Brix Smith Start is a vocalist, guitarist, composer, presenter and fashionista. She was born as Laura Salenger, raised in Los Angeles and studied theatre and literature at Bennington College in Vermont. She decided to call herself Brix after The Clash‘s Guns Of Brixton song and moved to England, when she met and married Mark E Smith, lead vocalist of The Fall, in 1983.
She collaborated musically on the Fall’s album Perverted By Language, bringing a more contemporary sound to the band. After divorcing Mark E. Smith, Brix began a relationship with violinist Nigel Kennedy, but she broke up with him and returned to LA to study drama further, where she waited tables, and got parts in soap operas and t.v commercials. She was about to start a new life in Courtney Love‘s band Hole, but instead returned to England after an offer to collaborate on Fall albums Cerebral Caustic (1995) and The Light User Syndrome (1996).
The Adult Net was first created with Fall band member Simon Rogers in 1985. They put out a cover of psychedelic rock group Strawberry Alarm Clock‘s 1967 hit, Incense and Peppermints, which was released on the Beggars Banquet label.
I first heard of Brix, when I bought her album on a whim. I didn’t know who she was and I hadn’t been introduced to her via The Fall. It was around 1990, around my twentieth birthday, I had some spare birthday cash and I was in HMV. A post teenagers dream. So, I did a double wham-my and bought two albums, on the hop, which I still have. Everything was still vinyl in those days, and on the cusp of the CD revolution.
The first album I bought was Good Morning Vietnam, the Original Motion Picture Soundtrack, from the film. It includes sixties pop classics like Nowhere To Run by Martha and The Vandellas and Sugar and Spice by The Searchers to bluesy numbers like I Got You (I Feel Good) by James Brown and Baby Please Don’t Go by Them, all deliciously seasoned by Robin Williams wonderful, witty commentary throughout. The album still sounds fresh today. Well, it would, the tracks are all from the sixties. But anyway, that’s another post.
The second album I bought was Honey Tangle by Adult Net. I just remember that life was good at that time. Well, not exactly good but certainly hopeful, there was a great deal of potential in the air, you know, some people daringly call it ‘optimism’, but that’s the nearest word I can get, to the general ambience of those days. It happens sometimes, don’t knock it.
But back to Brix. Oh, what an album and I thought she looked like a cross between the beautiful Blondie and the sassy Wendy James, from Transvision Vamp. I used to play the Adult Net album over and over again in a dilapidated bedsit far from home. Toasting bread on a three bar electric fire didn’t even dampen the positive vibes that this music exuded. It even inspired me to write some rather out to lunch horror stories, and there’s not many other albums that can boast that.
The line up of Adult Net, upon the release of Honey Tangle, included Craig Gannon, (guitar) Clem Burke (Drummer) and James Eller. (Bass) Although it had a huge impact on me, and I would like to think, many others, Honey Tangle failed to chart. Consequently, Fontana Records ‘let them go’ and they disbanded.
The band’s early singles were ‘spiky marriages between guitars and electronics that owed much to the raincoat-clad heyday of Factory Records. Glossy, jangly, sweet-natured pop music that would sound perfectly at home in the Top 40 radio play lists of some alternate universe’
– Stewart Mason, from All Music Guide Service Website
Three singles were released from the album: Take Me, which reached number 78; Where Were You (a cover version of the American rock band The Grass Roots 1966 single “Where Were You When I Needed You”), which reached number 66; and a re-recorded version of Waking Up in the Sun, which reached number 99. Those high chart numbers were enough to give people vertigo. All I can say is, there’s no accounting for taste.
Since those heady, early nineties days of psychedelia, acidic yellow and optimism, Brix has evolved from pop music to pop art. Just like Victoria Beckham went from the music business to the clothing business within a twinkling of an eye, (music’s loss, Helmut Lang‘s gain, yes, I know he’s retired, but still) Brix launched a boutique, called Start, with her husband Philip Start. She met him in a lift. He was behind the world renowned Woodhouse, a men’s clothing chain, which was successful from 1975 to 1999. Coincidentally, Brix bought her first husband, Mark E. Smith, his first suit, from Woodhouse. Philip and Brix dominated Rivington Street in Shoreditch, East London with three boutiques and an online store.(Unfortunately, they have recently closed down)
‘Colour is Fashion Prozac’.
‘Colour is a positive force and can manifest things. Seriously! A friend of mine has been wearing only green and he has become rich in all things. Colour has so much power. Just putting on the right colour can make you feel well.’
-Brix Smith Start
This is very true. I am wearing nothing but red right now and I am kicking ass.
She was on Gok’s Fashion Fix for a time. Nothing wrong with fashion. I love fashion. Ask my husband and he will roll his eyes as I’m a bit of a clothes horse myself. Brix is really into clothes, really obsessed and is really passionate about fashion.
I realise, having seen her in interviews, that she has evolved from music and she genuinely loves what she is doing now but I would like to ask her one question. ‘Any chance you might come back to music, just as a break from fashion?’
She might say, Nostalgia is good, but sometimes you have to leave it where it belongs, by the fire, in its slippers, smoking a pipe.
Or she might say, Yay! Wow, I didn’t know I had so many fans. Do you know what, I might just…pick up the guitar again.
Oh Brix, lovely that you love clothes, shame that Start has closed it’s doors, perhaps destiny is trying to tell you something, perhaps now is the time to take a small breather from the fashion world…
I look forward to your next album.