Formed in Edinburgh, Scotland, during 1984, this pop band used guitar inflections enthusiastically borrowed from the Buzzcocks. They were originally titled Buba And The Shop Assistants and released a solitary single, ‘Something To Do’, under that name. With only 500 pressings on the obscure Villa 21 independent, it has gained a reputation among record collectors for its monetary value as well as the spirited songwriting. Mainman David Keegan (guitar) was joined by Alex Taylor (vocals), Sarah Kneale (bass) and twin drummers Ann Donald (replaced in 1986 by Joan Bride) and Laura McPhail. ‘All Day Long’, on the Subway Organisation label, was allegedly Morrissey’s favourite single of 1985, but by this time they had garnered adequate plaudits from their exposure in fanzines and magazines. The following year’s release on the 53rd & 3rd label (jointly set up by Keegan with Stephen of the Pastels), ‘Safety Net’, reached number 1 on the UK independent chart.
Signing to the major Chrysalis Records label saw the release of the Shop Assistants’ debut album, which made a brief appearance in the Top 100 and then disappeared - as did the band. When Taylor left in 1987 to form Motorcycle Boy the critical acclaim dried up. Keegan also left, taking up a post as a skiing instructor, while Kneale and McPhail went back to college. They re-formed in 1990, with McPhail switching to bass and Margarita taking her place on drums. One of the singles produced, ‘The Big E’, was, typically, a tribute to the guitar chord rather than the fashionable drug of the period. By this time they had signed to Andrew Tulley’s Avalanche label, although their status in the independent scene has been somewhat eroded by the passing years. Keegan would eventually make a permanent commitment to the Pastels.