My first year at Uni, my first engagement, my first paisley shirt,stovepipe pants and winkle pecker boots….. one of those records that can change a life. Many of my friends were into Alice Cooper, Boston, The Eagles…. how they hated this record….. this album has so many memories for me.
From the early 1970s, Steve Kilbey and Peter Koppes had played in several glam rock bands in Canberra, Australia. In April 1980 they formed a three-piece with Nick Ward on drums and began performing. After Marty Willson-Piper (hailing from Liverpool) joined them, they took the name 'The Church'. Allegedly, the name was chosen largely because it was unclaimed, but later allusions to the band's spiritual interests by Kilbey hint that it was less coincidental. At the time, only Koppes was a fully-proficient musician. Kilbey was an erratic bass player and Willson-Piper was still searching for his style on guitar.
A four-song demo was soon recorded. Thanks to contacts from Kilbey's former band Baby Grande, they were able to send the tape to Australian record label, ATV Northern. The song "Chrome Injury" particularly attracted the attention of publisher Chris Gilbey (who heard a song being played in the next room to Don Bruner, his Professional Manager). Chris had recently formed a record production company in association with EMI Records in Australia and had resurrected the Parlophone label as his label. Chris went to a rehearsal of the band and subsequently helped shape the band's sound by buying Marty Willson-Piper a 12 string Rickenbacker guitar, and by equipping Peter Koppes with an Echolette tape delay. These helped bring out the musical direction of the two guitarists in the band complementing the vocal and bass style of Steve Kilbey. The band's first record contract quickly followed, but, of the four songs on the original demo, only "Chrome Injury" was later included on an official release.
Their debut album, Of Skins and Heart, was recorded late in 1980, produced by Chris Gilbey and mixed by Bob Clearmountain. Almost all tracks were written by Steve Kilbey. The first single (and studio debut for the band) was "She Never Said," which was released in Australia in November 1980. It went largely unnoticed, however, due to its release during the Christmas season. A second single, "The Unguarded Moment," was released alongside the album in March 1981, but initially only in Australia. This single garnered greater success, appearing on the charts, where it reached number 22. Thanks to this publicity, the band went on their first national tour.
By the time of the album's release, drummer Nick Ward had already been replaced by Adelaide native Richard Ploog. The arrangement was made by the band's manager, after hearing of Ploog's reputation in his local music scene. Ploog's arrival established the Church's first stable lineup.
The success of "Of Skins and Heart" enabled Chris Gilbey to present the band to Freddie Cannon, the Managing Director of (Carrere) and Rupert Perry, the Head of A&R for United States label (Capitol), which both went on to release it. In both regions, the album was renamed and repackaged with slightly altered track listings. Symptomatically, Richard Ploog was credited as the sole drummer on the U.S. release, despite playing on only one song. Capitol also released an edited version of "The Unguarded Moment" which was a minute shorter than the original - a decision that didn't much please the band.