The Table

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A true enigma, the mysterious the Table arrived unexpectedly on the British punk scene in 1977, with their magnificent debut single, "Do the Standing Still." A second and final single, "Sex Cells," was…
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A true enigma, the mysterious the Table arrived unexpectedly on the British punk scene in 1977, with their magnificent debut single, "Do the Standing Still." A second and final single, "Sex Cells," was released before the group disappeared for good.

The Table began life back in 1971, under the equally unsuitable moniker Stabbing Jack, the brainchild of two Welsh cartoonists. Russell Young and Tony Barnes shared the vocals, keyboards, guitar, and bass duties, although neither actually owned any of those instruments, a fact that the Cardiff pair proudly proclaimed at every opportunity.

With their own blend of spacy prog-rock, the D.I.Y. outfit gigged around the neighborhood to little attention, although they did play the Windsor Free Festival in 1974. It took punk to shake the duo out of their inertia, at least momentarily. In 1976, Young and Barnes reinvented themselves as Do You Want This Table, with a lineup augmented by guitarist Mickey O'Connor and drummer Len Lewis. By the end of the year, the band had signed a one-off deal with Virgin, and shortened their name simply to the Table. Not surprisingly, Virgin head honcho Richard Branson was unwilling to commit much time or energy to an enterprise which eschewed owning instruments, refused to tour, and loudly announced they weren't a "real" band and had no future in music.

"Do the Standing Still"/"Magical Melons of the Tropics" arrived in the spring of 1977. The perfect dance sensation for punk nihilists, the 45 immediately garnered critical acclaim and a Single of the Week accolade from New Musical Express. Although the group, true to their principles, never toured, they did play occasional, secret gigs, festooning the stage with cartoon graphics. Virgin was under no obligation to push the single, and it's hard to say if the press the band did receive actually worked in their favor or not. Their interviews baffled the most experienced music journalists, and left readers wondering if they really wanted to support a band whose projected debut album threatened to feature the singer reading a shopping list.

Still, there was quite a buzz around them, and if the Table had toured, "Standing Still" might have actually been more than an underground hit. Instead, the group seemed to deliberately sabotage their chances, and while the song would become a staple of punk-era compilations forever, the Table themselves fell off the radar entirely for over a year.

They reappeared without warning in 1978, now as a trio featuring new guitarist Kevin Bannon, on the indie Chiswick label. "Sex Cells"/"The Road of Lyfe" was even more irrepressible than their debut, and just as doomed to chart failure. Again the group refused to tour, they still had no instruments, and now there wasn't even any talk of an album. There wasn't any hope of airplay either, not with a chorus that infectiously insisted, "I'm obsessed with a mad desire for sex with schoolgirls." The single enlivened dancefloors with its irresistible hooks, but would and could go no further.

And neither did the Table. Neither Young nor Barnes was ever heard from in the music world again. And one is left to ponder just what else the pair could have created if they'd been so inclined, and that truly is the enigma of it all.