"By the end of side one, you’re convinced singer Suzy May is a Shangri La, a Ronette or a Twinkle who has had her heart broken by a Bobby, a Johnny or a Joe,” wrote Andy Hurt in his 5-star review of the Deadbeats’ “On Tar Beach” album in Sounds magazine.
Suzy grew up in Florida, dreaming of the day she could move to England and form a band. She arrived in London in 1979 and began her search for the right musicians. The following year, guitarist Tony Berrington and bass player Kevin Green, ex-punk rockers from Nottingham, saw Suzy’s ad in Melody Maker seeking “musicians with quiffs and snarls to form a band”. A meeting was arranged and the three found they shared a love for Gene Vincent, Phil Spector’s Wall Of Sound, the Beatles and Brill Building pop. One thing led to another and the Deadbeats were born.
With drummer Mark Robertson subsequently installed, “On Tar Beach” was recorded at Jackson’s, producer Vic Maile’s studio, and issued on French independent label New Rose. The group had a policy of using vintage equipment and instruments, so Maile’s all-valve desk was perfectly suited to their sound. This expanded version marks the album’s first UK release.
Although there was a promotional mini-film directed by Dave Levine (who also shot the album cover) and a brief but memorable tour of the north of England supporting the Pogues, it was France where the Deadbeats saw their greatest success. “On Tar Beach” became New Rose’s second biggest seller (after the Cramps) and the band travelled throughout the country playing to sold-out crowds at venues such as the Rex in Paris, Chez Paulette in Toul and the Heartbreak Hotel in Sète.
Back in London, Suzy signed a publishing contract with Stiff Records and was asked to write the theme song for a movie called The Supergrass, produced by the Comic Strip team. The spy-themed number lost out to P.P. Arnold but is included here in demo form, along with seven other bonus tracks.
The Deadbeats disbanded in 1986 and Suzy moved back to America. On arrival at JFK, she found her guitar on the luggage carousel with its neck broken. She never sang in a band or wrote songs again.
By Ted Beadas