The Passage were formed in March 1978 by Richard 'Dick' Witts together with Tony Friel and Lorraine Hilton. For Witts and Friel the band was extra-curricular, with Friel still playing bass in The Fall, and Witts juggling a post as music and dance officer for Merseyside Arts Association with a stint co-presenting What's On for Granada TV. Prior to this, Witts had trained as a classical percussionist and briefly played with the prestigious Hallé Orchestra; he was also a founder member of the Manchester Musicians' Collective.
Early Passage dates included a show at Eric's Club in Liverpool with Joy Division as support. 'New Love Songs' was released on 7" in December and featured two tracks apiece by Friel and Witts, with Love Song in particular raising eyebrows by virtue of an uncompromising lyric ('I love you/cos I need a cunt/I love you/to use you back and front') misconstrued by some as misogyny, although 'New Love Songs' sold a staggering 3,000.
Still a part-time group, the second Passage EP 'About Time' (OM 08) was produced by David Cunningham of Flying Lizards, and again featured two songs each by Tony Friel and Dick Witts. Recorded over two days, the standout track was an early version of 16 Hours, an intense meditation by Witts and Friel on infatuation. Indeed the EP was almost a concept record, with 16 Hours, Taking My Time, Clock Paradox and Time Delay all dealing with various aspects of the passage of time - a fixation repeated on the Contact EP involving Friel. However, About Time sold fewer copies than the first Passage EP, and following a London date with Cabaret Voltaire early in 1980 Friel left. For a brief period Lorraine Hilton's sister Martine joined on bass, although after Witts was injured in a car crash band activity was put on hold.
By the time The Passage recorded their debut album 'Pindrop' in July 1980, the group consisted of Dick Witts alone. Self-produced on eight-track equipment at Graveyard in just 70 tense hours, OBJ 011 made up in bile and bite what it lacked in production gloss. Standout tracks included a powerful version of 16 Hours, the brooding Watching You Dance and the memorable Troops Out, which despite an overt political agenda hinted that Witts was quite capable of writing a bona fide pop hit.
In due course The Passage expanded to become a trio, and recorded three further albums (For All & None, Degenerates and Enflame) as well as singles such as Taboos, XOYO and Wave. Today Witts is an academic, having published a history of the Arts Council in 1998, and lectures on modern music in London and Edinburgh.