all the info anyone had.
Thankfully, Ian Christie and Dan Ekeroth put their brains together for me. If you know anything about these two (and you should), they are actual true metal historians. Dan wrote the bible on Swedish Death Metal (accurately titled Swedish Death Metal). Ian owns a publishing company and is the host of a weekly show on Sirius XM teaching the heavy metal gospel to Kyng fans. Hopefully they take something away from it…
Neither knew much about Oral, which was a red flag in my book. If anyone would know, it would be one of these men. However, Dan did put a name in my ear and little did he know, the name was the beginning of the mystery of Oral being solved. The name was Garry Bushell.
To spare time and boredom, you can read Garry’s Wikipedia to see just how big of a deal he is. A British celebrity, author and comedian, he worked most of the 1980’s with punk and metal bands. He wrote the first official biography of Iron Maiden in 1984, was a writer for Sounds, had his own punk/oi band, and traveled with some of the biggest names in Rock n Roll at the time. Desperate to find out anything I could, I sent him a message. To my surprise he got right back to me. Little did I know just how connected this man was to the great Oral mystery.
I had stated off asking Garry if he remembered the band, since he was a writer for Sounds back then, and also asked about the record label. I had at some point been given the names of the owner of Conquest Records. I was told Dave Constable and Laurie Pryor. Google did me no good on these, but luckily Garry explained that “Laurie” was actually “Lol” Pryor and Dave was Dave Long (not Constable). Lol was the manager of punk legends The Business. Not much is known about Dave because we failed to find him (rumour has it he is in Asia now).
I was able to track down Lol. I was also able to track down Ralph Jezzard, whom is listed as the engineer on the album. Ralph went on to make millions off the song “Unbelievable” by EMF, but his work with Oral was long before that. Ralph explained he was 17 when he worked on the Oral album, and although he did record the women’s vocals, the music had already been done once he was put to work. Did these women actually play the instruments on the album? Were they a real band? Did they ever play a live show? What happened to them? My Nancy Drew instincts kicked in, and I was going to solve this bitch.
One of the first things I wanted to find was the only press I knew of that Oral did at the time. It was a 2 page spread in Kerrang!. I emailed them but no reply. Garry and Lol didn’t remember it. Luckily, though, Scott Carroll from Cianide (Chicago death metal legends) is a collector and had it. He sent it to me – I am forever grateful for that. Turns out, most if it is bullshit made up to try to sell records.
As you can imagine, Lol and Garry are characters. They are original punks. They were right there when everything was going on, from the Sex Pistols and Motörhead to Diamond Head and Venom. I assure you, they have a sense of humour. Adam Ant even wrote shit about Garry in one of his songs. Garry and Lol are still friends and they also are still friends with Si Kelly, whom was listed on the LP as the manager of Oral. They were all surprised when I brought up Oral. Time has long since passed and it was probably a name they were not expecting to ever hear again. Through time and emails, I was able to learn as much as I could. This is what I was able to find out:
According to Lol, Dave Long was reading Kerrang! one day and became annoyed. Dave was more of a fan of Zeppelin and Hendrix. He thought all the NWOBMH was shit, so he suggested they put together a group with hot rocker chicks just to “cause a fuss!” Conquest asked them to audition girls. Garry suggested Monica, who he knew at the time. She was a strip-o-gram and did some TV (IMDB only has her listed as a stripper in a few British mini-series) and she is also in the Iron Maiden video for “2 Minutes to Midnight.” The other two girls, Bev and Dee (real name Dianne) were through Si, who owned a Sex Shop at the time. That’s how he ended up being the manager. Most likely, Candy never existed.
Rumor was that Lemmy taught Monica guitar, but no one I could find had any proof or saw that. The other two couldn’t play. The drummer for Tank, Mark Brabbs, did the drum tracks, Steve Kent recorded the guitars. Steve was the guitarist of The Business at the time. Some guy named Kevin did the bass (we don’t have his last name). Garry and Steve wrote all the songs. Lol was able to contact the company whom now has the publishing rights and it is confirmed that Steve and Garry were the songwriters. The vocals were recorded at Gas Records studio in Croydon and the backing tracks were recorded at Syndicate Mansions in Catford. The producers listed are Ron Rouman and Brian Bonklonk. These are nothing but fake studio names for Lol Pryor and Dave Long. Garry remembers nothing at all about writing the songs. He was actually surprised when he found out. It was the 80s, though, and he was around rock stars 24/7.
The beach photo shoot was taken at Brighten Pier. Bev showed up with one of her boyfriends at the time, Collie, who was an African American cocaine dealer. Monica brought her doberman. Si was “shagging” Dee at the time, as Dee was also dating a gun dealer. Dee also brought her baby, as her babysitter cancelled at last minute. Si, Lol and a few other members of the crew were all there. Someone must have seen all this weirdness because the cops were called. Most of the women had prior arrests. According to the men, it was a day to remember!
Si has confirmed the girls did attempt to play live. He put them on at the Rock Garden and the Nashville, but they weren’t good enough to hack it live and that was the other reason the project didn’t take off. There is no video of these performances that we know of. The album was released in 1985 to poor reviews. So many other female metal bands such as GirlSchool and Rock Goddess were around during the time. People were not buying into the “sex sells” hype of Oral. The girls couldn’t play and the songs were more comedy than sexy. Eventually the project fizzled and they drifted off to oblivion. All attempts to find any of the women were failures.
The Kerrang! interview stated that the girls had been together a year (lie). Bev did all the writing (lie). They had been in previous bands (lie). Bev was 16 at the time and dating much older men, but before you pull out the politics, it was a time and scene when none of that mattered. These girls, although we do not know their true backgrounds, were most likely troubled with drugs and family issues. We can only hope they figured their lives out and went on to be much more successful.
Oral was a joke played on the metal scene at the time. Few people bought into it, but the LP still sells for around $60 – $100 and is considered a collector item. Nowadays you can see Oral worship via scene girls Tumbler blogs and even bootlegged merch.
One last interesting fact is that there was enough material recorded for 2 LP’s. A few of the songs and backing tracks not used went on to the rock album Micky Fitz (singer for The Business) had always wanted to do. Steve Kent played guitar, Mark Brabbs played drums and it became the LP by the band they titled U.K. Not to be confused with the prog band UK (who were a bit more technical).
Plans to put a re-issue of the Oral album are in the works. It is believed that Pete Way’s wife did some of the press for Oral, so we are waiting to see if she remembers anything. Garry has a band and a blog that is hysterical so I recommend checking it out (www.the-gonads.uk). Lol claims he has retired from the music business, but if we learned anything from this, it’s that he hordes many secrets. I am forever thankful for their help in letting us all in on their secret. I will always hold out hope to find the women of Oral, but for now we will just have to accept what we know and go on with our lives.
Long live heavy metal.
If you have any additional info on Oral or a heavy metal mystery please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Check out Garry Bushell on facebook: https://www.facebook.com/garry.bushellii
Special thanks to the people who helped me: Dan Eckeroth, Ian Christie, Tom Draper, Ralph Jezzard, and of course Garry and Lol.