Larry Berridge and Byron Con formed Hi Fi in 1977 with the aid of Billy Lemon and Terry Jenkins. Ray Dorset of Mungo Jerry managed them for a while; (Larry had played bass for Mungo during 1977). In 1978 they taped some rough demos in Terry’s living room, one of which was ‘Run Run.’ By now Bill Gilliam had become their manager, and he played the tape to Aaron Sixx at a small UK label, Aura Records. He liked ‘Run Run’ and took the group into the studio to record it as their first single, with ‘Sole Kitchen’ on the b-side. The demo of ‘Run Run’ featured a gloriously big-scale ending but the powers-that-be decided to fade it before this, and the full ending has never been heard – until now.
‘Run Run’ was played by John Peel, who liked it so much he invited the group to record a session for his legendary Radio One evening programme. This session, from March 1979, contained four great tracks including what for me is Hi Fi’s finest moment – a stunning song called ‘The Silence.’ Larry talks about writing ‘The Silence’: ‘I was sitting on a 4x12 cabinet in my dad's garage playing a telecaster; I wrote most of the first album there. It was a break from the first wave of songs. I wanted a slightly more serious and less poppy thing. It's a tongue in cheek story of a slightly strange seducer who discovers the girl is weirder than him. I was in a very tranquil mood and just stepped aside, letting the song write itself.’ After thirty years of collecting, producing and writing about music this extraordinarily creepy, ethereal song is quite simply one of my favourite three minutes. Something appalling is about to happen in this nightmare scenario: chills race up and down the spine as a mesmerising bass-riff sashays between bouts of isolated screaming and a soaring, Bill Nelsonesque guitar solo (think 'Crying To The Sky'). The LP version is marvellous but it's the Peel session version that gets under your skin...
A new demo tape was recorded at Terry’s brother-in-laws’ fledgling studio and handed on to Tim Green from Mungo Jerry, who had emigrated to Hamburg where he began his own production company, Boogietunes. The demo was played to A & R people at the giant Warner-Elektra-Asylum (WEA) company in mid-1979 and they were impressed. The band recorded the first album, ’Towns and Bars,’ at Hafen-Klang studios in Hamburg during October and November. This was released in 1980 with an accompanying single, ‘A Little Love Away’. They were followed by a second collection in 1981, ‘Sing Song,’ and a further single, ‘Don’t Break The Spell.’ Recording sessions for a third album, tentatively titled ‘Gringo’s Revenge,’ got underway in Berlin but this was never completed because the group split up in 1982. Byron Con issued a solo single, ‘ChakanooriTango’, on Phonogram that year; Larry Berridge also went solo, renaming himself Sal Paradise. He secured a massive album deal with Arista records, famously walking in off the street with two demo songs and and walking out with £285,000. His solo career made the biggest impact in Germany, where his first album, ‘Shimmer’ became the soundtrack for the hit Eckhart Schmidt film DieStorie in 1984. His second album ‘Das Wunder’ was released in 1985, again a soundtrack to another Eckhart Schmidt film. He was also the soundtrack writer and main actor in the film ‘Wie true ist Nik?’ in 1986. Since then he has spent some time in monasteries around the world and is now with his second family and raising a teenage son. He has product on iTunes music under the names, Sal Paradise, SWZOO, D Reg and Uncle MonstersSausage Curry (a series of sketches thought up when bringing up his young family.)
This webpage is dedicated to the memory of Byron Contostavlos and Billy Lemon.
Byron died from a heart attack in 2007 but not before he had successfully masterminded the rise of N-Dubz. the band formed by his son Dappy and his neice Tulisa, who, having been taught to make records at a very young age by Byron and his brother Plato, now have a platinum album entitled ‘Uncle B’ (in his memory).
His enthusiasm in promoting Hi Fi wherever he could was part of his unrelenting zest for life and this carried on with his son and niece. As far as I know Billy died in Greece around the same time. Billy was a complete artist who wouldn’t touch a hi-hat without first investigating it’s sonic properties. He had a crazy side and my final memory of him was disappearing in Berlin with no money and re-emerging with a white feather boa, white designer clothes and - I lie to you not - a posh white poodle on a posh white lead.
Regrettably it was some time after Byron’s passing away that I read about it on the net, I decided to keep a closer eye on things and saw mr. obscure’s article about his search for Hi Fi, hence this page which he has laboured over unto frothiness.
I would also like to thank Terry Jenkins without who’s imaginative guitar playing and dedicated mixing skills this material wouldn’t have sounded half as good. I have unsuccessfully tried to find him to tell him about this page.
Other notables are Steve J. Jones and Steve Goodwin (Munchie) who played on albums 1 and 2 respectively. Sterling drumming and great guys both, and Plato Contostavlos, who joined Hi Fi for the unreleased ‘Gringo’s Revenge’. We have rekindled our friendship, much to my delight and are even working on a music and video project. After a 15 year gap it was as if we’d only last seen each other the day before...except that we both suddenly looked like our dads.
And mostly, thanks to all the fans that still dig Hi Fi, I understand from mr. obscure that there are more than I might have imagined.,,