Milk ‘N’ Cookies’ main man Ian North’s 1982 minimalist synth-driven “Only Love is Left Alive”

By on December 4, 2018

In this three-hour, complete-with-commercials full episode of “Night Flight” — which originally aired late Friday night on August 17, 1984 and you’ll now find streaming on Night Flight Plus — we featured the rarely-seen 1982 video for “Only Left is Left Alive” by Ian North, former main man of Long Island’s ’70s power-glam pop quartet Milk ‘N’ Cookies.

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The minimalist synth-driven track is from North’s self-produced 4-song EP Rape Of Orchids, recorded after he’d returned to NYC from the UK to pursue a solo career.

In addition to writing and producing, North playing all the instruments himself (including a Prophet 5 and Roland TR-808).

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Before then, North’s post-Milk ‘N’ Cookies band, Ian North’s Radio, had already morphed into the new wave rock foursome Neo, a band featuring ex-Sparks bass player Martin Gordon, drummer Paul Simon and Paul’s brother, guitarist Robert Simon, who took over for Radio’s departing guitarist George Dyner.

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Neo at the Speakeasy in London, 1977

Prior to releasing a single of their own, Neo contributed two tracks to the Live at the Vortex compilation, recorded in October of 1977 at the club located on London’s Wardour Street.

Neo recorded their tracks during the afternoon, without an audience present. North later re-recorded his live vocals in a studio, with applause and crowd chatter added in to make it sound like they’d been recorded live at the Vortex.

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Neo’s first proper release was their “Trans-sister” single, released on Jet Records in November 1978, but Jet ultimately decided to drop the band from their roster before releasing their debut album.

Then, Martin Gordon left to form the Radio Stars, and to complicate things further, North had to return to the States because his work visa had expired.

The long-lost video for Neo’s “Trans-sister” (Jet Records, 1978)

Neo’s album ultimately did get issued on the UK’s Aura imprint in 1979 — as a North solo album titled Neo — but by that point North was already back in NYC, releasing music on his Neo Records imprint.

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Read more about Ian North & Milk ‘N’ Cookies below.

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Ian North (b. March 24, 1952, in Brooklyn) grew up in the suburban hamlet Woodmere, one of the Five Towns on New York’s Long Island.

North began playing the guitar at age twelve, but quickly learned he was virtually tone-deaf and unable to play any songs except for the ones he’d written himself.

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Most of the bands in Long Island only played covers, though, and North says he wasn’t considered to be much of a guitarist because he couldn’t play anyone else’s songs, so he set his sights on forming his own band.

Then, Ian North met Justin “Jay” Weiss, a guitarist in a local band called the Bagel, and set about forming a new band who’d play his original songs.

Along with British Invasion bands like the Zombies, the Alice Cooper Band‘s Love It to Death album — he’d seen Cooper’s band in concert at the Town Hall Theatre in midtown Manhattan  — and a couple of songs from the MC5‘s 1970 album Back In The USA (“Teenage Lust,” “High School”) were all early songwriting influences.

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In 1973 — a full year before the Ramones’ first rehearsals and Television’s debut at CBGB — Milk ‘N’ Cookies came together with North (lead vocals/guitar), Weiss (now on bass) and drummer Mike Ruiz (he later played on the first two albums by the Paul Collins’ Beat).

Blondie‘s Jimmy Destri also auditioned, but North decided not to have a keyboard player in his band.

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They played their very first gig as Milk ‘N’ Cookies at the Coventry on Queens Boulevard in Sunnyside, Queens.

It took some time for North to convince Weiss to take over lead vocals.

Weiss was able to get a copy of their demo to Spark’s manager, John Hewlett, who they hoped to interest in helping them get a record deal, but Hewlett didn’t care much for his bass playing.

Weiss was replaced by Sal Maida, who’d just played bass on Roxy Music‘s eight-month tour.

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Milk ‘N’ Cookies ultimately signed with Island Records UK, who flew them to London to record with producer Muff Winwood (he’d just produced Sparks’ great Kimono My House album).

Brian Eno — who had their demo after crossing paths with North in Manhattan’s Stage Deli — was in the adjacent studio, recording his Here Come the Warm Jets album.

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In February of 1975, Island UK released their “Little, Lost and Innocent” single, but ultimately they decided to shelve the band’s debut album.

Back in NYC, North discovered — while opening for Talking Heads, the Ramones and the New York Dolls at CBGB’s and Max’s Kansas City — that glam-pop bands were out, and artsy punk bands were all the rage.

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In 1976, their debut album was finally released by Island UK, who’d had a change of heart after seeing that Milk ‘N’ Cookies were now part of a vibrant new wave club scene, but it failed to sell.

Milk ‘N’ Cookies relocated to London for time but broke up — Maida left in July ’76 to join Sparks — before they could record their sophomore effort.  North eventually moved back to NYC to continue on his own.

In 2016, Captured Tracks issued a 3-LP reissue of the Milk ‘N’ Cookies album, compiling it with unheard demos, rehearsal tapes, live material and liner notes written by members of Sonic Youth, the Ramones and Blondie.

Watch Night Flight’s full episode from August 17, 1984 — which also featured music videos by Dog Police, Eurythmics, Prince, the Time, Psychedelic Furs, Slade, Eva Everything (“Boob Tube“) and many, many more! — on Night Flight Plus.

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About Bryan Thomas

Bryan Thomas has been a freelancing writer/critic for All Music Guide, and a contributor to Launch, Music Connection, Big Takeover and numerous other publications and entertainment websites, blogs and zines, most of them long gone. He's written more than sixty sets of liner notes. He’s also worked for over twenty years at mostly reissue record labels -- prior to that he worked in bookstores and record stores, going all the way back to the original vinyl daze. He lives in the Miracle Mile neighborhood of Los Angeles, CA.