Au Pairs (band)  

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The Au Pairs were a post-punk band who formed in Birmingham in 1979. Musically they were very similar to bands such as Ludus, Gang of Four and the Delta 5. That is, the rhythm section was tight and funky (obvious influences were James Brown and Funkadelic), but the guitars were light and "scratchy" (like Subway Sect). All these bands shared a strongly left wing social outlook, but the Au Pairs stood out due to their frontwoman, Lesley Woods, being an outspoken feminist and lesbian: the band were greatly influential in this respect on the riot grrrl movement a decade later. Music historian Gillian G. Gaar noted in her history of women in rock (She's A Rebel: The History of Women In Rock & Roll) that the band mingled male and female musicians in a revolutionary collaborative way as part of its outspoken explorations of sexual politics.

Their first album Playing with a Different Sex is considered a post-punk classic with strong, sarcastic songs like "It's Obvious" and "We're So Cool" taking a dry look at gender relations. Other songs, such as "Armagh" with its refrain,"we don't torture" took a pro-republican look at the then ongoing "Troubles" in Northern Ireland, which caused some controversy at the time.

The band's second album, Sense and Sensuality, showed an even greater influence of jazz, soul, funk and disco on the band's sound, but was less well received. The band broke up in 1983 just before they were about to go into the studio to record an album with producer Steve Lillywhite. Woods formed an all woman band called the Darlings in the late '80s, but then left the music industry. She now works as a lawyer. Guitarist, Paul Foad remains an active musician, playing with Andy Hamilton and the Blue Notes, a Jamaican Jazz band and teaching guitar in and around Birmingham. He has also published a guitar technique book, co-written with Stuart Ritchie, titled The Caged Guitarist (2000). Bass player Jane Munro works as an alternative therapist (aromatherapy, reflexology and indian head massage) in Birmingham. Pete Hammond also remains an active musician and teaches percussion in Birmingham.




  • "You"/"Domestic Departure"/"Kerb Crawler" (021 Records, OTO 2, 1979)
  • "It's Obvious"/"Diet" (021 Records, OTO 4, 1980)
  • "Inconvenience"/"Pretty Boys" (Human Records, HUM 8, 1981)
  • "Inconvenience"/"Pretty Boys"/"Headache For Michelle" (remix) (Human Records, HUM 8/12, 1981)


  • Playing with a Different Sex (Human Records, HUMAN 1, 1981) [#33 UK]
  • Sense and Sensuality (Kamera Records, KAM 010, 1982) [#79 UK]
  • Live in Berlin (AKA Records, AKA6, recorded 1982, released 1983)
  • Shocks to the System: The Very Best of the Au Pairs (Cherry Red, CDMRED161, 1999)
  • BBC Sessions 79-83 (RPM, RPM139)
  • Sense and Sensuality (Remastered) (Castle Music, CMRCD 470, 2002)
The Castle version corrects severe errors of the original version, including the too-fast speed of the Kamera Records release.

Original members

  • Lesley Woods - guitar/vocals
  • Paul Foad - guitar/vocals
  • Jane Munro - bass
  • Pete Hammond - drums

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Au Pairs (band)" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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