Cornwall pop star Vaughn Toulouse of the S department deceased much too young
Towards the end of 1980, one of the great new wave singles of the time was released. Is Vic here? by Department S was a Top of the Pops mainstay and major earworm of the era, although no one knew what an earworm was back then.
The song was as gloomy, somber and eye-catching as its singer, Vaughn Toulouse, who grew up in St Austell and returned to Cornish town on several occasions during his brief period of glory.
Although he’s 40, is Vic there? hasn’t dated one iota and deserves to be in the pantheon of great guitar songs. It’s either the most existential pop song of all time or just a track about a dude wondering if Vic is there. Either way, it’s a classic from the golden age of British pop.
What set him apart was the vocal and pop star recklessness of St Blazey’s boy Vaughn, who a year earlier was still in college at St Austell.
Just watch it on the Top of the Pops clip above – all the towering stature, glowing features, and black quiff; he was the punky Elvis from Cornwall.
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After moving from Cornwall to London around 1979, Vaughn formed the punk / ska group Guns For Hire, which released the cult single with the charming title I’m Gonna Rough My Girlfriend’s Boyfriend Up Tonight, before transforming into Department S, taking their name from British television. spy series.
CornwallLive business writer William Telford recalls: “Vaughn Toulouse grew up in the same town as me, St Austell, where he was sort of a hero for appearing on Top of the Pops. I have met him several times. Great guy, sadly missed.
Post-punk contemporaries of The Cure and Echo and the Bunnymen, all of the S Department singles are timeless – Going Left Right has the swaggering prime time Jam anthem, while I Want has a brassy surge similar to The Teardrop Explodes and Dexys. Midnight Runners, and Vaughn’s premonitory lyrics that could almost speak to the materialistic, celebrity-driven era of today.
But it was Is Vic here? who hit the hardest.
A bit of a mover and a shaker in London music circles and the burgeoning club scene, Vaughn had Bananarama, Paul Weller of The Jam and acclaimed DJ Gary Crowley (who still regularly posts about his mate on social media) as friends. Crowley recently described Vaughn as a “handsome guy, inside and out”.
Vaughn made a bit of noise when he said “bollocks” live on the Fun Factory kids’ TV show, The Naughty Boy.
In 1981, he joined The Jam for a few songs at a CND rally in London and also dabbled in music journalism. For example, the same year he interviewed The Ramones for The Face.
Forging a friendship with Paul Weller – in 1982 Vaughn was the cover star of The Jam’s No.2 single The Bitterest Pill (I Ever Had To Swallow) – he was one of the first artists to sign on Weller’s label Respond when he formed The Style Council.
Vaughn was a regular DJ on the Style Council tours as Main T and in 1983 he released a solo single Fickle Public Speaking as Main T Possee – a suitably funky example of early British soul-pop. from the 80s. Written and produced by Weller, the song was a small success.
In 1984, Vaughn struck and sang as part of the Style Council’s miners ‘charity project, the Council Collective’s single Soul Deep, appearing on the legendary Channel 4 music show The Tube, then recorded a famous solo single, Cruisin’ the Serpentine, in 1985.
Everyone who knew him believed the charismatic singer would move on to bigger things, but sadly passed away in 1991 at the age of 32 from an AIDS-related illness.
Maybe there should be a statue of him in St Blazey?