Department S’s story started in the post-punk era, as the new romantic scene at London clubs like Billy’s and Blitz was mixing with the new mod scene. They stemmed from hyped London outfit Guns For Hire, described by Zig Zag magazine as “the band you’d get if you combined the spirit behind The Clash with the style of The Jam,” and counted Elvis Costello among their celeb fans. A name change - inspired by the high-camp 60s espionage thriller – lead to a sleeper hit, Is Vic There? (recorded for Jake Riviera’s Demon Records).
Leader Vaughn Toulouse signed Department S to Stiff soon after and began work with Blondie producer David Tickle. The first result was their debut 7”, Going Left Right (BUY 118). Melody Maker loved it from the moment they first heard it. “A chip off the old block, (it) could well be massive,” they reported, “with another monolithic guitar intro giving way to an insistent synth motif, depth charge drums, and Vaughn's voice - deeper and more forceful than ever - delivering a crushing criticism of the regimented routines nightly re-enacted on our club and disco floors.”
A whole album was recorded for Stiff at the time but it lay in the vaults, sealed up in the red tape of management, band and label disputes, and didn’t see the light of day until a release on Mau Mau in 1993. But sadly that was too late for Vaughn Toulouse to see the fruits of his labours in the public domain – he died of an AIDS-related illness in 1991.