The Silencers

Band members                             Related acts

  line up 1  (1986-1990)

- Cha Burns (RIP 2007) -- guitar

- Joseph Donnelly -- bass

- Jimmie O'Neill -- vocals, guitar, harmonica

- Martin Hanlin -- drums, percussion


  line up 2  (1990-91)

- Cha Burns (RIP 2007) -- guitar

- David Crichton -- keyboards, accordion, fiddle

NEW - JJ Gilmour -- vocals, rhythm guitar (replaced Jimmy O'Neill)

NEW - Lewis Rankine -- bass (replaced Joseph Donnelly)

NEW - Tony Soave -- drums, percussion (replaced Martin Hanlin)


  line up 3  (1991-92)

- Cha Burns  (RIP 2007)-- guitar

- JJ Gilmour -- vocals, rhythm guitar (replaced Jimmy O'Neill)

NEW - Steve Kane -- bass (replaced Lewis Rankine)

- Tony Soave -- drums, percussion (replaced Martin Hanlin)


  line up 4  (1992-95)

- Cha Burns (RIP 2007) -- guitar

- JJ Gilmour -- vocals, rhythm guitar (replaced Jimmy O'Neill)

NEW - Phillip Kane -- keyboards, accordion

- Steve Kane -- bass

- Tony Soave -- drums, percussion


  line up 5  (1995-2006)

- Cha Burns (RIP 2007) -- guitar

- JJ Gilmour -- vocals, rhythm guitar 

- Phillip Kane -- keyboards, accordion

- Steve Kane -- bass 

NEW - Jim McDermott -- drums, percussion (replaced Tony Soave)

NEW -  Milla -- violin

NEW - Aura O'Neill -- vocals


  line up 6  (2006)

NEW - Baptiste Brondy -- drums, percussion (replaced 

  Jim McDermott)

- JJ Gilmour -- vocals, rhythm guitar 

- Phillip Kane -- keyboards, accordion

- Steve Kane -- bass 

-  Milla -- violin

- Aura O'Neill -- vocals






- Fingerprintz

- JJ Gilmour (solo efforts)

- Intro (Jimmie O'Neill)

- Kevin McDermott Orchestra

- Jimmie Shelter (Jimmie O'Neill)



Genre: rock

Rating: 4 stars ****

Title:  A Letter from St. Paul

Company: RCA 

Catalog:  D

Country/State: Scotland

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: includes original inner sleeve

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 3500

Price: $20.00

For years people seemed to turn their collective noses up with respect to '80s bands.  Sure, there were lots of crap '80s bands, but there were plenty of crap '60s and '70s bands, so why would the '80s be any different?  Besides, the '80s represent my college years and along with those years, memories of so many talented bands.  How do you get your arms and ears around them all?   Enough philosophical navel gazing.  If you're in a mood for rediscover your '80s musical heritage, then The Silencers are a great place to start.


Scottish singer/guitarist Jimmie O'Neil and guitarist Cha Burns started their collaboration as members of Fingerprintz.  Over a three year period Fingerprintz released a string of three albums and a slew of singles that attracted considerable critical attention, but less in the way of sales.  With Fingerprintz calling it quits in 1981, O'Neil focused in songwriting, including a brief stint in the band Intro with Jacqui Brookes, while Burns went to work for Adam Ant's touring band.  In 1986 the pair reunited, forming The Silencers with the addition of bassist Joseph Donnelly and drummer Martin Hanlin.  The band immediately started touring throughout Europe with a series of demos catching the attention of RCA, which promptly signed them to a contract, placing one of the demos 'Painted Moon' on the soundtrack to the film "The Home Front".


Co-produced by David Bascombe and the band, 1987's "A Letter from St. Paul"  was an album that managed to combine highly commercial and radio-friendly melodies with dark, highly personal, and occasionally disturbing lyrics.  That wasn't a particularly original concept for the timeframe and my ears spot plenty of mid-'80s influences including Big Country, Del Amirti, The Proclaimers, Simple Minds, The Smiths, Tears for Fears, XTC, and even a little U2.  That said, in my book you'd be hard pressed to find better inspirations.  So how to label these guys? Thinking man's jangle rock?  U2 without the overwhelming sense of pomposity?   Both strike me as fairly apt descriptions.  But these guys were more than clones.  Largely penned by O'Neill and Burns (who suffered a brain haemorraghage during the recording sessions and had to relearn reading and playing guitar), their jangle rock  melodies were melded to subtle, but topical themes that seemed to address a host of concerns including addiction ('I See Red'), cold war politics ('Bullets and Blue Eyes'), war ('Painted Moon'), abortion ('I Can't Cry'), etc.   Oh, and let's not forget relationship difficulties ('I Ought To Know').  Yeah, I'll admit the anthemic song structures, Burns' chiming guitars, and the generally dark lyrics (anyone looking for some a dose of good old fashioned Catholic guilt was liable to be pleased), occasionally brought them a little too close to U2 territory.  On the other hand, even if you refused to let their thoughtful lyrics suck you in, every one of these nine tracks had something going for them. 


The band supported the album opening for The Pretenders during a UK tour and then opening for Squeeze on a US tour.


"A Letter from St. Paul" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) Painted Moon  (Jimmie O'Neill - Cha Burns) - 6:04   rating: **** stars

Most songs simply can't stand-up to  a six minute arrangement, but the anthemic, anti-war 'Painted Moon' was one of those rare exceptions.  Imagine a young U2 dropping all their pretense in pursuit of Byrds-styled jangle-rock perfection and you'd get a feel for this glorious tune.  Easy to see why it was tapped as a US single.  It was also featured in the film "Morgan Stewart's coming Home".




1987's 'Painted Room' b/w 'Here Comes the Moon' (RCA catalog number PB-41289)  YouTube has a clip of a later version of the band playing the song during a performance at Munich's Nachtwerk club: 





2.) I Can't Cry  (Jimmie O'Neill - Cha Burns - Martin Hanlin) - 5:24   rating: **** stars

'I Can't Cry' was a pretty, poignant ballad which may, or may not have been a statement on abortion ...  Regardless it was an interesting choice as a British single

   7" release

- 1987's 'I Can't Cry' b/w 'Crucify Me' (RCA catalog number HUSH 2)

   12" release

- 1987's 'I Can't Cry' (extended) and 'Blue Desire' b/w 'Crucify Me' (RCA catalog number HUSH T2)

3.) Bullets and Blue Eyes  (Jimmie O'Neill) - 5:04   rating: **** stars

'Bullets and Blues Eyes' was like a teasing new partner - lots of promise, but you had to wait over two minutes for the song to actual explode into full glory.  Docked a star for sounding a bit too close to prime U2.  Added a star for the spastic keyboards at the end of the tune..

4.) God's Gift  (Jimmie O'Neill - Cha Burns) - 4:50   rating: **** stars

Joseph Donnelly's bass line simply stole 'God's Gift'.   Easy to see why the song was tapped for a Miami Voice episode ....


(side 2)

1.) I See Red  (Jimmie O'Neill - Cha Burns) - 4:10   rating: **** stars

'I See Red' was one of the three demos that got the band signed to RCA.  In spite of the song's addiction oriented lyric, the rerecorded version was probably the album's most overtly commercial offering.  It also featured a killer Burns solo  making it easy to see why it was tapped as a single in both 7" and 12" dance formats.   RCA even financed a promotional video: 

- 1987's 'I See Red' b/w 'Return To Center' (RCA catalog number PB 41707)

2.) I Ought To Know  (Jimmie O'Neill - Cha Burns) - 4:28   rating: **** stars

The album's prettiest ballad, it was nice to hear Scottish rock stars suffer from cheating hearts.  'I Ought To Know' wouldn't sound out of place on contemporary radio - For instance, I can picture The Corrs covering it ...

3.) A Letter from St. Paul  (Jimmie O'Neill) - 4:34

A largely instrumental number, the title track showcased Burn's jangle guitar on what sounded like a pretty filler tune.  And then along came the female, spoken word narrative and the song went into some very dark and disturbing areas. "He has a girl, but I'm going to bump her off soon ..."  Huh ?

4.) Blue Desire  (Jimmie O'Neill - Cha Burns) - 4:08   rating: *** stars

The ballad 'Blue Desire' was the first song I found less than overwhelming.  Maybe a touch too much Tears For Fears on this one.

5.) Possessed  (Jimmie O'Neill - Cha Burns) - 7:32   rating: **** stars

I'll admit I've always loved the electro-dance feel that propelled 'Possessed'.  It's always reminded me a bit of Wang Chung (showing my age here).  Quite different from the rest of the album, but a blast across the whole seven and a half minutes.