Altered Images emerged during an intense burst of success, releasing three studio albums and a succession of top ten singles between 1981 and 1983 as rising stars of the new wave scene.

The band dissolved amicably with lead singer Clare Grogan and multi-instrumentalist Stephen Lironi performing together in the mid 1980s before marrying. Bassist Johnny McElhone went on to play with Hipsway and Texas.

Music seemed to be in Clare Grogan’s rear view mirror. There were intermittent live performances under the Altered Images name but her breakthrough role in Gregory’s Girl had led to further acting credits in Red Dwarf, Eastenders, Father Ted and Skins, as well as television presenter appearances. Recently, she has written children’s books, drawing on elements of her teenage pop career.

Then in December last year, Clare announced the first Altered Images album in over 38 years. She returned on vocals for Mascara Streakz, recorded with returning band member Lironi alongside Bobby Bluebell of The Bluebells and Bernard Butler, formerly of Suede. The record was released on Friday with a tour to follow in September.

Two weeks ago, Altered Images played a gig with Edwyn Collins at the Kelvingrove Bandstand in Glasgow that revisited a joyous chapter in Scottish music. "It was a lot to take in" Clare says. "To be reunited with Edwyn, there in the sunshine with my daughter and family, it was special."

Altered Images first sprang forth at a time when pop music had a strong Scottish accent from a Caledonian contingent that included Orange Juice, Aztec Camera and The Blue Nile.

“It happened pretty quickly for us but it didn’t seem that unusual at the time. Back then in Glasgow, everyone I knew was in a band.

"Even now I get a thrill when I see a Scottish person on television so being young and watching Simple Minds on Top of the Pops then joining these people was amazing.

"There would be a lot of banter between the different groups. It still exists,” she laughs, while describing a light-hearted heckle from Del Amitri’s Justin Currie while coming off stage at a recent festival.

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Venues like the Rock Garden and Spaghetti Factory in the early 80s in Glasgow were where record executives from London would visit looking to discover a new act. “The spotlight was on Glasgow because the talent was there. It wasn’t by accident. 

“We wanted to put ourselves and Scotland on the map. Our national identity was really important to us but it’s quite hard to discuss amongst all the fun and carry on you are having. There was  a lot of determination and just massive creativity.”

Hanging out at the bar at the Glasgow School of Art led Altered Images to collaborate with their friend David Band. He designed record sleeves and went on to create visuals for Spandau Ballet, including the dove on the sleeve of the single True.

“Our first singles would be released with a piece of artwork. You didn’t have to look far for things like that. Everybody wanted to be part of it and help out. I think we were quite good at hanging onto our identity at first, then the record company took more control around the second album. I wish that hadn’t happened, if I’m honest.”

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Able to plot their own course, the new album was a joy to record. Clare adds: “It’s a lovely collective of people doing this thing together. It started with one song. During the second lockdown I thought I’m going to have to push a bit further. I wanted to tune into that energy we all have when we are younger. To rediscover that in myself. 

“Altered Images was a fantastic thing to happen to me at a very young age. I’m so attached to it. I was never going to find a way to completely move on from it although there were times that I wanted to. Once I acknowledged that I knew I had to embrace it. It’s a great story to have.”

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