Helen and the Horns

After The Chefs split, and a brief break from playing, Helen McCookerybook met Lester Square at Cherry Red Records though A&R person Mike Alway, and they worked on her new Western-inspired songs with Mike Slocombe (Urban 75) on drums.

At a gig she met Dave Jago, a trombone player, and recruited him and his friend Paul Davey, on saxophone. McCookerybook couldn’t afford to rehearse with a full band, even though Geoff Travis from Rough Trade had financed some demos. The cost of transporting a drum kit proved prohibitive in itself, and so she switched to playing guitar and practised with just the horns. The Monochrome Set then offered them a support at Kingston Polytechnic in their rehearsal set up (vocals, guitar, trombone and saxophone, with no drums or bass), as Helen and the Horns. The performance was a success, and they decided to stick with that format. A trumpet player, Marc Jordan, was added to form a three-piece horn section.

John Peel‘s producer called McCookerybook to enquire what she was up to and, subsequently, Helen and the Horn’s first Peel session was recorded at the BBC’s Maida Vale Studios, and broadcast in August 1983. The band went on to tour extensively in the UK, and Holland. In 1984, Thin Sliced Records released Freight Train, which was in the top ten of the indie charts for several weeks. They appeared live on BBC1’s Pebble Mill at One, as well as being played on Wogan. After a further Peel session, they signed to RCA Records in 1984 and released two singles with them: Footsteps At My Door and Surrey With The Fringe On Top. Disillusioned with being signed to a major, they got released from their contract after a request from McCookerybook.

Their third Peel session was broadcast in August 1984, with new trumpet player Chris Smith. Their final original release, was the self-titled album, Helen and the Horns on their own record label, Rockin’ Ray Records (distributed by The Cartel), in 1985.

Not wanting to become a cabaret band, or to add extra instrumentation, they disbanded amicably. McCookerybook reforms the band occasionally, to perform live.

In 2014, Damaged Goods released their three Peel sessions, plus their album, on a CD called Footsteps At My Door: BBC Sessions & More. Helen and the Horns played the launch night at The Lexington London, in December 2013. Their last performance was at Brighton’s Concorde 2, when they were invited to be part of The Wedding Present’s David Gedge’s 10th anniversary of At The Edge Of The Sea, in 2018.


This year, 2023, marks the 40th anniversary of the formation of the band and they are reforming to play the Hope and Anchor, Islington, on Saturday 21st October.

Tickets on sale here

Text Source: Wikipedia