Essential Logic front woman, Susan Carena Whitby aka Lora Logic, was raised in Pinner (near to Wembley in north west London) by her German-Jewish and Finnish parents. In her youth she had tried out quite a few instruments before realising she wanted to play saxophone. Aged fifteen she answered an advert in Melody Maker ‘YOUNG PUNX WHO WANT TO STICK IT TOGETHER’ which resulted in her auditioning for Poly Styrene’s band X-Ray Spex. She hit it off with Poly straight away and six rehearsals later they were playing live at The Roxy in Covent Garden. Lora played on their debut single Oh Bondage Up Yours!/I Am a Cliche, but with Lora getting more attention in one particular review, Poly threw her toys out of the pram, and Lora was thrown out of the Spex.
Lora went back to art school for a while but after calling former band mate Rich Tea—the drummer had also been kicked out of the Spex because his hair was too long—a new band was starting to come together.
The first single Aerosol Burns was self released with some help from Rough Trade, then a quick line-up change before releasing Wake Up on the Virgin label. The band, unsettled at their new label, went back to Rough Trade and stayed there. The band lineup was now Lora, Rich Tea, Phil Legg, Mark Turner and Dave Wright and they brought out their debut LP Beat Rhythm News in 1979. The band were seemingly happy with the album, but not with Mark Turner’s efforts, stating “Well the whole album had to be remixed because of the bass” and “He never considered the other instruments, he just wanted to hear his”. Rich Tea and Mark were not getting on too well, so a new bass player had to be found. A handful of singles followed but the band was winding down and the style was changing.
Lora Logic was now to release music under her own name, but with Phil Legg and Rich Tea still around. Only one album, Pedigree Charm, and a single were forthcoming as the lifestyle was taking it’s toll on Lora. A friend of hers had joined the Hare Krishnas and Lora decided to quit the industry and follow suit. At around the same time Poly Styrene also joined the movement and would team up again with Lora for a few more musical endeavours, including a 1983 Krishna band Juggernaut and 1995s X-Ray Spex album Conscious Consumer.
Essential Logic – The Band
For the first single Lora was joined by fellow ex-Spex drummer Rich Tea, Pere Ubu’s Tim Wright, and guitarist Stuart Action. Soon afterwards William Bennett and Phil Legg (AKA. Phil Lip, Ashley Buff) took over on guitar, Dave Wright became the second sax. The bassists’ revolving door saw Mark Turner, Jon Oliver and Ben Annesley take their turns.
Essential Logic – The Music
For far too long Essential Logic were almost forgotten. Next to zero commercial success in the UK meant no US releases. The absence of any CD versions ensured that second hand vinyl was the only way for new listeners to find them. Now—close to 40 years after their formation—at least the bulk of their recorded output is readily available.
For those unfamiliar with Lora and her band you’re either going to love or hate their music. If you like experimental jams, atonal compositions, unfathomable lyrics and under-produced arrangements then this just might be your bag. If any of these “qualities” are already causing you anxiety then move along… nothing to hear here.
Essential Logic Discography Highlights
Fanfare in the Garden
Beat Rhythm News
Lora’s Other Appearances
Lora’s other appearances include her work with label-mates Mayo Thompson’s Red Krayola (most notably on the tracks Born In Flames, Milkmaid and Kangaroo?). She also played sax on Swell Maps’ superb second Peel Session, The Raincoats’ Black and White and Dennis “Blackbeard” Bovell’s Bettah. More saxophone and backing vocals can be heard on a few tracks from Finnish punk band Kollaa Kestää’s LP Jäähyväiset Aseille (Kännissä Aamulla, Tytöt Hymyilee, Mun Huoneeni, Talven Jälkeen, Millaista On).
Of course her most famous appearances are with the X-Ray Spex. Lora can be found on the first single Oh Bondage! Up Yours, live LP Live At The Roxy Club (now featured on Let’s Submerge-The Anthology) and the 1995 reunion album Conscious Consumer.
Essential Logic Links
- Just before the release of Fanfare in the Garden (July 2003) Jason Gross interviewed Lora. It now appears on Furious.com Lora Logic Interview
- Detailed biography by Oliver Hall appears on Amoeba.com Essential Logic – Biography
- David Nichols provides a history of Essential Logic on Bandcamp.com Essential Logic on Bandcamp
- Blog post by Howard Hampton inspired by the female fronted bands of the era The Picture of Lora Logic
- Feminist Music Geek about Lora and saxophones in rock bands “What about a tuba?”: Lora Logic and the saxophone
- Band history on Killrockstars.com Essential Logic